A quick data dump today following up on yesterday’s post. The table below shows the percentage of receiving yards gained by 1st-year, 2nd-year, 3rd-year…. and 11th-year and more senior NFL players, in each year since 1950 (excluding 1987). [click to continue…]
Recently, I posted a quick and dirty method to measure quarterback career value above average and above replacement. I used Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt as the foundational stat because its inputs (yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and attempts) are on record back to 1932.
Today, I wanted to use the same model with Adjusted Net Yards per Dropback (ANY/A) as the base metric. I believe ANY/A is a more accurate reflection of quarterback production, but it does have the downside of only being recorded back to 1969 in Pro Football Reference’s database.
Thus, while the previous post covered every passer in the official stat era, this post will only cover value added since 1969. This means greats like Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman are completely overlooked, while legends like Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath only have their worst years included (an unfortunate byproduct of this study’s limitations, to be sure).
In case you didn’t want to click back through the previous article to see the details of the formula, I’ll briefly cover the basics here: [click to continue…]
Smith was the better player — he was an 11-time Pro Bowler and an 8-time AP first-team All-Pro, compared to just 5/2 for Greene — and consequently was a clear first-ballot Hall of Famer. For whatever reason, it took Greene 12 years, but this summer, he will finally be inducted into the Hall. Given the fact that Smith has 25% more career sacks than Greene, you probably think that Smith was the better pass rusher. To that, the Gray Ink test says not so fast, my friend. [click to continue…]
- The Eagles, after starting 0-2, paid a million dollars to Memphis to essentially buy White from the league. [↩]
Over the last couple of days, I’ve been looking at measuring the age of a team’s passing attack. On Friday, I noted that the Jaguars had the 2nd youngest passing offense in the NFL behind only Tampa Bay. And yesterday, I measured the youngest passing offenses in football history, with Jacksonville checking in at #20.
The Jaguars threw for 4,428 gross passing yards last season (or, 8,856 combined passing/receiving yards), though, so that makes them a bit more of an outlier. The table below shows all teams with at least 8,500 combined passing/receiving yards, and ranks them in ascending order based on average age: [click to continue…]
Yesterday, I measured the age of each team’s passing attack by calculating the yards-weighted age of each player who gained either a passing or receiving yard. Today, the historical results.
I’ve written a bit about Terry Bradshaw and his terrible rookie season of 1970, mostly in the context of number one picks taking a long time to break out. But here’s something that often gets lost in the mix: Bradshaw was just one of many inexperienced players on the ‘70 Steelers.
Bradshaw played as a rookie that year at age 22 (Terry Hanratty also started 6 games, and was also 22). The top 6 players in receiving yards on the ’70 Steelers were wide receiver Ron Shanklin (age 22), wide receiver Dave Smith (23), tight end Dennis Hughes (22), fullback John Fuqua (24), wide receiver Hubie Bryant (22), and wide receiver Jon Staggers (22). Incredibly, five of those six players were rookies, with Frenchy Fuqua being the sole exception — and he was drafted in 1969! In the ’70 draft, Pittsburgh took Bradshaw with the 1st overall pick, drafted Shanklin at 28, Staggers in the 5th round, and Smith in the 8th round, while both Hughes and Bryant were undrafted free agents that year. That’s unbelievable, and makes the ’70s Steelers passing attack akin to an expansion team — or rather, an expansion team with almost no access to the veteran market. As a result, Pittsburgh’s 1970 passing attack ranks as the youngest in history: [click to continue…]
I thought it would be fun to do a quick checkdown and look at the AV-Adjusted team age for each defenses over the last four years. Here’s how to read the table below, using the Bears as an example. In 2012, Chicago’s average age on defense was 29; in 2013, it was 27.7, then 27.5, and finally, 26.1 last season. That means the Bears average age has had a variance of 1.1 years, the second largest in the data set behind only San Diego. [click to continue…]
Bob Ford, a longtime fan of Pro-Football-Reference and Football Perspective, has contributed a 2-part guest post on Yards Per Carry Leaders. Bob is the owner and founder of GOATbacks.com, which looks at the greatest running backs of all time. Thanks to Bob for today’s (and tomorrow’s) article!
