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Archive for May, 2007

Another new professional football league

Posted by Doug on May 31, 2007

Last summer I bunged down some thoughts (here and here) on the All-American Football League, an exciting new league which will begin play in April of 2007.

Hey, wait a minute.

I guess that didn't quite happen, but their website is still alive and well, and is now advertising an April 2008 start.

Well now it's got some potential competition. These two articles indicate that a group of investors, including "well-known investment banker Bill Hambrecht and Google Inc. executive Tim Armstrong" as well as Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban, is planning on starting up a new league --- the United Football League --- which will begin play in August of 2008. They'll move into non-NFL markets like Los Angeles, Las Vegas, etc. and start with an eight-team league.

So that wraps up the factual part of the post. Now I'll start spouting off about things that I have no real idea about...

While the AAFL appears content to be a minor league with a niche, as arena football has been for a couple of decades now, it doesn't take much imagination to envision google and Cuban aiming higher. Given the relative popularity of the three major US sports and the salaries of the people who play them, it just seems obvious that NFL football players are generating more revenue than they are being paid. And that doesn't even count all the guys who are generating revenue for nothing in college. I can only assume that the investors are thinking, all we have to do is pay them what they're worth and they'll come play for us because it'll be a huge pay raise. It will obviously take patience, and they'll have to absorb some heavy losses for at least a few years (as the linked article indicates), but I'm sure they're prepared to do that. I think this has a chance.

I don't know what they're planning, but here's how I'd do it:

1. The obvious first move is to start poaching college players before they are eligible for the NFL draft. Rather than opening the floodgates, I'd institute a 2-years-out-of-high-school rule. In this way, they can get their hands on players who are already known to the public. Darren McFadden, Brian Brohm, and Steve Slaton would get you some attention. Yes, in the beginning you'd be used as a one-year minor league stopover by the top college sophomores. That's OK. Eventually, as the league gets stronger, some of them will decide to stick around.

2. Try to sign every player who is ticked off about having been tagged with the franchise designation.

3. Pay high-profile non-first-round NFL draft picks more money than the NFL will. This is apparently part of the UFL's strategy.

4. Run your season from October through February. Play on Friday nights (which the league apparently is planning on doing) during the main part of the season, but open it up during the holidays, sneak into Saturdays after college football ends, and even sneak into Sundays once the NFL playoffs go into no-games-before-4:00 mode (one of my personal pet peeves).

34 Comments | Posted in General

Inexperience at the skill positions

Posted by Doug on May 30, 2007

Check out the Minnesota Vikings likely skill-position starters for 2007:

Player           Career-to-date touches
=======================================
Tarvaris Jackson           96
Adrian Peterson             0
Troy Williamson            64
Bobby Wade                119
Jim Kleinsasser           154
=======================================
TOTAL                     433

To put it in perspective, last year's greenest team according to this metric --- total career touches by the top QB, top RB, two top RBs, and top TE --- was the San Francisco 49ers. Smith, Gore, Bryant, Battle, and Johnson had 766 touches going into last season. The next greenest was the Raiders with 847, followed by the Browns with 1165.

The Vikings could conceivably be as low as 200 if you call Shiancoe the tight end or if one of the rookies beats out Williamson or Wade. Even if you use Chester Taylor instead of Peterson as the running back and/or Bollinger at quarterback, it's probably going to be under 1300. Two questions:

1. How does this rank historically?

2. Is there any precedent of such a young team scoring points and/or winning games?

Second question first: not much. But optimistic Viking fans can point with hope toward the 2001 Seattle Seahawks, who added rookie receiver Koren Robinson to second-year players Shaun Alexander (who played very little as a rookie) and Darrell Jackson and first-year starter Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Christian Fauria was the tight end. This group had only 307 touches prior to that season, but the offense was competent and the team finished 9-7.

And then there is the 2001 Bears (Miller, Thomas, Booker, White, Baxter - 502) who surprised everyone by going 13-3. The 1984 Dolphins (Marino, Bennett, Clayton, Duper, Johnson - 555) went to the Super Bowl. The 1992 Steelers (O'Donnell, Foster, Graham, Stone, Cooper - 599) went 11-5.

But, as you would guess, those are rare exceptions. Here are the greenest teams since 1970. Mouse over for details:

1976 Seattle Seahawks - 9. Record: 2-12-0
Jim Zorn, Sherman Smith, Steve Largent, Sam McCullum, Ron Howard

1977 New York Giants - 22. Record: 5- 9-0
Joe Pisarcik, Bob Hammond, Jim Robinson, Johnny Perkins, Gary Shirk

1970 Pittsburgh Steelers - 49. Record: 5- 9-0
Terry Bradshaw, Preston Pearson, Dave Smith, Ron Shanklin, Dennis Hughes

1989 Detroit Lions - 53. Record: 7- 9-0
Bob Gagliano, Barry Sanders, Richard Johnson, Robert Clark,

2002 Houston Texans - 77. Record: 4-12-0
David Carr, Jonathan Wells, Corey Bradford, Jabar Gaffney, Billy Miller

1995 Jacksonville Jaguars - 90. Record: 4-12-0
Mark Brunell, James Stewart, Willie Jackson, Cedric Tillman, Pete Mitchell

1974 Chicago Bears - 137. Record: 4-10-0
Gary Huff, Ken Grandberry, Charlie Wade, Bo Rather, Jim Kelly

1996 St. Louis Rams - 144. Record: 6-10-0
Tony Banks, Lawrence Phillips, Isaac Bruce, Eddie Kennison, Ernie Conwell

1986 Buffalo Bills - 147. Record: 4-12-0
Jim Kelly, Robb Riddick, Andre Reed, Chris Burkett, Pete Metzelaars

1979 New York Giants - 165. Record: 6-10-0
Phil Simms, Billy Taylor, Earnest Gray, Johnny Perkins, Gary Shirk

1984 Houston Oilers - 204. Record: 3-13-0
Warren Moon, Larry Moriarty, Tim Smith, Mike Holston, Jamie Williams

1979 Kansas City Chiefs - 231. Record: 7- 9-0
Steve Fuller, Ted McKnight, JT Smith, Henry Marshall, Tony Samuels

1988 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 246. Record: 5-11-0
Vinny Testaverde, Lars Tate, Bruce Hill, Mark Carrier, Ron Hall

1978 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 249. Record: 5-11-0
Doug Williams, Ricky Bell, Morris Owens, Larry Mucker, Jimmie Giles

1982 Baltimore Colts - 281. Record: 0- 8-1
Mike Pagel, Randy McMillan, Matt Bouza, Ray Butler, Tim Sherwin

1988 Pittsburgh Steelers - 286. Record: 5-11-0
Bubby Brister, Merril Hoge, Louis Lipps, Charles Lockett, Preston Gothard

1988 Green Bay Packers - 288. Record: 4-12-0
Don Majkowski, Brent Fullwood, Sterling Sharpe, Perry Kemp, Ed West

2001 Seattle Seahawks - 307. Record: 9- 7-0
Matt Hasselbeck, Shaun Alexander, Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson, Christian Fauria

1978 Green Bay Packers - 309. Record: 8- 7-1
David Whitehurst, Terdell Middleton, James Lofton, Aundra Thompson, Rich McGeorge

