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Case Keenum, Adam Thielen, and Undrafted Passing Games

All 32 teams passed on Keenum and Thielen many times.

The Minnesota Vikings have a pretty good passing game: through 14 weeks, the Vikings rank in the top 10 in both ANY/A and passer rating. What makes it really weird is that the top two members of the passing game — the quarterback and leading receiver — were both undrafted free agents. Case Keenum went undrafted in 2012 after a stellar career at the University of Houston. The Vikings leading receiver is Adam Thielen, who went undrafted in 2013 out of Minnesota State–Mankato. Together, they are the driving force behind the 2017 Vikings efficient passing attack.

The Vikings will become just the 7th team since 1970 with their top passer and top receiver both having gone undrafted.

  • The 2014 Browns had Brian Hoyer and Andrew Hawkins, although unlike the Vikings, this team wasn’t very good. Cleveland went 7-9 (which is of course, very good for Cleveland) and ranked 23rd in ANY/A.
  • The 2009 and 2010 Cowboys make the list, too, thanks to Miles Austin and a pair of quarterbacks. In 2009, Tony Romo and the Cowboys ranked 4th in ANY/A and went 11-5; the next year, with Romo hurt, Jon Kitna led Dallas in passing but the team went 6-10 and ranked 12th in ANY/A.
  • In 2004, the Titans passing attack was led by Billy Volek and Drew Bennett. For a short run, the combination was outstanding, but overall, the Titans finished 19th in ANY/A and 5-11.
  • In 2000, Jay Fiedler and Orande Gadsen were the key components in a mediocre Miami passing attack. Those Dolphins teams were defined by their defense, and the Dolphins went 11-5 despite ranking 19th in ANY/A.
  • In 1992, Dave Krieg joined the Chiefs as a 34-year-old veteran. He was undrafted, as was Willie Davis, who had zero NFL catches to his name prior to the season. Davis wound up leading the Chiefs in receiving, and together, Krieg and Davis helped the Chiefs rank 8th in ANY/A and finish 10-6.

The table below shows all teams since 1970 where neither the quarterback nor the leading receiver (in receiving yards) were drafted within the first 200 picks. It is sorted by ANY/A rank that season:

TeamYearQBQB DraftWRTop WR DraftANY/A RkWn%
KAN1990Steve DeBerg275Stephone Paigeudfa10.688
MIN1988Wade Wilson210Anthony Carter33440.688
DAL2009Tony RomoudfaMiles Austinudfa40.688
HOU1989Warren MoonudfaDrew Hill32860.563
CLE1978Brian Sipe330Reggie Ruckerudfa60.500
HOU1992Warren MoonudfaCurtis Duncan25870.625
HOU1988Warren MoonudfaDrew Hill32870.625
CLE1976Brian Sipe330Reggie Ruckerudfa80.643
KAN1992Dave KriegudfaWillie Davisudfa80.625
HOU1987Warren MoonudfaDrew Hill32890.600
KAN1985Bill Kenney333Stephone Paigeudfa110.375
NWE2008Matt Cassel230Wes Welkerudfa120.688
DAL2010Jon KitnaudfaMiles Austinudfa120.375
TAM2003Brad Johnson227Keenan McCardell326130.438
KAN1989Steve DeBerg275Stephone Paigeudfa140.531
MIN1989Wade Wilson210Anthony Carter334150.625
SFO1980Steve DeBerg275Dwight Clark249150.375
NOR1971Ed Hargett397Danny Abramowicz420160.357
TAM1987Steve DeBerg275Gerald Carter240170.267
KAN1986Bill Kenney333Stephone Paigeudfa190.625
TEN2004Billy VolekudfaDrew Bennettudfa190.313
MIA2000Jay FiedlerudfaOronde Gadsdenudfa190.688
BUF2011Ryan Fitzpatrick250Steve Johnson224200.375
CLE1977Brian Sipe330Reggie Ruckerudfa200.429
ATL1986David ArcherudfaCharlie Brown201210.469
BUF2012Ryan Fitzpatrick250Steve Johnson224210.375
KAN1988Steve DeBerg275Stephone Paigeudfa220.281
HOU1985Warren MoonudfaDrew Hill328220.313
KAN1981Bill Kenney333J.T. Smithudfa220.563
CLE2014Brian HoyerudfaAndrew Hawkinsudfa230.438
MIN1987Wade Wilson210Anthony Carter334240.533
HOU1986Warren MoonudfaDrew Hill328240.313
NYG1978Joe PisarcikudfaJim Robinson367240.375
BUF2010Ryan Fitzpatrick250Steve Johnson224250.250
DET1989Bob Gagliano319Richard Johnsonudfa250.438
DEN1982Steve DeBerg275Steve Watsonudfa260.222
ATL1985David ArcherudfaBilly Johnson365270.250
NYG1977Joe PisarcikudfaJim Robinson367270.357
SFO2004Tim Rattay212Eric Johnson224290.125
NYJ2016Ryan Fitzpatrick250Quincy Enunwa209300.313
CIN2008Ryan Fitzpatrick250T.J. Houshmandzadeh204310.281

There are, unsurprisingly, a few combinations that show up multiple times on the list. Warren Moon and Drew Hill were the key parts of the Oilers passing game for five straight years in the back half of the ’80s. Wade Wilson and Anthony Carter made the list for their work with the Vikings in ’87, ’88, and ’89. Steve DeBerg and Stephone Paige did it with the Chiefs from ’88 to ’90. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Steve Johnson led the Bills in passing and receiving, respectively, in 2010, 2011, and 2012. And Brian Sipe and Reggie Rucker led the Browns in ’76, ’77, and ’78.

