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

Checkdowns: Biggest turnarounds

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 15, 2011

The Patriots beat the Jets 45-3 on a Monday Night massacre in Foxboro just six weeks ago. Sixty-one times in league history has a team lost by 30+ points and then later beat that same opponent in a rematch that season. It's only happened 12 times, though, where the first defeat came by 40 or more points. The full list of 61, below:

year           Team Opp Game 1 Diff Game 2
2009 KAN DEN 44-13 (Dec. 6) 31 44-24 (Jan. 3)
2009 TAM NOR 38-7 (Nov. 22) 31 20-17 (Dec. 27)
2008 CHI GNB 37-3 (Nov. 16) 34 20-17 (Dec. 22)
2007 BAL PIT 38-7 (Nov. 5) 31 27-21 (Dec. 30)
2005 WAS NYG 36-0 (Oct. 30) 36 35-20 (Dec. 24)
2003 NWE BUF 31-0 (Sep. 7) 31 31-0 (Dec. 27)
2002 NYJ NWE 44-7 (Sep. 15) 37 30-17 (Dec. 22)
2000 SDG KAN 42-10 (Sep. 17) 32 17-16 (Nov. 26)

28 Comments | Posted in General

Site Features: Two Play Index Additions

Posted by Neil Paine on January 14, 2011

A quick note on two features Sean recently added to the Pro-Football Reference Play Index:

8 Comments | Posted in Announcements, P-F-R News, PI Finds, Play Index, Site Features

CFB: Auburn’s Place Among BCS Champions

Posted by Neil Paine on January 13, 2011

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

Whenever a team wins a championship, the temptation is always to compare them to other champions from the past, and the 2010 Auburn Tigers are no exception. Using the Simple Rating System (SRS), let's take a look at where the newest title-holders stand among BCS champs...

On Monday, ESPN asked its users to rank the BCS Champions from #1-13, coming up with this list:

Team Total Pts #1 Votes
2005 Texas 147,259 3,238
2004 USC 141,467 2,710
2009 Alabama 138,222 2,104
2001 Miami-FL 130,473 2,474
2008 Florida 119,697 1,071
2006 Florida 102,270 478
2010 Auburn 92,789 1,042
1999 Florida State 87,367 446
2002 Ohio State 82,755 629
2003 LSU 79,905 404
2000 Oklahoma 78,115 388
1998 Tennessee 74,067 525
2007 LSU 73,156 200

The SRS, though, comes up with a different ranking:

Year School Conf W L T SRS SOS
2001 Miami-FL Big East 12 0 0 26.169 5.741
2004 Southern California Pac 10 13 0 0 26.062 8.788
2008 Florida SEC 13 1 0 25.370 6.701
2005 Texas Big 12 13 0 0 24.977 5.686
2009 Alabama SEC 14 0 0 23.693 7.747
1999 Florida State ACC 12 0 0 23.495 6.208
2000 Oklahoma Big 12 13 0 0 21.555 5.812
2003 Louisiana State SEC 13 1 0 20.847 4.033
2010 Auburn SEC 14 0 0 20.648 7.031
1998 Tennessee SEC 13 0 0 19.955 4.955
2006 Florida SEC 13 1 0 19.661 7.886
2007 Louisiana State SEC 12 2 0 18.414 6.659
2002 Ohio State Big Ten 14 0 0 18.134 4.739

7 Comments | Posted in BCS, Best/Worst Ever, College, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Draft stories: 1968

Posted by Doug on January 13, 2011

This is a sequel to Draft stories: 1967 and possibly a precursor to Draft stories 1969 through whenever.

11 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft

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

Posted by Neil Paine on January 13, 2011

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

What Does the Season Series Tell Us About Playoff Matchups?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 12, 2011

All four of this weekend's playoff matchups feature rematches of regular-season games:

Patriots vs. Jets
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 NWE 2010 2010-12-06 NYJ 13 12 Mon W 45-3
2 NWE 2010 2010-09-19 @ NYJ 2 2 Sun L 14-28
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Steelers vs. Ravens
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 PIT 2010 2010-12-05 @ BAL 13 12 Sun W 13-10
2 PIT 2010 2010-10-03 BAL 4 4 Sun L 14-17
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Falcons vs. Packers
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 ATL 2010 2010-11-28 GNB 12 11 Sun W 20-17
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.
Bears vs. Seahawks
Rk Tm Year Date Opp W# G# Day Result
1 CHI 2010 2010-10-17 SEA 6 6 Sun L 20-23
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/12/2011.

