Guest Post: Introducing Marginal Yards After the Catch, Part I

Introducing Marginal YAC

A quarterback throws a two yard dump off pass to his running back, who proceeds to juke a couple defenders and run 78 yards into the endzone. Naturally, the quarterback deserves credit for an 80 yard pass. Wait, what? Sounds illogical, but that’s the way the NFL has been keeping records since 1932, when it first began recording individual player yardage totals. The inclusion of YAC — yards after the catch — in a quarterback’s passing yards total can really distort efficiency stats, which in turn may distort the way he is perceived.

In response, I created a metric called Marginal YAC (mYAC), which measures how much YAC a quarterback has benefited from compared to an average passer. Its calculation is very straightforward:

mYAC = (YAC/completion – LgAvg YAC/completion) * Completions

I have quarterback YAC data going back to 1992 for every quarterback season with at least 100 pass attempts.1 That gives us a healthy sample of 965 seasons to analyze, and includes the full careers of every contemporary quarterback. But first, let’s get a sense of what’s average here. The table below shows the league-wide YAC rates since 1992: [click to continue…]

1. This data comes courtesy of sportingcharts.com. It’s obviously unofficial, but there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable biases from one team to another. Some unofficial stats, such as passes defensed or quarterback pressures, can vary wildly depending on the scorekeeper, but Sporting Charts’ YAC stats seem pretty fair, from what I can tell. Here is a link to the 2013 data. Chase note: I have not had the chance to compare these numbers to what is on NFLGSIS, but that’s a good idea. []

How Long Does It Take Great Quarterbacks To Break out?

A couple of years ago, I asked how long it should have taken the Jaguars to move on from Blaine Gabbert. Today I want to revisit that general idea, but look at how long it takes the best quarterbacks to identify themselves as top-tier players. A couple of months ago, I looked at the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Using the top 75 quarterbacks from that list, I removed any player whose career began before the merger; that left me with 42 passers.

First, I looked at how each quarterback fared in relative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt — i.e., ANY/A relative to league average — through their first 16 starts. Just over two-thirds of these passers were above average during their first 16 starts, with 1/3 of those quarterbacks being at least 1 ANY/A better than league average.  That group of fourteen quarterbacks — which Aaron Rodgers just falls shy of joining — can be categorized as above-average quarterbacks from the beginning. They are Kurt Warner, Dan Marino, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Tony Romo, Mark Rypien, Jeff Garcia, Boomer Esiason, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Joe Montana, Steve McNair, and Ken Stabler. Obviously a number of those quarterbacks were not immediate starters in the NFL, but they did excel as soon as they became starters.

The graph below shows each of the 42 quarterbacks’ Relative ANY/A through their first 16 starts. The X-Axis represents the quarterback’s first year, and the Y-Axis shows their RANY/A value through 16 starts.

Now, let’s remove the 14 quarterbacks who had a RANY/A of at least +1.0 through their first sixteen starts. How did the other 28 quarterbacks fare in starts 17 through 32 in RANY/A? Eleven of them produced a RANY/A of at least +1.0 in their next sixteen starts: Bert Jones, Matt Schaub, Ken Anderson, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Brad Johnson, Carson Palmer, Jim Everett, Steve Young, Dan Fouts, and Steve Grogan.

Trivia: Most Passing Yards in Final 16 Regular Season Games

The past couple of days, we looked at the players with the most receiving yards and rushing yards in their final 16 regular season games. Today, we get to the quarterbacks.

Only one non-active player threw for 4,000 yards in his final 16 games.

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Three other players threw for 3900+ yards. That doesn’t include Dan Fouts (3,805) or Dan Marino (3,869), but it does include quarterbacks from the great, the good, and the ugly category.

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Worst Passer Ratings In Every Year Since the Merger

Smith struggled as a rookie; then again, so did many greats.

In 2013, Geno Smith had the worst passer rating (66.5) in the NFL. The year before, Mark Sanchez had a passer rating of 66.9, which was very nearly the lowest in the league (Matt Cassel had a rating of 66.7). But while the Jets didn’t quite do it, a couple of teams have managed to have different quarterbacks in consecutive seasons finish with the lowest passer ratings in the NFL (minimum 14 attempts per game).

In 2000, a second-year Akili Smith was given the starting job and posted a miserable 52.8 passer rating. A year later, Jon Kitna took over for the Bengals, and his 61.1 rating was the worst among qualifying passers.

In 1993, Mark Rypien finished with the worst passer rating in the league two years after winning the Super Bowl. Washington drafted Heath Shuler the following year, and as a rookie, Shuler finished with the worst passer rating in the NFL.

The Seahawks almost pulled off this feat in the prior two years. In 1992, Stan Gelbaugh had the worst passer rating as part of the historically inept Seattle passing attack. In 1991, Jeff Kemp finished with the worst passer rating in the league. Kemp, the son of Jack , started the year with Seattle but finished it with Philadelphia. He didn’t have enough attempts with the Seahawks to qualify, so I probably wouldn’t include the ’91-’92 Seahawks in this category, although that may be pickin’ nits.

The table below shows the quarterbacks to finish with the lowest passer rating in the NFL in each year since the merger. For each passer, I’ve included his age as of September 1st of that season, his traditional metrics, and his passer rating. [click to continue…]

The best and worst passing games of 2013

The top passing game of 2013.

Yesterday, I analyzed the 2013 passing numbers for strength of schedule. Today, we look at the best and worst games of the year, from the perspectives of both the quarterbacks and the defenses.

Let’s start with the top 100 passing games from 2014. The top spot belongs to Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, for his monstrous performance against Oakland. Foles threw for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns on just 28 pass attempts. Even including his one one-yard sack, Foles averaged a whopping 18.79 ANY/A in that game. The league-average last season was 5.86 ANY/A, which means Foles was 12.93 ANY/A above average. Now since the game came against the Raiders, we have to reduce that by -1.29, which was how many ANY/A the Raiders defense was below average. So that puts Foles at +11.64; multiply that by his 29 dropbacks, and he produced 337 adjusted net yards of value above average after adjusting for strength of schedule. That narrowly edges out the other seven-touchdown game of 2013, which came at the hands of Peyton Manning against Baltimore on opening night.

The third spot goes to Drew Brees in a week 17 performance against Tampa Bay. The 4th best game of 2013 was a bit more memorable: Tony Romo takes that prize in a losing effort, the insane week five shootout against Manning and the Broncos (Peyton’s performance checks in at #32). The table below shows the top 100 games of 2013, although for viewing purposes, it displays only the top 10 by default (all tables, as usual, are fully searchable, expandable, and sortable). [click to continue…]

The Greatest QB of All-Time V, Part II: Career Rankings

The two best regular season quarterbacks of all time?

