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Archive for January, 2007

Still more on second-and-ten

Posted by Doug on January 31, 2007

As promised yesterday (also see Monday's post), here is some data on the results of second-and-10 plays. The number in each slot is the percentage of all plays in that category that gained the specified amount of yardage. E.g. 9.0% of all second-and-ten rushing plays after a first-and-10 pass went for negative yardage.

Second-and-10 running plays


AfterRun AfterPass
=====================================
Negative yardage 8.0 9.0
0, 1, or 2 yards 24.9 32.0
3, 4, or 5 yards 29.4 30.2
6 or 7 yards 11.4 10.4
8 or 9 yards 11.4 8.1
10 or more yards 14.9 10.3

Second-and-10 passing plays


AfterRun AfterPass
=====================================
Negative yardage 6.6 6.7
0, 1, or 2 yards 38.6 39.0
3, 4, or 5 yards 9.7 10.0
6 or 7 yards 10.5 9.0
8 or 9 yards 8.0 8.3
10 or more yards 26.7 26.9

On passing plays (the second table), the two columns are essentially the same. So second-and-10 passing plays are equally successful regardless of whether the first down play was a run or a pass. But the first table shows that second-and-10 rushes are less successful following a first-and-10 pass play.

Does this mean anything? I'm not sure. If you line up these same columns in a different way, you get this:

After a first-down run


Run Pass
==================================
Negative yardage 8.0 6.6
0, 1, or 2 yards 24.9 38.6
3, 4, or 5 yards 29.4 9.7
6 or 7 yards 11.4 10.5
8 or 9 yards 11.4 8.0
10 or more yards 14.9 26.7

You could stare at this chart for awile and debate whether the pass plays or the run plays were more effective in this situation. The pass plays get you the first down more often, but they also leave you in 3rd-and-long more often. The fact that it's debateable is, in my opinion, evidence that teams are generally using roughly the right run/pass mixture in this situation.

Now look at this chart.

After a first-down pass


Run Pass
==================================
Negative yardage 9.0 6.7
0, 1, or 2 yards 32.0 39.0
3, 4, or 5 yards 30.2 10.0
6 or 7 yards 10.4 9.0
8 or 9 yards 8.1 8.3
10 or more yards 10.3 26.9

Clearly passing is more effective than running on second-and-10 following a first-and-10 pass, which indicates that teams could benefit from passing more. I'm not convinced that there are sufficient long term benefits to throwing all these changeups to justify the decreased effectiveness on the current drive. I am not suggesting that teams should stop running on second-and-10; I'm merely suggesting that they could possibly pick up more first downs if they ran more like 30% of the time rather than 55% of the time.

20 Comments | Posted in General

More on second-and-ten

Posted by Doug on January 30, 2007

Yesterday I posted some data about team tendencies on second-and-ten. I also pointed out that that data might be tainted by some situational variables that are tough to account for. Here is another set of data that, at least in my mind, removes any doubt about whether the effect is real.

First three quarters of the game, point differential within +/-7:

Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 pass: 55.7%
Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 run: 29.2%

[NOTE: this table was corrected shortly after posting.]

I chose this slice of data because I wanted to remove clock management considerations from the equation as much as possible. If it’s a one-score game with more than 15 minutes to play, clock management should be a relatively minor factor in the run/pass decision.

Contrary to some of the commenters in the previous post, I am now convinced that this is systematically irrational coaching. Whatever the profile of your team, there must be some second-and-10 run/pass mixture (in game theory parlance, a particular “mixed strategy”) that optimizes your chances of getting a first down within the next two plays. I find it very difficult to believe that the one single play just before the second-and-10 could provide enough information to alter that optimal mixture so drastically.

No, more likely the reason is something suggested by Vince:

I think you’re overlooking something: most coaches (most good ones, anyway) don’t want to be one-dimensional and are seeking a balance between rushing and passing. Barring a turnover, you’re guaranteed three plays on any possession: Most coaches want to get at least one run in there, and 3rd and long is not the time to do it.

I actually wasn’t overlooking that; I was just considering it an example of irrational decision-making.

It reminds me of my younger days when I was something of a baseball player. I had a coach — and I don’t think he was unique — who absolutely positively would not tolerate a called third strike. If you swung and missed at three straight pitches that were over your head, he’d growl at you a little, but taking a third strike — even on a full count — was unpardonable. It was almost sure to get you benched.

My coach thought that a strikeout looking was worse than a swinging strikeout because a strikeout looking made you look apathetic or unagressive or something. And for some reason, an apathetic or unagressive out is worse than another out.

I think that for many football coaches a three-and-out with three passes is the equivalent of taking a third strike. It’s not just a failure; it’s the ultimate failure. Not because it makes you look apathetic, but because it makes you look desperate. And a desperate failed drive is apparently worse than an equally-failed drive with a run in there. The second-and-10 run is the coach’s way of saying, “Look at me. I am not in panic mode.”

Even though the end result is identical, they’d much rather have a pass-run-pass three-and-out than a pass-pass-pass three-and-out. That’s fine, but (unless clock management is a factor) three-and-out is three-and-out. If you can increase your chances of getting a first down by not “mixing it up,” then it’s hard for me to imagine that the benefits of mixing it up outweight that.

But all my rambling above assumes that 32/68 is closer to the optimal second-and-10 run/pass mixture than 57/43 is. The proof of that would be in the data. As commenter Jim A suggests, the next step is to look at the results of the different kinds of second-and-10 choices. I will attempt to do that with my next post.

7 Comments | Posted in General

Second-and-Ten

Posted by Doug on January 29, 2007

First a bit of a disclaimer: my play-by-play database isn't nearly as clean as I'd like. Although it's very close in almost all cases, it doesn't quite match up with the official stats for various reasons. It also isn't set up to easily do queries like those that I'll do in this post. So while I'd bet that everything I'm going to say here is very close to being true --- close enough that the substance will remain unchanged even if the numbers aren't precisely right --- I wouldn't mind having some corroboration from those readers out there who have their own play-by-play databases.

Over the years I have gotten the impression that, whenever a team throws an incomplete pass on 1st-and-10, they typically follow it with a running play on 2nd-and-10. So I decided to check to see if my impression was right. Here's the data, 2003--2006:


==== 1st-and-10 play ===
2nd-and-10 play Run Pass
============================================
Run 739 3374
Pass 1236 3841
============================================

So what this says is: when a team throws an incomplete pass on first down (or completes a pass for zero yards), they run 46.8% of the time on second down. But when they rush for no yards on first down --- leaving them in the same second-and-10 situation --- they run only 37.4% of the time on second down.

I find this pretty interesting, and my first reaction is to think that it's evidence of irrational --- borderline superstitious --- behavior. Second-and-10 is second-and-10. What does it matter how you got there?

Then I realized that there are all sorts lurking variables.

For instance, what kinds of teams are most likely to allow zero yards on a first down rush? Teams with good rushing defenses, of course. The same kinds of teams you don't want to rush against on second down. And likewise with offenses. If the Cardinals and the Chiefs rushed the same number of times on first-and-10, the Cardinals would have more zero yard gains on first down because they're a worse rushing team. And they'd have fewer rushing attempts on second-and-10 for the very same reason. In other words, good rushing defenses and bad rushing offenses are possibly (probably) overrepresented in the first-and-10-run column. They shouldn't run on second and ten. Likewise, good passing defenses and bad passing offenses are probably overrepresented in the first-and-10-pass column, and those are the kinds of teams for whom it's worthwhile to try a run on second-and-10.

On the other hand, I'd bet that teams that are ahead, since they run more, are overrepresented in the first-and-10-run column. And those teams should be running on second down more often than teams that are trailing or tied. Check this out:

When leading:

Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 pass: 56.6%
Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 run: 46.2%

When tied or trailing:

Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 pass: 43.1%
Run percentage on 2nd-and-10 following a 1st-and-10 run: 31.0%

In both sub-categories, the split is bigger than it appears in the aggregate data, which indicates that this lurking variable might be making the split look smaller than it actually is.

This is yet another post where I find myself closing with: I'm not sure what the point of this post is, but I think it's interesting. Let me wrap it up with a couple of questions.

If we looked at all second-and-10 situations and could somehow (perhaps with a regression, but it would be tricky) properly account for the offensive and defensive strengths of the given teams against the run and the pass, and all the relevant situational factors, do you think that whether the first down play was a run or a pass would be a significant factor in predicting whether the second down play would be a run or a pass? If so, is that evidence of systematically irrational coaching? Or would there be a good reason for it?

8 Comments | Posted in General

The Schottenheimer Index

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 26, 2007

In the comments to The Dungy Index, Pat requested a different sort of coaching index. Today we're going to analyze post-season coaching records from another angle, by predicting how many post-season wins a coach or team should have based on their number of regular season victories*.

To start with, we need to break the modern era into three sections. From 1970 to 1977**, the NFL had an eight team playoff field, and a fourteen game schedule. In 1978 the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games and the post-season tournament to ten teams. In 1982 and 1987, the NFL did not have 16 game regular seasons, so I've omitted the strike seasons from the data***. In 1990, the NFL again expanded the playoff field by two teams, and since then 12 teams have made the playoffs each year. In 2002 the NFL realignment changed the ordering of the playoff teams, but I've decided to ignore that small change for the purpose of this post. The added specificity isn't very probative, and unnecessarily reduces our sample size.

*The normal formula for victories is Wins + (Ties/2), since the NFL counts a 
tie as half a win. Here, I'm just using actual wins, which essentially equates a tie to 
a loss.

**From 1970 to 1975, the home team was chosen randomly, and not by best record. 
This should be kept in mind when analyzing those coaching performances.

***Yes, I know Redskins fans have a legitimate beef with this, since I'm erasing
two of Joe Gibbs' Super Bowls. My apologies, and I'll address this later.

The Early Years: 1970-1977

RW is the number of regular season wins, PW is the number of playoff wins, #TM is the number of teams that made the playoffs with that number of regular season wins, and AvgPW is the average number of playoff wins for teams with that number of regular season wins.


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 1 3 0.33
9 3 8 0.38
10 18 27 0.67
11 13 14 0.93
12 15 10 1.50
13 3 1 3.00
14 3 1 3.00

So what coaches exceeded expectations the most? Below is the list of coaches from the early period, with both their actual and expected (based on regular season record) number of wins.


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Tom Landry 12 6 +6.0
Chuck Noll 8 5 +3.2
Don McCafferty 4 2 +2.4
Don Shula 8 7 +1.2
Dick Nolan 2 1 +0.6
Red Miller 2 2 +0.5
John Madden 8 8 +0.3
Jack Pardee 0 0 -0.4
Lou Saban 0 0 -0.4
Bud Grant 7 7 -0.4
Dan Devine 0 1 -0.7
Hank Stram 0 1 -0.7
Joe Schmidt 0 1 -0.7
Chuck Fairbanks 0 1 -0.9
Nick Skorich 0 1 -1.0
George Allen 2 3 -1.3
Don Coryell 0 2 -1.6
Paul Brown 0 2 -1.9
Chuck Knox 3 5 -2.0
Ted Marchibroda 0 2 -2.3

The Middle Years: 1978-1989


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 0 2 0.00
9 11 17 0.65
10 13 27 0.48
11 19 23 0.83
12 25 21 1.19
13 3 2 1.50
14 13 6 2.17
15 6 2 3.00

And the coaches:


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Bill Walsh 10 6 +3.6
Tom Flores 7 4 +3.0
Chuck Noll 8 5 +2.9
Bum Phillips 4 2 +1.9
Raymond Berry 3 2 +1.3
George Seifert 3 2 +0.8
Sam Wyche 2 1 +0.8
Forrest Gregg 2 1 +0.8
Bill Parcells 5 4 +0.5
Bud Carson 1 1 +0.4
Ray Perkins 1 1 +0.4
Ray Malavasi 3 3 +0.3
John Robinson 4 4 +0.3
Chuck Knox 4 4 +0.2
Dan Reeves 4 4 +0.2
Jerry Glanville 1 1 -0.1
John McKay 1 1 -0.1
Dick Vermeil 3 3 -0.1
Joe Gibbs 4 4 -0.2
Joe Walton 1 1 -0.3
Jerry Burns 1 1 -0.3
John Mackovic 0 0 -0.5
Walt Michaels 0 0 -0.5
Neill Armstrong 0 0 -0.5
Don Coryell 2 2 -0.5
Monte Clark 0 1 -0.6
Bud Grant 0 1 -0.6
Marty Schottenheimer 1 2 -0.7
Sam Rutigliano 0 1 -0.8
Bullough/Erhardt 0 1 -0.8
Marv Levy 1 2 -0.8
Leeman Bennett 1 2 -0.8
Red Miller 0 1 -1.0
Tom Landry 5 6 -1.1
Buddy Ryan 0 1 -1.3
Mike Ditka 5 7 -1.8
Don Shula 3 7 -3.7

The Later Years: 1990-2006


RW PW #TM AvgPW
8 2 7 0.29
9 15 34 0.44
10 26 51 0.51
11 45 43 1.05
12 44.5 33 1.35
13 33.5 23 1.46
14 19 11 1.73
15 2 2 1.00

Note: The Colts and Bears have each been given a half win for their Super Bowl berth.

