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Archive for August, 2009

Running back Personality Types, part one

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 31, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, Jason wrote two interesting posts on Passer Personality Types. If you haven't read them, be sure to check out Part I and Part II of that series. I decided to steal his idea and do something similar for running backs.

I looked at all RBs who:

  • had rushed for at least 2,000 yards since 1950.

There are 134 running backs who meet those descriptions. I then split the sample into two groups of 67 runners for each of the following four categories:

Exciting or Plodding?: Does the player average greater or fewer yards per carry than the average RB? To measure this, I compared each runner's YPC average to the league average for each season of his career. I then computed a weighted, career average for each RB. If a RB's career average was 4.8% above league average, he gets the label "exciting." Anything under that, and he gets the label of "plodding." Why 4.8%? As you might expect, on average, the 134 runners in this sample were better than average in most things, including yards per carry. To make sure I had an even number of high and low YPC guys, I chose to split the group in half as opposed to simply seeing who was above or below average. There were sixty-seven running backs who averaged 4.8% yards per rush above average for their careers, and 67 who had career averages below 4.8% more yards per rush than average.

14 Comments | Posted in Totally Useless

Checkdowns: Seasonal Momentum in College Football

Posted by Neil Paine on August 28, 2009

In his Varsity Numbers column at Football Outsiders this week, Bill Connelly takes a look at seasonal momentum -- that is, the widely-held belief that, all else being equal, teams who finish strong do better in the following season than teams who finish poorly. Is it true? And if so, to what degree? Bill offers some preliminary results based on 2007-09 data.

1 Comment | Posted in Checkdowns, College

Checkdowns: The Audible’s Drive for Cystic Fibrosis

Posted by Doug on August 28, 2009
If you play fantasy football and listen to podcasts, you probably already know about Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom's The Audible, which is the podcast. It's the best football podcast there is. On Saturday, August 29th --- that's tomorrow --- from noon to midnight eastern time, Cecil and Sigmund are doing a 12-hour talkathon to benefit Cystic Fibrosis. Confirmed guests include Adam Schefter, Mark Schlereth, Jason Cole, and Michael Lombardi, among many others. Chase and I are providing trivia questions and have pledged to donate for every question the listeners correctly answer. So listen up, call in, and make us pay! Listen here. Donate here.

1 Comment | Posted in Checkdowns

The Great Pro-Football Reference Play Index Rollout: Part IV

Posted by Neil Paine on August 28, 2009
I know what you're thinking: after a week of daily bombardment with new site features, what could we possibly have left in store for you today? Well, last but certainly not least, it's time to unveil what is perhaps our favorite new tool: the Player Touchdown Finder.
Read the rest of this entry »

31 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Site Features

Checkdowns: Name the all-time passing leaders

Posted by Neil Paine on August 27, 2009

Here's a Sporcle quiz from a while ago that I'm sure you'll ace: Can you name the all-time NFL leaders in passing yards?

10 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

The Great Pro-Football Reference Play Index Rollout: Part III

Posted by Neil Paine on August 27, 2009

On Tuesday, we revealed the first of our new PFR Play Index tools (the game logs, splits, and TD logs), and yesterday we upped the ante with the addictive new Player Season Finder. How can we top those new features? Well, allow me to introduce you to the Player Game Finder...

10 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Site Features

R.I.P. Bob Carroll

Posted by Neil Paine on August 26, 2009

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

1 Comment | Posted in Obituaries

The Great Pro-Football Reference Play Index Rollout: Part II

Posted by Neil Paine on August 26, 2009

Yesterday, we began the much-anticipated unveiling of the new PFR Play Index by giving you a guided tour of the Player Game Logs, Splits, and Scoring Logs. As great as those new features are, though, I think today's is even more thrilling: the Player Season Finder.

22 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Site Features

The Great Pro-Football Reference Play Index Rollout: Part I

Posted by Neil Paine on August 25, 2009

Well, this is it, ladies and gentlemen. I realize that you've been waiting a long time for something like this, and by gosh, it's finally here. You know, the term "life-changing" is thrown around all too often these days, but I think you'll find it entirely appropriate for what we're doing here at Pro-Football-Reference this week. Due to popular demand and the subsequent blood, sweat, and tears of Sports-Reference's resident master programmer, Justin Kubatko, PFR can now proudly stand side by side with its baseball-centric sister site and shout loud and clear: "Yes! Now I, too, have a Play Index!" And if that doesn't bring a tear of joy to your eye... well, I just don't know what will.

11 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Site Features

PFR on Facebook

Posted by Sean on August 25, 2009

Become a fan of PFR on Facebook

It is social media day on the Sports Reference sites.

Comments Off on PFR on Facebook | Posted in General on Twitter

Posted by Sean on August 24, 2009


I'm working on getting our blog posts posted onto a pfref twitter account (since I hear that is what all of the kids are using these days). You can follow us @pfref. Thank you for your support.