What stands out to you?


Are The 2017 Jaguars The Next 1986 Bears Or 2009 Jets?

The Jacksonville Jaguars currently lead the NFL in three categories that correlate strongly with winning: rushing yards, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt Allowed, and points allowed. It’s pretty freakin’ rare for a team to lead the NFL in all three of those categories; since 1950, it’s only happened six times.

In 2009, the Mark Sanchez/Thomas Jones/Darrelle Revis Jets pulled off that feat. New York ranked 27th in ANY/A and underachieved significantly relative to its Pythagorean record. The Jets snuck into the playoffs but then lost in the AFC Championship Game.

In 1985 and 1986, the Chicago Bears did it in consecutive years. We all know about the 15-1 team from 1985, and Jim McMahon and the offense ranked 6th in ANY/A and won the Super Bowl. In ’86, the Bears ranked 17th in ANY/A, McMahon was injured, and Doug Flutie was the quarterback in the team’s lone playoff game, a home loss to Washington where the team did take a 13-7 lead into the locker room.

In 1972, the Dolphins led the NFL in a host of categories, including that 14-0 regular season record. And while Miami led the NFL in rushing yards, ANY/A allowed, and points allowed, but also in ANY/A.

In 1969, the AFL’s Chiefs pulled off the trick and ranked 4th in ANY/A in the 10-team AFL. Like the ’72 Dolphins and ’85 Bears, this team won the Super Bowl.

In 1962, the Packers — you know, maybe the greatest team of all-time — were the first team since the 1949 Eagles to lead the NFL in ANY/A allowed, points allowed, and rushing. The Packers, of course, won it all, too.

Nobody is going to confuse Blake Bortles with Bart Starr, Len Dawson, or Bob Griese, or even Jim McMahon or Earl Morrall. But can Bortles be Mark Sanchez good, or just a little bit better? The Jaguars currently rank 17th in ANY/A and Bortles ranks 17th in Total QBR. So how have previous Jaguars-esque teams fared? [click to continue…]


Here’s a look at the 2017 rushing leaders for the Seattle Seahawks:

No. Player Age Pos G GS Att Yds
TD Lng Y/A Y/G A/G
3 Russell Wilson 29 QB 12 12 71 432 3 29 6.1 36.0 5.9
32 Chris Carson 23 rb 4 3 49 208 0 30 4.2 52.0 12.3
27 Eddie Lacy 26 rb 9 3 69 179 0 19 2.6 19.9 7.7
21 J.D. McKissic 24 rb 9 1 33 143 1 30 4.3 15.9 3.7
34 Thomas Rawls 24 rb 9 3 50 129 0 23 2.6 14.3 5.6
39 Mike Davis 25 rb 2 2 22 82 0 22 3.7 41.0 11.0
16 Tyler Lockett 25 WR 12 7 8 46 0 22 5.8 3.8 0.7
22 C.J. Prosise 23  rb 5 0 11 23 0 8 2.1 4.6 2.2
Team Total 26.3 12 316 1233 4 30 3.9 102.8 26.3

You might have noticed that quarterback Russell Wilson actually leads the team in rushing yards.  Which is… pretty unusual.  Excluding situations when players who didn’t enter the NFL as a running back but played that position (like Ty Montgomery or Denard Robinson), only twice in the last 20 years has a non-RB led his team in rushing yards.  Do you know who and when?


Before them, the last player was Randall Cunningham – who did it for the 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990 Eagles. The only other time since the merger that a non-RB has led his team in rushing yards was Bears quarterback Bobby Douglass in 1972.

And before Douglass, you have to go back to 1960, when Lenny Moore led the Colts in rushing yards the year after moving to wide receiver (he still actually led the team in carries, too, but Alan Ameche was the fullback and Alex Hawkins was the running back; Moore finished with 936 receiving yards and 374 rushing yards). Also that year, Jets (well, Titans) quarterback Al Dorow led the expansion franchise in rushing yards.

Positional designations get a little tricky pre-1960, but a few other quarterbacks pulled off the feat in the ’50s. Tobin Rote led the Lions in rushing in 1958, and the Packers in rushing in 1951, 1952, and 1956. Charley Trippi led the Cardinals in rushing in 1951 and 1952, although the 1952 Cardinals had the greatest four-way race for a franchise rushing title you’ll ever see.

This is a long way of saying it’s going to be pretty noteworthy if Wilson leads the Seahawks in rushing, which seems very likely to happen.


The Philadelphia Eagles are 10-1 for the fourth time in franchise history. The Eagles have never started a season 11-0, so this season makes the short list for best start in franchise history.

In 1948, behind head coach Greasy Neale, QB Tommy Thompson, and future HOFers RB Steve Van Buren and WR Pete Pihos, and RB Bosh Pritchard, the Eagles went 9-2-1 and won the NFL title.  In 1949, the Eagles brought back Neale, Thompson, Van Buren, Pihos, and Pritchard, and had similar success.  The team lost to the Bears in week 4 but finished the regular season with a sparkling 11-1 record. Philadelphia repeated as champions, defeating the Rams 14-0 in the NFL title game.

In 1980, the Eagles lost to the Cardinals in week 4, but started the season 11-1 before finishing 12-4 and winning the NFC.  The head coach was Dick Vermeil, the QB was Ron Jaworski, and while RB Wilbert Montgomery and WR Harold Carmichael were the stars on offense, Philadelphia sported a dominant defense that ranked 1st in points allowed, and 2nd in rushing yards allowed, net yards per pass attempt allowed, and rushing yards allowed.  Alas, despite being 3-point favorites, the Eagles lost in the Super Bowl to the Raiders.

