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Quarterback Committees Trivia

This week, WorstQBCommiteesEver became a trending topic on twitter. There are lots of ways go about answering that question — using Relative ANY/A would be a good start — but that’s also kind of boring.

You know what was a really bad committee? The 2011 Colts. Curtis Painter started 8 games, Dan Orlovsky started 5, and Kerry Collins even chipped in with 3. You know all the numbers, but how’s this for a drive-it-home bullet: none of those three ever started another game again in the NFL.

Some really bad quarterback committees would fail this test, with the ’05 49ers being one of the more egregious examples. That team saw Cody Pickett started two games (0 future starts), Ken Dorsey started 3 (3 future starts), Tim Rattay start 4 (2 future starts), and Alex Smith start 7 (98-and-counting). The fact that Smith continued to get work and eventually turned into a competent starter shows the drawback of this method, but it doesn’t make it any less fun.

Less extreme would be the 1974 Falcons, with Bob Lee (8 starts, 5 future), Pat Sullivan (4, 1), and Kim McQuilken (2, and somehow 5). That team had an ANY/A of -0.02, yet McQuilken and Sullivan were back with Atlanta in ’75 (Lee’s future starts came during his general time as a backup with the Vikings). Or even the ’92 Seahawks, where Stan Gelbaugh (8 starts, 1 future), Kelly Stouffer (7, 0), and Dan McGwire (1 start, 3) split the duties for one of the worst offenses ever. But both Gelbaugh and McGwire would start for the Seahawks in future seasons.

I looked at all NFL teams from 1970 to 20121 where the main quarterback started less than 11 games. And, believe it or not, just four teams had a quarterback committee situation where none of those players ever started another game.

One, of course, is the 2011 Colts. The other 3? [click to continue…]

  1. For example, the 2013 Rams would technically qualify as of today, but that doesn’t mean they meet the spirit of this post. Some cushion here is needed. []

Cam disingenuously listening to his head coach

Cam disingenuously listening to his head coach

Four years ago, I noted with some annoyance that the Carolina Panthers signed Olindo Mare to a 4-year, $12M deal, while at the same time signing Cam Newton to a 4-year, $22M contract. I was not a fan of the way rookies were treated under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the Mare/Newton situation was a perfect example of the problem. With the new rookie wage scale, the NFL had taken money that was going to go into Newton’s pocket and placed it into the wallets of players like Mare.

Much of the outrage over what rookies made under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement was due to the fact that “unproven” players were making so much money. Even look at the comments to my old article: there are several who expressed the idea that proven players should get rewarded at the expense of unproven players, and Newton would benefit from that scenario once he became a proven player.

Well, that’s sort of true. I assume that most everyone would agree that Newton is now a “proven player” or else that is a term without any meaning. This week, Newton signed a five-year contract extension worth an additional $103.8 million. According to Over The Cap, Newton received a $22.5 million signing bonus and $7.5 million roster bonus upon signing the contract, and you can read Jason’s full article on Newton’s new contract here.

The contract extension Newton signed is pretty close to a “market value” contract for Newton, although I do think he’d make more on the open market than what he just received.  Newton’s leverage was slightly limited by the fact that Carolina had him under contract for $14.66M in 2015, and could use the franchise tag on him in ’16 (which would probably cost Carolina around $20M).

But the real issue is the lack of any “catch up” payment.  Newton lost real dollars on his rookie contract due to the new structure, and he’s never going to get to make those up. The rookie wage scale has always been B.S., and I’ve said so much from the moment it was instituted.  But the new system was, by some, argued as an improvement because only the “proven players” would be rewarded. Sure, a rookie might make less now, but he’d get to make more in the future. After all, if teams weren’t forced to pay so much to rookies, there would be more money to go around for the “proven” veterans, right?

But that logic doesn’t work once we look at Newton, who has been the Panthers most valuable player over the last four years, and will probably be the team’s most valuable player over the next six, too.  As a rookie, Newton was grossly underpaid, with a salary cap value of $4M while the salary cap was $120M.  As a result, Carolina was able to lock up Newton for just 3.3% of the cap, which enabled the team to overpay players like Mare.

In 2012, Newton’s cap hit only rose to $5M, or 4.2% of the cap.  In 2013, his cap hit became $6M, or 4.9% of the $123M cap.  And then last season, Newton’s contract reached $7M, which was 5.3% of the $133M cap. It goes without saying that the Panthers received quite a deal over the last four years.  On average, Carolina devoted 4.4% of its cap from ’11 to ’14 to Newton.  This season, he will cost the Panthers $13M salary cap dollars, or 9.1% of the cap.

Let’s assume that the salary cap will increase by $7.5M per year over each of the next five years. And let’s assume, naively, that Newton will play out his entire contract.1  In that case, he will take up about 12-13% of the Panthers salary cap from ’16 to ’20.  But that still means that over his first ten seasons in the NFL, Newton will, on average, only take up about 9% of his team’s salary cap.

In the table below, I’ve shown Newton’s salary cap hit, the NFL salary cap, Newton’s percentage of the cap in that season, and Newton’s career average (in terms of percentage of cap hit) through that season. In each case, I’ve assumed a $7.5M yearly cap increase beginning in 2016. Here’s how to read the ’16 line: That year, Newton will have a cap hit of $19.5M, while the salary cap will be $150.8M. That means Newton will take up 12.9% of the Panthers cap, but will have only taken up, on average from 2011 to 2016, 6.6% of the Panthers cap dollars over the course of his career to date. As you can see from the last entry in the table, Newton — if he reaches the end of his contract — will only take up about 9% of the Panthers salary cap over the first decade of his career.