How do the most recent coaches look?


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Bill Belichick 13 7 +5.6
Jimmy Johnson 9 5 +3.8
Marv Levy 10 6 +3.7
John Fox 5 2 +2.9
Mike Holmgren 12 9 +2.8
Joe Gibbs 6 3 +2.8
Bill Cowher 12 9 +2.5
Barry Switzer 5 3 +1.8
Ted Marchibroda 2 0 +1.6
Andy Reid 8 7 +1.2
Brian Billick 5 4 +1.2
Bill Callahan 2 1 +1.0
Jon Gruden 5 4 +0.7
Mike Tice 1 0 +0.7
Bill Parcells 6 5 +0.7
Vince Tobin 1 0 +0.6
Sam Wyche 1 0 +0.6
Sean Payton 1 1 +0.5
Jim Haslett 1 1 +0.5
Norv Turner 1 1 +0.5
Jerry Glanville 1 1 +0.5
Dan Reeves 5 5 +0.4
Herman Edwards 2 2 +0.1
Dick Vermeil 3 3 +0.1
Pete Carroll 1 1 0.0
Lovie Smith 2.5 3 0.0
Ray Rhodes 1 1 0.0
Jim Mora Jr. 1 1 0.0
Rich Kotite 1 1 0.0
Mike Shanahan 8 8 -0.1
Bobby Ross 3 3 -0.3
Bruce Coslet 0 0 -0.3
Tony Dungy 8.5 9 -0.3
Art Shell 2 2 -0.3
Jeff Fisher 5 5 -0.3
Don Shula 3 3 -0.3
Dom Capers 1 1 -0.3
Jim Fassel 2 2 -0.4
Butch Davis 0 0 -0.4
Lindy Infante 0 0 -0.4
June Jones 0 0 -0.4
Eric Mangini 0 1 -0.5
Buddy Ryan 0 1 -0.5
Dave Wannstedt 2 3 -0.5
Chan Gailey 0 1 -0.8
George Seifert 7 8 -0.8
Mike Martz 3 4 -0.9
Marvin Lewis 0 1 -1.0
Mike Ditka 1 2 -1.1
Jack Del Rio 0 1 -1.3
Dennis Green 4 5 -1.4
Dick Jauron 0 1 -1.5
Tom Coughlin 4 6 -1.6
Steve Mariucci 3 5 -1.7
Mike Sherman 2 4 -1.7
Wayne Fontes 1 3 -1.8
Wade Phillips 0 2 -2.0
Jack Pardee 1 3 -2.3
Jim Mora 0 5 -4.6
Marty Schottenheimer 3 10 -6.5

Now, several coaches span the three eras, so we need to compile a career list. To avoid staring at 100 coaches, only coaches with at least 4 expected playoff wins are included:


Coach ActW ExpW Diff
Chuck Noll 16 10 +6.1
Bill Belichick 13 7 +5.6
Tom Landry 17 12 +4.9
Jimmy Johnson 9 5 +3.8
Bill Walsh 10 6 +3.6
Tom Flores 7 4 +3.0
Marv Levy 11 8 +2.8
Mike Holmgren 12 9 +2.8
Joe Gibbs 10 7 +2.6
Bill Cowher 12 9 +2.5
Andy Reid 8 7 +1.2
Bill Parcells 11 10 +1.2
Jon Gruden 5 4 +0.7
Dan Reeves 9 8 +0.6
John Madden 8 8 +0.3
George Seifert 10 10 0.0
Mike Shanahan 8 8 -0.1
Dick Vermeil 6 6 -0.1
Tony Dungy 8.5 9 -0.3
Jeff Fisher 5 5 -0.3
Bud Grant 7 8 -1.0
Dennis Green 4 5 -1.4
Tom Coughlin 4 6 -1.6
Steve Mariucci 3 5 -1.7
Chuck Knox 7 9 -1.8
Don Coryell 2 4 -2.1
Don Shula 14 17 -2.8
Mike Ditka 6 9 -2.9
Jim Mora 0 5 -4.6
Marty Schottenheimer 4 11 -7.2

Now let me try and appease our Joe Gibbs fans. The 1982 Redskins went 8-1, which is close to 14-2. So we might want to give him 2.17 expected wins in 1982, except there was an additional round of the playoffs that year. That extra game was against the 4-5 Detroit Lions, so I don't want to give Gibbs too much credit here. Let's give him 3 expected wins with an 8-1 Redskins team, and since he won four playoff games that year, he should have one extra win in the "Diff" column.

The 1987 Redskins went 11-4, but won all three games with replacement players. We should probably put them at 8-4, which we'll make equivalent to 0.71 expected wins. Since Gibbs won three games, that's an extra 2.3 wins for him. So while Gibbs is listed at +2.6, it's probably fairer to place him at 5.9, which is right behind Chuck Noll for tops on the list.

General Thoughts
One problem here is sample size. Only two teams in the middle era made the playoffs with 8 wins, and neither won a game. Only two teams in the early era won thirteen or more games, and both won the Super Bowl. So John Madden and Don Shula get no credit for winning a Super Bowl since they were the only teams with those number of wins in the era, while Marty Schottenheimer and Bud Grant catch a break since the other coach also lost his playoff game with 8 wins. Note: this may be the only time I've ever seen it written that Schottenheimer or Grant caught a break.

Still, the data only has two real blips, when teams with more regular season wins are expected to have fewer post-season wins than teams with fewer regular season wins. Teams with ten wins in the middle years didn't fare very well, and to the extent that a coach had several ten win seasons over that period, he's probably not punished enough for his post-season losses (and he's overcompensated for his post-season wins). The other blip is in the recent era, where only two teams had fifteen wins, and both teams went one and done. Based on the expected wins trend for 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 win teams, I think we'd be better off expecting 2.00 wins from teams that win 15 games than 1.00 wins. So you might want to subtract one win in the "Diff" column from Dennis Green and Bill Cowher.

If you do that, you might notice that before last year, Bill Cowher would have 1.5 fewer actual post-season wins than we'd expect. Of course, last year he won four games in the post-season en route to a Super Bowl victory. That's not very surprising, though, because I don't think there's much value to any of the above data. Playoff numbers are overvalued, because the results mean so much more to fans, and the sample sizes are incredibly small. As a result, grandiose statements that aren't statistically significant, are made. I don't believe Bill Cowher changed anything in going from a "bad" post-season coach to tying the (Joe Gibbs) record for most post-season wins in 2005.

Which brings me to my last point. In addition to thinking the data doesn't have much predictive value, I'm not sure it has any value at all. We might look at Marty Schottenheimer's -7.2 rating and conclude that he's a much better regular season coach than playoff coach. We could say that Chuck Noll was a much better playoff coach than regular season coach, as evidenced by his +6.1 rating. And the data would support that. But we could just as strongly argue that Marty Schottenheimer gets the most out of average players in the regular season, but in the playoffs, coaching talent is much less important than player talent. Conversely, one could state that Chuck Noll couldn't reach his players, was a terrible coach, but because of how talented his team was, they always won in the post-season.

You might like the former theory better than the latter, but let's be clear: the data equally support both theories. To suggest that coaching ability matters more than player ability in the playoffs, or vice versa, is purely speculative, and not proven by anything presented here.

19 Comments | Posted in General, History

The Dungy Index updated

Posted by Doug on January 25, 2007

Same as yesterday, but this time with coaches instead of quarterbacks. Includes all coaches who debuted in 1970 or later and have coached in at least 10 postseason games.


Player Expected Actual DIFF
==========================================
Bill Belichick 8- 8 13- 3 +4.9
Joe Gibbs 13-10 17- 6 +3.7
Chuck Noll 12-12 16- 8 +3.9
Jimmy Johnson 6- 7 9- 4 +2.8
Bill Walsh 8- 6 10- 4 +2.1
Tom Flores 7- 4 8- 3 +1.5
Bill Parcells 9-10 11- 8 +1.6
John Robinson 3- 7 4- 6 +0.7
Dan Reeves 10-10 11- 9 +0.8
Mike Shanahan 7- 6 8- 5 +0.7
Bill Cowher 11-10 12- 9 +0.5
Mike Holmgren 12-10 12-10 +0.4
Marv Levy 11- 8 11- 8 +0.3
Tony Dungy 8- 8 8- 8 +0.2
George Seifert 10- 5 10- 5 -0.2
Andy Reid 8- 6 8- 6 -0.2
Tom Coughlin 5- 5 4- 6 -0.5
Chuck Knox 8-10 7-11 -1.0
Dick Vermeil 7- 4 6- 5 -1.0
Mike Ditka 7- 5 6- 6 -1.5
Dennis Green 6- 6 4- 8 -2.0
Marty Schottenheimer 9- 9 5-13 -4.5

In the span of five weeks last year, Bill Cowher turned from A Coach Who Can't Win The Big One to unquestionably one of the best coaches of his generation. I don't have inside knowledge, but I can only assume that happened because he radically changed everything about the way he coached. I mean, what else could possibly explain how a Coach Who Can't Win The Big One could win the big one?

As of right now, it appears that Tony Dungy might have completely and totally changed his coaching style and philosophy too, but we can't be sure about that until next Sunday.

6 Comments | Posted in General, History

Manning index updated

Posted by Doug on January 24, 2007

I originally posted this two years ago this week and now seems like a good time for an update.

The idea is to put every quarterback's postseason record into something approximating an appropriate context. If a QB takes his 9-7 team on the road and loses to a 13-3 team, that doesn't count against him much --- nor does it count too much for the opposing quarterback --- because the 9-7 team has no business winning that game anyway.

In the original article, I wrote this, and it's no less relevant now:

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.

The extent to which a team should be expected to win is given by this formula, which was the result of a regression:


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 (actually, it's the regular season winning percentage differences multiplied by 16) and homefield = 1 if home, -1 if road, 0 if neutral site.

In the original article, I only considered quarterbacks who debuted in 1978 or later. My postseason database now goes back a little further, so I'll include all quarterbacks who debuted in 1972 or later and played in at least eight postseason games (and I'll throw in Terry Bradshaw, all of whose postseason appearances happened in 1972 or later). The quarterbacks are ranked by (an approximation of) the probability that an average quarterback would compile the given record (or better) by random chance.


Coach Expected Actual DIFF
===============================================
Tom Brady 7- 7 12- 2 +4.9
Terry Bradshaw 11- 8 14- 5 +3.1
Mark Rypien 3- 5 5- 3 +1.6
Joe Montana 14- 9 16- 7 +2.3
Troy Aikman 9- 7 11- 5 +1.8
John Elway 12-10 14- 8 +1.8
Phil Simms 5- 5 6- 4 +0.6
Brett Favre 10-10 11- 9 +0.8
Mark Brunell 4- 6 4- 6 +0.5
Rich Gannon 4- 4 4- 4 +0.1
Donovan McNabb 7- 5 7- 5 +0.0
Danny White 6- 5 6- 5 -0.2
Jim Kelly 9- 7 9- 7 -0.3
Steve McNair 5- 5 5- 5 -0.3
Peyton Manning 6- 6 6- 6 -0.3
Dave Krieg 3- 6 3- 6 -0.4
Joe Theismann 7- 1 6- 2 -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
Ron Jaworski 6- 3 4- 5 -1.7
Warren Moon 5- 5 3- 7 -1.9

[NOTE: records are rounded because records just don't look right if not rounded.]