1989 Dallas Cowboys - 315. Record: 1-15-0
Troy Aikman, Paul Palmer, Kelvin Martin, Michael Irvin, Steve Folsom

1978 New York Jets - 329. Record: 8- 8-0
Matt Robinson, Kevin Long, Wesley Walker, Derrick Gaffney, Jerome Barkum

1971 New England Patriots - 342. Record: 6- 8-0
Jim Plunkett, Carl Garrett, Randy Vataha, Hubie Bryant, Tom Beer

1981 Kansas City Chiefs - 352. Record: 9- 7-0
Bill Kenney, Joe Delaney, JT Smith, Henry Marshall, Al Dixon

1976 Chicago Bears - 375. Record: 7- 7-0
Bob Avellini, Walter Payton, James Scott, Brian Baschnagel, Greg Latta

1992 Seattle Seahawks - 381. Record: 2-14-0
Stan Gelbaugh, Chris Warren, Tommy Kane, Louis Clark, Ron Heller

1971 Green Bay Packers - 396. Record: 4- 8-2
Scott Hunter, John Brockington, Carroll Dale, John Spilis, Rich McGeorge

1972 Philadelphia Eagles - 427. Record: 2-11-1
John Reaves, Po James, Harold Jackson, Ben Hawkins, Kent Kramer

1970 Buffalo Bills - 427. Record: 3-10-1
Dennis Shaw, O.J. Simpson, Marlin Briscoe, Haven Moses, Austin Denney

1991 Phoenix Cardinals - 434. Record: 4-12-0
Stan Gelbaugh, Johnny Johnson, Ernie Jones, Ricky Proehl, Tim Jorden

1999 Chicago Bears - 438. Record: 6-10-0
Shane Matthews, Curtis Enis, Bobby Engram, Marcus Robinson, Ryan Wetnight

1988 Atlanta Falcons - 441. Record: 5-11-0
Chris Miller, John Settle, Floyd Dixon, Stacey Bailey, Ken Whisenhunt

1972 Baltimore Colts - 460. Record: 5- 9-0
Marty Domres, Don McCauley, Eddie Hinton, Cotton Speyrer, Tom Mitchell

1992 Green Bay Packers - 471. Record: 9- 7-0
Brett Favre, Vince Workman, Sterling Sharpe, Sanjay Beach, Jackie Harris

1978 Baltimore Colts - 487. Record: 5-11-0
Bill Troup, Joe Washington, Roger Carr, Glenn Doughty, Mack Alston

1984 Kansas City Chiefs - 498. Record: 8- 8-0
Todd Blackledge, Herman Heard, Henry Marshall, Carlos Carson, Willie Scott

6 Comments | Posted in General

I didn’t remember that he played for them

Posted by Doug on May 28, 2007

In browsing through the database, I constantly find myself looking at the career record of some all-time great and saying, "I forgot that he played for them." James Lofton played for the Rams? And the Eagles? Jim Taylor for the Saints? Todd Christensen for the Giants? In some cases, I knew it but had forgotten. In other cases, I don't think I ever knew.

Anyway, I've noticed that for some franchises, you can build whole teams of guys like this. So here is the game. For each franchise, build a team (1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE) of players who:

1. played for that franchise;

2. only had 15% or less of their career total yardage with that franchise.

Given these constraints, which franchise has the best team? I've run a database query to get most of the answers, but it doesn't pick up a couple of situations:

1. players who will be playing for a new team in 2007 (e.g. Randy Moss in New England)

2. players who were with a team for a brief period but never played a game for them (e.g. Steve Largent with the Oilers at the beginning of his career or Jerry Rice with the Broncos at the end of his).

Maybe this will make a fun trivia game for your Memorial Day cookout.

Check your answers here.

And when you get done with that, you can play the opposite game: find a team of players, each of whom played only for the given franchise. You might be surprised at a lot of them. The Raiders' QB, for instance.

Answers here.

12 Comments | Posted in General, History

Prestigious rosters redux

Posted by Doug on May 25, 2007

On Tuesday I cooked up a fun (well, I thought it was fun) list of teams that had an unusually large number of "prestigious" players, including also players who would go on to be have prestigious careers. That list was based on passing, rushing, and receiving statistics and so only included skill position players. But I realized that I could do the same thing for complete teams by using pro bowl appearances as a proxy for prestigiousness.

There is less variety in this list; the same teams appear over and over. The first 22 spots on the list, in fact, belong to four franchises. The Cowboys, Steelers, and 49ers you would probably guess, but the late 70s Rams might be a surprise. In some years, essentially half their roster either had been to a pro bowl or would later go to one.

Methodological note: I ignored all pro bowl appearances before 1970. Being one of the three best players at your position means something very different in a five-team conference than it does in a 14- or 16-team conference. Yeah, yeah, I know, they let more total players in these days, and this does shortchange the true greats whose careers straddled the merger, but tough. Don't like it? Make your own list.

Here's the list. Mouse over for details.

1977 Los Angeles Rams
Tom Mack, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, Isiah Robertson, Rich Saul, Dennis Harrah, Larry Brooks, Lawrence McCutcheon, Winston Hill, Nolan Cromwell, Harold Jackson, Charle Young, Monte Jackson, Rod Perry, Doug France, Jack Reynolds, Pat Thomas, Wendell Tyler, Jim Youngblood, Joe Namath, Pat Haden, Carl Ekern, Fred Dryer, Cody Jones, Ron Jessie

1994 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Steve Young, Tim McDonald, Rickey Jackson, Ricky Watters, Bart Oates, Richard Dent, Brent Jones, Bryant Young, Merton Hanks, Charles Mann, Dana Stubblefield, Ken Norton, John Taylor, Eric Davis, Jesse Sapolu, Tim Harris, Harris Barton, Ed McCaffrey, Steve Wallace, Lee Woodall, Elvis Grbac

1995 Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Nate Newton, Troy Aikman, Ray Donaldson, Charles Haley, Jay Novacek, Darren Woodson, Michael Irvin, Erik Williams, Brock Marion, Ron Stone, Leon Lett, Mark Tuinei, Daryl Johnston, Jim Schwantz, Wade Wilson, Bill Bates, Scott Case, Russell Maryland, Tony Tolbert

1976 Los Angeles Rams
Tom Mack, Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, Rich Saul, Dennis Harrah, Isiah Robertson, Merlin Olsen, Lawrence McCutcheon, Larry Brooks, Harold Jackson, Monte Jackson, Rod Perry, Jack Reynolds, Pat Thomas, Doug France, Pat Haden, Fred Dryer, Cody Jones, Ron Jessie, Carl Ekern, Jim Youngblood, Ron Jaworski, James Harris, Jim Bertelsen

1990 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Wesley Walls, Charles Haley, Fred Smerlas, Guy McIntyre, Roger Craig, Brent Jones, Michael Carter, Jesse Sapolu, John Taylor, Eric Wright, Bill Romanowski, Eric Davis, Harris Barton, Pierce Holt, Jim Burt, Steve Wallace, Keena Turner, Matt Millen, Dave Waymer

1987 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Guy McIntyre, Charles Haley, Brent Jones, Roger Craig, Russ Francis, Randy Cross, Joe Cribbs, Michael Carter, Dwight Clark, Eric Wright, Jesse Sapolu, John Taylor, Fred Quillan, Carlton Williamson, Steve Wallace, Harris Barton, Keith Fahnhorst, Keena Turner

1996 Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Ray Donaldson, Nate Newton, Troy Aikman, Charles Haley, Darren Woodson, Michael Irvin, Ray Childress, Erik Williams, Brock Marion, Leon Lett, Daryl Johnston, Herschel Walker, Mark Tuinei, Bill Bates, Jim Schwantz, Tony Tolbert, Wade Wilson

1978 Los Angeles Rams
Tom Mack, Jackie Slater, Jack Youngblood, Doug Smith, Dennis Harrah, Isiah Robertson, Rich Saul, Lawrence McCutcheon, Larry Brooks, Nolan Cromwell, Charle Young, Doug France, Pat Thomas, Jack Reynolds, Rod Perry, Wendell Tyler, Fred Dryer, Ron Jessie, Carl Ekern, Pat Haden, Jim Youngblood, Cody Jones

1975 Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Andy Russell, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Mike Wagner, Dwight White, Glen Edwards, Dave Brown, J.T. Thomas, Frank Lewis, Larry Brown

1974 Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Lambert, Mike Webster, Franco Harris, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Andy Russell, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Mike Wagner, Dwight White, Glen Edwards, Frank Lewis, J.T. Thomas, Ron Shanklin, Larry Brown

1976 Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Andy Russell, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Dwight White, Mike Wagner, Glen Edwards, Larry Brown, Frank Lewis, J.T. Thomas

1979 Los Angeles Rams
Jackie Slater, Jack Youngblood, Rich Saul, Doug Smith, Dennis Harrah, Kent Hill, Larry Brooks, Lawrence McCutcheon, Nolan Cromwell, Charle Young, Ken Ellis, Pat Thomas, Drew Hill, Doug France, Jack Reynolds, Rod Perry, Ron Jessie, Fred Dryer, Pat Haden, Wendell Tyler, Jim Youngblood

1994 Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Nate Newton, Charles Haley, Darren Woodson, Michael Irvin, Jay Novacek, Mark Stepnoski, Erik Williams, Brock Marion, Ron Stone, Leon Lett, Mark Tuinei, Daryl Johnston, Bill Bates, Russell Maryland, Tony Tolbert, Jim Schwantz

1992 Dallas Cowboys
Emmitt Smith, Nate Newton, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Mark Stepnoski, Jimmy Smith, Charles Haley, Jay Novacek, Darren Woodson, Erik Williams, Kevin Gogan, Daryl Johnston, Mark Tuinei, Leon Lett, Ken Norton, Bill Bates, Steve Beuerlein, Tony Tolbert, Russell Maryland, Thomas Everett

1989 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Wesley Walls, Charles Haley, Guy McIntyre, Roger Craig, Brent Jones, Michael Carter, Eric Wright, John Taylor, Bill Romanowski, Jesse Sapolu, Jim Burt, Steve Bono, Steve Wallace, Matt Millen, Harris Barton, Keena Turner, Pierce Holt

