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Archive for the 'Best/Worst Ever' Category

Worst Thirty Game Stretches Ever

Posted by Jason Lisk on October 15, 2009

Joe Posnanski pointed out that the Redskins will be playing a team without a win for the sixth straight game, and also made the following observation:

Washington plays the winless Kansas City Chiefs this week, a Chiefs team that has lost 28 of their last 30 games. I wish there was a streak report on Football Reference like there is on Baseball Reference … I cannot imagine many teams in NFL history have lost 28 of 30 games.

In fact, think about this: We know no NFL team has lost 30 games in a row. So the worst a team has been over 30 games is 1-29. That’s just not much worse than 2-28, is it?

Well, we may not have a streak report, but we can look up these sorts of things. (For those of you dying for your Dayton Triangles coverage, wait no further.) The Kansas City Chiefs have lost 28 of their last 30 games, a streak that began after a 4-3 start to the 2007 season. Equally amazing, another franchise has a similar run over the exact same stretch, as the Detroit Lions have lost 27 of their last 30 games. Because the 30th game for the Lions was a win, if the team loses to the Packers on Sunday, they will match the Chiefs with 28 losses over a 30 game stretch. You may soon be able to throw in the Rams, who have lost 25 of their last 30 games. Because games #28 and #29 were consecutive wins during a brief stretch of the Rams' 3-13 season in 2007, if the Rams lose their next three games (the third one appropriately coming against the Lions), they will also have lost at least 27 games over a 30 game stretch.

The following list is every franchise that has lost more than 26 games in a 30 game stretch. I list the inclusive dates where the team met that criteria (so often times, the streak was longer than 30 games). I count ties as half-wins and half-losses. This "opposite of elite" list is in roughly descending order of how bad the streaks were.

9 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History

Ranking QBs By Their Six Best Regular Seasons

Posted by Neil Paine on October 2, 2009

About three years ago, Doug ranked wide receivers by the percentage of team passing yards they accounted for, and he averaged together each WR's 6 best seasons according to that metric to create a ranking. This was his reasoning:

I am a big fan of rating players by the average of their best N seasons. It's not scientific, but it generally feels right to me in terms of weighting short brilliant careers with long merely-good ones. If you rate based on totals, you're going to favor the latter over the former by crediting guys for compiling raw numbers at the end of their career even if those numbers weren't of much value. If you rate based on averages, you end up penalizing guys for hanging around past their primes. In short, I think an 600-yard season by a 37-year-old wide receiver shouldn't count for him (because 600-yard seasons grow on trees) nor against him (because 600-yard seasons are at least as good as zero-yard seasons).

In my system, a guy can hang around as long as he wants and it won't hurt him. But it won't help him either, unless he does something truly valuable. The only advantage of having a long career is that it gives you more opportunities to generate valuable seasons. Why six seasons instead of four or seven or 10? No particular reason. It just seemed right.

For career rankings, Doug later moved on to the method of taking 100% of the player’s best season, plus 95% of his second-best season, plus 90% of his third-best season, etc., but I think the "best N seasons" system has its place as well. Choosing six seasons feels like it strikes a nice balance between those pesky compilers and one-year wonders, because whether you're Ken O'Brien or Vinny Testaverde, six great seasons in the NFL don't grow on trees. It's arbitrary, sure, but that's kinda the nature of the beast when trying to balance peak value and cumulative value.

Anyway, I decided to apply Doug's old "best N seasons" method to quarterback careers, so first I translated all players' stats to modern numbers ("modern" = 1994-2008). Then, for the metric to evaluate the QBs, I decided to try something different. Avid web-watchers know that Football Outsiders has a metric called YAR -- yards above replacement -- which ranks players based on their contribution above a theoretical "replacement level" player at the same position. Unfortunately, since it's based on play-by-play data, it can only rank players back to 1994, the first year Aaron & co. have in their db. However, since we have box score numbers dating back much further than that, we can see which raw box score stats tend to lead to good YAR scores, and estimate a player's YAR from his standard stats.

In other words, I ran a regression on all quarterback passing & rushing YAR numbers from 1994-2008, and found that the following equations most closely estimate YAR:

qb_pYAR = (-6.641972655 * Att) + (3.651542626 * Cmp) + (0.977634 * pYds) + (13.15861425 * pTD) + (-42.88479071 * INT)

qb_rYAR = (-2.944447621 * Runs) + (0.60229537 * rYds) + (8.506708898 * TD)

Okay, so now we have every QB in NFL history translated to a common era, in this case 1994-2008, and we have a method by which we can evaluate their performance each year. All that's left is to crunch the numbers and see who averaged the most YAR in their six best seasons...

50 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Statgeekery

GQBOAT III: Career rankings (Weather, SOS and post-season included)

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 13, 2009

On Monday, I explained the methodology behind my system which ranks every quarterback-season in NFL history. On Tuesday, I presented the career leaders in the regular season and in the regular and post-season, combined. I also showed a list of the yearly leaders, in one and five-year increments. Yesterday, Doug did some outstanding and innovative work to provide (precise) strength of schedule and (approximate) weather adjustments for every quarterback-season since 1960. Today, we can add Doug's results to my formula to get a truer picture of the most productive quarterbacks in NFL history.

Implementing Doug's data is actually pretty simple. If before, QB A had 500 plays, averaged 8.0 converted yards per play, and the league average (excluding him) was 6.0 CY/A, then he would get credit for having 1000 converted yards of value added over average. Now suppose he had played half his games (and had half of his attempts) in domes, and the other half in what Doug calls "everything else." QB A would then have a weather adjustment of -0.20 CY/P (here, CY/P and ANY/A are similar enough to be interchangeable). Assuming further that he faced an easy schedule -- approximate 0.30 ANY/A easier than average -- then we could state that a perfectly average QB playing QB A's schedule and in QB A's environment would average 0.5 CY/P (or ANY/A) more than if our perfectly average QB faced an average schedule in an average environment. Therefore, we would downgrade QB A from 8.0 CY/P to 7.5 CY/P, and his total value would drop to 750 converted yards over average.

36 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Ranking the quarterbacks: schedule and weather adjustments

Posted by Doug on August 12, 2009

At least in principle, the schedule part is easy.

For several years we have often used a mathematical procedure called the Simple Rating System to adjust team performances for the schedules they faced. This post has the details. In a couple of later posts we discussed how to apply the same method to statistics other than points --- like passing yards per attempt for instance --- and how to decompose it into offensive and defensive components.

I'll do a quick recap here.

10 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Greatest QB of All-Time III: Career rankings

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 11, 2009

Yesterday, I explained the methodology behind my grading of every quarterback-season in NFL history. Today, I'm going to present the career results. As usual, I'll be using the 100/95/90 approach, where each QB gets 100% of his score in his best season, 95% of his score in his second best season, 90% of his score in his third best season, and so on. This is the key to rewarding guys who played really well for a long time, but without killing guys with really bad rookie years or seasons late in their career. It also helps to prevent the guys who were compilers from dominating the top of the list. The table below shows the top regular season QBs in NFL history, using three different metrics.

"VALUE" shows each quarterback's converted yards over average, as explained in yesterday's post. "REPL" shows each QB's converted yards over replacement, defined as 75% of league average. I like using the "Value" score as a HOF indicator and to answer the question of who were the best quarterbacks ever. However, after the top 30 or so QBs, I like using replacement value, which rewards guys who were good for a long time. Being average for 10 seasons means you were probably a better QB than someone who was good for two seasons. Using three-fourths of league average as the baseline is probably the best to judge a large group of quarterbacks, like when we want to separate the Eli Mannings from the Jeff Georges and Trent Dilfers from the Ryan Leafs. If we have to rank a random 100 QBs in NFL history (or if we're trying to judge how good an average draft pick was), the replacement category is best. Deciding who was the 42nd and who was the 43rd best QBs ever? I'd use the replacement value category, but note that this only works well for players in the same era. The replacement value formula, for various reasons, is biased towards modern QBs. For both the "VALUE" and "REPL" metrics, I pro-rated non-16 game seasons in the usual manner, splitting the difference between pro-rating and not pro-rating at all (i.e., a 9-game season is pro-rated to a 12.5 game season).

If you want something that is totally era-independent, you'll want to use the third column, "SEARK." That formula measures each quarterback's rank in each season. If you were the #1 QB in the league in any season, you got 10 points; if you were #2, you received 9 points; #3, 8 points, and so on. This actually helps the older QBs since they played in smaller leagues, and therefore it was easier to accumulate more "SEARK" points; however, since older QBs did not stick around as long as modern QBs, I think this metric is pretty era neutral. Note that I combined the AFL and NFL QBs in the '60s for the purposes of the "SEARK" column, although each player was only compared to the other QBs in his own league for the VALUE and REPL categories. Additionally, all AAFC stats have been excluded (sorry Otto Graham), as the NFL does not officially recognize them the way the league does with AFL stats (although the HOF does consider AAFC performances).

Finally, I showed the main team each QB played for, along with what percentage of his career value came with that team. It is possible (see Daunte Culpepper) to get over 100% of your career value with one team, if you are below average with your other teams.

Here are the top 100 QBs in NFL history according to my formula, sorted by converted yards of value over average. An * means the player is in the HOF, while a + means the QB was active in 2008:

28 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Greatest QB of All-Time, Version III (Methodology)

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 10, 2009

In 2006, I devised a system to rank every quarterback in NFL history. Not surprisingly, I found that post hopelessly out of date and imprecise after just two years. I created a new formula in June 2008 that was a big improvement, but still left a bit to be desired. I have some controversial thoughts that I'm considering implementing to improve the formula, but I'm not ready to make those changes right now and the season is fast approaching. On the other hand, there are some relatively noncontroversial tweaks I can make to the '08 system that would improve the results, and there is no reason to wait a full year to make those changes. I like the idea of updating the series every two years (methodology, worst QBs ever, best QBs ever, playoff analysis, best overall QBs ever), so I won't be doing a full update this year. Just a methodology discussion today and a look at the best QBs ever (by career) tomorrow. On Wednesday, Doug is going to break out some exciting new data, and I'll show you how those data affect the top QBs on Thursday. Next summer I'll have a full update, but we'll visit some of the issues relating to grading QBs in the coming months (and we'll need feedback from you guys).

For now, I've made three key updates to the formula that are clear improvements to the '08 version. For those that don't remember, here's a quick summary of that method: We begin by calculating adjusted net yards, which is done by starting with passing yards, adding a 10-yard bonus for all passing touchdowns, subtracting 45 yards for all interceptions, and subtracting out the number of sack yards lost. That number (ANY) is divided by adjusted attempts, calculated as pass attempts plus sacks. Then we compare each QB to the league average (excluding the QB in question) to see how many ANY/A each player was above or below league average. That difference is then multiplied by each QB's adjusted attempts to determine how many adjusted net yards over average he added. Finally, to give credit to rushing quarterbacks (but not too much credit), the last step in the old formula was to add adjusted rushing yards (10*rushing touchdowns plus rushing yards) over 4.0 yards per carry; so 400 yards (and zero touchdowns) on 50 carries would be worth +200.

Here are the three changes I'm making:

  • 1) Increasing the value of a touchdown from 10 to 20 yards. This was thoroughly derived last October. In addition to being more precise from a theoretical standpoint, it also conforms to common perception better than the smaller bonus. From now on, all passing touchdowns are worth 20 yards.
  • I have not done any rigorous analysis on the value of an interception, but it's on the to-do list. For now, I'm sticking with the 45-yard penalty as derived by the writers of The Hidden Game of Football.

25 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Great Defensive Backs playing together

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 5, 2009

I've spent some time this summer examining great players playing at the same position on the same team since 1950. If you want to check out the prior posts, just follow the links below:

Great Linebackers Playing Together
Great Defensive Linemen Playing Together
Great Front Sevens Playing Together
Great Offensive Linemen Playing Together

Today we'll finish off this series on non-skill position players with a look at great defensive backs playing together. Just as before, this post is not a look at the greatest defensive backs groups ever assembled. We might attempt to do that one day, but that’s not the goal here. What I want to know is what teams have seen a bunch of great safeties and corners playing together while those players were in their primes?

As always, I’m using Doug’s Approximate Value system to rate the defensive backs, as opposed to things like interceptions, tackles, Pro Bowl selections or starts. Approximate Value incorporates all of those factors, and a little more. It’s far from perfect, but it’s probably the best way to rank large groups of players from several different eras across every position.

I recorded the peak three years for every defensive back since 1950, and assigned the average of those numbers as the rating for each player. Then I gave him an age adjusted score for each season. As usual, the age adjusted score is the rating I’m giving each DB for each season of play, not his actual AV grade.

27 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

All-decade team of the 80s: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 30, 2009

If you're a first time reader, you might want to check out the following links, first:

90% of the '00s All-decade offense
90% of the '00s All-decade defense
My All-decade offense of the '70s
My All-decade defense of the '70s
Doug, JKL and I discussing the All-80s offense on the podcast

A few quick notes about the '80s:

1) A bunch of marquee players -- Eric Dickerson, Wes Chandler, Fred Dean, Dave Casper and Herschel Walker -- were traded in mid-season during the decade. As far as Approximate Value and my position formulas go, I simply combined those numbers into one season.

2) Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1982. I used unofficial statistics to record "sacks over 0.5 games played" for as many players as I could find in '80 and '81.

3) There were two strikes in the decade -- '82 and '87. Doug's Approximate Value system and my QB/RB/WR formulas take this into account, but things like games played and games started will be affected. And, as with the '70s post, not all games started data are accurate.

4) Of the 280 teams in the decade (there was no expansion in the '80s -- the NFL was a 28-team league in all ten seasons), 204 of them played a 3-4 defense. With 73% of the teams fielding three defensive linemen and four linebackers, I feel obliged to do the same even if the official team did not. Let's take a quick look at the official All-decade team, as chosen by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

19 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

All-decade team of the 70s: Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 21, 2009

Yesterday, I looked at the top offensive players of the 1970s, and compared them to the actual All-Decade team as selected by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Today, we're going to look at the defensive players and special teams stars from the 1970s. For a year-too-early look at the eventual '00s All-Decade defense, click here.

     First Team       Second Team 
DE:  Jack Youngblood  L.C. Greenwood 
DE:  Carl Eller       Harvey Martin 
DT:  Joe Greene       Alan Page 
DT:  Bob Lilly        Merlin Olsen 
OLB: Jack Ham         Robert Brazile 
OLB: Ted Hendricks    Bobby Bell 
MLB: Dick Butkus      Jack Lambert 
CB:  Willie Brown     Louis Wright 
CB:  Jimmy Johnson    Roger Wehrli 
S:   Ken Houston      Larry Wilson 
S:   Cliff Harris     Dick Anderson

Let's get started with the defensive line.

