SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com ยป Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Archive for July, 2010

Improve PFR. What do you Want to See Added?

Posted by Sean on July 27, 2010

We are gearing up for the 2010 season and are curious what you would like to see. Are there site annoyances that we need to fix? New Play Index tools? We can't make any promises, but we'll definitely consider any reasonable requests for improvements and additions that you would like to see.

115 Comments | Posted in Announcements

The 1991 Minnesota Vikings

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 26, 2010

When I was looking at the career AV of offensive starting units for last Thursday's post, I also looked at the top overall offensive units (as measured by career value) and one of them stuck out like a sore thumb. The top 20 units mostly matched up with teams we generally think of as great offenses. Half of them were 49ers teams from 1986-1996. A couple of Colts teams with Manning/James/Harrison were on the list. Three versions of Air Coryell. The 1995 Cowboys. The 1996-1997 Broncos. The 2002 Chiefs.

Then there were the 1991 Minnesota Vikings, sitting at #14 on the list with an average career AV per offensive starter of 74.3. That team went 8-8, and finished 13th in points scored (out of 28 teams). The other top offenses on the list averaged 11.5 wins and an average finish of 3.7 in points scored. The Simple Rating System (SRS) score of -2.0 also shows that the Vikings were roughly an average team in 1991. This team also had above average defense by career AV, with a defensive line that included John Randle, Chris Doleman and Henry Thomas. But it was on the offensive side of the ball that this team should have been so much better. So why were they so mediocre in 1991?

9 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

Offensive line skewed teams versus Offensive skill skewed teams

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 22, 2010

In the comments to Doug's post about the Miami Heat, Patrick W had this to say:

If this South Beach Team had its 11-12 All Pros strictly manning the offensive and defensive lines and had minimum salaried personnel at all the other spots I might change my mind about its likelihood for success, because I believe most battles are won or lost in the trenches. But even so, it takes an O-line a couple years to gell as a unit and hit its stride.

Of course, no team has ever been constructed that had its nine best players on the lines, with replacement level talent everywhere else. Still, this got me thinking. What happens when teams are skewed toward either the skill positions or the lines? For now, I'm going to set aside the defense and focus on offense. This is because of the 3-4 versus 4-3 conundrum. (Do I count outside linebackers in a 3-4 as linemen or not?) So today, I'm just going to look at starters on offense.

I took all teams between 1978 and 2002, and found the career AV totals for the six starters in the offensive skill unit (including the QB), and compared it to the career AV totals for the five starters on the offensive line. I then calculated the total career AV percentage of the skill players divided by the career AV total for the entire offense.

Here were the top ten "line heavy" teams, each with greater than 60% of the career value in the offensive line:

year team wins pts scored skill AV line AV skill pct off AV def AV
1980 ram 11 424 126.6 316.0 0.286 442.6 736.4
1997 nor 6 237 113.3 258.3 0.305 371.6 514.0
1998 sdg 5 241 96.2 209.5 0.315 305.7 629.5
1985 clt 5 320 140.8 266.4 0.346 407.2 388.9
1983 oti 2 288 167.9 314.6 0.348 482.5 380.6
1978 ram 12 316 186.1 324.2 0.365 510.3 743.8
2000 chi 5 216 140.0 239.7 0.369 379.7 565.7
2000 mia 11 323 153.0 255.3 0.375 408.3 703.1
1999 rav 8 324 138.7 229.3 0.377 367.9 756.6
1979 ram 9 323 192.9 318.4 0.377 511.2 720.9

And here are the top ten "skill heavy" teams:

year team wins pts scored skill AV line AV skill pct off AV def AV
1996 clt 9 317 437.8 138.2 0.760 576.0 442.0
2002 sdg 8 333 349.2 117.0 0.749 466.2 593.7
1995 crd 4 275 341.5 114.3 0.749 455.7 591.5
1987 phi 7 337 285.5 96.9 0.747 382.4 662.5
2002 nyg 10 320 366.4 133.8 0.733 500.2 506.4
1996 car 12 367 277.9 103.5 0.729 381.4 652.6
1987 rai 5 301 360.5 139.5 0.721 500.0 693.4
1998 was 6 319 293.1 114.8 0.719 407.9 544.9
1986 phi 5.5 256 253.3 100.0 0.717 353.3 499.4
2001 sdg 5 332 323.0 132.9 0.708 455.9 461.0

The "line heavy" teams had an offensive total career AV average of 418.7, and a defensive career AV of 613.9 (1032.6 career total for starters). The "skill heavy" teams had an offensive total career AV average of 447.9, and a defensive career AV of 564.7 (1012.6 career total for starters). These extreme groups are pretty similar, with the skill heavy being a little better overall offensively, and the line heavy being better defensively and slightly overall. Both groups, by the way, are below average offensively (the average offense over this time period had a total career AV of 542.9), which makes sense as one of the groups had to be filled with some replacement level starters in order to skew the numbers toward the other unit. Overall, the skill heavy averaged 7.2 wins and 316 points per season, while the line heavy teams averaged 7.4 wins and 301 points.

