I almost deleted this post before I hit "Publish." There are so many caveats I'm urged to proclaim, and so many nits at which any reader could pick, that I'm still not sure if this is worth posting. Further, on some level, I fundamentally disagree with the not-so-subtle argument this post implicitly endorses. Allow me to cut you off, by noting that yes, this post is stupid, yes I forgot about X, Y and Z, yes, this doesn't even make sense once you realize M, N and Q, yes I've never watched a football game before, and yes I'm biased against Player A and Player B. And, of course, I am Player C's mother. Note that I've categorized this post under both Rant and Insane ideas.
I started wondering how to break down each playoff game based on the level of support each quarterback received, from both the running game and the defense. Game-ending stats are deceiving -- just one of the many caveats in my head as I wrote paragraph 1 -- but I figured there was little harm in doing some back of the envelope calculations. If nothing else, this post can just add some layers to the typical discussion of post-season records. Here's what I did:
We'll talk about these three men together because they were contemporaries in the late 80's and early 90's, and regardless of their nominal position--outside linebacker in a 3-4, defensive end in a 4-3, they filled the same role throughout their careers: pass rush specialist. As I noted last year when talking about Derrick Thomas for the Hall of Fame, there were only six outside linebackers (now seven) who began their careers since 1950 who are in the Hall of Fame. More defensive linemen are in, but these three players are part of the generation that came of age right after the sack became an official statistic and began to define and quantify pass rushers.
In the last decade, we have seen two dominant all-around defensive ends who racked up high sack totals, Reggie White and Bruce Smith, go into the Hall. In the last two years, Derrick Thomas, Fred Dean and Andre Tippett have also been selected. These three players were not slam dunks, and they certainly don't give us enough precedent to know how the selectors are going to handle the post-1982 generation of pass rushers.
How will they view players who were known at times in their career as one-dimensional and focused on their sack totals? What will matter more, high peak, or longevity of getting consistent sack totals? How much will rings and post-season success outweigh raw sack totals?
Doleman, Greene and Haley's chances depend on the answers to those questions. All three were, at various times, game changers for the opponent to plan around, and team changers because they caused a few too many headaches in their own locker room or groused over their contracts. Like wide receivers who needed the spotlight, these three represent a new breed of pass rusher that came with the official tallying of taking the quarterback to the ground, and their tradition is carried forward by the various dances of the sack specialists today.
Outside of Seattle, the Seahawks are a blip on the radar of most NFL fans. The Seahawks are one of the youngest franchises in the league, one of the most geographically remote, one of the least successful, and have been one of the most devoid of star power. They've had only five superstars since Seattle entered the league in 1976. Steve Largent is the only Seahawk in the Hall of Fame and was one of the greatest wide receivers in league history. Safety Kenny Easley had his Hall of Fame-like career derailed due to injuries and kidney disease. Walter Jones and Shaun Alexander - both of whom may be Canton bound - helped form one of the most potent offenses in the NFL in the middle of this decade, and earned Seattle an NFC Championship. Bridging the gap between Largent and Easley of the '80s and Jones and Alexander of the '00s, was Cortez Kennedy.If you weren't paying attention, it would have been easy to forget about the Seahawks while Kennedy was there, with the Seattle sports scene dominated by the likes of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson, Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. The most memorable football moments of the '90s from the Pacific Northwest are the split National Championship the Huskies won in 1991, Drew Bledsoe becoming the first pick in the 1994 draft, and Ryan Leaf taking Wazzou to its first Rose Bowl in 57 years.
Despite playing in Seattle for eleven seasons, Kennedy's teams played in just one playoff game during his tenure. But to forget the easily-forgettable '90s Seahawks would be to throw the 305-lb baby out with the bathwater. After starring at "The U" during its prominence -- Kennedy's Hurricanes went 45-3 during his time there -- Kennedy was the #3 pick in the 1990 NFL draft. He lived up to expectations quickly: his 1992 season is easily one of the most uniquely incredible seasons any defensive player has ever had.
it's hard to have anything besides a nuanced view regarding the subject of football, concussions and the future of the sport. Most hardcore fans want to preserve the status quo in almost every manner, while it's difficult to be comfortable with exposing your 15-year-old son to the possibility of repeatedly suffering serious concussions and potentially life-threatening injuries in high school athletics.