The 2004 Eagles was the best Philadelphia team of the modern era.  The team began the season 13-1, with the only loss coming to the 15-1 Steelers in Pittsburgh.  Philadelphia clinched the NFC East after week twelve. The Packers were the 2nd best team in the NFC, and the Eagles bludgeoned them in December 47-3 before a pair of garbage time touchdowns. Philadelphia had a great defense, but the offense centered around Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, and Terrell Owens was unstoppable. In the 14th game, however, Owens broke his fibula and injured his ankle; expected to miss the rest of the year, Owens returned for the Super Bowl, but it was not enough: Philadelphia fell to the Patriots.

If you are an Eagles fan, that’s some pretty good company: all three teams made it to the championship game.

This year’s team seems worthy of being in that discussion. Philadelphia leads the NFL with a 31.9 points per game average, thanks in part to an otherwordly (and unsustainable) red zone success rate of 73.3%.  The Eagles rank 8th in points per game allowed (17.4), and rank in the top 10 in just about every major defensive category.  The Eagles rank 1st in the NFL in points differential, at 14.5 per game.  That’s also the 3rd best in Eagles history through 11 games, behind the ’49 team (+19.6), ’48 team (17.8), and ahead of the 1980 team (+14.3). [click to continue…]


One of the very first trivia questions posted at Football Perspective was about the first quarterback to lose 100 games as a starter. You might have thought that the answer was Archie Manning (35-101-3 career record), but he only had the worst record of all-time; he wasn’t the first to get to 100 losses (answer in the original post). (Actually, that post now appears to have been wrong. At some point since 2012, PFR has updated the career record of Norm Snead from 52-99-7 to 52-100-7. The extra start came in 1965, specifically this game against the Browns; five years ago, PFR had King Hill starting that game; now it had Snead — who went 0/1 — as the starter.

Well, last night, Archie’s son set another record. With the Giants loss to the Redskins on Thanksgiving, Eli Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to lose 100 starts with a single team. The table below shows all quarterbacks with at least 70 losses with one team, through November 24, 2017: [click to continue…]


The Jets had an ugly 15-10 loss to the Bucs today, and quarterback Josh McCown was as responsible for it as anyone. Prior to some garbage yard throws, he had passed for just 157 net yards on 41 dropbacks with an interception, and the Jets first 11 drives (before a meaningless touchdown) ended with 7 punts, 2 turnovers, 1 FG attempt, and 1 turnover on downs.

But in the final seconds of the game, McCown managed to throw his 14th touchdown pass of the season. That set a new single-season career high for McCown, which is notable: that’s the oldest age any player set their single-season career high in passing touchdowns.

As I wrote earlier, McCown has turned into one of the great late bloomers in quarterback history. Of McCown’s 70 career starts, half of them have come with him at 34.4 years of age or older, giving him the fifth oldest median age of start in league history. But now he has another record all to his own.

Warren Moon set a career high with 33 touchdown passes at age 34 in 1990; 5 years later, Moon tied that mark at the age of 39. But he didn’t set a new career high at age 39, so the tie goes to McCown.

Similarly, Craig Morton originally set a career high in passing touchdowns in 1969 at the age of 26 with 21 scoring strikes; at age 38, in 1981, he again threw 21 touchdown passes.

Five player — Y.A. Tittle, Roger Staubach, John Elway, Steve Young, and Peyton Manning — set a new career high in touchdown passes at the age of 37. Those are the men McCown pushed aside it he record books today.

There are 301 quarterbacks in NFL history who threw for at least 10 touchdown passes in one season and are at least 35 years old in 2017. The graph below shows for each age, the number of QBs who set their career high at that age (and quarterbacks who tie that number later in their career get a 0.5 for each year; so age 26 and age 38 each get 0.5 for Morton). [click to continue…]

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Largest Decreases in Team Scoring

Yesterday, I looked at the largest increases in team scoring from one year to the next. Today, the opposite: which teams have seen the largest decreases in scoring?

In the post-merger era, that “honor” would belong to the 1974 Falcons. In 1973, the Falcons averaged 22.7 points per game, 7th-best in the NFL. The team was led by fullback Dave Hampton and quarterback Bob Lee, and while both returned the next season, the results were disastrous. Atlanta averaged just 7.9 points per game, the lowest in the NFL. Along with the 1977 (not ’76) Bucs, the ’74 Falcons are one of just two teams since 1950 to average fewer than 8 points per game.

In more modern times, the 2015 Cowboys (after losing Tony Romo), 2011 Colts (after losing Peyton Manning), and 2010 Vikings (in year two under Brett Favre) are the biggest decliners. The top 100 biggest declines below: [click to continue…]


Largest Increases in Team Scoring

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams scored 224 points, or just 14.0 points per game. That ranked last in the NFL, 40 points behind the 31st-ranked Cleveland Browns. But as noted earlier this week, the 2017 Rams have scored 212 through seven games, a 30.3 points per game average that ranks 2nd in the NFL.

If that holds, the Rams increase of 16.3 points per game would rank as the third largest ever, and the biggest increase since 1950. The table below shows the 100 biggest per-game increases in scoring in pro football history: [click to continue…]


The JaMarcus Russell Raiders weren’t very good, and that includes the 2009 season, Russell’s last with the team. That year, Oakland scored 197 points in 16 games, one of just five teams from ’02 to ’16 to finish a season with fewer than 200 points.