Yesterday, I explained the methodology behind the formula involved in ranking every quarterback season since 1960. Today, I’m going to present the career results. Converting season value to career value isn’t as simple as it might seem. Generally, we don’t want a player who was very good for 12 years to rank ahead of a quarterback who was elite for ten. Additionally, we don’t want to give significant penalties to players who struggled as rookies or hung around too long; we’re mostly concerned with the peak value of the player.

What I’ve historically done — and done here — is to give each quarterback 100% of his value or score from his best season, 95% of his score in his second best season, 90% of his score in his third best season, and so on. This rewards quarterbacks who played really well for a long time and doesn’t kill players with really poor rookie years or seasons late in their career. It also helps to prevent the quarterbacks who were compilers from dominating the top of the list. For visibility reasons, the table below displays only the top 25 quarterbacks initially, but you can change that number in the filter or click on the right arrow to see the remaining quarterbacks.1

Here’s how to read the table. Manning’s first year was in 1998, and his last in 2013. He’s had 8,740 “dropbacks” in his career, which include pass attempts, sacks, and rushing touchdowns. His career value — using the 100/95/90 formula2 is 12,769, putting him at number one. His strength of schedule has been perfectly average over his career; as a reminder, the SOS column is shown just for reference, as SOS is already incorporated into these numbers (so while Tom Brady has had a schedule that’s 0.25 ANY/A tougher than average, that’s already incorporated into his 10,063 grade). Manning is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, of course, but I’ve listed the HOF status of each quarterback in the table. Note that I only have quarterback records going back to 1960; therefore, for quarterbacks who played before and during (or after) 1960, only their post-1960 record is displayed. In addition, SOS adjustments are only for the years beginning in 1960. [click to continue…]

1. Note that while yesterday’s list was just from 1960 to 2013, the career list reflects every season in history, using the same methodology as used in GQBOAT IV. []
2. And including negative seasons. []

The Greatest QB of All-Time V, Part I (Methodology)

Can you spot the GOAT?

In 2006, I took a stab at ranking every quarterback in NFL history. Two years later, I acquired more data and made enough improvements to merit publishing an updated and more accurate list of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. In 2009, I tweaked the formula again, and published a set of career rankings, along with a set of strength of schedule, era and weather adjustments, and finally career rankings which include those adjustments and playoff performances.  And two years ago, I revised the formula and produced a new set of career rankings.

This time around, I’m not going to tweak the formula much (that’s for GQBOAT VI), but I do have one big change that I suspect will be well-received.  Let’s review the methodology.

Methodology

We start with plain old yards per attempt. I then incorporate sack data by removing sack yards from the numerator and adding sacks to the denominator.1 To include touchdowns and interceptions, I gave a quarterback 20 yards for each passing touchdown and subtracted 45 yards for each interception. This calculation — (Pass Yards + 20 * PTD – 45 * INT – Sack Yards Lost) / (Sacks + Pass Attempts) forms the basis for Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, one of the key metrics I use to evaluate quarterbacks. For purposes of this study, I did some further tweaking. I’m including rushing touchdowns, because our goal is to measure quarterbacks as players. There’s no reason to separate rushing and passing touchdowns from a value standpoint, so all passing and rushing touchdowns are worth 20 yards and are calculated in the numerator of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. To be consistent, I also include rushing touchdowns in the denominator of the equation. This won’t change anything for most quarterbacks, but feels right to me. A touchdown is a touchdown.

Now, here comes the twist.  In past year, I’ve compared each quarterback’s “ANY/A” — I put that term in quotes because what we’re really using is ANY/A with a rushing touchdowns modifier — and then calculated a value over average statistic after comparing that rate to the league average. For example, if a QB has an “ANY/A” of 7.0 and the NFL average “ANY/A” is 5.0, and the quarterback has 500 “dropbacks” — i.e., pass attempts plus sacks plus rushing touchdowns — then the quarterback gets credit for 1,000 yards above average. [click to continue…]

1. I have individual game sack data for every quarterback back to 2008. For seasons between 1969 and 2007, I have season sack data and team game sack data, so I was able to derive best-fit estimates for each quarterback in each game. For seasons between 1960 and 1969, I gave each quarterback an approximate number of sacks, giving him the pro-rated portion of sacks allowed by the percentage of pass attempts he threw for the team. []

A Passing League

In some ways, the premise of this post is geeky even for this site. And that’s saying something. There is a debate over the proper way to measure league average. For example, when we say the average completion percentage in the NFL is 61.2%, this is generally assumed to reflect the fact that in 2013, there were 18,136 passes thrown in the NFL, and 11,102 of them were completed.

An alternative method of measuring completion percentage in the NFL is take the average completion percentage of each of the 32 teams. That number won’t be very different, but it won’t be identical, either. The difference, of course, is that this method places the same weight on each team’s passing attack when determining the league average. The former, more common method, means that the Cleveland Browns make up 3.755% of all NFL pass attempts and the San Francisco 49ers are responsible for only 2.299% of the league-average passing numbers. The latter method puts all teams at 3.125% of NFL average.

Wow, Chase, is this really a football blog? Two paragraphs on calculating the average in a data set? Believe it or not, that background presents an interesting way to look at how the NFL has become more of a passing league.

For example, let’s look at the 1972 season. Miami led the NFL in points scored and in rushing attempts, while ranking 24th out of 26 teams in pass attempts. Does this mean the Dolphins weren’t a good passing team? Of course not; in fact, Miami had the highest Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average of any team that season! That year,only two teams threw over 400 passes: New England and New Orleans. And both teams were below-average in ANY/A, with the Patriots ranking in the bottom three.

In 1972, the average pass in the NFL gained 4.28 Adjusted Net Yards.  But an average of each team’s ANY/A average was 4.34, because good passing teams like Miami and Washington passed less frequently than bad passing teams like New England and New Orleans.  The league-wide average was only 98.5% of the “average of the averages” average; whenever that number is less than 100%, we can conclude that the better passing teams are passing less frequently.

Fast forward 39 years. In 2011, three teams topped the 600-attempt mark: Detroit, New Orleans, and New England. Tom Brady’s Patriots and Drew Brees’ Saints ranked in the top three in ANY/A (and the Lions in the top 7), while Aaron Rodgers’ top-ranked Packers in ANY/A still finished above average in pass attempts. The Tim Tebow Broncos were last in pass attempts, and in the bottom ten in ANY/A. The Jaguars, who finished last in ANY/A by a large margin, were in the bottom five in pass attempts, too, as Maurice Jones-Drew led the league in rushing. In 2011, the league-wide average ANY/A was 5.90, while the “average of the 32 teams” ANY/A was 5.85; that’s because the best passing teams were throwing more frequently than the worst passing teams (the ratio here was 100.8%). [click to continue…]

College Quarterback Passing Stats From 2013

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that it’s 2014. With draft season now in full gear, I wanted to take a few minutes and look at the stats of the top college quarterbacks from last year. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I couldn’t find a site that presented a full list of all college quarterback stats, including sacks, which is, of course, insane.