I’ve been curious about YPC leaders over the years, particularly as they’re sorted through increasing numbers of carries. Over the next two days, I will look at the YPC leaders using six different carry minimum thresholds: 100, 120, and 150 today, and 180, 220, and 280 carries tomorrow. These cutoffs weren’t arrived at in an analytically rigorous way, just through instinct and personal judgment. I ran a number of different carry thresholds and simply tried to keep my statistical eyes peeled; in my view, these are at least 6 of the minimums where interesting changes seemed to emerge.
As a general rule, though not an absolute one, I’m in the camp that regards YPC as, at best, a questionable stat when it comes to assessing skill and performance, and at worst a misleading and even bunkum stat, to borrow a term from Chase and the crew over at Intentional Rounding. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting YPC is useless. In fact in some narrow contexts I think it’s even key. But I think it’s woefully overused and over relied on, and I do regard it with suspicion when it comes to assessing rushing and running back value and effectiveness, particularly in “real-game” situations. I think the same holds for mobile quarterbacks, too.
I decided to look at YPC leaders for the 46 seasons since the merger was completed, 1970-2015. Again, no special reason, just to make things more manageable. This would probably get really interesting if we included all pre-merger seasons, but I didn’t do that here. If anyone does, kudos. At any rate, here are the YPC leaders since 1970, sorted at 6 different carry thresholds. [click to continue…]
Yesterday, I posted some graphs on league-wide passing distribution. In that post, I noted that tight ends grabbed about 16% of all receiving yards in 2002-2003, but that number has increased to over 20% in recent years. But that’s just receiving yards: as you might expect, targets and receptions have seen a similar climb:
But more targets aren’t the only thing driving the increase. Tight ends are also averaging slightly more yards per catch, too. That increase has come despite the general decrease in yards per completion, so this may be a sign that tight ends are more athletic than they were 15-20 years ago, and that teams are sending them on more downfield rights. In addition, catch rate has also been increasing, although in a more volatile way; still, tight ends are catching more passes, at higher rates, and for more yards. In the picture below, yards per reception is plotted against the left Y-Axis, and catch rate is plotted against the right Y-Axis.
Whatever the reason, tight ends seem to be a larger part of NFL offenses they were a decade ago, and for good reason: they’re getting better.
Some quick but interesting data dumps today. First, let’s take a look at receiving yards by wide receivers as a percentage of league-wide receiving yards in each year since 2002. In the early part of that era, wide receivers had about 2/3 of all receiving yards, but that number dipped to just 62% this year, the lowest during this period.
In 2015, there were just 15 games where a player rushed for at least 150 yards in a single game. That’s the smallest number since 1996, when just 14 players hit that mark. Thomas Rawls (!) was the only player with multiple games of 160+ rushing yards, and Adrian Peterson was the only other player with two 150+ yard rushing games.
Games with at least 150 rushing yards were much more common in the early ’00s, but they have not exactly been frequent throughout history. The graph below shows the number of times players rushed for 150+ yards in a game in each season since 1960. Note that in seasons with fewer than 32 teams/16 games, the number of instances were prorated as if it was a 512-game league season.
The same trend holds up if we look at 125+ rushing yard games, with 2015 representing a modern low. Again, throughout this post, I have pro-rated non-512 game seasons. [click to continue…]
Adam Steele is back, this time with some playoff support stats for eight more quarterbacks. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.
Two weeks ago, I published a study detailing the playoff supporting casts of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Today I’m going to look at eight more notable quarterbacks under the same microscope. Below are the career tables for each QB, in no particular order. [click to continue…]
The player with the most yards from scrimmage in a single postseason is John Riggins, who rushed for an incredible 610 yards and picked up 625 yards from scrimmage for Washington after the 1982 season. But on a per-game basis, Marcus Allen a year later was even better: in three games, Allen rushed for 466 yards and four touchdowns, while also gaining 118 yards through the air. That gave him an incredible 584 yards from scrimmage and 5 touchdowns in three games, and one of the most famous highlights in NFL history.
