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Archive for August, 2006

Last Rice-related post for awhile

Posted by Doug on August 31, 2006

Reader Bill M compiled Rice's career stats by opponent. It seems he's missing two catches and a few dozen yards (I hope the errors weren't in his source), but I'm taking his word for it that the numbers shown here are close enough for posting. I think he just likes this list because it reveals his Buffalo Bills as arguably the team that had the most success in shutting down Rice. Here are the numbers:


Opponent G REC YD TD Y/G
=============================================
Rams 32 166 2553 21 79.8
Saints 30 147 2025 14 67.5
Falcons 29 175 2731 26 94.2
Vikings 12 61 991 10 82.6
Panthers 11 59 789 4 71.7
Chiefs 10 44 541 4 54.1
Chargers 10 69 1069 11 106.9
Cardinals 10 50 776 9 77.6
Cowboys 10 62 940 8 94.0
Broncos 10 52 698 3 69.8
Lions 10 50 630 2 63.0
Giants 9 40 615 5 68.3
Packers 9 57 875 7 97.2
Buccaneers 9 49 737 10 81.9
Steelers 8 44 423 4 52.9
Redskins 8 41 686 2 85.8
Jets 8 35 541 5 67.6
O/Titans 8 51 601 3 75.1
Seahawks 7 30 513 7 73.3
Eagles 7 33 524 5 74.9
Bills 7 21 259 2 37.0
Bears 6 31 514 7 85.7
Patriots 6 30 474 6 79.0
Bengals 6 36 548 4 91.3
Dolphins 6 25 427 6 71.2
Raiders 5 23 408 3 81.6
Colts 5 26 458 5 91.6
Browns 4 21 294 4 73.5
Ravens 2 9 106 2 53.0
49ers 2 7 79 0 39.5
Jaguars 1 2 17 0 17.0
Texans 1 1 18 0 18.0

Also, Vince asked me to re-do yesterday's post with yards per attempt instead of career passing yards. Here is that:


Receiver Top three quarterbacks (percentage)
===============================================================================
Torry Holt 7.79 Bulger (42), Warner (36), Martin (10),
Marvin Harrison 7.51 Manning (83), Harbaugh (10), Justin (4),
Isaac Bruce 7.40 Warner (27), Bulger (22), Banks (17),
Dwight Clark 7.38 Montana (78), Deberg (12), Kemp (4),
Jerry Rice 7.37 Young (38), Montana (23), Gannon (13),
Randy Moss 7.32 Culpepper (60), Cunningham (13), Collins (9),
Mark Duper 7.28 Marino (93), Strock (2), Woodley (2),
Mark Clayton 7.27 Marino (90), Favre (5), Mackey (1),
Stanley Morgan 7.25 Grogan (50), Eason (28), Cavanaugh (7),
Nat Moore 7.18 Griese (42), Marino (31), Woodley (13),
Andre Reed 7.18 Kelly (67), Flutie (10), Reich (6),
Wes Chandler 7.18 Fouts (52), Manning (30), Luther (7),
Cliff Branch 7.09 Stabler (57), Plunkett (23), Wilson (11),
Ernest Givins 7.08 Moon (74), Carlson (13), Brunell (4),
Gary Clark 7.07 Rypien (37), Schroeder (23), Beuerlein (11),
Roy Green 7.06 Lomax (64), Rosenbach (10), Hogeboom (7),
Cris Carter 7.05 Moon (24), Cunningham (18), Johnson (14),
Ricky Proehl 7.05 Warner (16), Delhomme (13), Chandler (12),
Drew Hill 7.03 Moon (65), Miller (5), Carlson (5),
James Lofton 7.03 Dickey (40), Kelly (18), Whitehurst (15),
JT Smith 7.03 Lomax (48), Fuller (16), Kenney (12),
Haywood Jeffires 7.01 Moon (61), Carlson (14), Chandler (8),
Art Monk 7.01 Theismann (37), Rypien (29), Schroeder (14),
Ed McCaffrey 6.99 Griese (31), Elway (30), Simms (8),
Hines Ward 6.98 Stewart (35), Maddox (35), Roethlisberger (20),
Michael Irvin 6.97 Aikman (80), Garrett (5), Beuerlein (4),
Terrell Owens 6.94 Garcia (53), Young (20), McNabb (13),
Henry Ellard 6.92 Everett (52), Frerotte (16), Shuler (6),
Rod Smith 6.90 Griese (37), Plummer (26), Elway (19),
Joe Horn 6.89 Brooks (77), Blake (11), Grbac (8),
Tim Brown 6.87 Gannon (33), Hostetler (24), George (12),
Billy Brooks 6.87 Trudeau (27), Kelly (24), George (24),
Al Toon 6.87 O'Brien (85), Ryan (8), Nagle (5),
Troy Brown 6.86 Brady (54), Bledsoe (44), Zolak (1),
Eric Martin 6.86 Hebert (52), Walsh (15), Wilson (10),
Johnnie Morton 6.86 Batch (28), Mitchell (28), Green (21),
Sterling Sharpe 6.86 Favre (50), Majkowski (33), Tomczak (5),
Eric Metcalf 6.85 Kosar (30), George (20), Testaverde (12),
Tony Martin 6.84 Humphries (35), Marino (23), Chandler (13),
Mark Carrier 6.84 Testaverde (50), Collins (22), Beuerlein (7),
Keenan McCardell 6.84 Brunell (54), Johnson (16), Brees (11),
Steve Largent 6.84 Zorn (47), Krieg (43), Stouffer (2),
Terance Mathis 6.84 Chandler (32), George (26), Hebert (12),
Wayne Chrebet 6.83 Testaverde (35), Pennington (16), O'Donnell (13),
Jimmy Smith 6.82 Brunell (68), Leftwich (18), Garrard (5),
Webster Slaughter 6.81 Kosar (48), Moon (16), Carlson (8),
Irving Fryar 6.80 Marino (16), Detmer (12), Eason (10),
Brett Perriman 6.79 Mitchell (40), Peete (17), Kramer (12),
Derrick Mason 6.78 McNair (65), Volek (13), Boller (8),
Rob Moore 6.78 Esiason (25), Plummer (22), O'Brien (19),
Andre Rison 6.77 Miller (24), Gannon (12), Grbac (11),
Muhsin Muhammad 6.77 Beuerlein (39), Delhomme (23), Collins (9),
John Stallworth 6.75 Bradshaw (48), Malone (29), Woodley (10),
Herman Moore 6.74 Mitchell (53), Batch (14), Peete (10),
Eric Moulds 6.70 Bledsoe (36), Flutie (22), Johnson (15),
Anthony Miller 6.70 Elway (25), Humphries (19), Tolliver (14),
Terry Glenn 6.67 Bledsoe (70), Favre (10), Carter (10),
Frank Sanders 6.66 Plummer (59), Graham (12), Krieg (10),
Keyshawn Johnson 6.62 Johnson (27), Testaverde (18), King (11),
Carl Pickens 6.56 Blake (60), Klingler (13), O'Donnell (10),
Curtis Conway 6.56 Kramer (25), Flutie (12), Brees (10),
Harold Carmichael 6.54 Jaworski (55), Gabriel (25), Boryla (10),
Joey Galloway 6.51 Moon (18), Carter (15), Mirer (15),
Amani Toomer 6.49 Collins (62), Manning (15), Graham (9),
Jeff Graham 6.48 O'Donnell (22), Kramer (22), Harbaugh (11),
Brian Blades 6.36 Mirer (38), Krieg (31), Friesz (7),

6 Comments | Posted in General, History

All Jerry all the time

Posted by Doug on August 30, 2006

Once you get started talking about Jerry Rice, it's hard to stop. This post isn't as Rice-centric as previous ones have been, but it was inspired by yesterday's post about how much Rice might or might not have been affected by having Hall of Famers at the quarterback position for much of his career.

I decided to check out the career numbers of Jerry Rice's (and everyone else's) composite quarterback. Here is the plan.

STEP 1: Estimate how many passes Rice caught from each quarterback. For example, in 1989 Rice caught 82 passes. That year, Joe Montana threw 79.9% of the 49ers' passes, Steve Young threw 19.0% of them, and Steve Bono threw 1.1%. So I estimate that Rice caught roughly 65 passes from Montana, 16 from Young, and one from Bono. Of course these are just estimates, but for my purposes that shouldn't cause any problems.

STEP 2: Add up Jerry's career catches from each quarterback and divide by his total career reception total. This gives (an estimate of) the percentage of Jerry's career that was spent with each quarterback.

STEP 3: Find the weighted average career passing yardage totals --- weighted by the percentage above --- of those quarterbacks.

Here is the data for Rice:


Receiver Quarterback PCT CarPassYd
=========================================================
Jerry Rice Steve Young 38.0 33124
Jerry Rice Joe Montana 22.7 40551
Jerry Rice Rich Gannon 13.0 28743
Jerry Rice Jeff Garcia 7.6 19076
Jerry Rice Elvis Grbac 5.5 16769
Jerry Rice Steve Bono 3.8 10439
Jerry Rice Jeff Kemp 1.9 6230
Jerry Rice Rick Mirer 1.9 11969
Jerry Rice Matt Hasselbeck 1.4 15924
Jerry Rice Steve Stenstrom 0.8 1895
Jerry Rice Mike Moroski 0.7 2864
Jerry Rice Jeff Brohm 0.5 353
Jerry Rice Marques Tuiasosopo 0.4 482
Jerry Rice Ty Detmer 0.4 6351
Jerry Rice Matt Cavanaugh 0.3 4332
Jerry Rice Kerry Collins 0.3 33635
Jerry Rice Bob Gagliano 0.2 3431
Jerry Rice Trent Dilfer 0.2 19352
Jerry Rice Rob Johnson 0.2 5795
Jerry Rice Cary Conklin 0.1 560
Jerry Rice Tee Martin 0.1 69
Jerry Rice Jim Druckenmiller 0.1 239
Jerry Rice Bill Musgrave 0.0 402
Jerry Rice Bobby Hoying 0.0 2544
Jerry Rice Rodney Peete 0.0 16338

So I estimate that 38% of Rice's career was spent with Steve Young at QB, 22.7% with Montana quarterbacking, and so on. The rightmost column is the given quarterback's career passing yardage total. The weighted average of those numbers is 29,088. Roughly speaking, what this means is that The Quarterback Throwing To Jerry Rice was a guy who passed for 29,088 career yards. That's a pretty good quarterback. He would rank 31st in NFL history. And Matt Hasselbeck will add a bit to that before his career is over, but it won't matter too much, as Hasselbeck only accounts for 1.4% of The Quarterback Who Threw To Jerry Rice.

The real question is: how does the 29,088 figure compare to other wide receivers? Here is the list of all receivers who debuted in 1970 or later and have at least 500 career catches:


