The color-coded NFL schedule is back!

Download the Excel file here: 2014-NFL-SCHEDULE

That Excel file contains full page and wallet-sized copies of the schedule, in both color and black and white. On the wallet-sized copies, the line between weeks 8 and 9 has been enlarged — that is where you want to fold the paper in half to put in your wallet.

iPhone page: http://www.footballperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/2014-iphone-schedule.png

Go to that page on your phone, then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo (or hit the button on the middle of the Safari browser and click ‘save image.’) The schedule has been formatted to fit an iPhone screen, so you can always carry the schedule with you.

Of course, you don’t need an iPhone or Excel to view the NFL schedule: [click to continue…]

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When a general manager trades away a future first round pick, it’s worth wondering if the transaction was the effect of the principal-agent problem. A general manager is supposed to act in the best interest of the franchise, but he may instead choose to act in his own self-interest. If he’s on the hot seat, trading a future first round pick for something right now may be a pretty attractive option, as he may not be around when the bill comes due.

Does that happen in practice? The most obvious example I can think of involved the Raiders in 2011.  On October 8th, Al Davis passed away. Eight days later, starting quarterback Jason Campbell went down for the season with a collarbone injury. With the owner and general manager positions unsettled, head coach Hue Jackson became the de facto head of football operations. And he traded first and second round picks to Cincinnati for Carson Palmer. Had the move worked out and the 4-2 Raiders gone on to make the playoffs, Jackson would have been very happy. When the move failed, the Raiders missed the playoffs and Jackson was fired. As a result, it was Reggie McKenzie sitting at the table when the bill arrived.

[click to continue…]

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By now, you know about guest blogger Andrew Healy, an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University and author of today’s post. There’s now a tag at the site where you can find all of his great work. He’s back with a cap to his excellent series about playoff performance, and today’s post will not disappoint:



The Purple People Eaters never won a Super Bowl

The Purple People Eaters never won a Super Bowl.

We know the teams that have experienced consistent heartbreak at the altar. But is it the Vikings, Eagles, or Bills that are the most unlikely to have never won a Super Bowl? On the flip side, we know the teams that stacked championships on top of championships. But is it the Packers, Steelers, or 49ers that have made the most of their chances?

For the latter question, it turns out that it’s option D, none of the above.  One mystery team has won four championships despite having had a pretty decent chance of never winning a single Lombardi.  The most unlikely team never to win a Super Bowl turns out to be a team that lost “only” two Super Bowls, but that has led the NFL in DVOA four times since 1979.

To figure this stuff out, I’ve utilized DVOA ratings and estimated DVOA ratings to rerun the NFL playoffs. In the simulations, the slate is wiped clean, which means there’s no reason The Fumble or The Helmet Catch or The Immaculate Reception have to happen this time around.

In last week’s post, I went decade by decade to look at the best teams, and also those that most let opportunity slip through their fingers. Today, I bring it all together. I compare what might have been with what actually was for the NFL from 1950 to 2013. I’ll also hand out awards for the teams that were the most unlikely winners and the most unlikely losers of all time. [click to continue…]

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Johnny Jaguar

Johnny Jaguar.

A couple of years ago, I wrote that when a team misses on a first round quarterback, someone tends to gets fired (update here). I identified 22 quarterbacks drafted in the first round between 1998 and 2010 who did not turn into stars: in nearly every case, the offensive coordinator and/or head coach was fired.

Jacksonville has underdone significant upheaval over the past few years. In January 2012, Shahid Khan acquired the Jaguars. The general manager at the time was Gene Smith: after a 2-14 season, Smith was fired, and Khan brought in his man, David Caldwell.

Caldwell brought in his own man, too, when he replaced Mike Mularkey with Gus Bradley. The new management team also inherited Blaine Gabbert, the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft. After two poor seasons from Gabbert before they arrived, Caldwell and Bradley could have decided to select a quarterback in the 2013 draft. But with the 2nd overall pick, there was no Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III available, and the Jaguars selected offensive tackle Luke Joeckel.