Defensive Ends

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	PLAYER
104.6   7       130     116     8       0       5       2       Jack Youngblood
104.3   4       141     126     9       0       3       1       Carl Eller
 89.8   6       129     114     9       0       2       0       L.C. Greenwood
 82.5   6       115      43     8       0       2       2       Claude Humphrey
 81.4   1       144     133     9       0       0       1       Fred Dryer
 78.4   0       144     144    10       0       0       0       Jim Marshall
 74.6   7       137     135    10       0       0       2       Elvin Bethea
 71.0   4        96      78     6       0       1       1       Bill Stanfill
 68.6   1       143     128     9       0       0       1       Tommy Hart
 68.1   3       140      84    10       0       0       0       Coy Bacon
 67.6   0       128     107     9       0       0       0       Ron McDole
 64.6   2       114      98     8       0       1       1       Lyle Alzado
 64.6   2       119      39     8       0       0       0       Dwight White
 63.8   0       127     113     8       0       0       0       Vern Den Herder
 59.7   1       140      16    10       0       0       1       Jack Gregory
 58.5   2       139     103     9       0       0       0       Cedrick Hardman
 56.9   4       101      14     5       1.5     1       2       Harvey Martin 

24 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

All-decade team of the 70s: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 20, 2009

After spending some time projecting the All-decade offense and All-decade defense of the '00s, I thought it might be fun to perform the same analysis for another period in NFL history. Today, we're going to look at the All-decade offensive players of the 1970s; tomorrow, we'll check out the defensive players, special teams stars, and head coaches.

Let's start with the actual All-decade offense, as selected by the voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame:

    First Team         Second Team
QB: Roger Staubach     Terry Bradshaw/Ken Stabler
RB: O.J. Simpson       Earl Campbell
RB: Walter Payton      Franco Harris
WR: Lynn Swann         Paul Warfield
WR: Drew Pearson       Harold Carmichael
TE: Dave Casper        Charlie Sanders
OT: Art Shell          Dan Dierdorf
OT: Rayfield Wright    Ron Yary
OG: Larry Little       John Hannah
OG: Joe DeLamielleure  Gene Upshaw
OC: Jim Langer         Mike Webster

26 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

90% of the All-Decade Team, Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 1, 2009

Yesterday, we looked at my choices for the through-nine-years All-decade offense. Today, we'll do the same for the defense.

Even when the 3-4 defense was at its peak in the '80s, that All-Decade Team still selected four linemen and three linebackers (although it still chose three 3-4 players in its front seven). We'll do the same here, but we'll keep in mind that Pro Bowl and AP honors are less likely to be given to 3-4 linemen, which will drive their AV scores down, too.

Defensive Ends:

AV	PB	G	GS	SEA	awards	AP1	AP2	Sk Val	PLAYER
100	6	141	136	8	1	3	1	36.5	Jason Taylor
 78	4	113	112	8	1	2	2	34.5	Michael Strahan
 76 	5	111	105	7	0	3	1	 1.0	Richard Seymour
 71	4	106	106	7	1	2	1	23.0	Julius Peppers
 66	1	139	137	9	0	0	0	 0.0	Aaron Smith
 66	2	110	 99	7	0	1	1	28.0	Simeon Rice
 63	3	113	103	6	0	1	1	27.5	John Abraham
 62	2	128	127	8	0	1	1	19.5	Patrick Kerney
 59	1	112	105	7	0	0	0	12.0	Adewale Ogunleye
 58	4	103	 89	7	0	2	1	22.5	Dwight Freeney
 58	1	144	139	9	0	0	0	 4.5	Kevin Carter
 57	2	117	112	7	0	0	1	14.0	Aaron Schobel
 56	2	111	102	7	0	0	0	 8.5	Jevon Kearse
 54	1	123	106	7	0	0	0	 8.0	Mike Rucker
 53	3	 79	 65	4	0	1	1	13.5	Hugh Douglas
 53	2	 77	 71	5	0	2	0	19.5	Jared Allen

28 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

90% of the All-Decade Team

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 30, 2009

There's one year left in the decade of the '00s, but that didn't stop ESPN from naming its All-decade offensive and defensive teams. It is obvious that we should wait for the 2009 season to unfold before we name the All-Decade team of the '00s. But that doesn't mean we can't take a sneak peak at what the eventual team should look like.

I'll mostly be using Doug's approximate value system, with of course only the years from 2000-2008 included. I'll give each player 100% credit for their best season of this nine-year decade, 95% credit for their second best season, 90% for their third best, and so on. For each position, in addition to the approximate value grades for the candidates, we'll list the number of pro bowls each player made, his numbers of games and games started, total seasons as a starter, awards (consisting of the AP's Defensive Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl MVP, Offensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year), and first team and second team all pro honors. For QB, RB and WR, I'll also use the systems I used in the "greatest ever" series for each of those positions. Let's get started.

20 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

Great OL playing together

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 24, 2009

Recently, I've been focused on great players who, while they were still great, have played the same position for the same team at the same time. I looked at linebacker groups and DL units a few weeks ago; I then combined those two levels of the defense to rank some of the best front sevens of all time.

Using pretty much the same methodology, I'm going to rank the offensive lines. What teams have had stellar tackles, guards and centers playing together at the same time? To rank the offensive linemen, we're going to use Doug's Approximate Value system. I recorded the best three seasons for all linemen since 1950 to assign a "peak AV rating" for each player. For each player-season, I took the lineman's peak AV rating and then adjusted his score for age. What adjustment?

Last August, Doug looked at which great running backs were helped most by their offensive lines. He used the following aging curve for the big uglies:

Age  PctOfPeak
============
21 => 0.48
22 => 0.48
23 => 0.57
24 => 0.81
25 => 0.93
26 => 0.97
27 => 1.00
28 => 1.00
29 => 0.97
30 => 0.91
31 => 0.90
32 => 0.88
33 => 0.78
34 => 0.76
35 => 0.77
36 => 0.63
37 => 0.62
38 => 0.62
39 => 0.62
40 => 0.62

That's slightly different than the one I derived for defensive linemen; that could be because of the different ways you could interpret the data, or it could be because offensive and defensive linemen actually have different curves. That might be interesting to look at in a future post, but for now the above aging curve looks good to me. From there, it's really simple -- we multiply each lineman's peak AV grade by his age weight to obtain his value for each season. Then we add that number for each of the members of the starting five for every team since 1950.

An incomplete list of reasons to dislike this post:

As was the case in the DL and LB posts, active players that are still young are going to be undervalued. Jake Scott has a peak AV of 8.3 right now, but that could easily improve if he makes a couple of Pro Bowls. Therefore, the '04 and '05 Colts -- while they made the list below -- are potentially undervalued. Obviously for any team with no active players, this point is irrelevant.

Not all offensive line positions are created equally. While some people may argue that DEs are more important than DTs, surely others would go the other way. Many view MLBs as the face of a defense, but the OLBs are often the playmakers of a defense, especially in a 3-4 scheme. So combining the grades of all the players seemed innocuous in the prior posts. But you'd be hard pressed to find anyone argue that guards are equivalent to tackles. A line with two great tackles and two average guards should be better than the reverse.

I didn't make any adjustment, though, because of two reasons. One, I would have no idea what weight to use for the tackles; two, it's explicitly built into the AV formula that tackles get more credit than the interior linemen. So to some extent, this has been considered when we have our AV grades. But to assume that the ratio is going to always work well across all teams and all eras would be to assume too much.

More importantly, AV ratings for all OL are obviously going to be heavy on the "approximate." There's just not a lot to go on there, even less than for defensive linemen and linebackers. I think AV ratings are better than any other individual OL metric commonly available, but that is probably a bigger indictment of the latter rather than a selling point of the former.

Finally -- and this isn't just a throwaway line -- continuity and cohesiveness are commonly considered to be key parts of a good offensive line. One day we might test that theory; for now, let's just recognize that putting five great lineman together on a team may be less effective than five good linemen who have played together for half a decade. Obviously, AV ignores this issue.

One note on reading the data below: I made the number next to each player be his age-adjusted AV, and not his peak AV (as I did in the former posts). While I think this might make it easier to understand the rankings, I'd be lying if I didn't say the reason I made the switch was I accidentally took the age-adjusted number and didn't notice until I was finished formatting.

In this post on all-time running backs, I mentioned how Marion Motley brought power football to Cleveland, later sustained by Jim Brown and Leroy Kelly. Well the same sort of thing was going on the for the Browns at the same time, at left tackle. Lou Groza was the starting left tackle for the entire decade of the ’50s, making nine Pro Bowls and being named first team All-Pro four times. After Groza switched to placekicker exclusively, Dick Schafrath started for Cleveland at LT for every season in the ’60s, making six Pro Bowls and being named first team All-Pro four times. Doug Dieken would take over for Schafrath, and while he only made one Pro Bowl, he was the starting left tackle for thirteen straight seasons. From 1948 to 1984, Cleveland would have three men man the that position.

The '73 Raiders ranking first are a win for AV -- the '71-'73 Raiders are the only post-1950 team to have four HOF offensive linemen; only Buehler did not end up in Canton. A reserve on the '71 team, Ron Mix, gave that squad five Hall of Fame offensive linemen. The Chicago Bears in 1940 are the only pre-1950 team to have four starting HOF linemen on offense. The Browns from '53 to '59 had three HOF OL every year except 1957, and are well represented on the below list. As usual, duplicate teams (like the '71 and '72 Raiders when the '73 team is on the list) have been deleted.


tm-yr      avg    LT                        LG                         C                            RG                         RT
rai-1973   12.4   Art Shell (27): 16        Gene Upshaw (28): 15.3     Jim Otto (35): 10.3          George Buehler (26): 8.1   Bob Brown (32): 12.3
gnb-1961   12.2   Bob Skoronski (27): 7.7   Fuzzy Thurston (28): 11.7  Jim Ringo (30): 13.7         Jerry Kramer (25): 13      Forrest Gregg (28): 14.7
mia-1973   12.0   Wayne Moore (28): 10      Bob Kuechenberg (26): 10.7 Jim Langer (25): 13.6        Larry Little (28): 15      Norm Evans (31): 10.5
cle-1959   11.9   Lou Groza (35): 11.8      Jim Ray Smith (27): 15     Art Hunter (26): 9.7         Gene Hickerson (24): 10.8  Mike McCormack (29): 12.3
dal-1972   11.8   Ralph Neely (29): 14.2    John Niland (28): 13       Dave Manders (31): 8.1       Blaine Nye (26): 8.4       Rayfield Wright (27): 15.3
cle-1962   11.7   Dick Schafrath (25): 14.6 Jim Ray Smith (30): 13.7   John Morrow (29): 10         John Wooten (26): 9.1      Mike McCormack (32): 11.1
cle-1960   11.6   Dick Schafrath (23): 8.9  Jim Ray Smith (28): 15     John Morrow (27): 10.3       Gene Hickerson (25): 12.4  Mike McCormack (30): 11.5
dal-1973   11.6   Ralph Neely (30): 13.3    John Niland (29): 12.6     John Fitzgerald (25): 8.1    Blaine Nye (27): 8.7       Rayfield Wright (28): 15.3
rai-1970   11.5   Art Shell (24): 13        Gene Upshaw (25): 14.3     Jim Otto (32): 11.7          Jim Harvey (27): 6.3       Harry Schuh (28): 12
sfo-1990   11.3   Bubba Paris (30): 8.8     Guy McIntyre (29): 11.3    Jesse Sapolu (29): 9.7       Harris Barton (26): 14.9   Steve Wallace (26): 12
sfo-1991   11.3   Steve Wallace (27): 12.3  Guy McIntyre (30): 10.6    Jesse Sapolu (30): 9.1       Roy Foster (31): 9         Harris Barton (27): 15.3
mia-1972   11.2   Doug Crusan (26): 8.4     Bob Kuechenberg (25): 10.2 Jim Langer (24): 11.9        Larry Little (27): 15      Norm Evans (30): 10.6
cle-1958   11.1   Lou Groza (34): 11.7      Jim Ray Smith (26): 14.6   Art Hunter (25): 9.3         Chuck Noll (26): 7.1       Mike McCormack (28): 12.7
min-1972   11.1   Grady Alderman (34): 8.9  Ed White (25): 9           Mick Tingelhoff (32): 12     Milt Sunde (30): 7.3       Ron Yary (26): 18.1
mia-1977   11.0   Wayne Moore (32): 8.8     Bob Kuechenberg (30): 10   Jim Langer (29): 14.2        Larry Little (32): 13.2    Mike Current (32): 8.8
cle-1964   11.0   Dick Schafrath (27): 15.7 John Wooten (28): 9.3      John Morrow (31): 9.3        Gene Hickerson (29): 12.9  Monte Clark (27): 7.7
mia-1979   10.9   Bob Kuechenberg (32): 9.7 Ed Newman (28): 12.7       Jim Langer (31): 13.2        Larry Little (34): 11.4    Mike Current (34): 7.6
rai-1974   10.9   Art Shell (28): 16        Gene Upshaw (29): 14.9     Jim Otto (36): 8.4           George Buehler (27): 8.3   John Vella (24): 6.8
mia-1974   10.9   Tom Funchess (30): 4.2    Bob Kuechenberg (27): 11   Jim Langer (26): 14.2        Larry Little (29): 14.6    Norm Evans (32): 10.3
gnb-1959   10.9   Norm Masters (26): 5.8    Fuzzy Thurston (26): 11.3  Jim Ringo (28): 15           Jerry Kramer (23): 8       Forrest Gregg (26): 14.2
rai-1977   10.8   Art Shell (31): 14.4      Gene Upshaw (32): 13.5     Dave Dalby (27): 9           George Buehler (30): 7.6   Henry Lawrence (26): 9.7
rai-1975   10.8   Art Shell (29): 15.5      Gene Upshaw (30): 14       Dave Dalby (25): 8.4         George Buehler (28): 8.3   John Vella (25): 7.8
cle-1956   10.8   Lou Groza (32): 13.5      Abe Gibron (31): 11.1      Frank Gatski (34): 11.4      Harold Bradley (27): 5.7   Mike McCormack (26): 12.3
cle-1952   10.8   Lou Groza (28): 15.3      Abe Gibron (27): 12.3      Frank Gatski (30): 13.7      Lin Houston (31): 4.5      John Sandusky (27): 8
was-1989   10.6   Jim Lachey (26): 14.6     Russ Grimm (30): 11.2      Jeff Bostic (31): 7.2        Mark May (30): 7           Joe Jacoby (30): 13
sfo-1988   10.5   Steve Wallace (24): 10    Jesse Sapolu (27): 10      Randy Cross (34): 8.6        Guy McIntyre (27): 11.7    Harris Barton (24): 12.4
clt-1959   10.5   Jim Parker (25): 14.3     Art Spinney (32): 10.9     Buzz Nutter (28): 8.3        Alex Sandusky (27): 9.7    George Preas (26): 9.4
mia-1971   10.5   Doug Crusan (25): 8.1     Bob Kuechenberg (24): 8.9  Bob DeMarco (33): 9.6        Larry Little (26): 14.6    Norm Evans (29): 11.3
kan-2002   10.4   Willie Roaf (32): 13.2    Brian Waters (25): 10.9    Casey Wiegmann (29): 8.4     Will Shields (31): 11.7    John Tait (27): 8
cle-1953   10.4   Lou Groza (29): 14.9      Abe Gibron (28): 12.3      Frank Gatski (31): 13.5      Chuck Noll (21): 3.5       John Sandusky (28): 8
cle-1963   10.4   Dick Schafrath (26): 15.2 John Wooten (27): 9.3      John Morrow (30): 9.4        Gene Hickerson (28): 13.3  John Brown (24): 4.9
min-1975   10.4   Charles Goodrum (25): 6.5 Andy Maurer (27): 7        Mick Tingelhoff (35): 10.5   Ed White (28): 9.7         Ron Yary (29): 18.1
nwe-1978   10.3   Leon Gray (27): 14.7      John Hannah (27): 14.3     Bill Lenkaitis (32): 7.3     Sam Adams (30): 7          Shelby Jordan (26): 8.4
min-1970   10.3   Grady Alderman (32): 10.3 Jim Vellone (26): 5.8      Mick Tingelhoff (30): 12.4   Milt Sunde (28): 8         Ron Yary (24): 15.1
sfo-1951   10.3   Ray Collins (24): 9.5     Nick Feher (25): 4.7       Bill Johnson (25): 9.9       Bruno Banducci (31): 10.2  Leo Nomellini (27): 17.3
clt-2001   10.3   Tarik Glenn (25): 13      Steve McKinney (26): 7.1   Jeff Saturday (26): 14.9     Larry Moore (26): 7.1      Adam Meadows (27): 9.3
dal-1993   10.2   Mark Tuinei (33): 8.1     Nate Newton (32): 10.6     Mark Stepnoski (26): 10.7    Kevin Gogan (29): 9.7      Erik Williams (25): 12.1
sfo-1989   10.2   Bubba Paris (29): 9.4     Guy McIntyre (28): 11.7    Jesse Sapolu (28): 10        Bruce Collie (27): 5.7     Harris Barton (25): 14.3
sfo-1993   10.2   Steve Wallace (29): 12    Guy McIntyre (32): 10.3    Jesse Sapolu (32): 8.8       Ralph Tamm (27): 5         Harris Barton (29): 14.9
clt-2002   10.2   Tarik Glenn (26): 13.6    Rick DeMulling (25): 6.8   Jeff Saturday (27): 15.3     Ryan Diem (23): 5.9        Adam Meadows (28): 9.3
sdg-1973   10.2   Terry Owens (29): 7.4     Doug Wilkerson (26): 12    Carl Mauck (26): 6.8         Walt Sweeney (32): 10.9    Russ Washington (27): 13.7
dal-1970   10.2   Tony Liscio (30): 8.2     John Niland (26): 12.6     Dave Manders (29): 8.7       Blaine Nye (24): 7         Rayfield Wright (25): 14.3
was-1986   10.1   Joe Jacoby (27): 14.3     Russ Grimm (27): 12.3      Jeff Bostic (28): 8          R.C. Thielemann (31): 8.4  Mark May (27): 7.7
ram-1969   10.1   Charley Cowan (31): 10.8  Tom Mack (26): 11.6        Ken Iman (30): 7             Joe Scibelli (30): 7.3     Bob Brown (28): 14
clt-2004   10.1   Tarik Glenn (28): 14      Rick DeMulling (27): 7.3   Jeff Saturday (29): 14.9     Jake Scott (23): 4.8       Ryan Diem (25): 9.6
ram-2000   10.1   Orlando Pace (25): 17.1   Tom Nutten (29): 7.8       Andy McCollum (30): 7.6      Adam Timmerman (29): 9.4   Ryan Tucker (25): 8.7
mia-1982   10.1   Jon Giesler (26): 8.7     Bob Kuechenberg (35): 8.5  Dwight Stephenson (25): 14.9 Ed Newman (31): 11.4       Eric Laakso (26): 7.1
mia-1976   10.1   Wayne Moore (31): 9       Bob Kuechenberg (29): 10.7 Jim Langer (28): 14.7        Larry Little (31): 13.5    Darryl Carlton (23): 2.7
hou-1988   10.1   Bruce E. Davis (32): 8.2  Mike Munchak (28): 12.3    Jay Pennison (27): 7         Bruce Matthews (27): 14.7  Dean Steinkuhler (27): 8.3
clt-2005   10.0   Tarik Glenn (29): 13.6    Ryan Lilja (24): 5.4       Jeff Saturday (30): 14       Jake Scott (24): 6.8       Ryan Diem (26): 10
nwe-1977   10.0   Leon Gray (26): 14.2      John Hannah (26): 13.9     Bill Lenkaitis (31): 7.5     Sam Adams (29): 7.4        Tom Neville (34): 6.8