Receiver Top three quarterbacks (percentage)
===============================================================================
Mark Clayton 58324 Marino (89), Favre (5), Mackey (1),
Mark Duper 57467 Marino (93), Strock (2), Woodley (2),
Terry Glenn 39092 Bledsoe (70), Favre (10), Carter (9),
Ernest Givins 38655 Moon (73), Carlson (12), Brunell (3),
Mark Carrier 36431 Testaverde (50), Collins (22), Beuerlein (6),
Dwight Clark 36309 Montana (77), Deberg (12), Kemp (4),
Drew Hill 35863 Moon (64), Miller (4), Carlson (4),
Haywood Jeffires 35209 Moon (61), Carlson (13), Chandler (7),
Sterling Sharpe 32440 Favre (49), Majkowski (32), Tomczak (5),
Nat Moore 31510 Griese (41), Marino (30), Woodley (12),
Marvin Harrison 30402 Manning (83), Harbaugh (9), Justin (3),
Wes Chandler 30334 Fouts (51), Manning (29), Luther (7),
Cris Carter 29393 Moon (24), Cunningham (17), Johnson (14),
Jerry Rice 29088 Young (38), Montana (22), Gannon (13),
Troy Brown 28717 Brady (53), Bledsoe (43), Zolak (0),
Michael Irvin 28668 Aikman (79), Garrett (5), Beuerlein (3),
Ed McCaffrey 28533 Griese (31), Elway (29), Simms (8),
Andre Reed 26767 Kelly (67), Flutie (10), Reich (6),
Steve Largent 26692 Zorn (46), Krieg (43), Stouffer (2),
Tony Martin 26474 Humphries (35), Marino (22), Chandler (13),
Rod Smith 25816 Griese (36), Plummer (26), Elway (18),
Rob Moore 25432 Esiason (25), Plummer (22), O'Brien (18),
Keenan McCardell 25225 Brunell (53), Johnson (15), Brees (11),
Eric Metcalf 24392 Kosar (29), George (19), Testaverde (12),
Frank Sanders 24390 Plummer (59), Graham (12), Krieg (9),
Wayne Chrebet 24383 Testaverde (34), Pennington (15), O'Donnell (12),
Cliff Branch 24282 Stabler (56), Plunkett (23), Wilson (10),
Amani Toomer 23637 Collins (61), Manning (15), Graham (8),
Keyshawn Johnson 23490 Johnson (27), Testaverde (18), King (10),
Harold Carmichael 23471 Jaworski (54), Gabriel (25), Boryla (9),
Anthony Miller 23423 Elway (25), Humphries (19), Tolliver (13),
Terance Mathis 23220 Chandler (31), George (25), Hebert (11),
Henry Ellard 23203 Everett (51), Frerotte (16), Shuler (6),
Jimmy Smith 22610 Brunell (68), Leftwich (17), Garrard (5),
Randy Moss 22370 Culpepper (59), Cunningham (13), Collins (9),
Al Toon 21915 O'Brien (84), Ryan (7), Nagle (4),
Webster Slaughter 21707 Kosar (47), Moon (15), Carlson (7),
Andre Rison 21682 Miller (24), Gannon (12), Grbac (10),
Eric Moulds 21596 Bledsoe (36), Flutie (22), Johnson (14),
Billy Brooks 21466 Trudeau (27), Kelly (23), George (23),
Gary Clark 21440 Rypien (37), Schroeder (23), Beuerlein (10),
Art Monk 21427 Theismann (36), Rypien (29), Schroeder (14),
Irving Fryar 20701 Marino (16), Detmer (11), Eason (9),
Brian Blades 20628 Mirer (38), Krieg (30), Friesz (6),
Tim Brown 20470 Gannon (32), Hostetler (24), George (11),
Derrick Mason 20013 McNair (64), Volek (13), Boller (8),
Terrell Owens 20013 Garcia (53), Young (19), McNabb (13),
James Lofton 19567 Dickey (39), Kelly (17), Whitehurst (14),
Roy Green 19295 Lomax (64), Rosenbach (9), Hogeboom (7),
Carl Pickens 19281 Blake (59), Klingler (12), O'Donnell (10),
Joe Horn 18976 Brooks (76), Blake (10), Grbac (7),
Stanley Morgan 18704 Grogan (50), Eason (28), Cavanaugh (7),
John Stallworth 17975 Bradshaw (48), Malone (29), Woodley (10),
Brett Perriman 17410 Mitchell (40), Peete (16), Kramer (12),
Muhsin Muhammad 16934 Beuerlein (39), Delhomme (22), Collins (9),
Joey Galloway 16558 Moon (17), Carter (15), Mirer (14),
Eric Martin 16360 Hebert (51), Walsh (15), Wilson (10),
Isaac Bruce 15911 Warner (27), Bulger (22), Banks (17),
JT Smith 15894 Lomax (47), Fuller (15), Kenney (12),
Ricky Proehl 15583 Warner (15), Delhomme (12), Chandler (11),
Herman Moore 14978 Mitchell (52), Batch (13), Peete (9),
Curtis Conway 14952 Kramer (24), Flutie (11), Brees (9),
Jeff Graham 14775 O'Donnell (22), Kramer (21), Harbaugh (11),
Johnnie Morton 14506 Batch (28), Mitchell (28), Green (21),
Torry Holt 14227 Bulger (42), Warner (35), Martin (10),
Hines Ward 10257 Stewart (35), Maddox (34), Roethlisberger (20),

Obviously, comparisons are complicated by the fact that many of the above-listed quarterbacks are still active.

There is lots of interesting stuff there, but time is short, so I'll close by putting in yet another plug for Joey Galloway as a very good and underappreciated wide receiver. Look at the quarterbacks this poor guy has had to play with:


Receiver Quarterback PCT CarPassYd
=========================================================
Joey Galloway Warren Moon 17.7 49325
Joey Galloway Quincy Carter 15.4 6337
Joey Galloway Rick Mirer 14.9 11969
Joey Galloway Chris Simms 10.6 2502
Joey Galloway Brian Griese 9.3 16344
Joey Galloway John Friesz 9.3 8699
Joey Galloway Jon Kitna 9.0 18259
Joey Galloway Chad Hutchinson 5.9 2466
Joey Galloway Anthony Wright 2.3 3547
Joey Galloway Ryan Leaf 2.0 3666
Joey Galloway Brad Johnson 1.2 25798
Joey Galloway Clint Stoerner 1.1 367
Joey Galloway Troy Aikman 0.4 32942
Joey Galloway Gino Toretta 0.3 41
Joey Galloway Glenn Foley 0.2 2469
Joey Galloway Randall Cunningham 0.2 29979
Joey Galloway Stan Gelbaugh 0.0 2100

Yes, Moon was great, but he was 41 and 42 years old during the two seasons he played with Galloway. Also, he only accounts for 18% of Galloway's Quarterback. About 80% of Galloway's career has been spent with Quincy Carter, Rick Mirer, Chris Simms, Brian Griese, John Friesz, Jon Kitna, Chad Hutchinson, Anthony Wright, and Ryan Leaf. 8500 career receiving yards (and counting) doesn't seem so bad in that context.

8 Comments | Posted in General, History

More on Jerry Rice

Posted by Doug on August 29, 2006

Last week I did this bit on Jerry Rice. That reminded me of something I wrote about Jerry several years ago. I know I'm flogging a straw man here, but just in case you ever run across one of those people who thinks Montana and/or Young made Rice, here is something you can point to.

Where WRs are concerned, there usually isn't too much debate, but there still is a small segment of the football world that does not believe that Jerry Rice is the greatest WR of all time. That group separates into two subgroups:


  • The people who think Don Hutson is the greatest WR of all time.

  • The people who think Rice's otherworldly numbers need to be discounted because he benefitted so much from playing with Montana and Young for the majority of his career.

The Hutson group has a legitimate argument. I'd vote for Rice over Hutson, but it's close, and that's for another article. What I'd like to do right now is take a look at the Montana argument.

Clearly, Rice benefitted from playing with Montana and Young. No one disputes that. The question is: by how much? That's an impossible question to answer, but what we can do is look at the seasons during which Rice was working with a non-Montana/Young QB for a substantial amount of time:


  • In 1986, Rice's second year, Montana only played 8 games. The other 8 featured Jeff Kemp and Mike Moroski at the QB position for the 49ers. Kemp and Moroski threw 47 percent of the team's passes that year. Rice had 1570 yards and 15 TDs on the season, leading the league in both categories.

  • In 1991, Steve Young spent some time on the shelf. Steve Bono and Bill Musgrave threw 242 passes that year, 46 percent of the team's total. Rice's numbers were 1206 and 14.

  • In 1995, Young was injured again, and Elvis Grbac threw 30 percent of the 49ers passes. Rice had 1848 receiving yards and 15 TDs.

  • In 1996, Grbac and Jeff Brohm threw 42 percent of the 49ers passes. Rice went for 1254 and 8.

So during those four seasons, during which Kemp, Moroski, Bono, Grbac, and Brohm were QBing the 49ers 41 percent of the time, Rice averaged 1470 and 13. And really only one of those seasons was during what would tyically be considered a wide receiver's prime years.

Further, while I don't have game-by-game breakdowns for 1986 or 1991, I do have them for 1995 and 1996. During the 9 games where Young did not play during 95 and 96 (plus a game where he threw only one pass), Rice had 908 yards and 9 TDs. That comes out to 1453/14 over a 16-game season. So Jerry Rice, at age 33 and 34, with Elvis Grbac and Jeff Brohm at QB and Derrick Loville and Terry Kirby at RB, was putting up numbers that could arguably pass for the best season of Cris Carter's or Steve Largent's career.

And then there are the Jeff Garcia and the Rich Gannon years.

Rice's two worst seasons to date were the two seasons when Garcia was the 49ers primary QB. In 1999, he went for 830/5, and he posted 805/7 in 2000. But he had a good excuse: he was 37 (and 38) years old. Only two receivers in NFL history, Rice and Charlie Joiner, have caught 800 yards worth of passes at age 37 or older. Only a hanful of receivers in NFL history have caught any passes at age 37 or older. It's easy to be blinded by the standard Rice had set for himself, but apart from one Charlie Joiner season, these two disappointing seasons were the best in NFL history for a man of his age. And then he moved to Oakland and blew those seasons away.

What more could he have done?

Just to stave off the flood of pro-Hutson comments, I'll confess that I wrote that piece four years ago and, although I'm pretty sure I had good reasons for it at the time, I no longer remember why I'd prefer Rice to Hutson.

13 Comments | Posted in General

Waste your day at p-f-r. It’s for a good cause.

Posted by Doug on August 28, 2006

I guarantee you I am the worst salesman on the planet. Nevertheless, I'm going to post something like this a couple of times per year. Now seems as good a time as any.

If you get some use and/or enjoyment out of this site or the blog, consider making a contribution. As you probably know, your contribution entitles you to sponsor pages at the site. If you click around, you'll see that lots of player pages and team pages (like this one and this one, for example) are sponsored by businesses with traditional text ads. But lots of pages are also sponsored by individuals who simply want to contribute to pro-football-reference and put a personal message on a particular page. You can see a few examples here, here, and this one that I sponsored on behalf of my Sooner-loving friend.

After I pay the site's expenses, I donate all additional sponsorship revenue to charity. I elaborate a bit on the reasons why I do this and the current charity that p-f-r supports on this page. Here is the short version:

Like most people, I've always had a vague general sense that people should use their time and talents to help people and support good causes. Also like a lot of people, I have allowed that vague general sense to remain too vague and general. My time and talent (such as they are) have created a site with a small amount of revenue-generating potential, and for several years now I've had it in the back of my mind that I ought to use that time, talent, and effort (which I'm using anyway) to help out a good cause.

About a year ago, I finally started doing it, and P-F-R raised about $3000 for charity last year. I hope it raises a lot more this year. As a special deal for blog readers for the next few days, if you contribute some money and send me an email telling me you read about it here at the p-f-r blog, I'll match your contribution with an additional 50%. So if you donate $20, I'll throw an additional 10 virtual bucks into your account so you can sponsor $30 worth of pages. This page explains the logistics of how to set up an account and sponsor pages.

1 Comment | Posted in P-F-R News

Marino, Favre, Elway, Montana

Posted by Doug on August 25, 2006

This is the quarterback edition of what I did yesterday with Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton and the day before with Jerry Rice.

Dan Marino


Player PYD TD INT RSH YD TD
=============================================================
1. John Elway 51475 300 226 774 3407 33
2. Warren Moon 49325 291 233 543 1736 22
3. Vinny Testaverde 45252 269 261 413 1647 15
4. Joe Montana 40551 273 139 457 1676 20
5. Boomer Esiason 37920 247 184 447 1598 7
6. Dave Krieg 38147 261 199 417 1261 13
7. Steve Young 33124 232 107 722 4239 43
8. Jim Kelly 35467 237 175 304 1049 7
9. Jim Everett 34837 203 175 257 596 4
10. Randall Cunningham 29979 207 134 775 4928 35
11. Phil Simms 33462 199 157 349 1252 6
12. Even-year Dan 32688 235 131 150 56 2
13. Rich Gannon 28743 180 104 520 2454 21
14. Jim Harbaugh 26288 129 117 560 2787 18
15. Odd-year Dan 28673 185 121 151 31 7

Shown here are the number of 3000-yard passing seasons. Then come the postseason statistics. SBR is Super Bowl rings. PB is Pro Bowl appearances.


Player 3000yd G PYD TD IN RsYd TD SBR PB
===================================================================
1. John Elway | 12 | 22 4964 27 21 461 6 | 2 | 9
2. Warren Moon | 9 | 10 2834 17 14 114 0 | 0 | 9
3. Vinny Testaverde | 6 | 6 1329 6 5 17 0 | 0 | 2
4. Joe Montana | 8 | 23 5772 44 21 310 2 | 4 | 8
5. Boomer Esiason | 7 | 5 600 4 3 105 1 | 0 | 4
6. Dave Krieg | 6 | 12 1895 11 10 20 1 | 0 | 3
7. Steve Young | 6 | 20 3326 20 13 585 8 | 2 | 7
8. Jim Kelly | 8 | 17 3863 20 28 161 0 | 0 | 4
9. Jim Everett | 7 | 5 1120 7 11 43 0 | 0 | 1
10. Randall Cunningham | 5 | 12 2426 12 9 273 2 | 0 | 4
11. Phil Simms | 6 | 10 1679 10 6 68 0 | 1 | 2
12. Even-year Dan | 7 | 11 2977 23 12 0 1 | 0 | 4
13. Rich Gannon | 4 | 10 1691 11 9 117 1 | 0 | 4
14. Jim Harbaugh | 1 | 5 906 6 5 119 1 | 0 | 1
15. Odd-year Dan | 6 | 7 1533 9 12 1 0 | 0 | 5

Odd-year Dan has no chance. Even-year Dan looks pretty similar to, but a little better than, Boomer Esiason. He would be a longshot to get into the Hall.

Let's run a few more quarterbacks. I'll just post the numbers and let you make the judgements.