Allen also holds the record for most yards from scrimmage during the postseason among the 50 Super Bowl champions. Anderson ranks a respectable 15th in this category: [click to continue…]
A quick checkdown today, looking at the net points allowed in the playoffs by each of the 50 teams that won the Super Bowl. What do I mean by net points? It’s pretty simple:
(Touchdowns allowed to opposing offenses) * 7 + (Field Goals allowed) * 3 – (Touchdowns scored by the defense) * 7 – (Safeties scored by the defense) * 2
I have decided to ignore special teams touchdowns — both for and against that team — as this is just a look at defenses. And obviously this is a very basic look: it doesn’t incorporate number of drives faced, average starting field position, missed field goal attempts, or quality of opposing offense (or era). But hey, I said it was a quick checkdown!
Here’s how to read the table below. Let’s use the 1985 Bears as an example. You may know that Chicago shut out both NFC opponents en route to the Super Bowl, where the Bears allowed 10 points. But that’s a bit misleading, because Chicago’s defense was better than that. The 1985 Bears played in three playoff games, and the defense scored two touchdowns and recorded a safety (total of 16 points). The defense did allow 10 points, via a touchdown and a field goal, but that means the Bears defense allowed -6 net points in the playoffs, or -2 NP/G. [click to continue…]
On Saturday, the Hall of Fame selection committee will meet, lock themselves in a room, and debate the relative merits of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction. After an intense discussion, the results will be announced nationally as the final event in the festivities leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl.
While the list of 15 finalists includes several names who have been waiting longer than they should for their call, the one that stands out the most to me is Terrell Davis, who has been a semi-finalist more than anyone else in this year’s class, reaching the top 25 ten times in his ten years of eligibility.
Hopefully the Hall of Fame committee can manage to make room for him in what could easily be a stacked class. Whatever they do this Saturday, however, will not change one simple fact: Terrell Davis should have long ago been elected to the Hall of Fame. [click to continue…]
That’s bad, but nowhere near as bad as the worst performance from even this year’s playoffs (Brian Hoyer) or the last Cardinals playoff loss (thank you, Ryan Lindley). But the reason Palmer’s performance appeared so bad was precisely because it came from someone like Carson Palmer, and not a Hoyer or a Lindley. Palmer, after all, was arguably the best passer in the NFL this season. He led the NFL in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, at 8.11, which was 2.14 ANY/A better than league average. [click to continue…]
Antonio Brown has 1,586 receiving yards, most in the NFL, which puts him on pace for 1,813 receiving yards this season.
Adrian Peterson has 1,314 rushing yards, most in the NFL, which puts him on pace for 1,502 rushing yards in 2015.
That’s pretty weird. In general, the rushing leader usually gains more rushing yards than the receiving yardage leader picks up through the air. From 1970 to 2014, the receiving yards leader “outgained” the rushing yards leader in only 10 of 45 seasons. And in only three of those years did the receiving leader “win” by more than 100 yards: in 1999 (Marvin Harrison had 1663 receiving yards; his teammate Edgerrin James had 1553 rushing yards), 1990 (Jerry Rice over Barry Sanders, 1502 to 1304), and 1982 (Wes Chandler over Freeman McNeil in the strike-shortened season, 1032to 786). On a per-game basis, it’s tough to beat what Chandler did, but Brown is on pace to become the first receiving leader since the merger (in fact, the first in the NFL since 1952) to “outgain” the rushing leader by over 300 yards. [click to continue…]
I’ve published the Game Scripts data from every game this year at the 2015 Game Scripts page, available here. What would it look like if we plotted Game Script score (on the X-Axis) against Pass Ratio (on the Y-Axis) for every game this year? Something like this:
(Note that this looks pretty similar to how it was through seven weeks last year, although the constant (i.e., league-average pass ratio) has increased by nearly a full percentage point.)