  • I'll run down a far from complete group of non-listed but relatively famous offensive lines. The Electric Company -- the Buffalo Bills offensive line led by Joe DeLamielleure and notorious for providing the Juice to its running back, peaked at a 9.1 average rating.
  • The '79 Rams, who almost upset the Steelers in the Super Bowl, had an average rating of 8.9 that season. Jackie Slater was just 25 and along with Doug France at LT, anchored a very good line.
  • The Cardinals assembled some strong lines in St. Louis. In the late '60s, Bob DeMarco, Ken Gray and Ernie McMillan made the right side of the line a dominant force. The group had an average rating in the high 9s from '65 to '67. A decade later, Tom Banks, Conrad Dobler and Dan Dierdorf replicated the success on the right side, and each player made the Pro Bowl from '75 to '77. The '77 Cards had a 9.4 rating.
  • The Super Bowl Champion Broncos had very strong lines, averaging a rating in the low 9s for most of the later '90s. Tom Nalen was in his prime for a unit that had no weakness; the lowest (age-adjusted) rating on the '98 Broncos was a 7.3 for Harry Swayne.
  • Neither the Mike Webster nor the Dermontti Dawson Steelers are on the above list; Dawson's best team was in '95, when the group had a 9.1 rating thanks mostly to Dawson; of the '70s Steelers, the '77 unit ranks at the top, with a 9.0 rating carried by a 25-year-old Webster.
  • It's easy to think of the '95 Cowboys as the weakest of Dallas' three Super Bowl teams in the '90s, but don't blame the lack of starpower. In addition to Switzer's squad being the only one with Deion Sanders, it was the only one with Larry Allen, too. The '99 Cowboys are the highest ranked team Allen was on, and at 9.6 they just missed the cut. Allen, Erik Williams, Mark Stepnoski and Flozell Adams all had big ratings; if Everett McIver (RG) was any better than 5.2, they would appear on this list.
  • Mark Schlereth was on those Broncos teams mentioned above, but he was also on the famous '91 Skins. That team had an average rating of 9.8, the third best iteration of the 'Hogs. Lachey and Jacoby were in their relative primes, but May was gone and Grimm was a reserve.
  • Anthony Munoz had a peak AV of 18.3, and he teamed with Max Montoya (peak of 10.3) for the entire '80s. The Bengals were best in '82, where RT Mike Wilson (9.7) was also at his best.
  • A final thought -- are there three names more synonymous with the NFL than Lombardi, Montana and Madden? All three are more than tangentially related to the men on the above lists.
    • Lombardi took over the Packers in 1959. He inherited and a 25-year-old Skoronski, a 28-year-old Ringo, a 23-year-old Kramer and a 26-year-old Gregg. 1959 was also the year Thurston (age 26) became a Packer, although I'm not sure whether it was Vince who brought him to Green Bay. Regardless, while he certainly inherited a team with a terrible record, he inherited arguably the best combination of offensive line talent and youth in NFL history. Of course, one can easily argue that it was Lombardi who made those players great -- and I wouldn't want to argue against that point. But it must have been nice to have a bunch of terrific 25 year old offensive linemen in the pre-free agency era to help you create a dynasty for the next decade.
    • Montana's teams had won two Super Bowls in the early '80s (with OL ratings of 9.1 and 9.2), but it was his work in the late '80s that made Montana into the superstar for which he is now remembered. In addition to having a pretty good WR, I didn't realize how impressive his linemen looked. There wasn't a single weakspot on those offensive lines, and I wonder if they have received enough credit for San Francisco's offensive success. Of course, AV could be inflating their OL rankings, if they made Pro Bowls and All Pro teams because they looked good playing next to Montana and Rice.
    • Madden holds the record for the best winning percentage of any coach in history, minimum 100 games coached. He only coached for 10 seasons, but like Lombardi, he had some nice luck in the trenches. When he was promoted to head coach, Shell was just 23 years of age, Upshaw was 24, and he still had six more years of Otto's career. Not too shabby a situation to inherit for ten seasons.

6 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

The Greatest Field Goal Kickers Ever, Part III

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 17, 2009

On Monday, I explained the methodology behind the grade for every kicker-season from 1960-2007. Yesterday, I looked at the best and worst single seasons over that time period. Today, we'll look at the best kickers by career.

The table below shows each kicker's career grade, using the familiar weight of 100% of the player's best season, 95% of his second best, 90% of his third best, etc. This is useful because when we think of Jan Stenerud, we're not thinking of his awful 1985 season -- we're thinking of him at his best. If you have a bunch of good seasons and several more average ones, a bad season as a very young or old player won't kill your career rating, and I think that is appropriate. Here's the list of the top 75 kickers from '60 to '07.

rk	kicker	               VAL    	rkyr
 1	Jan Stenerud	       136.2	1967
 2	Nick Lowery	       124.6	1978
 3	Morten Andersen	       109.6	1982
 4	Gary Anderson	       100.4	1982
 5	Eddie Murray		83.7	1980
 6	Garo Yepremian		82.7	1966
 7	Mark Moseley		76.0	1970
 8	Fred Cox		73.6	1963
 9	Jim Turner		73.1	1964
10	Jason Hanson		68.5	1992
11	Mike Vanderjagt		65.8	1998
12	Norm Johnson		65.1	1982
13	Matt Stover		63.7	1991
14	John Carney		63.1	1988
15	Jim Bakken		61.9	1962
16	George Blanda		58.5	1949
17	Don Cockroft		54.9	1968
18	Jason Elam		54.3	1993
19	John Kasay		54.2	1991
20	Al Del Greco		49.9	1984
21	Jeff Wilkins		47.0	1994
22	Pete Stoyanovich	43.2	1989
23	Horst Muhlmann		41.3	1969
24	Bruce Gossett		39.7	1964
25	Sam Baker		38.1	1953
26	Pat Leahy		37.2	1974
27	Errol Mann		36.0	1968
28	Tom Dempsey		35.2	1969
29	Mike Mercer		35.1	1961
30	Rafael Septien		35.0	1977
31	Ryan Longwell		34.5	1997
32	Doug Brien		33.8	1994
33	Efren Herrera		33.1	1974
34	Toni Fritsch		32.9	1971
35	Gene Mingo		32.4	1960
36	Gino Cappelletti	31.7	1960
37	Ray Wersching		31.4	1973
38	Raul Allegre		30.5	1983
39	Paul McFadden		29.2	1984
40	Don Chandler		28.8	1956
41	Rolf Benirschke		27.6	1977
42	Mick Luckhurst		27.5	1981
43	Shayne Graham		26.2	2001
44	Donald Igwebuike	25.5	1985
45	Joe Nedney		24.9	1996
46	Chester Marcol		24.9	1972
47	John Smith		24.0	1974
48	Adam Vinatieri		22.0	1996
49	Tony Zendejas		21.3	1985
50	John Leypoldt		20.2	1971
51	Todd Peterson		19.9	1994
52	Mike Hollis		19.3	1995
53	David Akers		18.7	1998
54	Dean Biasucci		18.6	1984
55	Chris Jacke		17.6	1989
56	Cary Blanchard		16.9	1992
57	Nate Kaeding		16.5	2004
58	George Blair		16.5	1961
59	Steve Christie		16.5	1990
60	Tony Franklin		15.5	1979
61	Matt Bahr		15.5	1979
62	Olindo Mare		13.8	1997
63	Rian Lindell		13.1	2000
64	Fuad Reveiz		12.9	1985
65	Pete Gogolak		12.8	1964
66	Rich Karlis		12.1	1982
67	Jeff Jaeger		11.4	1987
68	Jim Breech		11.0	1979
69	Josh Brown		10.9	2003
70	Mike Clark		10.2	1963
71	Bob Thomas		 9.7	1975
72	Sebastian Janikowski	 9.4	2000
73	George Fleming		 9.2	1961
74	Pat Summerall		 8.9	1952
75	Paul Edinger		 8.4	2000

When I ranked the RBs, I had a separate formula which awarded 10 points each year to the best RB, 9 points to the second best, and so on. We can do the same thing for kickers. Lowery had two seasons as the NFL's top kicker (+20), four seasons as runner up (+36), two more seasons in the top three (+16), along with a #5, #7, two #9 and a #10 finish. That totals 87, the most in this system. Stenerud had three seasons atop the charts (+30), two more seasons at #2 (+18) or #3 (+16), one season at #5, one at #8, and three where he rounded out the top ten. Here are the rankings in this scoring system:

kicker		       VALUE	rkyr	Rk Score
Nick Lowery	       124.6	1978	87
Morten Andersen	       109.6	1982	77
Jan Stenerud	       136.2	1967	76
Gary Anderson	       100.4	1982	70
Eddie Murray		83.7	1980	63
Mark Moseley		76.0	1970	56
Jason Hanson		68.5	1992	53
Norm Johnson		65.1	1982	53
Garo Yepremian		82.7	1966	52
Jim Turner		73.1	1964	52
Fred Cox		73.6	1963	51
Matt Stover		63.7	1991	51
George Blanda		58.5	1949	50
Don Cockroft		54.9	1968	49
Mike Vanderjagt		65.8	1998	47
Jason Elam		54.3	1993	46
Jim Bakken		61.9	1962	45
John Carney		63.1	1988	44
Gene Mingo		32.4	1960	42
Gino Cappelletti	31.7	1960	39
Bruce Gossett		39.7	1964	38
John Kasay		54.2	1991	37
Al Del Greco		49.9	1984	36
Errol Mann		36.0	1968	33
Pete Stoyanovich	43.2	1989	32
Don Chandler		28.8	1956	32
Jeff Wilkins		47.0	1994	30
Sam Baker		38.1	1953	29
Mike Mercer		35.1	1961	29
Pat Leahy		37.2	1974	27
Ryan Longwell		34.5	1997	26
Adam Vinatieri		22.0	1996	26
Tom Dempsey		35.2	1969	24
Doug Brien		33.8	1994	24
Toni Fritsch		32.9	1971	24
Tony Zendejas		21.3	1985	22
Efren Herrera		33.1	1974	21
John Smith		24.0	1974	21
Ray Wersching		31.4	1973	20
Rolf Benirschke		27.6	1977	20
David Akers		18.7	1998	20
Dean Biasucci		18.6	1984	20
Tony Franklin		15.5	1979	20
Horst Muhlmann		41.3	1969	19
Chester Marcol		24.9	1972	19
Chris Jacke		17.6	1989	19
Steve Christie		16.5	1990	19
Paul McFadden		29.2	1984	18
John Leypoldt		20.2	1971	18
Fuad Reveiz		12.9	1985	18
Paul Hornung	       - 4.4	1957	18
Rafael Septien		35.0	1977	17
Raul Allegre		30.5	1983	17
Todd Peterson		19.9	1994	17
Jeff Jaeger		11.4	1987	17
Joe Danelo	       - 8.2	1975	17
Joe Nedney		24.9	1996	16
George Blair		16.5	1961	16
Pete Gogolak		12.8	1964	16
Bob Thomas		 9.7	1975	16
Paul Edinger		 8.4	2000	16
Martin Gramatica	 3.4	1999	16
Roger Ruzek	       -10.2	1987	16
Rian Lindell		13.1	2000	15
Scott Norwood		 3.3	1985	15

Before I get to the trivia answers, I want to make three quick HOF notes.

