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AV tentatively extended back to 1950

Posted by Doug on August 1, 2008

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

This entry was posted on Friday, August 1st, 2008 at 9:19 am and is filed under Approximate Value, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.