Comments Off on on Twitter | Posted in P-F-R News

2008 QB numbers: Adjusted for strength of schedule

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 24, 2009

In the 2007 and 2008 off-seasons I wrote articles adjusting QB statistics for strength of schedule. Today brings the summer '09 update. As always, I've done essentially the same analysis for our fantasy football fans over at

Let's start with a look at the 2008 leaders in adjusted yards per attempt, defined as (passing yards + PTD*20 - INT*45)/attempts. All QBs with a minimum of 100 attempts are listed; the league average was 6.45 AY/A.

name			att	pyd	ptd	int	ay/a
Philip Rivers		478	4009	34	11	8.77
Drew Brees		635	5069	34	17	7.85
Chad Pennington		476	3653	19	 7	7.81
Tarvaris Jackson	149	1056	 9	 2	7.69
Matt Schaub		380	3043	15	10	7.61
Kurt Warner		599	4582	30	14	7.60
Matt Ryan		434	3440	16	11	7.52
Aaron Rodgers		536	4038	28	13	7.49
Tony Romo		450	3448	26	14	7.42
Jake Delhomme		414	3288	15	12	7.36
Peyton Manning		555	4002	27	12	7.21
Jeff Garcia		376	2712	12	 6	7.13
Matt Cassel		516	3693	21	11	7.01
Jay Cutler		616	4526	25	18	6.84
Donovan McNabb		571	3916	23	11	6.80
Shaun Hill		288	2046	13	 8	6.76
Eli Manning		479	3238	21	10	6.70
Seneca Wallace		242	1532	11	 3	6.68
Trent Edwards		374	2699	11	10	6.60
Jason Campbell		506	3245	13	 6	6.39
Ben Roethlisberger	468	3308	17	15	6.35
Joe Flacco		428	2971	14	12	6.33
Sage Rosenfels		174	1431	 6	10	6.33
JaMarcus Russell	368	2423	13	 8	6.31
Kerry Collins		415	2676	12	 7	6.27
David Garrard		535	3620	15	13	6.23
J.T. O'Sullivan		220	1678	 8	11	6.10
Kyle Orton		465	2972	18	12	6.00
Tyler Thigpen		420	2608	18	12	5.78
Gus Frerotte		301	2157	12	15	5.72
Brett Favre		522	3472	22	22	5.60
Dan Orlovsky		255	1616	 8	 8	5.55
Marc Bulger		440	2720	11	13	5.35
Jon Kitna		120	 758	 5	 5	5.28
Daunte Culpepper	115	 786	 4	 6	5.18
Derek Anderson		283	1615	 9	 8	5.07
Carson Palmer		129	 731	 3	 4	4.74
Brian Griese		184	1073	 5	 7	4.66
Ryan Fitzpatrick	372	1905	 8	 9	4.46
Matt Hasselbeck		209	1216	 5	10	4.14
J.P. Losman		104	 584	 2	 5	3.84

15 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

Checkdowns: FO rolls out stats from 1994

Posted by Neil Paine on August 22, 2009

Football Outsiders has been sporadically going back and calculating their play-by-play-based metrics for past seasons for a while now, and this week they posted the results for the 1994 season (which I still can't believe was fifteen years ago!). Apparently the two best teams that year were the two that would end up facing off in the Super Bowl... the following season, that is: Dallas and Pittsburgh. Oh, and Steve Young & Jerry Rice were really good that year (there's a shocker), Emmitt Smith was a rushing machine, and my fave tight end ever, Ben Coates, topped the TE rankings. Those were the days...

2 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

Checkdowns: The Most Exciting 10 Seconds in Football

Posted by Neil Paine on August 21, 2009

This isn't an analytic article, but still an interesting read if you're a football fan. From ESPN the Magazine, Ryan McGee and Luke Cyphers look at the kickoff -- seemingly routine, but actually pure controlled chaos -- from the perspective of one of the nation's best kickers and one of its best return men.

3 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

Aaron Rodgers

Posted by Jason Lisk on August 20, 2009

Aaron Rodgers finally got his chance to play in 2008, so I'd like to take a quick jaunt down memory lane. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Aaron Rodgers fell to the 24th pick back in 2005 because he had the taint of Tedford upon him. As the draft hype was entering its final stretch run in the spring of 2005, Rodgers was largely thought of as a top pick at quarterback, and in fact, many projections had San Fransisco taking the local product with the first overall pick.

When the Tedford Curse talk began, I thought it was just another draft smoke screen, with someone posturing for a trade, or sending false signals, through the use of national columnists or commentators, like Len Pasquarelli. After all, teams wouldn’t actually make decisions based on such rationale would they?

And let me be clear. If teams scouted, and I mean actually scouted, a player like Rodgers and saw flaws in his technique or something like that, even flaws that they may have also seen in other Tedford-coached players, that’s one thing. If they reviewed the film and saw that the numbers were inflated by throwing easy routes, and saw that he struggled with “NFL throws”—fine. But that’s not what this was. The worst thing I read about Rodgers, other than the vague fear of association with Tedford, was that he was “robotic”. If you play like Joey Harrington, you are “robotic”; if you play like Peyton Manning, you are “consistent” and “precision-like”.

