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Young as a Yuck

Steve Young went 91-33 as a starting quarterback for the 49ers, a 0.734 winning percentage. He also went 3-16 as the quarterback of all other teams (which, in this case, is just the Bucs), for a 0.158 winning percentage. That’s remarkable, but is it as remarkable as say, what Jake Plummer did? With the Broncos, Plummer went 39-15 (0.722), but he was 30-52 (0.366) with all other teams (here, just the Cardinals).  Young has a larger differential, but he started just 19 games in Tampa Bay; Plummer started over 50 games with both teams.

One way to “deal” with this is to add X number of games of .500 play to both sides.  I’ve used 40 games before, which is probably within the range of reasonable.  This helps smooth out small sample sizes: Young would therefore be 111-53 with the 49ers (0.677) and 23-36 (.390) outside of San Francisco.  As you can see, his 49ers adjusted winning percentage only changes by about 6% by adding 40 games of .500 play, but his Tampa Bay adjusted winning percentage rises by 23% because of the small sample size.  That’s the point.   Now, Young has a 29% better adjusted winning percentage in San Francisco than outside of San Francisco.

Plummer? His Denver record would become 59-35 (.628), while his non-Broncos record would be 50-72 (.410), giving him a 22% better adjusted winning in Denver.

I did this for every quarterback in NFL history (prior to 2017) and checked to see which passers had the biggest differentials in terms of adjusted winning percentage as quarterback of one team (minimum 10 starts) versus the rest of their career. Young was in fact the leader by this metric, with Plummer coming in at #4. Steve DeBerg was 2nd: he was 21 games under .500 in Tampa Bay and 21 games under .500 in San Francisco, and he also went 7-9 in his starts in Denver, Miami, and Atlanta. On the other hand, he was 31-20-1 as the starter with Kansas City. As a result, his adjusted winning percentage was 23% higher with the Chiefs than it was outside of Kansas City.

Billy Kilmer went an impressive 50-23-1 later in his career as a Redskins starter, but just 11-28 with the Saints (and 0-1 with the 49ers) at the beginning of his career.  In other words, he was a 1970s Plummer. Here’s how to read the table below, using Jim Plunkett — who was 19 games above .500 with the Raiders, and 19 games under .500 when not with the Raiders as an example. Plunkett went 38-19 with the Raiders for a 0.667 winning percentage and a 0.598 adjusted winning percentage (after adding 40 games of .500 play). When not with the Raiders, Plunkett was 34-53 for a 0.391 winning percentage that jumps to 0.425 after adding 40 games of .500 play. Plunkett’s actual difference in winning percentage was 0.276, but just difference in adjusted winning percentage was 0.173, the 10th largest on the list. [click to continue…]

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I was a little late in getting out the week 1 Game Scripts, but hopefully these will come out every Wednesday or Thursday for the rest of the year.

The Cowboys, Eagles, and Chargers stood out as pass-heavy this week. Dak Prescott finished with 50 passes (plus two sacks), easily a career high and only the second time he’s thrown even 40 passes in a game. Ezekiel Elliott, meanwhile, set career lows with just 9 carries and 8 yards. Dallas was blown out by Denver, but still: a -11.5 Game Script usually yields more like a 68% pass ratio, not 79%.

Philadelphia was even more pass-happy: this game was close throughout, but Carson Wentz had 52 dropbacks (and 4 rushing attempts), while Philadelphia running backs had just 13 carries. LeGarrette Blount, after recording a team-high 14 carries in week 1, was on the field for just six snaps and had zero carries against the Chiefs. Wentz didn’t convert half of his dropbacks into completions, so it’s tough to see the explanation here for abandoning the ground game. Darren Sproles led the team with 10 carries, but it seems unlikely that he will ever get much more than that. So the either the Eagles will either become the most pass-happy team in the NFL or return to Blount or Wendell Smallwood for a larger role.

The Chargers led for much of the second half against Miami, only falling behind in the final minute. But that didn’t stop Philip Rivers from recording 40 dropbacks, compared to just 13 rushes for the Chargers running backs. Melvin Gordon rushed 9 times for 13 yards with a long of 11 yards, so he obviously was not getting much done. And Rivers completed over 75% of his passes and averaged over 10 yards per completion. In that context, it made a lot of sense. But that doesn’t change the fact that for a team with a Game Script of +1.8, passing on over 75% of their plays (excluding Rivers’ final run of the game to center the ball) is extraordinarily pass-happy. [click to continue…]

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There have been just two games this season where a quarterback averaged 12.0 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt: Sam Bradford in week 1 (27/32, 346 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT, 1 sack, 5 yards) when he averaged 12.15 ANY/A against the Saints, and Tom Brady in week 2 (30/39, 447, 3/0, 2-11) when he averaged 12.10 ANY/A… also against the Saints. The worst game of this early season was the stinker Andy Dalton produced against the Ravens in week 1: he went 16 of 31 for just 170 yards with 4 interceptions, and was also sacked 5 times for -26 yards. That translates to an abysmal -1.00 ANY/A, the only game with a negative ANY/A so far this year.

And while Baltimore didn’t exactly step a level up in competition in week 2, the Ravens dominated DeShone Kizer in a similar fashion: the rookie went 15/31 for 182 yards with 0 TDs and 3 INTs, while taking 2 sacks for 5 yards. That translates to just 1.27 ANY/A, the second lowest this year behind Dalton among passers with 25 attempts. In other words, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to argue that the two best passing games of the season came against the Saints, and the two worst passing performances this year came against the Ravens.

So far this early season, quarterbacks are averaging 5.85 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. So Bradford, by averaging 12.15 ANY/A on 33 dropbacks, was at 6.30 ANY/A above average over 33 dropbacks, or 208 Adjusted Net Yards above average. Brady, at +6.25 ANY/A relative to league average over 41 dropbacks, was at +256. Those are two of the top three games this year: [click to continue…]

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I like trivia, and Chris Brown asked me a good question on twitter yesterday:

The game Brown was referencing was the Patriots performance against the Saints in week 2 of the 2017 season. Here was the receiving breakdown on the New England side:

 
Player Tm Pass Yd Rec Yd
Rob Gronkowski NWE 0 116
James White NWE 0 85
Chris Hogan NWE 0 78
Phillip Dorsett NWE 0 68
Rex Burkhead NWE 0 41
Brandin Cooks NWE 0 37
Dion Lewis NWE 0 11
James Develin NWE 0 6
Jacob Hollister NWE 0 5
Tom Brady NWE 447 0

Brady threw for 183 yards to his wide receivers (Hogan, Dorsett, and Cooks), 143 yards to running backs (White, Burkhead, Lewis, Develin) and 121 yards to his tight ends (Gronkowski and Hollister). So that means Brady threw for 400+ passing yards with just 40% of his passing yards coming from his wide receivers. [click to continue…]

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The Race For The Number One Pick (Post-Week 2)

There have only been two weeks of NFL football so far, and four teams have only played one game. But that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start thinking about which team will wind up with the number one pick in the 2018 Draft. So far, six teams separated themselves from the pack in terms of being particularly bad. The Bills, Texans, and Giants have not played well, but with only one loss each, I’m going to exclude them for now. And while the Chargers and Saints are 0-2, as long as Philip Rivers and Drew Brees are around, they aren’t going to be in contention for the first pick. But which teams are?