Brett Favre


Player PYD TD INT RSH YD TD
=============================================================
1. Vinny Testaverde 45252 269 261 413 1647 15
2. Drew Bledsoe 43447 244 198 377 736 8
3. Kerry Collins 33635 173 166 324 624 9
4. Troy Aikman 32942 165 141 327 1016 9
5. Mark Brunell 30037 174 102 496 2399 15
6. Rich Gannon 28743 180 104 520 2454 21
7. Steve McNair 27141 156 102 612 3451 36
8. Chris Chandler 28484 170 146 371 1310 12
9. Jim Harbaugh 26288 129 117 560 2787 18
10. Jeff George 27602 154 113 168 307 2
11. Odd-year Brett 26837 198 143 257 859 6
12. Even-year Brett 26778 198 112 246 886 6
13. Brad Johnson 25798 155 102 240 581 7
14. Steve Beuerlein 24046 147 112 225 496 5
15. Jeff Blake 21711 134 99 418 2027 14


Player 3000yd G PYD TD IN RsYd TD SBR PB
===================================================================
1. Vinny Testaverde | 6 | 6 1329 6 5 17 0 | 0 | 2
2. Drew Bledsoe | 9 | 7 1335 6 12 7 0 | 0 | 4
3. Kerry Collins | 6 | 7 1279 12 10 30 0 | 0 | 1
4. Troy Aikman | 5 | 16 3849 24 17 87 1 | 3 | 6
5. Mark Brunell | 6 | 11 1833 11 11 147 0 | 0 | 3
6. Rich Gannon | 4 | 10 1691 11 9 117 1 | 0 | 4
7. Steve McNair | 5 | 9 1591 6 9 349 6 | 0 | 2
8. Chris Chandler | 1 | 3 728 4 4 52 0 | 0 | 2
9. Jim Harbaugh | 1 | 5 906 6 5 119 1 | 0 | 1
10. Jeff George | 3 | 3 1001 9 3 7 0 | 0 | 0
11. Odd-year Brett | 7 | 12 3057 24 16 25 0 | 0 | 5
12. Even-year Brett | 7 | 8 1845 9 10 48 1 | 1 | 3
13. Brad Johnson | 5 | 7 1403 7 12 29 1 | 1 | 2
14. Steve Beuerlein | 3 | 3 271 1 1 5 0 | 1 | 1
15. Jeff Blake | 2 | 0 0 0 0 0 0 | 0 | 1

John Elway


Player PYD TD INT RSH YD TD
=============================================================
1. Dan Marino 61361 420 252 301 87 9
2. Warren Moon 49325 291 233 543 1736 22
3. Vinny Testaverde 45252 269 261 413 1647 15
4. Joe Montana 40551 273 139 457 1676 20
5. Boomer Esiason 37920 247 184 447 1598 7
6. Dave Krieg 38147 261 199 417 1261 13
7. Steve Young 33124 232 107 722 4239 43
8. Jim Kelly 35467 237 175 304 1049 7
9. Jim Everett 34837 203 175 257 596 4
10. Randall Cunningham 29979 207 134 775 4928 35
11. Phil Simms 33462 199 157 349 1252 6
12. Rich Gannon 28743 180 104 520 2454 21
13. Jim Harbaugh 26288 129 117 560 2787 18
14. Odd-year John 26691 157 114 383 1749 16
15. Even-year John 24784 143 112 391 1658 17


Player 3000yd G PYD TD IN RsYd TD SBR PB
===================================================================
1. Dan Marino | 13 | 18 4510 32 24 1 1 | 0 | 9
2. Warren Moon | 9 | 10 2834 17 14 114 0 | 0 | 9
3. Vinny Testaverde | 6 | 6 1329 6 5 17 0 | 0 | 2
4. Joe Montana | 8 | 23 5772 44 21 310 2 | 4 | 8
5. Boomer Esiason | 7 | 5 600 4 3 105 1 | 0 | 4
6. Dave Krieg | 6 | 12 1895 11 10 20 1 | 0 | 3
7. Steve Young | 6 | 20 3326 20 13 585 8 | 2 | 7
8. Jim Kelly | 8 | 17 3863 20 28 161 0 | 0 | 4
9. Jim Everett | 7 | 5 1120 7 11 43 0 | 0 | 1
10. Randall Cunningham | 5 | 12 2426 12 9 273 2 | 0 | 4
11. Phil Simms | 6 | 10 1679 10 6 68 0 | 1 | 2
12. Rich Gannon | 4 | 10 1691 11 9 117 1 | 0 | 4
13. Jim Harbaugh | 1 | 5 906 6 5 119 1 | 0 | 1
14. Odd-year John | 7 | 14 3058 17 14 280 3 | 1 | 5
15. Even-year John | 5 | 8 1906 10 7 181 3 | 1 | 4

Joe Montana


Player PYD TD INT RSH YD TD
=============================================================
1. Dan Marino 61361 420 252 301 87 9
2. John Elway 51475 300 226 774 3407 33
3. Dave Krieg 38147 261 199 417 1261 13
4. Phil Simms 33462 199 157 349 1252 6
5. Steve Deberg 34241 196 204 204 200 7
6. Steve Grogan 26886 182 208 445 2176 35
7. Tommy Kramer 24777 159 158 214 531 8
8. Steve Bartkowski 24124 156 144 178 239 11
9. Neil Lomax 22771 136 90 222 969 10
10. Jim Zorn 21115 111 141 322 1504 17
11. Danny White 21959 155 132 159 482 8
12. Richard Todd 20610 124 161 259 932 14
13. Even-year Joe 20608 130 74 217 690 9
14. Odd-year Joe 19943 143 65 240 986 11
15. Jim McMahon 18148 100 90 338 1631 16


Player 3000yd G PYD TD IN RsYd TD SBR PB
===================================================================
1. Dan Marino | 13 | 18 4510 32 24 1 1 | 0 | 9
2. John Elway | 12 | 22 4964 27 21 461 6 | 2 | 9
3. Dave Krieg | 6 | 12 1895 11 10 20 1 | 0 | 3
4. Phil Simms | 6 | 10 1679 10 6 68 0 | 1 | 2
5. Steve Deberg | 3 | 4 511 3 3 -5 0 | 0 | 0
6. Steve Grogan | 1 | 4 571 3 7 54 0 | 0 | 0
7. Tommy Kramer | 5 | 5 880 3 7 18 0 | 0 | 1
8. Steve Bartkowski | 3 | 4 792 5 8 3 0 | 0 | 2
9. Neil Lomax | 4 | 1 385 2 2 9 0 | 0 | 2
10. Jim Zorn | 3 | 3 134 2 2 2 0 | 0 | 0
11. Danny White | 4 | 13 2284 15 16 15 0 | 1 | 1
12. Richard Todd | 3 | 4 1026 4 12 32 0 | 0 | 0
13. Even-year Joe | 3 | 10 2572 19 10 198 1 | 2 | 2
14. Odd-year Joe | 5 | 13 3200 25 11 112 1 | 2 | 6
15. Jim McMahon | 0 | 8 1112 5 4 77 3 | 1 | 1

Tom Brady

You could divide Brady's career into 367 separate careers --- one for each pass he has attempted in the postseason. Each of them, on its own, would be sufficient for Hall of Fame enshrinement.

14 Comments | Posted in General, History

Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton: four good running backs

Posted by Doug on August 24, 2006

Yesterday I had some fun with Jerry Rice's career. I concluded that he was so good that he probably had two separate Hall of Fame careers in one. Today I'll do the same exercise with Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Tomorrow I'll try some quarterbacks.

Here are Even-year Emmitt and Odd-year Emmitt, compared to all other running backs who debuted within four years (inclusive) of when Emmitt did.


Player RSH YD TD REC YD TD
==============================================================
1. Marshall Faulk 2836 12279 100 767 6875 36
2. Barry Sanders 3062 15269 99 352 2921 10
3. Thurman Thomas 2877 12074 65 472 4458 23
4. Jerome Bettis 3479 13662 91 200 1449 3
5. Ricky Watters 2622 10643 78 467 4248 13
6. Herschel Walker 1954 8225 61 512 4859 21
7. Even-year Emmitt 2443 9785 98 249 1601 7
8. Charlie Garner 1537 7097 39 419 3711 12
9. Terry Allen 2152 8614 73 204 1601 6
10. Odd-year Emmitt 1966 8570 66 266 1623 4
11. Garrison Hearst 1831 7966 30 229 2065 9
12. John Williams 1245 5006 18 546 4656 19
13. Chris Warren 1791 7696 52 273 1935 5
14. Larry Centers 616 2188 14 826 6797 28
15. Neal Anderson 1515 6166 51 302 2763 20

Here are the supporting numbers. The middle section there is postseason numbers. SBR stands for Super Bowl Rings. PB stands for Pro Bowl.


Player 1000Yd G RshYd TD RcYd TD SBR PB
================================================================
1. Marshall Faulk | 8 | 12 602 6 519 2 | 1 | 7
2. Barry Sanders | 10 | 6 386 1 111 0 | 0 | 10
3. Thurman Thomas | 8 | 21 1442 16 672 5 | 0 | 5
4. Jerome Bettis | 8 | 13 674 9 34 0 | 1 | 6
5. Ricky Watters | 7 | 11 666 8 451 4 | 1 | 5
6. Herschel Walker | 2 | 4 132 0 60 0 | 0 | 2
7. Even-year Emmitt | 5 | 8 724 8 128 1 | 1 | 4
8. Charlie Garner | 2 | 8 462 2 191 1 | 0 | 1
9. Terry Allen | 4 | 6 217 2 29 0 | 0 | 1
10. Odd-year Emmitt | 6 | 9 862 11 214 1 | 2 | 4
11. Garrison Hearst | 4 | 6 259 1 87 0 | 0 | 2
12. John Williams | 0 | 7 101 3 243 1 | 0 | 2
13. Chris Warren | 4 | 3 105 0 22 0 | 0 | 3
14. Larry Centers | 0 | 6 15 0 162 1 | 0 | 3
15. Neal Anderson | 3 | 6 279 1 107 0 | 0 | 4

I think Even-year Emmitt is in on the strength of the touchdowns and the Super Bowl championship. Odd-year Emmitt was pretty darn good but a longshot for Canton I think. He is helped by the two rings, but his overall profile is very similar to Terrell Davis', and while TD has his supporters, I ultimately don't think he'll make it.

Let's do Walter Payton. Again, we compare him to all running backs whose careers started within four years of Walter's:


Player RSH YD TD REC YD TD
==============================================================
1. Tony Dorsett 2936 12739 77 398 3554 13
2. Franco Harris 2949 12120 91 307 2287 9
3. John Riggins 2916 11352 104 250 2090 12
4. Ottis Anderson 2562 10273 81 376 3062 5
5. Odd-year Walter 2027 8868 60 267 2481 11
6. Earl Campbell 2187 9407 74 121 806 0
7. Even-year Walter 1811 7858 50 225 2057 4
8. Lydell Mitchell 1675 6534 30 376 3203 17
9. Wilbert Montgomery 1540 6789 45 273 2502 12
10. Mike Pruitt 1844 7378 51 270 1860 5


Player 1000Yd G RshYd TD RcYd TD SBR PB
================================================================
1. Tony Dorsett | 8 | 17 1383 9 403 1 | 1 | 4
2. Franco Harris | 8 | 13 1044 10 400 0 | 3 | 9
3. John Riggins | 5 | 9 996 12 45 0 | 1 | 1
4. Ottis Anderson | 6 | 8 433 3 14 0 | 2 | 2
5. Odd-year Walter | 5 | 6 398 2 157 0 | 1 | 4
6. Earl Campbell | 5 | 6 420 4 45 0 | 0 | 5
7. Even-year Walter | 5 | 3 234 0 21 0 | 0 | 5
8. Lydell Mitchell | 3 | 4 218 1 127 0 | 0 | 3
9. Wilbert Montgomery | 3 | 7 536 5 193 0 | 0 | 2
10. Mike Pruitt | 4 | 2 67 0 17 0 | 0 | 2

Odd-year Walter is probably in because of the Super Bowl ring and similarity to Earl Campbell. I don't think Even-year Walter has a particularly strong case.

Looked at this way, both Emmitt and Walter are more impressive than I would have thought. But Rice is still the king.

7 Comments | Posted in General, History

Jerry Rice: the best two receivers of his era?

Posted by Doug on August 23, 2006

Jerry Rice is going to retire as a member of a franchise that, according to him, has a crummy Quarterback of the Future.

I told you a few weeks ago that Hall of Fame debates don't usually interest me, but here is an exception. If you break up Jerry Rice's career into two distinct careers, are they both Hall of Famers? (By the way, just so I'm not in violation of my own rule, I'll state that I'm asking "would they be?" not "should they be?") Michael David Smith wrote about this in the 2004 Pro Football Prospectus and concluded that the answer is yes. He further concluded that Rice is the only player who can make such a claim. Smith broke Rice's career into an early part and a late part. I am instead going to do it with even years and odd years.