  • Nick Lowery's HOF case is pretty strong. Comparing across positions is very difficult, but if you want to assume that Stenerud is a worthy HOFer, then I think Lowery should be considered one, as well. Stenerud may be slightly better, and he likely had a greater impact on the game (as Gary alluded to in the comments to Monday's post, Stenerud was one of the first soccer style kickers and he changed the way many viewed the kicker position). But still, Lowery was so accurate and successful for so long, that he should be a HOFer. And, of course, his numbers are not inflated by playing in a domed stadium or a particularly nice climate. Lowery kicked Stenerud out of KC in 1980 -- the plackicker's version of Young replacing Montana.
  • At least for now -- before we break field goal length down into even smaller increments and before we introduce some sort of weather variable to our formula -- I feel confident in stating that Morten Andersen was better than Gary Anderson. This seems to be the prevailing opinion, at least among those who can separate out which was which. What's more important, though, is that both are clearly ahead of everyone not named Stenerud or Lowery. Those four kickers are in a tier of their own. Is Andersen a HOFer? He's got the career records (points, field goals made, games) but I would still put Lowery in before Andersen.
  • Some will make a case for Vinatieri for the HOF one day. He certainly will look much better once I figure out how to include some sort of variable to boost up cold weather kickers. But outside of that, Vinatieri's HOF case is absurd. Even if he didn't have the two missed field goals in Super Bowl XXXVIII, his history of clutch performances is not nearly enough to boost an otherwise weak resume. Vinatieri will get some love from those who don't know how to grade kickers, from those who love the Patriots, and from those who enjoy sparking controversy, but he's not a legitimate candidate when there's just one pure placekicker in the HOF.

Finally, here are the trivia answers from Monday's post.

1) Who holds the record for most missed field goals in a season?

2) What is the record for most extra points missed in a season and what three kickers hold it?

3) What kicker has the lowest single season field goal percentage, minimum one field goal made?

4) Who was the first soccer style kicker, what team signed him and in what year?

5) What two kickers hold the record for longest field goal made?

6) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive extra points made?

7) What three kickers hold the record for most XP made in a game?

8) What two kickers hold the record for most field goals attempted in a season?

9) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive field goals made?

10) Who are the only five kickers to make 100% of their field goal attempts in a single season, minimum ten attempts? Hint: The fifth kicker joined the group in 2008.

11) Who attempted the most field goals in a single game?

12) Name the three kickers in the HOF? Hint: Only one of the players was a pure kicker.

13) Who is the only kicker to win an NFL MVP award?

14) Recycled trivia edition: What player/kicker combination have combined for the most touchdowns/point after touchdowns?

15) What kicker has the most points in a season?

16) What kicker has made and attempted the most extra points in a season?

17) What kicker has made the most field goals in a single season?

18) What three kickers have hit three 50-yard field goals in a single game?

19) Who holds the Johnny Unitas kicking record -- most consecutive games with a field goal made?

20) What kicker holds the record for most field goals made in a game?

21) How many kickers have been selected in the first round of the draft?

22) What kicker set the record with 18 consecutive years with one team?

23) What kicker spent one year with four different teams?

24) What two kickers hold the record for playing for the most teams?

25) What kicker holds the record for most Pro Bowls made?

26) What kicker holds the record for most first team All Pro honors?

27) Who has made the most field goals in NFL history?

28) Who has missed the most field goals in NFL history?

29) Who has scored the most points in NFL history?

30) Who has made the most extra points in NFL history?

31) What two kickers have made the most 50 yard field goals in a single season?

1. Paul Hornung, 1964, 26 missed field goals.
2. Eight, by Tom Dempsey (1976), Steve Little (1979) and David Trout (1981).
3. Bob Timberlake, with a 7% success rate after going 1-for-15 in 1965.
4. Pete Gogolak, Buffalo Bills, 1964.
5. Tom Dempsey, 1970 and Jason Elam, 1998 each hit 63-yard field goals.
6. Matt Stover, with 386 consecutive extra points made and counting; he set the record in an otherwise nondescript loss to the Giants this season. Floyd Turner caught the last touchdown pass that preceded a Stover failed PAT.
7. Pat Harder (1948), Bob Waterfield (1950) and Charlie Gogolak (1966) with nine.
8. Bruce Gossett (1966) and Curt Knight (1971) with forty-nine attempts.
9. Mike Vanderjagt, 42 field goals made, 2002-2004.
10. Tony Zendejas (1991, 17-17), Gary Anderson (1998, 35-35), Jeff Wilkins (2000, 17-17), Mike Vanderjagt (2003, 37-37) and Garrett Hartley (2008, 13-13); only Zendejas (Los Angeles Rams) did not play for a dome team.
11. Jim Bakken, 1967, with nine attempts and seven field goals made in a 28-14 win against the Steelers.
12. Lou Groza, George Blanda and Jan Stenerud.
13. Mark Moseley, 1982.
14. Jim Brown and Lou Groza is almost certainly the answer, but we don't have confirmation data on that; the modern record is shared by Moseley and John Riggins and Jerry Rice and Mike Cofer.
15. Gary Anderson, 164 points, 1998. Bonus answer: Paul Hornung, with 176 points scored in 1960, but 90 of those points came on touchdowns.
16. Stephen Gostkowski, 74 for 74, 2007.
17. Neil Rackers, 40 field goals made, 2005.
18. Morten Andersen (1995), Kris Brown (2004) and Neil Rackers (2005).
19. Matt Stover, 38 consecutive games, 1999-2001.
20. Rob Bironas, eight, 2007.
21. Three. Sebastian Janikowski (2000), Steve Little (1978) and Charlie Gogolak (1966). Tony Zendejas was also a first round pick in the 1984 Supplemental Draft.
22. Pat Leahy, 18 seasons, New York Jets.
23. Jose Cortez, 2005, Philadelphia, Dallas, Indianapolis and San Francisco.
24. Eddie Murray and Joe Nedney, seven.
25. Morten Andersen, seven.
26. Morten Andersen, three.
27. Morten Andersen, 565 field goals made.
28. George Blanda, 304 field goals missed.
29. Morten Andersen, 2,544 points scored.
30. George Blanda, 959 extra points made.
31. Morten Andersen, 1995 and Jason Hanson, 2008, with eight. Hanson was a perfect 8-8.

26 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

The Greatest Field Goal Kickers Ever, Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 16, 2009

Yesterday, I explained the methodology I would use to rank each placekicker in each season since 1960. We're going to examine every attempt from every distance (in ten-yard increments) in every year and compare each kicker to the league average. A missed 50-yard field goal in 1965 was very common; a missed 36-yard field goal today is very rare. My method adjusts all kicks for distance and era.

Further, we're not going to just consider the ability of the kicker but also his value to the team -- missing a 50-yard field goal is more costly to a team than missing a 20-yard field goal because of the cost in field position. We can do that with the help of Professor Romer. To be clear, this won't be perfect -- kickers in Denver and domed stadiums have an advantage, while kickers who play a bunch of games in particularly tough environments will be at a disadvantage. But this sure beats the heck out of every other method to rank kickers.

One last embarrassing note (in addition to me devoting three days to kicker research). I've excluded the 2008 season. That's because I performed this study originally in September, but it being kicker-related, never got around to writing it until the '08 season ended. If I was to wait until I incorporated the '08 data, there's a good chance I wouldn't finish until the '09 season ended. If you really need '08 kicker data, you'll sadly have to wait to the updated version of this post. Let's get to the analysis.

Jan Stenerud had arguably the two best seasons in kicker history. (And if you want to hear Kansas City Chiefs writer Jonathan Rand explain why he voted for Stenerud to make the HOF, go to the very end of this podcast.) Let's examine his 1969 season, which culminated in three field goals in a Super Bowl victory. Stenerud went 9/9 from inside of 20 yards; the NFL average from that distance was 90%, meaning the average kicker would have hit 8.1 field goals from inside of 20 yards. Therefore, Stenerud made 0.9 more FGs than average from that distance. Since every FG made under 20 yards in the "Early" era was worth 2.87 points, Stenerud gets +2.58 points of value for his work inside of 20 yards that season.

Stenerud was 4/6 from 20-29 yards, which was slightly below the league average. He hit 0.4 fewer field goals than we'd expect; field goals are also worth 2.87 at this distance and in this era, which gives him a score of -1.28 from this distance. From 30-39 yards, he made six of eight attempts when the average kicker would have converted 4.4/8; these field goals were worth 3.46 points in the Early era, so another +5.48 for the HOFer. He was even better from 40-49, where he connected on 6/9 attempts while the league average was just 29%; he made 3.4 more field goals than average from this distance, and these field goals were worth, on average, 4.09 points; +13.97 for Stenerud.

Finishing up, he was 2/3 from 50+; the average kicker would have made just 0.5 field goals out of three tries. These kicks are worth 4.49 points each, so +6.91 goes in his 50+ value column. He also made every extra point, giving him an extra 0.6 points up on the average kicker.

Add all those scores up and you get a rating of +28.3 for Stenerud. That's the highest rating for any kicker since 1960, although it's possible that Lou Groza (or another pre-1960 kicker) had a higher single-season rating. Finally, we make one more adjustment, to pro-rate for games played. I pro-rated each kicker's score as if he was playing a N game season, where N equals the average of 16 and the actual number of team games played. That gives him a score of 30.3, obviously the highest in the study. Stenerud '68 is the second highest score in the study. In 1968, he had a season better than any kicker has ever had in the last 50 or so years; then, somehow, he managed to top it in 1969.

Here are the top 50 seasons in kicker history. The raw column shows the kicker's score before pro-rating for the number of games on the schedule, but the group is listed by the "value" column which does pro-rate for the number of games.

kicker	                yr	team    raw	val
Jan Stenerud	        1969	KAN	28.3	30.3
Jan Stenerud	        1968	KAN	27.7	29.7
Neil Rackers	        2005	ARI	26.5	26.5
Garo Yepremian	        1970	MIA	24.5	26.3
Fred Steinfort	        1980	DEN	26.2	26.2
Jim Turner	        1969	NYJ	22.5	24.1
Gary Anderson	        1998	MIN	23.2	23.2
Morten Andersen	        1985	NOR	23.1	23.1
Raul Allegre	        1983	BAL	23.1	23.1
Gene Mingo	        1962	DEN	20.8	22.3
Mark Moseley	        1979	WAS	22.2	22.2
Jan Stenerud	        1970	KAN	20.4	21.9
Gino Cappelletti	1964	BOS	20.4	21.8
Toni Fritsch	        1979	HOU	21.4	21.4
Mike Vanderjagt	        2003	IND	21.3	21.3
Sam Baker	        1966	PHI	19.6	21.0
Nick Lowery	        1985	KAN	20.9	20.9
Jim Turner	        1968	NYJ	19.3	20.7
Chester Marcol	        1972	GNB	19.1	20.5
Pete Stoyanovich	1997	KAN	20.3	20.3
Tony Franklin	        1979	PHI	20.1	20.1
Cary Blanchard	        1996	IND	19.9	19.9
George Blair	        1962	SDG	18.5	19.8
Eddie Murray	        1989	DET	19.5	19.5
Horst Muhlmann	        1970	CIN	17.9	19.1
Fred Cox	        1969	MIN	17.8	19.1
Mac Percival	        1968	CHI	17.7	18.9
Fred Cox	        1965	MIN	17.3	18.6
Nick Lowery	        1980	KAN	18.1	18.1
Bruce Gossett	        1973	SFO	16.7	17.9
Jim Bakken	        1967	STL	16.7	17.9
Jeff Wilkins	        2003	STL	17.8	17.8
Dean Biasucci	        1987	IND	17.1	17.7
Norm Johnson	        1993	ATL	17.7	17.7
Mike Mercer	        1966	KAN	16.5	17.7
Garo Yepremian	        1971	MIA	16.3	17.5
Nick Lowery	        1988	KAN	17.4	17.4
Mark Moseley	        1977	WAS	16.1	17.2
Morten Andersen	        1986	NOR	16.9	16.9
Mark Moseley	        1982	WAS	12.1	16.8
Jan Stenerud	        1981	GNB	16.7	16.7
George Blanda	        1967	OAK	15.4	16.5
Dean Biasucci	        1988	IND	16.5	16.5
Bruce Gossett	        1964	RAM	15.3	16.4
Gino Cappelletti	1963	BOS	15.2	16.3
Jan Stenerud	        1967	KAN	15.1	16.2
Ali Haji-Sheikh	        1983	NYG	16.1	16.1
Al Del Greco	        1995	HOU	16.1	16.1
Nick Lowery	        1983	KAN	15.9	15.9
Nick Lowery	        1990	KAN	15.8	15.8

Stenerud leads the way with five top-50 seasons, tied with fellow Chief Nick Lowery. Mark Moseley proves he wasn't a one-hit-wonder as he has two other top-50 performances in addition to his MVP season in 1982. (On a per game basis or if you performed a straight pro-rating of his 9-game season, it would rank as the 17th best since 1960; obviously it is lower than that using the formula above, which pro-rates his performance to a 12.5 game season.) Garo Yepremian shows he was a better kicker than passer with two top-50 seasons on the list; Morten Andersen, Gino Cappelletti, Jim Turner, Fred Cox, Bruce Gossett and Dean Biasucci join him with a pair of stellar seasons. If you don't remember, I've already discussed Cappelletti's 1964 season on this blog. And believe it or not, the great Gary Anderson has just one top-50 season, his not-exactly-perfect 1998 performance. And, for what it's worth, only 14 of the above 50 seasons came from kickers whose teams were in Denver or played in domed stadiums.