In 2010, Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski took over, and Darren McFadden returned from injury to have the biggest year of his career. The 2010 Raiders scored 410 points and finished 6th in scoring, but here’s the money stat. Through 8 games, Oakland had scored 212 points, exceeding their 2009 points total in half a season!

Is that unusual, you ask? Well, yes it is.  In fact, the 2010 Raiders are the only team to outscore the franchise’s team the prior season (in the 16-game season era) after just 8 games.  But the Raiders are about to have some company.

In 2016, the Jared Goff and Case Keenum Rams scored just 224 points, fewest in the NFL.  This year, through 7 games, the Goff-led Rams have already scored 212 points, which was the most in the NFL prior to the team’s week 8 bye! That’s a rags-to-riches story of remarkable proportions.  But for today’s purposes, note that Los Angeles is just 13 points away from exceeding last year’s total. The Ramsface the Giants this weekend.  Assuming L.A. can score a couple of touchdowns, they will join the Raiders as the only teams to exceed last year’s points total in just 8 games (again, during the 16-game season era).

In fact, only seven other teams in the 16-game era have outscored their slightly older brothers after 9 team games. Those are the 2013 Chiefs, 2007 Browns, 2006 Bears, 2001 Browns, 1999 Rams, 1994 Colts, and 1993 Seahawks.


The New Browns Are Still The Worst Expansion Team Ever

Five years ago, in one of the very first posts at Football Perspective, I wrote that the new Browns were the worst expansion team in NFL history through 13 seasons. That claim felt a little controversial at the time; it has held up surprisingly well.

After 13 years, Cleveland had a pitiful 68-140 record (0.327). Since then? The Browns have gone 20-68, for a pitiful 0.227 winning percentage. Overall, after 18.5 seasons, the 0-8 2017 Browns have brought the New Browns’ record since 1999 to 88-208, a 0.297 wining percentage.

And things are not exactly trending in the positive direction: [click to continue…]


In 2014, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown combined to account for 57.9% of the Steelers 6,777 total yards. In 2015, Bell missed most of the year with a knee injury, but in 2016, the duo combined to account for 51.8% of Pittsburgh’s offensive yards, despite the pair combining to miss five games! Through six games in 2017, Brown had 700 yards and Bell had 706 yards, placing both of them in the top five in yards from scrimmage. In fact, since the Steelers had 2,165 yards through six weeks, it means Bell and Brown were responsible for 64.9% of the team’s offensive production.  In week seven, Bell and Brown combined for 257 yards; only a fake punt that netted 44 yards prevented the pair from again picking up two-thirds of the offense (Pittsburgh had 420 yards of offense, so Bell and Brown had 61.1% of the Steelers yards from scrimmage; that number would have been 68.4% without the fake punt).

That made me wonder: which pair of teammates have accounted for the largest share of their offense’s production? The 1978 Bears had a really good player in the backfield who rushed for 992 yards and caught 43 passes for 340 yards.  They also had Walter Payton, who led the NFL for the second straight year with 1,875 yards from scrimmage. His backfield teammate was fullback Roland Harper, who actually finished second on the team to Payton in receptions (WR James Scott did lead the team be a healthy margin in receiving yards).

The ’78 Bears had a mediocre offense, finishing with 4,747 yards from scrimmage (Chicago ranked 27th out of 28 teams in ANY/A, tho the Bears of course were a very good rushing team). But since Payton had 1,875 yards (39.5%) and Harper had 1,332 yards (28.1%), the two combined for over two-thirds of all Chicago yards from scrimmage that season.

The table below shows the top 200 seasons: [click to continue…]


Through six weeks, the 49ers and Browns were both 0-6, while the Giants were 1-5. That’s bad, but it’s notable because those were the only three teams in the NFL with a record that was worse than 2-4. And on the flip side, only two teams — the 5-1 Chiefs and 5-1 Eagles — had a record that was better than 4-2. In other words, 27 of the 32 teams in the NFL were within two games of .500; or thought of differently, 84% of the NFL teams had a winning percentage between 0.333 and 0.667.

That… is… unusual. The graph below shows the percentage of NFL teams that had a record between 0.333 and 0.667 after six weeks in each year since 1970. As you can see, 2017 has set a new mark for parity: [click to continue…]


Look Who Is Alone In First Place In The AFC East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[click to continue…]


Charlie Conerly and the Quarterbacks That Never Arrived

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

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

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

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


Inexperienced Receiving Games

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

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

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

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


Throwbacks: ’85 Bears Caught In A Miami Vise

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

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


Bears squeezed in Miami vise (Pierson)

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

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

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

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

[click to continue…]


White crushes the Falcons

The 2016 Falcons were really good, and were really, really, really close to winning the Super Bowl. The Falcons had one of the most heartbreaking ends to a season in NFL history: at one point, the Falcons had a 499-in-500 shot of winning it all, and still lost. Can they possibly recover from this?

My first thought, honestly, was no. How could they? This was arguably the biggest gut punch in history: has any team, in any professional sport, at any time, been 99.8% likely to win a championship and then fail to do so?

But then I remembered the 1996 Broncos. Do you remember that team? Woody Paige wrote an article previewing the Broncos/Jaguars playoff matchup that well, you can read it for yourself. Suffice it to say, the Broncos weren’t supposed to be challenged. The Broncos clinched the 1 seed early thanks to a 12-1 record, and were expected to ride to the Super Bowl unchallenged. Instead, a shocking upset left head coach Mike Shannahan saying “This is going to hurt and this is going to hurt for a long time.”

