Three hints below; as always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.
Three hints below; as always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.
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:
|Year||Tm||Cmp N||Cmp N+1||Difference||QB Year N||QB Year N+1||HC Year N||HC Year N+1|
|1978||SFO||190||361||171||Steve DeBerg||Steve DeBerg||Pete McCulley1||Bill Walsh|
|2000||TAM||237||362||125||Shaun King||Brad Johnson||Tony Dungy||Tony Dungy|
|2004||ARI||299||419||120||Josh McCown||Kurt Warner||Dennis Green||Dennis Green|
|1998||CHI||284||404||120||Erik Kramer||Shane Matthews||Dave Wannstedt||Dick Jauron|
|1993||NWE||289||405||116||Drew Bledsoe||Drew Bledsoe||Bill Parcells||Bill Parcells|
|2000||CIN||207||322||115||Akili Smith||Jon Kitna||Dick LeBeau2||Dick LeBeau|
|1957||PHI||99||214||115||Bobby Thomason||Norm Van Brocklin||Hugh Devore||Buck Shaw|
|2006||ATL||222||336||114||Michael Vick||Joey Harrington||Jim Mora||Bobby Petrino|
|1983||MIA||254||367||113||Dan Marino||Dan Marino||Don Shula||Don Shula|
|1994||DET||250||362||112||Dave Krieg||Scott Mitchell||Wayne Fontes||Wayne Fontes|
|1978||BAL||202||313||111||Bill Troup||Greg Landry||Ted Marchibroda||Ted Marchibroda|
|2008||MIN||267||377||110||Gus Frerotte||Brett Favre||Brad Childress||Brad Childress|
|2008||SEA||262||372||110||Seneca Wallace||Matt Hasselbeck||Mike Holmgren||Jim Mora|
|1989||HOU||295||399||104||Warren Moon||Warren Moon||Jerry Glanville||Jack Pardee|
|2001||SEA||258||361||103||Matt Hasselbeck||Matt Hasselbeck||Mike Holmgren||Mike Holmgren|
|1988||NWE||199||302||103||Doug Flutie||Steve Grogan||Raymond Berry||Raymond Berry|
|1979||HOU||195||296||101||Dan Pastorini||Ken Stabler||Bum Phillips||Bum Phillips|
|1996||SEA||261||359||98||Rick Mirer||Warren Moon||Dennis Erickson||Dennis Erickson|
|1999||PHI||235||331||96||Doug Pederson||Donovan McNabb||Andy Reid||Andy Reid|
|1993||MIN||315||409||94||Jim McMahon||Warren Moon||Dennis Green||Dennis Green|
|1985||CLE||222||315||93||Bernie Kosar||Bernie Kosar||Marty Schottenheimer||Marty Schottenheimer|
|1993||NOR||274||366||92||Wade Wilson||Jim Everett||Jim Mora||Jim Mora|
|1992||DEN||258||350||92||John Elway||John Elway||Dan Reeves||Wade Phillips|
|1972||PHI||184||275||91||John Reaves||Roman Gabriel||Ed Khayat||Mike McCormack|
|1950||GNB||140||231||91||Tobin Rote||Bobby Thomason||Gene Ronzani||Gene Ronzani|
|2011||DEN||217||–||–||Tim Tebow||Peyton Manning||John Fox||John Fox|
[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 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:
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.
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.
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.)).
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
[click to continue…]
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:
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:
[click to continue…]
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.
Since Manning retired, three more quarterbacks have lost at least 100 games. Can you name them?
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?
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.
|Year||Receiver||Team||Pick||College||Rook Yds||% of Leader||Top Rookie|
|2011||A.J. Green||CIN||4||Georgia||1057||1.00||A.J. Green|
|2010||Demaryius Thomas||DEN||22||Georgia Tech||283||0.29||Mike Williams|
|2009||Darrius Heyward-Bey||OAK||7||Maryland||124||0.16||Hakeem Nicks|
|2008||Donnie Avery||STL||33||Houston||674||0.69||Eddie Royal|
|2007||Calvin Johnson||DET||2||Georgia Tech||756||0.76||Dwayne Bowe|
|2006||Santonio Holmes||PIT||25||Ohio St.||824||0.79||Marques Colston|
|2005||Braylon Edwards||CLE||3||Michigan||512||0.90||Reggie Brown|
|2004||Larry Fitzgerald||ARI||3||Pittsburgh||780||0.65||Michael Clayton|
|2003||Charles Rogers||DET||2||Michigan St.||243||0.18||Anquan Boldin|
|2002||Donte Stallworth||NOR||13||Tennessee||594||0.81||Antonio Bryant|
|2001||David Terrell||CHI||8||Michigan||415||0.47||Chris Chambers|
|2000||Peter Warrick||CIN||4||Florida St.||592||0.83||Darrell Jackson|
|1999||Torry Holt||STL||6||North Carolina St.||788||0.80||Kevin Johnson|
|1998||Kevin Dyson||TEN||16||Utah||263||0.20||Randy Moss|
|1997||Ike Hilliard||NYG||7||Florida||42||0.08||Rae Carruth|
|1996||Keyshawn Johnson||NYJ||1||USC||844||0.75||Terry Glenn|
|1995||Michael Westbrook||WAS||4||Colorado||522||0.50||Joey Galloway|
|1994||Charles Johnson||PIT||17||Colorado||577||0.67||Darnay Scott|
|1993||Curtis Conway||CHI||7||USC||231||0.36||Horace Copeland|
|1992||Desmond Howard||WAS||4||Michigan||20||0.06||Courtney Hawkins|
|1991||Herman Moore||DET||10||Virginia||135||0.17||Lawrence Dawsey|
|1990||Alexander Wright||DAL||26||Auburn||104||0.13||Ricky Proehl|
|1989||Hart Lee Dykes||NWE||16||Oklahoma St.||795||0.92||Shawn Collins|
|1988||Tim Brown||RAI||6||Notre Dame||725||0.92||Sterling Sharpe|
|1987||Haywood Jeffires||HOU||20||North Carolina St.||89||0.14||Ricky Nattiel|
|1986||Mike Sherrard||DAL||18||UCLA||744||0.66||Bill Brooks|
|1985||Al Toon||NYJ||10||Wisconsin||662||0.70||Eddie Brown|
|1984||Irving Fryar||NWE||1||Nebraska||164||0.19||Louis Lipps|
|1983||Willie Gault||CHI||18||Tennessee||836||1.00||Willie Gault|
|1982||Anthony Hancock||KAN||11||Tennessee||116||0.46||Lindsay Scott|
|1981||David Verser||CIN||10||Kansas||161||0.16||Cris Collinsworth|
|1980||Lam Jones||NYJ||2||Texas||482||0.60||Art Monk|
|1979||Jerry Butler||BUF||5||Clemson||834||1.00||Jerry Butler|
|1978||Wes Chandler||NOR||3||Florida||472||0.47||John Jefferson|
|1977||Stanley Morgan||NWE||25||Tennessee||443||0.60||Wesley Walker|
|1976||Billy Brooks||CIN||11||Oklahoma||191||0.21||Sammy White|
|1975||Larry Burton||NOR||7||Purdue||305||0.70||Rick Upchurch|
|1974||Lynn Swann||PIT||21||USC||208||0.34||Nat Moore|
|1973||Isaac Curtis||CIN||15||San Diego St.||843||1.00||Isaac Curtis|
|1972||Ahmad Rashad||STL||4||Oregon||500||1.00||Ahmad Rashad|
|1971||J.D. Hill||BUF||4||Arizona St.||216||0.25||Randy Vataha|
|1970||Ken Burrough||NOR||10||Texas Southern||196||0.28||Ron Shanklin|
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.
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.