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Archive for the 'Obituaries' Category

R.I.P. Dave Duerson, Who Inspired Our Player Similarity System

Posted by Neil Paine on February 18, 2011

Sad news out of Miami last night: former Bears safety Dave Duerson was found dead in his home at the age of 51. Duerson holds a special place in our hearts because he was the inspiration for our AV-based similarity scores, so as a tribute here is a re-run of Doug's introductory post on the system from July 2008:

Awhile back I was talking football with this kid I know. I brought up Dave Duerson as an example of something or other, and the kid had to confess to never having heard of Duerson. I scolded the kid and started muttering to myself. Never heard of Dave Duerson. Sheesh. Ever heard of the 85 Bears???!!! Awful.

A few months later, I had the occasion to do some research on Lemar Parrish. As a completely honest blogger, I have to confess that, before looking him up, I didn't know much more about Parrish than the kid did about Duerson. And Parrish was a better player. According to AV, he is the best eligible post-merger defensive back not currently in the Hall of Fame (at least until Aeneas Williams becomes eligible).

So I did the math, and realized that if you map Duerson's NFL career onto the kid's life, it looks very similar to the mapping of Parrish's career onto mine. Duerson's NFL debut happened a few months before the kid was born. Duerson retired when the kid was ten. Likewise, Parrish debuted the year before I was born, and he retired when I was 11. So the kid's only crime was being a toddler when the NFL --- and indeed the entire sports world --- attained perfection, which of course coincided with my being 12 to 14 years old.

Anyway, what's needed in these situations is the ability to translate a guy to other eras. Off the top of my head, I couldn't describe Duerson very well to the kid: he was a safety who wasn't a hall of famer but was pretty good. That really doesn't say much.

So I decided to whip up a very, very simple similar-player generator.

3 Comments | Posted in Obituaries

R.I.P. George Blanda

Posted by Neil Paine on September 28, 2010

I'm sure everyone has seen the news already, but in case you didn't, Hall of Famer George Blanda passed away yesterday at age 83.

Just one look at Blanda's PFR page tells you why this is a significant loss for the game -- Blanda played more seasons (26) than anyone in pro football history, set a scoring record (2002 points) that wouldn't be broken until 25 years after his retirement (he still ranks 5th on the all-time list), played 340 career games (still 4th all-time), tossed 236 TDs (still the 19th-most ever), was the 1st player ever to throw 35 TD passes in a season, led Houston to 2 AFL crowns, won the 1961 AFL and 1970 NFL Player of the Year Awards, was 69th in Chase's pre-2009 QBGOAT rankings despite spending half his career as a kicker... I could go on for days listing Blanda's accolades, or the ways his stat lines caused future generations to do double-takes.

25 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, Checkdowns, Great Historical Players, History, Obituaries, Player articles, Quarterbacks

Rest in Peace, Merlin

Posted by Chase Stuart on March 11, 2010

The football community lost one of its greatest members today. Merlin Olsen spent all fifteen seasons of his playing career with the Los Angeles Rams. After that, he teamed with Dick Enberg to cover AFC football games (and the Rose Bowl) as a color commentator in the '80s. For Rams and Olsen fans out there, let's take a trip down memory lane:

  • Olsen was a huge star at Utah State, where he played defensive tackle under future Denver Broncos coach John Ralston. During Olsen's junior and senior seasons, the Aggies won nine games each season, the only time in school history USU has hit the nine-win mark. As a junior, Utah State ended the season 18th in the polls, the first time the school ever finished a season ranked in the AP poll. The 9-0-1 Aggies ended Olsen's senior season ranked 10th in the polls, which was the last time the school has been ranked by the Associated Press. Ironically, the second best NFL player from Utah State was in the same class as Olsen; one can only imagine how good the Aggies would have been if he actually played football for them.
  • As a senior, Olsen won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best linemen; unsurprisingly, he then went in the top three in both the NFL and AFL drafts in 1962. The Los Angeles Rams went 4-10 in 1961, earning themselves the 3rd pick in the NFL draft. Before the '61 season began, LA traded wide receiver Del Shofner (who was 27 years old and already a two time, first-team AP All-Pro selection and would make that team again in '61, '62 and '63) to the Giants for the Vikings first round pick (which the Giants owned after fleecing Minnesota in a trade for QB George Shaw), which turned out to be the #2 overall selection. After Ernie Davis went first overall, the Rams selected QB Roman Gabriel and Olsen with those two picks; in the process, they solidified both sides of the ball for the next decade.

4 Comments | Posted in Obituaries

R.I.P. Bob Carroll

Posted by Neil Paine on August 26, 2009

In some sad news, Professional Football Researchers Association co-founder and Executive Director Bob Carroll passed away on Tuesday. I didn't know Bob personally, but he was the co-author of The Hidden Game of Football, which had a profound influence on our site (the book introduced Adjusted Yards for the first time), as well as sites like Football Outsiders (the underpinnings of the DVOA method come almost directly from The Hidden Game) and Advanced NFL Stats (the book included the first publicly-released Win Probability model for football ever). Mr. Carroll will be missed.

1 Comment | Posted in Obituaries