When Jacksonville was on the clock at the top of the second round, the only quarterback off the board was EJ Manuel. The Jaguars could have drafted Geno Smith, but instead selected Jonathan Cyprien. In the third round, Mike Glennon was still available, but the team picked Dwayne Gratz. In the fourth round, before Matt Barkley, Ryan Nassib, Tyler Wilson, and Landry Jones were drafted, the Jaguars took Ace Sanders.

[click to continue…]

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Short and stout is what NFL teams look for in a running back

Short and stout is the ideal look.

In December, I noted that fewer rushing yards are coming from first round picks. That’s a trend that seems very likely to continue in 2014, and perhaps for the foreseeable future. As it turns out, running backs are also getting shorter and heavier.

LeSean McCoy, Alfred Morris, Frank Gore, Knowshon Moreno, Zac Stacy, DeAngelo Williams, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, Giovani Bernard, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Danny Woodhead, and Mark Ingram are all 5’10 or shorter. As you can probably infer from the sheer quantity of the group, those players aren’t significant outliers: the “average” running back, weighted by rushing yards last season, was only five feet and 11.1 inches tall. That means backs like Jamaal Charles (6’1), Matt Forte (6’1), and Adrian Peterson are more outliers than the 5’10 backs.

This is a weighted average, so McCoy (who had about 3% of all rushing yards from running backs last year) counts three times as much as, say, Donald Brown when calculating the 2013 (weighted) average running back height. Regular readers will recognize that this is the same methodology I used when calculating the average (weighted) average of each team’s receivers last season. The graph below shows the average weighted height of all running backs since 1950: [click to continue…]

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Interesting stat about LeBron James courtesy of Tim Reynolds: The Heat superstar has increased his field goal percentage in seven straight seasons. Take a look at his field goal percentage by season:

Season Age Tm FG%
2003-04 19 CLE .417
2004-05 ★ 20 CLE .472
2005-06 ★ 21 CLE .480
2006-07 ★ 22 CLE .476
2007-08 ★ 23 CLE .484
2008-09 ★ 24 CLE .489
2009-10 ★ 25 CLE .503
2010-11 ★ 26 MIA .510
2011-12 ★ 27 MIA .531
2012-13 ★ 28 MIA .565
2013-14 ★ 29 MIA .567

Now as you guys can probably figure out, I’m not terribly invested in the career of LeBron James or basketball stats. But one thing I know is that improving on any metric in seven straight years is really freakin’ rare.

How rare? Only one quarterback in NFL history has increased his passing yards output in six straight years. That quarterback actually increased his passing yards per game in eight straight seasons, but no other quarterback can come close to matching that feat, either. Can you guess who our mystery quarterback is?

Trivia hint 1 Show
Trivia hint 2 Show
Trivia hint 3 Show
Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

Here, take a look at his career stats:

Click 'Show' Show

So while 1) my interest in basketball is limited, and 2) as Neil would tell me, field goal percentage is meaningless, simply increasing your performance in any stat for seven straight years is remarkable. No running back has ever increased their rushing output in seven straight years, although Earl Ferrell (if you count his rookie year of zero rushing yards per game, 1982-1988) and Pete Johnson (1977-1983) both increased their rushing yards per game in six straight years.

No receiver has seen a seven-year increase in any stat, either.  However, three players have increased their number of receptions in six straight years: Jason Avant (2006-2012), Raymond Berry (1955-1961), and Reggie Wayne (2001-2007). However, none of them managed to pull off that feat in receiving yards.

But two other players did: Tim Brown (1989-1995) and Marcus Pollard (if you count his rookie year of zero receiving yards, 1995-2001) increased their receiving yards in six straight seasons. And Leonard Thompson (1977-1983), Brown, and Pollard were the only players to increase their receiving yards per game in six straight years.

So whatever you think of LeBron, just know that here’s one more reason a stats geek could find his career fascinating.

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Which College Conferences Dominate the NFL Draft?