[click to continue…]
Rob Gronkowski is in a scoring slump. It’s one of the worst scoring slumps of his career. But more on that in a bit.
Jerry Rice once1 caught 67 touchdowns over a 57-game period. This stretch was during all of 1987, 1988, and 1989 (including playoffs) and the start of the 1990 season. That pro-rates to an insane 19-touchdown per-season average for three-and-a-half seasons. Then again, the weirder thing is when Rice doesn’t top a receiving category.
Only three other players since 1960 have ever had more than 50 touchdowns in any 57-game stretch (including playoffs): Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Art Powell, each of whom topped out at 53 touchdowns in 57 games. Cris Carter, Sonny Randle, Sterling Sharpe were at 49, Larry Fitzgerald was at 58, and Gary Collins, Anthony Freeman, Marvin Harrison, and Andre Rison were at 47. Calvin Johnson topped out at 46 at one point in 2013. Dez Bryant hit 46 in his last 57 after the Lions playoff game, but then went three straight games without a touchdown catch. [click to continue…]
The Jets are 4-3, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that the team’s success is heavily tied to New York’s ability to control games on the ground. The Jets running backs have rushed for over 150 yards in three games this year, wins over Washington (190), Miami (173), and Cleveland (155). The Jets have also had three games with 60 or fewer rushing yards, losses against New England (60), Philadelphia (34), and Oakland (28). The seventh game, a win over the Colts, saw the Jets running backs operate at a reasonably effective pace of 26 carries for 95 yards.
In other words, when the Jets run well, they win, and when they don’t, they lose. That sounds simplistic, and it is: it’s a bit of an over exaggeration, although one grounded in some truth. In general, teams run more when they win — or, more precisely, when they have favorable Game Scripts — and run less often when they have negative Game Scripts. And the Jets games have had pretty strong Game Scripts in the four wins, scoring a +6.1 against Washington, +6.5 against Cleveland, +7.3 against the Colts, and +11.9 against Miami. Those are the sorts of games where it’s easy to produce good numbers, and Jets running backs1 have averaged 153.25 rushing yards in these four wins.
The losses to Philadelphia (-10.6) and Oakland (I haven’t calculated it yet, but it will certainly be in the double digits) were ugly; the Patriots game (-0.6) was the only game that unfolded with a neutral Game Script. Still, in three losses, the Jets running backs have rushed 54 times for just 122 yards. So the causation arrow isn’t pointing only one way here: the Jets are winning when they run more effectively, and losing when they aren’t, on top of whatever bonus the raw totals get out of Game Scripts. [click to continue…]
Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Justin Forsett, Jonathan Stewart, Danny Woodhead, Mike Tolbert, Darren McFadden, Marcel Reece, and Jerome Felton all entered the NFL in 2008. So did Steve Slaton, the rookie rushing leader that year, and Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Bush, Peyton Hillis, and Felix Jones. Analyzing where the ’08 class ranks in NFL history is a project for the offseason, but today, I thought it would be fun to look at rushing yards by running backs by class year.
The graph below shows that data through six weeks of the 2015 season. As you can see, players in their 8th NFL season — those who entered the league in 2008 — are doing quite well.
The class with the most rushing yards so far in 2015 are the rookies. That class is currently led by Thomas Rawls, but has also received strong production from higher picks like Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and T.J. Yeldon. After the class of ’15, there’s a gradual decline with respect to production by older classes. And then, there’s the class of 2008. [click to continue…]
This week at the Washington Post, a look at some of good and bad fourth down decisions in both week 5 and this season.
The Atlanta Falcons are 5-0, and are quickly becoming one of the major stories of the 2015 NFL season. With a win tonight in New Orleans, the Falcons will match the team’s entire win total from the 2015 season. But without some aggressive coaching from Dan Quinn last weekend, the Falcons likely wouldn’t be among the league’s five remaining unbeaten teams.