How much extra information (above & beyond the Simple Rating System) can we glean from these previous matchups of playoff foes?

10 Comments | Posted in Play Index, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Site Features: Total Offensive TDs Added to TD Finder Criteria

Posted by Neil Paine on January 11, 2011

Player Touchdown Finder - Pro-Football-Reference.com

At the end of last week, Sean was able to add a new category to the Player Touchdown Finder: Combined Offensive TDs (rushing + receiving).

To use this new feature, just look under "Touchdown Type" and select "Offensive". It will allow you to execute queries like this one for the most offensive TDs in a playoff game since 1940:

Rk Scorer Date Tm Opp Result Count
1 Ricky Watters 1994-01-15 SFO NYG W 44-3 5
2 Shaun Alexander 2004-01-04 SEA @ GNB L 27-33 3
3 Mario Bates 1999-01-10 ARI @ MIN L 21-41 3
4 Craig Baynham 1967-12-24 DAL CLE W 52-14 3
5 Fred Biletnikoff* 1968-12-22 OAK KAN W 41-6 3
6 Dave Casper* 1977-12-24 OAK @ BAL W 37-31 3
7 Gary Collins 1964-12-27 CLE BAL W 27-0 3
8 Roger Craig 1985-01-20 SFO N MIA W 38-16 3
9 Larry Csonka* 1973-12-30 MIA OAK W 27-10 3
10 Kenneth Davis 1991-01-20 BUF RAI W 51-3 3
11 Terrell Davis 1998-01-25 DEN N GNB W 31-24 3
12 Andy Farkas 1943-12-19 WAS @ NYG W 28-0 3
13 Tom Fears* 1950-12-17 RAM CHI W 24-14 3
14 Larry Fitzgerald 2009-01-18 ARI PHI W 32-25 3
15 William Floyd 1995-01-07 SFO CHI W 44-15 3
16 Alvin Garrett 1983-01-08 WAS DET W 31-7 3
17 Otto Graham* 1954-12-26 CLE DET W 56-10 3
18 Ryan Grant 2008-01-12 GNB SEA W 42-20 3
19 Franco Harris* 1974-12-22 PIT BUF W 32-14 3
20 Leroy Hoard 1999-01-10 MIN ARI W 41-21 3
21 Willie Jackson 2000-12-30 NOR STL W 31-28 3
22 Curtis Martin 1997-01-05 NWE PIT W 28-3 3
23 Tom Matte 1968-12-29 BAL @ CLE W 34-0 3
24 Napoleon McCallum 1994-01-09 RAI DEN W 42-24 3
25 Marion Motley* 1948-12-19 CLE BUF W 49-7 3
26 Preston Pearson 1976-01-04 DAL @ RAM W 37-7 3
27 Adrian Peterson 2010-01-24 MIN @ NOR L 28-31 3
28 Andre Reed 1993-01-03 BUF HOU W 41-38 3
29 Jerry Rice* 1989-01-01 SFO MIN W 34-9 3
30 Jerry Rice* 1990-01-28 SFO N DEN W 55-10 3
31 Jerry Rice* 1995-01-29 SFO N SDG W 49-26 3
32 Sidney Rice 2010-01-17 MIN DAL W 34-3 3
33 John Riggins* 1984-01-01 WAS RAM W 51-7 3
34 Larry Schreiber 1972-12-23 SFO DAL L 28-30 3
35 Sterling Sharpe 1994-01-08 GNB @ DET W 28-24 3
36 Emmitt Smith* 1996-01-14 DAL GNB W 38-27 3
37 Thurman Thomas* 1994-01-23 BUF KAN W 30-13 3
38 Amani Toomer 2003-01-05 NYG @ SFO L 38-39 3
39 Ricky Watters 1995-01-29 SFO N SDG W 49-26 3
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 1/11/2011.