Because they necessarily include at least three wins, Super Bowl titles are rewarded heavily in this system. But it's interesting to compare the quarterbacks with three or more rings. Brady ranks far ahead of Aikman, Bradshaw, and Montana because more often than not, those three were playing in games they should have been expected to win. If Tom Brady's teams are 14-2 and lose their first playoff game at home to a 9-7 team in each of the next two seasons, he'll probably still be at the top of this list. [Technical note: I've counted a QB as having played a game if he had 10 or more passing attempts. This gives full credit to Brady (and to Bledsoe) for the AFC Championship game win over Pittsburgh in 2001. If you don't think that's appropriate, subtract some portion of the .75 wins above expected that this system gives Brady credit for.]

Meanwhile Peyton Manning can climb into the positive numbers for the first time in his career with a win over the Bears next Sunday.

17 Comments | Posted in General, History

Romeo Crennel

Posted by Doug on January 23, 2007

To say that I don't follow the Browns closely would be an understatement. But I do have a good friend who is a Browns' fan and he assures me that, despite the 10-22 record, he and his colleagues are not displeased with the work Romeo Crennel has done and is doing. This squares with the feeling I get from the national media.

It seems to me that all coaches (except Art Shell) get one free year to be as bad as they want with no consequence. But most coaches start to feel the heat if they don't at least show some improvement in their second year.

Take a look at this. It's all coaches who debuted in 1990 or later and won 12/32 or fewer of their games in their first two seasons:


Coach Debut First 2 Since
=================================================
Norv Turner 1994 9-23-0 49- 59- 1
Dick Jauron 1999 11-21-0 32- 37- 0
Vince Tobin 1996 11-21-0 17- 22- 0
Joe Bugel 1990 9-23-0 15- 33- 0
David Shula 1992 8-24-0 11- 28- 0
Dave McGinnis 2000 13-28-0 4- 12- 0
Gregg Williams 2001 11-21-0 6- 10- 0
Dave Campo 2000 10-22-0 5- 11- 0
Mike Riley 1999 9-23-0 5- 11- 0
Steve Spurrier 2002 12-20-0 0- 0- 0
Dick LeBeau 2000 12-33-0 0- 0- 0
Dick McPherson 1991 8-24-0 0- 0- 0
Chris Palmer 1999 5-27-0 0- 0- 0
Marty Mornhinweg 2001 5-27-0 0- 0- 0
Mike Nolan 2005 11-21-0 0- 0- 0
Romeo Crennel 2005 10-22-0 0- 0- 0

Crennel's fate is not pre-determined, of course, but it's pretty grim when your best historical comps are Dick Jauron and Norv Turner.

But wait. I was cheating. If you take it back just one more year, you get one of my favorite coaches of all time:


Coach Debut First 2 Since
=================================================
Jimmy Johnson 1989 8-24-0 72- 40- 0

Johnson's first two years, though, were much different from Crennel's. Johnson gutted the team and suffered through a 1-15 rookie campaign, but he improved to 7-9 in his second year. And Johnson is the only coach who debuted in the 80s and might make the list look more promising for Crennel.

But look at this list of guys who debuted in the 70s, started off horribly, and went on to have very successful careers:


Coach Debut First 2 Since
=================================================
Marv Levy 1978 11-21-0 132- 91- 0
Dick Vermeil 1976 9-19-0 111- 90- 0
Bill Walsh 1979 8-24-0 84- 35- 1

And if you go back further than that, you get Tom Landry (4-20-2 in his first two years) and Chuck Noll (6-22).

This post isn't about Romeo Crennel anymore. I'm not sure what it's about. But here's what we've learned.


  • Exactly one coach in the last 25ish years has suffered through a Crennel-like first two years and then gone on to have a successful coaching career.

  • Back in the 70s and before, several coaches did it.

Why the change? The main possibilities are:

1. There hasn't been a change. The data is just a little bit flukish. Supporters of this explanation could cite, among other things, the fact that Bill Belichick barely missed the cutoff for inclusion, winning 13 of his first 32 games. Also, of course, the careers of the coaches debuting in the 90s have yet to be completed. That list might look a lot different 20 years from now.

2. Coaches are on a shorter leash now. If his coaching career began in today's NFL, Tom Landry probably would not have ever had the chance to become Tom Landry. Under this theory, it's likely that Dave McGinnis, Mike Riley, Chris Palmer, or someone of that ilk is a Hall of Fame coach who will never get the chance to show it.

For your enjoyment, here are all coaches debuting since 1950 who won 12/32 or fewer of their games during their first two years:


Coach Debut First 2 Since
=================================================
Tom Landry 1960 9-28-3 241-134- 3
Chuck Noll 1969 12-30-0 181-118- 1
Marv Levy 1978 11-21-0 132- 91- 0
Weeb Ewbank 1954 8-15-1 122-114- 6
Dick Vermeil 1976 9-19-0 111- 90- 0
Bill Walsh 1979 8-24-0 84- 35- 1
Jimmy Johnson 1989 8-24-0 72- 40- 0
Norm VanBrocklin 1961 5-22-1 61- 78- 6
Joe Kuharich 1952 7-17-0 51- 64- 3
Norv Turner 1994 9-23-0 49- 59- 1
Bart Starr 1975 9-19-0 43- 57- 3
John McKay 1976 2-26-0 42- 62- 1
Dick Jauron 1999 11-21-0 32- 37- 0
Ray Perkins 1979 10-22-0 32- 53- 0
Jim Hanifan 1980 12-20-0 27- 33- 1
Walt Michaels 1977 11-19-0 28- 28- 1
Dan Henning 1983 11-21-0 27- 52- 1
Jack Patera 1976 7-21-0 28- 38- 0
Marion Campbell 1974 11-30-0 23- 50- 1
Pop Ivy 1958 15-31-2 17- 11- 0
Vince Tobin 1996 11-21-0 17- 22- 0
Jack Christiansen 1963 13-25-1 13- 13- 2
Joe Bugel 1990 9-23-0 15- 33- 0
Gene Stallings 1986 11-19-1 12- 15- 0
Bill McPeak 1961 6-19-3 15- 27- 0
Harland Svare 1962 10-21-3 11- 27- 2
Jim Dooley 1968 20-36-0 0- 0- 0
David Shula 1992 8-24-0 11- 28- 0
Darryl Rogers 1985 12-20-0 6- 20- 0
Bill Austin 1966 11-28-3 6- 8- 0
Dave McGinnis 2000 13-28-0 4- 12- 0
Gregg Williams 2001 11-21-0 6- 10- 0
Dave Campo 2000 10-22-0 5- 11- 0
Gene Ronzani 1950 6-18-0 8- 13- 1
Mike Riley 1999 9-23-0 5- 11- 0
Steve Spurrier 2002 12-20-0 0- 0- 0
Dick LeBeau 2000 12-33-0 0- 0- 0
Norman Strader 1950 8-14-2 4- 8- 0
Frank Kush 1982 11-28-1 0- 0- 0
John North 1973 11-23-0 0- 0- 0
Paul Wiggin 1975 11-24-0 0- 0- 0
Mike Nolan 2005 11-21-0 0- 0- 0
Abe Gibron 1972 7-20-1 4- 10- 0
Romeo Crennel 2005 10-22-0 0- 0- 0
Kay Stephenson 1983 10-26-0 0- 0- 0
Jack Faulkner 1962 9-22-1 0- 0- 0
Ed Biles 1981 8-23-0 0- 0- 0
Dick McPherson 1991 8-24-0 0- 0- 0
Frank Ganz 1987 8-22-1 0- 0- 0
Bob Hollway 1971 8-18-2 0- 0- 0
Bill Arnsparger 1974 7-28-0 0- 0- 0
Frank Filchock 1960 7-20-1 0- 0- 0
J.D. Roberts 1970 7-25-3 0- 0- 0
Hugh Devore 1953 7-18-1 0- 0- 0
Mike Nixon 1959 6-30-2 0- 0- 0
Chris Palmer 1999 5-27-0 0- 0- 0
Marty Mornhinweg 2001 5-27-0 0- 0- 0
Norb Hecker 1966 4-26-1 0- 0- 0

8 Comments | Posted in General, History

Teams pass more than they used to

Posted by Doug on January 22, 2007

I was perusing some old playoff box scores this weekend and was struck by a few things. First, check out the 1972 and 1973 Miami Dolphins. They won the Super Bowl both years, winning six playoff games in the process. Here are the Dolphin quarterbacks' stat lines from those six games:


OPP QB(s) CM AT YD TD IN
=============================================
1972 cle Morrall 6 13 88 0 0
pit Griese/Morrall 10 16 121 1 1
was Griese 8 11 88 1 1
1973 cin Griese 11 18 159 2 1
oak Griese 3 6 34 0 1
min Griese 6 7 73 0 0
=============================================
44 71 543 4 4

The Dolphins were extreme, but they weren't alone. Terry Bradshaw had games with 13, 14, and 17 pass attempts. Kenny Stabler was below 20 pass attempts a few times as well.

It's one thing to know, in some vague sense, that teams pass more now than they used to, but I didn't quite realize the magnitude of the difference until I looked at those old box scores. Below you'll find a table showing the average stat lines of winning quarterbacks and losing quarterbacks in postseason games since 1972.


=== Winning QBs === === Losing QBs ====
Year CM AT YD TD IN CM AT YD TD IN
=====+===================+===================+
1972 | 11 20 148 1.3 0.7 | 11 24 125 0.3 2.1 |
1973 | 10 16 135 1.0 0.9 | 13 24 139 0.6 1.7 |
1974 | 11 21 153 1.6 1.0 | 13 28 180 0.9 1.7 |
1975 | 14 23 204 1.7 1.0 | 15 29 189 1.0 2.0 |
1976 | 13 23 182 1.4 0.9 | 16 34 197 1.0 1.9 |
1977 | 12 22 182 1.4 0.7 | 14 30 155 0.7 2.3 |
1978 | 15 27 234 2.1 1.2 | 14 30 167 0.9 2.4 |
1979 | 13 23 193 1.6 1.2 | 16 32 188 0.6 1.6 |
1980 | 15 29 216 1.7 1.3 | 16 35 229 0.9 2.6 |
1981 | 18 28 227 2.0 1.1 | 19 34 254 1.8 2.1 |
1982 | 18 28 237 1.7 1.1 | 18 35 240 1.1 2.3 |
1983 | 16 26 213 1.4 0.6 | 21 38 237 1.3 2.7 |
1984 | 18 29 249 2.0 0.9 | 19 34 215 0.9 1.4 |
1985 | 13 23 164 1.2 0.3 | 17 36 183 0.8 1.7 |
1986 | 17 30 214 1.9 0.7 | 17 33 205 0.9 1.4 |
1987 | 16 29 246 2.2 0.8 | 19 38 241 1.4 2.1 |
1988 | 15 25 213 1.3 1.1 | 19 39 236 0.8 1.9 |
1989 | 20 31 269 2.4 0.4 | 21 40 244 0.9 1.8 |
1990 | 16 26 214 1.7 0.5 | 17 34 217 0.8 1.7 |
1991 | 17 28 228 1.6 1.0 | 21 37 228 0.9 2.6 |
1992 | 18 28 219 2.1 0.5 | 20 37 236 0.8 2.3 |
1993 | 20 30 241 1.8 0.5 | 24 41 271 1.2 1.2 |
1994 | 19 30 241 1.9 0.5 | 25 46 274 1.4 1.5 |
1995 | 18 29 221 1.6 0.7 | 24 46 280 1.6 2.6 |
1996 | 16 26 189 1.1 0.9 | 19 37 192 0.9 2.1 |
1997 | 15 28 184 0.8 0.6 | 20 38 228 0.8 1.2 |
1998 | 18 32 228 1.5 0.8 | 22 40 255 1.0 2.0 |
1999 | 17 30 216 1.7 0.9 | 19 37 216 0.7 1.2 |
2000 | 15 25 196 1.7 0.7 | 20 38 194 0.6 2.0 |
2001 | 20 31 219 1.4 0.5 | 21 35 210 0.8 2.2 |
2002 | 22 35 262 2.1 0.8 | 22 41 254 1.3 1.8 |
2003 | 21 32 262 1.8 0.5 | 20 36 231 0.9 1.7 |
2004 | 19 29 241 2.2 0.4 | 23 37 265 1.4 1.7 |
2005 | 15 25 194 1.6 0.5 | 20 37 234 0.7 1.5 |
2006 | 21 36 234 1.2 1.2 | 18 33 218 1.0 1.0 |

Note that, mostly because of the last two Patriots games, 2006 is an anomaly: (pending the Super Bowl) it's the most passes ever attempted by the winning playoff teams, and it's the first time the winning QBs have attempted more passes on average than the losing QBs. Also, it's the worst touchdown-to-interception rate since at least 1972 for winners and the best for losers.