College football records sacks as rushing plays for the offense; as a result, knowing how many sacks Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater took last year is not that easy to find. So here’s what I did:

1) Using team game log data, I found the number of sacks for each defense in each game.

2) Next, I recorded the percentage of team pass attempts recorded by each quarterback for his offense in each game (usually close to 100%).

3) I synched up these two sets of data, and multiplied each quarterback’s percentage of team pass attempts by the number of sacks by his opponent’s defense in that game.

That provided me with some useful estimated sack data. From there, I calculated each quarterback’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, which is simply (Gross_passing_yards + 20*PassTDs – 45*INTs – Estimated_sack_yards_lost) / (Pass_attempts + Estimated_sacks). I did this for the 140 quarterbacks with the most pass attempts in the FBS (sorry, Jimmy Garoppolo fans) in 2013.

Since the number of pass attempts vary wildly at the college level, I also calculated a Value Over Average statistic. The 140 quarterbacks had an average ANY/A of 6.44, so the Value metric (which is what the table is sorted by) is simply (ANY/A – 6.44) * (Pass_attempts + Estimated_sacks). Here’s how to read Bridegwater’s line, the Louisville quarterback who many believe will be the first quarterback selected in the draft.

Bridgewater provided the 5th most passing value by this formula, completing 303 of 427 passes for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He took 25.5 sacks and lost 185 yards, and had a sack rate of 6% (if I included the percent sign, the table would not sort correctly). Bridgewater also averaged 13.1 yards per completion and had a 9.34 ANY/A average, which combined with his number of dropbacks, means he added 1,310 adjusted net yards of value over average. By default, the table below only shows the top 25, but you can sort and/or search to find each of the 140 quarterbacks (and you can change the number of quarterbacks displayed via the dropdown box to the left). [click to continue…]

Comparing The Stats Of Terry Bradshaw And Kurt Warner

Terry Bradshaw finished his career with 212 touchdowns, 210 interceptions and a 70.9 passer rating. Kurt Warner threw 208 touchdowns against only 128 interceptions, and his 93.7 passer rating ranks 8th in NFL history and 2nd among retired players. But Bradshaw played from 1970 to 1982, while Warner played from 1998 to 2009. As a result, comparing their raw statistics holds very little meaning. Comparing across eras is very challenging, but not impossible. And in this case, once you place the numbers in the proper context, Bradshaw’s numbers were arguably more impressive than Warner’s numbers.

Let’s start with Bradshaw and begin by looking at his Relative ANY/A for each year of his career. For new readers, ANY/A stands for Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, defined as

(Gross Pass Yards + 20 * PTDs – 45 * INTs – Sack Yds)/(Attempts + Sacks)

Relative ANY/A simply compares a quarterback’s ANY/A average to league average, a necessary element when comparing quarterbacks across eras. In the graph below, the size of the bubble corresponds to how many attempts Bradshaw had in each season, while the Y-Axis shows Bradshaw’s Relative ANY/A (by definition, 0 is equal to league average).  The graph shows a clear story: for the first five years of his career, Bradshaw was a below-average quarterback, but over the rest of his career, he was one of the best in football. His best year came in 1978 when Bradshaw finished with a RANY/A of +2.0, which was the third best mark in football (only a hair behind Roger Staubach and Dan Fouts). Those stats, combined with a 14-2 record, led to Bradshaw being named the AP’s MVP that season. [click to continue…]

The Contrasting Statistical Profiles of Geno Smith and Mike Glennon

Smith looks to go deep against the Bucs.

We were very spoiled last year. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson had outstanding rookie seasons in 2012, and perhaps that set expectations a bit high for the 2013 class. No one will confuse those three with EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon, all of whom struggled for most of their rookie seasons. But while Smith and Glennon didn’t produce excellent numbers, they produced very interesting ones.

Among the 35 quarterbacks with the most pass attempts, Glennon finished a very pedestrian 27th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. But he did it in a very unique way: Glennon had an outstanding 19/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he ranked dead last in Net Yards per Attempt. One reason for that is Glennon averaged only 10.6 yards per completion, the 3rd worst average among the 35 passers.

Smith finished 34th in ANY/A, largely due to his horrific 12/21 TD/INT ratio. He was a bit better in NY/A, ranking 28th, but what’s interesting about the Jets quarterback is that he ranked 7th in yards per completion. That metric is not a particularly effective measure of passer quality — after all, Matt Ryan ranked 35th — but it is a pretty good way to describe a quarterback’s style. While both Glennon and Smith were below average, they were below average in very different ways. [click to continue…]

Where Does Luck/Smith Rank Among Great Playoff QB Battles?

Superman wears #12 in Indianapolis now.

The NFL playoffs began in very entertaining fashion in Indianapolis. The Chiefs lost Jamaal Charles on the first drive of the game to a concussion, but stormed out to a 38-10 lead. Then the Colts pulled off the second greatest comeback in NFL history, eventually winning 45-44. The much-maligned Alex Smith had the game of his life, finishing 30 of 46 for 378 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions while also rushing for 57 yards.

Of course, Andrew Luck had an incredible game, too, even if it wasn’t necessarily as efficient. Luck went 29/45 for 443 yards and 4 touchdowns to counter his 3 interceptions, rushed for 45 yards, and recovered a Donald Brown fumble and ran it in for the touchdown.

Which made me wonder: where does this game rank among the greatest quarterback battles? To make life simpler, I’m only going to look at passing statistics, although obviously both players added some value on the ground. Smith averaged 9.23 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, defined as (Passing Yards + 20*TD – 45*INT – Sack Yards) divided by (Pass Attempts + Sacks). The NFL average in 2013 was 5.87 ANY/A, which means Smith produced 3.36 ANY/A over average. And, since he had 48 pass attempts (including sacks), that means Smith provided 161 yards over average.