2 Comments | Posted in Announcements, Play Index, Site Features

New York Times Posts: Weeks 14-18

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 11, 2011

Today, I look at how the Patriots are succeeding on offense thanks largely to undrafted and late round picks. In fact, if the Patriots win the Super Bowl, their skill position players on offense will have the worst draft pedigree of any Super Bowl winner, including offensive-challenged teams like the '02 Bucs and '00 Ravens. It's fascinating to look at how much Patriots production comes from the scrap heap:

Tom Brady, the presumptive M.V.P. winner this year, was the 199th pick in the 2000 draft. The Patriots’ leading rusher, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, wasn’t drafted. Neither was their leading receiver, Wes Welker. Danny Woodhead ranks just behind Green-Ellis in yards from scrimmage but he wasn’t one of the 23 running backs selected in the 2008 draft. The rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught 10 touchdown passes, qualifies as a superstar by Patriots standards: he was the 42nd pick in last April’s draft. Of New England’s eight most productive offensive skill position players — Brady, Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Welker, Deion Branch, Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Tate — only Gronkowski was a top-60 draft pick.

After the season is over, I'll do a full post on all Super Bowl teams based on their entire rosters, not just the offensive skill position players. And, of course, I'll use AV as the input. I suspect New England -- you know, if they manage to win the Super Bowl -- would still fall at the bottom of the list.

In other posts...

In mid-December I took a look at Jacksonville's surprising success.

The following week? How good is Jamaal Charles? Very, very good.

Before the final week of the regular season, I noted how Brady and Brees had impressive passing touchdown streaks that they maintained in week 17. Both quarterbacks threw a touchdown pass in every game in 2010.

After the season ended, I wondered how Kubiak and Del Rio kept their jobs and took a quick look at past playoff rematches.

2 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

Checkdowns: Marshawn Lynch’s Okoye-esque Run, in Tecmo Form

Posted by Neil Paine on January 11, 2011

In the original Tecmo Super Bowl, Christian "The Nigerian Nightmare" Okoye was nearly impossible to tackle thanks to his monstrous "Hitting Power" attribute. How extreme were Okoye's abilities in the game? The Colts had only one player on their entire roster (Jon Hand) with sufficient HP for a chance at stopping him. As a result, Okoye was the undisputed king of "popcorning", Tecmo slang for defenders bouncing off of a ballcarrier with practically no effect, en route to the end zone.

Well, Okoye was undisputed before Saturday... But as Jordan Slocum shows us, Marshawn Lynch is apparently gunning for Okoye:

The really crazy part is that the real-life version might be more videogame-like than the digital recreation!

4 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, Tecmo Super Bowl, YouTube Finds

Add Links to Your Site’s Blog Posts to PFR Player Pages

Posted by Neil Paine on January 10, 2011

PFR Player Name Linker / Add your Site to our Player Newsfeeds

Just a reminder that we now have newsfeeds on the PFR player pages, showing the latest player news from KFFL, injury reports and links to relevant PFR blog posts. If you have a blog or website with an RSS feed you can add your site to relevant player pages as well. Our Player Linker Tool will take your blog posts as you've written them and run them through a program and add links to PFR player pages where appropriate. So while you don't have the resource to create your own player pages for your site, you can treat us as your site's statistics partner, linking LT's name to our stats or any player all the way back to Y.A. Tittle and Otto Graham.

If the links then appear in your rss feed and you let us know to look for them, we'll pull them out of your feed and then link back to you from LT's page, or Otto Graham's or whomever you link to.

If you help your users find our great content, we'll help our users find yours. And best of all it is all automated except for one click of an easy-to-install bookmarklet. Check the Player Newsfeeds page for details. This link share will also work for tables you share using the SHARE tooltip found above every stats table on the site.

Comments Off | Posted in Announcements, Site Features

Which Quarterbacks’ Offenses Exceed Expectations in the Playoffs?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 10, 2011

Curious after Peyton Manning & the Colts scored 16 points at home against the Jets on Saturday, I wanted to calculate how many points we should have expected them to put on the board, knowing the opponent and game location.