What about the worst seasons by any kicker? You already knew which season was going to come out on bottom:

kicker	                yr	team    raw	val
Jim Gallery	        1987	STL	-13.3	-13.7
Gary Anderson	        1999	MIN	-13.7	-13.7
Eric Schubert	        1986	STL	-13.8	-13.8
John Hall		2000	NYJ	-13.8	-13.8
Neil Rackers		2001	CIN	-13.9	-13.9
Kris Brown		2001	PIT	-14.0	-14.0
Todd Peterson		2002	PIT	-14.2	-14.2
Curt Knight		1973	WAS	-13.5	-14.4
Tony Franklin		1980	PHI	-14.5	-14.5
Wade Richey		1998	SFO	-14.6	-14.6
Jerry DePoyster		1968	DET	-13.7	-14.7
Tim Mazzetti		1979	ATL	-14.8	-14.8
Wade Richey		2001	SDG	-14.8	-14.8
Steve McLaughlin	1995	STL	-14.9	-14.9
Richie Cunningham	1999	2TM	-15.2	-15.2
Dave Green		1975	CIN	-14.2	-15.2
Mike Mercer		1969	GNB	-14.3	-15.3
Jack Spikes		1963	KAN	-14.3	-15.3
Martin Gramatica	2004	2TM	-15.4	-15.4
Dick Guesman		1964	DEN	-14.5	-15.6
Mark Moseley		1970	PHI	-14.7	-15.7
Matt Bahr		1982	CLE	-11.4	-15.8
Booth Lusteg		1968	PIT	-14.8	-15.9
Gene Mingo		1970	PIT	-14.9	-16.0
Martin Gramatica	2003	TAM	-16.1	-16.1
Neil Rackers		2000	CIN	-16.2	-16.2
Chuck Nelson		1987	MIN	-15.9	-16.4
Tommy Brooker		1965	KAN	-15.4	-16.4
Mike Cofer		1991	SFO	-16.6	-16.6
Dale Livingston		1970	GNB	-15.5	-16.6
Happy Feller		1973	NOR	-15.9	-17.0
Jan Stenerud		1985	MIN	-17.3	-17.3
Don Chandler		1966	GNB	-16.5	-17.7
Joe Nedney		1996	MIA	-18.0	-18.0
Bob Timberlake		1965	NYG	-16.9	-18.1
Gino Cappelletti	1969	BOS	-17.1	-18.3
Larry Barnes		1960	OAK	-17.2	-18.4
Happy Feller		1971	PHI	-17.2	-18.4
Greg Davis		1992	PHO	-18.5	-18.5
Uwe von Schamann	1984	MIA	-18.9	-18.9
Chip Lohmiller		1993	WAS	-19.3	-19.3
Ray Wersching		1973	SDG	-18.7	-20.1
Seth Marler		2003	JAX	-20.2	-20.2
Ali Haji-Sheikh		1984	NYG	-20.8	-20.8
Bill Capece		1983	TAM	-20.9	-20.9
Scott Sisson		1993	NWE	-21.9	-21.9
Jim O'Brien		1972	BAL	-21.1	-22.6
Ken Vinyard		1970	ATL	-22.6	-24.2
Fred Steinfort		1983	2TM	-25.7	-25.7
Paul Hornung		1964	GNB	-29.9	-32.0

Did you happen to catch that Mr. HOF is on the list? Stenerud was 43 and in his 19th season in 1985 -- he should have hung up his cleats a year earlier. In '84, he was the second best kicker in the NFL (although he was in a dome), behind the Eagles' Paul McFadden.

Finally, here's a big table showing the league average success ratio in each season since 1960, from the distances we've discussed:

	XP	10-19	20-29	30-39	40-49	50+
2007	99%	100%	95%	90%	73%	47%
2006	99%	100%	96%	86%	73%	47%
2005	99%	100%	95%	85%	71%	52%
2004	99%	100%	96%	80%	71%	58%
2003	98%	100%	96%	82%	69%	48%
2002	99%	 92%	94%	83%	63%	52%
2001	98%	 90%	95%	85%	60%	52%
2000	99%	 95%	94%	80%	71%	55%
1999	99%	100%	94%	80%	66%	48%
1998	98%	 91%	95%	85%	70%	54%
1997	99%	100%	94%	85%	62%	53%
1996	99%	100%	95%	84%	64%	52%
1995	98%	 95%	92%	81%	64%	51%
1994	99%	100%	96%	84%	67%	36%
1993	97%	100%	92%	84%	61%	51%
1992	98%	100%	90%	75%	58%	51%
1991	98%	 97%	93%	78%	60%	44%
1990	97%	 97%	95%	79%	62%	35%
1989	98%	100%	94%	78%	54%	35%
1988	96%	 96%	90%	77%	56%	40%
1987	97%	100%	92%	73%	54%	40%
1986	97%	 93%	88%	79%	53%	35%
1985	96%	 95%	87%	79%	59%	37%
1984	97%	100%	93%	75%	60%	42%
1983	96%	 96%	90%	75%	57%	38%
1982	95%	 95%	85%	70%	62%	26%
1981	95%	 93%	85%	69%	52%	31%
1980	95%	 95%	89%	67%	48%	29%
1979	91%	 70%	88%	66%	45%	30%
1978	93%	 93%	85%	61%	50%	18%
1977	92%	 81%	79%	62%	44%	18%
1976	91%	 96%	78%	63%	44%	18%
1975	92%	 96%	83%	66%	49%	24%
1974	92%	 81%	81%	65%	44%	13%
1973	98%	 96%	77%	64%	39%	16%
1972	97%	 94%	75%	69%	38%	25%
1971	98%	 91%	73%	56%	38%	24%
1970	97%	 91%	70%	64%	41%	23%
1969	98%	 90%	74%	55%	29%	15%
1968	97%	 94%	77%	56%	28%	14%
1967	97%	 77%	64%	56%	35%	 9%
1966	97%	 89%	68%	56%	35%	14%
1965	98%	 77%	74%	52%	28%	11%
1964	96%	 78%	67%	53%	37%	19%
1963	96%	 71%	62%	54%	30%	23%
1962	95%	 78%	65%	56%	34%	15%
1961	96%	 61%	60%	40%	21%	30%
1960	95%	 64%	60%	42%	27%	29%

Tomorrow, please check in to see the career rankings and the answer to yesterday's trivia questions.

15 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

The Greatest Field Goal Kickers Ever, Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 15, 2009

Last summer, I wrote a five part series on the Greatest QBs of All Time; since then I've studied the Greatest WRs Ever and the Most Dominant RBs in history. I've taken quick looks at Great coaching records, and really talented Defensive Line units, Linebacker Corps, and front sevens. While my examination of real football players is not finished, for the next three days bear with me as I take a less popular, less interesting, and less noteworthy look at the kicker position. I don't hate kickers as much as Doug, but I don't anticipate this being the most exciting thing you'll ever read. That said, if we're going to rank all the kickers, we're going to do it correctly.

There have been many rules changes throughout the history of the NFL. Thanks to Mike Herman, a good friend and the leading (only?) expert on all things kicker related, let's examine some of the more notable changes that have impacted the kicking game. A complete list can be found here.

  • 1904: Field goal value was changed from five points to four
  • 1909: Field goal value was changed from four points to three
  • 1945: Hashmarks were moved nearer to the center of the field, from 15 yards to 20 yards away from the sidelines.
  • 1966: Goal posts offset from the goal line, painted bright yellow, and with uprights 20 feet above the cross-bar were made standard in the NFL.
  • 1967: "sling-shot" goal posts (with one curved support from the ground) were made standard in the NFL
  • 1972: Hashmarks were moved nearer to the center of the field, 23 yards, 1 foot, 9 inches from the sidelines; the hashmarks were now 18 feet, 6 inches apart (the same width as the goalposts), cutting down on severe angles for short field goal attempts
  • 1974: The goal posts were moved from the goal line to the end lines and the uprights were extended to 30 feet above the crossbar; for missed field goals from beyond the 20, the ball was now returned to the line of scrimmage
  • 1994: On all missed field goals when the spot of the kick was beyond the 20 yard line, the defensive team taking possession received possession at the spot of the kick; on any field goal attempted and missed when the spot of the kick was on or inside the 20, the defensive team took possession at the 20. The two-point conversion option was introduced this year as well.
  • 1999: K-ball implemented for all kicking plays in a game

Before going on, I should note that this post is really Part I-B, because Doug wrote Part I-A almost exactly one year ago. That's strongly recommended reading before reading the rest of this post.

Here at PFR, we've got complete data on all kickers since the merger, incomplete data on kickers from 1960-1970, and data on kickers from pre-1960 but without distance breakdowns. Keep that in mind whenever I use phrases like "greatest X of all time" or "worst Y ever." Roughly complete data is what we're dealing with here, but there always exists the possibility that something crazy happened in 1955. In particular, Lou Groza may be the best kicker of all time, but until we get some distance breakdowns on his field goal attempts, I'm unfortunately going to have to ignore him.

So how do we grade kickers? Obviously we're going to need to adjust for era and for field goal length when rating the kickers, but we'll also need to note some of those rule changes that impact the value of a field goal. From 1960-1973, a 30 yard field goal was attempted when the line of scrimmage was the 23-yard line. When Steve Myhra kicked the 20-yard-FG that sent the '58 championship game into overtime, the LOS was the 13-yard line. Since1974 \, the line of scrimmage has always been 17-18 yards shorter than the length of the field goal, as opposed to seven or eight yards. Why does this matter?

Because to measure the value of a successful field goal, we need to measure the value of an unsuccessful one; to do that, we need to know where the ball will be placed following a missed field goal. It's also important to keep in mind the rule change about missed field goals from beyond the 20-yard-line. The table below should help; it shows where the ball would be spotted following some sample missed field goals across three eras:

Year		25-yard FG   33-yard FG   50-yard FG
1960-1973	20           26           43
1974-1993       20           20           33
1994-curr       20           23           40

While the differences aren't significant, they're worth noting if we want to be accurate. What this means is we're going to need three separate formulas for ranking field goal kickers, depending on whether the season was between '60 and '73 ("early"), '74 and '93 ("middle") or since 1994 ("late").

The average starting field position following a kickoff is around the 27-yard-line. The NFL moved the kickoff back from the 35 to the 30 starting in 1994, so I'm going to simply declare the average kickoff return will take you to the 22-yard-line from 1960-1993 and to the 27-yard-line for any kickoffs since 1994. What's this all mean?

A 33-yard-FG has always been worth three points, but the value of the alternative field position has changed. In the Early period, a missed 33-yard FG cost you three points and four yards of field position. In the Middle Period, it cost you three points but you picked up two yards of field position. Now, a missed 33-yarder costs you three points but you gain four yards in field position. Fascinating stuff, indeed.

We've got data on field goal tries in ten yard increments (that might be changing, soon). As a result, I'm going to have to approximate how long each field goal attempt actually was. All missed field goals from 10-19 yards have always brought you back to the 20-yard-line. Attempts from 20-29 yards, 30-39 yards, 40-49 yards, and over 50 yards will be considered 26, 36, 46 and 54 yard attempts. Here's where missed field goals from each era would take you:

Year		10-19   26   36   46   54
1960-1973	20      20   29   39   47
1974-1993       20      20   20   29   37
1994-curr       20      20   26   36   44

Those numbers can then be compared to where the opposition would take over following a successful field goal (the 22 in the Early and Middle years, the 27 in the Late years), and we can use Romer point values to show the difference.

Year	        10+	26	 36	46	54
1960-1973	0.13	0.13	-0.46	-1.09	-1.49
1974-1993	0.13	0.13	 0.13	-0.46	-0.97
1994-curr	0.46	0.46	 0.07	-0.57	-1.02

To explain what that means, a missed 54 yard field goal in 2009 gives the opponent the ball at the 44, which would put them in a +1.73 position according to Romer. A successful 54-yarder gives the other team the ball at the 27, a +0.71 position; therefore the miss is worth -1.02 points of field position. Of course, a miss also costs you three points on the scoreboard -- the table below incorporates that:

Year	         10+	 26	 36	 46	 54
1960-1973	-2.87	-2.87	-3.46	-4.09	-4.49
1974-1993	-2.87	-2.87	-2.87	-3.46	-3.97
1994-curr	-2.54	-2.54	-2.93	-3.57	-4.02

One more example. A missed 46 yarder in 1968 occurred when the LOS was the 39, and that's where the other team would gain possession. Having the ball at the 39 is a +1.47 situation. A successful field goal would give the opponent possession at the 22, a +0.38 situation. So the average difference between a successful and unsuccessful 46 yard field goal in the Early period is 3 points on the board and 1.09 points of field position, or 4.09 points total.

Now all we need to do is figure out how likely it is that the average kicker would make any given field goal, and we can then compare every kicker to the league average. Bring your popcorn tomorrow -- we'll be examining the best and worst seasons in kicker history. On Wednesday, we'll look at the greatest and worst kickers of all time over the course of each placekicker's career.

Let's close today with some kicker trivia. Be prepared to wow your friends. The answers will be posted on Wednesday. Whoever answers the most number of questions correctly will gain an incredible amount of respect from Mike Herman.

1) Who holds the record for most missed field goals in a season?

2) What is the record for most extra points missed in a season and what three kickers hold it?

3) What kicker has the lowest single season field goal percentage, minimum one field goal made?

4) Who was the first soccer style kicker, what team signed him and in what year?

5) What two kickers hold the record for longest field goal made?

6) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive extra points made?

7) What three kickers hold the record for most XP made in a game?

8) What two kickers hold the record for most field goals attempted in a season?

9) What kicker holds the record for most consecutive field goals made?

10) Who are the only five kickers to make 100% of their field goal attempts in a single season, minimum ten attempts? Hint: The fifth kicker joined the group in 2008.

11) Who attempted the most field goals in a single game?

12) Name the three kickers in the HOF? Hint: Only one of the players was a pure kicker.

13) Who is the only kicker to win an NFL MVP award?

14) Recycled trivia edition: What player/kicker combination have combined for the most touchdowns/point after touchdowns?

15) What kicker has the most points in a season?

16) What kicker has made and attempted the most extra points in a season?

17) What kicker has made the most field goals in a single season?

18) What three kickers have hit three 50-yard field goals in a single game?

19) Who holds the Johnny Unitas kicking record -- most consecutive games with a field goal made?

20) What kicker holds the record for most field goals made in a game?

21) How many kickers have been selected in the first round of the draft?

22) What kicker set the record with 18 consecutive years with one team?

23) What kicker spent one year with four different teams?

24) What two kickers hold the record for playing for the most teams?

25) What kicker holds the record for most Pro Bowls made?

26) What kicker holds the record for most first team All Pro honors?

27) Who has made the most field goals in NFL history?

28) Who has missed the most field goals in NFL history?

29) Who has scored the most points in NFL history?