Luck’s averages were hurt by the three interceptions, but he still produced 8.23 ANY/A and therefore 2.41 ANY/A over average. That means, over his 46 dropbacks, he produced 111 yards of value over average. So where does that mean this game ranks among all playoff games since 1970? My initial thought was to simply add the two value over average numbers, but that ended up producing a list dominated by great games by one quarterback. To counter this, I decided to only look at games where both quarterbacks were above average and to instead take the Harmonic Mean of their values. This wound up producing a pretty good list, and it places Luck/Smith at #9. [click to continue…]

The Best Playoff Quarterbacks In The Super Bowl Era

On Friday, I explained the idea behind Playoff Leverage. That post is required reading before diving in today, but the summary is that the Super Bowl counts for more than the conference championship games, which count for more than the division round games, which count for more than the wild card games. The value that is assigned to each game — the Super Bowl is currently worth 3.14 times as much as the average playoff game — is then used to adjust the stats of the players in those games.

For quarterbacks, the main stat used to measure passing performance is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. In case you forgot, ANY/A is defined as

[math]Pass Yards + 20*PassTDs – 45*INTs – SackYards)/(Attempts + Sacks)[/math]

Today, we’re going to look at every quarterback since 1966. Players like Bart Starr and Johnny Unitas who played before 1966 will count, but their stats from 1965 and earlier will not be included. This obviously is a serious disservice to Starr in particular, but for now, I’m going to only focus on the Super Bowl era. [click to continue…]

With a Super Bowl Win, Manning 2013 Will Be The Greatest QB Season Ever

No, Peyton, you're the man.

In 1984, Dan Marino set an NFL record with 48 touchdown passes, but his Dolphins lost in the Super Bowl. Twenty years later, Peyton Manning broke Marino’s record, but he lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots in the playoffs. In 2007, Tom Brady broke Manning’s touchdowns record, but he lost in the Super Bowl, too.

When the greatest quarterback seasons of all time are discussed, these three years dominate the discussion. And with good reason. But if you include the playoffs — and frankly, there’s no reason not to include the playoffs — which quarterback produced the greatest season of all time? I’m going to stipulate that the greatest quarterback season ever has to end in a Lombardi Trophy, because otherwise, I think we’ll end up back in the world of Marino ’84/Brady ’07/Manning ’04. Of course, now another Manning season has entered the mix: and with a Super Bowl win, Manning’s 2013 should and would be remembered as the greatest quarterback season of all time.

So, the question becomes, which season would he knock off the top rung? I think there are six seasons that stand out from the rest, based on regular and postseason performance.

Honorable Mention [click to continue…]

Wildcard Preview: Kansas City at Indianapolis

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) (Pick’em) at Indianapolis Colts (13-3), Saturday 4:35PM ET

The Chiefs have the talent edge, but the Colts have one big advantage.

Among the four games this weekend, this one figures to be the most competitive: I would be surprised if this isn’t a one possession game in the fourth quarter. The Colts rank 13th in Football Outsiders DVOA, courtesy of the 13th-ranked offense, the 16th-best defense, and the 17th best special teams. Kansas City is 7th overall, thanks to a 15th-place ranking on offense, a 9th-place ranking on defense, and the top special teams in the NFL. And while the Colts beat the Chiefs two weeks ago, I don’t put much stock in that for a couple of reasons.

One, the Chiefs were missing two key players, left tackle Branden Albert and pass rusher Justin Houston. Two, I suspect that Kansas City called a very vanilla game plan in the first meeting. The Chiefs knew that Indianapolis was the likely first round opponent in the playoffs, and a win would have been meaningless for Kansas City unless Denver would lose to either Houston or Oakland. In retrospect, had the Chiefs kept their cards close to the vest (a luxury the Colts couldn’t afford), it would have been wise. [click to continue…]

2013 Team NY/A and ANY/A Differential Data

Just a quick data dump here for those inquiring minds. Here are the leaders in NY/A differential, which is simply Net Yards per Attempt (which incorporates sack data) for each team minus the Net Yards per Attempt allowed by that team. Seattle ranks #1 in NY/A differential, as Russell Wilson‘s offense has averaged 6.97 NY/A (which ranks 6th) and the defense has allowed just 4.85 NY/A (which ranks first), giving them a +2.13 NY/A differential.

Rk
Tm
NY/A
NY/A Rk
NY/A A
NY/A A Rk
NY/A Diff
1Seattle Seahawks6.9764.8512.13
2Cincinnati Bengals6.7295.0921.63
3Denver Broncos7.8316.22171.61
4New Orleans Saints7.1545.5871.56
5Arizona Cardinals6.51115.5560.96
7San Francisco 49ers6.53105.6890.86
8Pittsburgh Steelers6.39125.88100.51
9San Diego Chargers7.5427.1310.44
10Carolina Panthers5.9205.550.39
11Detroit Lions6.8286.53200.29
12New York Giants5.91195.6380.28
13Green Bay Packers6.9476.79250.15
14Buffalo Bills5.44295.2930.15
15New England Patriots6.12156110.12
16Chicago Bears7.0356.93270.1
17Cleveland Browns5.53275.4940.05
18Tennessee Titans6.13146.2215-0.08
19Indianapolis Colts6.07166.4219-0.35
20Houston Texans5.65256.0513-0.4
21Kansas City Chiefs5.69246.214-0.51
22Miami Dolphins5.47286.0312-0.56
23Dallas Cowboys6.37136.9829-0.62
24New York Jets5.56266.318-0.73
25Baltimore Ravens5.38306.2216-0.84
26Minnesota Vikings5.81216.6723-0.86
27St. Louis Rams5.77226.7524-0.98
28Oakland Raiders5.93186.9728-1.04
29Atlanta Falcons6.04177.1132-1.08
30Washington Redskins5.74237.0830-1.35
31Jacksonville Jaguars5.36316.8126-1.45
32Tampa Bay Buccaneers5.03326.5421-1.51

Ryan Tannehill had one of the worst passing games ever

Buffalo just sacked Tannehill again.

Did you happen to notice the stat line produced by Ryan Tannehill last week? He completed just 10 of 27 passes for only 82 yards in a 19-0 loss to the Bills. A 37% completion rate and a 3.0 yards per attempt average are ugly numbers in their own right, but Tannehill was also sacked seven times for 46 yards. That means on 34 dropbacks, he produced…. 36 yards.

Tannehill did not throw an interception in the 19-0 shutout, so perhaps that’s why this game has gone under the radar. But a quarterback does not get to fare so poorly and avoid coverage of it at Football Perspective. Can you imagine if Tony Romo or Jay Cutler had a game like this? Why aren’t people talking about this? Tannehill averaged One Net Yard per Attempt over THIRTY FOUR DROPBACKS!?! Tannehill’s NY/A average dropped from 5.72 to 5.46, an unheard of drop this late in the season.