1997 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Chris Doleman, Steve Young, Tim McDonald, Terrell Owens, Kevin Greene, Merton Hanks, Bryant Young, Brent Jones, Dana Stubblefield, Kevin Gogan, Garrison Hearst, Ken Norton, Jesse Sapolu, Ray Brown, Lee Woodall, Jim Schwantz

1993 Dallas Cowboys
Emmitt Smith, Nate Newton, Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, Mark Stepnoski, Darren Woodson, Jay Novacek, Erik Williams, Kevin Gogan, Brock Marion, Leon Lett, Mark Tuinei, Daryl Johnston, Ken Norton, Russell Maryland, Bernie Kosar, Thomas Everett, Tony Tolbert, Bill Bates

1980 Los Angeles Rams
Jackie Slater, Jack Youngblood, Dennis Harrah, Rich Saul, Doug Smith, Kent Hill, Larry Brooks, Nolan Cromwell, Lydell Mitchell, Pat Thomas, Doug France, Jack Reynolds, Drew Hill, Rod Perry, LeRoy Irvin, Carl Ekern, Cody Jones, Jim Youngblood, Wendell Tyler, Fred Dryer, Pat Haden

1988 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Charles Haley, Guy McIntyre, Wes Chandler, Brent Jones, Roger Craig, Michael Carter, Randy Cross, Jesse Sapolu, Bill Romanowski, Eric Wright, John Taylor, Steve Wallace, Keena Turner, Pierce Holt, Harris Barton

1977 Pittsburgh Steelers
Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Terry Bradshaw, Glen Edwards, Dwight White, Mike Wagner, J.T. Thomas, Larry Brown, Robin Cole, Frank Lewis

1984 San Francisco 49ers
Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Guy McIntyre, Gary Johnson, Fred Dean, Dwight Hicks, Roger Craig, Michael Carter, Russ Francis, Louie Kelcher, Randy Cross, Jesse Sapolu, Fred Quillan, Carlton Williamson, Dwight Clark, Jack Reynolds, Eric Wright, Keith Fahnhorst, Keena Turner, Wendell Tyler

1975 Los Angeles Rams
Tom Mack, Jack Youngblood, Dennis Harrah, Merlin Olsen, Rich Saul, Isiah Robertson, Lawrence McCutcheon, Larry Brooks, Harold Jackson, Monte Jackson, Jack Reynolds, Rod Perry, Doug France, Jim Bertelsen, James Harris, Ron Jessie, Ron Jaworski, Charlie Cowan, Fred Dryer, Cody Jones, Jim Youngblood

1989 Buffalo Bills
Bruce Smith, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Steve Tasker, Thurman Thomas, Cornelius Bennett, Fred Smerlas, Jim Kelly, Art Still, Will Wolford, Shane Conlan, Kent Hull, Jim Ritcher, Nate Odomes, Darryl Talley, Howard Ballard, Ronnie Harmon

1978 Oakland Raiders
Art Shell, Ted Hendricks, Gene Upshaw, Dave Casper, Lester Hayes, Phil Villapiano, Ken Stabler, Raymond Chester, Cliff Branch, Willie Brown, Fred Biletnikoff, Jack Tatum, Henry Lawrence, Monte Jackson, Rod Martin, Mark VanEeghen, Otis Sistrunk, Dave Dalby

1981 Los Angeles Rams
Jack Youngblood, Jackie Slater, Doug Smith, Dennis Harrah, Rich Saul, Larry Brooks, Kent Hill, Nolan Cromwell, Rod Perry, Pat Thomas, LeRoy Irvin, Doug France, Drew Hill, Cody Jones, Pat Haden, Jim Youngblood, Dan Pastorini, Henry Childs, Wendell Tyler, Fred Dryer, Jim Collins, Carl Ekern

1984 Los Angeles Raiders
Mike Haynes, Howie Long, Marcus Allen, Dave Casper, Brad VanPelt, Todd Christensen, Lester Hayes, Greg Pruitt, Cliff Branch, Don Mosebar, Vann McElroy, Greg Townsend, Henry Lawrence, Rod Martin, Lyle Alzado, Sean Jones, Kenny King, Matt Millen, Dave Dalby

1980 Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Webster, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, Tunch Ilkin, Dwight White, Mike Wagner, Larry Brown, J.T. Thomas, Robin Cole

1997 Dallas Cowboys
Larry Allen, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Nate Newton, Darren Woodson, Michael Irvin, Anthony Miller, Erik Williams, Brock Marion, Leon Lett, Daryl Johnston, Herschel Walker, Mark Tuinei, Dexter Coakley, Wade Wilson, Tony Tolbert, Bill Bates

1977 Dallas Cowboys
Randy White, Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Rayfield Wright, Mel Renfro, Tony Dorsett, Harvey Martin, Pat Donovan, Herbert Scott, Ed Jones, Tony Hill, Bob Breunig, Drew Pearson, Billy Joe Dupree, Charlie Waters, Thomas Henderson, Danny White

1990 Minnesota Vikings
Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter, Chris Doleman, Gary Zimmerman, John Randle, Joey Browner, Steve Jordan, Rich Gannon, Carl Lee, Mike Merriweather, Anthony Carter, Scott Studwell, Keith Millard, Herschel Walker, Henry Thomas, Wade Wilson, Audray McMillian

1979 Dallas Cowboys
Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Pat Donovan, Harvey Martin, John Dutton, Charlie Waters, Doug Cosbie, Drew Pearson, Bob Breunig, Herbert Scott, Tony Hill, Billy Joe Dupree, Thomas Henderson, Danny White

1992 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Steve Young, Guy McIntyre, Ricky Watters, Brent Jones, Merton Hanks, Ted Washington, Michael Carter, Jacob Green, Roy Foster, Jesse Sapolu, John Taylor, Bill Romanowski, Eric Davis, Tim Harris, Steve Bono, Harris Barton, Pierce Holt, Steve Wallace

1991 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Guy McIntyre, Wesley Walls, Charles Haley, Brent Jones, Merton Hanks, Ted Washington, Michael Carter, Jesse Sapolu, John Taylor, Bill Romanowski, Roy Foster, Eric Davis, Harris Barton, Jim Burt, Steve Bono, Dave Waymer, Steve Wallace, Tim Harris, Pierce Holt

1985 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Guy McIntyre, Gary Johnson, Dwight Hicks, Roger Craig, Fred Dean, Michael Carter, Russ Francis, Randy Cross, Carlton Williamson, Fred Quillan, Eric Wright, Dwight Clark, Keena Turner, Wendell Tyler, Keith Fahnhorst

1979 Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, John Stallworth, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Dwight White, Mike Wagner, Larry Brown, Robin Cole, J.T. Thomas

1977 Oakland Raiders
Ted Hendricks, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Lester Hayes, Dave Casper, Fred Biletnikoff, Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch, Phil Villapiano, Willie Brown, Ted Kwalick, Jack Tatum, Rod Martin, Henry Lawrence, Otis Sistrunk, Dave Dalby, Mark VanEeghen

1993 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Tim McDonald, Wesley Walls, Ricky Watters, Guy McIntyre, Merton Hanks, Brent Jones, Ted Washington, Dana Stubblefield, John Taylor, Roy Foster, Bill Romanowski, Jesse Sapolu, Eric Davis, Steve Bono, Harris Barton, Steve Wallace

1991 Minnesota Vikings
Randall McDaniel, Cris Carter, Chris Doleman, John Randle, Gary Zimmerman, Steve Jordan, Joey Browner, Rich Gannon, Carl Lee, Mike Merriweather, Anthony Carter, Henry Thomas, Herschel Walker, Todd Scott, Audray McMillian, Terry Allen, Wade Wilson

1976 Dallas Cowboys
Randy White, Roger Staubach, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris, Pat Donovan, Harvey Martin, Mel Renfro, Herbert Scott, Bob Breunig, Ed Jones, Charlie Waters, Billy Joe Dupree, Drew Pearson, Blaine Nye, Lee Roy Jordan, Thomas Henderson, Danny White

1975 Dallas Cowboys
Randy White, Roger Staubach, Cliff Harris, Rayfield Wright, Harvey Martin, Pat Donovan, Mel Renfro, Ed Jones, Billy Joe Dupree, Charlie Waters, Herbert Scott, Bob Breunig, Drew Pearson, Blaine Nye, Lee Roy Jordan, Jean Fugett, Thomas Henderson

1978 Dallas Cowboys
Randy White, Rayfield Wright, Cliff Harris, Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Harvey Martin, Pat Donovan, Bob Breunig, Herbert Scott, Charlie Waters, Ed Jones, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Billy Joe Dupree, Danny White, Thomas Henderson, Jackie Smith