I’ve written about this subject before, and I am still sure that the brain-injury/concussion problem remains the most serious threat to football, and it will not be resolved by tweets from Greg Aiello, the NFL’s spokesman. Yet — and this may sound harsh — I don’t really care about the risks to current NFL players. Like professional boxing, no one can, with a straight face, say that they don’t understand the risk of playing such a dangerous, high speed collision sport, and they are all compensated handsomely for it. (I have more sympathy for older NFL players who played before high salaries and before these risks were well understood.) Indeed, I think the NFL as spectator sport will continue to survive through more “Black and Blue Sundays” or even serious injuries like paralysis, potentially even a live-on-the-field death. Some quick cuts to show Roger Goodell solemnly addressing “the problem” with fines and rule changes will be enough to placate the masses and change the narrative on ESPN back to who will rally for the postseason.
Joe Namath. Larry Csonka. Lynn Swann. John Riggins. Marcus Allen. Those men aren't the first to pop into most minds when they think of Richard Dent, but that's my implicit association when hit with the question "Richard Dent: Hall of Famer?" All five men capped careers that were squarely "Hall of Very Good" with incredible playoff and/or Super Bowl performances that made them "Hall of Famers." They were the MVPs of Super Bowls III, VIII, X, XVII and XIII, respectively, and without those rings all of them would have had tough times making it to Canton. One day, we might remember the MVPs of Super Bowls XXXII (Terrell Davis) and XL (Hines Ward) the same way, as both of those players are still in the "HOVG" in most people's eyes.
How does this relate to Richard Dent? In the playoffs following the 1985 season, Dent recorded six sacks and five forced fumbles in three playoff games, culminating in being awarded the Super Bowl XX MVP trophy. Dent's fantastic performance isn't as fondly remembered as the men above, as his team's games were never in doubt. Chicago blew out all three opponents en route to being crowned champions; the Bears would score all the points they needed in the first quarter of each game. But while it lacked a dramatic flair, Dent's performance was still impressive. I noted that Terrell Davis set the single-season rushing record (regular and post-season combined) in 1998; well, Dent set the single-season official sack record (regular and post-season combined) in 1985, with 23 sacks. His 1985 season was one of the best in NFL history, as he also chipped in with 12 forced fumbles (regular and post-season, combined), scored a touchdown on an interception return, and was named first-team All-Pro on one of the greatest defenses of all-time.
My vote for Stat of the Year, courtesy of Big Lead superstar/PFR family member JKL: the Packers haven't trailed by more than seven points at any point this season. Let's take a look at Green Bay's six losses:
In Chicago, the Packers got up 7-0 and 10-7, trailed 14-10, took a 17-14 lead, and lost 20-17.
In week five in Washington, the Packers led for most of the game before the Redskins scored 10 fourth quarter points to force overtime. Washington won 16-13. Yes, Washington beat this team.
In week twelve, the Packers lost another close one in Atlanta. The teams exchanged scores all game, alternating with a Falcons field goal, Packers field goal, Falcons touchdown, Packers touchdowns, Falcons touchdown, Packers touchdown, Falcons field goal.
In Detroit, playing the majority of the game without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers lost 7-3.
The next week, a loss in New England without Rodgers looked disastrous in the standings but respectable on the field. The Packers got up 3-0 and then 10-7 and 17-7. Two Patriots touchdowns made it 21-17, but Green Bay responded with another touchdown. The Patriots scored last, winning 31-27.
The Packers never trailed by a score in any of their 13 victories, either. Even trailing early wasn't an impediment to a big game, like when the Falcons went up 7-0 in the playoff game. So how rare is it for a team to go an entire season without trailing by more than 7 points? As you could guess, extremely.
Here's another reminder for everyone to check out the Pro-Football-Reference Play Index. In case you don't already know about the PI, it's a set of research tools that allow you to create customizable queries on our database, save the results, and share them with others. With the PI, you can:
Use the Player Season Finder to search through every player's stats (since 1920) for single or combined seasons that match your criteria.
Use the Player Game Finder to search through our game logs (since 1960) for individual games that match your criteria.
With the 2011 Hall of Fame announcement coming the day before the Super Bowl, we want you to weigh in with your opinions on the candidates. To help get things started, here's what Chase had to say about a trio of receivers -- Tim Brown, Cris Carter, & Andre Reed -- back in December of 2009:
Over the past few decades, no position has evolved more than that of the wide receiver. It wasn't until 1986 that the NFL had its first ever 750-catch receiver (Charlie Joiner). Today, 28 players have hit that benchmark, with over half of them having begun their careers in the '90s or '00s. Wes Welker is now the fifth player with 330 receptions over a three-year span (joining Marvin Harrison, Jerry Rice, Cris Carter and Herman Moore), and he's not even the best receiver on his own team. The average first-team All-Pro WR, as selected by the Associated Press, averaged 53 receptions, 961 yards and 9.5 touchdowns in the '70s; this decade, those averages are up to 97 receptions, 1439 yards and 12.5 scores. Wide receiver records are constantly being broken, and numbers that looked terrific in the '70s looked mediocre in the '90s and are underwhelming today.