A strange (almost) ending to a strange year.

23 Comments | Posted in General, History

Playoff trivia

Posted by Doug on January 19, 2007

This will be the second postseason meeting between the Saints and Bears; the first was a 1990 wildcard matchup won by the Bears. It will be the third meeting between the Colts and Patriots in the postseason; you're probably familar with the first two. Inspired by this post, I decided to see which franchises have matched up with each other most often the playoffs.

There are two pairs of franchises that have met 8 times in the playoffs. Who are they? There are five more who have met 7 times. Who are they?

I'll post answers sometime tomorrow or Sunday morning.

[Fine print: my database is complete back to the beginning of the NFL on playoff game scores, but there is some confusion (to me) about which games are officially counted as postseason games. The main issue is the third-place game that they used to play back in the day. I am counting those, although I'm fairly sure that failing to do so would only change one of the seven pairs above.]

Answers: Eight meetings: Giants/Bears and Cowboys/Rams. Seven meetings: Vikings/Rams, Giants/49ers, Bears/Redskins, Cowboys/49ers, Cowboys/Vikings (that counts one third-place game).

12 Comments | Posted in General, History

0 for 3

Posted by Doug on January 19, 2007

The quarterback Petyon Manning is most often compared to is Dan Marino. This Sunday, Manning is hoping to avoid joining a club whose membership includes Marino and another future Hall of Famer: Brett Favre. Oh yeah, Bernie Kosar too.

Marino's, Favre's, and Kosar's teams all lost three playoff games to the same team led by the same quarterback. Favre's Packers lost three times in four years to a Cowboy team led by Troy Aikman (a quarterback who is often compared to Tom Brady). Marino's Dolphins lost to Jim Kelly and the Bills three times between 1990 and 1995. Kosar's Browns lost three championship games in four years against John Elway-quarterbacked Denver teams.

My individual playoff game database only goes back to 1975, so this is an incomplete list, but here is a list of pairs of quarterbacks who have faced each other more than once (since 1975) in the playoffs. In each case, the quarterbacks are listed alphabetically and the games are listed home-team-last.


Jim Kelly vs Dan Marino (3)
1990 d: mia 34, buf 44
1992 c: buf 29, mia 10
1995 w: mia 22, buf 37

Brett Favre vs Steve Young (3)
1995 d: gnb 27, sfo 17
1997 c: gnb 23, sfo 10
1998 w: gnb 27, sfo 30

John Elway vs Bernie Kosar (3)
1986 c: den 23, cle 20
1987 c: cle 33, den 38
1989 c: cle 21, den 37

Troy Aikman vs Brett Favre (3)
1993 d: gnb 17, dal 27
1994 d: gnb 9, dal 35
1995 c: gnb 27, dal 38

Troy Aikman vs Steve Young (3)
1992 c: dal 30, sfo 20
1993 c: sfo 21, dal 38
1994 c: dal 28, sfo 38

Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning (2)
2003 c: ind 14, nwe 24
2004 d: ind 3, nwe 20

Joe Montana vs Phil Simms (2)
1984 d: nyg 10, sfo 21
1985 w: sfo 3, nyg 17

Peyton Manning vs Jake Plummer (2)
2003 w: den 10, ind 41
2004 w: den 24, ind 49

Drew Bledsoe vs Kordell Stewart (2)
1997 d: nwe 6, pit 7
2001 c: nwe 24, pit 17

Jeff Kemp vs Phil Simms (2)
1984 w: nyg 16, ram 13
1986 d: sfo 3, nyg 49

Donovan McNabb vs Michael Vick (2)
2002 d: atl 6, phi 20
2004 c: atl 10, phi 27

Terry Bradshaw vs Roger Staubach (2)
1975 s: pit 21, dal 17
1978 s: pit 35, dal 31

Jeff Hostetler vs Jim Kelly (2)
1990 s: nyg 20, buf 19
1993 d: rai 23, buf 29

Steve Bartkowski vs Danny White (2)
1978 d: atl 20, dal 27
1980 d: dal 30, atl 27

Dan Marino vs Joe Montana (2)
1984 s: sfo 38, mia 16
1994 w: kan 17, mia 27

John Elway vs Warren Moon (2)
1987 d: hou 10, den 34
1991 d: hou 24, den 26

Troy Aikman vs Randall Cunningham (2)
1992 d: phi 10, dal 34
1995 d: phi 11, dal 30

Peyton Manning vs Steve McNair (2)
1999 d: ten 19, ind 16
2006 d: ind 15, bal 6

Pat Haden vs Fran Tarkenton (2)
1976 c: ram 13, min 24
1978 d: min 10, ram 34

Terry Bradshaw vs Ken Stabler (2)
1975 c: oak 10, pit 16
1976 c: pit 7, oak 24

Danny White vs Doug Williams (2)
1981 d: tam 0, dal 38
1982 w: tam 17, dal 30

Pat Haden vs Roger Staubach (2)
1976 d: ram 14, dal 12
1978 c: dal 28, ram 0

Stan Humphries vs Dan Marino (2)
1992 d: sdg 0, mia 31
1994 d: mia 21, sdg 22

Trent Green vs Peyton Manning (2)
2003 d: ind 38, kan 31
2006 w: kan 8, ind 23

Dave Krieg vs Dan Marino (2)
1983 d: sea 27, mia 20
1984 d: sea 10, mia 31

Terry Bradshaw vs Dan Pastorini (2)
1978 c: hou 5, pit 34
1979 c: hou 13, pit 27

Jim McMahon vs Phil Simms (2)
1985 d: nyg 0, chi 21
1993 w: min 10, nyg 17

Brad Johnson vs Donovan McNabb (2)
2001 w: tam 9, phi 31
2002 c: tam 27, phi 10

Joe Montana vs Wade Wilson (2)
1987 d: min 36, sfo 24
1988 d: min 9, sfo 34

Vince Ferragamo vs Danny White (2)
1980 w: ram 13, dal 34
1983 w: ram 24, dal 17

Mark Brunell vs John Elway (2)
1996 d: jax 30, den 27
1997 w: jax 17, den 42

My coaching database is much more complete than the playoff game database, but isn't 100% complete. I may be missing some guys from pre-1950, but here is a list of all pairs of coaches who have faced each other three or more times. A quick scan reveals that the company Tony Dungy is hoping to avoid consists of George Allen (who lost three times to Bud Grant), Dick Nolan (who lost in three straight years to Tom Landry), Don Shula (0-3 against Marv Levy), Marty Schottenheimer (0-3 against Don Shula), and Chuck Knox (0-3 against Bud Grant). Is anyone else surprised that Chuck Noll and Don Shula only faced each other three times in the playoffs?


Bud Grant vs Tom Landry (5)
1968 p: dal 17, min 13
1971 d: dal 20, min 12
1973 c: min 27, dal 10
1975 d: dal 17, min 14
1977 c: min 6, dal 23

John Madden vs Chuck Noll (5)
1972 d: oak 7, pit 13
1973 d: pit 14, oak 33
1974 c: pit 24, oak 13
1975 c: oak 10, pit 16
1976 c: pit 7, oak 24

George Halas vs Steve Owen (4)
1933 c: nyg 21, chi 23
1934 c: nyg 30, chi 13
1941 c: nyg 9, chi 37
1946 c: chi 24, nyg 14

George Allen vs Bud Grant (3)
1969 d: ram 20, min 23
1973 d: was 20, min 27
1976 d: was 20, min 35

Tom Landry vs Dick Nolan (3)
1970 c: dal 17, sfo 10
1971 c: sfo 3, dal 14
1972 d: dal 30, sfo 28

John Madden vs Don Shula (3)
1970 d: mia 14, oak 21
1973 c: oak 10, mia 27
1974 d: mia 26, oak 28

Paul Brown vs Raymond Parker (3)
1952 c: det 17, cle 7
1953 c: cle 16, det 17
1954 c: det 10, cle 56

Tom Landry vs Ray Malavasi (3)
1978 c: dal 28, ram 0
1979 d: ram 21, dal 19
1980 w: ram 13, dal 34

Chuck Noll vs Don Shula (3)
1972 c: mia 21, pit 17
1979 d: mia 14, pit 34
1984 c: pit 28, mia 45

Bill Belichick vs Bill Cowher (3)
1994 d: cle 9, pit 29
2001 c: nwe 24, pit 17
2004 c: nwe 41, pit 27

Marv Levy vs Don Shula (3)
1990 d: mia 34, buf 44
1992 c: buf 29, mia 10
1995 w: mia 22, buf 37

Curly Lambeau vs Steve Owen (3)
1938 c: gnb 17, nyg 23
1939 c: nyg 0, gnb 27
1944 c: gnb 14, nyg 7

Bill Parcells vs Bill Walsh (3)
1984 d: nyg 10, sfo 21
1985 w: sfo 3, nyg 17
1986 d: sfo 3, nyg 49

Marty Schottenheimer vs Don Shula (3)
1985 d: cle 21, mia 24
1990 w: kan 16, mia 17
1994 w: kan 17, mia 27
Bud Grant vs Chuck Knox (3)
1974 c: ram 10, min 14
1976 c: ram 13, min 24
1977 d: min 14, ram 7

Blanton Collier vs Tom Landry (3)
1967 d: cle 14, dal 52
1968 d: dal 20, cle 31
1969 d: cle 38, dal 14

Mike Ditka vs Joe Gibbs (3)
1984 d: chi 23, was 19
1986 d: was 27, chi 13
1987 d: was 21, chi 17

Chuck Knox vs Tom Landry (3)
1973 d: ram 16, dal 27
1975 c: dal 37, ram 7
1976 d: ram 14, dal 12

5 Comments | Posted in General, History

The Colts’ defense

Posted by Doug on January 18, 2007

Is there any hope that the Colts can continue to play defense the way they have in the postseason (14 points allowed in two games) instead of the way they did during the regular season (an average of 22.5 points per game)?

Is there any precedent for this kind of defensive turnaround in the postseason? To investigate, I checked all playoff teams since 1978 who were below average defensively during the regular season (in terms of points allowed per game) and then won two playoff games on the strength of their defense. Here are the closest matches I could come up with:


================+===========+===========+===========+
TM YR PPG | Game 1 | Game 2 | Game 3 |
================+===========+===========+===========+
ram 1989 21.5 | phi 21- 7 | nyg 19-13 | sfo 3-30 |
hou 1979 20.7 | den 13- 7 | sdg 17-14 | pit 13-27 |
buf 1991 19.9 | kan 37-14 | den 10- 7 | was 24-37 |
cin 1988 20.6 | sea 21-13 | buf 21-10 | sfo 16-20 |
hou 1978 18.6 | mia 17- 9 | nwe 31-14 | pit 5-34 |
================+===========+===========+===========+

15 Comments | Posted in General

Data mining the championship games

Posted by Doug on January 17, 2007

Two weeks ago I whipped up a quick system to forecast the wildcard games. The forecasts I got matched up very closely with the Vegas lines. Last week I applied the same system to the divisional games and got what I thought at the time were less believable results. And they did in fact turn out to be less believable. The system differed significantly from the line on three of the four games and was wrong on all three.

Undeterred, I'll post the championship game projections here. Go back to the first link to remind yourself what these tables mean.


TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
==================================================
chi 3 0 -0.021 81 1 0
ind 2006 w kan 3 0 0.021 51 1 0 928 W 23- 8
ind 2005 d pit 3 0 -0.025 61 1 1 876 L 18-21
hou 1991 w nyj 3 0 0.071 114 1 0 875 W 17-10
atl 2004 d stl 3 0 -0.046 76 1 1 870 W 47-17
stl 2001 c phi 3 1 0.000 95 1 0 865 W 29-24
nyg 1993 w min 2 0 -0.050 96 1 0 856 W 17-10
ind 2003 w den 2 0 0.000 31 1 0 829 W 41-10
nwe 2006 w nyj 2 0 0.037 127 1 0 795 W 37-16
min 1992 w was 2 1 -0.025 80 1 0 795 L 7-24
chi 1990 w nor 3 -2 -0.021 69 1 0 787 W 16- 6
gnb 2002 w atl 3 1 -0.035 -18 1 0 786 L 7-27
sea 2005 d was 3 0 -0.104 115 1 1 782 W 20-10
dal 1994 d gnb 3 1 -0.033 71 1 1 777 W 35- 9
sea 2004 w stl 1 0 -0.042 71 1 0 769 L 20-27
phi 2001 w tam 2 1 -0.046 91 1 0 765 W 31- 9
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 73.9 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 24.4-15.1

TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
==================================================
ind 0 -2 0.004 -81 1 0
phi 1995 w det 0 -2 -0.042 -120 1 0 915 W 58-37
oak 2000 c bal 0 -2 -0.004 12 1 0 898 L 3-16
chi 1991 w dal 0 -2 -0.037 -2 1 0 879 L 13-17
mia 1992 d sdg 0 -2 0.008 -35 1 1 849 W 31- 0
sea 2003 w gnb 0 -2 -0.025 -58 0 0 848 L 27-33
sfo 1997 c gnb 0 -1 0.008 -30 1 0 844 L 10-23
cin 1990 w hou 0 -1 -0.046 -90 1 0 841 W 41-14
tam 1997 w det 1 -2 0.023 -37 1 0 837 W 20-10
sfo 2002 w nyg 0 -1 0.023 -25 1 0 825 W 39-38
sea 2006 w dal 0 0 -0.004 -81 1 0 791 W 21-20
mia 1998 w buf 0 -1 0.062 -11 1 0 771 W 24-17
cin 2005 w pit 0 0 -0.017 -60 1 0 758 L 17-31
car 2003 c phi -1 -2 -0.037 -66 0 0 743 W 14- 3
min 2000 c nyg -1 -2 0.042 -56 0 0 737 L 0-41
tam 2002 c phi 0 -1 0.015 -24 0 0 732 W 27-10
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 59.5 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 23.3-20.7

The algorithm views the Bears-Saints matchup as a pretty boring one: one team is significantly superior to the other. Most of the time, the superior team wins. Not much to see here. Of course, nobody seems to think the Bears are actually superior to anyone, but the reasons for that --- primarily freakishly inconsistent QB play --- are hard to quantify and build into an algorithm like this one.

The AFC game is an interesting case because the Colts only appear to have one advantage: home field. All the other indicators point to the Patriots being the better team. Given the almost nonexistent home field advantage we've seen in the playoffs when two teams with equal records meet, I was a little surprised to see the algorithm pick the Colts.

3 Comments | Posted in General

Patriots Rant: The Second Half

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 16, 2007

Yesterday, I went on a big anti-Patriots rant. Today I'll conclude it, by looking at the Pats from 2003-2006. Once again, here's the official PFR Warning from Doug:

I’ve got a busy week ahead, so Chase will be taking over for some/most of the upcoming week.

Chase hates the Patriots.

Chase really, really hates the Patriots.

He has been ordered to use the “rant” categorization instead of trying to pretend like he’s doing honest analysis. P-f-r.com management — which also hates the Patriots, but only the normal amount — will not be held responsible for anything he might say.

While Doug and I enjoy providing logical and dispassionate analysis nearly every day, I think it's probably good to show that at heart we're both sports fans, and therefore capable of intense and maybe even irrational hate. Anyway, let's start off at the beginning of the 2003 season...

The Pats can't reach an agreement with Lawyer Milloy, and cut him right before the first game. A Boston Globe columnist writes that "Bill Belichick is pond scum again. Arrogant, megalomaniacal, duplicitous pond scum." The Pats then lose their opening game to the Bills 31-0, and Tom Jackson remarks that Bill Belichick has lost his team. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the Patriots would then win 23 of their next 24 games, and 35 of 38 games, and hoist two Lombardi trophies in the process.

So why did the Pats do that? Well because Tom Brady is the best QB ever! At least that's the response you get from Patriots fans, who routinely play up this "we're a great team, we're morally superior to everyone else" and just flat out don't recognize the boatloads of talent on the roster. That 2004 team in particular was stacked. And without a doubt, Belichick did an incredible job coaching the past these last few years.

But let's start with Brady, who I now hate much much more than Peyton Manning. Brady supporters always start their arguments with the number three (which hopefully stays that way forever), but then soon move to "1". As in Tom Brady led the league in TDs in 2002, so he could compile big time stats if he wanted to. While it's true that Brady led the league in TDs that year, it's also true that his 28 TDs were the second fewest to lead the league since the 1982 strike-shortened season. But every Brady conversation inevitably becomes a Brady v. Manning debate, and for the sake of my own sanity, I've been forced to become a big time Peyton Manning backer.

Let's go to the numbers. Obviously Manning just obliterates Brady in the totals (16,000 more yards, 128 more TDs), so let's look at the averages.

For his career, Brady has an 88.4 QB Rating, has averaged 6.37 adjusted yards per attempt, completed 61.9% of his passes, averaged 7.0 yards per attempt, and owns a 1.88 TD/INT ratio. Manning has a 94.4 QB Rating, has averaged 6.97 adjusted yards per attempt, completed 64.0 % of his passes, averaged 7.7 yards per attempt, and owns a 1.98 TD/INT ratio. That's not very close.

But some Brady supporters admit he wasn't that good in his first year, and think we should just compare the two when they started becoming stars. Over the last five years -- i.e., starting when Brady led the NFL in TDs -- how do Brady and Manning compare to their contemporaries?

Fourteen QBs have attempted 2,000 passes since 2002. Manning laps the field, averaging 7.58 AY/A, while the number two QB (Trent Green) averaged 7.07 AY/A. Marc Bulger's third, Matt Hasselbeck's fourth, and Tom Brady's fifth. Drew Brees and Steve McNair aren't far behind, either. Donovan McNabb (1,972 attempts) is right behind Trent Green, and Daunte Culpepper (1,895 attempts) is ahead of Brady as well. If you lower the limit even more, Ben Roethlisberger (1,032 attempts), Carson Palmer (1,461) and even Rich Gannon (907) pass Brady.

In other words, if we never watched a game of post-season play, we'd say that Peyton Manning is well ahead of everyone else, Trent Green and Dononvan McNabb are on the next level of passers (and of course McNabb's a better QB than a passer), and there's a big group with Bulger, Hasselbeck, Brady, Brees, McNair, Culpepper, Palmer, Gannon and Roethlisberger for the best QBs of this era.

But of course we do watch playoff football, where Tom Brady becomes...well, I'll let you decide. Brady's career playoff adjusted yards per attempt ratio? 6.23. Career playoff QB rating? 86.8. Average unadjusted yards per attempt? 6.60. Completion percentage? 60.6%. I won't make you scroll up....EVERY ONE OF THOSE NUMBERS ARE LOWER THAN HIS CAREER REGULAR SEASON AVERAGES. Brady doesn't turn from Drew Brees and Matt Hasselbeck into Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas in the post-season, he turns into a slightly less effective version of himself.

Yet Patriots fans think he will end his career as The Best QB of All Time. Which I find pretty interesting, considering you'd be hard pressed to point to a single great season Brady has had. Maybe you remember this summer, when I looked at the best QBs of all time in both a single season and for a career. Here are Brady's ranks:


Year Rank
2005 85th best of all time
2004 182nd best of all time
2003 231st best of all time
2001 480th best of all time

Not a very inspiring list, is it? You may notice that I left out Brady's 2002 season. That's because he averaged 5.68 adjusted yards per pass that year, which was below the league average. So in his one "record-breaking" season, Brady finished below the league average for QBs in the single most important statistic. That might have something to do with New England missing the playoffs that year.

So can Brady really be considered among the all-time greats when he his best years weren't even very good? Six Steve Young seasons rank above Brady's best year, as do five Peyton Manning years, four Roger Staubach years, three Joe Montana years (along with many others), and even a Ken O'Brien, Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington year!

Brady's got just one season among the top 180 of all time. Steve Young, Joe Montana, Dan Fouts and Roger Staubach all have seven in the top 180. Marino has six, and Ken Anderson, Fran Tarkenton, Trent Green and Peyton Manning all have five (I'd imagine Manning's 2006 season would also get there, but I haven't run the numbers for this year just yet). Really, Brady has little to go on other than his post-season success. For his career (pre-2006), Brady ranks as the 27th best regular season QB of all-time, mostly because he hasn't hurt himself with any bad years yet. But I think you'd be hard pressed to look at his numbers alone and call him anything more than a very good QB. (And his playoff numbers are worse than his regular season numbers).

Anyway, that felt much better. Let's go back in the timeline now. The Pats are obliterating everyone they face in 2003, and lead the league in points allowed that year. In particular, New England's incredible against the pass, leading the league in yards per attempt allowed, TDs allowed, and interceptions. Even this year's Ravens couldn't do that. So if you want to start giving credit for a 14-2 season, that's the first place you should look.

Now I was out of the country in January 2004, so I couldn't see the 2003 playoffs. New England beat Tennessee 17-14, after Brady led New England on a 13 yard drive to kick the eventual game winning field goal. That's not a 13 play drive, but a 13 yard drive. Patriots supporters would say "Brady did enough to win", but they needed a 46 yard kick from Vinatieri to win that game, hardly a gimme. Especially since The Most Clutch Playoff Kicker to Ever Miss Two Chip Shots in the Super Bowl had missed from 44 yards earlier. As it was, the kick from 46 just made it over the cross-bar. (Yes, I'm well aware this is Vinatieri's patented move these days, and I sure hope he can do it again this weekend.)

From what I've read, Drew Bennett dropped a 4th down catch in the game's final minute that could have given Tennessee a great chance to tie the game. Maybe Brady's aura made his hands go numb. Brady threw for 201 yards on 41 passes, so this certainly was not his finest day. But the defense won it for the Pats, as a Rodney Harrison INT set up their critical TD.

We move to the AFC Championship game, where the Colts fell the Pats, 24-14. This it the Ty Law game, where Law intercepted three Manning passes. The Pats D was the story of the day, with 4 sacks and 4 INTs and a fumble recovery. The Colts defense wasn't very good that year, but it did allow only one TD to the Pats. Brady played an alright game, but threw an INT at the Colts goal-line, which is inexcusable for any QB not named Brady. The Pats got a safety and five FGs, in part because Brady averaged just 5.46 AY/A. It's no secret who the hero of this game was. And because I didn't see the game, I won't comment on the Patriots' alleged mugging of the Colts receivers.

So Tom Brady's 5-0, after being incredibly lucky in the first three playoff games, and having an incredible defense in the last two. Now comes the Super Bowl, where even I'll admit Brady played an excellent game. He threw for 354 yards and 3 TDs, although to be fair that come on a whopping 48 attempts and he did throw an INT. It wasn't one of the top ten Super Bowl stat lines of all time by a QB, and it wasn't even the best by a QB that day. Jake Delhomme ate up The Genius' D by throwing for 323 yards on 15 fewer passes, and had 3 TDs and zero INTs.

Adam Vinatieri missed two FGs that day, from 31 and 36 yards out. If the Panthers get a 2 point conversion, that game probably goes to overtime. Certainly Brady deserves credit for the W, but I'm not going to gush over him about it.

In 2004, the Pats were good. Scary good. This is an all-time great team, for sure. And just so we don't forget, Brady had an absolutely miserable game on Monday Night Football against the Fins (maybe the national TV audience pressure got to him), including one of the worst INTs I've ever seen. But because it's Brady, we shrug that off. Unfortunately, that game's the only thing I've got on the Pats all year, outside of getting creamed by the Steelers in mid-season.