1997 Denver Broncos
John Elway, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe, Gary Zimmerman, Michael Dean Perry, Neil Smith, Tom Nalen, Trevor Pryce, Rod Smith, Terrell Davis, Bill Romanowski, Tyrone Braxton, Detron Smith, Tory James, Byron Chamberlain, Mark Schlereth, Ed McCaffrey, Tony Jones, Alfred Williams

1981 Pittsburgh Steelers
Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Mike Webster, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Tunch Ilkin, J.T. Thomas, Robin Cole, Larry Brown, David Little

1986 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Charles Haley, Guy McIntyre, Roger Craig, Russ Francis, Michael Carter, Randy Cross, Joe Cribbs, Dwight Clark, Eric Wright, Fred Quillan, Carlton Williamson, Keith Fahnhorst, Steve Wallace, Dennis Harrison, Keena Turner, Wendell Tyler

1979 Oakland Raiders
Ted Hendricks, Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Lester Hayes, Dave Casper, Todd Christensen, Ken Stabler, Cliff Branch, Phil Villapiano, Raymond Chester, Jack Tatum, Henry Lawrence, Rod Martin, Monte Jackson, Mark VanEeghen, Dave Dalby, Dave Pear

1988 Los Angeles Raiders
Tim Brown, Mike Haynes, Howie Long, James Lofton, Marcus Allen, Terry McDaniel, Todd Christensen, Don Mosebar, Jim Lachey, Brian Holloway, Vann McElroy, Greg Townsend, Rod Martin, Matt Millen, Bo Jackson, Jerry Robinson, Jay Schroeder, Steve Beuerlein

2 Comments | Posted in General, History

Keyshawn retires

Posted by Doug on May 24, 2007

I'm not convinced this is for real, but Keyshawn Johnson has decided that, at least for now, he'd rather work for ESPN than for the Tennessee Titans.

Whether he's actually going to retire or not, we've got nothing better to do right now than to examine Keyshawn's place in modern history. According to my current favorite wide receiver ranking system, which I describe in gruesome detail here, Keyshawn ranks 36th among all receivers whose careers started in 1970 or later. His score of 2932 can be roughly interpreted to mean that he was worth about 2932 yards more than a replacement level receiver during the course of his career.

Here's the list, I'll make a few observations afterward.

 1.  Jerry Rice           13629
 2. *Marvin Harrison       7750
 3.  Steve Largent         6996
 4. *Torry Holt            6045
 5.  Cris Carter           5901
 6.  James Lofton          5774
 7.  Tim Brown             5625
 8. *Randy Moss            5388
 9. *Isaac Bruce           5362
10.  Michael Irvin         5327
11. *Terrell Owens         5253
12.  Jimmy Smith           5126
13.  Sterling Sharpe       4913
14. *Rod Smith             4649
15.  Gary Clark            4544
16.  Art Monk              4441
17.  Henry Ellard          4400
18.  Herman Moore          4232
19.  Andre Reed            4159
20.  Mark Clayton          4148
21.  Wes Chandler          4135
22.  Harold Carmichael     3982
23.  Andre Rison           3878
24.  Cliff Branch          3819
25. *Chad Johnson          3818
26.  Drew Hill             3582
27.  Mike Quick            3450
28.  Roy Green             3441
29.  Dwight Clark          3401
30. *Joe Horn              3313
31.  Cris Collinsworth     3296
32.  John Stallworth       3254
33.  Anthony Miller        3052
34. *Keenan McCardell      3047
35. *Hines Ward            3021
36. *Keyshawn Johnson      2932
37.  Mark Duper            2926
38. *Eric Moulds           2922
39.  Irving Fryar          2875
40.  Drew Pearson          2859
41.  Stanley Morgan        2808
42. *Derrick Mason         2778
43.  Steve Watson          2679
44.  Tony Hill             2643
45.  Wesley Walker         2635
46.  Carlos Carson         2635
47.  Ernest Givins         2601
48. *Muhsin Muhammad       2582
49.  Eric Martin           2543
50.  John Jefferson        2543
51. *Joey Galloway         2513

* - active in 2006

At least theoretically, this system does account for the changing season lengths and the changing conditions of the game from 1970 to now, so it is not one of those lists (e.g. any list of career totals) where you have to mentally adjust the current players downward.

It does not account for team situation. So you do need to mentally tweak down the guys who played in high-powered passing offenses with great quarterbacks (and tweak up Joey Galloway, of course!)

Keyshawn was the best receiver on his team for the vast majority of his career, and that counts as a positive as far as I'm concerned. He is also reputed to be one of the best blockers in the league. All things considered, I'd say that my system slightly underrates him if anything. He's a couple of ticks below the guys with arguable Hall of Fame cases --- e.g. Andre Reed, Art Monk, Cliff Branch --- but he certainly has had a career to be proud of.

In terms of quality, that's where he stands. But I also think it's worthwhile to capture the flavor of his career by finding players who not only had similar totals to Keyshawn, but also distributed it similarly. For example, the system says that Keyshawn's career value was very close to Mark Duper's. But the shapes of their careers were very different. Duper had three seasons much better than Johnson's best, whereas Keyshawn had 10 productive seasons to Duper's seven.

To compile a list of guys whose careers look roughly similar to Johnson's, I started by lining up Keyshawn's seasons from best to worst, like this:

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86

Then I ordered everyone else's seasons from best to worst and compared the lines to each other. I simply totaled the absolute differences from each score, and then found the receivers that had the lowest total absolute difference. This should yield a list of players with profiles similar to Johnson: lots of productive seasons, but no truly outstanding ones.

According to this, Keyshawn is pretty comparable to guys like Tony Hill, Stanley Morgan, and Irving Fryar, which seems pretty reasonable to me. You can view him as a rich man's Ernest Givins or Eric Martin, or a poor man's John Stallworth or Andre Reed.

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Tony Hill             2643 |   456  384  363  290  255  232  104    8

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Ernest Givins         2601 |   421  367  359  329  303  231   33


Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Irving Fryar          2875 |   615  568  346  272  207  135  105

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Eric Martin           2543 |   493  487  325  261  229   84

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Ahmad Rashad          2111 |   490  373  276  246  162


Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Joey Galloway         2513 |   412  390  333  325  161  116

Keenan McCardell      3047 |   595  458  425  358  332  115   88
Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Sammy White           2239 |   489  329  278  241  189


Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Terry Glenn           1874 |   438  407  310  237   24

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Amani Toomer          2081 |   442  379  347  253   17

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Stanley Morgan        2808 |   393  382  278  264  200  150   72


John Stallworth       3254 |   513  491  350  342  266  261
Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86

Andre Reed            4159 |   768  565  439  364  340  302  232  145   80   77    8
Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Brian Blades          1788 |   441  337  299  254


Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Derrick Mason         2778 |   605  456  389  283  144   37

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Anthony Carter        2149 |   455  418  370  101   95

Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Pat Tilley            1686 |   376  277  226  181  149   88    5


Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86
Mel Gray              1891 |   544  387  186  184   13

Harold Carmichael     3982 |   637  606  426  348  293  184  168  130
Keyshawn Johnson      2932 |   492  418  334  277  222  207  202  149   86

6 Comments | Posted in General

Cardinals/Cubs (but this isn’t a baseball post)

Posted by Doug on May 23, 2007

I was watching the NFL Network's minicamp show about the Cardinals last week, and they mentioned that it was 105 degrees as the Cards worked out at their Tempe facility. As a former Tempe resident, I'm well acquainted with 105-degree May afternoons. For some reason, this is not very widely reported, but we Arizona denizens happen to know that the heat there is actually rather dry and thus doesn't quite feel so hot. Still, 105 is 105.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. Back before the lights were installed at Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs could generally be counted on to play much worse in the late part of the season than they had in the early part of the same season. I can't put my hands on a cite at the moment, but I recall that the evidence was pretty stout. It is simply a fact that the Cubs consistently played worse at the end of the year in those years. Sports-obsessed fifth graders certainly appreciated all those 1:35 starts in June, July, and August, but it isn't too surprising that they would eventually take a long term toll on the Cubs' players. It's not that they couldn't handle the heat on any given day --- in fact they probably had a slight advantage during those hot day games --- it's that they eventually got physically worn down during the long season and didn't have as much energy left in September.

Obviously, the Arizona Cardinals don't play 81 games per year in the blistering heat, and it's probably irrelevant that they actually play their games in a dome now. The fact is that they do live and work in the heat on a day-to-day basis. I don't know exactly how much they practice outdoors, but September and even October can be very hot in Phoenix, and maybe that takes a toll on the Cardinals.

Look at this remarkable split of all Cardinal games since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in 1978.

