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

Archive for March, 2011

Site Features: Check Out the Play Index!

Posted by Neil Paine on March 30, 2011

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.
  • Use the Player Touchdown Finder to search through every TD since 1940 for plays that match your criteria.
  • Use the Team Game Finder to isolate specific games or seasons matching certain criteria.
  • Use the Super Bowl Play Finder to search through every play in Super Bowl History (we'll be adding 2009 soon as well -- our apologies for the delay!)
  • Use the PFR Draft Finder to search through every NFL and AFL draft pick.
  • Use our Boxscore Search Tools to find head-to-head results, or all-time games matching a particular score.

And best of all, these features are 100% free to use!

So go ahead, give them a try, and you'll wonder how you ever got along without them.

6 Comments | Posted in Announcements, P-F-R News, Play Index, Site Features

Super Bowl XXV: Correcting the Narrative

Posted by Chase Stuart on March 28, 2011

Super Bowl XXV. Giants-Bills. Wide Right. 20-19. Bill Parcells. The Gameplan to End All Gameplans™. Our brains have been indoctrinated for years with the message that Parcells concocted the perfect gameplan to defeat the high-flying Bills. By "controlling the clock," "shortening the game" and by implementing a "ball-control offense", the Giants pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. When the franchise faced an even taller task 17 years later, New Yorkalready had the blueprint on which to build:

Giants coach Tom Coughlin doesn't have to look far to concoct a game plan for toppling an offensive powerhouse in the Super Bowl. His mentor did it 17 years ago.

When the Giants arrived in Tampa for Super Bowl XXV in 1991, the AFC champion Bills had just scored 95 points while humbling the Raiders and Dolphins in the playoffs.

New York coach Bill Parcells shortened the game by milking the clock and relying on Ottis Anderson, who ran for 102 yards en route to MVP honors in a 20-19 triumph.

The Bills, led by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and Hall of Fame back Thurman Thomas, had possession for less than 20 minutes as Buffalo suffered the first of four consecutive Super Bowl defeats.

And for one of the few times in Super Bowl annals, the more talented team walked out a loser.

Such narrative has been as connected to the game as "Wide Right" since the moment the final gun sounded. Here's what the New York Times published after the game:

30 Comments | Posted in Coaches, History

NFL Kickoff rule changes: Impact on offense

Posted by Chase Stuart on March 23, 2011

Yesterday, 26 of the league's 32 owners voted to change the NFL's kickoff rules, moving the placement of the ball from the 30- to the 35-yard line.

[Leon] Washington and others around the league said the change, made to address player-safety issues, would breed more touchbacks and substantially impact field position, likely leading to less scoring.

"There just won't be as many returns, and I think it's going to affect things like scoring, and there'll be more of an emphasis on directional kicking ...," Cincinnati Bengals special-teams coach Darrin Simmons told his team's official website. "There are going to be more touchbacks and more 80-yard drives, and scoring drops sharply because there are a lot more scoring drives of 70 yards than drives over 80."

Touchbacks will continue to be brought out to the 20, and teams still will be allowed to use the two-man blocking wedge.

Fan reaction has been mostly negative. Cries about player safety from fans discussing an 18-game schedule have turned into cries about "ruining the game" when it comes to minimizing special teams. In reality, most of these complaints are due to a general resistance to change, with whatever the flavor du jour serving as a comfortable red herring.

But what about the claim that this will decrease scoring? Nate Dunleavy agrees:

A league-wide reduction in offense. Because even the worst special teams units generally start on the good side of the 20 after kickoffs (I believe Indy started around the 22), an increase in touchbacks will move average starting field position backwards for all NFL teams. Teams with good return games will be hurt more than teams with bad return games, but all teams should see their average starting field position go backwards, even Indy. There is a very strong relationship between starting field position and the points a team can expect to score. The cumulative effect of dozens of extra touchbacks will be a reduction in scoring. As noted, the Colts should feel this pinch far less than most teams, as it will likely affect their starting field position after kickoffs by less than a yard or so.

I'm not so sure I agree with Nate; while teams receiving a kickoff may be less likely to score, by definition, teams kicking off will be more likely to score next. In reality, this rule change is sure to have little actual impact on scoring, but that doesn't mean we can't engage in a quick thought exercise. Let's take this rule change to the extreme: suppose instead of teams kicking off from the 30-yard line, from now on the opposing team gets possession of the ball at their own 7-yard line. How would that impact play?

At the start of every half, and following every touchdown and field goal, instead of getting a chance to receive and return a kickoff, a team is placed in the shadow of their own goal-posts. How would this impact scoring? It's obvious that it would make scoring more difficult for the "receiving" team. However, it would make scoring less difficult for the "kicking" team. How do those elements balance out?

We assume that following a kickoff, a team will start its drive at, on average, the 27-yard line. According to David Romer, that is worth 0.7 points to the offensive team. Having the ball at your own 7-yard line is worth 0.6 points to the defensive team. In that case, the team on offense is less likely to score than its opponent. For the offense, this hypothetical rule change would cost it 1.3 points following each kickoff compared to where things stand today.

Now, scoring a touchdown is worth 6.3 points, on average. Under this scenario, a touchdown is worth 7.6 points. Considering that last season there were 9.6 kickoffs per game, this would be a serious change to the way the game is played. However, does that *necessarily* mean less scoring? Couldn't it mean even more scoring? Or would it be a zero-sum game, where if one team scores less the other scores more?

12 Comments | Posted in Rule Change Proposals

2011 NCAA Tournament Game Previews

Posted by Neil Paine on March 17, 2011

To get you prepared for the matchups in this year's NCAA Tournament, we now have printable game previews at SR/College Basketball:

Game Previews | College Basketball at Sports-Reference.com

Each preview contains key information about both teams, including SRS ratings; offensive and defensive ratings; and player statistics from the 2010-11 season. Check them out, and increase your knowledge when watching the games this month!

Comments Off | Posted in Announcements, Checkdowns, Non-football

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Posted by Neil Paine on March 11, 2011

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Sports Reference is hiring a web developer this spring. Please see the link above for details and how to apply.

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

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Posted by Neil Paine on March 9, 2011

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Sports Reference is hiring a web developer this spring. Please see the link above for details and how to apply.

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

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Posted by Neil Paine on March 7, 2011

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Sports Reference is hiring a web developer this spring. Please see the link above for details and how to apply.

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

Repost: The 1987 strike and what could have been

Posted by Chase Stuart on March 4, 2011

As the NFL owners and players' association negotiate the future of professional football, the 2011 season hangs in the balance. Hopefully we won't need to one day write a post titled "The 2011 lockout and what could have been."

But we did for the 1987 season. If you missed them the first time around, here's a link to Part I and Part II.

8 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, General

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Posted by Neil Paine on March 2, 2011

Jobs @ Sports Reference: Web Developer

Sports Reference is hiring a web developer this spring. Please see the link above for details and how to apply.

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