The AV formula for the seasons in the 1950--1969 range is quite a bit different from the post-merger formula. It's quite a bit simpler, in fact, so this should really be considered Approximate Approximate Value.
Nonetheless, I think it's interesting enough to publish, with the understanding that it's still very much in flux and, of course, even when it's no longer in flux it'll still fail to be everything we'd like it to be.
For those of you who have been following the AV discussion since the beginning, I apologize in advance for the recap, but I want to make sure this is in context for people stumbling upon this page blind. With that in mind, I'll dig up a few quotes on the purpose of the AV system. This page has more details and links to further discussion.
The Approximate Value (AV) method is my attempt to put a single number on a player-season by a player at any position from any year
AV is not meant to be a be-all end-all metric. Football stat lines just do not come close to capturing all the contributions of a player the way they do in baseball and basketball. If one player is a 16 and another is a 14, we can’t be very confident that the 16AV player actually had a better season than the 14AV player. But I am pretty confident that the collection of all players with 16AV played better, as an entire group, than the collection of all players with 14AV.
Essentially, AV is a substitute for — and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion — metrics like “number of seasons as a starter” or “number of times making the pro bowl” or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, “number of seasons as a starter” is a reasonable starting point if you’re trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn’t, and so on. And non-starters aren’t worthless, so they get some points too.
With that, here is AV's guess at the greatest players in 1950--present NFL/AFL history:
Reggie White 163 Jerry Rice 159 Alan Page 157
Aside: one of the side benefits of undertaking projects like this is that, even if you don't agree with what your metric ultimately says --- and I suspect few people will agree with Alan Page as the third-greatest player in post-1950 NFL history --- you end up learning a lot. I learned, for example, just how insanely great the Purple People Eaters were.
In 1969, the Viking were 50 points better than the second-best defensive team in terms of points allowed. In 1970, the difference between the first-place Vikings and the second-place Lions was nearly as big as the gap between the Lions and average. They were a top-3 defense in seven of the eight seasons from 1969 to 1976, including two 1985-Bears-esque seasons.
AV recognizes Alan Page as the greatest member of the one of the greatest units of all time, which accounts for his higher-than-expected showing on this list. Carl Eller and Paul Krause will also appear soon.
The early-70s Vikings were like a substantially better version of the late-90s / early-00s Buccaneers. As you'll see shortly, AV interprets Derrick Brooks as the poor man's Alan Page and ranks him higher than most people think he should be ranked.
Brett Favre 147 Bruce Smith 146 Dan Marino 146 Rod Woodson 141 Johnny Unitas 141 Carl Eller 140 Lawrence Taylor 139 Merlin Olsen 139 Fran Tarkenton 138 John Elway 138 Anthony Munoz 137 Peyton Manning 136 Steve Young 134 Derrick Brooks 134 Andy Robustelli 133 Chuck Bednarik 133+
Bednarik has a '+' to indicate that his career started before 1950, so his total AV is greater than the number listed.
More names after the jump...
Marshall Faulk 132 Bill George 132
Guys like Bill George and Chuck Bednarik get credit, but probably not enough, for playing both ways in the early 50s. My uncertainty about how to handle two-way players is what caused me to stop at 1950.
Emmitt Smith 128 Bob Lilly 127 Walter Payton 127 Junior Seau 127 Joe Greene 126 Paul Krause 126 Mike Singletary 124 Ray Lewis 123 Joe Montana 123
NOTE: at least for now, AV only considers regular season performance. If postseason numbers were taken into account, which they probably should be and hopefully will be someday, Montana would rise substantially on the list.
Emlen Tunnell 122+ Dan Fouts 122 Jack Youngblood 122 Barry Sanders 122 Michael Strahan 121 Gino Marchetti 121 Ken Anderson 121 Randy White 121 Marvin Harrison 121 Bruce Matthews 120 Doug Atkins 119 Jack Ham 119 Joe Schmidt 118 Ron Yary 118 Warren Moon 118 Ted Hendricks 117 Ronnie Lott 117 Warren Sapp 117 Leo Nomellini 115 Willie Wood 115 Deion Sanders 114 Jack Lambert 114 Chris Doleman 114 Jim Ringo 112 Willie Brown 112 Alex Karras 112 Deacon Jones 112 Mel Renfro 112 Chris Hanburger 112 Y.A. Tittle 111+ Ken Houston 111 Zach Thomas 111 Ernie Stautner 111 Mel Blount 111 Thurman Thomas 111 Rickey Jackson 110 Gene Upshaw 110 Herb Adderley 110 Edgerrin James 110 Isiah Robertson 110 Willie Roaf 109 Norm Van Brocklin 109+ Yale Lary 109 Terrell Owens 109 Jason Taylor 109 Mike Haynes 108 Henry Jordan 108 Willie Davis 107 Jimmy Johnson 107 John Randle 107 Randy Moss 107 Randall Cunningham 106 Bobby Layne 106+ Jim Marshall 106 Night Train Lane 106 Tony Dorsett 106 Terry Bradshaw 105 John Hannah 105 Jim Brown 105
Jim Brown gets cheated by AV for reasons that I'll go into in a future post.