To be fair, Tannehill’s lack of interceptions does make the performance less horrible. But today, I want to just focus on yards produced on pass attempts (including sacks). Lots of good quarterbacks have had bad days when it comes to interceptions, but how often does a quarterback struggle so much on nearly every play for 34 plays?

Let’s provide some context. This season, the average pass play (including sacks) has produced 6.217 net yards, which means you would expect 34 dropbacks to produce 211.4 yards. That means Tannehill’s performance produced 175.4 net yards under average. Among quarterbacks with at least 15 pass attempts in a game, that’s the 25th worst performance since 1960, and the 7th worst performance since 2000.

The table below shows the worst 250 performances since 1960, although the only game I calculated for 2013 was Tannehill’s. The worst performance using this formula goes to Green Bay’s Lynn Dickey in 1981 against the Jets in week 16. He completed just 12 of 33 passes for 96 yards (I’ve included the TD and INT numbers even though they are not part of the calculation), and was sacked an incredible 9 times for 57 yards (Mark Gastineau, Joe Klecko, and Marty Lyons each had multiple sacks). So on 42 dropbacks, Dickey gained 39 yards, for an average of 0.9 NY/A. The NFL average that season was 6.02 NY/A, which means Dickey produced 214 Net Yards below average.
[click to continue…]

More Impressive Passing TD Record: Manning 2013 or Marino 1984?

How quaint: a quarterback taking snaps form under center.

With one game remaining, Peyton Manning has already set the new single-season record with 51 passing touchdowns (two months ago, I projected Manning to finish the season with 52 touchdowns). But all records must be viewed in their environment, and NFL teams are averaging 1.58 touchdown passes per team game this year, the highest average since 1948. In 1984, the year Dan Marino threw 48 touchdowns, teams averaged 1.37 touchdown passes per game.

So which season is more impressive? That’s a complicated question, and one that could be answered in many ways. In my view, the question boils down to which performance was more outstanding; in mathematical terms, we could define that as which season was farthest from the mean.

To make life a little simpler, I’m going to analyze this question on the team level, meaning we will compare “Denver 2013″ to “Miami 1984.” Of course, this approach is preferable in many ways, since when we praise Manning we really mean “Manning with his offensive line and his coaching staff throwing to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas.” And “Marino in 1984″ means “Marino and Mark Clayton and Mark Duper and Dwight Stephenson and Ed Newman.”

This season, the Broncos have 51 touchdown passes. The other 31 teams (through 15 games) are averaging 22.8 passing touchdowns, which means Denver is 28.2 touchdowns above average. The standard deviation of the 32 teams in passing touchdowns is 7.4; as a result, we can say that the Broncos are 3.84 standard deviations above average, also known as their Z-score.

In 1984, the other 27 teams (through 16 games) averaged 21.0 touchdowns, while the Dolphins threw 49 scores (Jim Jenson, a college quarterback who played receiver for Miami, threw a 35-yard touchdown to Duper against the Patriots off a Marino lateral). The standard deviation that season in touchdown passes at the team level was 7.5, which gives Miami a Z-score of 3.72 in 1984.

So the Broncos this season have been more extraordinary, at least by this measure. One nice thing about using the Z-score is we don’t need to adjust for games played. I went ahead and calculated the Z-scores for every team since 1932. The current Broncos are #1, with the ’84 Dolphins in second place. The third place team isn’t the Tom Brady 2007 Patriots; that team is down at #7, because the standard deviation in passing touchdowns among the league’s 32 teams was 8.8 that season. Instead, the third slot goes to the 1986 Dolphins. Few remember that Marino threw 44 touchdowns that season; add in Don Strock’s two touchdowns, a lower league average and a smaller standard deviation, and those Dolphins get a Z-score of 3.70.

Let’s look at the top 100 teams using this metric. The 2004 Colts ranked fifth (if you click on the cell in the team column, the link takes you to that team’s PFR page) in Z-score. That year, Indianapolis threw 51 touchdowns, while the other 31 teams averaged 21.97 touchdown passes. That means Indianapolis was 29.03 touchdowns above average, the highest production above average to date. But that year, the standard deviation among the 32 teams in passing touchdowns was 8.53, giving the Colts a Z-score of “only” 3.41; that’s why they’re 5th, not first.
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Eli Manning in elite INT territory

After a five-interception performance against a dominant Seattle pass defense, Eli Manning now has 25 interceptions this season. The odds are extremely low, but it’s not impossible that he throws ten more interceptions and ties the modern record set by Vinny Testaverde in 1988. That year, a 25-year-old Testaverde threw 35 interceptions when the league average interception rate was 3.91%. Since Testaverde threw 466 passes that season, we could say that a league-average quarterback would have thrown 18.2 interceptions; therefore, Testaverde threw 16.8 interceptions over average that year.

So far in 2013, the average interception rate is just 2.70%. Since Manning has thrown 485 passes, we would expect a league-average passer to record 13.1 interceptions. With 25 interceptions, that puts Manning at 11.9 interceptions above average. The table below shows the top 100 leaders in interceptions over average since 1950. [click to continue…]

Analyzing every Joe Flacco interception this year

Flacco has struggled to regain his Super form.

Over the course of his six-year career, Joe Flacco has generally done an excellent job at avoiding interceptions. Remember that quarterbacks are much more likely to be intercepted on deep passes, and Flacco tends to throw deep. Flacco has the 5th highest average length of pass this year according to NFLGSIS, after ranking 3rd in 2012, and 8th in 2011. But despite attempting more risky throws, Flacco posted better-than-average interception rates in each of his first five seasons. And he did that despite completion percentages that were often at or below league average.

Before the Super Bowl, I asked if Flacco was simply lucky to keep avoiding interceptions. That seemed like a good explanation for how an inaccurate passer who throws often downfield could have such a low interception rate. But other quarterbacks, like Donovan McNabb, sustained those traits for a long time.

This year, Flacco ranks in the top 7 in both interceptions and interception rate. So has lady luck simply switched allegiances? I looked at all 14 of Flacco’s interceptions this season to determine the cause.

1) Denver, 2nd quarter, 11:47 remaining, 3rd-and-9 from the Baltimore 16, trailing 7-0

Brandon Stokley is the primary receiver on the play. He’s lined up in the slot to Flacco’s left, and ends up running across the middle of the field at the first down marker. He’s in single coverage, but Flacco’s throw is a little short, and Chris Harris makes an outstanding play diving across for the interception. You can view the play here.
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Net Yards per Attempt Analysis and Week 7 Average Field Position Data

The most accurate passer in football.