With that backdrop, it makes sense to analyze Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed together. Each player's HOF case largely depends on how he compared to his peers during his playing days and how he now stacks up against others already in Canton. Brown's and Carter's career perfectly overlapped; both were drafted in the late '80s, were elite for most of the '90s, and were still productive at the beginning of this decade. Reed was a couple of years older, but was still a contemporary of Brown and Carter, and peaked during roughly the same time. All three made the Pro Bowl in 1993 and 1994. All had long careers and then chose to play one final season in a new uniform over retiring. Reed played for 15 seasons with the Bills and then one with the Redskins; Carter played 12 years with the Eagles and Vikings, before finishing up with the Dolphins; Brown played for Al Davis Raiders for 16 seasons before reuniting with Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay. Ultimately, at least one but not all of them will make the Hall of Fame. So who gets inducted?
Stop me if you've heard this one. Mike Tomlin owns the league's fiercest run defense, a unit so difficult to penetrate that he forces opponents to become one dimensional. In a prime-time matchup, he faces a pass-heavy team with a star quarterback and a constantly shifting ground attack. Is this the perfect opponent for Tomlinon's troops, an offense that will have no choice but to be one dimensional? Or the kryptonite to his super defense, a team that will play to its strength knowing it can't possibly win without playing basketball with cleats? On October 30th, 2006, the answer was very clear:
While the Conference Championships put a damper on any hot streaks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger may have had going into the Super Bowl, where does their recent play stand relative to all SB signal-callers prior to the game? And does a string of successful games before the Super Bowl actually correlate with playing well on Super Sunday?
To answer these questions, let's bust out the single-game opponent- & era-adjusted QB performance metric I introduced here. To make a long explanation short, eYAR is an estimate of the QB's Yards Above Replacement against an average opponent in the modern era. We can use it to rank games, seasons, careers, etc., and we can also use it to gauge how well a QB was playing in the games leading up to a Super Bowl start.
For instance, here are the hottest QBs over the 2 games prior to the Super Bowl:
Prior to Super Bowl X, Staubach ripped the Vikings and Rams for a combined unadjusted 33-55-466-5-1 line (plus 78 rushing yds) that is pretty impressive when seen in the light of the era and opposition. Likewise, Kelly torched Miami and L.A. for 320 YPG in the 1990 playoffs, and Manning was nearly flawless against one of the best pass defenses ever in last year's AFC Championship Game. (All three of those QBs went on to lose the Super Bowl, though.)
Today, the AP announced its selections for the All-Pro roster of 2010. All-Pro selections are a big component of the Approximate Value system here at P-F-R, and always play a role in Hall of Fame debates. Here are your All-Pros:
Obviously the number of road playoff wins a quarterback has earned is as meaningless a piece of trivia as one could drum up, but that hasn't stopped people from discussing the point this week. With a win tomorrow night, Mark Sanchez will become the all-time leader in road playoff wins. Below is a list of all quarterback with two or more road playoff wins since 1950. Note that Super Bowl games are considered neutral site games, but championship games in the pre-Super Bowl era were not.
Green Bay and Chicago are the oldest pair of rivals in pro football. The Packers and Bears have battled 180 times in NFL history and once in 1921 as members of the American Professional Football Association. The Lions have met both NFC North rivals just over 160 times, and only three other pairs of NFL teams have met even 130 times: New York and Washington (158), New York and Philadelphia (158) and Philadelphia and Washington (154). As two of the three oldest franchises in the league -- the Arizona Cardinals franchise, playing in Normal Park on Racine Avenue in Chicago, trace their history back at least one year further than Green Bay -- the Packers and Bears have a storied and long history together. Chicago won the head to head serieses in the '20s, '30s, '40s and '50s, before Vince Lombardi flipped the script in the 1960s. Chicago edged out Green Bay in the '70s and '80s, but Brett Favre helped Green Bay get the upper hand over the past two decades. As the Bears and Packers begin their 10th decade of battle, the teams split their two games in 2010. Tomorrow, they'll meet for just the second time in playoff history. The first one, in 1941, was a titanic clash of the titans, with George Halas and Curly Lambeau on the sidelines.
Back in November, I developed what I called "The Rivers Index" (so named for Philip Rivers), a metric that measured how many games a QB should have won based on nothing more than his own passing performance. Today, I'm going to apply that same concept to the last 10 years of playoff competition, this time using 10 years of data and adjusting for opposing defenses + weather.