In the playoffs, the defense was the story again, holding the Colts to just three points. That might have been the best game plan I've ever seen by a coach, so big props to BB for that one. That Colts defense was absolutely terrible, though, and Brady only passed for 144 yards and 1 TD on 27 passes. The Colts were mauled by Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk (34 carries, 200 yards) but still didn't put many points on the board.

Brady played well in the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers, but the story was again the defense. The Pats had a defensive score and forced four turnovers, and completely overwhelmed Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Tom Terrific threw for 207 yards and two scores.

In the Super Bowl, Brady was again very good, throwing for 236 yards and two TDs. The defense forced four turnovers though, and completely shut down the Eagles running game (Brian Westbrook had 15 carries for 44 yards). A great win by the team, but the defense was again the silent hero.

After this year, the Pats suffered a lot of losses, and 2005 wasn't a great season by New England standards. Having to hear all the "Well now it's the playoffs" talk by Pats fans was pretty sickening, but fortunately there's a happy ending. The Pats blew out the Jaguars, who like they do seemingly every other week, decided not to show up. The Pats got an INT returned for a TD and allowed only 3 points, and the Patriots offense amazingly recovered all four of their fumbles.

And then in Denver last year, the Brady/Belichick magical joyride came to an end. Brady was picked off at the goal line again, but this time Champ Bailey ran it back for a TD. Brady threw two picks, and his team scored just thirteen points. Six net points in a road playoff game certainly isn't very awe inspiring.

This is getting long-winded, even for me. I'm gonna cut things short here and just add a few quick points.

The game Sunday was awful to watch, as the Chargers just gave the Pats the game. As a wise man in red once said, they let them off the hook. Tom Brady's luck never ceases to amaze me. On third down he gets hit, sacked and fumbles, and if it's any other QB it's returned for a TD. Instead his lineman recovers, the Chargers got an Unnecessary Roughness penalty, and New England has a first down. Brady throws an INT, it's returned and fumbled. These things just don't normally happen. Sure handed Eric Parker drops a ton of balls, and can't hold on to a punt. If Vincent Jackson learns how to drag his toe, the Pats lose. If Marty doesn't waste a timeout on the challenge, the Pats probably lose. If anyone on the Chargers can catch a ball, the Pats lose. Brady should have been picked off five or six times, but every single bounce broke the Pats way. It was like watching the 2001 AFC Championship Game all over again.

So now we get Colts-Pats, with the premiere QB of our time against the man people think is the premiere QB of our time. What do us Pats-haters/Colts-fans have to hang our hats on?

In 2001, the Pats swept the Colts in the regular season, winning two blowouts. In 2002, the teams didn't play. In 2003, the Colts lost to the Pats at home and then lost in the playoffs on the road. In 2004, the the Colts lost to the Pats on the road, and then lost to the Pats at home.

To recap, the Colts are now 0-6 against the Patriots, including three games in Indianapolis. The Colts stunk against NE in the regular season, and stunk against NE in the playoffs. There's no playoff curse at work here.

The Pats had a good amount of turnover since then. And guess what? In 2005, the Colts beat the Patriots in Foxboro. In 2006, the Colts beat the Patriots in Foxboro. The Colts have no reason to be afraid of playing New England in the RCA Dome.

If history holds, the team that won in the regular season would win in the playoffs. From 2001-2004, the Pats were always the better team, and that's why they won. In 2005, the Colts were clearly the better team, and they won. This year, I think the Colts were the better team at the time they played, although I think NE might have been the better team this year.

But there's little reason to think "Manning against the Patriots in the playoffs" scares the Colts at all, unless the Pats are bringing back Romeo Crennell, Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini, Joe Andruzzi, Deion Branch, David Givens, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Willie McGinest, David Patten and Adam Vinatieri. The true hero in all those old games was the defense, and hopefully this game being indoors will be the ticket Peyton Manning needs to get to the Super Bowl.

56 Comments | Posted in Intense hatred, Rant

Patriots Rant

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 15, 2007

Warning: You should check this post first.

Now that that's out of the way, I'm going to go on a Patriots rant. This might become a two day rant. I'll probably be jumping around from topic to topic incoherently. Artistic writing this will not be. Maybe Wednesday I'll try to explain why the Colts are going to beat the Patriots on Sunday (I hope). But for now, this is just a rant. This is what happens after watching another Patriots playoff win. I normally try and ground my posts in well thought out objective analysis (whether I succeed is another matter), but I'll mince no words here. I hate the Patriots. A lot. For a million reasons. It's incredibly frustrating watching them win in the playoffs, and this is my current form of therapy.

Let's get into it. I'm going to give a Green spin on all of this because I feel like it. If you're partial to the Patriots, you might as well stop reading here. I imagine this is what Yankees haters felt like in the late 90s, only those Yankees were actually really good teams.

January 1997: You may remember this one. The Patriots were headed to the Super Bowl (yes, the Patriots won games before Tom Brady arrived, shocking I know), but Bill Parcells was heavily rumored to be the next Jets head coach. Patriots fans rightly blame Parcells for not having putting 100% of his mind into the Super Bowl, because owner Robert Kraft never makes a mistake.

February 1997: The Jets have the first pick in the draft, and Kraft won't give up Parcells for anything less than that. So the Jets hired Parcells to be the team consultant (a position above head coach, and therefore Parcells could leave New England for that role without compensation) and hired Parcells' defensive coordinator in New England to be the Jets new head coach. Because Bill Belichick was getting upgraded from assistant to coach, viola, the Jets got their men and the only casualty was the spirit, and not the letter, of the league rule. The Jets opened acknowledged that Parcells would be the head coach the following season. I can't defend this action on many moral grounds here, so let's just move on.

Parcells then signed a six year deal as Consultant/Chief of Football Operations, including four of the years in the contract with him designated as head coach. Parcells said that "I will coach a minimum of four years and hopefully more. I wanted to make sure they knew I was here for the long haul." He coached three years and then retired, never to be heard from again.

The Patriots and Jets would finally broker a deal to let Parcells coach the Jets in 1997. New England received the Jets 3rd (Sedrick Shaw) and 4th (Damon Denson) round picks in 1997, a 2nd in 1998 (Rod Rutledge) and a 1st in 1999 (Andy Katzenmoyer). Suffice it to say, I don't think those picks worked out well for New England. They also traded a first and a third in 1998 for Curtis Martin, which became Robert Edwards and Chris Floyd.

The Patriots ended up signing former Jets HC Pete Carroll to be their new HC. Why didn't Kraft go after Belichick?

I had plans to talk to Bill Belichick about coaching. But Parcells's departure had created such a whirlwind, a storm, and I couldn't talk to his people. We were just left in such turmoil and uncertainty, and I knew that Parcells would be taking the staff with him. We thought it was better to start fresh.

Anyway, we'll move on past this, but one note must be addressed. Remember that number one pick in 1997? Well, it was supposed to be Peyton Manning. But he pulled a reverse Eli Manning, and chose to not go to New York, and instead return to Tennessee for his senior year. The Jets ended up trading the pick to the Rams, who drafted Orlando Pace. This led me to hating Manning more than anyone in the world right up until...well, just keep reading.

So why do I keep harping on all this stuff from 1997? Because in the contracts Belichick and Parcells signed, it called for Belichick to take over as head coach when Parcells stepped down. But after the 1999 season ended, the Patriots wanted Belichick to be their new HC. Parcells had one year left on his contract, but felt very loyal to the late Leon Hess, the Jets owner that had died several months before. Parcells did not want to let Belichick go now, coach the Jets for one more year and retire, and then leave the Jets without either Bill. So on January 3rd, 2000, Bill Parcells stepped down as head coach, and Belichick took over as Jets head coach.

So what did the classy (I'm with you Mr. Tomlinson) Belichick do? Said nothing, as the Jets set up a press conference to announce him to be their new head coach. And as he stepped to the podium...well I'll let the newspaper take it from here.

He returned to his office and scribbled out a resignation that he delivered to [Jets President Steve] Gutman five minutes before the news conference.

"Due to the various uncertainties surrounding my position as it relates to the team's new ownership," it started, "I have decided to resign as the HC of the N.Y. Jets."

Defensive line coach Romeo Crennell, what do you have to say?

"Bill walked past and said, 'I'm going to resign,' " Crennel said. "That was a shock."

Ok, but Bill, a handwritten resignation note? Are you serious? How can that be?

"I don't know how to use a computer."

Yes folks, the most intelligent person of all time can't turn on a computer.

But fine, who cares what these suits have to say anyway. What did Belichick say to the team?

"I thought it was weird that after Coach Parcells retired, that Coach Belichick didn't at least address the team," [Offensive Tackle Jason] Fabini said. "After Parcells said what he had to say and left the room, there was a lull of 10 or 15 seconds. We're waiting for Coach Belichick to come in and address us, and tell us something, which was sort of weird, you know. After a while, we just got up and left."

The next day, Fabini was in the trainer's room watching television and what he thought was going to be Belichick's first public comment as the new coach. Instead, Belichick resigned. "I called Jumbo," said Fabini, speaking of teammate Jumbo Elliott. "He didn't know what was going on. He thought I was lying to him. I said, 'John, have you turned on the TV at all?' "

Ok, that's just the players. They don't sign your contract, right Bill! What about the owner, the late Leon Hess?

Shortly after the AFC title-game loss (where Belichick's defense allowed 23 points in the second half), Belichick received a $ 1-million bonus from Hess to remain with the team, dismissing overtures from the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears, among others.

Oh. So a dying man's wish for you to remain the team + 10,000 Ben Franklins isn't worth much. Perfectly understandable. What about the thoughts of your mentor, Bill Parcells?

Belichick's excuse about things changing with the death of Mr. Leon Hess was weak. Mr. Hess had been dead for seven months. The potential buyers of the Jets were all told by Goldman, Sachs that Belichick, by contract, would automatically be the next coach as soon as I stepped down. I don't know how you can take a million dollars bonus to stay another year to become the head coach and then walk out on the job . . . He tried to tell me after 18 years of being with me, he felt I owed him that opportunity to coach New England if that is what he wanted to do. I wasn't going to do that."

So the Jets have a new owner for the first time since 1963, their head coach retired, their replacement head coached bolted town, and their star wide receiver was traded to the Tampa Bay Bucs. Things looked terrible for the Jets, but a draft with Chad Pennington, John Abraham, Shaun Ellis and Laveranues Coles would help keep the Jets afloat. The Jets had a winning record in 2000, and swept the Patriots and their new HC (nice defense Bill, allowing 2 fourth quarter TDs in a 20-19 loss, and allowing 34 points in the second meeting), and the Pats were 5-11. All was right in the world.

Then the new Jets HC became the old Jets HC, as Al Groh resigned after just one year. But the Jets hired Herm Edwards, who seemed pretty good, and was bringing in some smart assistants. Everything will be fine, I'm sure. In 2001, the Jets started off 1-0, the Pats started off 0-1, and the Jets were winning 10-3 in the Patriots home opener in week 2. The Jets were on track to win the division, and the Pats were on track to get the first pick in the draft. All is good. Let's just wrap up that final quarter...

Bledsoe was knocked out of the game by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 10-3 victory. Bledsoe, who has missed just 6 of 130 games in nine years in the N.F.L., was hurt on third-and-10 from his 19 with about five minutes left. He ran around right end for an 8-yard gain before being hit hard by Lewis in front of the Patriots' bench.

Bledsoe stayed on the ground for about two minutes. He returned for the next possession, but Tom Brady played the final series, with the Patriots needing to score a touchdown to tie or go ahead. Brady was 5 for 10 for 46 yards and led New England to the Jets' 29 before he threw four incompletions to end the game. Brady, who leapfrogged over the more experienced Damon Huard in training camp to be the No. 2 quarterback, will start Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

Hmm. Some guy named Brady against the Colts? That doesn't sound very good, does it? What's your prediction ?

COLTS (2-0) at PATRIOTS (0-2) Sunday, 1 p.m. Even with QB Drew Bledsoe, the Patsies would have had little chance here. With him out at least two weeks, their slogan becomes "Going Belly Up With Belichick." This one looks too easy. The Colts' offense has shredded the Jets and Bills, allowing a second-rate (at best) defense to slide by. The soft 'D' will catch up with Indy in January, but not this week. Bledsoe's sub, Tom Brady, wasn't even that good at Michigan, and his line and running game are poor. Although the Colts lost in Foxboro last year, a repeat would be stunning. Peyton Manning names the score. The pick: Colts.