It’s Friday, so I thought it might be fun to play around with some stats.  Net Yards per Attempt is probably my favorite predictive statistic to measure quarterbacks, but there are some problems with even that metric.  One issue is that Net Yards per Attempt — which is simply yards per attempt but includes sacks data — is pretty sensitive to outliers.  A quarterback who consistently pieces together short passes with a high completion percentage can be pretty valuable, and may end up undervalued compared to some mad bombers.

There are a couple of ways to deal with this.  One is to use a different measure of central tendency than the average production per dropback; for example, we could look at the median yards gained per pass attempt (including sacks).  Another is to measure the standard deviation on all of a quarterback’s pass plays. I thought I’d compile the data on both and see what you guys found interesting.

No matter how you splice the data, Philip Rivers looks outstanding. After a couple of down years, Rivers is experiencing a career revival under new head coach Mike McCoy.  The Chargers no longer rely on a downfield passing attack (and with Vincent Jackson gone and Malcom Floyd on IR, that may be more out of necessity than design), but Rivers has found a Darren Sproles replacement in Danny Woodhead.  As a result, Rivers has completed an incredible 73.9% of his passes this season.

Rivers ranks 27th in average length of pass (or average depth of target), reflecting the shorter passing attack, but Tony Romo, Chad Henne, Matt Schaub, Sam Bradford, Matt Ryan, and Alex Smith have lower average distances and worse completion percentages (among other stats).  The Chargers star has also been great at avoiding sacks: he’s completing passes on 70.8% of his dropbacks this year, a stat I’m calling Adjusted completion percentage (A_Cmp% in the table). In the table below, I’ve listed each quarterback’s number of attempts and sacks, his Adjusted completion percentage, his Net Yards per Attempt, and his standard deviation on pass plays. Since standard deviation would be biased towards quarterbacks with higher averages, I’ve sorted the table by the Ratio of each quarterback’s standard deviation to his NY/A average. Finally, I’ve also displayed the median number of yards gained for each quarterback on each dropback. All data excludes last night’s Carolina-Tampa Bay game.
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Where Does Manning/Romo Rank Among Great QB Games?

A classic shootout.

Peyton Manning and Tony Romo staged a classic yesterday afternoon in Dalllas. The Broncos won 51-48, and the two quarterbacks put up ridiculous stat lines. Manning went 33 of 42 for 414 yards, and threw four touchdowns and just one interception. He wasn’t sacked, giving him an impressive 10.69 ANY/A average (based on the formula “Passing Yards + 20 * TDs – 45 * INTs – Sack Yards lost” divided by “Sacks + Attempts”). Romo may have been better, completing 25 of 36 passes for 505 yards and 5 scores — along with one fateful interception, and four sacks for -36 yards. That’s an amazing 13.12 ANY/A average.

So far this year, the league average ANY/A is 6.00. Since Manning was at 10.69 over 42 dropbacks, we could say that he provided 197 adjusted net yards of value over average. Meanwhile, Romo produced 285 adjusted net yards of value (40 * 7.12), which means the two quarterbacks combined to produce over 481 yards of value over average. If the league average for the season remains at 6.00, that would make this the fourth best (era-adjusted) quarterback battle since the merger, although only the second best game involving Manning. The table below shows the top 100 quarterback performances in the same game from 1970 to 2012.

Here’s how to read the table: for the top game: In 1972, Joe Namath and Johnny Unitas played a classic. The fourth column provides the team names (listed as QB 1 vs. QB 2) and a hyperlink link to the actual boxscore. The fifth column shows the quarterback stats: Namath completed 15 of 28 passes for 496 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 1 interception, and had 1 sack for -6 yards; Unitas completed 26 of 45 for 376 yards, threw 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, and was sacked 6 times for -44 yards. Namath produced 441 adjusted net yards of value (using the formula from above), while Unitas produced 154 yards, giving the duo a total of 595 yards above average.
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How Likely Is Peyton Manning To Break The Single-Season TD Record? Part I

It's been a magical month for the Broncos passing game.

Sometimes, the simplest questions have the most complicated answers. Peyton Manning has thrown 16 touchdowns so far this season, putting him on pace for 64 touchdowns this year. Now, we can be reasonably sure that Manning’s true ability level — even with Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas — isn’t four touchdowns per game. But he doesn’t need to keep up that pace to break Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50 touchdown passes: Manning “only” needs to averaged 2.92 touchdowns per game over the final 12 games. But to figure out his odds of averaging nearly three touchdowns per game, we need to figure out his true ability level. So how do we determine that number?

Even for a man who averages four touchdown throws per game over four games, averaging nearly three touchdowns per game going forward is still a tall order. Footballguys.com projected Manning to averaged 2.38 touchdowns per game this year. In 2012, he threw 37 touchdowns, an average of 2.31 touchdowns per game. From 2003 to 2012, excluding games1 he exited early, Manning averaged 2.17 touchdown passes per game. As a Colt, Manning averaged 1.92 touchdowns per game.

It doesn’t take any advanced math skills to figure out that Manning is likely to average somewhere between 2 and 4 touchdowns per game over the rest of the season. But that doesn’t help us very much: we need to be precise, since the threshold he needs to hit is 2.92 touchdowns per game. I’ll get to the more complicated math in Part II. For now, let’s look at some history.
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1. That was after removing week 17 of the ’04, ’05, ’07, ’08, and ’09 seasons, and week 16 of the ’05 and ’09 seasons, when Manning left early. Why did I pick the last ten years? I don’t know, but he won his first MVP in ’03, so that seemed like a useful starting point. []

The Most Inexperienced/Least Accomplished Receiving Corps Ever

Brady needs to channel another Tom (Flores) this season

As Jason Lisk and I wrote about before the season, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger have become something of the poster children so far this year when it comes to veteran QBs working with inexperienced and otherwise less-than-notable receiving groups. And, lo and behold, each has put up career-low RANY/A marks through 2 games. But how do their receiving corps rank relative to those of other teams so far this year, and how do they stack up historically?

To take a stab at answering these questions, I turned to True Receiving Yards. For each player who debuted in 1950 or later, I computed their Weighted Career True Receiving Yards for every year, as of the previous season, to get a sense of how experienced/accomplished they’d been going into the season in question. Then, I calculated a weighted averaged of those numbers for every receiver on a given team, using TRY during the season in question as the weights. For example, here are the 2013 Patriots receivers:

Player
Age
Debut
TRY
% of Tm
At-the-time WCTRY
Weighted Average560.7
Julian Edelman27200913938%615.7
Danny Amendola2820097220%1541.9
Kenbrell Thompkins2520135615%0.0
Shane Vereen2420114412%110.9
Aaron Dobson2220134312%0.0
Michael Hoomanawanui25201051%278.8
James Develin25201341%0.0

The way to read that is: Julian Edelman has accounted for 38 percent of the Pats’ TRY so far. Going into the season, he had a career Weighted TRY of 615.7, so he contributes to 38% of the 2013 Pats’ weighted average with his 615.7 previous career weighted TRY; Danny Amendola contributes to 20% of the team weighted average with his 1541.9 previous career weighted TRY; etc. Multiply each guy’s previous weighted career TRYs by the percentage of the team’s 2013 TRY he contributed, and you get a cumulative weighted average of 560.7 — meaning the average TRY of a 2013 Pats receiver has been gained by a guy who had a previous career weighted TRY of 560.7.