Since both Even-year Jerry and Odd-year Jerry debuted in the mid-80s, let's compare them to all receivers who debuted in the 1980s. All of these guys have retired, so we can look at their full careers. Here are the basic stats, sorted by total yards from scrimmage:


Receiver REC YD TD RSH
====================================================
1. Tim Brown 1094 14934 100 (190/1)
2. Cris Carter 1101 13899 130 ( 41/0)
3. Henry Ellard 814 13777 65 ( 50/0)
4. Andre Reed 951 13198 87 (500/1)
5. Art Monk 940 12721 68 (332/0)
6. Irving Fryar 851 12785 84 (242/1)
7. Even-year Jerry 833 11934 94 (425/6)
8. Michael Irvin 750 11904 65 ( 6/0)
9. Odd-year Jerry 716 10961 103 (220/4)
10. Gary Clark 699 10856 65 ( 54/0)

Just based on this, both Jerrys are very solid, but probably not Canton-bound. But of course both Jerrys really made their name by doing more than just compiling yards and touchdowns.

Below you'll see the number of 1000-yard seasons each receiver had, as well as his career playoff numbers, the number of times he was named to a Pro Bowl (PB), and the number of times he led the league in receiving yards:


=== playoffs =====
Receiver 1000YD G YD TD Rings PB RecChmp
=================================================================
1. Tim Brown | 9 | 12 581 3 0 | 9 | 0
2. Cris Carter | 8 | 14 860 8 0 | 8 | 0
3. Henry Ellard | 7 | 10 419 1 0 | 3 | 1
4. Andre Reed | 4 | 19 1230 9 0 | 7 | 0
5. Art Monk | 5 | 15 1062 7 3 | 3 | 0
6. Irving Fryar | 5 | 10 361 2 0 | 5 | 0
7. Even-year Jerry | 8 | 18 1381 16 2 | 8 | 3
8. Michael Irvin | 7 | 16 1314 8 3 | 5 | 1
9. Odd-year Jerry | 6 | 10 864 6 1 | 5 | 3
10. Gary Clark | 5 | 13 826 6 2 | 4 | 0

I don't see any way Even-year Jerry isn't a first-ballot lock. He has overall numbers similar to Monk and Reed, and he's also the most prolific postseason receiver in history. He would be considered the best receiver of this cohort.

Odd-year Jerry is a tougher case. He's not a lock, but you'd better believe there would be a lot of people pleading his case every July. Most people think Michael Irvin will get in sooner or later, and Odd-year Jerry is essentially Michael Irvin with more touchdowns and less cocaine.

OK, that last bit was a stretch, but only a little. I really think this is remarkable: you can divide Jerry's career into two pieces and the worse half is probably Hall of Fame caliber. Prior to checking on it, I would have guessed that no other player in (post-merger) NFL history would be able to make that claim. But after looking it up, I was surprised at how strong Emmitt Smith's numbers look when divided into two halves. Both the good half and the bad half are weaker than Rice's, but I don't think it's totally out of the question that both might be Hall of Famers. I'll show you that tomorrow. Walter Payton too. Then we'll look at Marino, Elway, Favre, and some other quarterbacks.

6 Comments | Posted in General, History

The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia

Posted by Doug on August 21, 2006

In case you missed it, there is a brand new football encyclopedia out now. It's edited by Pete Palmer, Ken Pullis, Sean Lahman, Matthew Silverman, and Gary Gillette.

Full disclosure: I consider myself a friend of one of the five men named above and for that reason I probably would not give this book a bad review even if it were the worst football encyclopedia ever produced. I wouldn't lie; I just wouldn't review it. Fortunately, it took me about 20 seconds of flipping through it to realize that I had no moral dilemma.

The ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia (PFE, from here out) is almost 1500 pages consisting almost completely of numbers and names organized in columns. If that's not appealing to you, then obviously the book isn't what you're looking for. If it is appealing to you, then you probably already own a copy of Total Football. For you, the question isn't "do I need 1500 pages of data?" It's "why do I need another 1500 pages of data?"

Total Football (TF) is great; I've probably plucked it from my shelf as often as all the rest of my books combined during the past several years. In a lot of ways the PFE is better. In other ways it's not as good. And in still other ways, it's just different.

First of all, the PFE is up to date. Since I mostly used it for historical stuff, I never felt particularly inconvenienced by TF's outdatedness. But now that I have the PFE in my hands, I have to admit that an updated volume is nice. This book has complete information on the 2006 draft, it tells you that Troy Aikman was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006, and so on.

Also, the PFE is more compact. I put them both on my bathroom scale; TF is 7.4 pounds, the PFE is 5.0. And it's cheaper; its list price is $24.95. TF was over $50 as I recall.

Here are some of the advantages (as I see them) of the player register in the PFE compared to that of TF:


  • The PFE's register includes games started.

  • It has more detailed positional information. For instance, Jerome Barkum is listed simply as "TE-WR" in TF. The PFE tells us what years he started at WR and what years he started at TE. It tells you that Darryl Talley played ROLB when he was young and LOLB later in his career. Total Football only says LB.

  • There is a dagger next to each season in which the player's team made the playoffs. So you can quickly scan down Vinny Testaverde's entry, for example, and see how many playoff teams he played for. Also, there are marks to denote the seasons in which the player made the Pro Bowl, and whether he was on an All-Pro team.

The PFE has made an interesting organizational decision regarding player data. I won't be able to tell you whether it's a good decision or not until I've used the book for a year or so, but I'm inclined to think it's a good one at first glance. What they have done is to list biographical information, rushing, receiving, and passing stats in main player register. Then they have separate registers for return stats, kicking stats, punting stats, interceptions, and sacks. TF, on the other hand, put all the numbers for a given player in one place.

The question is, which pair of things are you more likely to want to look up at the same time?


  • Rick Upchurch's punt return stats, and Rick Upchurch's weight;
  • Rick Upchurch's punt return stats, and Johnny Bailey's punt return stats.

If the former, TF's layout is better. If the latter, the PFE's is. If you want to behold the versatile splendor of Deion Sanders, TF is what you need. If you want to compare Sanders to other defensive backs, the PFE is better. Ultimately I think that TF's layout is better for reference, while the PFE's will be better for browsing. With the way the PFE is layed out, if you want to look up, say, Kevin Greene's sack totals, then your eyes can't help but catch Kevin Carter and Simon Fletcher and Ken Harvey and Rickey Jackson as you scan the page. I think this will make the PFE quite a bit "stickier" than TF. You're likely to find more than you intended to.


On the other hand, they did lose some data. They only have the return, sack, and interception data for players who met certain minimum standards. How many sacks did Kiki DeAyala record in his career? The PFE doesn't tell you. That will undoubtedly annoy me a handful of times each year, but if you're going to cut 2.4 pounds and $25, something's got to give.

Following the player register is a head coach register that is very similar to (but slightly more detailed than) TF's.

After all that comes the section that is worth the price of the book all by itself. These positional chart pages are probably my favorite pages at all of baseball-reference.com, and the PFE has one of these for every NFL franchise going all the way back to 1920. Here are the Redskins' offensive line starters for the past few years:


2000 C.Samuels K.Sims M.Fischer Leeuwenberg J.Jansen
2001 C.Samuels D.Szott C.Raymer B.Coleman J.Jansen
2002 C.Samuels D.Loverne L.Moore W.Brown J.Jansen
2003 C.Samuels D.Dockery L.Moore R.Thomas J.Jansen
2004 C.Samuels D.Dockery C.Raymer R.Thomas R.Brown
2005 C.Samuels D.Dockery C.Rabach R.Thomas J.Jansen

Now imagine that you've got that kind of list, but with 23 columns (don't forget the coach) spanning the right and the left facing pages, and it goes all the way back to the first year of the Redskins' existence. It also lists the team's record and divisional finish each year for easy reference. That section is a tiny fraction of the book, but as I said, I'd pay $25 for just that.

After that, there is a section containing an entry for each game in pro football history. For every game, the score by quarters is listed. For recent games, the team rushing and passing totals are listed, and all 100-yard rushing and receiving games and 300-yard passing games are noted. A sample entry looks like this:


Oak 7 7 0 6 20
NE 10 7 6 7 30

Oak D19 R22/92 P(39-18-0) 246
NE D22 R31/73 P(38-24-0) 306

Oak-Moss 130C; NE-Brady 306P

The D stands for first downs, in case you were wondering.

The next section contains boxscores of all postseason games (some of the boxes are abbreviated, showing for example only the top two rushers on each team instead of everyone). After that is a year-by-year register of standings and team stats, with a very brief text review of each year.

Then there is a section on All-Pro teams and one on Pro Bowls. It is very handy that the PFE includes both a yearly list and an alphabetical list. In the alphabetical list, you can see that Ed Budde was a 6-time All-Pro performer (1966--1971) and a 1-time consensus All-Pro. Then you can flip to 1966 and see that the other guards so honored were Billy Shaw, Wayne Hawkins, and so on.

Finally, there is draft information, organized by year and then by team. It's a bit hard to reconstruct the exact draft order with this format, but it would be hard to reconstruct the teams' drafts if it were organized the other way. A nice added touch is that the number of games played by each draftee (both for the drafting team and overall) is listed, and those who played more than 50 games with the drafting team are bolded for easy scanning.

There are a few other things that I've left out: some record chronologies, some career and seasonal leaderboards, and so on.

As good as it is, the PFE can't completely replace TF, because sometimes you've just got to know how many sacks Kiki DeAyala had (I'll save you the trouble. One.) And TF has a few other advantages. The font in the PFE is noticeably smaller in the player register. My eyes have not yet deteriorated to the point where this is a problem for me, but I could see how some people who --- how should I put this? --- have witnessed a little more pro football history than I have, might have to strain a bit to read it. TF has some lists that the PFE doesn't, like complete rosters for each team. Finally, TF has a lot of text. I personally have owned TF for 7 years and have never read any of the text. But I'm sure some people find it among the most valuable components of TF. The PFE has essentially zero text.

The pro football reference section of my bookshelf currently contains: Total Football, Neft and Cohen's Football Encyclopedia, STATS Inc green books for each year they were printed (94--01), and Sporting News Pro Football Registers for all the years that there was no STATS green book back to 1991. Over the past few years, every 100 trips to the bookshelf have on average resulted in my picking up:


Total Football 50
Some STATS or SN annual 35
Neft and Cohen 15

My guess is that over the next year, it will look more like this:


ESPN Pro Football Encyclo. 75
Total Football 10
STATS or SN 10
Neft and Cohen 5

Of course, over time the PFE will become outdated and some of that 75 for the PFE will shift to the Sporting News annual. But I am cautiously optimistic that the people in charge of this thing will find it worth their while to print a new edition every couple of years.

Bottom line: If you have visited this site more than a handful of times in the last year, I can't imagine that you would not get your money's worth --- and much more --- out of the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia.

19 Comments | Posted in General, History

Parity IV

Posted by Doug on August 18, 2006

Here are parts I, II, and III.

Let's check, for each season, the number of playoff teams that went back to the playoffs the next season:


Pair of years % repeaters
=============================
1970 ===> 1971 62.5
1971 ===> 1972 62.5
1972 ===> 1973 62.5
1973 ===> 1974 75.0
1974 ===> 1975 62.5
1975 ===> 1976 75.0
1976 ===> 1977 75.0
1977 ===> 1978 62.5 **
1978 ===> 1979 70.0
1979 ===> 1980 50.0
1980 ===> 1981 40.0
1981 ===> 1982 60.0 **
1982 ===> 1983 37.5 **
1983 ===> 1984 80.0
1984 ===> 1985 60.0
1985 ===> 1986 70.0
1986 ===> 1987 50.0
1987 ===> 1988 60.0
1988 ===> 1989 70.0
1989 ===> 1990 50.0 **
1990 ===> 1991 58.3
1991 ===> 1992 50.0
1992 ===> 1993 58.3
1993 ===> 1994 58.3
1994 ===> 1995 66.7
1995 ===> 1996 58.3
1996 ===> 1997 58.3
1997 ===> 1998 58.3
1998 ===> 1999 41.7
1999 ===> 2000 50.0
2000 ===> 2001 50.0
2001 ===> 2002 58.3
2002 ===> 2003 33.3
2003 ===> 2004 58.3
2004 ===> 2005 41.7

The asterisks indicate pairs of years where something about the playoff structure changed: 1978 was the introduction of the wildcard, 1990 was the second wildcard, and 1982 was the strike year in which the league decided to let 16 teams into the playoffs.

Here is another interesting look. For each year, this is the number of playoff teams from that year that had losing records the year before, the year after, or both:


# of playoff teams
with losing record
YR before after both
==============================
1970 3 1 1
1971 1 1 0
1972 2 2 1
1973 1 0 0
1974 1 0 0
1975 1 0 0
1976 1 0 0
1977 0 2 0
1978 1 2 0
1979 2 2 2
1980 3 6 2
1981 5 4 2
1982 6 5 1
1983 5 1 1
1984 1 1 0
1985 2 1 0
1986 1 4 1
1987 3 1 0
1988 4 2 0
1989 1 4 0
1990 1 1 0
1991 5 5 3
1992 2 1 0
1993 3 3 0
1994 3 2 2
1995 3 2 1
1996 3 5 1
1997 3 3 1
1998 4 4 2
1999 4 3 0
2000 4 5 2
2001 3 3 1
2002 5 8 3
2003 5 4 2
2004 4 4 1
2005 5

Don't forget to mentally adjust these numbers to account for the fact that there used to be eight playoff teams and there are now 12.

