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

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

Posted by Neil Paine on September 27, 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, Site Features

Most quarterbacks to win games for one team

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 24, 2010

The Pittsburgh Steelers are starting their second quarterback of the season this week, and will start their third quarterback no later than week 6 when Ben Roethlisberger returns. Dennis Dixon was the starting quarterback for Pittsburgh's two wins this year, but after tearing the lateral meniscus of his left knee against the Titans, Charlie Batch is expected to start the team's next two games. Ben Roethlisberger will be back starting the team's fifth game, right after the bye week. Because Pittsburgh may have three different starting quarterbacks win games for them in the first five weeks, I started wondering which team had the most quarterbacks start and win games for them in a single season.

Not surprisingly, it's a strike team that tops the last among teams since 1960. Steve Grogan started the opener for the 1987 Patriots, a 28-21 win over Miami. Tony Eason started in week 2, a blowout loss against the Jets. Then the strike hit, and Richmond product Bob Bleier started for the Pats in weeks 3 and 4, the latter a "win" where Bleier went 4/13 for 43 yards and threw an interception. For game 5, the last of the strike games, hometown hero Doug Flutie got the start and guided New England to a 21-7 victory over Houston. After the strike, Eason resumed his role as starter for game 6, a was back for games 6 and 7, 30-16 loss to the Colts. The next week Eason would notch his lone victory of the season, a 26-23 win over the Raiders.

Grogan returned for the next two games, both Patriots losses, before missing another month due to injury. Tom Ramsey replaced him when Grogan went down against the Cowboys, and started the next three weeks against the Colts, Eagles and Broncos, winning once. Grogan returned in time to exact revenge on the Jets, throwing 4 touchdowns on only 18 attempts in a 42-20 victory. Grogan helped the Patriots win their final 3 games of the season, to finish the season at 8-7. The final tally goes like this: Grogan (4-2), Tom Ramsey (1-2), Tony Eason (1-2), Bob Bleier (1-1) and Doug Flutie (1-0).

17 Comments | Posted in General

Site Features: Game Score Finder

Posted by Neil Paine on September 22, 2010

In the wake of last week's strange 19-11 Steelers-Titans and 25-22 Saints-49ers scores, there's been a lot of chatter about how often those specific scores have happened in NFL history. Luckily, here at Pro-Football-Reference you can answer that very question -- in fact, you can run a search on any combination of final scores to see how often they've occurred all-time.

Using the Game Score Finder, we see that Monday night's 25-22 final was just the 8th such game in NFL history, and Sunday's 19-11 score was even rarer -- only the 3rd time such a score has ever occurred!

Using the main table on this page, and clicking the "count" column header to sort by he number of instances in the database, you can find the rarest and most common scores in pro football history. You might be surprised to see the number of combinations that have taken place just once, running the gamut from 66-0 blowouts to brutal 5-3 affairs. And at the other end of the spectrum, 20-17 is by far the most common all-time final score. Play around with the tool for a while, and you'll always know where to find an answer when somebody asks, "how often does this score happen?"

6 Comments | Posted in Announcements, Site Features

New York Times Post: Week 2

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 22, 2010

After two weeks, the Texans’ rushing offense looks much better than we thought; ditto, the Ravens’ pass defense, even without the star safety Ed Reed. But do you remember how things appeared this time a year ago?

That's the theme of this week's post for the Fifth Down, where I use NY/A and RYO2.0 to grade the passing and rushing strengths of each team.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcements

Checkdowns: Former Track Stars Turned Pro in Other Sports

Posted by Neil Paine on September 22, 2010

At the website TrackAndFieldNews.com, Heimo Elonen has compiled a neat list of pro football, basketball, and baseball players who were track and field stars before pursuing a career in a different sport. All in all, it's an interesting piece of research if you're a sports fan, and especially if you like football -- as you might expect, lots of NFL players turn up here, including a punter! (Brian Moorman ran the 400m hurdles at Pittsburg State and was actually a highly accomplished Division II track athlete.)