I don't see any difference between those groups to suggest that you would actually want all your best players bunched at the lines versus either spread out or in the skill positions. I tried to look at this other ways, such as looking at the raw difference in career AV, rather than percentages. That just produced a list that looked very similar on the offensive line heavy side, but an offensive skill heavy list that basically consisted of the San Fransisco 49ers with Montana/Young plus Rice, Craig/Watters, and others, and the recent versions of the Peyton Manning Colts. I don't think the 49ers were hurt by their best players being skill positions.

13 Comments | Posted in General

New York Jets create Ring of Honor

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 21, 2010

Yesterday, the Jets announced that the new stadium at the Meadowlands will contain a Jets Ring of Honor. I'm not sure what the official tally is, but it seems like the majority of NFL teams have a Ring of Honor (a quick search shows that the Cowboys, Falcons, Vikings and Cardinals are just some of the teams that have them).

The Jets initial class contains six members: coach Weeb Ewbank, OT Winston Hill, DL Joe Klecko, RB Curtis Martin, WR Don Maynard and QB Joe Namath. Is that a good group? Should there be more? Should any of those guys be bumped for anyone else? Should any of those players simply not be in the Ring?

17 Comments | Posted in History

Stadium, Game Time and Weather Info now in Boxscores

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 20, 2010

The boxscores on pro-football-reference now have stadium name, game start time (local time for the home team), playing surface type, and temperature, humidity and wind information. For example, if you go to this game from October 19, 1980 between Kansas City and Denver, you will see that the game was played at Mile High Stadium on grass surface, and had a local start time of noon (2 pm eastern) with 49 degree temperature and winds of 9 mph. This game was not chosen randomly, as it happens to be the last regular season Sunday game with a start time in Denver before 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

The stadium info was put together by Chase (with Neil lending a hand), I worked on the game time project, while Doug put together the weather info. A couple of disclaimers on the game time and weather. The game times go back to the 1970 season, and were compiled from archived newspaper listings of game times. I tried to find papers as close as possible to the day of the game, but for some weeks I had to rely on papers further out. I suppose that there could have been some game time shifts at the last minute or misprints in the original source, but I'm sure that these are 99% accurate. The weather info right now is daily, and not specific to the hour. It is based on the weather data from the airport for the city in question, and not every stadium is right by the airport. The reported temperature is the daily high if it was an afternoon game, and adjusted for night games using the daily average and low temperatures. The wind conditions reported are based on daily averages and maximum sustained winds on the day in question. I would view it as very good approximate weather info for the game in question, and it goes back to every game (except for 3 random holdouts) since 1960.

To close for today, I'll give you some of the cool info I was able to find in the game time data. Before we officially had Sunday Night Football, there were 11 regular season games played in primetime on Sunday night between 1978 and 1985, and here are the boxscores for those games:

New England at Oakland on September 24, 1978
Pittsburgh at Los Angeles on November 12, 1978
Denver at Oakland on December 3, 1978
Los Angeles at Dallas on October 14, 1979
Los Angeles at Dallas on October 18, 1981
Atlanta at San Francisco on December 19, 1982
Los Angeles Raiders at Dallas on October 23, 1983
Denver at Cleveland on September 16, 1984
New Orleans at Dallas on October 21, 1984
Dallas at New York Giants on October 6, 1985
Pittsburgh at San Diego on December 8, 1985

13 Comments | Posted in Announcements, P-F-R News

Support Pro-Football-Reference.com, Sponsor a Page

Posted by Neil Paine on July 19, 2010

Sponsoring a page is fun, fast, and easy way to support what we're doing here at Pro-Football-Reference. With a sponsorship, you can:

  • Show your support for your favorite player or team.
  • Drum up traffic for your own site & draw in fans with a common interest.
  • Get some well-deserved recognition for your support of PFR.
  • Make your voice heard by the tens of thousands of people who visit Pro-Football-Reference every day.