30) Who has made the most extra points in NFL history?

31) What two kickers have made the most 50 yard field goals in a single season?

18 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Great DL and Great LB, playing together

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 9, 2009

In mid-May, I examined which teams were fortunate enough to have the best linebackers playing with one another during the best times of their careers. In early June, I did the same thing for defensive linemen. It's not difficult to combine those posts to come up with the top front sevens ever.

Of course, when I say top front sevens ever, you know what I really mean -- the front sevens with the best players (at the right stages of their career) playing together since 1950. I split the groups up into 3-4 defenses and 4-3 defenses, because I believe 3-4 defenses are underrated in the current analysis I'm using. Defensive linemen in the 3-4 do not get many accolades nor do they compile objective stats; it's often impossible without the use of videotape to distinguish a good 3-4 DL from a great one or a mediocre one. As a result, I think the Approximate Value system that we've been using has been hurting 3-4 defensive linemen, and therefore we should separate out the two types of defenses.

Not surprisingly, Mike Ditka's Bears comes out on top in this analysis. The '87 Bears ranked as the 3rd best linebacker corps in the earlier post, as they had Singletary, Marshall and Wilson all in the age 25-30 range. The Super Bowl Bears had the same three linebackers, but Marshall in particular was harmed by our scoring system -- he was just 23 years old that season.Not to be overshadowed, the '87 Bears defensive line came in as the #4 group; Hampton, McMichael, Dent and Perry were all in that same 25-30 years of age range. What's interesting about those '85 Bears is not only were they dominant, but they were young. Even with 31 year old Gary Fencik in the secondary, the average age of the starting 11 on that defense was just 26.2 years old. Fencik was the only defensive starter over the age of 28, which might help explain why they decided filming a dance video was a good idea.

The '70 Vikings aren't far behind, almost exclusively on the strength of their unbelievable front four. Linebackers Roy Winston, Lonnie Warwick and Wally Hilgenberg are not household names anywhere outside of Minnesota. Despite never making a Pro Bowl, the three players played in 441 total games for the Vikings. The players were in their primes in 1970, as were the beef up front; that's why that version of the Minnesota squad looked the best in this sort of analysis.

The rest of the top 4-3 fronts bring in the usual suspects from NFL history.

21 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

Great Defensive Linemen Playing Together

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 3, 2009

Last week, I wrote a post on Great Linebackers Playing Together; it's worth checking out before reading this, as I'm going to skip some of the introductory materials. Just as last post was not a look at the greatest linebacking groups ever, this post is not a look at the greatest defensive line units ever assembled. We might attempt to do that one day, but that's not the goal today. What I want to know is what teams have seen a bunch of great defensive linemen playing together while those players were in their primes?

Once again, I'm using Doug's Approximate Value system to rate the linemen, as opposed to things like sacks, tackles, Pro Bowl nominations or starts. Approximate value incorporates all of those factors, and a little more. It's far from perfect, but it's probably the best way to rank large groups of players from several different eras across every position.

I recorded the peak three years for every defensive lineman since '50, and assigned the average of those numbers as the core rating for each player. Then I gave him an age adjusted score for each season. Once again, the age adjusted score is the rating I’m giving each DL for each season of play, not his actual AV grade.

Last time, I adjusted for age by examing the top 100 or so linebackers in NFL history and their dropoff rates, as measured by AV, and then smoothed out the numbers. In an effort to get this post actually posted and not placed on my imaginary to-do list, I chose to simply use the same dropoff rate again and not derive one specifically for defensive linemen. Here is the rate:

age	weight
21	0.24
22	0.43
23	0.58
24	0.72
25	0.82
26	0.91
27	0.96
28	0.99
29	1.00
30	0.98
31	0.94
32	0.87
33	0.77
34	0.65
35	0.51
36	0.40

To use an example, Reggie White has a peak AV — the average score of his three best seasons — of 20. Mike Rucker has a peak AV of 11; here’s how we would then project how good each player would have been for each season of his career:

age	weight	White  Rucker
21	0.24	 4.9	 2.7
22	0.43	 8.5	 4.7
23	0.58	11.7	 6.4
24	0.72	14.3	 7.9
25	0.82	16.5	 9.1
26	0.91	18.1	10.0
27	0.96	19.3	10.6
28	0.99	19.9	10.9
29	1.00	20.0	11.0
30	0.98	19.6	10.8
31	0.94	18.7	10.3
32	0.87	17.3	 9.5
33	0.77	15.4	 8.5
34	0.65	13.0	 7.2
35	0.51	10.1	 5.6
36	0.40	 8.0	 4.4

Obviously these numbers are far from perfect; the goal is simply to get, roughly, the quality of the production we would find in each season from, approximately, the best defensive linemen ever. I think the results below pass the sniff test; what do you think?

These represent the 40 best combinations of 4-3 defensive linemen playing together at their peaks. The top combination -- by far -- comes from the old Vikings teams. In fact, the top six combinations are all the same: Page, Eller, Larsen and Marshall from the '68 to '73 Vikings. For obvious reasons I decided not to re-list any DL groups that appeared more often than once. Therefore, any time a set of DL appeared multiple times, I only listed the best one (which would be based solely on the ages of the three players). So it's the '70 Vikings that are shown from that group because the seasons after that Marshall was declining due to age and the seasons before that Page was still too young.

The player's age is listed in parentheses while his peak AV (which is NOT the grade he gets for the season in question -- the listed grade is not adjusted for age) is listed after the colon. So in 1970, Minnesota had Eller (age 28) who had a peak AV of 22, Page (at age 25) who had a peak AV of 23.7, Larsen (30) who had a peak AV of 14.3 and Jim Marshall (33) who had a peak AV of 13.3. No other defensive line group even comes that close to the Purple People Eaters. I've listed the average score (which *is* age adjusted) of the four players next to the team name. You can see that Minnesota at 16.4 has a nice edge on all other defensive line groups.

min-1970   16.4   Carl Eller (28): 22        Alan Page (25): 23.7        Gary Larsen (30): 14.3      Jim Marshall (33): 13.3
ram-1967   14.6   Deacon Jones (29): 18      Merlin Olsen (27): 18       Roger Brown (30): 16        Lamar Lundy (32): 8.3
dal-1981   14.3   Randy White (28): 17.7     Too Tall Jones (30): 14.7   Harvey Martin (31): 14.3    John Dutton (30): 12
chi-1987   14.1   Dan Hampton (30): 17.7     Steve McMichael (30): 16.7  Richard Dent (27): 16.3     William Perry (25): 8.7
chi-1988   14.0   Dan Hampton (31): 17.7     Richard Dent (28): 16.3     Steve McMichael (31): 16.7  Al Harris (32): 8.7
pit-1976   13.9   Joe Greene (30): 19        L.C. Greenwood (30): 16.3   Dwight White (27): 12       Ernie Holmes (28): 9.3
min-1974   13.8   Alan Page (29): 23.7       Carl Eller (32): 22         Doug Sutherland (26): 9.3   Jim Marshall (37): 13.3
phi-1991   13.6   Reggie White (30): 20      Clyde Simmons (27): 15.3    Jerome Brown (26): 13.3     Mike Pitts (31): 8.7
ram-1969   13.6   Merlin Olsen (29): 18      Deacon Jones (31): 18       Coy Bacon (27): 11          Diron Talbert (25): 11
chi-1984   13.6   Dan Hampton (27): 17.7     Steve McMichael (27): 16.7  Richard Dent (24): 16.3     Mike Hartenstine (31): 10.3
ram-1968   13.5   Merlin Olsen (28): 18      Deacon Jones (30): 18       Roger Brown (31): 16        Gregg Schumacher (26): 3.7
ram-1965   13.2   Deacon Jones (27): 18      Merlin Olsen (25): 18       Rosey Grier (33): 16.3      Lamar Lundy (30): 8.3
ram-1978   13.1   Jack Youngblood (28): 18   Larry Brooks (28): 13       Fred Dryer (32): 14         Cody Jones (27): 10
cle-1953   13.1   Len Ford (27): 20.7        Don Colo (28): 15.3         Doug Atkins (23): 16        Derrell Palmer (31): 8.3
cle-1954   13.0   Len Ford (28): 20.7        Don Colo (29): 15.3         John Kissell (31): 10       Carlton Massey (24): 9.7
cle-1957   13.0   Len Ford (31): 20.7        Don Colo (32): 15.3         Bob Gain (28): 13           Bill Quinlan (25): 8
dal-1980   13.0   Randy White (27): 17.7     Too Tall Jones (29): 14.7   Harvey Martin (30): 14.3    Larry Cole (34): 9.7
pit-1977   12.9   Joe Greene (31): 19        L.C. Greenwood (31): 16.3   Dwight White (28): 12       Steve Furness (27): 7
tam-2002   12.8   Warren Sapp (30): 19       Simeon Rice (28): 16.7      Greg Spires (28): 9.3       Anthony McFarland (25): 8.3
phi-1990   12.7   Reggie White (29): 20      Clyde Simmons (26): 15.3    Jerome Brown (25): 13.3     Mike Golic (28): 6
pit-1978   12.6   Joe Greene (32): 19        L.C. Greenwood (32): 16.3   Dwight White (29): 12       John Banaszak (28): 8
clt-1957   12.6   Gino Marchetti (30): 17.3  Gene Lipscomb (26): 13.7    Art Donovan (32): 13.7      Don Joyce (28): 9.3
nyg-1952   12.6   Arnie Weinmeister (29): 20 Ray Poole (31): 11.7        Ray Krouse (25): 12.7       Jim Duncan (27): 9.3
dal-1978   12.6   Randy White (25): 17.7     Harvey Martin (28): 14.3    Too Tall Jones (27): 14.7   Jethro Pugh (34): 11.3
min-1966   12.5   Carl Eller (24): 22        Jim Marshall (29): 13.3     Gary Larsen (26): 14.3      Paul Dickson (29): 8
nyg-1959   12.5   Rosey Grier (27): 16.3     Jim Katcavage (25): 16      Andy Robustelli (34): 18.3  Dick Modzelewski (28): 9
min-1967   12.3   Carl Eller (25): 22        Jim Marshall (30): 13.3     Alan Page (22): 23.7        Paul Dickson (30): 8
ram-1976   12.3   Jack Youngblood (26): 18   Fred Dryer (30): 14         Larry Brooks (26): 13       Merlin Olsen (36): 18
gnb-1962   12.2   Willie Davis (28): 17.3    Henry Jordan (27): 17       Bill Quinlan (30): 8        Dave Hanner (32): 8.7
nyg-1951   12.2   Arnie Weinmeister (28): 20 Ray Poole (30): 11.7        Al DeRogatis (24): 12.7     Jim Duncan (26): 9.3
ram-1979   12.0   Jack Youngblood (29): 18   Larry Brooks (29): 13       Fred Dryer (33): 14         Mike Fanning (26): 7
clt-1960   12.0   Ordell Braase (28): 14     Gene Lipscomb (29): 13.7    Gino Marchetti (33): 17.3   Art Donovan (35): 13.7
rai-1995   11.9   Pat Swilling (31): 19      Chester McGlockton (26): 14 Jerry Ball (31): 11.7       Anthony Smith (28): 6.3
chi-1983   11.9   Dan Hampton (26): 17.7     Steve McMichael (26): 16.7  Mike Hartenstine (30): 10.3 Jim Osborne (34): 9.7
min-1992   11.9   Chris Doleman (31): 16.7   John Randle (25): 16        Henry Thomas (27): 11       Al Noga (27): 8.3
sea-1999   11.8   Cortez Kennedy (31): 17    Sam Adams (26): 13.3        Michael Sinclair (31): 11   Phillip Daniels (26): 10
tam-2001   11.8   Warren Sapp (29): 19       Simeon Rice (27): 16.7      Marcus Jones (28): 6.3      Anthony McFarland (24): 8.3
den-1997   11.8   Neil Smith (31): 15.3      Michael Dean Perry (32): 16 Alfred Williams (29): 11    Keith Traylor (28): 8
chi-1990   11.6   Richard Dent (30): 16.3    Dan Hampton (33): 17.7      William Perry (28): 8.7     Trace Armstrong (25): 10
sea-1996   11.6   Cortez Kennedy (28): 17    Michael Sinclair (28): 11   Michael McCrary (26): 12    Sam Adams (23): 13.3

  • At #2 on the list is one of the iterations of the Fearsome Foursome, and in the top fifteen are some of the other members that bore that nickname; unsurprisingly, Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen carry the group with appropriately high grades.
  • Eagles fans surely noted that the '91 Philly DL is on the list; only a low peak AV for Mike Pitts kept them down.

We can also perform this analysis for 3-4 defensive lines, although be sure to note my caveat at the bottom:


tm.yr	  grd	DL1	                  DL2	                  DL3
buf-1995	  13.0	Bruce Smith (32): 18.3	Ted Washington (27): 14	Phil Hansen (27): 10
buf-1988	  12.6	Bruce Smith (25): 18.3	Fred Smerlas (31): 14	Art Still (33): 12.3
nyj-1985	  12.3	Mark Gastineau (29): 17	Joe Klecko (32): 15.3	Barry Bennett (30): 6.7
mia-1984	  12.3	Bob Baumhower (29): 16	Doug Betters (28): 12.3	Kim Bokamper (30): 8.7
rai-1987	  11.8	Howie Long (27): 16.7	Bill Pickel (28): 10.7	Sean Jones (25): 10.7
kan-1993	  11.3	Neil Smith (27): 15.3	Dan Saleaumua (29): 10.7	Joe Phillips (30): 8.7
den-1978	  11.3	Lyle Alzado (29): 14.7	Rubin Carter (26): 11.3	Barney Chavous (27): 9.3
buf-1993	  11.2	Bruce Smith (30): 18.3	Phil Hansen (25): 10	Jeff Wright (30): 7.7
nwe-2008	  11.2	Richard Seymour (29): 15.3	Vince Wilfork (27): 10.3	Ty Warren (27): 8.7
kan-1991	  11.1	Neil Smith (25): 15.3	Bill Maas (29): 10.3	Dan Saleaumua (27): 10.7
mia-1981	  11.1	Bob Baumhower (26): 16	Doug Betters (25): 12.3	Vern Den Herder (33): 11
sfo-1990	  11.0	Michael Carter (30): 14.7	Pierce Holt (28): 10.7	Kevin Fagan (27): 8.3
phi-1981	  10.9	Charlie Johnson (29): 14.7	Carl Hairston (29): 10	Dennis Harrison (25): 9.7
phi-1985	  10.9	Reggie White (24): 20	Greg Brown (28): 9.3	Ken Clarke (29): 9
sea-1988	  10.8	Joe Nash (28): 12.7	Jacob Green (31): 11	Jeff Bryant (28): 9.7
rai-1989	  10.7	Howie Long (29): 16.7	Bob Golic (32): 11.7	Scott Davis (24): 7.3
phi-1979	  10.7	Charlie Johnson (27): 14.7	Carl Hairston (27): 10	Claude Humphrey (35): 16.3
gnb-1993	  10.7	Reggie White (32): 20	Matt Brock (27): 8.3	John Jurkovic (26): 7.3
tam-1979	  10.6	Wally Chambers (28): 13	Lee Roy Selmon (25): 15	Randy Crowder (26): 7.3
buf-1987	  10.4	Fred Smerlas (30): 14	Bruce Smith (24): 18.3	Sean McNanie (26): 4.7
hou-1988	  10.4	Ray Childress (26): 15.3	William Fuller (26): 12	Doug Smith (29): 6.3
buf-1985	  10.3	Fred Smerlas (28): 14	Ben Williams (31): 9.7	Bruce Smith (22): 18.3
phi-1978	  10.3	Charlie Johnson (26): 14.7	Carl Hairston (26): 10	Manny Sistrunk (31): 9
buf-1990	  10.3	Bruce Smith (27): 18.3	Jeff Wright (27): 7.7	Leon Seals (26): 6.3
hou-1975	  10.3	Curley Culp (29): 13	Elvin Bethea (29): 11.3	Tody Smith (27): 6.7
sfo-1991	  10.1	Michael Carter (31): 14.7	Pierce Holt (29): 10.7	Larry Roberts (28): 6
den-1983	  10.0	Rulon Jones (25): 13.7	Rubin Carter (31): 11.3	Barney Chavous (32): 9.3
nyj-2008	   9.9	Kris Jenkins (29): 15.7	Shaun Ellis (31): 9	Kenyon Coleman (29): 5.7
min-1982	   9.8	Charlie Johnson (30): 14.7	Mark Mullaney (29): 7.7	Doug Martin (25):  9
rai-1985	   9.8	Howie Long (25): 16.7	Bill Pickel (26): 10.7	Lyle Alzado (36): 14.7
nyg-1992	   9.7	Leonard Marshall (31): 13	Erik Howard (28): 10.3	Eric Dorsey (28): 6.7
sfo-1986	   9.7	Michael Carter (26): 14.7	Dwaine Board (30): 10	Jeff Stover (28): 6
den-1987	   9.7	Rulon Jones (29): 13.7	Greg Kragen (25): 11.7	Andre Townsend (25): 7
buf-2000	   9.7	Ted Washington (32): 14	Phil Hansen (32): 10	Marcellus Wiley (26): 9
sfo-1987	   9.6	Michael Carter (27): 14.7	Dwaine Board (31): 10	Pete Kugler (28): 5.3
tam-1981	   9.5	Lee Roy Selmon (27): 15	Bill Kollar (29): 7.3	David Logan (25): 8.3
nyj-1997	   9.5	Hugh Douglas (26): 16	Rick Lyle (26): 8.3	Ernie Logan (29): 6.3
tam-1982	   9.4	Lee Roy Selmon (28): 15	David Logan (26): 8.3	Dave Stalls (27): 6
nyg-1989	   9.4	Leonard Marshall (28): 13	Erik Howard (25): 10.3	John Washington (26): 7.3
pit-2006	   9.3	Aaron Smith (30): 10.3	Casey Hampton (29): 10	Brett Keisel (28): 7.7

Some thoughts:

  • The 3-4 rankings look less reliable than the 4-3 ratings because players who excelled in a 4-3 (say, Mark Gastineau) get a high rating as a 3-4 end. While I don't remember how he actually played as a 3-4 end, he wouldn't fit the typical mold of the current 3-4 end. If Dwight Freeney played in a 3-4 this season, he would get a high rating for his team because his peak AV was high -- but that was based on his peak seasons as a 4-3 end. So to some extent, some of these results could be misleading.
  • Bruce Smith was a 3-4 end -- I tend to forget that because his sack totals are insanely high even for a 4-3 end. As my good buddy and defensive expert Jene Bramel said, Bruce Smith reigns supreme for 3-4 end pass rushing production. Bramel's article -- The Ultimate Guide to NFL Defense -- is as good as it is long. I've never read a better article on understanding NFL defenses.

21 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

Greatest Coaching Records of All Time

Posted by Chase Stuart on May 27, 2009

As evidenced by the title, this is not a list of the greatest coaches of all time. I don't feel equipped to answer the question of which coach was the best of all time, much less which coach should rank #9 or #42. That said, I feel pretty comfortable in ranking coaching win-loss records.

Generally, discussions about coaches center around three numbers: championships won, regular season wins, and winning percentage. All three of those metrics have some merit, but all are obviously flawed in other respects. Championships won't doesn't help us decide who was better, Bill Cowher or Tony Dungy. Wins are nice, but are obviously heavily weighted towards coaches with more games. Winning percentage works in theory but it tends to underrate two groups of coaches -- those who have coached for a long time (and therefore lowered their career winning percentage) and those who took over bad teams (and were bad at first but ultimately built those teams into top contenders). Further, it can overrate coaches who haven't been around for very long.

My solution is a formula that incorporates all of those things. We start with nets wins -- each coach gets credit for wins minus losses. A 14-2 season is +12, an 8-8 season is +0. Basic, simple stuff.

If a coach won his conference, he gets +5. If he then wins the Super Bowl, he gets another +7, for a total of +12 in the playoffs. I didn't spend forever deciding those weights, but I did spend a nontrivial amount of time. Obviously there must be a big weight towards winning the Super Bowl, but it can't be overpowering. A 9-7 season with a SB championship would be +14; that is equal to a 15-1 season with no Super Bowl appearance. That seems pretty fair to me. As far as other playoff bonuses, I decided something must be given for a Super Bowl appearance, but I don't know that any other playoff bonus merits anything. I decided against such a bonus, or a division championship bonus -- should we really care that much that you won your division if you didn't get to the Super Bowl? Reasonable people could certainly disagree here, and perhaps I'll be persuaded as such in the comments.

So a 14-2 Super Bowl Championship season is +24; Mike Tomlin gets +20 for his work in 2008. Bill Belichick gets +21 for his 16-0 season in 2007 that ended with a Super Bowl loss.

So Super Bowl winners get +12; Super Bowl losers get +5. In the pre-Super Bowl era, I gave +8 to all NFL Champions and +6 to the six AFL Champions (counting the '66-'69 AFL Champs as part of the SB era). The reduced weight was designed to reflect the fewer teams in those leagues. And that's pretty much the scoring system.

For coaches in the non-16 game era, they get their "wins over losses" number pro-rated. As an example, when Joe Gibbs went 8-1 in 1982, he was +7; a straight pro-rating (of 7*(16/9)) would put Gibbs at +12.4, which would be better than a 14-2 season. That seems too high to me, so I split the difference. I pro-rated short seasons by the average of 16 and the number of games played, divided by the number of games played. So for Gibbs' 1982 season we'd multiply 7 * (12.5/9) to get +9.7. This puts him right below a 13-3 season, which seems more appropriate to me. Paul Brown in 1955 (9-2-1) would be at +7 wins, and get that number pro-rated to 8.2. Since he won the NFL Championship that season, he gets +16.2 for 1955.

That enabled me to grade every coach, in every season, in NFL history. From there, we just need to get a career ranking. I used the familiar 100/95/90 drop-off rate approach; coaches get 100% credit for their best seasons, 95% for their second best, and so on. For example, here's how John Madden's ten year career with the Raiders looks:

year   	raw	wt	final	nflg	w-l-t
1976	24.9	100	24.9	14	13-1-0
1969	11.2	 95	11.8	14	12-1-1
1974	9.6	 90	10.7	14	12-2-0
1977	7.3	 85	 8.6	14	11-3-0
1975	6.9	 80	 8.6	14	11-3-0
1972	5.6	 75	 7.5	14	10-3-1
1973	3.8	 70	 5.4	14	 9-4-1
1971	2.8	 65	 4.3	14	 8-4-2
1970	2.6	 60	 4.3	14	 8-4-2
1978	1.1	 55	 2.0	16	 9-7-0
			87.9	

So in Madden's best year, he was 12 games over .500 in the fourteen game season; that gets pro-rated by 15/14, for a result of +12.9. The Raiders won the Super Bowl that year, so he finished the season with a +24.9 score. In his 10th best season the Raiders were just 2 games over .500 (and in a 16 game season); he gets a raw score of +2 but for calculating his career grade, he gets just just a little over one point.

Here's the list. The coaches are ranked by their score, as calculated above. The "Only+" column eliminates all seasons where the coach finished with a below average records; it treats all of those seasons as .500 seasons. So if you want to give Bill Walsh a mulligan when he went 2-14 his first season, you can do that. I've also included for each coach the number of seasons he was a HC and his score per season for our Vince Lombardi fans. Note that score per season is slightly misleading here, as our built-in scoring system gives less weigh on each successive good year you have.

rk      Coach                   Score   Only+   #Sea     Score/Sea
 1	Don Shula	        141.7	141.7	33.0	 4.3
 2	George Halas	        139.4	139.4	39.5	 3.5
 3	Curly Lambeau	        128.9	128.9	32.8	 3.9
 4	Tom Landry	        119.2	119.2	29.0	 4.1
 5	Chuck Noll	        106.4	107.5	23.0	 4.6
 6	Vince Lombardi	         99.8 	 99.8	10.0	10.0
 7	Joe Gibbs	         95.8 	 99.2	16.0	 6.0
 8	Paul Brown	         95.6	 95.6	21.0	 4.6
 9	Bill Belichick	         91.5	 99.9	14.0	 6.5
10	Bud Grant	         80.2	 82.5	18.0	 4.5
11	Steve Owen	         78.4	 79.0	23.0	 3.4
12	Bill Parcells	         78.1	 82.6	19.0	 4.1
13	John Madden	         75.7	 75.7	10.0	 7.6
14	George Seifert	         74.1	 82.2	11.0	 6.7
15	Guy Chamberlin	         72.6	 76.3	 6.0	12.1
16	Dan Reeves	         71.2	 74.9	22.8	 3.1
17	Mike Shanahan	         70.5	 73.6	15.3	 4.6
18	Tony Dungy	         70.4	 72.0	13.0	 5.4
19	Mike Holmgren	         69.3	 72.5	17.0	 4.1
20	Bill Cowher	         69.2	 72.6	15.0	 4.6
21	Bill Walsh	         69.1	 80.8	10.0	 6.9
22	Hank Stram	         66.1	 72.3	17.0	 3.9
23	Marty Schottenheimer	 65.0	 65.1	20.5	 3.2
24	George Allen	         63.4	 63.4	12.0	 5.3
25	Marv Levy	         57.9	 65.0	16.4	 3.5
26	Chuck Knox	         55.7	 58.0	22.0	 2.5
27	Jimmy Conzelman	         53.2	 62.2	15.0	 3.5
28	Weeb Ewbank	         53.0	 59.6	20.0	 2.7
29	Ray Flaherty	         52.0	 52.0	 7.0	 7.4
30	Buddy Parker	         51.8	 56.8	15.0	 3.5
31	Mike Ditka	         48.5	 62.8	14.0	 3.5
32	Blanton Collier	         47.2	 47.2	 8.0	 5.9
33	Sid Gillman	         45.7	 52.7	17.0	 2.7
34	Tom Flores	         45.1	 59.0	12.0	 3.8
35	Jimmy Johnson	         43.2	 52.9	 9.0	 4.8
36	Greasy Neale	         42.9	 52.0	10.0	 4.3
37	Dick Vermeil	         41.6	 56.1	15.0	 2.8
38	Jeff Fisher	         40.1	 48.1	14.4	 2.8
39	Tom Coughlin	         40.0	 50.4	13.0	 3.1
40	Andy Reid	         39.1	 44.8	10.0	 3.9
41	Jim Lee Howell	         35.4	 35.4	 7.0	 5.1
42	Don Coryell	         33.7	 40.7	13.3	 2.5
43	Potsy Clark	         32.3	 36.5	10.0	 3.2
44	Jon Gruden	         31.0	 39.5	11.0	 2.8
45	Brian Billick	         30.5	 38.1	 9.0	 3.4
46	Jim Mora	         29.7	 38.7	14.5	 2.1
47	Barry Switzer	         27.8	 31.2	 4.0	 7.0
48	Lou Saban	         26.7	 40.3	14.4	 1.9
49	Buck Shaw	         26.6	 33.7	 8.0	 3.3
50	Dennis Green	         26.1	 35.9	12.9	 2.0
51	Mike Martz	         25.9	 28.2	 5.3	 4.9
52	Roy Andrews	         24.8	 33.5	 7.0	 3.5
53	Don McCafferty	         24.1	 27.8	 3.4	 7.2
54	Mike Tomlin	         23.8	 23.8	 2.0	11.9
55	Elgie Tobin	         23.4	 23.4	 2.0	11.7
56	Hunk Anderson	         23.2	 27.6	 3.5	 6.5
57	Luke Johnsos	         23.2	 27.6	 3.5	 6.5
58	Red Miller	         23.1	 23.1	 4.0	 5.8
59	Ralph Jones	         22.5	 22.5	 3.0	 7.5
60	Tommy Hughitt	         21.8	 21.8	 5.0	 4.4
61	Wade Phillips	         20.9	 23.4	 7.4	 2.8
62	Adam Walsh	         20.7	 20.7	 2.0	10.4
63	John Fox	         19.5	 24.0	 7.0	 2.8
64	John Rauch	         19.5	 30.9	 5.0	 3.9
65	Mike Sherman	         18.2	 24.2	 6.0	 3.0
66	Bobby Ross	         17.4	 21.0	 8.6	 2.0
67	Paddy Driscoll	         16.8	 18.7	 5.0	 3.4
68	Norm Barry	         16.5	 17.6	 2.0	 8.3
69	Lovie Smith	         16.0	 22.5	 5.0	 3.2
70	Jack Pardee	         15.7	 25.7	10.6	 1.5
71	Raymond Berry	         14.9	 19.4	 5.5	 2.7
72	Hampton Pool	         14.8	 14.8	 2.9	 5.1
73	Wally Lemm	         14.5	 30.2	 9.6	 1.5
74	Jock Sutherland	         13.9	 13.9	 4.0	 3.5
75	Jim Fassel	         12.7	 21.4	 7.0	 1.8
76	Allie Sherman	         11.9	 25.6	 8.0	 1.5
77	Bum Phillips	         11.6	 22.6	10.8	 1.1
78	Dudley DeGroot	         11.5	 11.5	 2.0	 5.8
79	John Robinson	         11.3	 23.4	 9.0	 1.3
80	Steve Mariucci	         11.3	 28.2	 8.7	 1.3
81	Dick Rauch	         11.1	 17.5	 5.0	 2.2
82	Mike Holovak	         10.4	 22.9	 7.7	 1.4
83	Joe Schmidt	         10.4	 15.3	 6.0	 1.7
84	Lou Rymkus	         10.4	 12.4	 1.4	 7.7
85	Jerry Burns	          9.5	 12.5	 6.0	 1.6
86	Chuck Fairbanks	          9.2	 19.1	 5.9	 1.6
87	Earl Potteiger	          8.4	 19.2	 3.0	 2.8
88	Clark Shaughnessy	  8.1	  8.1	 2.0	 4.1
89	Ray Malavasi	          8.0	 20.1	 5.9	 1.4
90	Ed Weir                   8.0	  8.0	 1.6	 5.1
91	Al Davis	          7.6	  9.5	 3.0	 2.5
92	Forrest Gregg	          7.5	 23.5	10.9	 0.7
93	Art Shell	          7.0	 16.9	 6.8	 1.0
94	Ken Whisenhunt	          7.0	  7.0	 2.0	 3.5
95	Mike McCarthy	          6.4	 10.0	 3.0	 2.1
96	Ron Meyer	          6.3	 10.6	 7.0	 0.9
97	Jack Del Rio	          6.2	 15.5	 6.0	 1.0
98	John Harbaugh	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0
99	Mike Smith	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0
100	Tony Sparano	          6.0	  6.0	 1.0	 6.0

38 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever

Great Linebackers Playing Together

Posted by Chase Stuart on May 18, 2009

This post is not a look at the greatest linebacking corps ever. We might attempt to do that one day, but today I've got another thought on my mind today. What teams have seen a bunch of great linebackers playing together while those players were in their primes?