9 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, Non-football, Trivia

2010 Site Updates — Week 1

Posted by Sean on September 15, 2010

Just copied over the new pages for 2010. Everything that was updating last year, should now be updating. We are working on some improvements and should have more news later this month and into October. As always, we greatly appreciate any bug reports as there are far too many pages here for us to check one-by-one.

Going forward for future weeks, we'll be updating the site each morning with the previous day's games.

13 Comments | Posted in Announcements, Site Features

New York Times post: Week 1

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 15, 2010

Once again, Pro-Football-Reference.com will be teaming up with the New York Times and the New York Times' Fifth Down Blog. Every Tuesday on the Fifth Down blog (link available here) and every Wednesday in print (page B14 of your newspaper today) we'll be running a weekly update (for you baseball fans out there, Sean has been doing essentially the same thing through Baseball-Reference.com this season).

Today's article references one of the discussions Jason, Doug and I got into on a recent podcast: when do good teams lose games? As it turns out, "week 1" is a pretty common answer.

9 Comments | Posted in Announcements

Chronology of the Fourth Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives Records

Posted by Doug on September 14, 2010

Written by Scott Kacsmar

As the 2010 season gets under way, the record for fourth quarter comeback wins is about to fall. It can happen before October starts. Veteran readers know that Peyton Manning is one comeback win away from tying record holder Dan Marino with 36, and two away from sole possession of the record. Marino also still holds the record for game-winning drives with 51. Peyton Manning is at 44 so that one will take some time to beat. I have also included the chronology for that record at the bottom of the page.

38 Comments | Posted in History

Reactions from the Jets opening game

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 14, 2010

It was hard to contain my excitement. Amazing seats, on Monday Night Football, for the Jets in their new stadium, against one of the best teams in the league. And after one of the craziest, most intense games I can remember, I'm left with nothing to do but blog.

First, let's good the good plays out of the way.

16 Comments | Posted in General, Rant

Seattle Seahawks, superstars?

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 12, 2010

It turns out that Pete Carroll didn't have much of a problem playing against a team that also got to pay its players. The Seahawks scored the biggest upset and the biggest cover of the day, shocking the San Francisco, 31-6. The 49ers were favored to win by 3 points, giving Seattle a 28-point cover against the spread. There's usually one huge upset by an underdog each season opener: from 1983 to 2010, there have been 27 underdogs to cover by at least 20 points in their first game of the season:

3 Comments | Posted in Statgeekery

Checkdowns: Congrats to Jason Lisk, The Big Lead’s New NFL Blogger

Posted by Neil Paine on September 10, 2010

Some terrific news from the blogosphere this week: PFR's very own Jason Lisk (JKL for longtime readers of the blog) is now The Big Lead's NFL blogger. Everyone here at Sports-Reference is very proud of Jason, and we're also excited because it means we get to read his stuff a lot more (he'll be producing around 20 posts a week for TBL). Congratulations, JKL, you earned this.

Also, no need to worry -- Jason's relationship with PFR isn't completely over because of his new job. He'll still be able to occasionally post things like the AFL series, HoF profiles, and other historical pieces here, as well as podcasts. Obviously the majority of his time and writing power will be devoted to TBL, as it should be, but it's reassuring to know that he'll be making cameo appearances at our humble blog from time to time.

Anyway, big props to Jason, and here's to great success in the future. We'll miss having you around here all the time, but we're also thrilled about your new opportunity. Go get 'em!