According to the Simple Rating System (SRS), the Jets' defense was +4.2 this season -- meaning they allowed 4.2 fewer PPG than an average team after accounting for strength of schedule. The average NFL team scored 22.0 PPG during the regular-season, so at a neutral site we'd expect an average team to score 17.8 PPG against the New York defense. And since the Colts were at home, 0.95 PPG (half the overall home-field advantage in 2010) should be added in as well, giving a final expectation of 18.8 PPG for a league-average team against the Jets at home. Since the Colts actually scored 16, we can score this performance as -2.8 points relative to average.

Additionally, we wouldn't have expected the Colts' offense to be average based on the regular season. Their offensive SRS was +3.7, which means Indianapolis "should have" scored 22.0 + 0.95 + 3.7 - 4.2 = 22.5 pts against the Jets at home. This yields a score of -6.5 pts relative to regular-season expectations.

Here's Peyton Manning's entire playoff career according to this methodology:

20 Comments | Posted in Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery

Draft stories: 1967

Posted by Doug on January 9, 2011

I've really been enjoying perusing old newspaper articles in the google news archives lately, so I figured I may as well put that time to good use by blogging some interesting tidbits. This post contains a random assortment of details and stories from the 1967 draft, along with some offshoots.

6 Comments | Posted in History, NFL Draft

Checkdowns, Rants: Rookie Wage Scale

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 7, 2011

Jason Lisk (f/k/a JKL of the PFR Blog) continues to kill it over at the Big Lead. You can read all of Jason's work here, and I highly advise you to do so. His latest piece? A large rant against the idea of a rookie wage scale in the NFL. Jason, Doug and I are in the tiny minority of NFL fans who don't think rookies are overpaid, even the most highly drafted ones. My favorite piece in his article today? A link to a sportswriter complaining in April that Ndamukong Suh was going to recieve similar guaranteed money to Albert Haynesworth. What an injustice!

We've discussed this on the PFR blog before. In February 2009, Jason wrote that some proof that first round picks, as a group, are not overpaid. In May 2008, I came up with a modern Draft Pick Value Chart, which confirmed my believe that the top rookies are not overpaid. Brian Burke wrote an insightful article on how NFL players are gladiators, not bricklayers, and I believe Burke is with the PFR Crew w/r/t rookie salaries.

And then, today, I got bored and did a tongue-in-cheek rant over at the Footballguys message boards. You can read it and follow the anticipated ridiculous comments here, but I'll re-post it as well below:

How in the world can it be justified to pay Jim Harbaugh 7 or 8 million dollars are you? Are you kidding me? Putting aside that, ya know, that's more money than most people will make in their entire lives, what has Harbaugh done to deserve it? He did a good job coaching in a decent conference in college? He never even won his conference! Yet all of the sudden he's somehow worthy of one of the richest contracts in NFL history?

Mike Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and has Pittsburgh as an annual contender, and he's making 4.8 million per year. Jeff Fisher, one of the most respected coaches in the league, is making just shy of 6 million per year. Tom Coughlin, after he won the freakin Super Bowl, is making just over 5 mill per year. How in the world can you justify paying Jim Harbaugh more than all of them? More than Bill Belichick, who's making 7.5 per year?

It's just absurd. Harbaugh's a college guy who hasn't proven a single thing in the NFL. Why not make him PROVE his worth first, then pay him? Wouldn't a 3-year, 6 million dollar deal still put him in the top .0001% of rich people and not cripple the franchise if he's a bust? If Harbaugh's actually a good NFL coach, surely his next contract would be in the 6-7 million dollar a year range. So if he's a good coach, he'll make a ton of money. If he's a bad coach, he'll still make good money but not crazy money. Why won't Roger Goodell step in and do something about this? As an average NFL fan, I have to say it turns me off to the whole sport to see an unproven whippersnapper like Harbaugh come in and make more money than my family will make for generations. For coaching freakin' football. Make him prove it, then pay him. Isn't that how every other industry in the world works?

Please, NFL and Goodell, do something.

10 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns, Rant, Rule Change Proposals

Checkdowns: Matt Ryan vs. Jake Long

Posted by Chase Stuart on January 6, 2011

I'm currently working on a two-part series discussing the Miami Dolphins' decision to draft Jake Long instead of Matt Ryan in the first round of the 2008 draft. It may be a few days, or a few weeks, but it's on the to-do list. That said, I thought I'd throw out a few questions to the commentators first:

1) Where do you rank Matt Ryan among NFL QBs right now, regardless of age? Where do you rank Ryan including age, i.e., if you were building a franchise?