                   Early-season      Late-season
==================================================
in St. Louis      41- 70   0.371    20- 19   0.512
in Phoenix        83-146   0.362    22- 53   0.293

Late-season is defined to be any game in the last four weeks of the regular season.

That's a pretty striking set of splits, but there are reasons to believe that they don't support my theory as well as it might at first appear. First, the strangest number there isn't the poor late-season winning percentage by the Cardinals since they moved to the desert; it's the (relatively) great winning late-season win percentage they had in St. Louis, which probably doesn't have much to do with the weather.

Also, if the heat were really the culprit, we'd expect to see similar splits for other hot-weather teams. With the notable exception of Dallas and to a lesser extent New Orleans, the other hot-weather teams generally have had late-season records very similar to their early-season records:

                   Early-season      Late-season
==================================================
Dallas           197-144   0.578    55- 60   0.478
New Orleans      159-181   0.468    49- 67   0.422
Miami            202-137   0.596    68- 48   0.586
Tampa Bay        139-201   0.409    46- 69   0.400
Atlanta          147-194   0.431    49- 66   0.426
Houston Texans    18- 42   0.300     6- 14   0.300
Houston Oilers*   99-109   0.476    35- 37   0.486
Jacksonville      75- 69   0.521    27- 21   0.562

* - Tennessee stats not included.

One more interesting note: at least according to the difference between early-season and late-season winning percentages since 1978, the team that has the most history of wearing down late in the year is one that plays in another city with a unique characteristic which could potentially explain late-season fades:

                   Early-season      Late-season
==================================================
Denver           217-123   0.638    60- 55   0.522

I ran a few checks to see if that split was sensitive to the definition of "late-season" or if it was just that they had played more road games late in the season, or had for some random reason played stronger teams later in the year. But no, it's legit.

That doesn't mean it's not a fluke; it just means that it doesn't seem to be a scheduling fluke. The Broncos really have played worse, all things considered, late in the season than early in the year.

Does anyone know if the Nuggets and/or Rockies have historically shown a similar pattern?

12 Comments | Posted in General

Prestigious rosters

Posted by Doug on May 22, 2007

For some reason, I find it intriguing when two players who had good long careers end up on the same team, with one of them near the end of his career, and one at the start: Ricky Watters and Ahman Green on the 1998 Seahawks, Joe Horn and Andre Rison on the 1997 Chiefs, Walter Payton and Neal Anderson on the late 80s Bears, Tony Martin joining Marks Clayton and Duper on the early 90s Dolphins. Did you remember that James Lofton and Jerome Bettis were teammates? How about Art Monk and Ricky Watters? Me neither. In most cases, the two players weren't productive at the same time, but no matter. The point is that it's a lot of career production at the same place at the same time.

So I went hunting for the teams with most total (eventual) career production on the roster. Since I didn't want the list to consist simply of Jerry Rice's, Emmitt Smith's, and Dan Marino's teams, I decided to weight the production of the top producers less heavily and thus find the teams with the deepest stables of solid producers.

For example, look at the 1995 Broncos. They had six receivers who finished their careers with more than 5000 receiving yards: Vance Johnson, Anthony Miller, Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, Mike Pritchard, and Shannon Sharpe. The 1977 Redskins had four running backs --- John Riggins, Calvin Hill, Mike Thomas, and Jim Kiick --- with more than 6000 career yards from scrimmage each.

The 1982 Vikings had a whole lot of guys who were good players at one point in their careers: Tommy Kramer at quarterback, Tony Galbreath, Ted Brown, Darrin Nelson, Rickey Young at running back, Harold Jackson, Ahmad Rashad, and Sammy White at receiver, Steve Jordan at tight end. Not many Hall of Famers there, but that's nine skill position players who had more than 4000 yards in their careers. And that doesn't even count a respectable wide out in Leo Lewis and a tight end, Joe Senser, who had a 1000-yard season.

Before the 1983 season, the Vikings lost Harold Jackson and Ahmad Rashad, but picked up Archie Manning, Wade Wilson, and Dave Casper. This makes the 1983 Vikings, according to the arbitrary system I cooked up, the most prestigious skill-position roster in post-merger NFL history. Here are the top several, with players listed vaguely in order of prestigiousness. Mouse over the names for career totals.

1983 Minnesota Vikings
Archie Manning, Tommy Kramer, Tony Galbreath, Ted Brown, Darrin Nelson, Rickey Young, Wade Wilson, Sammy White, Steve Jordan, Dave Casper, Sam McCullum, Leo Lewis, Mike Jones, Steve Dils

1991 Minnesota Vikings
Cris Carter, Herschel Walker, Rich Gannon, Terry Allen, Anthony Carter, Darrin Nelson, Jake Reed, Wade Wilson, Steve Jordan, Hassan Jones, Alfred Anderson, Leo Lewis, Rick Fenney, Terry Obee

1987 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Joe Cribbs, Dwight Clark, John Taylor, Russ Francis, Brent Jones, Tom Rathman, Mike Wilson, Harry Sydney, Bob Gagliano, Ken Margerum

1974 Oakland Raiders
Ken Stabler, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Mark VanEeghen, Daryle Lamonica, Dave Casper, Marv Hubbard, Charlie Smith, Pete Banaszak, Clarence Davis, Frank Pitts, Mike Siani, Morris Bradshaw

1993 Miami Dolphins
Dan Marino, Irving Fryar, Steve Deberg, Tony Martin, Keith Byars, Terry Kirby, Scott Mitchell, Keith Jackson, O.J. McDuffie, Mark Ingram, Bernie Parmalee, Mark Higgs, Fred Banks, James Saxon

1983 San Diego Chargers
Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, James Brooks, Wes Chandler, Chuck Muncie, Kellen Winslow, Sherman Smith, Roger Carr, Earnest Jackson, John Cappelletti, Pete Holohan, Eric Sievers, Bobby Duckworth, Jim Jodat

1982 Minnesota Vikings
Harold Jackson, Tommy Kramer, Tony Galbreath, Ted Brown, Darrin Nelson, Rickey Young, Ahmad Rashad, Sammy White, Steve Jordan, Sam McCullum, Leo Lewis, Steve Dils, Joe Senser, Terry LeCount

1992 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Ricky Watters, John Taylor, Brent Jones, Tom Rathman, Amp Lee, Mike Sherrard, Steve Bono, Marc Logan, Jamie Williams, Dexter Carter, Odessa Turner

1997 Kansas City Chiefs
Marcus Allen, Rich Gannon, Andre Rison, Tony Gonzalez, Joe Horn, Brett Perriman, Elvis Grbac, Kimble Anders, Billy Joe Tolliver, Greg Hill, Tony Richardson, Donnell Bennett, Derrick Walker, Kevin Lockett

1998 Seattle Seahawks
Warren Moon, Ricky Watters, Ahman Green, Joey Galloway, Jon Kitna, Brian Blades, Mike Pritchard, James McKnight, Steve Broussard, John Friesz, Bobby Shaw, Christian Fauria, Mack Strong, Itula Mili

1995 Denver Broncos
John Elway, Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Anthony Miller, Terrell Davis, Ed McCaffrey, Vance Johnson, Mike Pritchard, Rod Bernstine, Hugh Millen, Aaron Craver, Glyn Milburn, Byron Chamberlain, Dwayne Carswell

1990 Washington Redskins
Art Monk, Earnest Byner, Gary Clark, Gerald Riggs, James Wilder, Ricky Sanders, Mark Rypien, Stan Humphries, Brian Mitchell, Kelvin Bryant, Don Warren, Walter Stanley, Jeff Rutledge, Reggie Dupard

1997 Washington Redskins
Henry Ellard, Terry Allen, Trent Green, Stephen Davis, Jeff Hostetler, Gus Frerotte, Michael Westbrook, Brian Mitchell, James Thrash, Alvin Harper, Leslie Shepherd, Albert Connell, Marc Logan, Jamie Asher

2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tim Brown, Charlie Garner, Brad Johnson, Joey Galloway, Michael Pittman, Mike Alstott, Brian Griese, Ken Dilger, Joe Jurevicius, Rickey Dudley, Jamel White, Dave Moore, Michael Clayton, Chris Simms

1990 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, John Taylor, Wesley Walls, Brent Jones, Tom Rathman, Mike Sherrard, Mike Wilson, Jamie Williams, Dexter Carter, Harry Sydney, Keith Henderson

1974 Los Angeles Rams
John Hadl, Harold Jackson, Ron Jaworski, Lawrence McCutcheon, Jack Snow, Les Josephson, Lance Rentzel, Cullen Bryant, John Cappelletti, Jim Bertelsen, James Harris, Tony Baker, Bob Klein, Pat Curran