8 Comments | Posted in Announcements, Checkdowns, P-F-R News

Best Single-Game, Super Bowl, & Single-Season Quarterback Performances – Adjusted for Opponent/Era

Posted by Neil Paine on September 10, 2010

As a follow-up to last week's post about the 100 Greatest Single-Game Quarterback Performances since the merger, today I'm going to re-post the list after adjusting every QB game for the strength of the opposing defense (as you can imagine, this changes the rankings quite a bit). Commenter/PFR contributor Scott Kacsmar had a great idea about adjusting for era and opponent in one step, so instead of translating from the per-game rates of the season in question to the 1993-2009 period average, I simply translated from the regular-season per-game rates allowed by the defense faced. In other words, if a 1975 defense happened to allow numbers that would be average in 1993-2009, I wouldn't translate the raw stats of the QBs that faced them at all, even though the general offensive environment of 1975 was far different from that of 1993-2009.

Anyway, after that change here are the best QB games since 1970, adjusted for opponent:

74 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Checkdowns: Wall Street Journal’s 2010 College Football Database

Posted by Neil Paine on September 7, 2010

Here's a link that should interest all of our college fans: David Biderman and Darren Everson of the Wall Street Journal have put together a cool search tool for this year's NCAA teams that lets you rank teams by experience, lineman height/weight, average recruiting ranking, returning starters, and a ton of other categories. Much like the tools here at PFR, this WSJ finder looks to be something you can get lost in for huge amounts of time, so have at it!

Comments Off | Posted in Checkdowns, College

A Rookie Quarterback’s Real Best Friend

Posted by Jason Lisk on September 7, 2010

From time to time, I hear that a tight end is a rookie quarterback's best friend. I've often wondered what this is supposed to mean. Do they room together and eat dinner after practice? Is it some hypothetical ideal, where the young quarterback should realize that he can utilize the tight end as a secondary outlet? Do people actually mean that the rookie quarterback does throw to the tight end more?

Whatever the original intention or origin of this truism, it seems to me that many people perceive the latter and actually do believe that a tight end paired with a young quarterback is a good thing. This talk comes up frequently this time of year, when people are looking for "value" in their fantasy drafts.

So, dubious of such claims about tight end and rookie quarterback glory, I decided to take a look at the data. I pulled every season where a rookie quarterback at age 24 or under threw 300+ passes in a season since the merger, and then looked at the reception distribution on those teams. 26 seasons made the list. I divided the receptions on those teams into WR1, WR2, WR3, RB1, and TE1. Here are the percentage of team receptions that went to each:

WR1: 23.8%
WR2: 16.1%
RB1: 15.4%
TE1: 10.4%
WR3: 8.1%
Others: 26.4%

For a quick and incomplete comparison, here is the distribution for the ten highest scoring teams from 2009

WR1: 23.6%
WR2: 15.6%
RB1: 11.9%
TE1: 15.9%
WR3: 10.7%
Others: 22.3%

I know that the tight end versus running back usage rates have changed a little in recent years, but there is no truth to the adage that a tight end is a rookie quarterback's best friend. Apparently, the Jeff Komlo to David Hill combo back in 1979 was quite memorable, and I'm going to attribute the rise of the "tight end is a young quarterback's best friend" mantra to that historic combination. It appears though, that it is a running back as a receiver who receives a relative percentage increase with rookie quarterbacks, while tight ends are, well, whatever the opposite of a young quarterback's best friend.

7 Comments | Posted in General

Best Single-Game Quarterback Performances, 1970-2009

Posted by Neil Paine on September 3, 2010

Last year, I wrote a post explaining a method of translating quarterback stats across different eras based on the league's average numbers. I followed that up with a pair of posts that looked at peak QB performance using the translation method and an estimate of Football Outsiders' YAR (Yards Above Replacement) metric. Today, I want to apply that same methodology to all single-game QB performances (regular-season and playoffs) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970...

39 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Checkdown: Team Game Finder

Posted by Sean on September 3, 2010

Play Index: Team Game Finder

Searching for the most rushing yards in a loss or the fewest pass attempts by a team in a game is so much easier using the Team Game Finder. Check it out before the season starts.