2) Where do you rank Jake Long among NFL LTs right now, regardless of age? Where do you rank Long including age, i.e., if you were building a franchise?

3) In retrospect, who has been a more valuable player over the past 3 seasons, Ryan or Long? To the extent that your answer is different, who has been the better player over the past 3 seasons, Ryan or Long?

4) Suppose the NFL threw every single player into an open dynasty draft in the summer of 2011. There would be a lottery for the first pick, every player would have his contract revoked, and the league would essentially have a 32-team expansion draft. Some lucky team would get the first pick, while the 32nd team would pick 33rd, in a typical snake draft. There would be no salary cap, and the draft would last forever (i.e., we would not renew this process in the summer of 2012).

  • a) Who would be the first pick in this draft? A few years ago, Peyton Manning (or Tom Brady) would have been the obvious choice, but now I'm not sure there is a clear number one.
  • b) Who would go first, Ryan or Long? At what spot would each go?
  • c) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you believe Long to be the best left tackle in the league. Considering the respective ages of the players, how good would Ryan need to be to be selected ahead of Long? Top 5? Top 10? Top 15? Essentially, at what QB rank would you stop taking Ryan over long (assuming, of course, that if Ryan was the best QB in the league, you'd take him, and if he was the second best QB, you'd take him, etc. At what point does it stop)?

38 Comments | Posted in Insane ideas

PI Finds: Final 2010 Team Adjusted Rushing Yards per Attempt, SRS-Style

Posted by Neil Paine on January 6, 2011

As a follow-up to the 2010 team passing ratings I posted Tuesday, I ran the same process on team rushing performances. The formula for adjusted rushing yards per attempt was:

ARY/A = (Rush Yds + 18 * Rush TD) / Rush Att

(The 18 comes from Chase's post on the value of TDs.)

Using the PFR Team Game Finder, I plugged every team single-game rushing performance of the 2010 season into the formula above, then adjusted for strength of schedule and game location using an SRS-style recursive loop. The result was a set of ratings that best predicted every game according to these equations:

Home ARY/A = Lg Avg  ARY/A + .5*HFA + Home Rush Offense Rating + Away Rush Defense Rating

Away ARY/A = Lg Avg ARY/A - .5*HFA + Away Rush Offense Rating + Home Rush Defense Rating

Here were the ratings (again, negative is good for defenses):

4 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Play Index, Simple Rating System, Site Features, Statgeekery

Checkdowns: All-NFL Edition of Gelf Magazine’s Varsity Letters Reading in NYC

Posted by Neil Paine on January 5, 2011

Friend of the PFR Blog Carl Bialik is hosting a sports reading event in NYC this week for Gelf Magazine. This week, it's an all-NFL edition with guests Anthony Gargano (sharing an inside look at the brutal life of a player), N. Jeremi Duru (speaking on the history of the Rooney Rule), and Chad Millman (talking about the 1970s Steelers).

It's at Pacific Standard in Brooklyn, so check it out if you're in the area and like NFL-themed books.

2 Comments | Posted in Checkdowns

PI Finds: Final 2010 Team Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt, SRS-Style

Posted by Neil Paine on January 4, 2011

Taking into account opponent and game location, which 2010 teams had the best passing offenses and defenses according to Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt? Let's use the PFR team Game Finder and Doug's SRS methodology (or, if you prefer, Chase's Rearview Adjusted Yards Per Attempt methodology) to find out...

With the team game finder, I called up every team passing performance of the 2010 season. Using the CSV option, I dumped the results into Excel and was quickly able to create a table listing the home and road teams' passing stats for each game of the season:

2010 Game-by-Game Passing Stats

From there, I set up an SRS-style recursive loop where every game's home and road ANY/A are predicted by the following formulae:

Home ANY/A = Lg Avg  ANY/A + .5*HFA + Home Pass Offense Rating + Away Pass Defense Rating

Away ANY/A = Lg Avg ANY/A - .5*HFA + Away Pass Offense Rating + Home Pass Defense Rating

Here were the results (negative is good for defenses):

4 Comments | Posted in PI Finds, Simple Rating System, Site Features, Statgeekery

Most interceptions by Quarterback-Defender pairing

Posted by Chase Stuart on December 31, 2010

Which player has intercepted which quarterback the most? Who has picked off Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dan Marino or Joe Montana more than anyone else? Against which quarterbacks did Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Mel Blount pad their numbers? Those answers and more, below.

