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

“Game-winning” touchdowns

Posted by Doug on February 19, 2008

A few weeks ago, I told you about The Touchdown Project that we're working on here at p-f-r. We've now got a database of every scoring play back to 1940, and you'll start to see the results of that work at the site before too long.

When I was a kid, the baseball boxscores included something called the "game-winning RBI," which was defined as an RBI that gave your team a lead it never relinquished. So the game-winning RBI might have been on the first run of the game, or it might have been on the last. It was interesting as trivia, but useless as any kind of measure of how well a guy actually played. So useless, in fact, that even announcers realized it was useless. It was eventually scrapped.

Anyway, for no other reason than that I can, I decided to compute "game-winning touchdowns" in the same way. A game-winning touchdown is one which gives your team a lead (a lead it didn't have before that score, that is) that it never relinquishes.

If you can't guess who is the all-time leader in game-winning touchdowns, then, well, let's just say you're not exactly the Jerry Rice of football trivia. If you can guess who is in second place, you just might be. I'll put it in white text just below this paragraph for those who want to take a second to guess.

Answer here ------> Lenny Moore < ---------- With a clear statement that this is interesting only in a trivial way, here is a list of all players who have scored 50 or more regular season TDs, ordered by the percentage of their TDs which were game-winning:

13 Comments | Posted in General, History

Increased Risk Games Revisited

Posted by Jason Lisk on February 18, 2008

Last July, I posted a lengthy two part look at running back overuse and injury. Toward the end of those posts, I introduced what I will call an educated working hypothesis about the role of workload in running back injuries.

In my opinion, it is not the raw number of carries that matters. I believe the key is the number of higher stress games a back endures over a period of time. I will refer to these as Increased Risk Games (IRG).

Based on my review of the game by game rushing attempts from 1995-2006, the tipping point where "increased risk games" kicked in and we saw increased injury rates in the games that followed was at about 25 rushing attempts in a game.

Now that 2007 is completed and fresh in our minds, I thought I would look back on the past season's running back workloads and injuries to see what new information might be added. The official NFL injury reports from the past season freshly are available, so we can cross-reference rushing attempt totals on a weekly basis with the injury reports to have more detailed information than simply looking at past seasons game by game data can provide.

10 Comments | Posted in General

The History of the Black QB: Part III

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 15, 2008

In Part I of this series I chronicled the emergence of the black quarterback, from Fritz Pollard to JaMarcus Russell. In Part II, I looked at some of the greatest seasons by a black QB in NFL history, with Daunte Culpepper's 2004 season topping the list.

There have been twelve black quarterbacks to start over 60 games in the NFL in their career, and Charlie Batch (49) and Byron Leftwich (44) might join them one day. David Garrard, Vince Young, Jason Campbell and JaMarcus Russell are young QBs that should stick around for awhile, too. Here's a list of the twelve:

8 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

Passing yardage is for lovers

Posted by Doug on February 14, 2008

Here is what it looks like when one pfr-blogger sends sweet nothings into the email box of another pfr-blogger:

I noticed during my QB research that there are a fairly large number of quarterbacks who have been on a roster this year or last that were born on Valentine's Day.

Indeed, Valentine's Day is the premier birthday for NFL passers. In terms of total career passing yards through the entire history of the league, it has an enormous lead on the second-best birthday, which I've mysteriously blanked out in the chart below:

4 Comments | Posted in Parenting advice

Why do teams run the ball?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 12, 2008

Note: It was pointed out in the comments that a similar discussion has been going on over at Thanks to Brian, in comment 7, for pointing that out. His posts are well worth reading if you've got the time.

Everyone knows that teams average more yards per pass than per rush. In the 2007 season, NFL QBs averaged 6.85 yards per pass attempt, and NFL RBs averaged 4.17 yards per rush attempt. This past season wasn't an aberration.