The first thing we need to do is rate the linebackers. You could use Pro Bowl nominations, or games started, or some combination of sacks, turnovers and tackles. Here at PFR, Doug developed the Approximate Value system -- it assigns an approximate value to measure the approximate contribution of each player in each season since 1950. While none of us claim that the Approximate Value system is a perfect measure of player performance, we believe it's a big improvement on things like games started or other objective criteria one might use to create a set of inter-positional rankings.

You could simply look at a list of the top linebacker by AV per team for each season. For various reasons, I chose a different approach. I looked at the peak three years of every linebacker ever, and assigned that as a rating for each linebacker. Then I gave him an age adjusted score for each season. That age adjusted score is the rating I'm giving each linebacker for each season of play, not his actual AV grade.

How do you adjust for age? I looked at the top 100 or so linebackers in NFL history and studied their dropoff rate, as measured by AV. After smoothing out the numbers a bit, you get something that looks like this:

age	weight
21	0.24
22	0.43
23	0.58
24	0.72
25	0.82
26	0.91
27	0.96
28	0.99
29	1.00
30	0.98
31	0.94
32	0.87
33	0.77
34	0.65
35	0.51
36	0.40

Ray Lewis has a peak AV -- the average score of his three best seasons -- of 20. Keith Brooking has a peak AV of 11; here's how we would then project how good each player would have been for each season of his career:

age	weight	Lewis	Brooking
21	0.24	 4.9	 2.7
22	0.43	 8.5	 4.7
23	0.58	11.7	 6.4
24	0.72	14.3	 7.9
25	0.82	16.5	 9.1
26	0.91	18.1	10.0
27	0.96	19.3	10.6
28	0.99	19.9	10.9
29	1.00	20.0	11.0
30	0.98	19.6	10.8
31	0.94	18.7	10.3
32	0.87	17.3	 9.5
33	0.77	15.4	 8.5
34	0.65	13.0	 7.2
35	0.51	10.1	 5.6
36	0.40	 8.0	 4.4

Obviously these numbers are far from perfect; the goal is simply to get, roughly, the quality of the production we would find in each season from, approximately, the best linebackers ever. I think the results below pass the sniff test; what do you think?

These represent the 25 best set of 4-3 linebackers playing together at their peaks. The top combination is a recent trio of Ravens; from left to right the line says: The best linebacker was Ray Lewis, who was 31 and had a peak of 20. The second best linebacker was Adalius Thomas, who was 29 and had a peak of 15.6. Bart Scott was the third best linebacker, and he was 26 and eventually would have a peak of 13.

One note: For obvious reasons I decided not to re-list LB trios that appeared more often than once. Any time a LB trio appeared multiple times, I only listed the best one (which would be based solely on the ages of the three players). So the 2000 Ravens aren't on there, when Ray Lewis was 25 and Peter Boulware and Jamie Sharper were 26; that's because the 2001 Ravens are on there when Lewis was 26 and Boulware and Sharper were 27. A similar fate sacked the '85 Bears, replaced by the more physically mature '87 Bears.

BAL-2006	Ray Lewis (31): 20	     Adalius Thomas (29): 15.6	 Bart Scott (26): 13
GNB-1963	Ray Nitschke (27): 15.6	     Bill Forester (31): 16	 Dan Currie (28): 14.3
CHI-1987	Mike Singletary (29): 17.6   Wilber Marshall (25): 18.3	 Otis Wilson (30): 11
KAN-1972	Willie Lanier (27): 17.3     Bobby Bell (32): 16         Jim Lynch (27): 13.3
CHI-1959	Bill George (30): 18	     Joe Fortunato (29): 15.3	 Larry Morris (26): 10.3
PIT-1978	Jack Ham (30): 17	     Jack Lambert (26): 18	 Loren Toews (27): 8.66
CHI-2007	Brian Urlacher (29): 19.3    Lance Briggs (27): 15.6	 Hunter Hillenmeyer (27): 7
CHI-1955	Bill George (26): 18	     Joe Fortunato (25): 15.3	 George Connor (30): 12.3
PIT-1980	Jack Lambert (28): 18	     Jack Ham (32): 17	         Robin Cole (25): 9.66
RAM-1976	Isiah Robertson (27): 17.6   Jack Reynolds (29): 12.6	 Jim Youngblood (26): 11.3
GNB-1968	Dave Robinson (27): 14.3     Ray Nitschke (32): 15.6	 Lee Roy Caffey (27): 13
PHI-1954	Chuck Bednarik (29): 20.6    Bucko Kilroy (33): 14	 Wayne Robinson (24): 11.3
PIT-1979	Jack Lambert (27): 18	     Jack Ham (31): 17	         Dirt Winston (24): 8.66
BAL-2001	Ray Lewis (26): 20	     Peter Boulware (27): 11.3	 Jamie Sharper (27): 10.3
RAM-1975	Isiah Robertson (26): 17.6   Jack Reynolds (28): 12.6 	 Ken Geddes (29): 10.3
RAM-1967	Maxie Baughan (29): 15.6     Myron Pottios (28): 12 	 Jack Pardee (31): 11.6
BAL-1972	Mike Curtis (29): 16	     Ted Hendricks (25): 17	 Ray May (27): 8.66
BAL-1973	Mike Curtis (30): 16	     Ted Hendricks (26): 17	 Stan White (24): 10
CHI-1970	Dick Butkus (28): 15.6	     Lee Roy Caffey (29): 13	 Doug Buffone (26): 9.33
ARI-1994	Wilber Marshall (32): 18.3   Seth Joyner (30): 13.6	 Eric Hill (28): 7.66
PIT-1976	Jack Ham (28): 17	     Jack Lambert (24): 18	 Andy Russell (35): 13.6
TAM-1999	Derrick Brooks (26): 19	     Shelton Quarles (28): 10	 Hardy Nickerson (34): 14.6
GNB-1974	Ted Hendricks (27): 17	     Fred Carr (28): 12	         Jim Carter (26): 9
DAL-1967	Chuck Howley (31): 16.3	     Lee Roy Jordan (26): 13	 Dave Edwards (28): 9.33
CLE-1952	Bill Willis (31): 18.3	     Tommy W. Thompson (25): 14	 Walt Michaels (23): 13

We can do the same thing for teams that played 3-4 defenses. Not surprisingly, the Dome Patrol tops the list, but of course we're only going to list them once. A couple of Lawrence Taylor-led Giants make the list, although not the '86 version where Reasons and Banks were both just 24 years old. The Orange Crush and a bunch of Steelers teams are well represented:

NOR-1990  Pat Swilling (26): 19	      Sam Mills (31): 17	 Rickey Jackson (32): 14.6   Vaughan Johnson (28): 11.6
PIT-1995  Greg Lloyd (30): 17.3	      Kevin Greene (33): 16.6	 Chad Brown (25): 14.3       Levon Kirkland (26): 13
BAL-2003  Ray Lewis (28): 20	      Adalius Thomas (26): 15.6  Peter Boulware (29): 11.3   Ed Hartwell (25): 8.66
PIT-2003  James Farrior (28): 14.6    Jason Gildon (31): 14.6	 Joey Porter (26): 14	     Kendrell Bell (25): 10.3
BAL-2004  Ray Lewis (29): 20	      Adalius Thomas (27): 15.6  Ed Hartwell (26): 8.66      Terrell Suggs (22): 13.3
DEN-1979  Randy Gradishar (27): 16    Tom Jackson (28): 13.6	 Bob Swenson (26): 11.6      Joe Rizzo (29): 9
DEN-1981  Randy Gradishar (29): 16    Tom Jackson (30): 13.6	 Bob Swenson (28): 11.6      Larry Evans (28): 7
OAK-1979  Ted Hendricks (32): 17      Phil Villapiano (30): 13.6 Rod Martin (25): 13	     Monte Johnson (28): 8.66
PIT-1997  Greg Lloyd (32): 17.3	      Levon Kirkland (28): 13	 Jason Gildon (25): 14.6     Earl Holmes (24): 9.66
NYG-1991  Lawrence Taylor (32): 18    Pepper Johnson (27): 13.3  Carl Banks (29): 11	     Gary Reasons (29): 7
PIT-1982  Jack Lambert (30): 18	      Jack Ham (34): 17	         Robin Cole (27): 9.66       Loren Toews (31): 8.66
BAL-2007  Ray Lewis (32): 20	      Bart Scott (27): 13	 Terrell Suggs (25): 13.3    Jarret Johnson (26): 5.66
OAK-1978  Ted Hendricks (31): 17      Phil Villapiano (29): 13.6 Monte Johnson (27): 8.66    Willie Hall (29): 7.33
PIT-1991  Greg Lloyd (26): 17.3	      Hardy Nickerson (26): 14.6 David Little (32): 9.66     Bryan Hinkle (32): 9
DET-1993  Pat Swilling (29): 19	      Chris Spielman (28): 12    George Jamison (31): 7.66   Dennis Gibson (29): 6.66
NYG-1988  Lawrence Taylor (29): 18    Carl Banks (26): 11	 Pepper Johnson (24): 13.3   Harry Carson (35): 13.3
PIT-2000  Jason Gildon (28): 14.6     Levon Kirkland (31): 13	 Earl Holmes (27): 9.66      Joey Porter (23): 14
NYG-1990  Lawrence Taylor (31): 18    Pepper Johnson (26): 13.3  Carl Banks (28): 11	     Steve DeOssie (28): 4
PIT-1999  Jason Gildon (27): 14.6     Levon Kirkland (30): 13	 Earl Holmes (26): 9.66      Carlos Emmons (26): 9
PIT-2006  Joey Porter (29): 14	      James Farrior (31): 14.6   Larry Foote (26): 9	     Clark Haggans (29): 7.66
DEN-1980  Randy Gradishar (28): 16    Tom Jackson (29): 13.6	 Larry Evans (27): 7	     Rob Nairne (26): 7.33
PIT-1992  Greg Lloyd (27): 17.3	      Hardy Nickerson (27): 14.6 David Little (33): 9.66     Jerrol Williams (25): 5.33
NYG-1983  Harry Carson (30): 13.3     Lawrence Taylor (24): 18   Brad Van Pelt (32): 9.66    Brian Kelley (32): 9
DEN-1982  Randy Gradishar (30): 16    Tom Jackson (31): 13.6	 Larry Evans (29): 7	     Jim Ryan (25): 8
DEN-1989  Karl Mecklenburg (29): 15.6 Simon Fletcher (27): 10	 Michael Brooks (25): 10.6   Rick Dennison (31): 8.33

Finally, here's a list of the top 50 grades (simply averaging the age-adjusted AV score of the starting linebackers) for all 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, including duplicates:

4-3 Linebackers:

tm	yr	av
BAL	2006	46.2
GNB	1963	44.3
GNB	1962	43.7
CHI	1987	43.6
KAN	1972	43.4
KAN	1973	42.8
KAN	1971	42.8
CHI	1959	42.4
GNB	1961	41.9
CHI	1960	41.8
CHI	1986	41.7
PIT	1978	41.3
CHI	2007	41.2
KAN	1974	41.1
CHI	1955	41.0
KAN	1970	41.0
PIT	1980	40.6
CHI	1961	40.2
RAM	1976	39.9
GNB	1968	39.9
PIT	1981	39.9
CHI	2006	39.7
PIT	1977	39.7
PHI	1954	39.6
PIT	1979	39.5
GNB	1967	39.4
PHI	1953	39.3
GNB	1969	39.3
BAL	2001	39.0
GNB	1960	38.9
RAM	1975	38.9
CHI	1985	38.7
RAM	1967	38.5
BAL	1972	38.4
BAL	1973	38.3
KAN	1969	38.0
GNB	1966	37.9
PHI	1952	37.8
CHI	1962	37.5
RAM	1968	37.5
CHI	2005	37.3
CHI	1970	37.0
RAM	1974	37.0
ARI	1994	36.9
PIT	1976	36.7
TAM	1999	36.7
GNB	1974	36.4
DAL	1967	36.3
CLE	1952	36.3
DET	1962	36.3

3-4 Linebackers:

tm	yr	av
NOR	1990	57.4
NOR	1989	57.3
NOR	1991	56.0
NOR	1988	55.6
PIT	1995	53.5
NOR	1992	53.0
PIT	1994	52.8
BAL	2003	52.5
NOR	1987	52.3
PIT	1993	50.5
PIT	2003	49.5
BAL	2004	48.6
DEN	1979	48.6
DEN	1981	48.0
OAK	1979	47.5
PIT	2002	47.4
PIT	1997	47.0
NYG	1991	46.4
DEN	1978	46.2
PIT	1982	46.2
BAL	2007	46.0
BAL	2008	45.9
OAK	1978	45.3
PIT	1991	45.2
DET	1993	44.8
OAK	1976	44.4
NYG	1988	44.3
PIT	2000	44.2
PIT	1990	43.9
NYG	1990	43.8
PIT	1999	43.8
PIT	2006	43.6
NYG	1987	43.4
PIT	2005	43.3
DEN	1980	43.0
PIT	1992	42.7
DEN	1977	42.6
NYG	1983	42.2
DEN	1982	42.1
PIT	2004	42.0
DEN	1989	41.9
NYG	1992	41.9
NYJ	1999	41.7
PIT	1998	41.7
NWE	2007	41.5
NYG	1982	41.3
PIT	1989	41.3
NYG	1989	41.2
CLE	1950	41.2
CLE	1951	41.2

22 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Best/Worst Ever

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