The Broncos, having already lost three Super Bowls with lesser teams, were supposed to finally win it all under John Elway. Instead, they had a heartbreaking loss… and responded by winning the next two Super Bowls.

How about the 2004 Steelers? Pittsburgh had gone 15-1 that year under rookie Ben Roethlisberger, and hosted the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. Pittsburgh, thanks to future New England killer Plaxico Burress, dominated the Patriots during the regular season. The Steelers had already lost AFC Championship Games at home to San Diego (’94), Denver (’97), and New England (’01) under Bill Cowher, along with the Super Bowl against the Cowboys. But with the best quarterback of the Cowher era — and Roethlisberger entered the game with a 15-0 career record– things were supposed to be different.

And yet, for the fourth time in 11 years, Pittsburgh lost at home in the AFC Championship Game, a heartbreaking finish to a season. If not then, when could the Cowher Steelers ever win it all?

Well, the next year, in fact.

The ’87 49ers were the best team in the NFL, and arguably the best team of the 49ers dynasty. But that San Francisco team was stunned in the playoffs:

Sitting through the shock at the bay is how San Francisco 49ers fans will remember a certain playoff Saturday, an occasion that was supposed to have been a walk through Candlestick Park on the way to San Diego and the Super Bowl.

Instead, the 49ers will have to live with the final score and the indignity of the season that was theirs for the taking, or so it seemed.

The Minnesota Vikings, league wild cards and everyone else’s discards, pulled off what others deemed impossible. Not only did the Vikings defeat the 49ers, 36-24, before a crowd of 62,547, they defeated them soundly and advanced to the National Football Conference championship game next week.

San Francisco, admittedly, was different than Atlanta, Denver, or Pittsburgh because the 49ers had already won two Super Bowls (although some of the names had changed). Still, this was a heartbreaking loss, and the team responded by winning the next two Super Bowls.

And how about the Tom Landry Cowboys? In ’66, Dallas lost a heartbreaker in the NFL Championship Game to the Packers (Green Bay went on to win Super Bowl I two weeks later). In ’67, Dallas lost another heartbreaker in the NFL Championship Game — aka, the Ice Bowl — to the Packers (Green Bay went on to win Super Bowl II two weeks later). The next year, a 12-2 Cowboys lost in the playoffs to Cleveland. In 1969, an 11-2-1 Cowboys team lost at home in the playoffs to Cleveland. Then, in 1970, Dallas exercised their playoff demons and made it to the Super Bowl.

In that game, the Cowboys led 13-6 entering the 4th quarter, and Baltimore star Johnny Unitas had been knocked out of the game. With 9 minutes to go, Dallas had the ball and a touchdown lead… and then disaster struck: a Craig Morton interception led to a short touchdown, and another Morton interception led to a last second game-winning field goal. If Dallas couldn’t win it all then, when could they?

The next year, as it turns out. Dallas made it all the way back, and then beat the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. And it’s worth noting that the Cowboys lost in Super Bowl V to the Colts… a team that two years earlier had their own heartbreak to deal with. [click to continue…]


Throwbacks: Dr. Z On Roger Staubach’s Retirement

I love reading old articles, and reading old articles about football history is a particular passion of mine. As much time as I spend working on era-based adjustments, you can’t beat reading about a player in (his) real time. So I’m introducing a new feature at Football Perspective: reviews of historical articles. Today’s content comes from the great Dr. Z in April 1980, and it covers the retirement of Roger Staubach. I recommend you read the whole article first.


So long, Roger, we gave you a bum deal, kid. For openers, we never picked you All-Pro. That’s we, the writers, the pickers, the guys who vote on the AP and Pro Football Writers ballots. Now that’s a bad call right away, because all you did was end up as the NFL’s top-rated passer—in history, the whole 59 years. Higher than Unitas, than Tarkenton or Jurgensen, than Tittle or Baugh. And you quarterbacked the Cowboys in four of their five Super Bowls, winning twice. And brought the team from behind to victory 14 times in the last two minutes or in overtime, 23 times in the fourth quarter. Hey, what does a guy have to do?

All of those facts are true, of course. Let’s go in order. [click to continue…]


Best Non-Record Breaking Seasons: Passing

On twitter, I’ve been doing some fun screenshots of player stats where you need to guess the player based only on all — or just some — of his stats. You can follow with the hashtag PFRScreenShots.

I thought this was a fun one:

Okay, you may say how the heck could I know that? Well, You have more than enough info there! The number 5235 can only be a reference to one thing in season stats: passing yards. And it’s not in bold, which means its not a league leader. So the real question is can you recall a player who threw for 5,235 passing yards but didn’t lead the league in passing?

Which got me to wondering: which passers had the most impressive raw statistics while not leading their league in that category? [click to continue…]


Over the last four days, I wrote about the one great team that didn’t win it all on the six greatest dynasties in the NFL since World War II:

And while these dynasties never played each other, of course, there was some overlap among the quarterbacks.

Starr vs. Bradshaw

Otto Graham played from 1946 to 1955, while Bart Starr didn’t enter the NFL until 1956.  But Starr had a long career, sticking around in Green Bay through 1971.  And on December 6th, 1970, a very special game in NFL history took place: the only meeting with Starr and Terry Bradshaw.  Even if it wasn’t quite Brady/Manning.