With just under five minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons faced a 4th-and-6 from the Washington 40-yard line, trailing by four points. Given that Atlanta had thrown incomplete passes on the previous two plays, most coaches would have punted or tried a long field goal. Instead, Quinn played to his team’s strengths, and Matt Ryan connected with Julio Jones for a nine-yard gain. Atlanta wound up scoring a field goal on that drive, which put the team in a position to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, and eventually win in overtime.
You can read the full article here.
I’m short on time this week, so I will present the data and leave the commentary to you guys. Here are the Game Scripts data from week 4.
Well, okay, allow me one comment. Under Joe Philbin, the Miami Dolphins have been incredibly pass-happy, despite the fact that the team has often been more effective on the ground than through the air. Well, in Philbin’s last game as head coach, Miami passed on 81% of dropbacks, the highest rate of any team in week four. And, of course, while some of that was due to the team’s poor Game Script, note that Tampa Bay had nearly the same Game Script and passed on only 61% of all plays.
Miami rushed 11 times for 59 yards, so it was not as though the Dolphins rushing attack mandated a pass-happy approach. And Ryan Tannehill averaged 2.49 ANY/A on 47 dropbacks. You can probably figure out why Philbin was fired. [click to continue…]
In week 3, Arizona picked off two Colin Kaepernick passes and returned them for touchdowns… in the first six minutes of the game. The Cardinals led 28-0 before we were halfway through the second quarter! On average, Arizona led by 24.3 points during every second of game play, the most dominant Game Script so far in 2015 (it would rank 5th last year).
But while the Cardinals provided the biggest blowout of week three, it was hardly the only one. A full half of all 16 games had a double digit Game Script, and only the Jets managed to finish within one score of their opponent. Three other games finished with double-digit margins; there simply weren’t that many nail biters last weekend.
The Falcons, though, did pull off an impressive upset: Atlanta trailed 14-0 midway through the first quarter against the Cowboys, and then 21-7 midway through the second. Atlanta even went into halftime down 11, but scored three second half touchdowns while shutting out the Cowboys to pull away with the victory. In the process, the Falcons became just the 11th team since 1990 to trail by at least 11 at halftime and still win by at least 11 points.
Below are the week 3 game scripts: [click to continue…]
It’s safe to say that no team has exceeded expectations through two weeks quite like the Jets. In week 1, New York was a 3.5-point home favorite against the Browns, but won by 21 points (a 17.5-point cover). In week 2, the Jets won 20-7 in Indianapolis, despite being 7-point underdogs (a 20-point cover). The Jets are the only team to cover by 17+ points in each of the first two weeks; in fact, Arizona (+10 against New Orleans, +23 against Chicago) is the only other team to even cover by at least five points in both games so far.
The last team to pull off this feat? The 2007 Patriots. Yes, another day, another Tom Brady/Ryan Fitzpatrick comparison. From 1978 to 2014, there were 19 teams that covered by at least 17 points in each of their first two games. How did those teams do the prior year, and during the rest of that season?
I’ve included the relevant data for each team in the table below. Here’s how to read the line of the ’06 Chargers. San Diego covered by 24 points in week 1, and 21 points in week 2. The Chargers won 9 games in 2005, but the hot start in ’06 was a sign of things to come, as San Diego won 14 games. That was an improvement of 5 wins, although the Chargers season ended in the Division round of the playoffs. [click to continue…]
On Sunday, New England defeated Buffalo by the misleading score of 40-32. The Patriots may have won by only one score, but New England held an 11-point lead at halftime and a 24-point lead after three quarters. The Patriots were in control of the game for most of the contest, and held an average lead of 9.8 points during each second of game play (the “Game Script”).