1975 Oakland Raiders
Ken Stabler, George Blanda, Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch, Mark VanEeghen, Dave Casper, Marv Hubbard, Pete Banaszak, Clarence Davis, Jess Phillips, Mike Siani, Ted Kwalick, Morris Bradshaw, Louis Carter

1999 Minnesota Vikings
Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Daunte Culpepper, Jeff George, Robert Smith, Jake Reed, Leroy Hoard, Moe Williams, Andrew Glover, Jim Kleinsasser, Carlester Crumpler, Matthew Hatchette, Andrew Jordan

1984 San Diego Chargers
Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, Wes Chandler, Chuck Muncie, Pete Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Earnest Jackson, Wayne Morris, Pete Holohan, Lionel James, Eric Sievers, Buford McGee, Bobby Duckworth, Ed Luther

2000 Washington Redskins
Andre Reed, Irving Fryar, Brad Johnson, Stephen Davis, Jeff George, Larry Centers, Adrian Murrell, Michael Westbrook, James Thrash, Albert Connell, Stephen Alexander, Skip Hicks, Mike Sellers, Zeron Flemister

1989 San Francisco 49ers
Jerry Rice, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, John Taylor, Wesley Walls, Brent Jones, Tom Rathman, Steve Bono, Mike Wilson, Jamie Williams, Harry Sydney, Keith Henderson, Terry Greer

1978 Dallas Cowboys
Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Jackie Smith, Danny White, Preston Pearson, Robert Newhouse, Billy Joe Dupree, Butch Johnson, Golden Richards, Scott Laidlaw, Doug Dennison, Jay Saldi

1980 Houston Oilers
Earl Campbell, Ken Stabler, Ken Burrough, Rob Carpenter, Rich Caster, Dave Casper, Mike Renfro, Billy Johnson, Boobie Clark, Ronnie Coleman, Tim Smith, Mike Barber, Jeff Groth, Tim Wilson

1989 Buffalo Bills
Thurman Thomas, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Jim Kelly, Ronnie Harmon, Kenneth Davis, Chris Burkett, Larry Kinnebrew, Pete Metzelaars, Don Beebe, Frank Reich, Keith McKeller, Jamie Mueller, Steve Tasker

1972 Dallas Cowboys
Lance Alworth, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach, Calvin Hill, Bob Hayes, Mike Ditka, Robert Newhouse, Walt Garrison, Dan Reeves, Billy Truax, Jean Fugett, Ron Sellers, Billy Parks, Mike Montgomery

1987 Chicago Bears
Walter Payton, Jim Harbaugh, Neal Anderson, Jim McMahon, Willie Gault, Doug Flutie, Mike Tomczak, Matt Suhey, Dennis McKinnon, Emery Moorehead, Dennis Gentry, Ron Morris, Thomas Sanders, Calvin Thomas

1992 Cleveland Browns
James Brooks, Keenan McCardell, Bernie Kosar, Eric Metcalf, Kevin Mack, Leroy Hoard, Mike Tomczak, Michael Jackson, Mark Bavaro, Pete Holohan, Tommy Vardell, Brian Kinchen, Jamie Holland, Lawyer Tillman

1994 Minnesota Vikings
Warren Moon, Cris Carter, Terry Allen, Brad Johnson, Robert Smith, Jake Reed, Steve Jordan, Qadry Ismail, Amp Lee, Scottie Graham, Sean Salisbury, Charles Evans, Adrian Cooper, Eric Guliford

1994 Miami Dolphins
Dan Marino, Irving Fryar, Keith Byars, Bernie Kosar, Terry Kirby, Keith Jackson, O.J. McDuffie, Mark Ingram, Bernie Parmalee, Cleveland Gary, Mark Higgs, Aaron Craver, Irving Spikes, James Saxon

1992 New York Giants
Ottis Anderson, Phil Simms, Rodney Hampton, Ed McCaffrey, Jeff Hostetler, Chris Calloway, David Meggett, Dave Brown, Mark Ingram, Kent Graham, Lewis Tillman, Stephen Baker, Howard Cross, Aaron Pierce

1994 Cleveland Browns
Vinny Testaverde, Earnest Byner, Keenan McCardell, Mark Carrier, Eric Metcalf, Derrick Alexander, Leroy Hoard, Mark Rypien, Michael Jackson, Tommy Vardell, Brian Kinchen, Frank Hartley, Rico Smith, Walter Reeves

1995 Philadelphia Eagles
Randall Cunningham, Ricky Watters, Art Monk, Charlie Garner, Rodney Peete, Fred Barnett, Jay Fiedler, Kelvin Martin, Calvin Williams, Ed West, Kevin Turner, James Saxon, Chris Jones, Reggie Johnson

1982 St. Louis Cardinals
Ottis Anderson, Jim Hart, Roy Green, Neil Lomax, Pat Tilley, Mel Gray, Stump Mitchell, Earl Ferrell, Wayne Morris, Willard Harrell, Doug Marsh, Ricky Thompson, Dave Stief, Mike Shumann

2001 Oakland Raiders
Jerry Rice, Tim Brown, Rich Gannon, Charlie Garner, Rodney Peete, Terry Kirby, Tyrone Wheatley, James Jett, Jerry Porter, Zack Crockett, David Dunn, Jon Ritchie, Randy Jordan, Bobby Hoying

1979 Dallas Cowboys
Tony Dorsett, Roger Staubach, Tony Hill, Drew Pearson, Danny White, Preston Pearson, Robert Newhouse, Ron Springs, Doug Cosbie, Billy Joe Dupree, Butch Johnson, Scott Laidlaw, Jay Saldi, Larry Brinson

1998 Minnesota Vikings
Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Brad Johnson, Robert Smith, Jake Reed, Leroy Hoard, Jay Fiedler, Moe Williams, Andrew Glover, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Charles Evans, Matthew Hatchette, David Palmer

1997 Seattle Seahawks
Warren Moon, Joey Galloway, Chris Warren, Jon Kitna, Brian Blades, Lamar Smith, Mike Pritchard, James McKnight, Steve Broussard, John Friesz, Christian Fauria, Mack Strong, Daryl Hobbs, Carlester Crumpler

The least prestigious team of all time, not counting the 2006 49ers who will surely look more prestigious soon, was the 1973 Bears:

1973 Chicago Bears
Carl Garrett, Bobby Douglass, George Farmer, Earl Thomas, Gary Huff, Jim Harrison, Craig Cotton, Cecil Turner, Roger Lawson, Joe Moore, Tom Reynolds, Ike Hill, Bob Parsons, Gary Kosins

7 Comments | Posted in General, History

Chris Chambers = Eddie George?

Posted by Doug on May 21, 2007

Target stats --- that is, the number of times a particular receiver was the intended target of a pass --- are now widely available. But I've never been quite sure what to do with them. If two receivers have the same number of catches, but one of them was targeted much more often, which one is likely to have more catches in the future?

Occam would probably assume that the player with the lower number of targets --- and thus the higher catch percentage --- is probably the better player. After all, isn't that what receivers are supposed to do? Catch the balls that are thrown to them.

On the other hand, the player with more targets is in some sense a bigger part of the offense. Either he's open more often, or the quarterback is throwing in his direction even when he's not open. At least if he's staying in the same situation the following year, maybe some of those looks will turn into catches.

I have always suspected that neither of those explanations is in general correct, that while target numbers are probably relevant in certain cases, they aren't worth anything unless you have more information about the particular situation. But I'd never really studied it before.

So I took all pairs of consecutive wide receiver seasons since 2002/2003 in which the player played at least eight games in each season and had at least 30 receptions in the first season (there were 264 such). Then I ran a regression of Year N+1 receptions per game against Year N receptions per game and Year N targets per game. Here is the resulting equation:


Year N+1 rec =~ .64 + .63*(Year N rec) + .07*(Year N targets)

The coefficient on Year N targets is positive, but it's small, and not significantly different from zero in the "official" statistical sense. In other words, given the variation in the data, there is no real reason to assume the true coefficient on Year N targets isn't zero.

And again, it doesn't much matter whether it's statistically significant or not. It's too small to be very meaningful anyway. Last year, Chris Chambers had 3.7 catches per game on 9.7 targets per game. That's a ton of targets for someone with so few catches. Our formula predicts him to have about 3.6 catches per game next season. If he had had the same number of receptions, but a more typical amount of targets, say 6 per game, last season, then the formula would project him with 3.4 catches per game next year. That's a difference of only 3 catches over a 16-game season.

For what it's worth, I also included various age controls in the regression and it doesn't alter the conclusions.

Chambers' low catch percentage last season was not an aberration, which leads me to the title of the post. Is Chambers' consistently low catch percentage, like Eddie George's consistently low yards-per-rush average, a sign that he's not as good as he appears and that he's only compiling raw numbers because he has been given a ton of opportunities? Or is the fact that he has consistently been given a ton of opportunities despite the seemingly poor production a sign that he must be pretty good, because no competent coach would make him such a major focus unless he had some real talent.