17 Comments | Posted in General, History

Parity III

Posted by Doug on August 17, 2006

In this post I'll discuss the kind of parity that, juding from the comments on the last two posts, most people seem to be interested in. Also, while it will take great effort for me to refrain from offering my opinion of football's parity situation compared to major league baseball's, I will keep the focus on the NFL and how its parity has changed through its recent history.

And in general I want to make it clear that I place no value judgements on parity, at least none that I want to talk about here. For now, my only objective is to place the facts before you. I apologize for lack of text that will accompany these tables; this is a busy time of year for me.

First let's look at every four-year period for every franchise since the merger. Here are the best and worst such periods, measured by average regular season wins normalized to a 16-game season:


TM Years Avg Adj Wins
==========================
mia 1971-1974 13.6
mia 1972-1975 13.4
oak 1974-1977 13.4
chi 1985-1988 13.2
sfo 1989-1992 13.0
oak 1973-1976 13.0
min 1973-1976 13.0
sfo 1987-1990 13.0
ram 1973-1976 12.7
chi 1984-1987 12.7
mia 1982-1985 12.6
mia 1981-1984 12.5
pit 1972-1975 12.4
dal 1975-1978 12.4
pit 1975-1978 12.4
sfo 1984-1987 12.3
dal 1976-1979 12.3
was 1982-1985 12.3
rai 1982-1985 12.3
ram 1975-1978 12.3
oak 1972-1975 12.3
sfo 1994-1997 12.2
buf 1990-1993 12.2
oak 1975-1978 12.2
dal 1992-1995 12.2
dal 1977-1980 12.2
pit 1973-1976 12.1
ram 1974-1977 12.1
min 1974-1977 12.1
sfo 1986-1989 12.1
gnb 1995-1998 12.0
dal 1991-1994 12.0
phi 2001-2004 12.0
sfo 1990-1993 12.0
nwe 2001-2004 12.0
sfo 1988-1991 12.0
sfo 1992-1995 12.0
sfo 1995-1998 12.0
ind 2002-2005 12.0
.
.
.
atl 1987-1990 4.0
cin 1999-2002 4.0
det 2001-2004 4.0
buf 1983-1986 4.0
nor 1974-1977 4.0
sdg 1972-1975 4.0
sfo 1977-1980 3.9
buf 1984-1987 3.9
hou 1971-1974 3.9
hou 1983-1986 3.8
bal 1979-1982 3.7
nyg 1973-1976 3.6
tam 1984-1987 3.6
cin 1991-1994 3.5
nwe 1990-1993 3.5
nwe 1989-1992 3.5
bal 1981-1984 3.5
hou 1981-1984 3.4
tam 1985-1988 3.3
tam 1983-1986 3.0
hou 1982-1985 2.9

Obviously, there is some overlap in the groupings that makes this chart a bit tough to interpret, but a quick eyeballing indicates that the recent group of teams who have achieved sustained regular-season success --- New England, Philadelphia, Indianapolis --- look pretty weak compared to the dyansties of old. Several different franchises had better four-year runs in the 70s and 80s. Likewise, as ugly as the recent Lions, Cardinals, and Bengals have been, their fans have got it good compared to several teams in the 70s and 80s.

Now let's look at the number of teams in each four-year period whose average number of wins would be within one game of .500 and within two games of .500. (To be precise, I am declaring them to be "within 1 game of .500" if their average winning percentage during the period was between 6/14 and 8/14, and "within 2 games" if it was between 5/14 and 9/14. Although it doesn't matter too much. I opted for "within 1 in a 14-game season" rather than "within 1 in a 16-game season" so as not to skew the percentages toward the recent era.)


Period % within 1 % within 2
========================================
1970-1973 19.2 50.0
1971-1974 34.6 53.8
1972-1975 30.8 46.2
1973-1976 26.9 46.2
1974-1977 19.2 46.2
1975-1978 15.4 57.7
1976-1979 32.1 57.1
1977-1980 25.0 64.3
1978-1981 42.9 78.6
1979-1982 50.0 78.6
1980-1983 50.0 75.0
1981-1984 42.9 75.0
1982-1985 39.3 71.4
1983-1986 25.0 60.7
1984-1987 35.7 60.7
1985-1988 32.1 75.0
1986-1989 39.3 67.9
1987-1990 39.3 75.0
1988-1991 39.3 71.4
1989-1992 28.6 71.4
1990-1993 25.0 60.7
1991-1994 42.9 71.4
1992-1995 39.3 67.9
1993-1996 40.7 66.7
1994-1997 44.4 77.8
1995-1998 44.8 79.3
1996-1999 40.0 76.7
1997-2000 46.7 73.3
1998-2001 46.7 90.0
1999-2002 41.9 74.2
2000-2003 29.0 74.2
2001-2004 45.2 80.6
2002-2005 56.2 75.0

Wow. From 1998 to 2001, 90% of all teams were within two games of .500. That can't be right, can it?


TM 1998 1999 2000 2001 Avg
=============================================
mia 10- 6-0 9- 7-0 11- 5-0 11- 5-0 10.2
min 15- 1-0 10- 6-0 11- 5-0 5-11-0 10.2
stl 4-12-0 13- 3-0 10- 6-0 14- 2-0 10.2
ten 8- 8-0 13- 3-0 13- 3-0 7- 9-0 10.2
gnb 11- 5-0 8- 8-0 9- 7-0 12- 4-0 10.0
nyj 12- 4-0 8- 8-0 9- 7-0 10- 6-0 9.8
den 14- 2-0 6-10-0 11- 5-0 8- 8-0 9.8
oak 8- 8-0 8- 8-0 12- 4-0 10- 6-0 9.5
tam 8- 8-0 11- 5-0 10- 6-0 9- 7-0 9.5
jax 11- 5-0 14- 2-0 7- 9-0 6-10-0 9.5
bal 6-10-0 8- 8-0 12- 4-0 10- 6-0 9.0
pit 7- 9-0 6-10-0 9- 7-0 13- 3-0 8.8
nyg 8- 8-0 7- 9-0 12- 4-0 7- 9-0 8.5
sfo 12- 4-0 4-12-0 6-10-0 12- 4-0 8.5
nwe 9- 7-0 8- 8-0 5-11-0 11- 5-0 8.2
sea 8- 8-0 9- 7-0 6-10-0 9- 7-0 8.0
buf 10- 6-0 11- 5-0 8- 8-0 3-13-0 8.0
was 6-10-0 10- 6-0 8- 8-0 8- 8-0 8.0
ind 3-13-0 13- 3-0 10- 6-0 6-10-0 8.0
atl 14- 2-0 5-11-0 4-12-0 7- 9-0 7.5
phi 3-13-0 5-11-0 11- 5-0 11- 5-0 7.5
kan 7- 9-0 9- 7-0 7- 9-0 6-10-0 7.2
chi 4-12-0 6-10-0 5-11-0 13- 3-0 7.0
dal 10- 6-0 8- 8-0 5-11-0 5-11-0 7.0
nor 6-10-0 3-13-0 10- 6-0 7- 9-0 6.5
ari 9- 7-0 6-10-0 3-13-0 7- 9-0 6.2
det 5-11-0 8- 8-0 9- 7-0 2-14-0 6.0
car 4-12-0 8- 8-0 7- 9-0 1-15-0 5.0
sdg 5-11-0 8- 8-0 1-15-0 5-11-0 4.8
cin 3-13-0 4-12-0 4-12-0 6-10-0 4.2

Note that 10.2/16 is less than 9/14, so the only teams outside the range are the three at the bottom. Also note that only teams that were around for all four years are included. Hence, no Browns.

So the 90% figure is a bit flukish, but still, that's a lot of parity. Compare it to the 1975--1978 period:


TM 1975 1976 1977 1978 Avg
==============================================
dal 10- 4-0 11- 3-0 12- 2-0 12- 4-0 12.4
pit 12- 2-0 10- 4-0 9- 5-0 14- 2-0 12.4
ram 12- 2-0 10- 3-1 10- 4-0 12- 4-0 12.3
oak 11- 3-0 13- 1-0 11- 3-0 9- 7-0 12.2
min 12- 2-0 11- 2-1 9- 5-0 8- 7-1 11.4
den 6- 8-0 9- 5-0 12- 2-0 10- 6-0 10.2
mia 10- 4-0 6- 8-0 10- 4-0 11- 5-0 10.2
bal 10- 4-0 11- 3-0 10- 4-0 5-11-0 10.1
was 8- 6-0 10- 4-0 9- 5-0 8- 8-0 9.7
stl 11- 3-0 10- 4-0 7- 7-0 6-10-0 9.5
nwe 3-11-0 11- 3-0 9- 5-0 11- 5-0 9.3
cin 11- 3-0 10- 4-0 8- 6-0 4-12-0 9.3
hou 10- 4-0 5- 9-0 8- 6-0 10- 6-0 9.1
chi 4-10-0 7- 7-0 9- 5-0 7- 9-0 7.5
det 7- 7-0 6- 8-0 6- 8-0 7- 9-0 7.2
cle 3-11-0 9- 5-0 6- 8-0 8- 8-0 7.1
sdg 2-12-0 6- 8-0 7- 7-0 9- 7-0 6.5
atl 4-10-0 4-10-0 7- 7-0 9- 7-0 6.5
phi 4-10-0 4-10-0 5- 9-0 9- 7-0 6.0
gnb 4-10-0 5- 9-0 4-10-0 8- 7-1 5.8
sfo 5- 9-0 8- 6-0 5- 9-0 2-14-0 5.6
nyg 5- 9-0 3-11-0 5- 9-0 6-10-0 5.2
buf 8- 6-0 2-12-0 3-11-0 5-11-0 5.0
nyj 3-11-0 3-11-0 3-11-0 8- 8-0 4.6
kan 5- 9-0 5- 9-0 2-12-0 4-12-0 4.4
nor 2-12-0 4-10-0 3-11-0 7- 9-0 4.3

Finally, just for the sake of completeness, here is the standard deviation of four-year average wins for all teams in each four-year period.


Period StDev of avg wins
=============================
1970-1973 6.95
1971-1974 6.40
1972-1975 7.88
1973-1976 8.21
1974-1977 8.06
1975-1978 7.10
1976-1979 5.86
1977-1980 5.04
1978-1981 3.19
1979-1982 2.95
1980-1983 3.20
1981-1984 4.54
1982-1985 5.54
1983-1986 6.20
1984-1987 5.85
1985-1988 4.60
1986-1989 4.29
1987-1990 4.05
1988-1991 4.09
1989-1992 5.07
1990-1993 5.48
1991-1994 4.51
1992-1995 4.33
1993-1996 3.67
1994-1997 3.73
1995-1998 3.54
1996-1999 3.28
1997-2000 3.33
1998-2001 2.83
1999-2002 3.54
2000-2003 3.92
2001-2004 3.52
2002-2005 3.43

Well, what do you know, it looks like we're going to need a Parity IV, because I haven't even started talking about the playoffs yet.

6 Comments | Posted in General, History

Parity II

Posted by Doug on August 16, 2006

This is a continuation of yesterday's post about parity. In that one, I identified two different kinds of parity:

1. Within-season parity, also known as any-given-Sunday parity. This brand of parity is characterized by having lots and lots of teams in a given season that seem interchangeable. You feel its effects when you look at a Sunday slate of games in midseason and think, "I have no idea who is going to win any of these games."

2. Across-season parity. This is characterized by teams turning from good to bad and vice versa very quickly. The NFL's reputation for this kind of parity was probably born in the late 90s and early 00s when the the Falcons, Rams, and Patriots all went from being terrible to being in the Super Bowl.

I will talk a little bit about across-season parity tomorrow, but for now here is one more look at the history of any-given-Sunday parity.

It seems that a consequence of this kind of parity would be a lot of close games. If a lot of teams are evenly matched, then we ought to see a lot of close games, right? Here is the leauge's percentage of games decided by three or fewer points, and also by seven or fewer points:


Year % within 3 % within 7
================================
1970 18.7 32.4
1971 19.2 41.8
1972 20.9 39.0
1973 15.4 33.0
1974 20.3 50.0
1975 19.2 34.1
1976 19.4 37.2
1977 18.4 43.4
1978 21.9 48.2
1979 22.8 46.4
1980 25.9 48.2
1981 26.8 40.6
1982 26.2 48.4
1983 24.1 47.3
1984 25.9 42.4
1985 17.0 38.8
1986 21.4 47.3
1987 19.0 47.1
1988 27.7 50.4
1989 24.6 47.8
1990 24.1 43.3
1991 25.4 50.0
1992 21.4 39.3
1993 23.7 46.9
1994 26.8 51.3
1995 25.4 47.9
1996 19.6 45.4
1997 27.9 46.2
1998 20.8 47.1
1999 25.8 46.4
2000 24.6 44.0
2001 25.0 48.8
2002 24.6 49.2
2003 23.4 48.4
2004 23.8 45.3
2005 23.4 44.5

Finally, here is the yearly standard deviation of team's ratings from the simple rating system. Using the simple rating system instead of records should, at least theoretically, remove any scheduling bias. Remember, the standard deviation tells you how spread out the observations are. So a big number would indicate low parity and a small number would indicate high parity.