Here's all you have to do to get involved:

  1. Create a membership account.
  2. Find the page(s) you'd like to support, and click "sponsor" (available pages).
  3. If the page you want is already sponsored, click "Alert Me!" to be informed when the current sponsorship expires.
  4. Follow the instructions to create your message and make your payment.
  5. Your message and links will be visible on the page after we approve them (usually in less than 24 hours).

And who knows, if you're clever enough, your message might end up on lists like these.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcements

Facebook Feeds

Posted by Sean on July 19, 2010

If you are a fan of our site on Facebook and check our updates on your mobile device, you probably know that the blog to facebook conversion mangles our posts, so we've added a secondary summary feed to provide data to facebook in hopefully a more agreeable format.

Comments Off | Posted in General

Checkdowns: ESPN’s Top Regular-Season Passing/Rushing/Receiving Performances

Posted by Neil Paine on July 16, 2010

Today, ESPN broke out their lists of the top 5 regular-season single-game Passing, Rushing, and Receiving performances in NFL history, based on production, game importance, strength of schedule, and other factors. The best in each category? Warren Moon vs. Kansas City, December 16, 1990; Walter Payton vs. Minnesota, November 20, 1977; and Jim Benton vs. Detroit, November 22, 1945 (box score unavailable, but he had 10 catches for 303 yards and a TD).

So what say you, PFR readers? What are your picks for the best regular-season performances ever?

37 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, Checkdowns

Checkdown: Pro Football Reference in USA Today Pro Football 2010 Magazine

Posted by Jason Lisk on July 16, 2010

If you are interested, Chase and myself have contributed articles that now appear in the USA Today Pro Football 2010 Magazine. The magazine is available in a wide variety of locations, and also can be ordered online (though there is currently no online version that I can find).

Chase wrote an article that appears on page 24 of the magazine entitled "Booms or Busts?", which looks at 2010 being a crucial year for the up and down careers of the QB Class of 2006: Vince Young, Jay Cutler and Matt Leinart. I wrote a piece called "In The Middle Of Greatness--But For How Long?" (p. 52) that is focused on Patrick Willis, Jon Beason and DeMeco Ryans. It compares those players to other groups of young middle/inside linebackers in history. Chase also put together a quick list entitled "Chasing History" that looks at potential milestones and records in 2010, which appears on the final page of the magazine after the team previews.

I want to say thank you to the folks who put together the Pro Football 2010 Preview for considering us for inclusion in the magazine. If you are out and about at a bookstore or magazine stand and see it, let us know what you think.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcements

The last time a team from Cleveland won a championship

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 15, 2010

As you no doubt heard last week, the city of Cleveland hasn't celebrated a major professional sports championship since 1964. Over that time period:

  • The Cavaliers lost in three Eastern Conference Finals appearances ('76, '92 and '09) and lost in the NBA Finals in 2007. The Cavs had the best record (and SRS) in the NBA in 2008-09, led by their homegrown superstar, but lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Magic in six games. Twenty years earlier, the Cavs boasted the league's second best record (and top SRS), but lost in the first round when Michael Jordan nailed The Shot. Then, last week, Cavs fans all over the country had to deal with "The Decision," as LeBron James announced that he was taking his talents to South Beach.
  • The Indians didn't finish higher than fourth in their division in any season from 1969 to 1993; the 1985 (60-102) and 1987 (61-101) teams were so embarrassingly bad that they inspired the movie Major League. In 1994, the team finally appeared ready to turn their fortunes around, but the players' strike canceled the remainder of the season and the World Series. The following season, the Indians won 100 games, 14 more than any other team in the American League and 10 more than the NL's best team, Atlanta. But Cleveland lost three one-run games to the Braves in the World Series, ultimately falling in six games to give Atlanta its only World Series title. In 1997, the Indians held a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of the World Series against the Florida Marlins entering the bottom of the 9th inning. Their closer, Jose Mesa, allowed the tying run, and in the bottom of the 11th, Edgar Renteria's two-out single smashed the Indians' dreams. Cleveland rebounded with a strong season the following year, but lost in the American League Championship Series to the Yankees, despite charging out to a 2-1 series lead. In 2007, the Indians led the Red Sox 3-1 in the ALCS, before losing 7-1, 12-2 and 11-2 in the final three games. Tragedy struck off the field for the Indians, too: in 1993, pitchers Tim Crews and Steve Olin died during a boating accident.
  • The NHL's California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland in 1976 and became the Cleveland Barons; after two last place finishes in the Adams Division, financial difficulties forced the team to be subsumed by the Minnesota North Stars.
  • But nowhere has the tragedy and pain been deeper and more consistent than when it related to the Browns. After winning the NFL Championship in 1964, the Browns lost to the Packers in the 1965 NFL title game. Pouring salt in the wounds, reigning three-time rushing champion Jim Brown retired to star in The Dirty Dozen, and to further pursue a career in acting. The Browns had prepared for this day by trading for Brown's heir apparent three years earlier, Ernie Davis, who had followed Brown at Syracuse. But Davis died of leukemia before ever playing professional football, and was immortalized in the movie "The Express." Cleveland struggled in the 1970s, as their neighborhood rival Steelers would become the team of the decade and win four Super Bowls. In 1980, the Browns' Brian Sipe won the NFL MVP award, and Cleveland had their first legitimate contender in years. But following a botched play on "Red Right 88", Cleveland lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders. In the mid-'80s, Cleveland fans suffered through some of their most painful memories. First, the '86 Browns lost in the AFC Championship game to the Broncos and "The Drive"; the next season, "The Fumble" in the final minutes prevented the team from reaching their first ever Super Bowl. That year, the 1987 player's strike may have prevented them from winning their first (of five) ever Super Bowl. Two years later, the Browns would lose their third AFC Championship Game in four years to the Broncos. The ultimate indignity came when owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore following the 1995 season. Then-coach Bill Belichick would go on to win three Super Bowls with the Patriots, while Modell's Ravens would win the Super Bowl following the 2000 season. The Browns "returned" to the NFL in 1999 as an expansion team, but whiffed on consecutive #1 picks Courtney Brown and Tim Couch. Cleveland has had a losing record in nine of eleven seasons as the "New Browns," with just one playoff game (a 36-33 loss to the Steelers, naturally) to show for it.