Teams with large leads don’t pass very often; in general, you’d expect a team with a Game Script of +10.0 to pass around 50% of the time. But New England threw on 80% of all snaps! That even includes three Tom Brady kneels, and one run each by wide receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Excluding those plays, New England passed on 61 of 71 plays, an astonishing 86% pass rate. Much of that number owes to a stout Buffalo run defense, but that’s a remarkable pass-happy performance regardless of Game Script or opponent; given that it came in a game where New England dominated, it was even more noteworthy. By comparison, Minnesota had a Game Script of +10.4 against Detroit, and passed on just 31.7% of plays. In fact, none of the other 31 teams passed as often as New England in week two. [click to continue…]
Yesterday, we looked at what Tennessee’s offensive explosion in week 1 might mean for the rest of the year. Today, let’s do the same but for the 49ers defense. The 49ers were 2.5-point underdogs against Minnesota in week one, and the Over/Under in the game was 41.5 points. This translates to a projected a final score of 22-19.5 in favor of Minnesota. As it turns out, San Francisco won the game, 20-3, which means the Vikings were held 19 points below their expected total. That’s the 4th best performance by a team by this methodology since 2002.
The most impressive game? That came in 2003, in the Lawyer Milloy game. The Bills shut out New England, 31-0, while the pre-game spread projected New England to score 21.75 points. That wasn’t a sign that Buffalo was about to break through (the team finished 6-10), but it did provide some insight into a Bills defense that jumped from 27th (in 2002) to 5th (in 2003) in points allowed. [click to continue…]
The Titans were 3-point underdogs against Tampa Bay in week one, and the Over/Under in the game was 41 points. This translates to a projected a final score of 22-19 in favor of Tampa Bay. Of course, Tennessee scored 42 points, outscoring its projection by a whopping 23 points, tied for the fourth biggest number in all week 1 games since 2002. In the graph below, I’ve plotted each team’s expected points scored in week 1 on the X-axis, and their actual week 1 score on the Y-axis. [click to continue…]
Six years ago, I took my first crack at analyzing field goal kickers. I have been meaning to update that article for each of the last three offseasons, and with the sun setting on the 2015 offseason, I didn’t want to let this slip yet again.
Ranking field goal kickers is not difficult conceptually, but it can be a bit challenging in practice. One thing I’ve yet to refine is the appropriate adjustments for playing surface, stadium, time of game, temperature, and wind. That’s a lot of adjustments to deal with, all on top of the most obvious adjustment: for era.
But as I understand it, Rome was not built in a day; further, I believe that a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. As a result, I’m okay with only getting part of the way there for now, and punting (which is very, very different from kicking) the rest of this process to next offseason.
Let’s begin with the obvious: era adjustments are really, really, important. To provide some examples, I looked at the field goal rates at four different increments: 22-24 yard kicks, 31-33 yard attempts, kicks from 40-42 yards away, and finally, field goal attempts from 49-51 yards. In the graph below, I’ve plotted the success rate at those four distances for each year since 1960, along with a “best-fit” curve at each distance. Take a look: [click to continue…]
It’s been nearly a decade since Bill Cowher stopped coaching, but that hasn’t done much to keep his name out of the rumor mill every December and January. After all, Cowher was both very successful and very young when he retired, and NFL folks believe those dots can be connected to mean he won’t stay retired forever.
That made me wonder: how much of an outlier is Cowher with respect to his age and how successful he was? In particular, Cowher was successful at the end of his stint, which differentiates him from someone like Jon Gruden. Defining “success” is challenging when it comes to coaches, but I want to just generate a set of comparable modern coaches and see how they fared at the ends of their careers and when they retired. I don’t need a particularly precise coaching formula, just something that gets the job done.
As it turns out, six years ago, I created a rudimentary formula to rank head coaching records. Let’s use Cowher’s last three years as an example. This formula gives credit for wins above losses, so Cowher gets a 0 for his work in 2006, his final year, when Pittsburgh went 8-8. The prior year, the Steelers went 11-5, so that’s +6, but I also gave a 12-point bonus for winning the Super Bowl, so he gets a +18 for that season. And in ’04, Pittsburgh went 15-1, so that’s +14. Add it up, and Cowher has a +32 score over his last 3 years. And he was just 49 years old during his final season. [click to continue…]