2002	12,016	49,984	4.16	17,087	115,054	6.73	+62%
2003	12,698	53,345	4.20	16,330	108,403	6.64	+58%
2004	12,654	53,028	4.19	16,288	114,979	7.06	+68%
2005	12,726	51,822	4.07	16,411	111,468	6.79	+67%
2006	12,734	53,413	4.19	16,358	112,092	6.85	+63%
2007	12,414	51,786	4.17	17,018	116,580	6.85	+64%

So why do teams run the ball? The most common explanation I've heard is that rushing plays are more consistent, and the larger variance that comes with a passing play makes passing plays less attractive. I don't want to minimize the value of consistency. If a team could run for three yards every play (average yards per play = 3.0), that team would score a touchdown every drive. If a team passed for 10 yards on 50% of its plays, and 0 yards on the other half (average yards per play = 5.0), that offense would score less points; that team would have to punt a non-zero amount of times. The ability to consistently gain yardage is crucial in the NFL.

23 Comments | Posted in General

The History of the Black QB: Part II

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 8, 2008

If you've got a few minutes to spare, check out Part I of this series, although it's unrelated to today's post. Thanks to JWL, who pointed out the absence of J.J. Jones in that post, which has since been updated. If you notice any other absences from that list, please post their names in the comments. (I'm not considering players like Antwaan Randle El or Brad Smith as QBs, since they are really WRs who just run some trick plays.)

Pro-Football-Reference introduced sacks and sack yards lost as part of the new database. You can check out which QB has been sacked the most number of times in a single season or career. To date, this blog hasn't used the sack data too often, so I'm going to make an effort to incorporate this new and valuable information a bit more frequently into my posts.

4 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

There is no greatest team ever

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 7, 2008

Back in May '06, I told Doug about this wacky theory I've got, and he responded by saying it would be a good post on his newly formed blog. I kept putting it on my to-do list because the idea was never timely enough to motivate me to spell it all out. Until now.

As most of our readers know, I'm a Patriots hater. However, after watching the 2007 New England Patriots play five games, I was already proclaiming them arguably the best team in NFL history.

Does that prediction, in retrospect, look smart or stupid? I'm not sure. But Patriots hate aside, I'm thrilled that no one will call this Patriots the best team in history. And do you know why? Because David Tyree made one of the greatest catches you'll ever see, after Eli Manning made one of the sweetest escapes you'll ever see. And because Brandon Jacobs converted a 4th and 1 by a foot. And because Brady's bomb to Moss in the final 30 seconds bounced off his fingertips, and didn't fall into his hands. And because the Patriots didn't run the ball on 1st down at the goal line with under three minutes to go. And because Steve Smith got a great pick from his teammate, and converted a crucial third and 11 in the final minute. And because Plaxico Burress made one great move on Ellis Hobbs. And, finally, because Asante Samuel jumped an inch too low to intercept a Manning pass on the game winning drive.

The point?

28 Comments | Posted in General, History, Insane ideas

The 2007 New York Giants: Worst Super Bowl Champion ever?

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 6, 2008

I was rooting strongly for the Giants in this past Super Bowl and was very impressed with New York's victory. I also know that being considered the worst super bowl champion ever is like being the least impressive gold medalist: all deserve credit and praise for achieving such an incredible feat. Winning on the field is what counts, and who really cares what I have to say, anyway?

However, I was curious to see where New York ranked relative to other champions. Here's a list of all 42 Super Bowl Champions, sorted by record:

38 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

P-f-r draft pages upgraded

Posted by Doug on February 5, 2008

The upgrades are subtle but they make a world of difference. The main thing is that the yearly draft pages now contain the pick number, and the names, positions, and colleges of all the drafted players who didn't appear in the NFL. Last year when I reviewed the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia, which is the source of most of our new data, I wrote this:

Finally, there is draft information, organized by year and then by team. It’s a bit hard to reconstruct the exact draft order with this format, but it would be hard to reconstruct the teams’ drafts if it were organized the other way.

The sortability of the tables at the newly-redesigned p-f-r allows us to get the best of both worlds. The yearly draft pages by default display the draftees in the order they were drafted, but if you want to see all the Eagles' draft choices, or all the defensive ends, or all the Nittany Lions, you can do so with the click of a button (and maybe a little scrolling).

We also now have a list of all draftees from each college, including the pick numbers and the guys who never played in the NFL.

Click on the draft tab up in the header to get started. (Note that the 2007 draft isn't in there yet. It will be soon.)