April 18, 2014 College

On Sunday, I used my draft value chart to determine how NFL teams valued various positions. Today, I’ll use the same method to see which schools and conferences dominate the NFL Draft. You are not going to be surprised to discover that USC Trojans have dominated the draft over the last ten years. You’ll be […]

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Youngest and Oldest Receiving Groups in 2013

April 17, 2014 Receiving

In January, I calculated the AV-adjusted age of every team in 2013. In February, I looked at the production-adjusted height for each team’s receivers. Today, we combine those two ideas, and see which teams had the youngest and oldest set of targets. To calculate the average receiving age of each team, I calculated a weighted […]

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The St. Louis Rams Are Hosting A Horrible Contest

April 16, 2014 Statgeekery

In case you haven’t heard, the St. Louis Rams are running a contest to predict the team’s 2014 schedule. lThe prize is $100,000, which sounds nice until you realize that to win, you must accurately predict not only the opponent each week, but the location and the exact day of the game. Nobody is going to […]

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Ranking the Almost Dynasties, Part II

April 15, 2014 History

Andrew Healy is back with a sequel to his popular post. As always, we thank him for his generous contributions. Andrew Healy is an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University. He is a big fan of the New England Patriots and Joe Benigno. A couple of weeks ago, I went decade-by-decade since the 1970 AFL-NFL […]

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Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck are ESPN QBR Stars

April 14, 2014 Quarterbacks

A few weeks ago, I put ESPN’s Total QBR under the microscope. Today, I want to look at the quarterbacks whose passing statistics most differ from their QBR grades. Total QBR grades go back to 2006, so to start, I ran a regression using Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt to predict Total QBR. The best-fit […]

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Analyzing Position Values in the NFL

April 13, 2014 Draft

Every draft pick has a value, as seen in my draft value chart.  When the first overall pick is used on a quarterback, that means the quarterback position gets credited with 34.6 picks. If you assign a value to every pick in each of the last ten drafts, you can get a sense of the […]

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2014 Running Back Free Agent Market

April 12, 2014 Current Events

The free agent running back market has been as peculiar as it’s been quiet. There have been no big contracts doled out and only a few sizable ones of note, although some of the ensuing narrative about the demise of the running back position has been overblown. Today I want to look at the ten […]

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Owen Daniels and Gary Kubiak, Together Again

April 11, 2014 Current Events

A couple of years ago, I wrote this post about Josh McDaniels and Brandon Lloyd. Well, with Owen Daniels reuniting with Gary Kubiak in Baltimore — lest you forget, Kubiak is the Ravens new offensive coordinator with Jim Caldwell now head coach in Detroit — I thought it might be fun to look at previous […]

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Wide Receivers and Weighted Team Pass Attempts

April 10, 2014 Receiving

In his seven-year career, Calvin Johnson has already recorded 9,328 receiving yards. And for those curious about these sorts of things, he’s the career leader in receiving yards per game at 88.0, too. But Johnson has also benefited greatly from playing on teams that have thrown a weighted average of 635 pass attempts per season. […]

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Is there any hope in Oakland for Matt Schaub?

April 9, 2014 Quarterbacks

Is Matt Schaub washed up? Is he the next Jake Delhomme? For the first six seasons of his Texans career, Schaub was an above-average quarterback in both Net Yards per Attempt and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. But last year was disastrous in a way that his poor conventional stats fail to completely capture (for […]

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What Does Chris Johnson Have Left?

April 8, 2014 Statgeekery

After six seasons in Tennessee, Chris Johnson is now a free agent. The star running back has had an up-and-down career. The successes are easy to document: since 2008, only Adrian Peterson has more rushing yards, and Johnson has rushed for 1,299 more yards than the next closest back, Matt Forte. Johnson was just 32 […]

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Head Coach Retention Rates

April 7, 2014 Coaches

In the footnotes (always read the footnotes!) to one of Neil’s posts at 538, he included a fun chart displaying the likelihood that a baseball manager would be retained by his team X seasons from now. That made me wonder: what is the NFL head coach retention rate? And, as is often assumed by the […]