Comments Off | Posted in PI Finds, Play Index

Derek Anderson Also Has an Unbelievable Handshake

Posted by Neil Paine on September 1, 2010

In the Football Outsiders Almanac 2010 (which I highly recommend, btw), Aaron Schatz compared Jake Delhomme's ongoing presence as an NFL starting quarterback -- despite all evidence that he could no longer perform in that capacity -- to this Onion article about a CEO whose rise through the ranks was attributable to nothing but his "unbelievable handshake", a.k.a. his ability to make people like him and convince them that he's a strong leader. With all due respect to Delhomme's firm handshake, though, I think one of the men he's replacing in Cleveland has possibly surpassed him as the master of that charade.

That man, of course, would be Derek Anderson, picked up from the scrap heap this offseason by Arizona. Despite a giving vote of confidence to longtime QB-in-waiting Matt Leinart during OTAs and training camp, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has soured on the former USC star to the point of giving Anderson the starting nod (which in turn has made Leinart so disgruntled that the team is considering trading him). What went wrong? The turning point for Whisenhunt was apparently Arizona's August 23 game vs. Tennessee, in which Leinart was unable to lead the offense to any kind of sustained ball movement and was pulled in favor of Anderson during the 2nd quarter.

Chief among Leinart's sins that night: a 2-yard completion on 3rd-and-3; a 7-yard completion on 3rd-and-16; and a deep incompletion on 3rd-and-1 when (ironically) one of his patented short checkdowns would have been enough for a 1st down. For Whisenhunt and the Cards' staff, it was a microcosm of Leinart's struggles since being named Kurt Warner's successor -- particularly when you compare Leinart's skills to those of Anderson, whose famously strong arm theoretically offers more big-play ability for an offense that has been starved for it (especially with Larry Fitzgerald injured).

That's the conventional wisdom, at least. However, if we look at the two quarterbacks' preseason performances on the whole, we see that even with Leinart's unimpressive play, Anderson has still done nothing to warrant supplanting him for the starting gig:

Player G GS Comp Att Yds TD Int Sck SckY ANY/A
Leinart 3 2 19 23 161 1 0 4 29 5.6
Anderson 3 1 31 53 287 2 2 1 4 4.3

And this isn't the first time Anderson has passed a QB on the depth chart despite statistical evidence that he was the inferior option. As I noted last November, Anderson also convinced Eric Mangini to start him over Brady Quinn (who, granted, wasn't exactly enjoying a banner year either) even though he was having one of the worst seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

Just like the CEO with the amazing handshake, Anderson apparently has the special ability to come across as the best man for the starting job, even when his actual on-field performance doesn't back that up. Now, Anderson supporters will obviously counter by pointing to his breakout 2007 season, when he went to the Pro Bowl and almost led the Browns to the playoffs... but you can include that season in his numbers and he still comes out as the league's 2nd-worst QB to receive 1,000 attempts since 2006.

Is Leinart necessarily a good quarterback? No, he's actually been well below-average according to the numbers so far. But the evidence we have on Anderson says that he's actually even worse -- worse over his entire career (including 2007), and worse so far this preseason. I'm all for a good QB competition, but at least give the spoils to the on-field victor rather than the guy with the better handshake.

13 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Rant

The 2010 San Francisco 49ers

Posted by Chase Stuart on September 1, 2010

The 2010 San Francisco 49ers intrigue me. I'm not the only one: David Fucillo of the blog Niners Nation wonders whether this is the most important season in franchise history. Let's take a look at how they got here:

  • From 1983 to 1998, the 49ers won at least 10 games in every season. Joe Montana captained the team for the first half of the run, while Steve Young drove the offense for the last eight seasons. The team won five Super Bowls.
  • San Francisco drafted Alex Smith with the first overall pick in the '05 draft. He had one of the worst rookie seasons in history with 1 TD, 11 INTs and a horifically bad 1.1 ANY/A average. San Francisco had a -11.1 SRS score, and ranked 32nd in the league in both total offense and total defense. Despite ranking 30th in both points and points allowed, the 49ers won four games by five or fewer points, en route to an overachieving 4-12 record.
  • In 2006, the 49ers weren't much better. They ranked 24th in scoring and 32nd in points allowed, and had the league's second worst SRS score at -8.7. The 49ers were a terrible team that somehow managed to win 7 games. Doug blogged about how bad they were for a 7-9 team, as their points differential was the worst of any 7-win team in league history. Then, the 49ers won their first two games in 2007 -- by a total of four points, of course -- despite being outgained by 257 yards. That prompted this post by me where I wondered how could San Francisco be so bad over an 18 game stretch but still win half of their games? The answer: they were really, really lucky. The 49ers lost their next eight games, most of them in embarrassing fashion, and ended 2007 with a 4-12 record.

The 49ers from 2004 to 2007 were a perennial doormat in the league with an average SRS score of -11.3 points below average. But some interesting things have happened since then. Frank Gore, a 3rd round pick in '05, developed into a franchise running back. Patrick Willis, the 11th pick in the '07 draft, played like a dominant linebacker from the moment he first stepped onto the field. Vernon Davis, the 6th pick in the '06 draft, broke out in a huge way in 2009, tying the NFL record for touchdowns in a season by a tight end. Michael Crabtree frustrated fans and was frustrated by a long holdout in '09, but he eventually signed with the team and played very well for a rookie receiver. Justin Smith -- yes, that Justin Smith, the 4th pick in the '01 draft -- came to San Francisco after seven years with the Bengals and made his first Pro Bowl in 2009. Smith, who failed as an elite edge rushing end, fit in perfectly as part of the 49ers 3-4 front. And nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin has become one of the games' hidden young gems. Oh, and Alex Smith no longer stinks.

6 Comments | Posted in General

The Top 20 College Football Programs of the Modern Era (Part II)

Posted by Neil Paine on August 30, 2010

Note: This post was originally published at the new College Football at Sports-Reference site, so when you're done reading, go over and check it out!

Today, it's time to finish our list of the top 20 college football programs of the modern era. As a quick refresher, I defined the "modern era" as 1946-present, because 1946 was the first true postwar season and the year before (1945) was the final time a service academy would win a National Championship. Also, the rankings are determined by the Simple Rating System (SRS), which measures team points per game differential relative to the NCAA average, adjusted for strength of schedule. Here's a recap of the rankings so far:

20. Georgia Tech (+7.70)
19. Michigan State (+8.69)
18. Arkansas (+8.95)
17. Auburn (+9.59)
16. Miami (+10.00)
15. UCLA (+10.04)
14. Georgia (+10.42)
13. LSU (+10.52
12. Florida State (+10.97)
11. Tennessee (+11.89)

With that in mind, let's move on to the Top 10, which (just as alert reader JW Lewis predicted) features "three teams from the current Big 10, two from the SEC, three from the current Big 12 (with one of those being from the old SWC and two from the old Big 8), one from the Pac-10, and one independent":

2 Comments | Posted in General

Podcast: Rafael Septien and the 1983 Cowboys

Posted by Doug on August 28, 2010

Back in March we hosted an NCAA basketball tournament contest here at this blog, promising the winner (1) honor, (2) glory, (3) a podcast on the player or team of his or her choosing. The winner was Matt Stephans, and the honor and glory were delivered immediately. The podcast took a bit longer, but here it is. Sorry for the wait, Matt.

Matt is a Cowboy fan and wanted to hear about the life and times of former Cowboy kicker Rafael Septien. We also created an all-international team in Septien's honor and did a team segment on the 1983 Cowboys.

Congratulations, Matt. We hope you enjoy it.

Listen here, subscribe here if you know how, and read this if you don’t. It’s free, of course.

11 Comments | Posted in History, Podcast

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