Before long --- let's say maybe within a month or six weeks --- I hope to have a querying tool that will let you sift through all this draft data and answer questions like "between 1990 and 2000, what percentage of running backs drafted in the 4th round or later made the pro bowl at least once in their career," or "list all Big Ten defensive ends who were drafted in the first round but never recorded an NFL sack."

4 Comments | Posted in NFL Draft, P-F-R News

My life story, one Super Sunday at a time (revisited)

Posted by Doug on February 4, 2008

Forgive the re-run from last year (with a small amount of new material), but I still claim this is a fun way for football fans to recall the places they've been...

Last night was the 31st Super Bowl I’ve watched. In the span of those 31 years, I’ve lived in twelve different domiciles in six different towns in five different states with eighteen different people (NOTE: last year, it was seventeen. I have a three-month-old daughter now!). I’ve watched Super Bowls in 22 different places. I’ve gone from being a seven-year-old to having a seven-year-old.

I decided to bung down a paragraph about my memories of each Super Bowl, and I’ve found that doing so was a good way of remembering people, places, and times that I hadn’t thought about in awhile. Please add your own memories in the comments.

9 Comments | Posted in Rant

The History of the Black QB: Part I

Posted by Chase Stuart on February 1, 2008

Twenty years ago, yesterday, Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to ever appear in a Super Bowl, and for at least one more season, he'll remain the only one to ever win the big game. The 2007 NFL season -- in which 15 black quarterbacks took a snap -- marked the fortieth consecutive season where at least one black quarterback was in the NFL. In 2007, the Giants became the final franchise to have a black quarterback throw a pass, when Anthony Wright had six attempts for the Giants in week two. This month, I'll be looking at the history of black quarterbacks in the NFL, with posts every Friday.

17 Comments | Posted in History

Super Bowl squares revisited

Posted by Doug on January 30, 2008

See also: PFR Super Bowl Squares mobile app

Three Super Bowls ago, I wrote this post over at Sabernomics. In it, I looked at your probability of winning a squares pool with any given square. For example, I found that in a one-unit-per-square pool, either of the '0/7' squares would have an expected value of about 3.8 units. Compare that with, say, a '5/6' square, which has an expected value of 0.22, or the lowly `2/2' square and its expected value of .04. Because it was all the data I had at the time, I only considered the last digits of the final scores of games, but someone correctly pointed out in the comments that most pools also give prizes for (the last digits of) the cumulative scores at the end of each quarter.

Well, now I have score-by-quarter data for the entirety of the NFL's 2-point-conversion era (1994--present), so it's time for an update.

17 Comments | Posted in General

Similarity Scores for New 2007 Quarterbacks

Posted by Jason Lisk on January 29, 2008

Several new quarterbacks started for the first time in 2007. Derek Anderson, Kellen Clemens, Brodie Croyle, Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and Matt Schaub, along with rookie Trent Edwards, all threw 150 passes for the first time in their careers. Jay Cutler and Vince Young got experience their rookie seasons, and were the full-time starters in year two; Jason Campbell and David Garrard had some previous playing experience but also became full-time starters in 2007.

I am going to examine the new 2007 quarterbacks to see what history says about their futures. Right before the 2007 season, I wrote "In Search of the Next Brady or Bulger", which took a look at quarterbacks who were drafted outside the top 50 selections in the draft. One of the interesting things for me was that all of the late round successes showed signs of being successful right away--which may be contrary to some conventional wisdom about quarterback development. All were close to average (if not better) in their first real opportunity to start, and most were above average by their second season. But those were only the later round quarterbacks. Here, we will take a look at all the quarterbacks who have played since 1978, to find the most comparable seasons for each of these new quarterbacks.

16 Comments | Posted in General, History, Statgeekery

One more quick trivia question

Posted by Doug on January 28, 2008

This one cuts across all kinds of dimensions of trivial football knowledge:

What player/kicker pair has combined for the most career TD/PATs?

ANSWER UPDATE: Brown/Groza almost certainly is the correct answer, but I should have specified that I only have the data from 1960--2007. In that time period, it's a tie between Rice/Cofer and Riggins/Moseley

8 Comments | Posted in General, Trivia

Trivia answers

Posted by Doug on January 28, 2008

Answers from the questions in this post:

1. What player has caught touchdown passes from the most different players?

As was guessed by Ben, the answer is Irving Fryar. Here is the list of players that have thrown him a TD:

Comments Off on Trivia answers | Posted in General

More TD fun

Posted by Doug on January 25, 2008

Here is some weekend fun with the Touchdown Project that I told you about earlier in the week.