Amazingly enough, Brady's whole career is a microcosm of his first game. The underdog Patriots beat the Colts, 44-13. And Brady gets the credit...while throwing 13/23, 168 yards and no scores.

I've documented why I hate Bill Belichick. I hate Tom Brady just as much, but for an entirely different reason. The best sports comparison is probably how Red Sox fans feel about Derek Jeter. Brady is put up on a pedastal like he's the greatest QB in the history of the world, and that he can do no wrong. This is what really, really bugs me. His supporters like to say Tom Terrific can never lose a big game, but when the Jets knocked the Pats out of the playoffs in December 2002, Patriots fans said it wasn't a playoff game so Brady is still immortal. Yes, once Brady knows it's a playoff game, he becomes superman and can't lose! Until the Broncos game last year. That was a bummer.

But still, 12-1 all time in the playoffs! This guy is incredible! And then he goes out and throws three INTs against the Chargers, and absolutely should have thrown at least five. The only people with worse hands in the stadium than the Chargers DBs were the Chargers WRs. How in the world does Brady get the credit for that win? I started seeing the signs already, people saying how Brady led them to that victory. The Chargers absolutely gave that game away, and yet Brady supporters will point to that 13-1 record as if Brady should be sainted.

It's the combination of Belichick/Brady/playoff smugness that Pats fans have that is incredibly frustrating. I told one of my Patriots fans friends how the Pats were very lucky to win that game and were outplayed. He agreed, but said the Pats kept their composure but the Chargers didn't, and in a close game the better coached team won. Sure, the Pats kept their composure...like when the ref didn't notice one of the Pats DBs (I think Ellis Hobbs) throw a punch after a play yesterday. These mythical reasons why the Pats win is infuriating. And to make matters worse, hearing any talking head discuss the Pats is sickening. Did you hear Jim Nantz in the booth? I couldn't tell if he had been replaced by Tom Brady's father at one point. And of course he quickly brushed off the Hobbs punch and went on to something else. We can't shatter the image of the Pats being holier than thou.

I hear Pats fans complain all week about Shawne "steroid" Merriman. Last time I checked, the Patriots punter was a known steroid user. But Pats fans like to sweep that under the rug and say "Bill Belichick would never put up with a showboat cheat like Merriman."

Anyway, let's get back to Brady.

In the 2001 regular season, Brady did pretty well, and very well for a second year player. Cool. He wasn't one of the top 10 QBs in the league, but no one thought he was. Then the playoffs came. And the tuck rule came.

I remember exactly where I was when I saw that play unfold. Up until that point, the Jets, Dolphins and Pats had long been battling for AFC East supremacy. All three teams had made the playoffs in recent years, and all three were usually in the region between good and great. I remember watching Charles Woodson celebrate the 4th down incompletion, wave his towel on the sidelines...and then see the call get overturned. And I remember getting a feeling that the Pats were going to win the SB because of this. I quickly brushed it off and said no way, this team just isn't that good. Then the clutchest playoff kicker to ever miss two chip shot FGs in a Super Bowl comes in and wins the game for the Pats. Ugh.

Somehow, Brady became the story line. He averaged 6.00 yards per attempt, and had 0 TDs and 1 INT in the game. That's not a good game. Yes, I know it was snowing, but let's not make a game with zero TDs and one interception (and another should be fumble) into a good game.

But whatever, there's a little undeserved Brady hype. No big deal. The Steelers should romp the Pats, right? Well let's just go to the game recap...

On fourth-and-6 from his own 13, Pittsburgh's Josh Miller punted the ball to the Patriots' 23 -- 64 yards after it skittered behind Brown. But Pittsburgh's Troy Edwards was called for illegal procedure for stepping out of bounds and coming back in. So the Steelers had to rekick.

Cowher said the officials lined up the ball on the wrong hashmark when they respotted it after the penalty. He said that was one reason Brown punted the ball down the middle. "In my mind that's inexcusable," Cowher said. Brown took the ball back down the middle in the other direction for a 55-yard touchdown return that made it 7-0 with 3:42 left in the first period.

OK, so the Patriots get a big break, what's new. Anything else crazy happen?

Early in the second half, the Steelers moved from their own 32 to the New England 16, where they lined up for a field goal. But Brandon Mitchell blocked it, Troy Brown picked up the ball at the 40 and ran 11 yards before lateraling to Antwan Harris, who took it 49 yards for the score that made it 21-3.

Ok, so two kick returns for TDs go a long way. How'd Brady do? He was 12/18 for 115 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT. Brady got hurt in the first half, and Drew Bledsoe came in and led the Pats to their only offensive TD and a FG, which means Brady wasn't responsible for any of the 24 points scored by the Pats that day.

Up comes the Super Bowl....that's where Brady becomes Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas, but better, right? Brady averaged 5.37 yards per attempt that day, in a largely nondescript performance. The Pats had an INT returned for a TD by Ty Law, and an INT returned for 30 yards that set up a FG. In the 4th quarter, with the Rams coming back from their three turnover day, Brady's Pats went 3 and out twice in the final ten minutes. Finally, New England got the ball back where Brady led "THE DRIVE". Right?

Starting on the Patriots' own 17-yard line with 1:21 remaining, Brady picked up a first down with an innocent 8-yard dump to J.R. Redmond for a first down. He hooked up with Redmond again two plays later for an 11-yard reception and another first down at the New England 41. [In between there was a five yard dump to Redmond].

Brady threw incomplete, then connected with Troy Brown over the middle, and Brown managed to turn up field and get out of bounds at the St. Louis 36 for a 23-yard gain. Now, with only 21 seconds left, Brady threw a short pass in the right flat to tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who fought his way to the Rams' 30-yard line. Brady calmly spiked the ball to stop the clock with seven seconds to play.

Where is the great play here? Was it "calmly" spiking the ball? Brady "led" a drive by dumping the ball off while the Rams played a prevent defense, and then his kicker hit a 48 yarder to win it. Pats fans watch that drive and noticed how poised Brady was, but there was of course nothing special about it.

Brady's final post-season numbers: 60/97, 572 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and he led his team to 13 points in four quarters against the Raiders, 0 points against the Steelers, and 10 points against the Rams. Never did a QB get praised more for doing less.

Then the Patriots hype started spinning out of control. The Patriots running out of the tunnel at midfield is "the coolest thing ever" for some reason, in the minds of Patriots fans. We even had to hear talk of how "wonderful" it was that a team named the Patriots won the Super Bowl following the 9/11 attacks. Patriots fans are incredibly defensive about this team and this title, and don't recognize how lucky New England was to win that Bowl.

As a follow up, the Pats missed the playoffs in 2002. The Jets made it, in large part because they beat the Patriots in Foxboro on national TV in week 16, which I thought was impossible. But we quickly learned that when the Patriots lose a game, it's never a big game.

Anyway, that's enough of a rant for now. More on Brady, Belichick and the rest of the Patriots talk tomorrow, if I'm still in a rantin' kind of mood.

46 Comments | Posted in Intense hatred, Rant

WARNING

Posted by Doug on January 14, 2007

I've got a busy week ahead, so Chase will be taking over for some/most of the upcoming week.

Chase hates the Patriots.

Chase really, really hates the Patriots.

He has been ordered to use the "rant" categorization instead of trying to pretend like he's doing honest analysis. P-f-r.com management --- which also hates the Patriots, but only the normal amount --- will not be held responsible for anything he might say.

5 Comments | Posted in Intense hatred

Lots of college stats added to p-f-r

Posted by Doug on January 12, 2007

All players who debuted in 2001 or later and went to a Division IA college now have their college stats right there on their p-f-r pages. Check out Roy Williams, for example. On his page, you'll now see his complete college numbers.

If you click on a "games played" number, it will take you to his game logs for that season, so you can see that Roy ended the 2002 season with five straight 100-yard games. If you click on the team, it will take you to the full stats for that team, so you can see what Major Applewhite's numbers looked like before Chris Simms took his job.

I'm not sure how far I'm going to go with this, but one thing I know I'm going to add soon is week-by-week game scores to the team pages. Getting complete college statistics pre-2000 is going to be very unlikely, but I will continue to work to add what I can to this section.

Please be aware that that this is all very beta, but here is a good starting point if you want to poke around.

Thanks to p-f-r user Erik from Tacoma, WA, who helped immensely with organizing this data.

1 Comment | Posted in College, P-F-R News

Data mining the divisional round

Posted by Doug on January 11, 2007

Last week I conconcted a rote algorithm for predicting playoff games based on comparing each matchup to historically similar playoff games. Now it's time to take a look at the divisional round.

The predictions are a bit surprising, with the algorithm projecting blowouts by the home team in three of the four games. I'll post the full lists of comparables below, but for now here are the predictions.


  • Chicago over Seattle by 17. Chicago has a 93% chance of winning.

  • San Diego over New England by 16. San Diego has an 87% chance of winning.

  • Baltimore over Indy by 12. Baltimore has a 72% chance of winning.

  • New Orleans over Philly by 3. New Orleans has a 60% chance.

Last week the algorithm was very close to the Vegas line on three of the four games. Not so this week. Personally, I generally agree with both NFC predictions, but I disagree with the algorithm on both AFC matchups. But a look at the history of divisional round matchups does explain why these predictions turned out like they did. Some simple queries about divisional round games since the 12-team format was introduced in 1990:


  • Home teams with a better record than their opponent are 49-9 in the divisional round. Home teams with a better record have outscored their opponents by an average of 12.4 points.

  • Home teams with a record one game better than their opponent (like Baltimore) are 16-5 with an average margin of 7.8 points.

  • Home teams with a record two games better than their opponent (like San Diego) are 12-1 with an average margin of 13.1 points.

  • Home teams with a record three or more games better than their opponent (like Chicago) are 21-3 with an average margin of 16 points.

Here are the full lists of comparables (to remind yourself what the column headers stand for, read last week's post):


TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
=======================================================
chi 4 1 -0.008 178 1 1
den 1998 d mia 4 1 -0.067 136 1 1 899 W 38- 3
sfo 1994 d chi 4 2 -0.017 245 1 1 824 W 44-15
den 2005 d nwe 3 1 0.004 96 1 1 805 W 27-13
kan 1995 d ind 4 0 0.033 102 1 1 782 L 7-10
dal 1994 d gnb 3 1 -0.033 71 1 1 767 W 35- 9
stl 1999 d min 3 1 -0.104 220 1 1 761 W 49-37
tam 2002 d sfo 2 1 -0.015 134 1 1 749 W 31- 6
pit 2001 d bal 3 1 -0.088 102 1 1 744 W 27-10
phi 2004 d min 5 2 -0.008 116 1 1 737 W 27-14
sfo 1997 d min 4 3 -0.033 115 1 1 711 W 38-22
stl 2001 c phi 3 1 0.000 95 1 0 709 W 29-24
dal 1993 d gnb 3 2 -0.013 89 1 1 706 W 27-17
phi 2002 d atl 3 2 -0.017 86 1 1 699 W 20- 6
oak 2002 d nyj 2 1 0.040 123 1 1 697 W 30-10
was 1991 d atl 4 -1 0.046 238 1 1 686 W 24- 7
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 93.1 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 30.4-13.4

TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
=======================================================
sdg 2 1 -0.034 41 1 1
atl 1998 d sfo 2 1 -0.050 2 1 1 945 W 20-18
tam 2002 d sfo 2 1 -0.015 134 1 1 887 W 31- 6
sea 2005 c car 2 1 -0.012 49 1 0 870 W 34-14
dal 1994 d gnb 3 1 -0.033 71 1 1 869 W 35- 9
nyg 1990 d chi 2 1 0.083 56 1 1 867 W 31- 3
nwe 1996 d pit 1 1 -0.013 18 1 1 855 W 28- 3
min 1992 w was 2 1 -0.025 80 1 0 852 L 7-24
stl 2001 d gnb 2 1 0.050 106 1 1 851 W 45-17
oak 2002 d nyj 2 1 0.040 123 1 1 844 W 30-10
det 1991 d dal 1 1 -0.062 12 1 1 842 W 38- 6
phi 2001 w tam 2 1 -0.046 91 1 0 838 W 31- 9
chi 2001 d phi 2 0 -0.013 0 1 1 837 L 19-33
pit 1995 c ind 2 1 0.008 65 1 0 833 W 20-16
nwe 2004 d ind 2 0 0.000 6 1 1 831 W 20- 3
oak 2000 d mia 1 1 -0.071 83 1 1 821 W 27- 0
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 86.8 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 27.7-11.4

TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
=======================================================
nor 0 -1 -0.016 21 1 1
oak 2001 w nyj 0 -1 -0.046 59 1 0 832 W 38-24
sfo 1997 c gnb 0 -1 0.008 -30 1 0 824 L 10-23
ind 1999 d ten 0 0 0.062 22 1 1 820 L 16-19
mia 1992 d sdg 0 -2 0.008 -35 1 1 819 W 31- 0
sfo 2002 w nyg 0 -1 0.023 -25 1 0 815 W 39-38
sfo 1993 d nyg -1 -1 -0.004 95 1 1 814 W 44- 3
gnb 1994 w det 0 -1 -0.046 80 1 0 811 W 16-12
ten 2000 d bal 1 -1 0.054 -13 1 1 795 L 10-24
mia 1998 w buf 0 -1 0.062 -11 1 0 789 W 24-17
sfo 1995 d gnb 0 0 0.013 109 1 1 783 L 17-27
chi 2005 d car 0 0 0.008 -74 1 1 780 L 21-29
oak 2000 c bal 0 -2 -0.004 12 1 0 779 L 3-16
sdg 1994 d mia 1 0 -0.029 13 1 1 778 W 22-21
ten 2002 d pit 1 0 -0.006 -2 1 1 767 W 34-31
buf 1992 w hou 1 -1 -0.037 4 1 0 761 W 41-38
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 60.0 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 24.4-21.3

TM YR R OPP W L6 SOS PD H B SIM Res
=======================================================
bal 1 2 -0.037 85 1 1
hou 1993 d kan 1 2 -0.058 93 1 1 970 L 20-28
stl 2003 d car 1 2 -0.008 98 1 1 958 L 23-29
pit 1995 d buf 1 2 0.004 65 1 1 938 W 40-21
nyg 2000 c min 1 2 -0.042 56 1 0 866 W 41- 0
oak 2000 d mia 1 1 -0.071 83 1 1 864 W 27- 0
sdg 1992 w kan 1 2 -0.029 28 1 0 835 W 17- 0
nyj 1998 d jax 1 3 0.029 96 1 1 822 W 34-24
den 1991 d hou 1 2 -0.067 -66 1 1 819 W 26-24
nwe 1996 d pit 1 1 -0.013 18 1 1 808 W 28- 3
pit 1994 d cle 1 2 0.017 -54 1 1 807 W 29- 9
phi 2003 c car 1 2 0.037 66 1 0 806 L 3-14
car 1996 d dal 2 2 -0.104 113 1 1 804 W 26-17
pit 1994 c sdg 1 2 -0.017 7 1 0 801 L 13-17
det 1991 d dal 1 1 -0.062 12 1 1 801 W 38- 6
phi 2002 d atl 3 2 -0.017 86 1 1 778 W 20- 6
WEIGHTED AVERAGE: 72.1 pct chance of victory
PROJECTED SCORE: 25.8-13.5

7 Comments | Posted in General

Rex Grossman

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 10, 2007

You may remember this blog post, where I looked at some of the worst QBs in NFL history. I used "Adjusted Yards per Attempt" as the sole statistic to rank the quarterbacks. Of course, no one metric could ever fully capture the value of a player, especially a QB. But there are some circumstances where we need to rely on one stat to analyze the data, and I believe adjusted yards per attempt is the best one to use for examining passers.

For those unfamiliar, Adjusted Yards per Attempt is calculated by taking a QB's total passing yards, adding 10 yards for every TD thrown, subtracting 45 yards for every INT thrown, and dividing by total attempts.

Rex Grossman averaged 5.26 AY/A this year, which isn't terrible, but isn't very good, either. The NFL average was 5.81, so Grossman was a below-average passer this year. But that's not what's incredibly interesting to me, about his season. Three times this season, Grossman had AY/A ratings of over 9.50, and three times this year he had AY/A in the negatives. That's pretty odd: only eleven times this season did any QB have a negative AY/A in a game (min: 10 attempts). No QB reached that level of futility twice, but Grossman did it three times, and had the two worst averages in 2006.


tm wk opp att yd td int ay/a
C Simms tam 1 rav 29 133 0 3 -0.07
J Losman buf 5 chi 27 115 1 3 -0.37
R Grossman chi 6 crd 37 144 0 4 -0.97
K Collins oti 2 sdg 19 57 0 2 -1.74
D Carr htx 15 nwe 28 127 0 4 -1.89
D Anderson cle 16 tam 27 123 0 4 -2.11
C Pennington nyj 5 jax 17 71 0 3 -3.76
B Johnson min 13 chi 26 73 0 4 -4.12
J Harrington mia 15 buf 17 20 0 2 -4.12
R Grossman chi 13 min 19 34 0 3 -5.32
R Grossman chi 17 gnb 12 33 0 3 -8.50

But there's another side to Rex, of course. Only seven quarterbacks had three or more games with an AY/A of 9.50 or greater: Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb did it four times each; Philip Rivers, Damon Huard, Drew Brees...and Rex Grossman hit that mark three times. None of those six ever had a negative AY/A, while Grossman did it three times. So is Rex the ultimate two-faced QB?

We can find out by taking the standard deviation of each QB's AY/A in every game, relative to his average AY/A for the season. (Comparing it to his average AY/A, rather than the league average, gives us a better idea of how inconsistent the player is.) So where does Rex rank?

Twenty-two QBs this year played in twelve games (or more) where they attempted 10 (or more) passes. The following list should help us figure out which QBs were the least and most consistent:


Player StDev
Rex Grossman 5.74
Ben Roethlisberger 4.09
Chad Pennington 3.63
Brad Johnson 3.17
Philip Rivers 3.11
J.P. Losman 3.06
Charlie Frye 2.93
David Carr 2.89
Michael Vick 2.86
Alex Smith 2.83
Matt Hasselbeck 2.69
Brett Favre 2.61
Vince Young 2.58
Drew Brees 2.57
Steve McNair 2.47
Marc Bulger 2.37
Eli Manning 2.24
Tom Brady 2.20
Carson Palmer 2.09
Peyton Manning 2.06
Jon Kitna 1.92
Jake Delhomme 1.79

Not surprisingly, Grossman tops the list, and by a wide margin. For those unfamiliar with standard deviation, what that 5.74 number means is that if Grossman's performances are normally distributed, we'd expect his AY/A in a given game to fall between -0.48 and 11.00 roughly 68% of the time. On the other hand, we'd expect Peyton Manning's AY/A in a given game to fall between 5.66 and 9.78 about 68% of the time. Obviously, Manning's performance in any given game is going to be much more predictable than Grossman's. Perhaps even more amazing is that nearly 1/3 of the time, we'd expect to see Grossman play absolutely out of his mind good (over 11.00 Y/A) or absolutely horribly bad (a negative AY/A).

So how inconsistent was Grossman? Not only is his 5.74 mark the worst this year, but it's the worse since 1995 (which is as far back as the PFR games database goes). Here are the most inconsistent QBs that threw at least ten passes in at least twelve games:


Name Year G StDev
Ben Roethlisberger 2005 12 5.34
Chris Chandler 2001 14 4.84
Jon Kitna 2000 14 4.50
Tony Banks 1996 13 4.30
Chris Chandler 1995 13 4.09
Jay Fiedler 2003 12 3.98
Dave Brown 1996 15 3.90
Jeff Garcia 2003 13 3.85
Drew Bledsoe 1999 16 3.77
Aaron Brooks 2001 16 3.76
Kurt Warner 2001 16 3.71
Chris Miller 1995 13 3.62
Steve McNair 2001 15 3.61
Drew Bledsoe 2003 16 3.55
Kurt Warner 1999 16 3.53
Kordell Stewart 2001 16 3.53
Stan Humphries 1996 12 3.51
Jim Kelly 1996 13 3.50

So there you have it; Rex Grossman has been the most inconsistent quarterback in the last 12 years of NFL football. The good news for Bears fans? The second most inconsistent QB won the Super Bowl just last year. But remember, Roethlisberger led the league in AY/A in 2005, so you'd expect a bit more variation in his game totals. The higher the number is, the larger you'd expect the standard deviation to be. For Grossman's StDev to be greater than his adjusted yards per pass is mind-boggling. We don't have game data going back much farther, but I'd be surprised if there's ever been a QB as inconsistent as Rex Grossman was in 2006.

11 Comments | Posted in General

p-f-r downloadable database updated with 2006 stats

Posted by Doug on January 9, 2007

As you may know, this site makes much of its raw data available for your downloading pleasure. I proofed all the 2006 data and have now posted it in the data area.

And don't forget: if you find the data (or anything else at the site) worthwhile, consider sponsoring a page or two. It's a fun way to support the site.

1 Comment | Posted in P-F-R News

Why there is no college football playoff

Posted by Doug on January 8, 2007

Disclaimer: I have a profound lack of understanding about the relationships between and the incentives of the various power brokers in this smoke-filled room. So anything I say in this post is possibly misinformed. The following is just my own attempt to make sense of things. Please chime in to correct any misstatements I make.

All that said, here is a very interesting article from Yahoo! Sports about why there is no college football playoff. It's a long article and, as you would expect, the situation is pretty complicated. But here is what I took from it.

The Big 10 commissioner, Jim Delany, is the key figure. He doesn't care about college football in general; he only cares about the Big 10, as well he should. But apparently, he's powerful enough to essentially veto any potential playoff system that doesn't benefit the Big 10 as much as the current system does. And, because Delany is such a good negotiator, the current system is pretty sweet for the Big 10.

So where does all his power come from? Here is a quote from the article:

Delany declared last year that the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl would abandon its BCS partners if they took even the slightest step toward a playoff.

My first reaction is: don't let the door hit you on the way out.

On second thought, though, it's not clear that the meta-conference consisting of the ACC, Big12, SEC, and Big East would win this power struggle. Under this scenario, there might be some sort of playoff involving everyone except the Big 10 and Pac 10. Then there would be a Rose Bowl pitting the Big 10 and Pac 10 champions, or possibly even a playoff among more than two of the top teams from those conferences. It might look an awful lot like 2003, when USC and Michigan played in the Rose and LSU and Oklahoma played in the official championship game.

Now, suppose you're FOX or ABC and you're negotiating the contract for the 4-team or 8-team non-Rose playoff. You may have the #1 and #2 teams in the country in your playoff, but you may not. And even if you do, there is a decent chance that one or both of them would get eliminated before the championship, leaving the Rose Bowl looking nearly as legitimate as your title tilt. This season, what if LSU and Louisville were playing in your championiship game while USC and Ohio State were playing in the Rose? Not good. And the more grave concern would be the kind of scenario that would have unfolded if USC hadn't lost to UCLA this year: the Rose Bowl gets #1 and #2, while numbers 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 play in your playoff. That's a disaster.

Of course, it's also a potential disaster for whoever owns the rights to the Rose Bowl, which makes this a risky strategy by Delany. Success is cyclical and virtually all of the Big 10's and Pac 10's BCS success is attributable to just two schools. During the first few years of the BCS, the 10s Big and Pac were no more relevant than the modern-day Big East.

It seems to me that the real heart of the matter is the Pac 10. While the Big 10, Pac 10, and Rose Bowl together make a formidable alliance, the Big 10 on its own is powerless. So the question is: once the current Rose Bowl agreement expires, what's in it for the Pac 10? What incentive do they have to hang with Delany while the other five conferences back a dumptruck full of money into their driveway?

Overall, though, the Yahoo! article reinforces what I've always thought: a playoff is coming. Slowly, but it's coming. The current system is better than what we had ten years ago, but not as good as what we'll have ten years from now. I wish those tens were twos, but I'll live.

10 Comments | Posted in BCS, College

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