Is that a low number? Well, here are the numbers for all of the 2013 team receiving corps (not including Thursday night’s Eagles-Chiefs tilt), inversely sorted by weighted average (asterisks indicate rookies):

What the Week 1 Passing Records Mean for 2013

In week 1, records were set for the most passing touchdowns (63) and team passing yards (8143) thrown in a single week in league history. Is this a sign that 2013 will represent the next stage in the evolution in the passing game, or are offenses typically ahead of defenses early on?

To compare week 1 of this season to other weeks in NFL history, we need to examine all statistics on a per team game basis to account for bye weeks and number of teams. But after calculating the per team game numbers, I multiplied the result by 32 to make the numbers easier to digest. The first graph shows the average number of passing touchdowns in week N of each season since 1970. As you can see, week 1 doesn’t stand out as typically being passer-friendly. On average, there were roughly 41.5 touchdowns per team game (after multiplying by 32) in week 1 of each season from 1970 to 2012, which is nearly identical to the average (40.9) the rest of the year:

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The Ebb and Flow of the NFL Passing Game Since 1932

One of the two greatest quarterbacks of the first half of the 20th century.

The game played by Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco last night bears little resemblance to the game Sammy Baugh played. Teams pass much more frequently and efficiently than ever before. And there are external effects, too: In 2011 and 2012, the average carry went for 4.3 yards, the first two years the average has ever been so high. But the details are often lost when discussing how the game has changed, and today’s post will help to refine exactly how, and in what way, the game has changed.

Nine men have thrown for 4,900 passing yards in a season. Seven of them did so in either 2011 or 2012. How did we get here? The NFL has turned into a pass-heavy league, but these changes didn’t happen overnight: a series of rules changes since the berth of the league have promoted the pass-happy environment we see today. The first ever playoff game came in 1932, pitting the Chicago Bears against the Portsmouth Spartans, predecessors of today’s Detroit Lions. The game was scoreless until the fourth quarter, when Bronko Nagurski threw a controversial pass to Red Grange for the game-winning touchdown. The pass was controversial because in 1932, a player needed to be at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage in order to be eligible to pass. The league eliminated the rule after the game1, allowing quarterbacks and other passers to be able to pass from anywhere behind the of scrimmage.

In 1934, a slimmer and more aerodynamic football was introduced to make life easier for quarterbacks. In the 1940s, most teams switched from the single-wing to the T-Formation, which placed the quarterback in the center of the offense and helped promote the passing game. Sammy Baugh in Washington and Sid Luckman in Chicago dominated the league, and the Redskins or Bears won the title every year from 1940 to 1943. During World War II, every franchise was playing with depleted rosters, so the league experimented with a rule change that would permit liberal substitutions. Finally, in 1950, the league finally decided to go with free substitution rules on a permanent basis. As pro football historian Sean Lahman explains:

For the NFL’s first three decades, versatility was the most important trait for a player. Your starting quarterback had to be quick enough to play safety, your running backs tough enough to play linebacker. The downside to this approach was that a player with one specific skill – say blazing speed – might not be enough of an all-around player to crack the starting lineup. With free substitution legalized, specialization became the norm…. Free substitution helped the passing game immensely because it allowed coaches to use quick players at offensive end who weren’t big enough to play defense. Their speed could be used as a weapon, and many teams moved to formations that featured three ends and just two backs.

The changes produced immediate results, and by 1954, the passing game had exploded. For the first time in league history, the league average completion percentage topped fifty-percent, and the average pass attempt gained 7.2 yards. By point of reference, teams averaged 7.1 yards per pass attempt in 2012.
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1. There must be an inverse relationship between passing prowess and rule volatility, since it took the NFL twelve years to get rid of the Tuck Rule. []

WOWY: Which Receivers Elevate Their Quarterbacks the Most?

Straight cash, homey.

In 1998, 21-year-old Randy Moss made a stunning NFL debut, racking up 17 touchdowns and 1,260 True Receiving Yards, the 2nd-best total in football that season. The Vikings’ primary quarterback that year, Randall Cunningham, was a former Pro Bowler and MVP, but all that seemed like a lifetime ago before the ’98 season. He’d been out of football entirely in 1996, and in 1997 he posted an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average that was 1.2 points below the league’s average (for reference’s sake, replacement level is usually around 0.75 below average). With Moss in ’98, though, Cunningham’s passing efficiency numbers exploded: he posted a career best +3.2 Relative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, miles ahead of his perfectly-average overall career mark. If we adjust for the fact that Cunningham was also 35 at the time (an age at which quarterbacks’ RANY/A rates tend to be 1.1 points below what they are at age 27), Cunningham’s 1998 rate was actually 4.3 points better than we’d expect from the rest of his career, a staggering outlier.

The following year, Jeff George took over as the Vikings primary quarterback, and he promptly posted a Relative ANY/A 2.2 points higher than expected based on his age and the rest of his career.1 George left Moss and Minnesota after the season, and he would throw only 236 passes the rest of his career, producing a cumulative -0.6 RANY/A in Washington before retiring.

From 2000-04, Moss was the primary target of Daunte Culpepper, whose RANY/A was 0.7 better than expected (based on Culpepper’s career numbers) when Moss was around.2 Although he’d enjoyed one of the best quarterback seasons in NFL history in 2004, Culpepper was never the same after Moss was traded to Oakland; in fact, he never even had another league-average passing season, producing a horrible -1.2 RANY/A from 2005 until his retirement in 2009.3

Moss’s stint with the Raiders was famously checkered — although Kerry Collins’ RANY/A was 0.6 better than expected in 2005, Aaron Brooks played 2.5 points of RANY/A below his previous standards in 2006 — but we all know what happened when he joined the Patriots in 2007. With Moss, Tom Brady’s RANY/A was a whopping 1.3 points higher than expected from the rest of his career, and Moss also played a big role in Matt Cassel’s RANY/A being +1.0 relative to expectations after Brady was lost for the season in 2008.