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A Passing League

April 6, 2014 History

In some ways, the premise of this post is geeky even for this site. And that’s saying something. There is a debate over the proper way to measure league average. For example, when we say the average completion percentage in the NFL is 61.2%, this is generally assumed to reflect the fact that in 2013, […]

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Interactive Trivia: Jerry Rice And [_______]

April 5, 2014 Trivia

If you play with enough filters of the “my dad can beat up your sister” variety, you can get some pretty counter-intuitive results. For example, Jerry Rice and DeSean Jackson are the only two players in NFL history to catch 350 passes, gain 6,000 receiving yards, and average 17.1 yards per reception through their first […]

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Matt Waldman Rookie Scouting Portfolio

April 4, 2014 Announcements

Every April 1st, friend-of-the-program Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) releases his Rookie Scouting Portfolio. The RSP is, well, insane. It’s a 251-page draft guide that not only provides rankings and analysis of 164 players, but also provides over 1,000 pages of scouting checklists and play-by-play notes. Matt does top-notch work year round, and I can confidently state […]

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Scoring Distribution Since 1940

April 3, 2014 History

We all know that scoring is on the rise. The 2013 season was the highest scoring season in NFL history, just narrowly edging out the … 1948, 1950, and 2012 seasons. Scoring soared in the aftermath of World War II, but quickly dropped off in the middle of the 1950s. Scoring fell to its nadir […]

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The Best Kickoff Returners in NFL History

April 2, 2014 History

Two weeks ago, I looked at the best punt returners in NFL history; today, a look at the top kickoff returners. Again, we begin with a graph of the league average yards per kickoff return from 1941 through 2013. The variation here has been relatively minor, falling in a 5-yard window from 18.9 yards per […]

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Ranking The Almost Dynasties

April 1, 2014 History

A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Healy contributed a guest post titled, “One Play Away.” He’s back at it today, and we thank him for another generous contribution. Andrew Healy is an economics professor at Loyola Marymount University. He is a big fan of the New England Patriots and Joe Benigno. What teams do we […]

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Is ESPN’s QBR the best measure of quarterback play?

March 31, 2014 Quarterbacks

One of the very first posts at Football Perspective measured how various passing stats were correlated with wins.  One of the main conclusions from that post was that passer rating, because of its heavy emphasis on completion percentage and interception rate, was not the ideal way to measure quarterback play. But what about ESPN’s Total […]

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The 2013 Cleveland Browns Had the Strangest Season

March 30, 2014 SRS

Okay, that title could be the opener to any number of jokes. But I mean “strange season” in the way Football Perspective has used the phrase before. Take a look at Cleveland’s schedule and results from 2013: Score Week Day Date Rec Opp Tm Opp 1 Sun September 8 boxscore L 0-1 Miami Dolphins 10 […]

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Predictions in Review: NFC North

March 29, 2014 Stat Recap

During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West, the NFC West, the AFC South, the NFC South, and the AFC North. Today, the NFC North. The Detroit Lions […]

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Comparing 2014 Vegas Projections to Estimated Wins

March 28, 2014 Vegas

Three weeks ago, Vegas released the first set of 2014 win totals for all 32 teams. I immediately wondered how those win totals compare to the estimated wins I created based on 2013 DVOA ratings. I tweeted a request for someone to write such an article, and Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) was kind enough to oblige. […]

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2013 Fumble Recovery Data Has Jets, Cowboys at Extremes

March 27, 2014 Statistics

There are few statistics more random in all of sports than fumble recoveries. When a football is on the ground, it’s not the case that better teams are more likely to fall on the ball than bad teams: in the NFL, recovering fumbles is nearly all luck and little skill. This is a fact widely […]

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The Best 40-Yard Dash Times since 1999

March 26, 2014 Draft

A month ago, I looked Jadeveon Clowney’s impressive time in the 40-yard dash. In that post, I argued that all 40-yard times must be adjusted for weight. Well, thanks to the good folks at NFLSavant.com, 40-yard dash times are available for many players going back to 1999. Which made me wonder: which players have posted […]

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