I don't know how much this has to do with Chambers, but young running backs who get a ton of carries but have a low yards-per-rush average often turn into Hall of Famers. Here are the backs who had the most carries in their first three years despite a sub-4.0 average per carry:

Eddie George
Curtis Martin
Willis McGahee
Karim Abdul-Jabbar
Ricky Williams
Marshall Faulk
Jerome Bettis

Now there have been a lot of other young runners who failed to eclipse 4.0 yards per carry over their first three years. For example, Reggie Cobb, Antowain Smith, Johnny Johnson, and Leonard Russell. But those guys didn't get as many carries as Curtis Martin and Marshall Faulk did. I think that might say something. A low yards-per-rush is bad. But a ton of opportunities over a reasonably long period of time despite a low yards-per-rush might just be a signal.

In the same way, Chris Chambers' ability to remain a huge part of the offense through two entire coaching regimes (including several offensive coordinator switches) and numerous different quarterbacks, despite what appears on the surface to be sub par performance, might be a sign that he's better than we think he is.

14 Comments | Posted in Fantasy

Jason Witten

Posted by Doug on May 18, 2007

He had more receptions through his age 24 season than anyone in AFL/NFL history other than Randy Moss and Tony Gonzalez and is thus the final answer to yesterday's trivia question.

This gives me an excuse to hype a creation of mine that I really should hype more. The Historical Data Dominator over at footballguys.com can generate and/or answer countless trivia questions like yesterday's.

Here is the query that shed new light on Witten's career for me.

If you think Witten is "cheating" because he entered the league at 21, you can instead look at most receptions in the first four years of a career (regardless of age), where Witten ranks 29th, and fourth among tight ends.

It was this tool that a few years ago made me realize just how bad Joey Harrington is and made Chase wonder just how good was this Hokie Gajan guy anyway?

Could we make a Friday time-waster game out of this? Try to find the query with the most interesting or absurd results. My favorite is to generate queries that produce only all-time greats and then one guy who doesn't belong (or, better yet, just the guy who doesn't belong). For example:

The only player in NFL history aged 30+ to have at least 14 rushing TDs, at least one receiving TD, and at least 30 receptions

Only players in NFL history with at least 4600 rushing yards, 540 receptions, and 18 receiving TDs

It would, of course, be horribly wrong to use cherry-picked cutoffs like these in an honest analysis, but it's not wrong to cook them up for fun.

13 Comments | Posted in General

Trivia time

Posted by Doug on May 17, 2007

Who are the top five players in AFL/NFL history in terms of total receptions up to and including their age 24 season?

No fair looking it up. Honor system.

One of them is easy, another is easy to guess if you read the comments to yesterday's post. Two I probably would have guessed eventually if you gave me enough tries. One I never would have gotten.

22 Comments | Posted in Trivia

Record Watch

Posted by Doug on May 16, 2007

Last year I posted a description of Bill James' "Favorite Toy," which is a quick way to estimate players' chances of reaching certain milestones. It's not based on rigorous mathematical principles, as far as I'm aware, but it usually gives answers that feel about right.

Before last season, the toy (with a slight tweak) estimated the following probabilities of breaking Emmitt Smith's career rushing yardage mark.

Runner              Pct Chance
Clinton Portis         26.5
Edgerrin James         21.3
LaDainian Tomlinson    17.3
Shaun Alexander        11.3

With one more year in the books, here's where we stand:

Runner              Pct Chance
LaDainian Tomlinson    27.5
Edgerrin James         12.2
Steven Jackson          8.4

Portis drops off the chart because the system estimates how good a player is largely by considering his previous season's numbers, and Portis's obviously weren't very good. While a fantastic 2007 can get him back in the race --- a 1750-yard season would put him around 15% --- a mere 1200-yard season won't do much for him. Portis was ahead of Smith in through-four-years rushing yards, but trails him by about 700 yards on the through-five-years list. And Emmitt tacked on another 1773 in his sixth year. You just can't afford to lose a season in your prime.

Meanwhile, LaDainian Tomlinson is now a couple hundred yards ahead of Smith on the through-six-years rushing yardage list. But he entered the league a year older than Emmitt did.

Here are the estimated chances of Jerry Rice's records being broken by various people:

Receptions

Receiver            Pct Chance
Torry Holt             18.9
Andre Johnson          12.3
Chad Johnson           10.9
Marvin Harrison        10.9
Larry Fitzgerald       10.7
Anquan Boldin           9.0
Tony Gonzalez           7.6
Laveranues Coles        3.7
Reggie Wayne            1.9
Antonio Gates           1.5

Yards

Receiver            Pct Chance
Torry Holt             12.2
Chad Johnson           12.0
Larry Fitzgerald        5.4
Anquan Boldin           3.9

Receiving touchdowns

Receiver            Pct Chance
Marvin Harrison        10.0
Terrell Owens           4.8
Antonio Gates           1.5

15 Comments | Posted in General

Non-rant: a 17th regular season game outside the country

Posted by Doug on May 14, 2007

My absence for most of last week was caused by a number of things. Among them is a re-design of pro-football-reference. It's a lot of work, but most of it is behind the curtain, rebuilding the infrastructure to make it easier for me to maintain going forward. But while I was wading around in the code, I decided to take the opportunity to snazz up the pages by perhaps 3--5%. Here are some rough drafts:

Old Cowboys franchise page
New Cowboys franchise page

Old Vinny Testaverde page
New Vinny Testaverde page

Old 1998 Cardinals page
New 1998 Cardinals page

While all was quiet at the blog, my good buddy monkeytime sent me an email containing speculation about what I was up to:

Certainly you are working on a rant regarding this report that the NFL is going to:

1. increase the schedule to 17 games
2. EVERY team plays 1 of 17 games overseas
3. overseas hosting superbowl

Unfortunately, I just can't work up any feeling one way or the other about this proposal, much less a rant. As someone who hasn't attended a live NFL game since 1993 and doesn't have any plans to attend one any time soon, it doesn't much matter to me where the games are played. As long as they appear on my TV and are detailed on the internet, it'll be essentially the same to me. The pre-game show will have unwatchable features about crazy German NFL fans whose deepest lifelong wishes have just been granted instead of unwatchable features about some other topic. My life is unaffected. And that goes for the Super Bowl too.

I have some doubts about whether Europe, Mexico, or Canada care enough about the NFL to make this viable, but that's not my problem.

Now, apart from the international aspect of it, there is the issue of the 17th regular season game itself. Many fans seem to object to this, and I'm not sure I see why. The cost/benefit analysis must start with the observation that regular season NFL football is superior to preseason NFL football. Therefore, replacing one game of the latter with one of the former must be good unless there is some particular reason to think otherwise. What might that reason (or reasons) be?

1. Regular season records will be cheapened? This doesn't bother me. Unlike baseball, the regular season's length has been significantly altered twice already, and the structure of the game has changed so much over the years that records don't have any chance of meaning what we want them to mean anyway. Whether there is a 17th game or not, they are what they are.

2. More regular season games means more injuries? This I can see, I guess, but I'm not sure it's clear that injuries would increase much if at all. And for those who give this as a reason, do you favor going to 15 games? Surely that would decrease injuries, right? Why does 16 games --- not 17 or 15 or 9 --- produce the optimal ratio of football enjoyment to injuries?

3. The logistics of the schedule are aesthetically pleasing under the current system, and I don't know where that 17th game is going to come from? This seems to me like quibbling. I agree that the schedule is pretty nifty as is, but would it really be so crushing to see one more arbitrarily-selected opponent thrown in there? So much so that you'd sacrifice a week of NFL football to avoid it? Really? Really?

4. My database must now have three categories (home/road/neutral) instead of just two, and that's going to cause me to have to do a lot of programming, and put a disclaimer into every single article I write? Now that I can see.

11 Comments | Posted in General

Joey Galloway

Posted by Doug on May 7, 2007

If I had a vote for Most Underappreciated Player of All-Time (or at least in my memory), it would go to Joey Galloway. Consider this your annual reminder that Galloway is and has been a great wide receiver.