In 1970, Bradshaw was the first pick in the draft, and as a rookie, he was terrible, finishing 3.30 ANY/A below average. Starr was washed up by 1970: he ranked 21st out of 25 qualifying passers in ANY/A. [click to continue…]


Missing Links In The Dynasty Chain, Part IV

On Tuesday, we looked at three of the best teams on three of the greatest dynasties in football history: the ’53 Browns, the ’87 49ers, and the ’07 Patriots. Wednesday, the focus shifted to Lombardi’s ’64 Packers, while yesterday we looked at the ’76 Steelers. Today, we complete the series with some notes on the ’94 Cowboys, and how Dallas not only nearly became the first team to win three Super Bowls in a row, but the first team to win four.

Switzer wasn’t able to sustain Johnson’s success

Dallas won the Super Bowl after the ’92, ’93, and ’95 seasons, and lost in the NFC Championship Game against the ’49ers after the ’94 season. Given that the Super Bowl would have been against the Chargers, there’s little doubt that the Cowboys would have been Super Bowl champs had they defeated San Francisco. Back then, the NFC Championship Game — which was between the 49ers and Cowboys three straight years — was the Super Bowl. So was the ’94 version of the Cowboys worse than the other three teams? Let’s look at the rosters. [click to continue…]


Missing Links In The Dynasty Chain, Part III

On Tuesday, we looked at three of the best teams on three of the greatest dynasties in football history: the ’53 Browns, the ’87 49ers, and the ’07 Patriots. Yesterday, the focus was on the ’64 Packers, a talent-rich team sandwiched around repeat champions from ’61-’62 and ’65-’67. All four teams were dynasties with Hall of Fame coaches and quarterbacks, and that trend continues today with a look at the ’70s Steelers, and the historic combination  Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw.

And as with the Packers, we will look at a Steelers team that didn’t win the Super Bowl but was in the middle of the team’s dynastic run.You know that Pittsburgh won four Super Bowl titles in six years, but less understood is how the team evolved over that period.

Four of the Steelers Hall of Famers were drafted in 1974, the year of the team’s first championship. Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, and Mike Webster were all green 22 years olds that season, and only Lambert was a major contributor as a rookie; Stallworth, Swann, and Webster combined to start just six other games.

Noll and Bradshaw didn’t always see eye to eye, but they usually won.

A fifth Hall of Famer, QB Terry Bradshaw, was drafted in 1970, but he was far from Terry Bradshaw even five years into his career.  The ’74 Steelers featured one of the worst passing attacks to ever win the Super Bowl, and Bradshaw’s passing numbers were below average in each of the first five seasons of his career.  In fact, it was Joe Gilliam who won the training camp battle for the starting job; Bradshaw didn’t even start the first six games of the 1974 season.  Four years later, he was the AP MVP.

What about the rest of those famous Steelers? RB Franco Harris was drafted in 1972; he was an immediate star, and made his third straight Pro Bowl in ’74.  LB Jack Ham was drafted a year earlier, and he made the first of six straight AP 1st-team All-Pro teams in ’74 (and the second of eight straight Pro Bowls).

In 1970, Pittsburgh drafted not just Bradshaw, but Mel Blount. The famed cornerback was a full-time starter his first five seasons, but he didn’t make his first Pro Bowl or earn any All-Pro recognition until 1975, when he led the league with 11 interceptions.  And in 1969, the Steelers drafted DT Joe Greene and the best Steeler with four rings not in the Hall of Fame, DE L.C. Greenwood.  Both were in their prime by ’74.

So while the ’74 Steelers had the names, only half of them had actually developed into stars by 1974. Stallworth, Swann, Webster were reserves, Bradshaw had been benched and underperformed, and Blount had yet to break out. The ’74 team went 10-3-1 and had an SRS of +6.8; the ’75 version was much, much better: that team went 12-2 and had an SRS of +14.2, and rested starters and lost the final game of the regular season. And the ’76 version? Well, after a very rough start, it finished with an SRS of +15.3, the best in Pittsburgh history.

So when it comes to missing rings, the obvious starting place to look is the ’76 Steelers. The ’73 Steelers were far too young, while the ’80 Steelers were over the hill; the only other choice would be the ’77 squad, but that one was doomed before the season even started, with the team chemistry hindered by lawsuits and holdouts. No, the Steelers team that should have won it all — but didn’t — was perhaps the best Pittsburgh team in franchise history. [click to continue…]


Missing Links In The Dynasty Chain, Part II

Yesterday, we looked at the three of the best dynasties in NFL history, and one of the very best teams on each of those dynasties that somehow fell short of winning it all. For the ’07 Patriots and ’87 49ers, shocking playoff losses as double-digit favorites were the the result of ferocious pass rush engineered by the Giants and Vikings, respectively. For the ’87 49ers and ’53 Browns, these losses were followed by back-to-back championships, signs of the talent-laden rosters these teams possessed. And for the ’53 and ’07 Patriots, all-time great seasons by all-time great quarterbacks ended with bitter disappointment.

Today? A look at yet another dynastic team that had all the talent in the world, sandwiched between its inexperienced championship teams of yesteryear and its aging veteran championship rosters of tomorrow.

1964 Packers

Even these two couldn’t save the 1964 Packers.