The last 36 years have been filled with pain and heartbreak for sports fans in Cleveland. But in 1964, the Browns won their 8th championship in 19 seasons, and fourth since leaving the AAFC for the NFL. Coached by Blanton Collier, here was the starting lineup for those Browns:

6 Comments | Posted in History

What would be the NFL equivalent of the Miami Heat?

Posted by Doug on July 12, 2010

LeBron James's decision to leave Cleveland for Miami was... Well, I don't know what it was exactly, but there are certainly a lot of interesting elements to it. If you have something you'd like to get off your chest regarding LeBron and his decision, I'd invite you to discuss it in the comments to Neil's post at the basketball-reference blog, where all viewpoints are represented and discussed in a mostly-very-thoughtful manner befitting the sports-reference community.

But I want to go in a different direction.

To me, the most interesting aspect of The New NBA is this: exactly how good will the Miami Heat be for the next few years? My understanding is that they're going to roll with two of the best three or five players in the NBA, another top-20 player, and nine scrubs to be named later. Since that's never happened before, it's not clear how it will actually work. I like it when things that have never happened before happen in the sports world, because it gives us a chance to add to what we know about the way things work. Neil reviewed the literature on the topic at the basketball-ref blog if you want to check that out, but let's use this post to instead speculate on the meaningless-but-fun topic of what a Miami Heat-like distribution of talent would look like in the NFL.

The simplest way to look at it would be something like: 25% of the Heat's roster is superstars, so an NFL equivalent would have 11 or 12 all-pros. I realize that basketball and football are very different, but let's just go with that for now.

Let's give The South Beach Talents the following roster to start with, and declare that they must fill the rest of their roster with minimum-salary players.

Peyton Manning
Chris Johnson
Andre Johnson
Ryan Clady
Joe Thomas
Jason Witten

Jared Allen
Haloti Ngata
Patrick Willis
Jon Beason
Darelle Revis
Ed Reed

Question 1: do you consider that team analagous to the Heat?

Question 2: how would that team do?

[Again, I'd ask you to please confine your LeBron-specific rants to the comments of Neil's post or some other appropriate forum.]

31 Comments | Posted in General

Mid-summer reminder

Posted by Chase Stuart on July 9, 2010

It's 65 days until the start of the season, and 152 days since Super Bowl XLIV, which means we're over 70% of the way done with the off-season. Over the past month or so, the P-F-R blog has slowed down considerably. Rest assured, we'll be back with tons of content soon (including a piece next week). For now, you can get your sports-reference fill via the baseball-reference blog, or by reading Neil's LeBron rant on the basketball-reference blog. I've also written 50+ articles over on Footballguys.com, with player points on guys like Michael Turner, Chad Ochocinco, Tony Gonzalez and Jay Cutler.

Our apologies for not being more active so far this summer. Thanks for sticking around.

4 Comments | Posted in Announcements