I'll start with a few trivia questions (NOTE: all questions cover the time period 1970--2007):

1. What player has caught touchdown passes from the most different players? HINT: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places are Ricky Proehl, my main man Joey Galloway, and Jerry Rice, respectively.

19 Comments | Posted in General, P-F-R News

Great tight ends vs. Great pass rushing teams

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 25, 2008

When a great pass rushing team -- like the 2007 Giants (New York led the NFL in sacks) -- plays a team with a great tight end -- like the 2007 Cowboys (Jason Witten led all TEs in fantasy points), does something unexpected happen? That is, assuming the teams are of equal strength, does one team win more than 50% of the time?

Here's the theory: when you face a great pass rushing team, you generally need to keep your tight end in to block more often than usual. When the Cowboys face the Giants and Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora (23 combined sacks this season), Jason Witten will be called on to help his tackles pass protect more often than when Dallas plays Buffalo (starting DEs had 9 sacks combined; the team ranked 30th with just 26 sacks on the season). So, perhaps when these teams play, the great pass rushing teams win a disproportionate number of times (relative to the differences in team strength of the two teams) because the team with a great tight end is forced to use one of its best weapons in a suboptimal way. This is just a theory, of course -- but it is testable.

How so? It's complicated, so let me break it down into steps.

8 Comments | Posted in History, Statgeekery

The TD Project

Posted by Doug on January 23, 2008

The approximate value experiment (read about it here and here) is on hold for now because I'm busy with, well, lots of things. One of them will eventually be of interest to readers of this blog and users of this site.

Since the sports-reference merger, one grand idea of Sean Forman's has been to try to catalog every scoring play in NFL history and create from them a database that users (i.e. you) can search through. So I've been doing a little bit of work on that from time to time.

There's still much to be done, but I'm now to the point where I can spout some interesting facts. For example, 49% of Richard Todd's TD passes either tied the game, broke a tie, or gave his team the lead, while only 32% of Ken Anderson's did the same. Let's call such a touchdown a "crucial TD." Anderson and Todd might have played on very different kinds of teams, so it's unclear what that means, but check this out:

                 crucial TDs    total TDs      pct
Mark Duper           36            59          61%
Mark Clayton         34            85          40%

This data will also allow me to run studies like: when a team overcomes a 14-or-more-point lead to tie the game, do they go on to win it more than 50% of the time? And, just in time, it will allow me to re-run this post with proper data.

6 Comments | Posted in General, P-F-R News

Marion Barber III

Posted by Jason Lisk on January 21, 2008

Let's take a look at Marion Barber's historically comparable players at age 24. Here is the method I used:

1. Start with 1000 points;
2. Subtract 1 point for every difference of 1 rushing attempt (Barber had 204 in the regular season);
3. Subtract 20 points for every difference of 0.1 in yards per rushing attempt (Barber averaged 4.78 per attempt);
4. Subtract 2 points for every difference in receptions (Barber had 44)
5. Subtract 20 points for every difference of 1 touchdown (Barber had 12).

I then looked at all backs who had 150 or more rushing attempts at age 24, since 1970. Thirty-four different backs have a similarity score of 800 or better. I am actually going to provide the similar players broken down into three lists.

2 Comments | Posted in Fantasy, General, History

Approximate value II

Posted by Doug on January 16, 2008

If you haven't done so yet, you'd better read Approximate Value I. (I know you're thinking, "yeah, yeah, whatever." I do the same thing. But I mean it. Go read the old post.)

I left off last time with this bunch of questions:

  • What metric do I use to determine offensive points at the team level?
  • What fraction of points should go to the line?
  • What is the pass/run split?
  • On the passing side, what is the throw/catch split?
  • We need to figure a way to give some of those offensive line points to fullbacks and tight ends, many of whose jobs include a lot of blocking.

Hopefully, I'll be able to answer all these today, and run through an example or two. Before I do, I'd like to make a few comments about the method and about my style of doing these sorts of things:

21 Comments | Posted in Approximate Value, General, Statgeekery

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