Year St.Dev.
================
1970 7.2
1971 6.0
1972 7.5
1973 7.9
1974 5.9
1975 7.5
1976 8.6
1977 6.3
1978 4.6
1979 5.4
1980 5.4
1981 5.3
1982 5.6
1983 5.4
1984 6.7
1985 6.1
1986 5.9
1987 5.7
1988 4.7
1989 5.7
1990 5.9
1991 7.0
1992 6.0
1993 5.2
1994 5.0
1995 5.3
1996 5.4
1997 5.1
1998 6.8
1999 6.3
2000 6.4
2001 5.4
2002 5.5
2003 5.4
2004 6.2
2005 6.5

8 Comments | Posted in General

Parity

Posted by Doug on August 15, 2006

In the comments to Friday's post, some discussion about parity broke out, so I thought I would run some quick numbers on parity through the years.

It seems to me that the word has at least two distinct meanings. First, it can mean that in a given season there are few dominant teams and that almost any team can beat any other on a given week. But the word also seems to have acquired some season-to-season connotations. That is, even if there are plenty of 3-13 teams and 14-2 teams, the teams that are good one year could easily be poor the next year, and vice versa. The 1998 Super Bowl Falcons, who were 7-9 the year before and 5-11 the year after, provide an example of this kind of parity.

For today let's focus on the first kind of parity. Are teams bunching up around .500? Last season, only five of 32 teams (15.6%) had records within one game of .500. That is the lowest percentage since 1975. The high water mark was 1983, when 16 of the league's 28 teams were within a game of .500. Here is the corresponding percentage for each year since the merger


% of teams within
YR a game of .500
===========================
1970 26.9
1971 30.8
1972 26.9
1973 19.2
1974 38.5
1975 15.4
1976 17.9
1977 25.0
1978 46.4
1979 35.7
1980 28.6
1981 42.9
1982 42.9
1983 57.1
1984 39.3
1985 32.1
1986 21.4
1987 32.1
1988 28.6
1989 39.3
1990 25.0
1991 25.0
1992 21.4
1993 42.9
1994 46.4
1995 50.0
1996 43.3
1997 33.3
1998 30.0
1999 41.9
2000 29.0
2001 32.3
2002 43.8
2003 18.8
2004 34.4
2005 15.6

I am not sure exactly when the NFL's reputation for excessive parity was born, but there are two periods that stand out: 1981--1984 and 1993--1996.

Here is another quick look at within-season any-given-Sunday type parity: what percentage of games are upsets, based on at-the-time records? If the home team has a better record and loses, I'll call that an upset. If the road team has a record which is at least two games better than the home team, and the road team loses, I'll call that an upset. To give you a feel for the kinds of games I'm talking about, here were last season's upsets:


Week 17: nwe (10- 5) loses to mia ( 8- 7) at home
Week 10: buf ( 3- 5) beats kan ( 5- 3) on the road
Week 10: nyg ( 6- 2) loses to min ( 3- 5) at home
Week 14: pit ( 7- 5) beats chi ( 9- 3) on the road
Week 12: oak ( 4- 6) loses to mia ( 3- 7) at home
Week 17: dal ( 9- 6) loses to stl ( 5-10) at home
Week 15: ind (13- 0) loses to sdg ( 8- 5) at home
Week 13: kan ( 7- 4) beats den ( 9- 2) on the road
Week 10: atl ( 6- 2) loses to gnb ( 1- 7) at home
Week 17: kan ( 9- 6) beats cin (11- 4) on the road
Week 14: nyj ( 2-10) beats oak ( 4- 8 ) on the road
Week 16: ari ( 4-10) beats phi ( 6- 8 ) on the road
Week 16: car (10- 4) loses to dal ( 8- 6) at home
Week 14: sdg ( 8- 4) loses to mia ( 5- 7) at home
Week 6: pit ( 3- 1) loses to jax ( 3- 2) at home
Week 16: bal ( 5- 9) beats min ( 8- 6) on the road
Week 11: stl ( 4- 5) loses to ari ( 2- 7) at home
Week 14: gnb ( 2-10) beats det ( 4- 8 ) on the road
Week 16: cin (11- 3) loses to buf ( 4-10) at home
Week 16: was ( 8- 6) beats nyg (10- 4) on the road
Week 8: hou ( 0- 6) beats cle ( 2- 4) on the road
Week 11: bal ( 2- 7) beats pit ( 7- 2) on the road
Week 17: gnb ( 3-12) beats sea (13- 2) on the road
Week 11: was ( 5- 4) loses to oak ( 3- 6) at home
Week 14: car ( 9- 3) loses to tam ( 8- 4) at home
Week 15: hou ( 1-12) beats ari ( 4- 9) on the road
Week 8: sfo ( 1- 5) beats tam ( 5- 1) on the road
Week 17: min ( 8- 7) beats chi (11- 4) on the road
Week 17: nyj ( 3-12) beats buf ( 5-10) on the road
Week 16: stl ( 5- 9) loses to sfo ( 2-12) at home
Week 7: cin ( 5- 1) loses to pit ( 3- 2) at home

I only counted games after week 6, and I probably ought to throw out week 17 but I didn't. Anyway, that's 31 upsets, and there were 128 games where an upset could have occurred, so that's an upset percentage of 24.2%. Again, that figure is nearly the lowest in post-merger NFL history:


Year Upset %
================
1970 28.9
1971 34.6
1972 23.2
1973 21.2
1974 37.6
1975 25.3
1976 21.3
1977 31.5
1978 38.0
1979 36.8
1980 37.7
1981 33.3
1982 34.3
1983 37.9
1984 30.0
1985 31.7
1986 30.3
1987 39.6
1988 37.6
1989 37.4
1990 33.1
1991 28.8
1992 30.2
1993 45.9
1994 35.1
1995 41.7
1996 39.2
1997 35.0
1998 29.4
1999 37.2
2000 35.1
2001 34.1
2002 36.1
2003 31.4
2004 33.6
2005 24.2

I have a few other thoughts for measuring within-season parity, but this post is long enough. I'll post more on this tomorrow, and then move on to between-season parity.

17 Comments | Posted in History

All-American Football League

Posted by Doug on August 14, 2006

In this post from a few weeks ago, I offered some thoughts on the All-American Football League, a new pro league that will start up next spring.

Their website is now up and it's kind of interesting. There is a poll on the front page: ARE YOU IN FAVOR OF THE LEAGUE COLLEGE GRADUATION POLICY? It's running 70/30 in favor of yes right now, although there does not appear to be any mechanism for making sure people vote only once. There is a blog with hard-hitting entries like this one:

Are Football Prices out of Control?

Prices to attend college and professional football games continue to go up, up, up. Is it too expensive for families to go to games these days?

I also like this one:

Do you think it is important for players to be involved with local schools, youth teams and volunteer organizations?

It reminds me of the Little Miss Springfield pageant where, in the interview competition, Amber Dempsey was asked: "do you think the Bill of Rights is a good thing, or a baaaaad thing?"

We are asked to voice our opinion on instant replay, the overtime format, which universities ought to host the teams, and which players we would most like to see. There is actually a page for us to check boxes indicating which players we want to see in this league. It's a rather interesting group of 34 players, mostly from major colleges, ranging from fomer NFLers like Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Trung Canidate to collegiate greats who had no NFL careers like Jason White and Eric Crouch. White, Crouch, and their ilk are obvious choices for this league, but it struck me as an odd collection of names, and it's unclear to me how this list was generated. I found it interesting that former Utah Ute wide receiver Paris Warren is on the list; he caught a touchdown pass for Tampa Bay on Friday. Also, I was shocked to learn that Freddie Mitchell has a college degree.

I kid, but I can't help but admit that I am fascinated by this league. I hope it succeeds.

13 Comments | Posted in General

Best of times, worst of times

Posted by Doug on August 11, 2006

Which, if any, of today's NFL franchises are currently enjoying the best time in their history? Which are at their lowest point?

I looked at every four-year period in each franchise's history, and tallied up the number of wins. Then I gave one bonus win if they made the playoffs, another bonus win if they reached the Super Bowl, and three additional bonus wins if they won the Super Bowl. Yes, this tilts things toward the Super Bowl era. I can live with that. I did at least pro-rate each season's win total to a 16-game season. I spent about twenty seconds thinking about the methodology, so feel free to offer suggestions, but it feels roughly OK to me.


Franchise Best 4 years Worst 4 years
==============================================
49ers 1987-1990 (63) 1977-1980 (15)
Bears 1985-1988 (60) 1972-1975 (17)
Bengals 1973-1976 (45) 1991-1994 (14)
Bills 1990-1993 (57) 1968-1971 (11)
Broncos 1995-1998 (58) 1963-1966 (14)
Browns 1950-1953 (57) 1999-2002 (22)
Buccaneers 1999-2002 (50) 1983-1986 (12)
Cardinals 1946-1949 (46) 1942-1945 ( 5)
Chargers 1979-1982 (47) 1972-1975 (16)
Chiefs 1966-1969 (57) 1975-1978 (17)
Colts 1967-1970 (58) 1981-1984 (13)
Cowboys 1992-1995 (65) 1960-1963 (16)
Dolphins 1971-1974 (67) 1966-1969 (18)
Eagles 2001-2004 (53) 1939-1942 (10)
Falcons 1977-1980 (37) 1966-1969 (14)
Giants 1959-1962 (51) 1973-1976 (14)
Jaguars 1996-1999 (49) 2000-2003 (24)
Jets 1966-1969 (47) 1993-1996 (18)
Lions 1951-1954 (51) 1946-1949 (13)
Packers 1964-1967 (58) 1948-1951 (14)
Panthers 2002-2005 (39) 1998-2001 (20)
Patriots 2001-2004 (63) 1989-1992 (14)
Raiders 1974-1977 (61) 1961-1964 (21)
Rams 1973-1976 (54) 1959-1962 (14)
Ravens 2000-2003 (46) 1996-1999 (24)
Redskins 1982-1985 (57) 1958-1961 (14)
Saints 1989-1992 (43) 1974-1977 (16)
Seahawks 2002-2005 (43) 1991-1994 (21)
Steelers 1972-1975 (61) 1938-1941 (11)
Texans 2002-2005 (18) 2002-2005 (18)
Titans 1999-2002 (48) 1970-1973 (11)
Vikings 1973-1976 (59) 1961-1964 (22)


  • We laugh about the Cardinals, Bengals, Lions, and Saints, but the Falcons high point of 37 is truly remarkable. As you probably heard at the end of last year, they have never had two straight winning seasons.

  • Unless you want to count the Panthers (the Texans obviously don't count), the Seahawks are the only team in the league right now that is at their high point. The Eagles' and Patriots' best four-year stretches ended in 2004.

  • The Vikings and Browns get the award for the team that has avoided being truly, truly awful for a stretch. Even in the worst of times, they averaged 5.5 wins per year.

  • As sick as we all are of the 1972 Dolphins, that 71--74 run was unbelievable. In four years, they lost eight games, they appeared in three Super Bowls and won two of them. I also did not realize that that run took place just two years after the lowest point in franchise history. Also worth noting: the Dolphins had just one losing season from 1977 to 2003.

  • Perhaps these numbers need to be parity-adjusted to account for the fact that it's harder to remain good from year to year than it was in the past. I guess I'd need to use z-scores or something.

24 Comments | Posted in History

Questions (without answers) about running back workloads

Posted by Doug on August 10, 2006

Much electronic (and acutal) ink has been spilled over the years on the topic of running back workloads. This year's Pro Football Prospectus has an article about whether receptions and playoff workloads are worth adding to the list of considerations, concluding no and yes respectively.

The question is vaguely reminiscent of the debates over pitcher workload that rage in the baseball stat geek community. At least they used to rage back when I was keeping up; I assume they still do. In some sense, the situations are similar. In both cases, you're dealing with positions where serious --- often career-ending --- injuries are more likely than for others in the same sport. Also in both cases, it appears that some of the injuries or drops in effectiveness might plausibly have been caused by workload while others were most likely just dumb luck. On the other hand, the situations are different in some ways. Most notably, pitching injuries are about repetitive stress while running back injuries are about violent contact.

Or are they? It is certainly intuitive that a high workload for a running back would lead to a greater probability of injury or loss of effectiveness, but it's not clear to me what the exact link is. What exactly happens on those 350 carries that might cause problems the next year? Is it the hits? The cutting? Is it muscles? Joints?