As for the whole Tedford hysteria, it was overblown, even at the time. (And since I'm pointing out old articles discussing a Tedford curse and other such voodoo, I should also point out that Jeffrey Chadiha wrote a more reasoned piece at the time.) I mean, Tedford got credit/blame for BOTH Carr and Harrington in 2002? What, was he dating one while seeing the other on the side? It seems to me like there was a lot of "Norv Turner produces great running backs" hype going on here, where there are some truths, some half-truths, and some circumstantial stuff. So I cross-referenced Tedford’s actual coaching career with the “Tedford Five”.

As it turns out, Tedford only coached David Carr when Carr was a freshman reserve, and then Tedford moved on from Fresno State to become offensive coordinator at Oregon in 1998. A sample size of five is small enough, but there’s no way Carr should have been on the list. Tedford coached Akili Smith for one season as offensive coordinator (his first at Oregon), and Kyle Boller for one season as head coach at Cal. Boller was fairly widely considered a reach based on “potential” at the time of the pick. He wasn’t that good under Tedford in his final season at Cal, but that was an improvement over what he had been. I don’t see how you blame Tedford because Billick fell in love with Boller’s arm strength and turned him into a first round pick. Which leaves the guys that Tedford worked with for multiple seasons—Dilfer, Harrington, and now, Aaron Rodgers. I'm not here to tell you that Trent Dilfer was great or anything, but on the spectrum of first round picks at quarterback, he is a far cry from both the best and the worst--he did stick around for a long time. And as for Joey Harrington, well, he wasn't very good, and he got lots of opportunity to prove it.

It took four seasons for Rodgers to get his chance. As it turns out, a guy who carved up USC in 2004 might have been worth the top overall pick in the 2005 draft after all. I don’t know how Rodgers' career will turn out on the spectrum of good to great quarterbacks. He's not much like an Oregon Duck (or a witch), though, and he’s got a pretty good chance of staying afloat in the NFL for awhile.

13 Comments | Posted in Player articles, Voodoo and witchcraft

Feature Watch: All-Pros and Pro Bowlers by Franchise

Posted by Neil Paine on August 19, 2009

First of all, I guess I should say a few words about myself, since I'm new to posting here... I'm a recent graduate of Georgia Tech, I've been the primary blogger over at Basketball-Reference for about a year now, and I'm the new User Affairs Coordinator here at Sports-Reference, which means that I answer your e-mail if you find a bug or a data error that needs correcting. Plus, I'll also be fielding your suggestions about how we can make our family of sites even better. So if you have any questions or problems, don't hesitate to send a message to us and I'll get back to you as quickly as possible.

4 Comments | Posted in Site Features

Dick Butkus

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 19, 2009

There are two schools of thought on Dick Butkus.

1) He's one of the greatest, if not the greatest, middle linebackers in NFL history. Population: Just about everyone. The Sporting News ranked him as the 9th best player in NFL history. The Associated Press put him at number five. In his prime, he was known as the most feared man in the game. Jonathon Rand, like many sports writers, named him the greatest linebacker of all-time. At the age of 36, he was (and still is) the youngest non-RB to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

2) He's the 50th best linebacker in NFL history. Population: Sean Lahman

22 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, Great Historical Players

Checkdowns: Brian Burke’s “Best Games of the Decade”

Posted by Neil Paine on August 19, 2009

This post is a little behind the curve (the feature originally came out in late June), but Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats has a cool application using his Win Probability model that measures the best comebacks and the "most exciting" games since the 2000 season. He talks about the methodology here, and the gist is that the greatest comebacks are ones where the winning team had the lowest WP at some point in the game. The most exciting games, on the other hand, play on the idea that back-and-forth games are very exiciting --therefore the "excitement index" is a measure of how much the WP graph has moved over the course of a game. I love the concept of win probability in all sports, and Brian's work on the topic in football has been very interesting, so I think this feature is one of the coolest ones on his site.

4 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

Daryle Lamonica: Best Raiders quarterback ever

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 18, 2009

Who is the best quarterback in Raiders history? There are only four candidates worth mentioning. The easiest to dismiss is Jim Plunkett. While he won two Super Bowls, he was not an above average NFL quarterback; in fact, he was slightly below league average in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) in '80 and dead average in '83, the two years he won those titles. His advanced passing table shows that for his career, he was well below average in ANY/A. He never once ranked as a top ten quarterback in the regular season. He was a terrific playoff performer, but he was simply not as talented or productive as the best three Raiders quarterbacks.

Rich Gannon was a very good quarterback for four seasons with the Raiders, 1999-2002. But even ignoring knocks about him being a system quarterback playing with two HOF receivers, he still never reached Lamonica or Stabler status among Raiders fans. Why? Probably because both of those QBs were great playoff performers, while Gannon had a horrific Super Bowl performance, a bad game (that ended in injury) in an AFC Championship loss to the Ravens, and was on the wrong team the night of the Tuck Rule. He was very good but not great, and most Raiders fans (and football historians) would put either Lamonica or Stabler (or both) above him. Putting Gannon aside, the best QB in Raiders history is mainly a two horse race, with all due respect to all other Oakland and Los Angeles quarterbacks.

What's interesting is most people think (or assume others think) that Stabler stands alone. A quick search for the best QB in Raiders history brings up these results:

29 Comments | Posted in Great Historical Players

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