The Colts have been outscored by a league-high 40 points. Indianapolis lost to the Rams and Cardinals, and both of those teams lose their other game this year. Without Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis offense looks awful: After starting off with a touchdown and a field goal, the Colts final nine drives of the game ended with seven punts, a field goal, and an interception. Indianapolis probably has too weak of a schedule to be a real contender for the first pick, but the Colts will be a mess as long as Luck isn’t around.

The Colts play the Browns this weekend, in a matchup of bottom feeders. As a sign of how far Indianapolis has fallen, the Colts are currently +1 even though the game is at Lucas Oil. Cleveland, of course, went 1-15 last year, and things are not off to a good start this season. Myles Garrett was injured before the season, and on Sunday, Jamie Collins suffered a concussion, DeShone Kizer had a bout with a migraine, and Corey Coleman broke his hand. In other words, it’s factory of sadness as usual in Cleveland: eight minutes into the game against the Ravens, Baltimore scored more points than the Browns would score all game. [click to continue…]

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Week 1 Game Scripts (2017): Ravens Flip The Script

Two different Ravens running backs had more carries than Flacco had attempts in week one.

Last season, no team was more pass-happy than the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco and the Ravens led the NFL in pass attempts along with both pass ratio and pass identity. Flacco threw at least 30 passes in every game last year. The Ravens threw 50 passes in a game they won 38-6 in a remarkable display of the team’s pass-only identity.

Well, in week 1 of the 2017 season, the Ravens threw just 18 times and on only 29.5% of all plays, both of which were league-lows. Terrance West and Javorius Allen combined for 40 carries, and while both players were on the team last year, clearly something has changed in Baltimore. The Jaguars and Bills also stood out as very run-heavy in week 1: Jacksonville spent the fourth pick on Leonard Fournette, so that makes a lot of sense, while the Bills are always run-heavy in the Tyrod Taylor/LeSean McCoy era.

On the Game Scripts notes: the Rams led the way with the best Game Script of week 1, courtesy of a blowout win over the Colts. And just two teams won with negative Game Scripts in the opening slate of games: the Chiefs and Lions both won by double digits, but were the only two teams to pull off fourth quarter comebacks. [click to continue…]

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Drew Brees, Blake Bortles, and Philip Rivers don’t often get lumped together, but those three are the only quarterbacks in the NFL to (1) start at least 8 games in each of the last 3 years, (2) miss the playoffs in each of the last 3 years, and (3) return as their team’s starter in 2017 (this kicks Colin Kaepernick off the list).

You don’t have to go back in time too far to find a quarterback to start half of their team’s games for at least four straight seasons and miss the playoffs each year: Eli Manning and Ryan Tannehill pulled off that trick from 2012 to 2015. Also that year? Jay Cutler and the Bears missed the postseason for the fifth straight year, although Cutler’s Bears arguably would have made the playoffs once or twice with a better backup quarterback when Cutler missed time due to injury.

Prior to Cutler, Marc Bulger (2005-2009 Rams), David Carr (2002-2006 Texans), and Aaron Brooks (2001-2005 Saints) were the last three quarterbacks to miss the playoffs in five straight years with the same team.

How about six? Neil Lomax was the last do to that, from ’83 to ’88 with the Cardinals, the last six seasons of his career.

The record is 7: since 1960, it’s been done by Jim Zorn with the Seahawks (’76 to ’82), Dan Pastorini with the Oilers (’71-’77), John Hadl with the Chargers (’66-’72), and Sonny Jurgensen and Norm Snead from 1964 to 1970 with Washington and Philadelphia, respectively.

As for Rivers? If not for a missed chip shot field goal and an overtime win against Kansas City’s backups in week 17 of the 2013 season, Rivers on the 2017 Chargers would be in the running for seven straight seasons of missing the playoffs.

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Last night, the Texans and Bengals played in a yet another boring and low-scoring game. In the final seconds of the first half, the Bengals trailed 10-3, but got a big break when Cincinnati completed a 37-yard pass down to the Houston 11 yard line.  The Bengals had 1st-and-10 with 16 seconds left, which should have been enough time for… 2 plays? The first play took four seconds, and the second six, which caused the Bengals to send out the field goal team.  Cincinnati ultimately lost by four points.

Time Down ToGo Location
0:24 1 10 HTX 48 Andy Dalton pass complete deep right to Alex Erickson for 37 yards (tackle by Kareem Jackson) 10 3 2.390 4.840 51.6
0:16 Timeout #2 by Cincinnati Bengals 10 3
0:16 1 10 HTX 11 Andy Dalton pass incomplete 10 3 4.840 4.140 48.6
0:12 2 10 HTX 11 Andy Dalton pass incomplete 10 3 4.140 3.130 44.4
0:06 3 10 HTX 11 Randy Bullock 29 yard field goal good 10 6 3.130 3.000 43.8

That feels like an overly conservative move, particularly given that the Bengals had run a pass play that took four seconds just one play earlier. So I looked at all plays with 5, 6, or 7 seconds left in the first half since 2007 where the team had the ball anywhere from the 8 to the 15 yard line and before fourth down. How often do teams kick a field goal? [click to continue…]

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Bengals/Texans Is The Saddest Rivalry In The NFL

Since Andy Dalton entered the league in 2011, the Bengals and Texans have faced each other six times, including twice in the playoffs. They square off for a seventh time tonight, and the last six games will have featured Dalton against six different quarterbacks: Deshaun Watson tonight, Tom Savage in 2016, Brian Hoyer in 2015, Ryan Mallett in 2014, Matt Schaub in the playoffs in 2012, and T.J. Yates in the playoffs in 2011 (Yates also started the regular season game that year). More importantly, these games have generally been awful to watch, with four of the six taking place in front of a national audience (a MNF game, a Saturday night game, and two postseason games):

Rk Tm Year Date Time LTime Opp Week G# Day Result OT
1 CIN 2016 2016-12-24 8:25 7:25 @ HOU 16 15 Sat L 10-12
2 CIN 2015 2015-11-16 8:30 8:30 HOU 10 9 Mon L 6-10
3 CIN 2014 2014-11-23 1:02 12:02 @ HOU 12 11 Sun W 22-13
4 CIN 2012 2013-01-05 4:35 3:35 @ HOU 18 17 Sat L 13-19
5 CIN 2011 2012-01-07 4:35 3:35 @ HOU 18 17 Sat L 10-31
6 CIN 2011 2011-12-11 1:02 1:02 HOU 14 13 Sun L 19-20

From 2011 to 2016, there were 29 pairs of non-division rivals that played at least five games (including playoffs). This is highlighted by the Patriots and Broncos, who played a whopping 9 times. The Bengals and Texans have combined to average just 30.8 points per game, easily the lowest among these 29 pairs. And most remarkably, Houston and Cincinnati have combined for just 7 passing touchdowns against 11 interceptions, a -4 difference (among this group, only Texans/Ravens games have seen more interceptions than passing scores). [click to continue…]

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Even Bruce Arians Can’t Keep Beating the Spread

As interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, Bruce Arians was remarkable. He was named AP Coach of the Year, as the Colts went 9-3, and 8-3-1 against the spread, under his watch. In his first year with the Cardinals in 2013, Arians went 10-5-1 against the spread, making him one of the best coaches ever by that metric. Then in 2014, Arians again was again named Coach of the Year, as he rode some Pythagenpat Magic to go 11-5 against the spread, bringing his career mark up to 29-13-2 against the wise guys in the desert. And in 2015, Arians started off red hot yet again! A 39-32 victory in Seattle against the defending NFC Champions on Sunday Night Football put the Cardinals at 7-2, and 6-2-1 against the spread. At that point, Arians was 35-15-3 against the spread for his coaching career. That’s a 0.660 winning percentage ATS if you count pushes as half wins and half losses, and an even better .700 winning percentage if you discard all pushes (arguably the better approach, since for wagering purposes, a push just means you get your money back). Nobody can beat the spread 70% of the time, right?

Well, yes. Right. Since then, Arians is 9-15-0 against the spread, dropping from a 70% success rate to a 37.5% rate. And he’s just 6-12 ATS in his last 18 games. That includes a stretch in 2016 where Arians’ Cardinals failed to cover in five straight games and seven of eight contests. And it includes a 12-point loss in week 1 of the 2017 season on Sunday, when the Cardinals were 2.5-point favorites. The graph below shows every game of his head coaching career and how many points his team beat (blue) or were beaten by (in red) the spread: [click to continue…]

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Sometimes, the headlines speak for themselves. After last night — the Chargers lost when the potential game-tying field goal was blocked in the final second — Los Angeles nee San Diego has now lost 18 of its last 23 games decided by 8 or fewer points.

Query Results Table
Poin Poin Poin
Rk Tm Year Date
Time Opp Week G# Day Result OT PF PA PD
1 SDG 2017 2017-09-11 10:20 @ DEN 1 1 Mon L 21-24 21 24 -3
2 SDG 2016 2016-12-24 1:00 @ CLE 16 15 Sat L 17-20 17 20 -3
3 SDG 2016 2016-12-18 4:25 OAK 15 14 Sun L 16-19 16 19 -3
4 SDG 2016 2016-12-04 4:25 TAM 13 12 Sun L 21-28 21 28 -7
5 SDG 2016 2016-11-27 1:00 @ HOU 12 11 Sun W 21-13 21 13 8
6 SDG 2016 2016-11-13 4:05 MIA 10 10 Sun L 24-31 24 31 -7
7 SDG 2016 2016-11-06 4:25 TEN 9 9 Sun W 43-35 43 35 8
8 SDG 2016 2016-10-30 4:05 @ DEN 8 8 Sun L 19-27 19 27 -8
9 SDG 2016 2016-10-23 4:05 @ ATL 7 7 Sun W 33-30 OT 33 30 3
10 SDG 2016 2016-10-13 8:25 DEN 6 6 Thu W 21-13 21 13 8
11 SDG 2016 2016-10-09 4:25 @ OAK 5 5 Sun L 31-34 31 34 -3
12 SDG 2016 2016-10-02 4:25 NOR 4 4 Sun L 34-35 34 35 -1
13 SDG 2016 2016-09-25 4:25 @ IND 3 3 Sun L 22-26 22 26 -4
14 SDG 2016 2016-09-11 1:05 @ KAN 1 1 Sun L 27-33 OT 27 33 -6
15 SDG 2015 2016-01-03 4:25 @ DEN 17 16 Sun L 20-27 20 27 -7
16 SDG 2015 2015-12-24 8:26 @ OAK 16 15 Thu L 20-23 OT 20 23 -3
17 SDG 2015 2015-12-13 1:03 @ KAN 14 13 Sun L 3-10 3 10 -7
18 SDG 2015 2015-11-29 1:03 @ JAX 12 11 Sun W 31-25 31 25 6
19 SDG 2015 2015-11-09 8:30 CHI 9 9 Mon L 19-22 19 22 -3
20 SDG 2015 2015-11-01 1:02 @ BAL 8 8 Sun L 26-29 26 29 -3
21 SDG 2015 2015-10-25 4:05 OAK 7 7 Sun L 29-37 29 37 -8
22 SDG 2015 2015-10-18 4:25 @ GNB 6 6 Sun L 20-27 20 27 -7
23 SDG 2015 2015-10-12 8:30 PIT 5 5 Mon L 20-24 20 24 -4

For his career, Philip Rivers has a 54-26 record in games decided by more than 8 points, and a 43-54 record in games decided by 8 or fewer points. Read differently, Rivers has lost 28 *more* times in close games than in non-close games. That is (for now) tied with Rich Gannon for the largest spread ever. [click to continue…]

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Sean McVay, Bill Parcells, and Excellent Coaching Debuts

You know your debut goes well when you can crack jokes with your punter

Over the last ten years, no team has had a worse record than the Rams. And two of the last three years have started in particularly ugly fashion: last season, the Los Angeles Rams lost 28-0 as 2.5-point favorites in San Francisco. And two years earlier, the St. Louis Rams lost by 28 points to the Vikings as 3.5-point favorites on opening Sunday (more on this game in a bit). But on Sunday, in the first game with a new coaching staff headlined by 31-year-old Sean McVay, OC Matt LaFleur, and DC Wade Phillips, the Rams walloped the Scott Tolzien-led Colts, 46-9.

The Rams were expected to win because, well, Tolzien, but Los Angeles was only favored by 3.5 points. That means Los Angeles, by virtue of a 37-point win, covered by a whopping 33.5 points.  For some perspective, the only other team to cover by four touchdowns on Sunday was Jacksonville, in game 3 of the Doug Marrone era.  Covering by 33.5 points is a ton: the Rams never did it during the Greatest Show On Turf days although the team did do it three times during the Jeff Fisher era, including… the last time the Rams played the Colts. That game, you may recall, was the, um, Tavon Austin breakout game.

Anyway, covering by 33.5 points is pretty rare, but it’s really rare when it comes in a head coach’s first game with the team. In fact, it’s the largest cover by a head coach in his first game since 1990.  And among all coaches in their first games with a new team (i.e., including coaches in their first stop at a new gig), it’s the third largest cover since 1990.  Take a look at how each coach from 1990 to 2016 did in week 1 with a new team: [click to continue…]

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Look Who Is Alone In First Place In The AFC East

The New England Patriots are 0-1. The Dolphins, due to Hurricane Irma, have had their week 1 game postponed to week 11, giving Miami a week 1 bye. And the Jets and Bills square off in Buffalo today. The winner of that game will therefore be alone in first place in the division. Which is pretty unusual in the Tom Brady era.

The last time that Buffalo was alone in first place in the AFC East was after week 2 of the 2014 season, when the Bills were 2-0 and the rest of the division was 1-1. Before that, the last time was week 3 of 2011, and other than a few weeks during 2008 (the year Miami won the division and Matt Cassel started 15 games for New England), the only other times since 2001 were after the first two weeks of the 2003 season.

For the Jets, it’s been even longer. New York was last alone in first place in the division after week 6 of the 2010 season, when the Jets were 5-1 and the Patriots were 4-2. Since 2002, the only times the Jets have been alone in first place were weeks 11-13 of the 2008 season, weeks 2 and 3 of the 2009 season, and weeks 5 and 6 of the 2010 season.

Looking ahead to week 2, the Bills travel to Carolina while the Jets head to Oakland. So there’s a very good chance the winner of the Jets/Bills game will be 1-1 next week, and New England (playing in New Orleans) will either be 1-1 or 0-2. That would allow the Dolphins, with a win over the Chargers in the first NFL regular season game at the StubHub Center, to be alone in first place in the division. The last time that happened? Week 2 of the 2010 season, and before that, week 4 of the 2005 season! Yes, there has been exactly one week in the last 11 years where Miami was alone in first place (in 2008, the Dolphins never achieved that status, despite winning the division on a tiebreaker).

The graph below shows how many games above .500 each team in the AFC East after each week of the NFL season for the 2001 through 2016 seasons. The Bills and the Patriots share blue and red as their primary colors, but that’s not a huge issue in this chart. [click to continue…]

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Sacks Are Coming From Lighter Players

In 1994, the “average” sack came from a player that weighted 266 pounds. Wait, what do you mean by average sack? Well, if you look at all 937 sacks in 1994, and identify the weight of the sacker on each sack, you can calculate the weight of the average sack in each season. John Randle was 290 pounds, and he had 13.5 sacks that year, so he gets 13.5 times as much weight a player with one sack. The graph below shows the weight of the player producing an average sack in each year since 1982. As you can see, it peaked in the mid-’90s, and has declined slightly since.

However, players in general are getting heavier, including in the front seven. The graph below shows the average weight of a player in the front 7 — weighted by the number of starts by such a player — for each year since 1982. That data is in orange; the blue line showing the average sack weight is still included in the chart for reference.
[click to continue…]

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Longtime commenter Jason Winter has chimed in with today’s guest post. Jason is a part-time video game journalist and full-time sports fan. You can follow him on twitter at @winterinformal.

As always, we thank Jason for contributing. Note that this was written before last night’s game.


If you’re making predictions as to who will win each division on the eve of this 2017 NFL season, you’ve probably got New England to once again win the AFC East. I mean, look at the rest of that division. Seriously.

As for the other seven divisions, how many teams do you have repeating as champions? Or, let me put it to you this way: Suppose I bet you that at least half of the divisions in the NFL – the AFC East included – will have new winners in 2017. So if there are four or more new division winners, I win; if there are fewer, you win. Would you take that bet?

If we’d done that bet every year since the NFL went to its current eight-division format, I’d have won 12 out of 14 times. So you definitely shouldn’t take that bet.

But sure, that gives me an advantage: You win if 0, 1, 2, or 3 divisions have new winners (four outcomes), and I win if 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 do (five outcomes). So fine, I’ll give you an extra chance. I only win if more divisions (5+) have new winners in 2017, so you’ll win if exactly half (4) or fewer divisions have new champions. Now what chance do I have to win?

If we did this every year since 2003, I’d still be ahead in the money, with 9 out of 14 wins. Always bet on chaos.

[click to continue…]

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2016 Game Scripts in Review: Pass Identity Ratings

Did you know: the Patriots and 49ers both threw on 54% of their plays last season. Both teams ranked in the bottom five last year in pass ratio, i.e., their percentage of plays that were either pass attempts or sacks. But the teams both passed infrequently for different reasons: New England didn’t want to pass much because they were often playing with the lead and were milking the clock; San Francisco didn’t want to pass much because their passing game was not very good and because both Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert were two of the most run-heavy quarterbacks in football.

San Francisco was undoubtedly a run-heavy team last year, but the Patriots?  Of course not.  No team with Tom Brady is run-happy, but the game scripts incentivized New England to be run-happy.  Regular readers know about Game Scripts, which is simply the average points margin over every second of every game.  New England had a Game Script of +7.7 last year, the highest margin in the NFL.  This means if you were to write down the amount by which New England was leading for every second of every game last year, and calculated the average, you would get a 7.7 point lead.  The graph below shows the Game Script for all 32 teams last year on the Y-Axis, along with their Pass Ratio (pass attempts plus sacks divided by total plays) on the X-Axis. [click to continue…]

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The AFC West may be the most competitive division in the NFL. The Broncos and Chargers both have realistic playoff aspirations in 2017, but most observers would still rank the Raiders and Chiefs as the top two teams in the division. But if Oakland is going to win the division, it’s likely going to have to do it by getting an early lead; for the Chiefs, they just need to not fall out of the race before Thanksgiving, because Kansas City should be able to make up ground late. Why? Because while Kansas City and Oakland have similar schedules (the Chiefs draw Houston and Pittsburgh in the two variable games, while the Raiders get the Titans and Ravens), the Chiefs schedule is frontloaded (in terms of difficult games) while Oakland’s schedule is backloaded.

In the first six weeks, the Raiders get the Jets, Ravens, and Chargers at home, along with road games against the Titans, Redskins, and Broncos. Oakland should be able to get off to a 4-2 or 5-1 start against that schedule. The Patriots game comes in week 11 (and it’s a “home” game in Mexico City), but it’s the final four weeks that are scary: Oakland goes to Kansas City and hosts Dallas (on SNF) in weeks 14 and 15, before finishing with road games in Philadelphia (on Monday Night Football) and against the Chargers. A 2-2 mark would be more than holding serve.

Kansas City opens in New England on Thursday night, as tough a game as there is on any schedule. And nearly all the “easy” games for Kansas City come in the final six weeks. The Chiefs host Buffalo at the end of November and face the Jets the following week. The last four games are three home games — the Raiders, Chargers (on Saturday night), and Dolphins — and the final game is in Denver. Kansas City can realistic hope for a 5-1 finish to streak into the playoffs, so the Chiefs just need to get to 5-5 through ten games.

A similar disparity exists in the AFC South: all of those teams have easy schedules (more on this below). But one team with a very favorable early season schedule is the Colts, who… just might need it given the uncertain health status of Andrew Luck. The Colts open up with a road game against the Rams, followed by home games against Arizona and Cleveland. Indianapolis also hosts the 49ers and Jaguars in the team’s first seven games. The Titans have the second easiest schedule in the league, but it’s also really easy late. Tennessee’s December slate? Home for Houston, at Arizona, at San Francisco, home for the Rams, and home for the Jaguars. The Titans are in position to ride a late-season winning streak into the playoffs.

I went ahead and created my own team ratings. You may disagree with them slightly, but the only reason I generated them was to generate SOS ratings. So even if you disagree with some of the ratings, it shouldn’t impact each team’s SOS that much. The ratings below represent how many points each team would beat an average NFL team by on a neutral field. [click to continue…]

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38 Questions: A Football Perspective Contest (2017)

Below you will find 38 pairs of numbers. In each case, you tell me which number will be bigger. One point for each correct answer. Most points wins.

Ties — and I expect there to be a nontrivial number of them — go to the side that had fewer votes. For example, here is a pair:

Number of wins by the Lions
Number of wins by the Ravens

Let’s say 49 people take the Lions and 44 take the Ravens. If the Lions and Ravens end up with the same number of wins, then each Ravens-backer will get a point and each Lions-backer will not.  Last year, JimZornsLemma won with 25 correct guesses out of 38; the average was just 19 correct guesses. Thanks to Jeremy De Shetler for an assist on some of this year’s questions.

GRAND PRIZE: the main prizes will be (1) honor and (2) glory. There may also be some sort of trinket to be named later. By the time this thing is over, more than five months will have passed, so that gives me some time to scrape something together. But you probably shouldn’t enter unless honor and glory are sufficient.

MORE RULES:

1. Everyone is limited to one entry per person. This will be enforced by the honor system. If caught breaking this rule, you, your children, and your children’s children will be banned from all future FP contests.

2. I won’t enter the contest myself, which will allow me to arbitrate any dispute impartially. Any ambiguity in the rules will be clarified by me in whatever way causes me the least amount of hassle.

3. While there are quite a few items that refer in some way to the NFL postseason, unless specifically stated, all the items below refer to regular season totals only.

5. You may enter until 1:00 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, September 17th, 2016. However, there’s an incentive to entering early because…

6. In the event that the contest ends in a tie, the winner will be the person whose entry was submitted first.

HOW TO ENTER: PLEASE READ IF YOU WANT TO ACTUALLY ENTER THE CONTEST.

Cut-and-paste the list of questions below into your editor of choice, THEN DELETE THE CHOICES you don’t like (thereby leaving the ones you do like), and then cut-and-paste your 38 answers into the comments of this thread. Please do not edit the text in any way other than deleting half of it. If you want to leave non-entry comments, you are free to do so either at the very end of your entry or in a subsequent comment, but please do not put commentary in the body of your entry. [click to continue…]

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Ladies and gentleman, the Jets 2017 record

The 2017 season will be the 58th season in Jets franchise history. It is also the least anticipated season by Jets fans in that 58-year history. New York went 5-11 last year, and probably wasn’t even that good (the Jets had an SRS of -8.5, 4th worst in the NFL). In the NFL, the way to give a fan base hope is to be good or to make some exciting changes in the offseason. The Jets retained the same general manager (Mike Maccagnan) and head coach (Todd Bowles) from last year’s uninspiring squad, and while New York switched quarterbacks, the addition of 38-year-old Josh McCown somehow feels like a downgrade on Ryan Fitzpatrick.

How bad is it? The USA Today had the Jets going 0-16. Multiple other outlets have spent time discussing that possibility, too. It’s only a question of degree, at this point: everyone assumes that the Jets are going to be horrible.  McCown is a 38-year-old quarterback who has won 8 games since 2006.  The offense is almost certainly the least talented in the NFL ignoring the quarterback position.  And if you were wondering how they got here, well, since the end of 2016, the Jets also said goodbye to:

And again: this team was terrible last year with those players.  So is this really the least optimistic season in Jets history?  Let’s run through things in reverse order, and explain why Jets fans were feeling better on September 1 of every other season than on September 1, 2017.  For brevity’s sake, I’m going to skip seasons where the Jets went at least .500 in the prior year, because, those seasons obviously had more hope than this one. [click to continue…]

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Which QBs Have Been The Oldest QBs In Football?

Yesterday, I wrote that Charlie Conerly was the oldest starting quarterback in the NFL from 1953 to 1960, an eight-year run that remains unmatched today. Conerly was the oldest quarterback in 1961, too, but he was mostly a backup in his final season. The table below shows the oldest quarterback in each season since 1946, among all players who finished in the top 30 in passing yards (in all leagues combined). [click to continue…]

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Charlie Conerly and the Quarterbacks That Never Arrived

Back in the day, men were men and quarterbacks were Marlboro men.

You probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Charlie Conerly. If you do, it’s probably in the context of his legacy as a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, the man who won a record four TD/INT crowns, or as the best quarterback from Ole Miss to lead the Giants to a title.

But here’s something you probably didn’t know about Conerly: he was the oldest quarterback in the NFL… for eight years.   Sammy Baugh retired after the 1952 season at the age of 38; after Baugh, the oldest two quarterbacks in the NFL were Bob Waterfield and Frankie Albert, each 32, and both of them retired after the season, too. That left a pair of 31-year-olds as the elder statements of the NFL arms race: Otto Graham, born in December 1921, and Conerly, born in September 1921.

So in 1953, a 32 years old Conerly was the oldest quarterback in the NFL, thanks to a three month edge over Graham. The NFL was a young man’s league back then, at least at quarterback: no other starter was in his 30s, and only one other regular starter was older than 27. The gap would only grow over time. Graham retired in 1955; in 1956, Conerly was 35, and the next oldest quarterbacks were all 30 years old: Bobby Layne, Y.A. Tittle, Norm Van Brocklin, George Ratterman, and Harry Gilmer.  In 1960, the oldest four QBs in the league were Conerly at 39, and Van Brocklin, Layne, and Tittle at 34 (yes, no 36-year-old quarterback magically appeared).  In ’61, the three oldest quarterbacks in the NFL were Conerly at 40, and Tittle and Layne at 35; by then, Van Brocklin was coaching the Vikings. Conerly retired after the 1961 season. [click to continue…]

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In 1998, Randall Cunningham may have been the best quarterback in football.  Cunningham was 35.4 years old as of September 1st of that season. If it wasn’t Cunningham, it was probably Vinny Testaverde (34.8 years old as of 9/1/98), or  Steve Young (36.9), or Chris Chandler (32.9), or John Elway (38.2).  Troy Aikman (31.8) and Doug Flutie (35.9) also had great seasons, three other quarterbacks — Dan Marino (37.0),  Steve Beuerlein (33.5), and Rich Gannon (32.7) — finished in the top 20 in passing yards.

That means 10 of the top 20 quarterbacks in passing yards in 1998 were 31.8 years old or older as of September 1st of that year.    Thirteen years later, things were very different, as 8 of the top 16 passers in 2011 by passing yards were under 28 years old as of September 1st, with four being under 25: Cam Newton (22.3), Matthew Stafford (23.6), Josh Freeman (23.6), Andy Dalton (23.8), Mark Sanchez (24.8), Matt Ryan (26.3), Joe Flacco (26.6), and Aaron Rodgers (27.7).

I calculated the average age of quarterbacks in the NFL for each season since 1950, using the methodology described here. The short version: calculate what percentage of league-wide passing yards was produced by each player, calculate that player’s age as of September 1st of that season, and that calculate the league-wide age of all passers, weighted by their percentage of league passing yards. The results below: [click to continue…]

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Inexperienced Receiving Games

The 2008 Giants were very experienced; the 2009 Giants were not.

In ’08, New York had Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress as the team’s starting receivers; Toomer retired after the year, while Burress shot himself in a nightclub late in the ’08 season and missed all of the ’09 and ’10 seasons.

The top 7 receivers on the ’09 Giants were the other Steve Smith (24 years old in ’09), Mario Manningham (23), Hakeem Nicks (21), Kevin Boss (25), Ahmad Bradshaw (23), Domenik Hixon (25), and Brandon Jacobs (27). Entering the 2009 season, Smith had 637 career receiving yards, Manningham had 26, Nicks had 0, Boss had 502, Bradshaw had 54, Hixon had 601, and Jacobs had 359.  Derek Hagan, who finished 8th on the ’09 Giants with 101 receiving yards, was the most accomplished receiver entering the year by virtue of his 645 career receiving yards entering 2009.

On a weighted average, that means the 2009 Giants receiving group entered the year with just 318 career receiving yards (by reference, the 2008 Giants were at 2,608). What do I mean by weighted average? Well, Smith had 28.7% of the 2009 Giants receiving yards, and he had 637 career receiving yards prior to 2009; therefore, his 637 receives 28.7% of the team weight. On the other hand, Manningham and Nicks had, together, 38% of the Giants receiving yards in 2009, and they had, together, just 26 career receiving yards entering 2009. The table below shows the full calculation, with the result equaling a weighted average of 318 career receiving yards. [click to continue…]

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Jessie Tuggle was a Georgia man. He was born in Griffin, Georgia and starred at Griffin High. He went to Valdosta State, in Valdosta, Georgia, and was a three-time All-Conference pick and the Gulf South Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season. He went undrafted, so he joined the Atlanta Falcons for training camp in 1987. Tuggle made the team, and proceeded to miss just one game due to injury over his first 12 seasons. Tuggle wound up playing his entire 14-year career with the Falcons, set the Atlanta record for games played by a defensive player, and made five Pro Bowls. And if he hadn’t been on some of the worst defenses of his era, he might be remembered more fondly today.

How bad were the Falcons defenses during the Tuggle era? The graph below shows Atlanta’s defensive DVOA in each year (using estimated DVOA for ’87 and ’88) plotted against the left Y-Axis (and remember, a positive number indicates a below-average defense) and the Falcons rank in points allowed plotted against the right Y-Axis (here, a larger number means a worse defense). In ’87, ’89, ’92, ’93, ’94, ’96, 99, and ’00, the Falcons defense had a DVOA of worse than 10%: [click to continue…]

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Stafford wins the prize for most mega contracts signed by a quarterback in his 20s

Four years ago, I wrote about Matthew Stafford and his poor record. At the time, his career mark stood at 17-28 and he had just received a big money extension. In that piece, I noted that his career record was not predictive of much. Well, four years later, and Stafford just received another big money extension. And over the last four years, Stafford has gone 34-30. That’s not great, but it’s not bad, either.

But what’s notable about the Lions offense over the last four years is how reliant on Stafford the team has been. Since 2013, no team has rushed for fewer yards than Detroit, and the Lions also rank 30th in yards per carry. The Detroit offense goes as Stafford goes, and while the former number one pick hasn’t been the best quarterback in the NFL, he’s been pretty valuable.

Stafford became the youngest player to join the 30,000 yard club, which is a function of (1) how young he was when he entered the league, (2) the era he plays in, (3) the pass-happy offenses he has led, and (4) his talent/ability. Stafford played with Knowshon Moreno at Georgia and both were drafted in the first round of 2009. Steve Young didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his age 31 season. Warren Moon didn’t make his first Pro Bowl under age 32. [click to continue…]

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Chris McAlister played 137 games in his NFL career: 135 with the Ravens from 1999 to 2008, and then 2 with the Saints in 2009 (given that he accumulated 0 points of AV with New Orleans, I’m excluding that from the analysis). He was the 10th overall pick in the ’99 draft, and a first-team All-Pro in ’03 and ’04, and a Pro Bowler in ’06. Most notably, he played on very good defenses almost every season of his career. In 10 years in Baltimore, the Ravens defense never ranked outside of the top 10 and ranked in the top 2 more often than not. You can calculate McAlister’s average team’s defensive DVOA by weighting his DVOA in each year (where he received at least one point of AV) by his number of games played that year as follows:

As it turns out, among players with at least 70 points of career AV, his average grade of -18.1% is the highest grade of any player (Jerome Brown is at -18.2% but he had only 48 points of career AV, as his life was cut tragically short). The full list of players below. [click to continue…]

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Robert Brazile Is An Unusual Hall of Fame Nominee

Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer are the two Seniors Nominees for the Hall of Fame this year. The man known as “Dr. Doom” was a great outside linebacker for the Houston Oilers, and is remembered as the first great pass rusher from the 3-4 position. In fact, it was Brazile who helped create the position that Lawrence Taylor made famous — as Jene Bramel once noted, he was “LT” before Taylor came into the league. The 3-4 defense entered the NFL in 1974, with Bum Phillips in Houston being one of the early proponents.  In 1975, the Oilers used the 6th overall pick on Brazile, who became an instant star. He was a first-team All-Pro by at least one major publication in each year from ’76 to ’80 under Phillips, but there are three reasons why Brazile never made it to the Hall of Fame.

  1. Sack totals were not kept during his time, which made it hard to quantify his strong play.
  2. He only played for 10 years, which is relatively short for a Hall of Famer.
  3. He didn’t play for great defenses.

Thanks to the great John Turney, we do have unofficial sack totals for Brazile.  He had 48 in his career; although that’s not a remarkable number, Brazile was not just a pass rusher.  He was an all-around linebacker with strong coverage skills and was regarded as strong against the run.

The third item is the most interesting one. We know that Bum Phillips was a great defensive coach, at least by reputation.  And we know that the Oilers had not just Brazile, but two Hall of Famers on defense: Elvin Bethea and Curley Culp starred at RDE and NT, respectively, for Houston, and each was 29-34 years of age from ’75 to ’80. That *should* have been enough to produce a great defense, right? Except, it didn’t. The Oilers ranked 11th, 10th, 14th, 17th, 13th, and 5th in yards allowed and 5th, 17th, 14th, 16th, 16th, and 2nd in points allowed during those years, when the NFL had only 28 teams (and 26 in 1975). In terms of estimated DVOA, the Oilers ranked 6th, 10th, 4th, 20th, 4th, and 10th — which isn’t bad, but it’s not exactly notable for a team with three Hall of Famers and Phillips. [click to continue…]

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Graham started his career in Pittsburgh….

I know what you’re thinking: Chase, you’re at it again with the clickbait titles. Jeff Graham had a good but otherwise unremarkable 11-year career. Drafted by the Steelers in the 2nd round of the 1991 Draft, he barely played as a rookie on a team with veteran wide receivers Louis Lipps and Dwight Stone. So Graham’s career really spanned the decade from 1992 to 2001, and during that time, he “only” ranked 10th in receiving yards in the NFL despite ranking 6th in games played by receivers during that time.

But if his career was unremarkable, as noted yesterday, his season-by-season progression was pretty remarkable.

In 1992, the Steelers offense was centered around Barry Foster, who rushed for 1,690 yards. Neil O’Donnell was the quarterback, and a second-year Graham broke out with 711 yards and 49 catches. Both numbers led the Steelers team, as Graham beat out Stone and Ernie Mills to become O’Donnell’s top target.

In 1993, Graham regressed; even though Foster was injured and O’Donnell passed more frequently, Graham was limited to just 38 receptions for 579 yards. Tight end Eric Green had a monster year, catching 63-942-5, while Stone basically matched Graham’s numbers.

In retrospect, that’s hardly a bad start to a career: Graham rode the bench as a rookie, was the team’s top receiver in his second year on a run-heavy offense, and then came back to earth a bit in year three.  But Pittsburgh used its first round pick on Charles Johnson in the 1994 Draft, so the Steelers traded Graham to the Bears for a 1995 5th round pick a few days after the ’94 Draft.1 And that’s when Graham’s career really took off.

Then had a career year in Chicago….

Chicago, of course, was a defensive-focused team with Steve Walsh and Erik Kramer at quarterback, and Lewis Tillman and Raymont Harris at running back. But the Bears had drafted Curtis Conway 7th overall in 1993, and together with Graham, the duo excelled over the next two years.

In 1994, Graham led Chicago with 68 catches, 944 yards, and 4 receiving touchdowns, with Conway producing a 39-546-2 statline.

The 1995 season was the year where the passing attacks in the NFC in general — and the NFC Central in particular — exploded. In Green Bay, Robert Brooks had 1,497 yards and Brett Favre was the MVP. In Detroit, Herman Moore had 1,686 yards and 14 touchdowns, Brett Perriman had 1,488 yards and 9 touchdowns, and Scott Mitchell had 4,338 yards and 32 TDs. In Minnesota, Warren Moon had 4228/33, Cris Carter had 122 catches for 1,371 yards and 17 scores, while Jake Reed had 72-1167-9.  And in Chicago? Erik Kramer threw for 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns, with Graham catching 82 passes for 1,301 yards and Conway putting up a 62-1037-12 stat line.  Graham set the Chicago single-season record for receiving yards, a mark that still ranks 4th in Bears history today.

So after 5 seasons in the NFL, Graham’s career looked like this:

  • Sat on bench as rookie
  • Led team in receiving yards
  • Setback season
  • Led new team in receiving yards
  • Led new team in receiving yards

An unrestricted free agent after the season, Graham chose to sign with the New York Jets. By doing so, he was reuniting with Ron Erhardt and Neil O’Donnell, his offensive coordinator and quarterback from his days with the Steelers. All three joined the Jets in ’96, with O’Donnell and Graham signing large contracts.

But a funny thing happened on the way to New York. The Jets not only fell apart, but they fell apart everywhere but wide receiver. Two years later, New York would be in the AFC Championship Game with the only pair of teammates to catch 75 passes that year: Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet. Back in ’96, Chrebet was a 23-year-old second-year player, while Johnson was a rookie. Still, the duo managed to outshine Graham in both ’96 and then ’97.2 The Jets traded Graham to the Eagles in 1998 for a 6th round pick.

Unfortunately for Graham, he was joining what would be the worst offense in football: Philadelphia finished last in points, yards, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and net yards per pass attempt in 1998, a remarkable feat possible only thanks to the trio of Bobby Hoying, Koy Detmer, and a 32-year-old Rodney Peete. In 1997, Irving Fryar (at the age of 35) had 1,316 yards for the Eagles with Detmer/Hoying/Pette again splitting duties, but Philadelphia lacked a true number two receiver. In ’98, Graham actually edged out Fryar with 600 receiving yards to Fryar’s 556.

After the season, Graham chose to sign a free agent contract with the Chargers. A few months later, Erik Kramer also joined San Diego, reuniting the duo for one last season. Playing with Kramer and Jim Harbaugh, a 30-year-old Graham beat out 25-year-old TE Freddie Jones and 25-year-old wide receiver Mikhael Ricks to lead the Chargers in receptions, yards, and touchdowns, with a 57-968-2 stat line.

In 2000, Curtis Conway was fed up with the Bears, and re-connected with Graham in San Diego. Together with Freddie Jones, San Diego should have had a pretty good passing game. Instead? Graham endured the second 1-15 season of his career, thanks to Ryan Leaf and a combination of Harbaugh and Moses Moreno. Still, Graham beat out both Jones and Conway to lead the team in receiving yards with 907.

The 2001 Chargers would be Graham’s final season, and boy did he play on a talent-rich team…. just at the wrong time. Those Chargers had Graham, Conway, and Jones, of course, and were quarterbacked by a 39-year-old Doug Flutie. The backup quarterback was Drew Brees. The starting running back was LaDainian Tomlinson. Tim Dwight was the slot receiver. In their primes, Brees or Flutie could combine with LT, Graham/Conway/Dwight, and Jones to form a hell of an offense. Instead, San Diego went 5-11, and Grham finished second on the team in receiving yards to Conway.

Here is the breakdown for Graham’s 11 seasons in the NFL:

  • Sat on bench as rookie
  • Led Steelers in receiving yards (beating Dwight Stone and Ernie Mills)
  • Finished behind Eric Green and Dwight Stone
  • Led Bears in receiving yards (beating Curtis Conway)
  • Led Bears in receiving yards (beating Curtis Conway) and set franchise record
  • Finished behind Keyshawn and Chrebet
  • Finished behind Keyshawn and Chrebet
  • Led Eagles in receiving yards (beating Irving Fryar)
  • Led Chargers in receiving yards (beating Freddie Jones)
  • Led Chargers in receiving yards (beating Curtis Conway and Freddie Jones)
  • Finished 2nd on Chargers in receiving yards (behind Curtis Conway)

In the 9-year middle of his career, Graham led four teams in receiving yards a total of six times.   In 2002, he signed with the Falcons, but was released in July.  He did not have a remarkable career, and didn’t put up great receiving numbers, but he was usually the best player on a variety of different teams. That means he either was better than we remember, played with bad quarterbacks to depress his stats, or was “lucky” to play with bad receivers to always be his team’s top weapon.

What do you think?

  1. With Yancey Thigpen, Johnson, Mills, and Andre Hastings, it’s not as though the Steelers were thin at wide receiver. []
  2. Despite being a terrible 1-15 team, the Jets had four players who would finish their careers with 7,000 receiving yards: Johnson, Chrebet, Graham, and a 32-year-old Webster Slaughter. A fifth player, 25-year-old fullback Richie Anderson, had 400 receptions in his career. And a sixth player, 24-year-old tight end Kyle Brady, had a 13-year career in the NFL. That’s a whole lot of relatively in their prime talent on one terrible team. []
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The GOAT

Jerry Rice was really, really good for many, many reasons.  Here’s one: he led his teams in receiving yards a whopping 15 times in his career.  In 1985, Roger Craig led the 49ers in receiving yards during Rice’s rookie season. Then, from ’86 to ’96, Rice led San Francisco in receiving yards every season.  In 1997, Rice tore his ACL and was limited to just two games; as a result, Terrell Owens led the team in receiving.  In ’98 and ’99, though, it was Rice again who led the 49ers in receiving yards, before a 27-year-old Owens outgained a 38-year-old Rice on the ’00 49ers.

In 2001, Rice was in Oakland, and a 35-year-old Tim Brown beat Rice by 26 receiving yards (1165-1139) to lead the Raiders in receiving. But in 2002 and 2003, Rice — at 40 and 41 years of age — led Oakland in receiving. So from 1986 to 2003, Rice led his team in receiving yards in 15 of 18 seasons, with the exceptions being due to a torn ACL, losing out to a future Hall of Famer 11 years his junior, and losing out to a Hall of Famer 4 years his junior by 26 yards. That’s why he’s the greatest of all time.

But Henry Ellard was pretty darn good, too. Ellard played for 16 seasons in the NFL, and other than his rookie season and his final two seasons, he led his team in receiving yards every other year of his career.   During the prime years of Jim Everett’s career — 1988 to 1990 — Ellard ranked 1st, 1st, and 2nd in the league in receiving yards per game.  But he still led the Rams in receiving yards the other years, too, finishing as the leader receiver on Los Angeles each year from ’84 to ’93.  When Ellard joined the Redskins in ’94, he eclipsed the 1,000 yards mark and led Washington in receiving in ’94, ’95, and ’96.  In the process, Ellard became the first and only player to lead his team in receiving yards in 13 straight seasons. [click to continue…]

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Throwbacks: ’85 Bears Caught In A Miami Vise

I love reading old articles, and reading old articles about football history is a particular passion of mine. This is the second installment of a new feature at Football Perspective: reviews of historical articles. Today’s content is four articles in one, all published in the Chicago Tribune on December 3rd, 1985. Hours earlier, the 12-0 Bears lost as 2-point favorites in Miami to the 8-4 Dolphins, 38-24, ending Chicago’s perfect season. You can read all four articles here: I recommend you read them before going on.

The four articles are “Bears squeezed in Miami vise” by Don Pierson, “Only thing Bears lost was hint of immortality” by Bernie Lincicome, “No McMiracle in late show” by Bob Verdi, and “Dolphins roll out anti-blitz offense” by Ed Sherman.

*********************************************************************************

Bears squeezed in Miami vise (Pierson)

The Bears convinced the National Football League they are perfectly human Monday night when the Miami Dolphins ruined their perfect season and preserved history for themselves with a 38-24 victory.

The Bears’ 12-game winning streak and dreams of an undefeated season turned to a nightmare with a 31-point onslaught by quarterback Dan Marino and the Dolphins in the first half.
….
The noisy Orange Bowl crowd of 75,594 counted down the seconds and hailed the 1972 Dolphins as the last unbeaten (17-0) team.

Walter Payton got his record-breaking eighth 100-yard game in a row only because the Bears called time out three times in the final minute when the Dolphins had the ball. Payton finished with 121 yards in 23 carries and curiously carried only 10 times in the first half.

“Walter Payton is the greatest football player to ever play the game. Other people who call themselves running backs can’t carry his jersey,” said Ditka.

[click to continue…]

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