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Trivia of the Day – Saturday, June 30th

The Jets and Giants both play in MetLife Stadium.

There are 31 stadiums that NFL franchises call home. MetLife Stadium is shared by New York’s Jets and Giants, and the two teams opened the stadium together in a pre-season, Monday night game in 2010. But did you know that one NFL team still plays its home games in a stadium that another NFL team once called home? Can you guess which stadium that is?

Three hints below; as always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.

Trivia hint 1 Show

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Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

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Largest increase in pass completions

And then John said to Peyton, 'Tim Tebow.'

Fifteen days into its infancy, Football Perspective has published fifteen posts. If you are enjoying the site, be sure to check back every day for a new post. You can also become one of the 850+ people to “like” Football Perspective on Facebook. You can also follow me on twitter. Enough of a site update: on to today’s post.

Unlike most sports writers, I don’t know a lot about what will happen this season. But there’s one thing I do know: the Denver Broncos aren’t going to rank 32nd again in pass attempts again. The Tebow Broncos, an offense with an inexperienced quarterback and a confused offensive coordinator, completed just 217 passes last season. That was the lowest in the league, and the lowest since the ’09 Jets, a team that boasted the number one rushing attack and defense in the league — and Mark Sanchez.

Setting aside those years where the league scheduled more games in the following season, the table below shows the teams with the largest increase in completions from one year (that’s the year listed in the table) to the next:

YearTmCmp NCmp N+1DifferenceQB Year NQB Year N+1HC Year NHC Year N+1
1978SFO190361171Steve DeBergSteve DeBergPete McCulley1Bill Walsh
2000TAM237362125Shaun KingBrad JohnsonTony DungyTony Dungy
2004ARI299419120Josh McCownKurt WarnerDennis GreenDennis Green
1998CHI284404120Erik KramerShane MatthewsDave WannstedtDick Jauron
1993NWE289405116Drew BledsoeDrew BledsoeBill ParcellsBill Parcells
2000CIN207322115Akili SmithJon KitnaDick LeBeau2Dick LeBeau
1957PHI99214115Bobby ThomasonNorm Van BrocklinHugh DevoreBuck Shaw
2006ATL222336114Michael VickJoey HarringtonJim MoraBobby Petrino
1983MIA254367113Dan MarinoDan MarinoDon ShulaDon Shula
1994DET250362112Dave KriegScott MitchellWayne FontesWayne Fontes
1978BAL202313111Bill TroupGreg LandryTed MarchibrodaTed Marchibroda
2008MIN267377110Gus FrerotteBrett FavreBrad ChildressBrad Childress
2008SEA262372110Seneca WallaceMatt HasselbeckMike HolmgrenJim Mora
1989HOU295399104Warren MoonWarren MoonJerry GlanvilleJack Pardee
2001SEA258361103Matt HasselbeckMatt HasselbeckMike HolmgrenMike Holmgren
1988NWE199302103Doug FlutieSteve GroganRaymond BerryRaymond Berry
1979HOU195296101Dan PastoriniKen StablerBum PhillipsBum Phillips
1996SEA26135998Rick MirerWarren MoonDennis EricksonDennis Erickson
1999PHI23533196Doug PedersonDonovan McNabbAndy ReidAndy Reid
1993MIN31540994Jim McMahonWarren MoonDennis GreenDennis Green
1985CLE22231593Bernie KosarBernie KosarMarty SchottenheimerMarty Schottenheimer
1993NOR27436692Wade WilsonJim EverettJim MoraJim Mora
1992DEN25835092John ElwayJohn ElwayDan ReevesWade Phillips
1972PHI18427591John ReavesRoman GabrielEd KhayatMike McCormack
1950GNB14023191Tobin RoteBobby ThomasonGene RonzaniGene Ronzani
2011DEN217Tim TebowPeyton ManningJohn FoxJohn Fox

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  1. In 1978, the 49ers fired McCulley after 9 games and Fred O'Connor coached the rest of the season. []
  2. In 2000, Bruce Coslet was the Bengals coach to start the season, but he resigned after three straight blowouts to begin the year. []

Splits Happen

[Five years ago, my friend and Pro-Football-Reference.com founder Doug Drinen wrote the predecessor to todaay’s article, but refused to go with this title. The principles remain fundamental to advanced analysis of any sport, so today I’ll be revisiting them with current examples.]

Our brains are really good at making connections and finding patterns. In The Believing Brain, Michael Shermer argued that we’ve made it to where we are today precisely because of our ability to do just that:

A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? If he assumes it’s the wind and the rustling turns out to be a lion, then he’s not an ancestor anymore. Since early man had only a split second to make such decisions, Mr. Shermer says, we are descendants of ancestors whose “default position is to assume that all patterns are real; that is, assume that all rustles in the grass are dangerous predators and not the wind.”

Reggie Wayne dominates when seeing blue.

Of course, not all patterns are real, and sometimes that rustle is just the sound of the wind. Just because you see a surprising split — maybe a player dominated the second half of the season after a slow start — doesn’t mean that the “trend” is real. For example, here are some splits from the 2011 season:

Reggie Wayne was much better against teams that wear the color blue than when facing teams that have no blue in their uniforms. Here is his weekly production (the last column represents his fantasy points) when playing against teams that do not have blue as a color in their uniform:


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Gene Stallings coached in the NFL in the late ’80s, in between the Jim Hanifan and Joe Bugel eras of Cardinals football. He was the man who led the team as the franchise relocated from St. Louis to Phoenix. He coached under Tom Landry for over a decade in Dallas. But Gene Stallings will always be remembered for working under Bear Bryant and for embodying what it meant to coach Alabama football.

Stallings played on Bryant’s famous Junction Boys team at Texas A&M, and coached under Bryant when the Crimson Tide won national championships in ’61 and ’64. After his failed stint in the NFL, Stallings returned to Alabama, this time as the head coach. His crowning achievement was winning the 1992 national championship, capping a 13-0 season.

So why the background on Stallings today? One of the fun things about owning a website is seeing where your traffic comes from. I noticed a bunch of hits were coming from RollBamaRoll.com. So I went to the site to see what was driving the traffic (as it turns out, a random link to this passer rating article) and I found this great quote by Stallings on another page:

Everyone keeps talking about our game with Miami [in the 1993 Sugar Bowl]. The reason we won against Miami is this: We had the ball 15 minutes more than they did. We ran the ball for 275 yards against Miami. They ran the ball for less than 50 yards. When the game was over, we won. After a game, it may not look good. The alumni may be asking why we are not entertaining them. Let me assure you that our job is to win football games. You win football games by running the ball, stopping the run and being on the plus side of giveaway-takeaways.

You get five pass attempts and no more.

I think every coach1 at every level has, at some point, uttered a phrase to essentially the same effect. It is quintessential Alabama football, but it could have just as easily come out of the mouth of Greasy Neale or Bill Cowher or Vince Lombardi. Of course, whenever I read a quote like that, two immediate questions come to mind. Is it true? And how can I determine if it’s true?
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  1. Mike Martz excluded, of course. []

Coaching records in close games

Now just hold on. I never said you are what your record in close games says you are.

Which coaches have the best records in close games? That’s a complicated question that either means everything or nothing, depending on whom you ask. But putting aside what it means, what are the actual results?

I defined a close game as one where a team was trailing or leading by three points entering the 4th quarter since 1940.1

The table below shows the coaching records in close games for all coaches who were head coaches in at least 20 close games. You can use the search box below to search for any individual coach. Note that coaches who coached prior to 1940 are included, but only their performances in games beginning in 1940 are listed below.

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  1. Originally, I looked at all games that were within one score, but that proven to be even more unfair to the trailing teams. Teams trailing by one score entering the 4th quarter have won only 30% of all games since 1940. Conversely, teams trailing by 3 points have won 39% of the time. []

Jimmy Graham's invisible mirror displays his uniform as aesthetically pleasing

Last year, Jimmy Graham broke Kellen Winslow’s record for receiving yards in a single season by a tight end. Winslow gained 1,290 yards as a second-year player in 1980 for the San Diego Chargers. Last year, Graham finished with 1,310 receiving yards in his second season, while also catching 99 passes and scoring 11 touchdowns. Graham broke Winslow’s 31-year-old record, but Graham was leapfrogged in about fifteen minutes. By the end of the last Sunday of the regular season, Rob Gronkowski had upped his total to 1,327 yards, making him the new single-season leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns by a tight end.

Jason Witten and Aaron Hernandez each topped 900 receiving yards in 2011, and Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and Vernon Davis remain among the game’s elite at the position. It would not be difficult to argue that we’re in a golden age of tight ends. There’s no doubt that passing has increased in both quantity and quality; have tight ends been the biggest beneficiaries of that change?

I examined every season in the NFL since 1970, when the AFL and NFL merged. I then calculated the percentage of receiving yards for each team that went to its running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. The table below shows those results((Some caveats: Obviously many players straddle the line across multiple positions. There are some judgment calls involved with H-Backs, tight ends turned wide receivers, running backs turned tight ends, etc. I did my best to make the appropriate call in each case. Note also that for this article, I’ve eliminated all players who ended the season with negative receiving yards, and am only looking at receiving yards by running backs (which includes fullbacks), receivers and tight ends.)).

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Trivia of the Day – Sunday, June 24th

Hines Ward chokes up once he realizes he's no longer the active leader in career receiving yards

Hines Ward and Derrick Mason had been the wide receivers with the most receiving yards in the league among active players. Both topped the 12,000 yard mark, and both subsequently retired this off-season. Who is the current active leader in receiving yards at the wide receiver position (Tony Gonzalez is the current leader among all players)?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

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Trivia of the Day – Saturday, June 23rd

Peter Read Miller won the Dave Boss Award of Excellence for the 2005 Action Photo of the Year with this outstanding photo of Tomlinson.

On the eve of LaDainian Tomlinson’s retirement announcement, SI’s Peter King named his top-five most versatile runners of the last 30 years. Declaring Walter Payton just outside the time period, King selected Marshall Faulk, Tomlinson, Thurman Thomas, Darren Sproles, and Marcus Allen as his most versatile running backs since 1982.

There are many ways to quibble with his list, but let’s turn this into a bit of trivia. Defining versatile is subjective, but for purposes of this trivia question, I’ll define versatile as any season by a running back where he:

  • Caught at least 50 passes
  • Gained at least 1400 yards from scrimmage
  • Averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry

Tomlinson (4), Faulk (3) and Thomas (2) each had multiple seasons where they reached all three bench marks. Marcus Allen did it once, in 1985; Sproles has never done it (he had only 1313 yards from scrimmage last year, a career high).

Tomlinson ranks 2nd over the past 30 years in most “versatile” seasons. But one running back reached all three benchmarks in six different seasons. Can you guess who?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

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The best and worst wide receiver records

On Tuesday, I looked at running back records and argued that Steven Jackson had taken the mantle from Ollie Matson as the most prominent elite running back to have toiled for losing teams for the majority of his career. It’s easy to feel bad for a player like Jackson, relegated to consistent attack as the focal point of opposing defenses for a decade, continuously grinding out yardage while playing for bad teams.

Things are a little different for wide receivers. In fact, it’s often easier for wide receivers to produce better stats while playing for bad teams, since trailing teams are forced to throw later in games. Further, wide receivers don’t face the constant pounding that running backs encounter, making them slightly less sympathetic figures. Still, it’s an interesting question, and one that’s easy enough to answer. Which wide receivers have played for the best and worst teams? Any guesses? The results, after the jump.

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Yesterday, I began looking at how the 12 expansion teams of the modern era fared during their first 13 years of existence. Today, the bottom half of the list:

#6 Cincinnati Bengals (1968-1980)

Art Modell purchased the Browns in 1961; Modell and Paul Brown, the only coach the franchise had ever known, clashed almost immediately. In January 1963, Modell fired Brown, who began plotting his revenge almost immediately. At the time, the AFL was gaining traction, but Brown had no desire to be in a “lesser” league. By the time the AFL had decided to add Cincinnati as an expansion franchise, the AFL and NFL had already agreed to merge prior to the start of the 1970 season. Brown was part of the ownership group that brought the Bengals into professional football, and became the team’s first head coach. One of his first decisions? Hiring a young Bill Walsh.

The Bengals played like a typical expansion team in 1968, but their hopes seemed to change the following season. With the 5th pick in the 1969 draft1, Brown didn’t have to look far: he selected Cincinnati signal caller Greg Cook. The former Bearcat was an immediate star: his 9.4 yards per attempt average remains the highest ever by a rookie quarterback with at least 175 pass attempts. Cook led the AFL in completion percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating, but was mostly known for his powerful arm. His 17.5 yards per completion average that season has only been bested once since, and it remains the 12th highest mark in league history. Making the season more incredible was that Cook tore his rotator cuff against the Chiefs… in week three. Following surgery to repair his shoulder, Cook threw just three more passes, prompting many to wonder how great he could have been.

They're never going to expect the shallow cross.

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  1. The AFL and NFL had a common draft beginning in 1967; the Bengals, with the second worst record in the league, ended up with only the fifth pick in the draft, causing them to miss out on O.J. Simpson and Joe Greene. []

Thirteen years ago, the Cleveland Browns were preparing for their return to the NFL. The Browns were the dominant team of the ’50s and were a consistent playoff contender for much of the ’60s and ’80s. In 1996, Art Modell took the Browns to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens. Three years later, the NFL gave the city of Cleveland an expansion franchise; unfortunately, the new Browns have struggled to find an identity or a direction for much of their first thirteen seasons.

Consider: since 1999, the Browns have the second worst record in football, trailing only the Detroit Lions. Cleveland has scored the fewest points in the league and been outscored by the most points since returning to the NFL.1 The Browns have been shutout 12 times, by far the most in the league over that span. The Browns and the Bills are the only teams to appear in only one playoff game since 1999, with neither team being victorious.

Symptomatic of the Browns’ failure to build a competitive team is the constant turnover at the most important positions. Assuming rookie Brandon Weeden starts in week one, he’ll be the 11th quarterback to start the season opener for the new Browns, and the sixth in six years. Pat Shurmur is Cleveland’s sixth head coach since returning to the league; Brad Childress is now their ninth offensive coordinator/play caller.

How do the Browns rank compared to other expansion teams? The Bears, Cardinals, Packers, Giants, Lions, Redskins, Steelers, Eagles and Rams all entered the league before 1940, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible. The 49ers and Browns (v.1.0) entered the NFL from the All America Football Conference, so they weren’t expansion teams when they joined the NFL. The Baltimore Colts and their complicated history are probably best left off this list.
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  1. Excluding the Houston Texans, who entered the league in 2002. Still, the Browns have scored fewer points per game and been outscored by more points than the Texans. []

Steven Jackson is the Ollie Matson of the 21st century. What does that mean? Before we answer that, take a look at Steven Jackson’s impressive career:

Rushing Receiving
Year Age Tm Att Yds TD Y/A Rec Yds Y/R TD YScm RRTD
2004 21 STL 134 673 4 5.0 19 189 9.9 0 862 4
2005 22 STL 254 1046 8 4.1 43 320 7.4 2 1366 10
2006* 23 STL 346 1528 13 4.4 90 806 9.0 3 2334 16
2007 24 STL 237 1002 5 4.2 38 271 7.1 1 1273 6
2008 25 STL 253 1042 7 4.1 40 379 9.5 1 1421 8
2009* 26 STL 324 1416 4 4.4 51 322 6.3 0 1738 4
2010* 27 STL 330 1241 6 3.8 46 383 8.3 0 1624 6
2011 28 STL 260 1145 5 4.4 42 333 7.9 1 1478 6
Career 2138 9093 52 4.3 369 3003 8.1 8 12096 60

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Correlating passing stats with wins

Which stats should be used to analyze quarterback play? That question has mystified the NFL for at least the last 80 years. In the 1930s, the NFL first used total yards gained and later completion percentage to determine the league’s top passer. Various systems emerged over the next three decades, but none of them were capable of separating the best quarterbacks from the merely very good. Finally, a special committee, headed by Don Smith of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, came up with the most complicated formula yet to grade the passers. Adopted in 1973, the NFL has used passer rating ever since to crown its ‘passing’ champion.

Nearly all football fans have issues with passer rating. Some argue that it’s hopelessly confusing; others simply think it just doesn’t work. But there are some who believe in the power of passer rating, like Cold Hard Football Facts founder Kerry Byrne. A recent post on a Cowboys fan site talked about Dallas’ need to improve their passer rating differential. Passer rating will always have supporters for one reason: it has been, is, and always will be correlated with winning. It is easy to test how closely correlated two variables are; in this case, passer rating (or any other statistic) and wins. The correlation coefficient is a measure of the linear relationship between two variables on a scale from -1 to 1. Essentially, if two variables move in the same direction, their correlation coefficient them will be close to 1. If two variables move with each other but in opposite directions (say, the temperature outside and the amount of your heating bill), the CC will be closer to -1. If the two variables have no relationship at all, the CC will be close to zero.

The table below measures the correlation coefficient of certain statistics with wins. The data consists of all quarterbacks who started at least 14 games in a season from 1990 to 2011:

Passer Rating0.51
Comp %0.32
Sack Rate-0.28
Passing Yards0.16

As you can see, passer rating is indeed correlated with wins; a correlation coefficient of 0.51 indicates a moderately strong relationship; the two variables (passer rating and wins) are clearly correlated to some degree. Interception rate is also correlated with wins; there is a ‘-‘ sign next to the correlation coefficient because of the negative relationship, but that says nothing about the strength of the relationship. As we would suspect, as interception rate increases, wins decrease. On the other hand, passing yards bears almost no relationships with wins — this is exactly what Alex Smith was talking about last month:
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  1. Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, calculated as follows: (Passing Yards + 20*Passing Touchdowns - 45*Interceptions - Sack Yards Lost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks) []
  2. Net Yards per attempt, which includes sack yards lost in the numerator and sacks in the denominator. []

Trivia of the Day – Sunday, June 17

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Check back tomorrow for a post on quarterbacks, but first, here are a couple of trivia questions you can use at your barbeque, centering around the most famous father in the NFL.

The Mannings, lined up from most to fewest rings

As you may know, Archie Manning has the lowest winning percentage of any quarterback in NFL history (minimum 50 games started). Manning finished his career with a 35-101-3 record, including an 0-10 record as a member of the Oilers and Vikings in the early ’80s.

Since Manning retired, three more quarterbacks have lost at least 100 games. Can you name them?

Player 1 Hint Show

Player 2 Hint Show

Player 3 Hint Show

Trivia answer Show

But Peyton and Eli’s dad wasn’t the first quarterback to record 100 losses. So today, see if you can stump your dad with this trivia question: Who was the first NFL QB to lose 100 regular season games?

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Trivia of the Day – Saturday, June 16

Every once in awhile, I’ll post some random trivia. I’ll include three hints, each making the answer progressively easier to guess. See how early you can guess the answer, and post your results in the comments. As always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.

Can you name the only team to never have a player record 90 receptions in a season?

Trivia hint 1 Show

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How have previous Justin Blackmons fared?

Justin Blackmon was the first receiver selected in April’s draft. What are the odds that the former Oklahoma State Cowboy will be the best rookie receiver in 2012? And how likely is it that Blackmon will ultimately be the best receiver out of his class?

In some ways, it’s an unfair question. There were 33 receivers selected, including six in the first two rounds. The likelihood of Blackmon being the most productive is certainly greater than 1 out of 33, but how much greater is it?1

We don’t know, and we won’t know until his career (and the careers of his draft mates) ultimately unfolds, but we can speculate based on historical results.

Since the NFL merger, how frequently has the top drafted receiver ended up being the best rookie? Five out of 42 times, the top-selected rookie led his draft class in receiving yards that season. Believe it or not, before A.J. Green did it last season, Chicago’s Willie Gault in 1983 was the last to do so. The table below lists the top rookies selected in each of the last 42 drafts, along with their overall draft pick, and the number of receiving yards they recorded as rookies. The last two columns list the top rookie receiver (by receiving yards) and what percentage of that number of receiving yards the highest drafted rookie achieved.

YearReceiverTeamPickCollegeRook Yds% of LeaderTop Rookie
2011A.J. GreenCIN4Georgia10571.00A.J. Green
2010Demaryius ThomasDEN22Georgia Tech2830.29Mike Williams
2009Darrius Heyward-BeyOAK7Maryland1240.16Hakeem Nicks
2008Donnie AverySTL33Houston6740.69Eddie Royal
2007Calvin JohnsonDET2Georgia Tech7560.76Dwayne Bowe
2006Santonio HolmesPIT25Ohio St.8240.79Marques Colston
2005Braylon EdwardsCLE3Michigan5120.90Reggie Brown
2004Larry FitzgeraldARI3Pittsburgh7800.65Michael Clayton
2003Charles RogersDET2Michigan St.2430.18Anquan Boldin
2002Donte StallworthNOR13Tennessee5940.81Antonio Bryant
2001David TerrellCHI8Michigan4150.47Chris Chambers
2000Peter WarrickCIN4Florida St.5920.83Darrell Jackson
1999Torry HoltSTL6North Carolina St.7880.80Kevin Johnson
1998Kevin DysonTEN16Utah2630.20Randy Moss
1997Ike HilliardNYG7Florida420.08Rae Carruth
1996Keyshawn JohnsonNYJ1USC8440.75Terry Glenn
1995Michael WestbrookWAS4Colorado5220.50Joey Galloway
1994Charles JohnsonPIT17Colorado5770.67Darnay Scott
1993Curtis ConwayCHI7USC2310.36Horace Copeland
1992Desmond HowardWAS4Michigan200.06Courtney Hawkins
1991Herman MooreDET10Virginia1350.17Lawrence Dawsey
1990Alexander WrightDAL26Auburn1040.13Ricky Proehl
1989Hart Lee DykesNWE16Oklahoma St.7950.92Shawn Collins
1988Tim BrownRAI6Notre Dame7250.92Sterling Sharpe
1987Haywood JeffiresHOU20North Carolina St.890.14Ricky Nattiel
1986Mike SherrardDAL18UCLA7440.66Bill Brooks
1985Al ToonNYJ10Wisconsin6620.70Eddie Brown
1984Irving FryarNWE1Nebraska1640.19Louis Lipps
1983Willie GaultCHI18Tennessee8361.00Willie Gault
1982Anthony HancockKAN11Tennessee1160.46Lindsay Scott
1981David VerserCIN10Kansas1610.16Cris Collinsworth
1980Lam JonesNYJ2Texas4820.60Art Monk
1979Jerry ButlerBUF5Clemson8341.00Jerry Butler
1978Wes ChandlerNOR3Florida4720.47John Jefferson
1977Stanley MorganNWE25Tennessee4430.60Wesley Walker
1976Billy BrooksCIN11Oklahoma1910.21Sammy White
1975Larry BurtonNOR7Purdue3050.70Rick Upchurch
1974Lynn SwannPIT21USC2080.34Nat Moore
1973Isaac CurtisCIN15San Diego St.8431.00Isaac Curtis
1972Ahmad RashadSTL4Oregon5001.00Ahmad Rashad
1971J.D. HillBUF4Arizona St.2160.25Randy Vataha
1970Ken BurroughNOR10Texas Southern1960.28Ron Shanklin

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  1. I’m not going to comment on how Justin Blackmon was arrested on an aggregated DUI charge on June 3. []

Welcome to FootballPerspective.com

Welcome to footballperspective.com. Football Perspective is a blog about football history, football stats, and football stats and history.

I’ve written about fantasy football for the past decade over at Footballguys.com, the leading fantasy football content site in the industry. I also worked for a number of years at pro-football-reference.com, and you can find all of those articles at the PFR Blog. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with the Fifth Down blog at the New York Times, along with Chris Brown’s excellent site, smartfootball.com.

So what will I be doing here? I’ll be blogging about everything football-related, from Jerry Rice to Bobby Douglass, and from the 1978 Patriots to who is the greatest quarterback of all time.

Hopefully you can learn something in at least a few of these posts. Welcome and be sure to comment! If you’ve got any questions or ideas for a football article, please direct them to chase [at] footballperspective [dot] com.