Derrick Thomas 105 LaDainian Tomlinson 105 Boomer Esiason 105 Michael Irvin 105 Lem Barney 105 Chuck Howley 105 Bobby Bell 105 Bob Griese 104 Sam Huff 104 Forrest Gregg 104 Tim Brown 104 Dan Hampton 104 Roger Staubach 103 Aeneas Williams 103 Darrell Green 103 Randall McDaniel 103 Drew Bledsoe 103 Nick Buoniconti 103 Marcus Allen 103 Art Shell 103 Steve Largent 103 Mike Webster 102 Jimmy Patton 102 Rosey Brown 102 Jim Kelly 102 Ray Nitschke 102 Ricky Watters 102 Gary Zimmerman 102 Rod Smith 102 Mick Tingelhoff 101 Franco Harris 101 Jim Parker 101 Raymond Berry 101 Maxie Baughan 101 Shannon Sharpe 101 James Lofton 101 Curtis Martin 101 Jonathan Ogden 101 Buck Buchanan 100 Sonny Jurgensen 100 Richmond Webb 100 Steve McMichael 100 Len Dawson 100 Bart Starr 100 Mike Kenn 99 Tiki Barber 99 Steve McNair 99 Len Ford 99+ Lou Groza 99+ Jim Otto 99 Sam Mills 99 Lemar Parrish 99 Larry Little 99 Russ Washington 99 Rich Gannon 98 Cortez Kennedy 98 Willie Lanier 98 Dick Schafrath 98 Cris Carter 98 Ronde Barber 98 Isaac Bruce 98 Hardy Nickerson 98 Eric Allen 98 Roger Wehrli 98 Richie Petitbon 97 Pat Swilling 97 Howie Long 97 Vinny Testaverde 97 George Kunz 97 Andre Reed 97 Richard Dent 97 Kevin Greene 97 Dave Krieg 96 Too Tall Jones 96 Cornell Green 96 Troy Aikman 96 Dick Butkus 96 O.J. Simpson 96 Ron McDole 96 Mark Brunell 96 Roman Gabriel 96 Bill Bergey 96 Orlando Pace 96 Jim Tyrer 95 Jim Hart 95 Larry Wilson 95 Lenny Moore 95 Henry Ellard 95 L.C. Greenwood 95 Will Shields 95 Lomas Brown 95 Eddie Meador 95 John Lynch 95 Louis Wright 95 Erich Barnes 94 Neil Smith 94 Jimmy Smith 94 Wilber Marshall 94 Lee Roy Jordan 94 Champ Bailey 94 Ralph Neely 94 Paul Warfield 94 Ken Stabler 94 Tony Gonzalez 94 Torry Holt 93 Harry Carson 93 Trent Green 93 John Hadl 93 Art Monk 93 Roger Craig 93 Clay Matthews 93 Jackie Slater 92 Randy Gradishar 92 Ray Childress 92 Bryant Young 92 Johnny Robinson 92 Gene Hickerson 92 Curley Culp 92 Brian Urlacher 92 Joe Fortunato 92 Greg Lloyd 91 Karl Mecklenburg 91 Claude Humphrey 91 Tom Brady 91 Wayne H. Walker 91 Ken Riley 91 Bob Brown 91 Charlie Joiner 91 Tom Mack 91 Warrick Dunn 91 Bobby Boyd 91 John Riggins 90 Larry Allen 90 Bob Baumhower 90 Phil Simms 90 Lyle Alzado 90 Andre Tippett 90 Harold Jackson 90 Ted Washington 90 Eric Dickerson 90 Jack Christiansen 90 Dave Robinson 90 Walter Jones 90 Steve Grogan 90 Steve Wisniewski 90
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