His numbers, at first glance, are fairly pedestrian. But I claim that he has played with the worst collection of quarterbacks of any receiver since the merger. Here is an estimate of the percentage of Galloway's passes that have come from various quarterbacks:

Quarterback      Est % of passes
================================
Warren Moon           15.9
Quincy Carter         13.8
Rick Mirer            13.4
Chris Simms           11.5
Brian Griese           8.4
John Friesz            8.3
Jon Kitna              8.1
Bruce Gradkowski       6.2
Chad Hutchinson        5.3
Anthony Wright         2.1
Tim Rattay             1.9
Ryan Leaf              1.8
Brad Johnson           1.1
Clint Stoerner         1.0
Troy Aikman            0.4
Gino Toretta           0.3
Glenn Foley            0.2
Randall Cunningham     0.2
Stan Gelbaugh          0.0

Moon is an all-time great, but the two seasons Galloway played with Moon were when Warren was 41 and 42 years old.

And even forgetting that Chris Simms and Bruce Gradkowski have been responsible for getting him the ball for the last two years, Galloway is putting up some of the best numbers in history for someone his age. Here are the all-time leaders in receiving yardage during the age 34 and age 35 seasons combined.

                     REC   YD   TD
==================================
Cris Carter          186  2515  22
Irving Fryar         174  2511  17
Joey Galloway        145  2344  17
Tim Brown            167  2293  20
Rod Smith            164  2249  13
Drew Hill            164  2128   9
Henry Ellard         108  2019   7
Jimmy Smith          128  1977  10
Pete Retzlaff        106  1843  16
James Lofton          92  1784  12
Charlie Joiner       106  1733   7
Art Monk             117  1693  11
Frank Lewis           98  1687   6
Don Maynard           78  1463   6
Tony Martin           93  1430   5
Harold Jackson        74  1406   5
Marvin Harrison       95  1366  12
Jerry Rice           115  1332   9
Andre Reed           115  1331   6
Keenan McCardell     101  1310  10
Cliff Branch          69  1271   9
Nat Moore             89  1132  14
Ed McCaffrey          88  1098   2
Isaac Bruce           74  1098   3
Steve Largent         67  1048   5
JT Smith              80  1003   7

Now I'm not trying to claim that Galloway is the best-ever receiver of his age, only that he's among the best ever in his age group, and no one seems to notice.

Finally, remember that Galloway missed one and a half seasons in his prime because of a holdout and a knee injury. While it's probably not appropriate to take those sorts of things into account when evaluating his Hall of Fame case, it's worth remembering when using his career numbers to try to determine how good he was.

9 Comments | Posted in General

GPS in Australian rules football

Posted by Doug on May 4, 2007

Hat tip to The Wizard of Odds for the pointer to this story about new uses of technology in Australian rules football. Apparently, the Aussies are already strapping some information-gathering devices to their players with the aim of measuring exactly how far and fast they've run and their heartrate while doing it:

Just as a Ferrari mechanic monitors every component of an F1 car during a grand prix race, a footballer's body will communicate directly with a laptop sitting in view of the senior coach. If the data proves reliable, it is a potentially revolutionary coaching tool.

For the past two seasons, AFL clubs have had access to GPS units, at a cost of $4000 per unit, which measure the distance players run, their average speed, the number of accelerations and decelerations and various units of workrate.

Until now, the use of these devices has been limited to a few players per team and a few games per year. But there is now discussion of lifting the restrictions to some extent.

To me, the GPS aspect of it isn't nearly as interesting as the simple idea of strapping heart rate monitors on these guys. I have at times been a semi-serious runner and so have played around with a basic $100 monitor. You strap it around your chest and it transmits information to your wristwatch. Believe it or not, the monitor sometimes knows more than my brain does about how tired I am and therefore how hard I can/should push myself on a given run. We've all seen running backs ask out of the game for a play or two after a long run, but this would be a more proactive approach, identifying situations where a player is tired but doesn't even necessarily realize it. Obviously, standard-issue heart rate monitors like mine wouldn't stay on during an NFL football game, but designing one that would doesn't strike me as a major issue.

So you strap monitors onto all your players, you hire a couple of top-notch exercise physiologists to monitor the data that comes in during practices and games over a long period of time, and you see what you can learn. Worst case: you gain nothing. Best case: you've got yourself a potentially large advantage.

Yeah, sure, some old schoolers would grouch about it, but old schoolers grouched about The Forward Pass too, which led to their getting clobbered by old schoolers with slightly more open minds. Coaches who talk to their quarterbacks through speakers in the helmet and probably spend more hours on the computer than I do will bemoan the encroachment of technology into a man's sport. But if it wins games, they'll do it.

I don't mean to make fun. Some of my best friends are old schoolers, and I really can understand the tendency not to like this idea because it would reduce the human element in football coaching. But really, it wouldn't. It would just shift the job of judging player fatigue levels from one human (the coach) to a different human (the exercise physiologist). Sure, the physiologist has lots of data and computing power to help him, but the more computing power he has, the more data he can gather, and the interpretation of that data in real time is highly nontrivial and, in my view, no more or less worthy a skill than giving a pep talk is.

But whether it offends your sensibilities or not is irrelevant. It's the way things are headed. This would just be one more step in the direction that things have been moving since the beginning of the sport: toward more specialization. This is simply more specialization of the coaching staff.

Question: is this legal according to current NFL rules?

8 Comments | Posted in General

There are really two charts

Posted by Doug on May 2, 2007

A quick analysis of this weekend's trades indicate that teams do stay pretty close to the pick value chart when exchanging picks in the same draft. For example, take a look at the second Denver/Jacksonville swap in the middle of the first round. Denver gets #17, which is worth 950 points, while Jacksonville gets #21, #86, and #198, worth a total of 972 points. Most of the other trades from day one show a similar pattern of following the chart closely. Here's a list:

High pick is the earliest pick that changed hands in the trade. Up and down represent the teams moving up and down respectively in the deal, and the pick chart value of the picks they received.

high pick      up          down
==================================
   14         NYJ 1115    CAR 1056
   17         DEN  950    JAX  972
   26         DAL  700    PHI  723
   33         ARI  580    OAK  604
   34         BUF  560    DET  690
   41         ATL  490    MIN  512
   47         NYJ  430    GB   436
   53         CLE  383    DAL  363
   58         DET  320    NOR  294
   62         DET  284    BAL  316
   86         BAL  160    JAX  131

I don't know the history of the pick chart, but I assume it was built to match the market that had already been established. In other words, it seems likely that the chart is based on trades that had actually occurred.

But the vast majority of those trades occurred while one of the two teams was on the clock, and therefore both teams know exactly who is available with the pick. My strong suspicion is that Jacksonville would have been happy to make this deal on Saturday morning, while Denver would not have. The Broncos were only willing to make it because they knew for sure that a particular player --- Jarvis Moss in this case --- was available. And this is the case for most of the draft day trades.

Since the team trading up is the one with their sites on a particular guy that they now know is available, they're the team that's more likely to overpay (compared to what they would have paid 24 hours prior). But because the chart is built from historical data, this overpayment has been built right into the chart!

Really, there ought to be two charts: an on-the-clock chart and a pre-draft chart. The one we always see is the on-the-clock chart. I think it's wrong to read it as "this is the standard rate, but I should be willing to pay more to move up if I really like the guy who's available." Rather, it reflects the most that you should be willing to pay to move up. Or at least it reflects what teams have been willing to pay when they know they really like the guy who's available.

7 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft

More Quinn thoughts

Posted by Doug on May 1, 2007

Are there really a significant number of people out there who think Cleveland did not get a great deal in trading up to nab Quinn, or are they just loud?

My theory is that people, either consciously or subconsciously, have a tendency to view trades as zero-sum. Most people think that Dallas made out very well on this deal, and I agree that they did. But that doesn't mean Cleveland didn't also achieve a net gain.

If, while Atlanta was on the clock at #8 and everyone thought Miami was going to take Quinn at #9, the Browns had swapped their second and next year's first to Atlanta for #8 and used it to take Quinn, it would have been considered a great move. If they had traded the same package on Saturday morning to Detroit for #2, and then drafted Thomas and Quinn back-to-back, it would have been viewed as outright theft. The result of the trade they did make is the same, but yet the Browns are being criticized for it by many.

The only way this makes sense is if Quinn's slide down the board changes your view of him as a prospect. Quinn is the same guy he was on Saturday morning, right?, the same guy that Cleveland was allegedly close to spending pick #3 on. Or is he? While he is literally the same guy, we now have more information about him. We did not know on Saturday morning, but we do know now, that Detroit, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and Carolina (among others) didn't think he was worth taking.

So that's the question. Into which group do you fall:

1. I think that the hypothetical trade with Detroit would have been a good one, and I think the actual deal was also a good one.

2. I think that both the hypothetical trade with Detroit, and the actual trade were/would have been bad ones. I just don't think Quinn is any good.

3. Because of the extra information that I now have, I think the Detroit trade would have been good, but the actual trade was bad.

4. Because I am irrational and possibly also a slave to the pick value chart, I think the Detroit trade would have been good, but the actual trade was bad.

10 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft