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ravIn 2009, Doug produced a Super Bowl Squares post, itself a revival of his old Sabernomics post eight years ago. In those posts, Doug derived the probability of winning a squares pool for each given square (or set of numbers). Unsurprisingly, he found that those lucky souls holding the ‘7/0’ squares were in good shape, while those left holding the ‘2/2’ ticket were screwed. You can download the Sports-Reference Super Bowl Squares app here, which is free, and should help you taunt your guests at your Super Bowl party.

Let’s say that this year, your Super Bowl squares pool allows you to either pick or trade squares: if that’s the case, this post is for you. I looked at every regular season and postseason game from the last ten years. The table below shows the likelihood of each score after each quarter, along with three final columns that show the expected value of a $100 prize pool under three different payout systems. The “10/” column shows the payout in a pool where 10% of the prize money is given out after each of the first three quarters and 70% after the end of the game; the next column is for pools that give out 12.5% of the pool after the first and third quarters, 25% at halftime, and 50% for the score at the end of the game. The final column is for pools that give out 25% of the pot after each quarter — since I think that is the most common pool structure, I’ve sorted the table by that column, but you can sort by any column you like.
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Ever wondered which Super Bowl teams were the oldest or youngest? I went and calculated the AV-adjusted age of every team to appear in the Super Bowl. (AV stands for Pro-Football-Reference’s Approximate Value system, which assigns an approximate value to each player in each season; you can read more about it here.) You can probably guess who the oldest team was, but the youngest might be a bit of a surprise. Baltimore and San Francisco both come in roughly in the middle of the pack, with the Ravens slightly older than the 49ers. This also jives with Football Outsiders’ snap-adjusted ages article.

Bill Barnwell wrote a good article yesterday summarizing the success of Ozzie Newsome, the Baltimore Ravens general manager. That made me curious to see what percentage (based on AV, not total players, naturally) of the players on each Super Bowl team had never before played for another team. Great general managers do more than build their teams through the draft (and Barnwell specifically praised Newsome for that, including the trade for Anquan Boldin), but the question of what percentage of the team is “homegrown” is still an interesting one.

For the Ravens, 73% of their players (as measured by AV) have never played for another team, with Boldin, Cary Williams, Jacoby Jones, Bryant McKinnie, Matt Birk, Bernard Pollard, Corey Graham, and Vontae Leach being some notable exceptions. On the other side, 75% of the 49ers have only worn the red and gold, although Justin Smith, Jonathan Goodwin, Randy Moss, Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, Mario Manningham (at least, in the regular season) were key contributors who are not home-grown 49ers.

When it comes to AV-adjusted age or measuring how ‘home-grown’ each team is, neither team really stands out from the pack. The ’78 and ’79 Steelers featured 22 starters that were all home-grown, although making placekicker Roy Gerela the lone outlier (and since AV does not include kickers, both Pittsburgh teams were at 100%).

In addition to the AV-adjusted ages and “home-grownness” of each Super Bowl participant, the table below includes where each team (since 1970) ranked in points for, points allowed, yards, and yards allowed, and whether or not the team won the game. The table is fully sortable and searchable, and the rows for San Francisco and Baltimore will remain highlighted after sorting.

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I was planning on ignoring the latest Randy Moss news, using that word liberally as it applies to things said on media day. In case you missed it, Moss said yesterday that he believes he is the greatest receiver of all time. Moss is an obvious future Hall of Famer, but Jason Lisk gave Moss’ comments the appropriate treatment yesterday.

Today, though, Moss upped the ante by noting that “Jerry Rice had two Hall of Fame QBs his whole career. Give me that and see where my numbers are.” Yes, Rice was fortunate to play with Joe Montana and Steve Young, , but there is a pretty simple response to that. I wrote that response when Rice was a finalist for the Hall of Fame three years ago. You can read the full HOF profile I wrote on Rice, but I’ve reprinted Part III below:
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Not doing a squirrel dance.

Not doing a squirrel dance.

On Sunday, I looked at how the football legacies of certain Ravens would be affected by a win in Super Bowl XLVII; today I will do the same for the 49ers. And the best place to start is with the only surefire Hall of Famer on the team.

Randy Moss turns 36 in a couple of weeks, and he’s caught just 56 passes over the last three years. Super Bowl XLVII may not be his final game, but it probably will be Moss’ last chance to give us one final “Randy Moss” moment. Moss will one day be in the Hall of Fame, despite the fact that he rubbed many fans, sportswriters, teammates, coaches, owners, and a few referees the wrong way. But Moss is a six-time Pro Bowler, a four-time first-team AP All-Pro, and ranks 9th in career receptions, 3rd in career receiving yards, and 2nd in career receiving touchdowns. He’s had 64 100-yard games in his career, second only to Jerry Rice. He’s produced despite a relatively unstable quarterback situation for much of his career (admittedly, some of this was due to Moss): over one-third of his career receiving yards came from Daunte Culpepper, and no other single quarterback was responsible for even twenty percent of his yards. When he finally got a HOF-caliber quarterback, Moss broke the single-season record for receiving touchdowns in a season. But even before New England and Tom Brady, Moss had established himself as one of the greatest receivers in NFL history. If the 49ers win on Sunday, he’ll be like a modern Lance Alworth, who won a forgettable ring with the Dallas Cowboys in 1971.

It’s fitting that Patrick Willis and Ray Lewis are in the Super Bowl together. Willis was only 11 years old when Lewis entered the NFL, and Willis has modeled his game and his uniform number after Lewis. And in turn, if any linebacker has resembled Lewis over the last decade, it’s Willis, and there will be a figurative passing of the torch on Sunday. Even if he isn’t the next Ray Lewis, Willis has paved his own path towards Canton: he has been a first-team All-Pro choice by the Associated Press in five of his first six seasons. Lawrence Taylor, Eric Dickerson, Jerry Rice, Gale Sayers, and Reggie White are the only other NFL players since 1960 to be selected as a first-team AP All-Pro five or more times in their first six seasons. Absent a serious injury or a shocking career turn, Willis will one day be a Hall of Famer himself, but it sure can’t hurt to add a Lombardi Trophy to the resume.
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The Schottenheimer Index

Marty checking to make sure the pilot light is out.

Marty inquires as to whether Felix Wright's pilot light is out.

Last week, Neil brought us the latest iteration of the Manning Index, showing which quarterbacks have overachieved in the playoffs relative to expectation (based off of the Vegas line). I’m going to do the same today for coaches. A couple of introductory notes:

Neil described the exact methodology in his quarterbacks post, so I won’t waste time repeating it. However, I wanted to look at coaches over an even longer period, and 1950 sounded like a good cut-off.1 Since we don’t have point-spread data for games from 1950 to 19772, I simply used the projected point spread based on the differential between each team’s SRS ratings and by awarding the home team three points. So for pre-1977 games, coaches are credited with wins over expectation based on the SRS, and for post-1977, for wins over expectation based on the Vegas line. Here are the results.
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  1. Note that coaches, like Paul Brown, who coached before 1950 are included, but their pre-1950 stats are not. []
  2. One other piece of fine print: for the Super Bowls, I used the actual Vegas lines, since those are readily available. []



In September, I started a post by asking you to make this assumption:

Assume that it is within a quarterback’s control as to whether or not he throws a completed pass on any given pass attempt. However, if he throws an incomplete pass, then he has no control over whether or not that pass is intercepted.

If that assumption is true, that would mean all incomplete pass attempts could be labeled as “passes in play” for the defense to intercept. Therefore, a quarterback’s average number of “Picks On Passes In Play” (or POPIP) — that is, the number of interceptions per incomplete pass he throws — is out of his control.

After doing the legwork to test that assumption, I reached two conclusions. One, interception rate is just really random, and predicting it is a fool’s errand. Two, using a normalized INT rate — essentially replacing a quarterback’s number of interceptions per incomplete pass with the league average number of interceptions per incomplete pass — was a slightly better predictor of future INT rate than actual INT rate. It’s not a slam dunk, but there is some merit to using POPIP, because completion percentage, on average, is a better predictor of future INT rate than current INT rate.

So, why am I bringing this up today, at the start of Super Bowl week? Take a look at where Sunday’s starting quarterbacks ranked this year in POPIP (playoff statistics included, minimum 250 pass attempts):
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Lewis looks to cement his legacy

Lewis looks to cement his legacy.

Being a Super Bowl champion is a pretty nice bullet to place on your Hall of Fame resume. For players like Jerry Rice or Peyton Manning (or say, Steve Largent or Dan Marino), the failure to acquire a ring wouldn’t have prevented their induction; on the other hand, would Lynn Swann or Paul Hornung or a host of quarterbacks have made the HOF without a Super Bowl ring (or two, or three, or four?)

Just winning a Super Bowl guarantees nothing — Charles Haley and his five rings are on the outside looking in, as is Fuzzy Thurston, winner of six NFL titles. The borderline cases are the ones most helped or hurt by that Lombardi Trophy (or lack thereof) on the resume, and that class of players seems to be among the largest growing segment each year. So today, I’m going to take a look at how winning the Super Bowl could impact the legacies of certain Ravens.

Ray Lewis is a first ballot Hall of Famer regardless of what happens in Super Bowl XLVII, although his status as the game’s best inside linebacker of all-time might be boosted with a second Lombardi. The Ravens have been on a magical “Ride with Ray” and he’s been the face of a defense that’s turned from average in the regular season to excellent in the playoffs.

Ed Reed is another obvious Hall of Famer, even though unlike Lewis he was not a member of the 2000 Ravens teams that won the Super Bowl. Still, considering Troy Polamalu has appeared in three and won two of these games, Reed’s resume will look slightly less glamorous if he never is able to win a Super Bowl. And while it isn’t particularly relevant here, but I’ll just note that from 2005 to 2007, Bob Sanders made them a “Big Three” at the position, when Sanders won both a Super Bowl and a Defensive Player of the Year award. All three have battled injuries, showing just how dangerous the safety position can be in the NFL.
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Even the mighty Lions couldn't stop Quan.

Yes, that's a picture of the Lions in a Super Bowl post.

Anquan Boldin is back in the Super Bowl. Four years ago, Boldin and the Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. That season, Boldin was one of the game’s best wide receivers, catching 89 passes for 1,038 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in just 12 games. His production was slightly less impressive in 2012 — 65/921/4 in 15 games — but he was still a valuable member of the Ravens offense.

He signed with Baltimore in the 2010 offseason, and after a few heartbreaking post-seasons, Boldin and the Ravens are back in the Super Bowl. Since he was one of the team’s starting receivers this year, that makes him the 7th wide receiver to start for two different teams that reached a Super Bowl.

How many of the first six can you name (either with or without any hints)? For each receiver, the one hint shows the two Super Bowl franchises. Let us know how you did in the comments: as always, the honor system will be strictly enforced.

Trivia hint for WR1 Show

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Trivia hint for WR2 Show

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Trivia hint for WR3 Show

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Trivia hint for WR4 Show

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Trivia hint for WR5 Show

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Trivia hint for WR6 Show

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Manningham won't be a Super Bowl hero this year.

Manningham won't be a Super Bowl hero this year.

Last year, Mario Manningham was one of the stars of Super Bowl XLVI, as his great sidelines catch helped the Giants defeat the Patriots (although it wasn’t even his most meaningful catch in that game). As a member of the 49ers this season, Manningham has been placed on injured reserve, but that doesn’t make him ineligible to earn a second straight Super Bowl ring. Brandon Jacobs, who was waived by the 49ers in December, is in the same boat.

How rare is that? Believe it or not, only four players in NFL history have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls with different teams. Guard Russ Hochstein was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2001 and played in one game in 2002; he was waived in October and signed by the Patriots a week later. He stayed in New England through 2008, so Hochstein picked up a Super Bowl ring for his cup of coffee with the Bucs and then earned two more the next two seasons in New England. Hochstein was also a freshman with Nebraska in 1997, when the Cornhuskers were named national champions by USA Today and ESPN.

Defensive back Derrick Martin was drafted by Baltimore in 2006 and has already spent time with four distinguished franchises. He made the AFC Championship Game with the Ravens in 2008, won the Super Bowl with the Packers in 2010, won another super Bowl with the Giants in 2011, and nearly made it back there this year with New England.

Those are the two obscure names. The other two? Well, let’s see if you can guess.

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


Want to see how passing has changed in the NFL over the last 63 years? A picture is worth at least 1,000 words in this case. The graph below shows the number of interceptions per dropback (red), sacks per dropback (purple), non-INT incomplete passes per dropback (yellow) and completions per dropback (green). Of course, a dropback is simply a pass attempt or a sack. The information is stacked on top of each other for ease of viewing.

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In October 2009, Neil Paine wrote that Eli Manning had seemingly turned the corner, starting with the five-game stretch from week 17 of the 2007 season that ended in the Super Bowl. And since that post, Manning has been even better, with his 2011 season standing out as the best year of his career. I thought it would be fun to chart Eli’s career game-by-game according to ANY/A. Actually, since that chart would be incredibly volatile, I’m going to do it in five- and ten-game increments.

The chart below shows the average of Manning’s ANY/A in each of his last five games (playoffs included) beginning with the fifth game of his career in 2004. Of note: the black line represents the league average ANY/A (which, if we’re talking about the last 2 games of Year N and the first 3 games of Year N+1, is 40% of the Year N league average and 60% of the Year N+1 league average), and the two big purple dots show the two Super Bowl victories (or, more accurately, the Super Bowl win, the prior three playoff wins, and the week 17 game).

weekly ELI
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Super Bowl XLVII Prop Bets

I don’t advocate betting on football games and neither does Football Perspective. However, as a person who spends lot of time trying to measure events that are difficult to measure, as an academic exercise, I find this list of Super Bowl Prop bets pretty interesting.

MVP and First to Score a Touchdown Odds


Colin Kaepernick (SF) QB 7/4
Joe Flacco (BAL) QB 11/4
Frank Gore (SF) RB 7/1
Ray Lewis (BAL) LB 7/1
Ray Rice (BAL) RB 10/1
Michael Crabtree (SF) WR 14/1
Anquan Boldin (BAL) WR 16/1
Vernon Davis (SF) TE 18/1
Torrey Smith (BAL) WR 20/1
Ed Reed (BAL) FS 33/1
Aldon Smith (SF) LB 40/1
Dennis Pitta (BAL) TE 40/1
Randy Moss (SF) WR 40/1
Patrick Willis (SF) LB 50/1
Terrell Suggs (BAL) LB 50/1
Dashon Goldson (SF) FS 66/1
David Akers (SF) K 66/1
LaMichael James (SF) RB 66/1
NaVorro Bowman (SF) LB 66/1
Bernard Pierce (BAL) RB 75/1
Justin Tucker (BAL) K 75/1
Ted Ginn Jr. (SF) WR 75/1
Alex Smith (SF) QB 100/1
Delanie Walker (SF) TE 100/1
Field 22/1

Player to score the first TD in the game?

Frank Gore (SF) RB 13/2
Ray Rice (BAL) RB 15/2
Michael Crabtree (SF) WR 15/2
Anquan Boldin (BAL) WR 8/1
Colin Kaepernick (SF) QB 8/1
Vernon Davis (SF) TE 9/1
Torrey Smith (BAL) WR 10/1
Dennis Pitta (BAL) TE 12/1
Randy Moss (SF) WR 12/1
Delanie Walker (SF) TE 18/1
Bernard Pierce (BAL) RB 20/1
Ed Dickson (BAL) TE 25/1
Jacoby Jones (BAL) WR 25/1
Joe Flacco (BAL) QB 30/1
Vonta Leach (BAL) FB 33/1
Ed Reed (BAL) FS 33/1
Anthony Dixon (SF) RB 33/1
Ted Ginn Jr. (SF) WR 33/1
Ray Lewis (BAL) LB 50/1
Field 17/2
No TD scored in the game 75/1
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When you think about the Ravens under John Harbaugh — or just about any time in their existence — you think of a defensive team. Under Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, and Haloti Ngata, Baltimore has fielded dominant defenses for much of the last decade. Marvin Lewis, Baltimore’s defensive coordinator from 1996 to 2001, was rewarded with the head coaching job in Cincinnati after his years of excellent service. He was replaced by Mike Nolan, who after coordinating the defense for three years in Baltimore, was tapped to revive the 49ers. His replacement, Rex Ryan, excelled for four years in Baltimore, and was then chosen by the Jets to be their next head coach. The Ravens replaced Ryan with Greg Mattison, who was lured by his friend Brady Hoke to take the DC job at Michigan in 2011. He was replaced by Chuck Pagano, who coordinated the Baltimore defense for only a year (after spending three as the defensive backs coach) before the Colts selected him to be their next head coach. Dean Pees is the current DC in Baltimore.

Suffice it to say, with so many prominent names roaming the sidelines and coordinating the defenses in Baltimore, there are few fingerprints from either John Harbaugh or his predecessor Brian Billick on the great Ravens defenses. When you look at Baltimore’s offense under Harbaugh, you immediately think of Cam Cameron, who excelled so much in his role as OC in San Diego that he was hired by the Miami Dolphins in 2007. Cameron’s Dolphins went 1-15 and he was fired after only one year, but Harbaugh chose Cameron to be his first offensive coordinator. Then, with three weeks remaining in the regular season, Harbaugh fired Cameron and promoted Jim Caldwell to OC.

That’s a long bit of background to say this: John Harbaugh isn’t in charge of the Baltimore offense or the Baltimore defense. At least when Brian Billick was around, you knew the offense would be crafted in his image, even if it wasn’t successful. But there’s a reason you don’t think of Harbaugh when you think of the specific offensive/defensive units in Baltimore: that’s because he made his name as a Special Teams coach [click to continue…]


Those are some clutch shirts

Those are some clutch shirts.

Eight years ago — almost to the day — our old PFR colleague Doug Drinen wrote a Sabernomics post about “The Manning Index”, a metric designed to roughly gauge the clutchness (or chokeitude) of a given quarterback by looking at how he did relative to expectations (he revived this concept in version two, six years ago). In a nutshell, Doug used the location of the game and the win differential of the two teams involved to establish an expected winning percentage for each quarterback in a given matchup. He then added those up across all of a quarterback’s playoff starts, and compared to the number of wins he actually had. Therefore, quarterbacks who frequently exceeded expectations in playoff games could be considered “clutch” while those who often fell short (like the Index’s namesake, Peyton Manning) might just be inveterate chokers.

Doug ran that study in the midst of the 2004-05 playoffs, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Tom Brady (who was at the time 8-0 as a playoff starter and would run it to 10-0 before ever suffering a loss) came out on top, winning 3.5 more games than you’d expect from the particulars of the games he started. Fast-forward eight years, though, and you get this list of quarterbacks who debuted after 1977:
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Is Joe Flacco elite?

Just a guess, but I think that question will be asked quite a few times over the next couple of weeks. While the inanity of the discussion that usually follows that question is not something I wish to emulate, there’s no particular reason not to take an in-depth look at Flacco’s career. The table below shows Flacco’s performance in six key metrics — all relative to league average (1.00) — for each season of his career:

Flacco career

As you can see, with the exception of his great interception rate — which justifies its own post during this pre-Super Bowl period — Flacco’s career performance has been rather average. His touchdown rate, like those of many quarterbacks, has bounced up and down throughout his career. His sack rate was below average during his first three years, improved significantly in 2011, and landed right at the league average in 2012.


That is an elite Fu Manchu.

In the three main statistics — Y/A, NY/A, and ANY/A — Flacco has consistently finished in a tight window around the league average. His ANY/A has been slightly better than his NY/A thanks to that lofty interception rate, but suffice it to say Joe Flacco is, and has been for years, a league average quarterback.

If we look at ESPN’s Total QBR, Flacco ranked 27th as a rookie in 2008, 15th in 2009, and 12th in 2010, signaling a young quarterback improving and on the rise. In 2011, he ranked 14th, perhaps signaling a leveling off, and then this past season, he finished 25th. The positive spin would be that he’s a league-average quarterback, and the negative one (at least prior to this post-season) would have been that he was regressing.

On the other hand, here is how Flacco has performed in the playoffs in each game, as measured by AY/A:

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Super Bowl History

Now that the Super Bowl matchup is set, I thought I’d start the two-week period with some Super Bow history. The table below lists some information from each of the first 46 Super Bowls. With Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick facing off, that ends five-year streak where at least one of the two quarterbacks in the Super Bowl had previously won (or been in) a Super Bowl:

YearSBWinnerPFLoserPALocationSTQBOpp QBMVP
2011XLVINew York Giants21New England Patriots17IndianapolisINEli ManningTom BradyEli Manning
2010XLVGreen Bay Packers31Pittsburgh Steelers25ArlingtonTXAaron RodgersBen RoethlisbergerAaron Rodgers
2009XLIVNew Orleans Saints31Indianapolis Colts17MiamiFLDrew BreesPeyton ManningDrew Brees
2008XLIIIPittsburgh Steelers27Arizona Cardinals23TampaFLBen RoethlisbergerKurt WarnerSantonio Holmes
2007XLIINew York Giants17New England Patriots14GlendaleAZEli ManningTom BradyEli Manning
2006XLIIndianapolis Colts29Chicago Bears17MiamiFLPeyton ManningRex GrossmanPeyton Manning
2005XLPittsburgh Steelers21Seattle Seahawks10DetroitMIBen RoethlisbergerMatt HasselbeckHines Ward
2004XXIXNew England Patriots24Philadelphia Eagles21JacksonvilleFLTom BradyDonovan McNabbDeion Branch
2003XXXVIIINew England Patriots32Carolina Panthers29HoustonTXTom BradyJake DelhommeTom Brady
2002XXXVIITampa Bay Buccaneers48Oakland Raiders21San DiegoCABrad JohnsonRich GannonDexter Jackson
2001XXXVINew England Patriots20St. Louis Rams17New OrleansLATom BradyKurt WarnerTom Brady
2000XXXVBaltimore Ravens34New York Giants7TampaFLTrent DilferKerry CollinsRay Lewis
1999XXXIVSt. Louis Rams23Tennessee Titans16AtlantaGAKurt WarnerSteve McNairKurt Warner
1998XXXIIIDenver Broncos34Atlanta Falcons19MiamiFLJohn ElwayChris ChandlerJohn Elway
1997XXXIIDenver Broncos31Green Bay Packers24San DiegoCAJohn ElwayBrett FavreTerrell Davis
1996XXXIGreen Bay Packers35New England Patriots21New OrleansLABrett FavreDrew BledsoeDesmond Howard
1995XXXDallas Cowboys27Pittsburgh Steelers17TempeAZTroy AikmanNeil O'DonnellLarry Brown
1994XXIXSan Francisco 49ers49San Diego Chargers26MiamiFLSteve YoungStan HumphriesSteve Young
1993XXVIIIDallas Cowboys30Buffalo Bills13AtlantaGATroy AikmanJim KellyEmmitt Smith
1992XXVIIDallas Cowboys52Buffalo Bills17PasadenaCATroy AikmanJim KellyTroy Aikman
1991XXVIWashington Redskins37Buffalo Bills24MinneapolisMNMark RypienJim KellyMark Rypien
1990XXVNew York Giants20Buffalo Bills19TampaFLJeff HostetlerJim KellyOttis Anderson
1989XXIVSan Francisco 49ers55Denver Broncos10New OrleansLAJoe MontanaJohn ElwayJoe Montana
1988XXIIISan Francisco 49ers20Cincinnati Bengals16MiamiFLJoe MontanaBoomer EsiasonJerry Rice
1987XXIIWashington Redskins42Denver Broncos10San DiegoCADoug WilliamsJohn ElwayDoug Williams
1986XXINew York Giants39Denver Broncos20PasadenaCAPhil SimmsJohn ElwayPhil Simms
1985XXChicago Bears46New England Patriots10New OrleansLAJim McMahonTony EasonRichard Dent
1984XIXSan Francisco 49ers38Miami Dolphins16StanfordCAJoe MontanaDan MarinoJoe Montana
1983XVIIILos Angeles Raiders38Washington Redskins9TampaFLJim PlunkettJoe TheismannMarcus Allen
1982XVIIWashington Redskins27Miami Dolphins17PasadenaCAJoe TheismannDavid WoodleyJohn Riggins
1981XVISan Francisco 49ers26Cincinnati Bengals21PontiacMIJoe MontanaKen AndersonJoe Montana
1980XVOakland Raiders27Philadelphia Eagles10New OrleansLAJim PlunkettRon JaworskiJim Plunkett
1979XIVPittsburgh Steelers31Los Angeles Rams19PasadenaCATerry BradshawVince FerragamoTerry Bradshaw
1978XIIIPittsburgh Steelers35Dallas Cowboys31MiamiFLTerry BradshawRoger StaubachTerry Bradshaw
1977XIIDallas Cowboys27Denver Broncos10New OrleansLARoger StaubachCraig MortonRandy White1
1976XIOakland Raiders32Minnesota Vikings14PasadenaCAKen StablerFran TarkentonFred Biletnikoff
1975XPittsburgh Steelers21Dallas Cowboys17MiamiFLTerry BradshawRoger StaubachLynn Swann
1974IXPittsburgh Steelers16Minnesota Vikings6New OrleansLATerry BradshawFran TarkentonFranco Harris
1973VIIIMiami Dolphins24Minnesota Vikings7HoustonTXBob GrieseFran TarkentonLarry Csonka
1972VIIMiami Dolphins14Washington Redskins7Los AngelesCABob GrieseBilly KilmerJake Scott
1971VIDallas Cowboys24Miami Dolphins3New OrleansLARoger StaubachBob GrieseRoger Staubach
1970VBaltimore Colts16Dallas Cowboys13MiamiFLJohnny UnitasCraig MortonChuck Howley
1969IVKansas City Chiefs23Minnesota Vikings7New OrleansLALen DawsonJoe KappLen Dawson
1968IIINew York Jets16Baltimore Colts7MiamiFLJoe NamathEarl MorrallJoe Namath
1967IIGreen Bay Packers33Oakland Raiders14MiamiFLBart StarrDaryle LamonicaBart Starr
1966IGreen Bay Packers35Kansas City Chiefs10Los AngelesCABart StarrLen DawsonBart Starr

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  1. Co-MVP with Harvey Martin []

In 2011, San Francisco made it to the NFC Championship Game with Alex Smith at quarterback; today, the 49ers will face the Falcons with Colin Kaepernick as their starter. This makes them the 9th team since 1970 to make the conference championship game in consecutive years but to start different quarterbacks in that game. Can you name the last team?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show



Mornhinweg and Vick plan for their dream season.

On Friday, the Jets finally concluded their search for a new offensive coordinator by hiring Marty Mornhinweg. The reaction was predictably mixed, but one of the facts trumpeted by the pro-Mornhinweg crowd was that he has been an offensive coordinator for 11 years and his teams never ranked lower than 15th on offense. Besides my initial reaction of “well, that’s about to change“, my next thought was: wait, the 2012 Eagles were a top-fifteen offense?!

Philadelphia turned the ball over 37 times last year, tied with the Jets and the Chiefs for most in the league. The Eagles ranked 29th in points scored. But when people speak of things like a top-fifteen offense, the convention is to refer to a team’s rank in yards gained, and Philadelphia did rank 15th in yards in 2012.
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Presented without comment, the most current Simple Ratings, weighted for recency:

RkTeampfr_idMean (SRS)Std. ErrorUpperLower
1Seattle Seahawkssea13.573.2219.927.23
2New England Patriotsnwe12.393.3518.985.81
3San Francisco 49erssfo10.233.3316.803.66
4Denver Broncosden9.543.3416.122.96
5Green Bay Packersgnb7.083.2813.540.62
6Atlanta Falconsatl6.603.3113.110.08
7New York Giantsnyg5.943.4312.70-0.82
8Chicago Bearschi5.763.4312.50-0.99
9Baltimore Ravensrav4.053.2410.42-2.33
10Washington Redskinswas3.523.3310.08-3.04
11Minnesota Vikingsmin3.303.379.94-3.34
12Cincinnati Bengalscin2.833.319.36-3.69
13New Orleans Saintsnor2.063.428.80-4.68
14Carolina Pantherscar1.503.428.23-5.23
15Houston Texanshtx1.483.247.85-4.90
16St Louis Ramsram0.753.437.50-6.00
17Dallas Cowboysdal-0.243.436.51-6.99
18Pittsburgh Steelerspit-0.783.435.98-7.53
19Tampa Bay Buccaneerstam-1.053.415.67-7.78
20Miami Dolphinsmia-2.843.443.93-9.62
21San Diego Chargerssdg-2.913.423.82-9.64
22Detroit Lionsdet-3.513.423.22-10.24
23Arizona Cardinalscrd-4.473.442.30-11.23
24Indianapolis Coltsclt-5.063.301.45-11.56
25Cleveland Brownscle-5.403.441.37-12.17
26Buffalo Billsbuf-6.703.440.07-13.46
27New York Jetsnyj-7.353.43-0.60-14.09
28Philadelphia Eaglesphi-9.883.43-3.12-16.65
29Oakland Raidersrai-10.523.42-3.78-17.26
30Tennessee Titansoti-10.603.45-3.81-17.38
31Jacksonville Jaguarsjax-13.943.43-7.19-20.69
32Kansas City Chiefskan-14.403.43-7.65-21.16

“Upper” and “Lower” are the 95% confidence intervals around each estimate. Roughly speaking, this means we can be 95% confident that, say, the 49ers’ “true” SRS rating is between 3.66 and 16.80.


13-time Pro Bowler

Will Lewis go out on top?

According to the SRS, this is as lopsided as championship games get. The Patriots are 12.8 points better than average while the Ravens have an SRS of just +2.9; therefore, you’d put New England as 13-point favorites at home (in reality, they are 8-point favorites). I’ve been a Ravens skeptic for a couple of months now, and never thought they were one of the best teams in the league.

In my week 11 power rankings, when Baltimore was 8-2, I wrote: “According to Football Outsiders, Baltimore has the best special teams since 1991 through 10 weeks. Schatz tweeted that Baltimore’s the 16th best team based on just offense and defense.”

A few days later the Ravens defeated the Chargers in the famous 4th-and-29 game, which certainly didn’t change my outlook on Baltimore. Then the Ravens tanked down the stretch, seemingly fulfilling their reputation as an average team. And let’s not forget: had Ben Roethlisberger stayed healthy, it’s possible the Ravens don’t even make the playoffs. Without the 13-10 ugly win over Byron Leftwich and the Steelers, both Baltimore and Pittsburgh would have finished 9-7 with the Steelers holding the tiebreaker. To be fair, the Ravens did not compete in a meaningless week 17 game, but the point is that the Ravens were barely above-average team during the season that got a few breaks along the way.
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Mike Silver’s latest article examines the lack of any minority hires among the fourteen NFL head coaches and general managers hired in January (leaving the Jets general manager position as the last remaining vacant job). At the coaching level, seven of the eight hires — Andy Reid (Chiefs), Doug Marrone (Bills), Rob Chudzinski (Browns), Mike McCoy (Chargers), Marc Trestman (Bears), Chip Kelly (Eagles), and Bruce Arians (Cardinals) — have been offensive coaches, with former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley (Jaguars) serving as the lone exception.

A few weeks ago, Silver hit on what I view as the bigger problem, the lack of minority coaches serving as quarterbacks coaches, offensive coordinators, and play callers on staffs, the natural candidates for future head coaching jobs. However, even Silver only suggests two potential coaches with offensive backgrounds for owners to consider:

[F]ormer Raiders coach Hue Jackson, has had zero head-coaching interviews (and only one interview for a vacant offensive-coordinator position, in Carolina) despite having presided over top-10 offenses in Oakland in 2010 and ’11, and having gone 8-8 in his lone year as the Raiders’ coach. Newly promoted Ravens offensive coordinator (and former Colts coach) Jim Caldwell, who like [Lovie] Smith has Super Bowl head coaching experience, hasn’t gotten any sniffs, either.

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Yesterday, I provided my preview of the NFC Championship Game, and I’ll do the same for the AFC tomorrow. But today, here’s a listing of every conference championship game the since the NFL merger. The table below shows each game from the perspective of the winning team and includes a linkable boxscore for each game. The table also includes the Offensive SRS and Defensive SRS grades for each team and each opponent, along with the total SRS difference between the two teams. The final column shows the Vegas spread. You can search for all AFC or NFC games, or all games with BUF or DAL, for example. If you type in “NYG” you will see the five NFC Championship Games the Giants were in: not only was New York 5-0, but they were underdogs in four of those games. As always, the table is also fully sortable.
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So I went to grab Harbaugh by the neck and...

Unlike Carroll, Kelly has no pro experience

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that Oregon’s Chip Kelly would be their new head coach. In November, I provided my thoughts on Kelly and Chris Brown wrote his definitive piece on Kelly’s offensive system, a must read.

One of the biggest knocks on Kelly is that he has no prior NFL experience, as either a player or assistant coach. The goal of this post is to compile a list — this is where you come in, please chime in using the comments feature — of all first-time NFL head coaches with no prior NFL experience.

Note that Steve Spurrier (former player), Nick Saban (former Browns defensive coordinator) and Bobby Petrino (former Jaguars offensive coordinator) don’t count. So who does? So far, here is the running list, which will be updated once new names are established.

Chip Kelly (Eagles 2013) – college player, assistant/HC for 23 years (last at Oregon)
Mike Riley (Chargers 1999) – college player, assistant/HC for 24 years (last at Oregon State)
Dennis Erickson (Seahawks 1995) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last at Miami)
Barry Switzer (Cowboys 1994) – college player, college assistant/HC for 28 years (last with Oklahoma)
Jimmy Johnson (Cowboys 1989) – college assistant/HC for 25 years (last at Miami)
Darryl Rogers (Lions 1985) – college player, college assistant/HC for 24 years (last at Arizona State)
Ron Meyer (Patriots 1982) — Dallas Cowboys scout (1971-2), college assistant/HC for 15 years (last at SMU)
Frank Kush (Colts 1982) – college player, college assistant/HC for 25 years (Arizona State), CFL HC for one year
Bud Wilkinson (Cardinals 1978) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last with Oklahoma but retired for 15 years)
Lou Holtz (Jets 1976) – college player, college assistant/HC for 16 years (last at NC State)
John McKay (Buccaneers 1976) – college player, college assistant/HC for 26 years (last with USC)
Chuck Fairbanks (Patriots 1973) – college player, college assistant/HC for 18 years (last with Oklahoma)
Bill Peterson (Oilers 1972) – high school coach, college HC for 12 years (last with Rice)
Dan Devine (Packers 1971) – college player, college assistant/HC for 21 years (last with Missouri)
Tommy Prothro (Rams 1971) – college QB, college assistant/HC for 29 years (last at UCLA)

I’ll also note that Lane Kiffin, John Robinson, Greg Schiano, Dick Vermeil, and Tom Coughlin did have some NFL coaching experience before becoming head coaches.


And then he said, what's your deal?

And then he asked me what my deal was.

A couple of interesting notes, courtesy of Mike Sando on ESPN.com. The first is a good bit of trivia: Jim Harbaugh joins George Seifert, Barry Switzer and Rex Ryan as the only head coaches to reach the AFC or NFC Championship Game in each of their first two seasons as an NFL head coach. The second piece of information provides a possible clue as to how the game might unfold for Atlanta. Including the playoffs, the Falcons have allowed 8.9 yards per rush to quarterbacks this season, the worst rate in the NFL (excluding kneel downs).

To be fair, only three quarterbacks have done anything of note on the ground against the Falcons this year. Michael Vick rushed 7 times for 42 yards in a 30-17 loss. Vick had two first down carries that went for four yards, two third and long carries that went for 10 total yards but no first downs, and then three runs on 3rd and 3 or 4 where he picked up the first down. That’s not good, but not too alarming.
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Yesterday, I reviewed how the Jets defense performed in 2012 and previewed the team’s outlook for 2013. Today, the heavy lifting begins, by looking at the offense. If you didn’t feel bad for Tony Sparano before this post, I can guarantee you will by the end of it.


There is no point in ignoring the elephant in the room, so let’s just get it out of the way: Mark Sanchez is a below-average starting quarterback and not the answer for the Jets. After committing 26 turnovers in 2011, Sanchez laughed in the face of regression to the mean and matched that number on fewer plays in 2012. Sanchez also turned the ball over 23 times in his rookie season, leaving 2010 (14 turnovers) as his only season with fewer than 20 turnovers. To be fair, every hand that touched the 2012 Jets passing game deserved criticism, as Sanchez received almost no support from his teammates or coaches.

The past, not the future.

The past, not the future.

Still, the quarterback gets the credit and the blame, and there’s no escaping the fact that Sanchez ranked 30th in Net Yards per Attempt over the last two seasons, a disproportionate performance compared to his bloated salary.1 There are some creative things the Jets could do to lessen his salary cap hit in 2013, but that just delays the bill to 2014. Currently, Sanchez will count for $12.9M against the cap next season, and would count for $17.2M (yes, that means $4.3M of dead money) if released. While it’s not impossible that the Jets could trade him, I’m going to ignore that option for this post. The other problem? His cap hits are $13.1M and $15.6M in 2014 and 2015. You probably didn’t know that — heck you probably thought he was a free agent after 2013 — because it’s so far out of the realm of possibility that Sanchez would be on the team in 2014 that no one mentions it. But as a technical matter, Sanchez is signed through 2016 at superstar quarterback money, and the most likely scenario is the Jets cut him after 2014 (leaving $4.8M in dead money but still saving $8.3M on the cap).

The fact that his contract runs through 2016 is more important than you might think. Even under the best case possible, pigs flying 2013 scenarios, Sanchez still won’t be worth $29M in 2014 and 2015. Sanchez would have to turn in a season like Aaron Rodgers in 2013 to make the Jets want to keep him at his current contract (which, if he played at such a level, he’d have no incentive to restructure) after this season.
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  1. Among Jets fans, there is some argument that Sanchez used to be good but now is struggling; that’s not really the case. In 2010, the year the Jets went 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez ranked 29th out of 32 quarterbacks in Net Yards per Attempt and 24th in ANY/A. Now he tied Matt Ryan for the NFL lead with 6 game-winning drives that season — no asterisk there, this actually happened — but that only served to obfuscate the fact that Sanchez struggled on a play-by-play basis. Sanchez actually peaked in NY/A rank as a rookie in 2009, finishing 21st, although he ranked 27th in ANY/A. []

The Packers could not stop the Pistol offense.

The Packers could not stop the Pistol offense.

I have not done a good job fulfilling my pledge to point you in the direction of good football articles. But here’s a great interview by Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News with former Nevada head coach Chris Ault. Ault is the pioneer of the Pistol Offense, and his prized pupil was last seen rushing for 181 yards against the Packers on Saturday night. The whole article is worth a read, but here are some good excerpts:

Q: How similar was the stuff the 49ers were running to what you ran for Kaepernick at Nevada?

Ault: The read plays that they’re running, that’s what we ran. That’s what we did and what we still do. The play-action passes, which I was really excited to see out of the pistol, are things that we did here in Kaep’s senior year. The routes, I can’t tell you the routes are the same, but I thought that was the one thing I had not seen the Niners do, that I saw the Redskins do, was throw the ball with play-action out of the pistol. I thought the play-action passing really helped with the read itself out of the pistol.
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Outlook for the 2013 Jets: Part I (The defense)

Have you seen my new tattoo?

Have you seen my new tattoo?

In the preseason, I provided an in-depth preview of the 2012 New York Jets. By mid-season, I questioned the track records of Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, and Mark Sanchez and wondered whether or not they should (and would) be back in 2013. As we now know, after the season Tannenbaum was fired, Ryan was retained, and Sanchez remains on the roster in a salary cap-induced purgatory.

In this post, I’m going to review the Jets defense, analyze how they performed in 2012, and examine the outlook for 2013. Let’s start with one of the strengths of the team:

Defensive Line

I thought the defensive line would be very good in 2013, and they largely met expectations. Muhammad Wilkerson was the best 3-4 defensive end in the league outside of J.J. Watt, and Wilkerson looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler. At the other end spot, the Jets rotated first round pick Quinton Coples with incumbent Mike DeVito. Coples delivered as a pass rusher while DeVito was stout as usual against the run. And while DeVito is an unrestricted free agent and could follow Mike Pettine to Buffalo (although rumor is he wants to stay), Coples has the ability to develop into an every-down player as early as next year. The Jets don’t have anything behind Wilkerson and Coples, but depth can be addressed.
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It’s Christmas in January. Once the 2012 All-Pro teams were announced (my thoughts here), my buddies Mike Kania and Neil Paine worked through the weekend to provide us with Approximate Values for every player in the NFL this year. For the uninitiated, you can review how AV is calculated here. And if you’re so inclined, give a thanks to Neil or Mike or PFR on twitter.

Here’s a list of the top 100 players. AV is also listed for each player on each team’s roster page on PFR (for Dallas, it’s Tony Romo). You can use the PFR player finder for all sorts of AV-related fun, too. For example, you could see the player with the most AV on your favorite team (for the Jets, it’s Antonio Cromartie), or by position (among inside linebackers, it’s Patrick Willis), or by age (among those 35 or older, it’s Tom Brady, or Tony Gonzalez for non-quarterbacks), or by draft status (Wes Welker had the highest AV in 2012 among undrafted players).

Here’s a list of the top 20 players by AV.

1Tom Brady35NWE1618
2Robert Griffin III22WAS1518
3Adrian Peterson27MIN1618
4Matt Ryan27ATL1618
5Aaron Rodgers29GNB1617
6Cam Newton23CAR1616
7Russell Wilson24SEA1616
8Drew Brees33NOR1615
9Marshawn Lynch26SEA1615
10Eli Manning31NYG1615
11Peyton Manning36DEN1615
12Alfred Morris24WAS1615
13Julius Peppers32CHI1615
14J.J. Watt23HOU1615
15Wes Welker31NWE1615
16Andre Johnson31HOU1614
17Calvin Johnson27DET1614
18Doug Martin23TAM1614
19Tony Romo32DAL1614
20Roddy White31ATL1614

Reviewing the Divisional Round of the Playoffs

The Best Weekend of the Year lived up to its reputation this weekend, as the divisional round of the playoffs gave us three outstanding games. Here is my reaction, with a disproportionate amount of time spent on the Denver-Baltimore game, because, well, if you saw it, you’d understand.

Baltimore 38, Denver 35

One of the best playoff games in NFL history, and an instant classic. This game could be analyzed for hours and there are countless talking points (Fox playing not to lose, Manning’s playoff failures, Ray Lewis’ retirement tour making at least one last stop, Tim Tebow anyone?) that will fill up the schedules of ESPN and talk radio for weeks. But let’s start with a big picture review of the game from the perspective of the team I expected to win the Super Bowl.

If you want to assign credit and blame to Denver, this is how I would rank the five Broncos units on Saturday, from best to worst.

1) Special teams. Sure, Matt Prater missed a long field goal, but Trindon Holliday’s two return touchdowns were a thing of beauty — especially for fans of excellent blocking. Holliday’s runs were more about textbook blocking by the return unit and poor coverage by the Ravens than Holliday himself, but in any event, the Broncos special teams had a great day. In fact, here is how Pro-Football-Reference broke down the game by unit in terms of Expected Points Added:
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Yesterday, I previewed Saturday’s games with um, mixed results (skip the Denver-Baltimore preview and just read the San Francisco-Green Bay breakdown twice). Let’s take another crack at it by examining Sunday’s matchups.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (+1) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3), Sunday, 1:00PM ET

An offense where the star eats Skittle is a young one

Did you know Marshawn Lynch eats Skittles?

Once again, Atlanta is tasked with facing a dominant wildcard team. Is this the year Matt Ryan finally silences his critics?

Atlanta is only a one-point favorite, just the seventh time a home team has been given such little respect this late in the season since 2000. Home teams are 3-3 when underdogs or small favorites over that span in the divisional conference championship rounds, although one of those losses came by the Falcons in 2010 against the Packers when Atlanta was a 1.5-point favorite. But let’s focus on these two teams, because the stats might surprise you.

Russell Wilson edges Matt Ryan in Y/A (7.9 to 7.7), AY/A (8.1 to 7.7), and passer rating (100.0 to 99.1), despite having a significantly worse set of receivers. Ryan does have the edge in NY/A (7.0 to 6.8) but the two are deadlocked in ANY/A at 7.0. Both quarterbacks led four 4th quarter comebacks this year, and Wilson led 5 game-winning drives while Ryan led six. Considering one quarterback has Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, and the other is a 5’10 rookie, I consider this pretty remarkable.
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