Yesterday, we talked Brady/Belichick, Montana/Walsh, and Graham/Brown. Today we focus on one of the only other coach and quarterback combinations that can compare to those three. The Packers won their first title in the Vince Lombardi / Bart Starr era in 1961. The 1962 Packers may have been the greatest team in NFL history. In 1963, the Packers again led the NFL in the Simple Rating System, and ranked in the top 2 in points and points allowed. The problem for Green Bay? The Chicago Bears had one of the greatest defenses in NFL history: the Bears led the NFL in points allowed, yards allowed, turnovers forced, net yards per attempt allowed, passing yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, and yards per carry allowed. Green Bay finished 11-2-1, with both losses coming to Chicago (including one game that Bart Starr missed).  And, of course, in 1965, 1966, and 1967, the Packers three-peated as NFL champions.  By ’68, Lombardi was gone, and the Packers Hall of Famers were largely retired or past their prime.

So what rings did the Packers miss? There are only three years from which to choose: ’60, ’63, and ’64.  In 1960, Green Bay made it to the title game, but that team was the baby Packers. There were 13 all-time great players to play for the ’60s Packers, and 12 of those made it to the Hall of Fame. Here is how old each player was in ’60, ’63, and ’64. [click to continue…]


Missing Links In The Dynasty Chain, Part I

A decade ago, NFL Networking aired a series called America’s Game: The Missing Rings, looking at five great NFL teams that failed to win a Super Bowl. These were the Minnesota Vikings from 1969 and 1998, the 1981 Chargers, the 1988 Bengals, and the 1990 Bills. None of those franchises have ever won a Super Bowl, but those five teams all came very close to winning or at least making a Super Bowl.

But what about the 6 great pro football dynasties since World War II? The ’50s Browns, ’60s Packers, ’70s Steelers, ’80s 49ers, ’90s Cowboys, and modern Patriots all had (at least) one great team that failed to win it all, too. We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the great Brady/Belichick, Graham/Brown, and Montana/Walsh teams that didn’t win it all. But in some cases, those were the very best teams they ever fielded.

2007 Patriots

You know the story. New England became the first and only team to ever go 16-0, and the first and only team to ever outscore its opponents by 300 points. QB Tom Brady was the NFL MVP, and WR Randy Moss, LT Matt Light, LB Mike Vrabel and CB Asante Samuel were all 1st-team All-Pros. WR Wes Welker led the NFL in receptions, and G Logan Mankins, C Dan Koppen, and NT Vince Wilfork all made the Pro Bowl (and the defense also had veteran stars in LB Junior Seau, DE Richard Seymour, and S Rodney Harrison). The year before, without Moss and Welker, the Patriots nearly won the Super Bowl: New England lost in the AFC Championship Game to the Colts, a game the Patriots led 21-3 early on. [click to continue…]


The 1987 MVP Award: Rice, Montana, and Elway

Two of the most valuable players from 1987.

In 1987, the Associated Press voters were faced with a difficult choice. This was a year disrupted by the players’ strike, which led to a 15-game season that included three games featuring replacement players. Jerry Rice was the rare unanimous first-team All-Pro selection at wide receiver, courtesy of a record-breaking 22 touchdown receptions in 12 games.  How remarkable was that? Eagles receiver Mike Quick was second in the league in receiving touchdowns with *11*, and no other player had more than 8!  And for good measure, Rice scored a 23rd touchdown on a rush against the Falcons.

And it’s not as though all Rice did was catch touchdowns. Cardinals wide receiver J.T. Smith crossed the picket line and played in all 15 games; he wound up leading the league in receiving yards, but Rice led the NFL in receiving yards per game for the second straight season.  A remarkable year from the greatest receiver in NFL history is certainly worthy of MVP honors.

The biggest threat to Rice capturing the MVP award appeared to be his own quarterback, Joe Montana.  The 49ers lost on opening day in Pittsburgh, but the 49ers went 10-0 in Montana’s remaining starts.  In part, this is because this was a dominant San Francisco team on both sides of the ball, but Montana led the NFL in completion percentage, touchdowns, touchdown rate, and passer rating.  He also ranked 2nd in ANY/A, behind Cleveland’s Bernie Kosar (the Browns went 8-4 in his starts, and Kosar received minimal MVP attention). Montana had three 4th quarter comebacks and three game-winning drives, while Kosar had none.  And in a head-to-head game on Sunday Night Football, Montana outclassed Kosar. And Montana was Montana, so it’s no surprise that peak Montana on a 10-game winning streak was considered the best quarterback in the NFL. [click to continue…]


Today’s guest post comes from hscer, a frequent commenter here at Football Perspective. Hscer is starting a project on his website, MVPQB.Blogspot.com, where he is working on his most valuable quarterback for each season since 1951. Here’s a sample chapter today: as always, we thank our guest posters for their contributions.

 “When .500 is a Miracle” – The Giants trade a number of picks for Fran Tarkenton and immediately go from a one-win team to a .500 club.

The Stats

Unitas (AP1): 255-436 (58.5%) 3428 yards (7.86 y/a) 20 TD 16 INT, 83.6 rating, 7.13 AY/A, 11-1-2 record in starts (4 4QC, 3 GWD). Rushing: 89 yards on 22 attempts (4.0 avg.), 0 TD, 4 fumbles.

Tarkenton (MVQB): 204-377 (54.1%) 3088 yards (8.19 y/a) 29 TD 19 INT, 85.9 rating, 7.46 AY/A, 7-7 record in starts (2 4QC, 2 GWD). Rushing: 306 yards on 44 attempts (7.0 avg.), 2 TD, 4 fumbles.

The Argument

For older selections, I’ve often deferred to the AP when they pass over a quarterback on a weaker team to give their All-Pro nod to an established star on a great squad. I won’t do that here.