While Moss’s post-Pats career hasn’t exactly been the stuff of legends, the majority of his career (weighted by True Receiving Yards) saw him dramatically improve his quarterbacks’ play relative to the rest of their careers. In fact, his lifetime WOWY (With or Without You) mark of +1.1 age-adjusted RANY/A ranks 3rd among all receivers who: a) had at least 3,000 career TRY, b) started their careers after the merger, and c) played exclusively with quarterbacks who started their careers after the merger. And the first two names on the list are possibly explained by other means. The table below lists all 301 receivers with 3,000 career TRY. The table is fully sortable and searchable, and you can click on the arrows at the bottom of the table to scroll. The table is sorted by the QB WOWY column.
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1. Cunningham’s RANY/A was also 1.0 better than expected in limited action. []
2. That number is an average weighted by the number of TRY Moss had in each season []
3. To be fair, Culpepper tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL halfway through the 2005 season, which also was a factor in his decline. []

John Elway: The Quarterback Version of Dick Butkus

The consensus view on John Elway is clear. He was the greatest draft prospect ever, a league MVP, a two-time Super Bowl champion, a Hall of Famer, and one of the most clutch quarterbacks in football history.

But that’s not necessarily what the numbers say. In my quarterback ranking system, which rewards efficiency and longevity and adjusts for era, Elway only ranked as the 26th best regular-season quarterback of all time. If you’re so inclined, it’s not hard to find the numbers to argue that Elway – at least until Mike Shanahan returned to Denver as head coach in 1995 — was overrated. Consider:

• Over the first 10 years of his career, Elway threw 158 touchdowns and 157 interceptions.
• Elway never led the NFL in passer rating, completion percentage, touchdowns, yards per attempt, or Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. Elway didn’t finish in the top ten in passer rating until his eleventh season in the league. In Net Yards per Attempt, Elway ranked in the top 10 just once from 1983 to 1994 (a first-place finish in ’87); in ANY/A, Elway’s only top ten finishes during his first ten seasons were in ’86 (10th) and ’87 (4th).
• Elway ranks fourth all-time in passing yards, but that’s because he ranks fourth in career pass attempts. While he led the NFL in passing yards in 1993, Elway only finished in the top five in passing yards four times in his career: 1985 (2nd), 1987 (4th), 1990 (5th), and 1995 (5th).
• Elway ranked 2nd in passing touchdowns in 1993, the only time he finished in the top 5 in that metric from 1983 to 1995. Despite throwing the fourth most pass attempts in NFL history, he ranks only 7th in passing touchdowns. In eight of sixteen seasons, including seven of his first ten years, Elway produced a below-average touchdown rate.

Here’s another interesting stat: from 1983 to 1992, the Broncos were slightly better on defense than offense. Over that time period, Denver’s Offensive SRS average was +1.01 while their Defensive SRS was +1.32. On average, the Broncos ranked 12th in points scored and 11th in points allowed. Those Denver teams are remembered as Elway’s teams — and perhaps rightly so — but the defense was just as valuable as the offense.1
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1. On the other hand, it’s worth pointing out that the ’83-’92 Broncos won more games than their Pythagorean record would have predicted, so perhaps Elway was responsible for more wins than his passing numbers would indicate. []

Witnesses to Greatness: Aaron Rodgers Edition

Leader in Fu Manchus among active quarterbacks (sorry, Mark).

Let’s be honest: we all know Aaron Rodgers is great, so we don’t spend much time talking about him. Debating his ability is pointless, so we instead spend countless hours discussing Tony Romo’s intangibles, Tim Tebow’s throwing motion, Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos, and Joe Flacco’s eliteness. Talk radio dies when it discusses Aaron Rodgers: debating the Packers quarterback is as fun as watching paint dry and as illuminating as asking if water is wet.

But we’re doing a disservice to us all when we ignore how great Rodgers is. I mean, we spend lots of time chronicling the feats of Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson — why not Rodgers?

One way to measure Rodgers’ greatness is to look at passer rating. Now we know that passer rating is wildly overrated, so perhaps you shouldn’t be too impressed to hear that Rodgers has the highest passer rating in history. But consider: Rodgers has a career 104.9 passer rating, well ahead of Steve Young, who is second at 96.8. Chad Pennington sits at #13 on the career passer rating list (an example of why this metric is one I don’t use), but Young is closer to Pennington (90.1) than he is to Rodgers. But there’s an even better way to show Rodgers’ dominance in this statistic.

Passer rating is made up of four metrics. Let’s take a look at how Rodgers ranks in those four categories:
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The Biggest Fluke Fantasy Seasons Ever (Part II)

Yesterday, I set up a method for ranking the flukiest fantasy football seasons since the NFL-AFL merger, finding players who had elite fantasy seasons that were completely out of step with the rest of their careers. I highlighted fluke years #21-30, so here’s a recap of the rankings thus far:

30. Lorenzo White, 1992
29. Dwight Clark, 1982
28. Willie Parker, 2006
27. Lynn Dickey, 1983
26. Robert Brooks, 1995
25. Ricky Williams, 2002
24. Jamal Lewis, 2003
23. Mark Brunell, 1996
22. Vinny Testaverde, 1996
21. Garrison Hearst, 1998

Now, let’s get to…

The Top Twenty

20. RB Natrone Means, 1994

 Best Season year g rush rushyd rushtd rec recyd rectd VBD 1994 16 343 1,350 12 39 235 0 103.0 2nd-Best Season year g rush rushyd rushtd rec recyd rectd VBD 1997 14 244 823 9 15 104 0 12.9

Big, bruising Natrone Means burst onto the scene in 1994 as a newly-minted starter for the Chargers’ eventual Super Bowl team, gaining 1,350 yards on the ground with 12 TDs. In the pantheon of massive backs, he was supposed to be the AFC’s answer to the Rams’ Jerome Bettis, but Means was slowed by a groin injury the following year and never really stayed healthy enough to recapture his old form. The best he could do was to post a pair of 800-yard rushing campaigns for the Jaguars & Chargers in 1997 & ’98 before retiring after the ’99 season.

19. WR Braylon Edwards, 2007

 Best Season year g rec recyd rectd VBD 2007 16 80 1,289 16 107.7 2nd-Best Season year g rec recyd rectd VBD 2010 16 53 904 7 15.4

The 3rd overall pick in the 2005 Draft out of Michigan, Edwards seemingly had a breakout 2007 season catching passes from fellow Pro Bowler Derek Anderson. But both dropped off significantly the next season, and Edwards was sent packing to the Jets in 2009. He did post 904 yards as a legit starting fantasy wideout in 2010, but he has just 380 receiving yards over the past 2 seasons, and it’s not clear he’ll ever live up to those eye-popping 2007 numbers again.
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