I used the same methodology I used in the most pick-sixes in NFL history post to determine which quarterback threw which interception to each defender. For the purposes of this study, I included all interceptions in any post-season game in league history and interceptions in any regular season games since 1960. For each interception thrown in any of those games, the defensive player was given X/Y interceptions against the quarterback, where X represents the number of interceptions thrown by that quarterback in that game and Y stands for the number of team interceptions thrown by the quarterback's team in that game. As a result, this post is more of an approximation than an exact science.

The leader in quarterback-defensive player pairing interceptions? Over a six-year period, Broncos cornerback Steve Foley terrorized Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts. Foley had two interceptions in a 17-0 shutout against the Chargers in November 1976; Fouts threw two picks while Clint Longley had three more, which means Fouts is blamed for 40% of the two interceptions Foley had that day, or 0.8 INTs. In December '77, with the Orange Crush at full bore, Foley picked off Fouts in a 17-9 Broncos victory. Their next matchup came in September 1978, and Foley intercepted Fouts again in a Denver win. On Monday Night Football in the 1979 season finale, Foley caught two passes from Fouts, only one fewer than Charlie Joiner. Fouts and Air Corywell was running at top speed in 1980, but Foley picked him off in both matchups, first in Denver and then in a road victory in San Diego. Their next meeting came in September '81, and Foley intercepted three Fouts passes. Maybe after that, Fouts learned not to throw the ball in Foley's direction. All told, including the "0.8 interceptions' in that '76 game, and Foley recorded 9.8 interceptions against the Hall of Fame quarterback.

12 Comments | Posted in Quarterbacks, Statgeekery

Bring back this idea: mid-week pre-playoff playoff games

Posted by Doug on December 23, 2010

File this under "I know that most stuff that happened before I was born was quaint, but not this quaint"....

As the final week of the 1970 season approached, the Vikings had clinched the NFC Central, but the West and East were up for grabs, as was the wildcard (or, as it was known at the time, "the playoff berth for the best second-place team"), with the Cardinals, Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Rams and 49ers all in the mix for three available slots. Back then, the tiebreakers were simpler: (1) head to head, (2) conference record, (3) coin flip.

As the various scenarios were examined, it began to dawn on people that a coin flip was not a remote possibility at all. A Lions/Cowboys coin flip seemed somewhat likely, and some newspaper articles referred to a potential three-way "telephonic coin flip" between the Lions, Cowboys, and Giants. My search for an explanation of the mechanics of the three-way flip ended without success.

But if Lions' GM Russ Thomas had his way, there would have been no mechanics necessary. From this UPI article:

Lions' General Manager Russ Thomas has proposed that the Lions be allowed to meet the Dallas Cowboys in a special playoff game next Wednesday instead of conducting a coin toss if the two teams tie for the playoff spot.

Lions' coach and former broken-glass-eating middle linebacker Joe Schmidt was, of course, ready to play anyone any time. Uh, but only because it was less "lousy" than a coin flip. Unfortunately, Pete Rozelle informed Thomas that such a proposal would require unanimous approval from all 26 owners, and speculated that that was extremely unlikely.

In the end, the Rams saved us the hassle by dominating the Giants 31-3. This allowed both Dallas and Detroit to control their own destinies, and both won their games easily.

Just a few weeks later, Rozelle admitted that the situation had him worried (exact words: "we damn near got burned and had to flip a coin.") and that the competition committee would probably be making some changes, but that pre-playoff playoff games were not a possibility.

8 Comments | Posted in History, Insane ideas

Send us Your Suggestions!

Posted by Neil Paine on December 22, 2010

Just a friendly reminder that we welcome site feedback/suggestions via our feedback form:

User Feedback - Pro-Football-Reference.com

You can also email us directly at this address. We'll try to respond to everything within a week (although it may take longer this time of year, due to the holidays).

20 Comments | Posted in Announcements, Site Features

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