The 1966 Giants went 1-12-1. Much of that was due to a putrid defense which allowed 501 points, many of them in an infamous 72-41 loss to the Redskins. But the offense could not be absolved from blame. Gary Wood, Earl Morrall, and Tom Kennedy split time at quarterback, and no rusher exceeded 327 yards. As a result, New York was 12th in the 15-team NFL with 263 points scored, and 8th in yards. Just two seasons later, Morrall would be putting up Unitas-like numbers on Unitas’ own team.

In ’66, New York’s top 5 pass receivers were Homer Jones, Joe Morrison, Aaron Thomas, Chuck Mercein, and Bobby Crespino. In ’67, they were Thomas, Jones, Morrison, Ernie Koy, and Tucker Frederickson, the last two of which were also on the ’66 squad. Four starting offensive linemen returned, and the only new one was 1966 eighth-round pick RT Charlie Harper. [click to continue…]


Today’s guest post comes from hscer, a frequent commenter here at Football Perspective. Hscer is starting a project on his website, MVPQB.Blogspot.com, where he is working on his most valuable quarterback for each season since 1951. Here’s a sample chapter today: as always, we thank our guest posters for their contributions.

“Say What?” – Was Ken O’Brien really better than Dan Marino at any point in time? For one season, he at least had an argument.

The Stats

Marino (AP1): 336-567 (59.3%) 4137 yards (7.30 y/a) 30 TD 21 INT, 84.1 rating, sacked 18-157, 6.21 ANY/A, 12-4 record in starts (4 4QB, 6 GWD). Rushing: -24 yards on 26 attempts (-0.9 avg.), 0 TD, 9 fumbles.

O’Brien (MVQB): 297-488 (60.9%) 3888 yards (7.97 y/a) 25 TD 8 INT, 96.2 rating, sacked 62-399, 6.60 ANY/A, 11-5 record in starts (1 4QC, 1 GWD). Rushing: 58 yards on 25 attempts (2.3 avg., 0 TD, 14 fumbles.

The Argument

Yes, really. Even though Ken O’Brien took far too many sacks in ’85—62 to be exact, losing 399 yards—when he got the ball off, he was better than Marino. Even when he didn’t, his passing edge was large enough to secure a higher ANY/A than The Man in Miami. Dan Fouts was another reasonable selection despite missing four games by throwing for 3638 yards and 27 TD with a league-leading 7.02 ANY/A in the games he did play, but this year comes down to Marino and O’Brien.

Dan Marino was coming off of the greatest season an NFL quarterback has ever enjoyed in 1984, still the best ever in my opinion. This likely helped his cause. It didn’t help O’Brien’s cause that he had one of the ugliest season debuts you can imagine. In a 31-0 loss to the Raiders, he was 16-29 for 192 yards, 0 TD, 2 interceptions, and sacked a whopping 10 times for -61 yards, producing an adjusted net yards per attempt of 1.05. In the final 15 games, his ANY/A was 7.14, but the first game counts all the same. [click to continue…]


Today’s guest post comes from hscer, a frequent commenter here at Football Perspective. Hscer is starting a project on his website, MVPQB.Blogspot.com, where he is working on his most valuable quarterback for each season since 1951. Here’s a sample chapter today: as always, we thank our guest posters for their contributions.

“When Fifth is First” – Maybe fifth is unkind to Gannon’s 2000 season, but he certainly wasn’t the best or even top three.

The Stats

Let’s begin with a look at the stats from six of the top quarterbacks from 2000: Rich Gannon, Peyton Manning, Daunte Culpepper, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, and Brian Griese.

Gannon (AP1)284-473-(60.0%)-34307.25281192.428-1246.7312-43/4529-89-5.9-49105221.4
Manning (MVQB)357-571-(62.5%)-44137.73331594.720-1317.2210-62/3116-37-3.1-15188838.3

The Argument

Gannon’s win here is baffling when you look at the stats in this context: he ranks 5th in DYAR, and 6th in Y/A, ANY/A, Passer Rating, and DVOA. So why did the Associated Press, along with Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers of America and The Sporting News select Gannon as their first-team All-Pro quarterback?

Well, four teams went 12-4 or better, including Gannon’s Raiders. The other three teams had Kerry Collins, Steve McNair, and the
Tony BanksTrent Dilfer combo at quarterback, and Gannon had the best numbers of that group. But even for media types, it usually takes a little more than wins to clinch these awards. McNair, with 2847 yards and 15 TD on the 13-3 defending AFC Champion Titans, was likely not considered by anyone. [click to continue…]


The top QB/WR duo by touchdowns, and another top-10 combo.

Three years ago, I looked at the top quarterback/receiving pairings in terms of total passing touchdowns between the two players. Per a comment suggestion, let’s update that list today. The top two pairs have not changed, but there has been some movement in the top ten.

Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates have now connected for 84 passing touchdowns, all of which came in the regular season. The list below includes the playoffs, and Young and Rice have combined for 85 regular season touchdown passes and 7 playoff scores. That means Rivers and Gates are two more touchdowns away from the second most regular season touchdowns in NFL history. Gates is tied for 6th all time in receiving touchdowns (111) with Tony Gonzalez: despite that, Gates has connected with a touchdown more often with Rivers than Gonzalez has with both Matt Ryan and Trent Green combined.

There’s another tight end duo creeping up the list: Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have connected for 76 touchdowns, tied for fifth place on the list. Also at 76 touchdowns: Marques Colston and Drew Brees. The interesting note there: Colston retired without ever catching a touchdown pass from anyone besides Brees.

The table below shows the full list for combinations that have at least 25 touchdown strikes: [click to continue…]

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