Question 1 - forgetting the empirical evidence for a minute, what is the theoretical basis of these ideas? Does a high workload in Year N mean an increased likelihood of a torn ACL in Year N+1? Receivers do a lot of cutting. Linemen do a lot of rolling around in piles. I could be wrong, but I don't think players at those positions tear ligaments at the rate running backs do. But running backs do a lot of both (cutting and rolling in piles). Does that combination cause ligaments get "tired" in a way that five or six months of complete rest doesn't fix?

Also, should the injury question be separated from the loss-of-effectiveness question? If the medical argument for high workloads contributing to injury is that ligaments get slowly weakened by a high-workload season and don't have time to heal, then does that same medical argument explain loss of effectiveness as well?

Question 2 - Could we learn something by looking at not only raw numbers of carries but also the distribution of those carries?

Question 2A - if it is true that the offseason isn't a long enough time to heal whatever damage is done during the year, then should we weight late-in-the-season carries heavier than early-in-the-season carries? If so, this might help explain Jamal Lewis' torn ACL in training camp of 2001. In his rookie year (including playoffs), he had 286 carries from week 10 on. In particular, maybe postseason carries should not only be counted, they should be counted extra.

Question 2B - is a consistent N carries per game less damaging than the same number of carries accumulated in a less consistent way? That is, is a 30-carry game twice as damaging as a 15-carry game? Or moreso? Last year, Clinton Portis had 385 rushes and Larry Johnson had 336. But Johnson had five games of more than 30 carries and Portis had none. If you assume the first 20 rushes of each game are "free" (such assumptions are often made in baseball --- the damage starts to pile up only after 70 or 80 or 100 pitches --- I have no idea if those assumptions are justified), then you might argue that Johnson was the most overworked back in the NFL last year. Here are the leaders in "Rushes over 20"


RSH Ov20
====================================
Larry Johnson 2005 336 84
Edgerrin James 2005 373 74
Shaun Alexander 2005 430 71
Tiki Barber 2005 370 60
Willis McGahee 2005 325 53
Cadillac Williams 2005 308 52
Clinton Portis 2005 385 52
Rudi Johnson 2005 350 46
Thomas Jones 2005 334 43
LaDainian Tomlinson 2005 339 37
Julius Jones 2005 257 34
Domanick Davis 2005 230 32
Lamont Jordan 2005 272 29
Samkon Gado 2005 143 26
Fred Taylor 2005 202 25
Reuben Droughns 2005 309 23

If you look at Rushes Over 15, the leaders are Alexander, James, Johnson, and Portis. If you look at Rushes Over 25, it's Johnson, Alexander, James, and Cadillac Williams. Considering that Johnson also had most of his carries late in the year (though not as late as Shaun Alexander), might he possibly be the back most at risk of serious injury or decline this year?

Questions to get the discussion going: Who is more at risk of serious injury this year, Larry Johnson or Clinton Portis? Which of them is more at risk of severe decline? Also, whatever you estimate the probability of injury or decline for each to be, how much of that is attributable to their workloads from last season? In other words, say the following factors contribute to the chance of Portis getting hurt this year: his own unique physical characteristics (genetics, etc), his workload from last year, and dumb luck. What are the relative weights on those three (or however many) factors?

14 Comments | Posted in General

NFL news at pro-football-reference

Posted by Doug on August 9, 2006

It's been a long time since I posted a table of obscure stats. I'll get back to that tomorrow. In the mean time, if you look up at the "quick index" just under the p-f-r logo, you'll note that the last entry is a new one. Click on it to see all the latest NFL news, updated 'round the clock. You can search by player, team, division, or position.

This is the same feed used by footballguys, and we've been doing it over there for about three or four years now. I personally read all the headlines about thrice a day and then scan the stories that interest me. It takes about 15 minutes total, and I am totally up to speed on all the positional battles and injury news from around the league.

Comments Off | Posted in P-F-R News

Interesting comments from Jerry Rice and Curtis Martin

Posted by Doug on August 8, 2006

Thanks to NinerCapHell.com for the pointer to this insidebayarea.com story:

The talk-radio caller had a simple question for Jerry Rice on Friday afternoon.

And the legendary former 49ers and Raiders receiver didn't back down.

"I heard in the media somewhere, Jerry, that you said that whoever drafted Alex Smith probably should be fired," the caller to Rice's show on Sirius Satellite Radio said. "Is that an accurate statement?"

Rice replied, "Yes, I made that statement."

The rest of the article describes further comments made by Rice about Smith. He backs off the above statement a little, but not much.

When I read this, my initial reaction was that it was a really classless comment by Rice. Upon further reflection, I still think it seems classless, but I can't put my finger on exactly why I feel that way. If Rice were working for one of the networks, comments of this nature would be part of his job. But he's not. And if he says something like this twenty years from now about the Niners' at-the-time quarterback of the future, it'll just be a standard case of old-fartism and not worth a second thought. But he's not that old.

I guess he's under no obligation to be a cheerleader for his former organization, and I usually appreciate non-cookie-cutter comments from athletes, but this just feels wrong to me. On the other hand, maybe it just means Jerry is a reader of the p-f-r blog.

In less gossipy but more relevant news, Curtis Martin reportedly was so worried about his surgically-repaired knee that he advised the Jets to spend an early pick on a running back in April. If this report is to be believed (and I have a feeling we'll be hearing from Chase on that topic), the news here isn't that Martin may be finished. That's not surprising. It's that Martin apparently thinks as little of Cedric Houston and Derrick Blaylock as Jerry Rice does of Alex Smith.

It's also interesting that the Jets didn't take Martin's advice. Taking offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson over any of the running back options was an obvious choice at #4, but they used a late first round pick on another offensive lineman (center Nick Mangold) when Joseph Addai and LenDale White were still on the board, and when it probably wouldn't have been too tough to move up for DeAngelo Williams or Laurence Maroney.

9 Comments | Posted in General

Hall of Fame debates

Posted by Doug on August 7, 2006

I run a site with a lot of historical pro football content, so I feel like I ought to be one of those types who's always getting into long debates about who should and shouldn't be enshrined in Canton. For some reason, though, I'm just not into it. Every once in awhile, such a debate will catch my interest. But most of the time I find them tedious.

Four things that annoy me about HoF debates

1. When people say, "It's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of ________," where the blank is filled in with something like "pretty good," or "above average," or something even more smug. That quip got old many, many years ago.

2. When people say, "If you have to think about it, then the answer is no." First, this doesn't even make any sense. Wherever you draw the line, there will be people near it and you'll have to think about those people. But that's beside the point. They probably mean if you have to think about it given the current set of de facto standards, then the answer is no. So it's just a sports-radio way of saying that the standards should be higher than they currently are.

OK, that's fine. How exclusive the Hall ought to be is a subjective matter and everyone is entitled to an opinion. Personally, I don't have a problem with a more inclusive Hall of Fame. Jerome Bettis was a heck of a football player, and I don't see the harm in putting him in. Same with Terrell Davis and even Art Monk. But the higher-standards crowd seems to think that the inclusion of Bettis somehow trivializes the accomplishments of Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Just because Walter Payton = Hall of Famer and Jerome Bettis = Hall of Famer doesn't mean Walter Payton = Jerome Bettis.

3. When people don't specify whether the argument is about the Will he be? question or the Should he be? question. "Andre Reed: is he a Hall of Famer?" is not a well-defined question. It could be interpreted two ways. The two answers might be different and the methods of argument should definitely be different. Let me state here and now that this will be the only forum on the internet where this will not cause any confusion. If you're posting here, the rule is: you may not enter a Hall of Fame debate without first specifying which question you are debating. Will he? Or Should he? Please help me enforce this.

4. This one is actually somewhat serious instead of me just being grouchy, and it applies not just to Hall of Fame debates but a whole lot of other football debates as well: when people say things like, for example, "I've watched every NFC East game for the last thirty years, and it's obvious to me that Art Monk was better than Michael Irvin."

Now, if you're expecting me to launch into a rant about the superiority of objective data (i.e. stats) over subjective opinions, you've come to the wrong place. In baseball, I think stats --- properly interpreted --- do tell the whole story, or at least 95% of it. In football, they don't, even at the positions where stats are plentiful. So no, I don't have any problem with subjective Hall of Fame arguments. My complaint with the above is that when we (self included) make these kinds of comments, we need to remember and acknowledge that the I that watched Monk in his prime was not the same person as the I that observed Irvin's prime.

Monk's breakout season was 1984 and Irvin's was 1991. That's seven years. How different is your brain now than it was seven years ago? Mine is a lot different. I've learned a lot in the last seven years, and I've also forgotten a lot. In 1984 I was 13 years old. In 1991 I was 20. A few of my college professors may dispute this, but I'm pretty sure that I changed more than a little during those years. Art Monk was more than a foot taller than me, but Irvin was my same height. How can that not color the way I view these two guys?

Now try to compare Tony Dorsett and Curtis Martin, who were separated by 20 years instead of seven. There's just no hope. But at least for Monk and Irvin and Dorsett and Martin we've got stats. They may be imperfect, but they're something. What happens when we try to compare Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher? Or Richard Dent to Michael Strahan? Anthony Munoz to Willie Roaf? It's necessarily going to boil down to comparing what one group of sportswriters, players, and fans thought about one of those guys to what a totally different group of sportswriters, players, and fans thought about the other one.

10 Comments | Posted in History, Rant

You can’t win your league in the first round. Or can you?

Posted by Doug on August 4, 2006

NOTE: I wrote this article for my other site: footballguys.com. BRIEF COMMERCIAL: If you are a serious fantasy footballer, you'll find that footballguys has more depth and is more analytical than any other fantasy site. If you are a casual fantasy footballer, you'll find that the tools available there will make it easy for you to stay atop your league. Either way, it's good value. Now on to the article...

I believe historians date this adage back to 1962, when thousands of owners in AFL fantasy leagues got burned by taking flashy third-year man Bill Groman instead of old reliable Abner Haynes. Ever since then, it has been commonly believed that, while some amount of risk-taking is essential to winning your league, it should not be done in the early rounds. Especially not in the first round.

You can't win your league in the first round, but you sure can lose it.

In the first round, you take guys that you know are going to give you solid production. Even if it means passing on some players with tempting upsides, you pass on question marks in round one. Or so the saying goes.

Alright, if you can't win your league in the first round, when can you win it? Conventional wisdom says you win it by getting steals in the middle and late rounds. You win your league (in 2005) by getting Carson Palmer in the 6th, by getting Santana Moss in the 9th, and by getting Terry Glenn in the 16th.

Conventional wisdom is wrong. The single pick with the most upside potential each year is your first round pick. The next most potential for upside comes with your second round pick, and so on.

Don't believe me? Ask yourself this: how much value did you get out of Santana Moss or Terry Glenn last year? According to standard footballguys scoring and worst-starter VBD, Moss was worth 85 points of value last year, Glenn was worth 45, and Palmer was worth 58. Now that's a lot of value, no question. A large percentage of the guys drafted near Moss, Glenn, and Palmer earned zero value, so those who drafted Moss certainly got a big advantage over their opponents. Eighty-five points is a big deal.

But it's a drop in the bucket compared to the 180 points of value you got by drafting Shaun Alexander instead of Peyton Manning, whose average draft position (ADP) was almost identical, in the first round. OK, OK, you're way too much of a shark to have considered Manning. You might even argue that not making that choice would be an example of losing your league in the first round. What about this: taking Alexander over LaDainian Tomlinson would have gotten you about as much extra value as Carson Palmer was worth. In the second round, the difference between Tiki Barber and Marvin Harrison, who had a nearly identical ADP, was worth more than three Terry Glenns.

Winning and losing are, of course, two sides of the same coin, but I fail to see how taking the rock solid performers like Marvin Harrison and Peyton Manning could be called cases of losing your league in the early rounds. Rather, many who chose Alexander or Barber instead did in fact win their leagues in the early rounds.

Over the past six years, the average first round pick, if he stays healthy, has been worth about 100 points of value, yet first rounders routinely approach or exceed 200, and it's not always the guys at the top of the round either. So it's not uncommon to have 100 points of upside there for the taking when your first round pick comes up. It is, however, extremely uncommon for there to be 100 points of upside available for you when your 5th round pick comes up. Or your 6th round pick. Or any other pick besides the first or the second.

So yes, your first round pick always carries a lot of downside potential; if you get a goose egg, you're 100 points in the hole compared to your leaguemates. But it also has more upside potential than any other pick you make. You can win your league in the first round, at least as much as you can win it in any other single round. Ricky Williams in 2002, Priest Holmes and Ahman Green in 2003, Daunte Culpepper and Peyton Manning in 2004, Alexander in 2005, these are all first round picks that would have given you more "bonus" value than almost any mid-round steal.

Unproven players: are they overvalued?

I'm going to shift the focus of the article now. The above was simply a warning: while some aversion to downside is healthy in the early rounds, don't get so focused on it that you forget that there may be lots of upside available.

Discussions about losing your league in the early rounds generally occur during discussions about players --- usually young players --- who have never proven that they are capable of the production their ADP implies. Obviously they have the potential or else their ADP wouldn't be that high, but they seem risky because they are not known quantities. I'm going to define a player to be "unproven" if his ADP is higher than his previous career best finish (fine print). This would obviously include all rookies. It includes players like Kevan Barlow in 2004 (ADP: RB12, best previous finish: RB17) and Kevin Jones last year --- these are the ones we remember well --- but don't forget that it also includes players like LaMont Jordan and Larry Fitzgerald from last year. This year's unproven players of interest include, but are not limited to, Ronnie Brown, Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Reggie Bush, and Roy Williams.

So let's do an experiment. We'll look at the last six years of ADP data and do the following: we'll pretend that we are drafting from the ADP list and that, when our turn comes up, an uproven player is tops on the list. Then we'll scan down the list and look at the next-highest-ranked player who is not unproven. Then we'll see who did better (in terms of fantasy points per game) in that season.

For example, in 2000, the rookie Jamal Lewis had an ADP of RB18. The next running back on the ADP list was the venerable Ricky Watters, who was obviously not unproven. As it turned out, Watters would have been the better choice. He averaged 2.3 fantasy points per game more than Lewis did.

Here's how that will look in the data I'll present:


Name YR PrevHi ADP FPPG
==========================================
Jamal Lewis 2000 - 18 12.6
Ricky Watters 3 19 15.0
DIFF: -2.3

But one example means very little. That's why we're collecting six year's worth. Also, because our question is somewhat subjective and our algorithm is rote, some examples might even seem a bit misleading. That's why I've included all the data right here. You can comb through it and focus on only the subset that seems most relevant to you.

But the point is, if the market overvalues unproven players then we should be able to gain advantage, in the long run, by skipping over them and taking a lower ranked but presumably safer option. And if that's the case, then at least some evidence for it ought to show itself in this study.

Results: overall, there were 136 pairs. In 73 of them (53.6%), the unproven player outperformed the proven one. On average, the unproven player outperformed the proven one by 0.47 fantasy points per game. In the official sense, this is not anywhere near statistically significant evidence that unproven players are undervalued (especially since the comparison is slightly rigged in their favor), but that's not important. The important thing is that we see no evidence that unproven players are overvalued.

I have long believed that the fantasy football market is pretty efficient and this study is, in my view, more evidence in support of that view. There may be a few players each year who are incorrectly valued by the masses, but I have yet to find any identifiable group of players who are systematically over- or undervalued by the general fantasy football playing public.

I'll close with the positional breakdown:


Pos Number of Pairs Unproven was better Proven was better Avg Diff
=======================================================================
QB 28 20 8 +1.66
RB 49 22 27 -0.10
WR 37 19 18 +0.00
TE 22 12 10 +1.02

You might be tempted to infer from this that unproven quarterbacks are actually undervalued, but I'm not sure there is enough evidence here to conclude that. It's a pretty small sample. Still, it does at the least say that it's very unlikely that unproven quarterbacks are overvalued. If you like Philip Rivers, for instance, and are trying to build up your resolve to pull the trigger on him, this might help.



Fine print

1. I excluded players who had previously achieved an elite level of production, even if it wasn't quite as high as their ADP. For example, LaDainian Tomlinson has never ranked higher than RB3, but even his ADP is RB2, no one would think of him as unproven.

3. I only included the top 20 QBs, the top 30 RBs, the top 30 WRs, and the top 15 TEs of each season.

2. All ADP data is taken from myfantasyleague redraft league drafts conducted after August 25th of the given season.

3 Comments | Posted in Fantasy

Rerun: The Manning Index

Posted by Doug on August 3, 2006

I wrote this post for the sabernomics blog back in January of 2005 --- two weeks after the Patriots beat Colts in the divisional round and a week before the Patriots beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Despite its being out of date, I decided to leave the entire article unedited.

A year later --- just before the Steelers beat Seattle in Super Bowl XL --- I updated it with another year's worth of data and added a few extra thoughts. That article --- also unedited --- follows.

Last week, much was made of the fact that the Colts are 3-5 in playoff games started by Peyton Manning. Is Peyton a choker? I don’t think we’ve got sufficient evidence to make that claim, especially in light of the fact that the Colts have been the higher seed in only 3 of those 8 playoff games. In other words, the Colts’ postseason record in the Manning era is exactly what one would expect using an admittedly crude but very reasonable predictor. I thought that was interesting, so I decided to refine it just a bit and run that query for all the great past and present QBs.

First the refining.

I looked at all postseason games since 1978 and ran a logit regression (there’s the economics content in this post) with a win dummy as the output variable and the team records and game location as the inputs. For those curious, the formula is

Probability of winning = (1 + exp(-.43(windiff)-.24(homefield)))^(-1)

where windiff = the given team’s regular season wins minus its opponents’ regular season wins and homefied = 1 if home, -1 if road, 0 if neutral site. So, for example, the 14-2 Patriots taking on the 12-4 Colts in Foxboro would have a windiff of 2 and a homefield of 1, which translates to an expected win probability of .748. Now all that’s left to do is tally up every quarterback’s expected wins (which is the sum of the win probabilities for each game) and his actual wins, and sort the list:


Expected Actual Diff
Tom Brady 4.5 8 +3.5
Joe Montana 13.7 16 +2.3
Trent Dilfer 2.8 5 +2.2
John Elway 12.2 14 +1.8
Troy Aikman 9.2 11 +1.8
Mark Rypien 3.4 5 +1.6
Jeff Hostetler 2.5 4 +1.5
Wade Wilson 1.7 3 +1.3
Brett Favre 10.2 11 +0.8
Drew Bledsoe 3.3 4 +0.7
Phil Simms 5.4 6 +0.6
Doug Williams 3.4 4 +0.6
Jay Schroeder 2.4 3 +0.6
Brad Johnson 3.5 4 +0.5
Jim Everett 1.6 2 +0.4
Donovan McNabb 6.6 7 +0.4
Steve McNair 4.6 5 +0.4
Jim Harbaugh 1.7 2 +0.3
Kurt Warner 4.9 5 +0.1
Rich Gannon 3.9 4 +0.1
Stan Humphries 3.0 3 +0.0
Mark Brunell 3.0 3 +0.0
Jim Kelly 9.3 9 -0.3
Kerry Collins 3.3 3 -0.3
Vinny Testaverde 2.4 2 -0.4
Dave Krieg 3.4 3 -0.4
Bernie Kosar 3.5 3 -0.5
Mike Tomczak 3.6 3 -0.6
Peyton Manning 3.8 3 -0.8
Neil O'Donnell 3.9 3 -0.9
Kordell Stewart 3.0 2 -1.0
Steve Young 9.1 8 -1.1
Jim McMahon 4.2 3 -1.2
Randall Cunningham 4.2 3 -1.2
Dan Marino 9.4 8 -1.4
Warren Moon 4.9 3 -1.9

Fine print: the list includes all quarterbacks whose careers began in 1978 or later (hence no Terry Bradshaw or Snake Stabler) and played in at least five postseason games. A QB was credited with a game played if he attempted 10 or more passes in the game.

Just to be clear, I believe that teams — not quarterbacks — win football games, so I’m not claiming this is the One True Measure Of Clutchness. Whether I like it or not though, wins are credited to quarterbacks in virtually every discussion about quarterback greatness. This is merely a way of putting a quarterback’s win-loss record into perspective.

I hate to admit it, but the deification of Tom Brady is getting tougher and tougher to argue with. This metric overvalues him just a tad by giving him credit for the 2001 victory at Pittsburgh (Bledsoe was probably more responsible for that win), but still. The probability of going 8-for-8 in the specific collection of postseason games Brady has played in is .004.

The following was written just prior to the Seahawks/Steelers Super Bowl:

Last year in this space, I observed that Peyton Manning’s teams had won exactly as many playoff games as they had been the higher seed in. This fact, to my mind, ran contrary to the popular wisdom that Manning is a choker. So I came up with something I called the Manning Index, which essentially measures how many playoff games a quarterback has won compared to how many he “should have” won. Click the link above for more discussion; I won’t re-hash much of it here, but I will give a quick summary of the specifics.

Based on a logit regression of all playoff games during the past 30 years, I arrived at this formula for determining the probability of a given team winning a given playoff game:

Probability of winning = (1 + exp(-.43(windiff)-.24(homefield)))^(-1)

where windiff is the team’s wins minus the opponent’s wins and homefield is 1 if it’s a home game, -1 if it’s a road game, and 0 if it’s at a neutral site (i.e. a Super Bowl). For an example, let’s look at the Steelers’ and Seahawks’ 2005 playoff runs:


prob of
Game windiff homefield winning
Steelers vs. Bengals 0 -1 44.1%
Steelers vs. Colts -3 -1 18.1%
Steelers vs. Broncos -2 -1 25.3%
Seahawks vs. Redskins +3 +1 81.9%
Seahawks vs. Panthers +2 +1 74.7%

Roethlisberger’s team won three games this postseason, when it should have been expected to win only about .88 games, so I’ll give Big Ben credit for 3 - .88 = 2.12 wins worth of clutchness. As I said last year, I think that awarding wins to quarterbacks is a suspect practice, but people are going to do it anyway. My only goal here is to put a quarterback’s postseason win-loss record into the proper perspective.

The main point of this post is to refresh the rankings with another year’s worth of data now in the books. So here they are. Some discussion follows.


Expected Actual Marginal
Quarterback record record wins
Tom Brady 6- 5 10- 1 +4.4
Trent Dilfer 3- 3 5- 1 +2.2
Jake Delhomme 3- 4 5- 2 +2.3
Ben Roethlisberger 2- 3 4- 1 +1.6
Jeff Hostetler 2- 2 4- 1 +1.5
Mark Rypien 3- 5 5- 3 +1.6
Wade Wilson 2- 4 3- 3 +1.3
Joe Montana 14- 9 16- 7 +2.3
Troy Aikman 9- 7 11- 5 +1.8
John Elway 12-10 14- 8 +1.8
Jay Schroeder 2- 3 3- 2 +0.6
Drew Bledsoe 3- 4 4- 3 +0.7
Doug Williams 3- 4 4- 3 +0.6
Phil Simms 5- 5 6- 4 +0.6
Jim Everett 2- 3 2- 3 +0.4
Brad Johnson 3- 4 4- 3 +0.5
Brett Favre 10-10 11- 9 +0.8
Mark Brunell 4- 6 4- 6 +0.5
Jim Harbaugh 2- 3 2- 3 +0.3
Steve McNair 5- 4 5- 4 +0.4
Kurt Warner 5- 2 5- 2 +0.1
Rich Gannon 4- 4 4- 4 +0.1
Stan Humphries 3- 3 3- 3 +0.0
Donovan McNabb 7- 5 7- 5 +0.0
Jim Kelly 9- 7 9- 7 -0.3
Dave Krieg 3- 6 3- 6 -0.4
Kerry Collins 3- 3 3- 3 -0.3
Vinny Testaverde 2- 3 2- 3 -0.4
Bernie Kosar 3- 4 3- 4 -0.5
Jake Plummer 2- 4 2- 4 -0.5
Mike Tomczak 4- 2 3- 3 -0.6
Steve Young 9- 5 8- 6 -1.1
Dan Marino 9- 9 8-10 -1.4
Randall Cunningham 4- 6 3- 7 -1.2
Kordell Stewart 3- 2 2- 3 -1.0
Peyton Manning 5- 4 3- 6 -1.6
Jim McMahon 4- 2 3- 3 -1.2
Warren Moon 5- 5 3- 7 -1.9

First note that the records are all rounded to the nearest integer — records just don’t look right if they’re not integers — but the Marginal Wins column is not rounded (well, less rounded). Also, note that the list is sorted not by the Marginal Wins column, but by an approximation of the probability that an average quarterback would achieve the given record or a better one by sheer chance. For example, Joe Montana is +2.3 wins and Jeff Hostetler is +1.5, but Hoss rates higher than Joe because it’s less likely that random chance would produce a 4-1 record in the games Hostetler played in than that it would produce a 16-7 record in the games Montana played in. Incidentally, only one of the 38 guys on the list appears to be significantly better than chance, and none are significantly worse than chance. Make of that what you will.

Bonus fun fact I uncovered while running these numbers: according to the formula given at the top of this post, this season’s Steeler team is the most improbable Super Bowl team in history. Their estimated win probabilities were .441, .181, and .253, which means that their probability of winning all three (making all the usual incorrect assumptions about independence) was about .02, which is the lowest figure of any team to ever make a Super Bowl. Now that’s not too surprising, since they played three games and most Super Bowl teams only play two. But if you throw out the Cincinnati game, their probability would be .045, which would still be the lowest in history.

Most Improbable Super Bowl Teams


Team Probability
pit 2005 2.0
nwe 1985 5.1
dal 1975 5.3
car 2003 7.6
ram 1979 8.6
bal 2000 9.9
oak 1980 10.9
ten 1999 11.2
sfo 1988 11.5
den 1997 12.3
buf 1992 12.8

10 Comments | Posted in General, History, Statgeekery

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