YearNewton CapNFL CapSingle Yr %Career Avg %
2011$4,004,636 $120,375,0003.3%3.3%
2012$5,005,795 $120,600,0004.2%3.7%
2013$6,006,954 $123,000,0004.9%4.1%
2014$7,008,113 $133,000,0005.3%4.4%
2015$13,000,000 $143,280,0009.1%5.3%
2016$19,500,000 $150,780,00012.9%6.6%
2017$20,166,000 $158,280,00012.7%7.5%
2018$21,500,000 $165,780,00013.0%8.2%
2019$23,200,000 $173,280,00013.4%8.7%
2020$21,100,000 $180,780,00011.7%9.0%

The $7.5M increase is just an estimate, but it works well enough for our purposes. If the salary cap continues to increase by about $10M per year, then that percentage will drop, but only to 8.8%. If instead the cap increases by an average of just $5M/year, Newton’s percentage will only rise to 9.3%. In other words, the Panthers will be able to lock up the first overall pick for a decade and pay him an average of just about 9% of the team’s salary cap.

Is that right? Well, that’s not the correct question to ask.  The correct question, I think, is “is that market?” And the answer there seems pretty clearly “no” to me.   If the number one pick is a quarterback who turns out to be a success and even he is only getting 9% of his team’s cap space over the first ten years of his career, that seems very out of whack with actual market value.

Perhaps nobody cares or will care, because why should people care whether Newton makes $140 million or $180 million? But I do think it’s worth recognizing that the NFL gas screwed over rookies with the new CBA, and part of the narrative was that it came with the promise that if those players weren’t busts, they could make up that money in their second contract.  Looking at Newton now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  If a top draft pick is merely okay (but not a bust), a team will likely avoid having to pay serious dollars to that player, as it could always just replace him with a rookie at a fraction of the cost.  That’s the obvious downside to the rookie wage scale for veterans: cheaper replacement labor is now available. But there’s another downside to the rookie wage scale for veterans: even if that player turns out to be a success, he’ll only receive market value for about half of his first decade with the team, and he’ll always be chasing the dollars he lost.

Of course, everything above applies even more strongly to Russell Wilson. That will be another contract worth watching, but don’t expect the Seahawks to give Wilson a bump just because the team got to ride his low-salary contract for years.

  1. In reality, he will be cut if he under-performs and see less money, or likely restructure the deal with an extension towards years four or five if he is successful. []

Yesterday, we looked at the career leaders in yards from scrimmage over “worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

Chris Johnson set the single-season record for yards from scrimmage in 2009, when he totaled an incredible 2,509 yards. But that’s not the record for YFS in a season on a per-game basis. That ranks only third in NFL history, behind O.J. Simpson in 1975 (not his more famous ’73 season) and Priest Holmes in 2002.

Holmes missed two games due to injury that season, while Simpson set his during a 14-game schedule. As it turns out, Simpson — who set the record for rushing yards over “worst starter” in 1973 — is your single-season yards from scrimmage over “worst starter” king based on his work in 1975.

In ’75, the 26th-ranked player in YFS gained 890 yards, while Simpson rushed for 1,817 yards and gained another 426 yards through the air. With a total of 2,243 yards from scrimmage, Simpson therefore gained 1,353 more yards than the “worst starter” or 1,546 more yards once we pro-rate to a 16-game season.

RkPlayerYearTmLgRush YdRec YdYFSTmsBaselineDiffLgGmPro-Rated
1O.J. Simpson1975BUFNFL18174262243268901353141546
2Walter Payton1977CHINFL18522692121288541267141448
3Chris Johnson2009TENNFL200650325093211571352161352
4Jim Brown1963CLENFL18632682131149671164141330
5O.J. Simpson1973BUFNFL2003702073269471126141287
6Marshall Faulk1999STLNFL1381104824293111471282161282
7LaDainian Tomlinson2003SDGNFL164572523703211081262161262
8Tiki Barber2005NYGNFL186053023903211461244161244
9Barry Sanders1997DETNFL205330523583011211237161237
10DeMarco Murray2014DALNFL184541622613210771184161184
11Otis Armstrong1974DENNFL14074051812267841028141175
12Eric Dickerson1984RAMNFL210513922442810701174161174
13Jamal Lewis2003BALNFL206620522713211081163161163
14Adrian Peterson2012MINNFL209721723143211541160161160
15James Wilder1984TAMNFL154468522292810701159161159
16Thurman Thomas1992BUFNFL14876262113289661147161147
17Marcus Allen1985RAINFL175955523142811691145161145
18Ahman Green2003GNBNFL188336722503211081142161142
19Le'Veon Bell2014PITNFL136185422153210771138161138
20Jim Brown1958CLENFL1527138166512817848121131
21Steven Jackson2006STLNFL152880623343212091125161125
22Harry Clarke1943CHINFL55653510911052956281124
23LaDainian Tomlinson2006SDGNFL181550823233212091114161114
24Arian Foster2010HOUNFL161660422203211091111161111
25Jim Brown1965CLENFL1544328187214909963141101
26Marshall Faulk1998INDNFL131990822273011301097161097
27Terrell Davis1998DENNFL200821722253011301095161095
28Emmitt Smith1992DALNFL17133352048289661082161082
29Barry Foster1992PITNFL16903442034289661068161068
30Lydell Mitchell1977BALNFL1159620177928854925141057
31Deuce McAllister2003NORNFL164151621573211081049161049
32Barry Sanders1994DETNFL188328321662811271039161039
33Jamal Anderson1998ATLNFL184631921653011301035161035
34Eric Dickerson1983RAMNFL180840422122811921020161020
35Beattie Feathers1934CHINFL100417411781148369510.91019
36Don Hutson1942GNBNFL41211121510515700111018
37Thurman Thomas1991BUFNFL140763120382810201018161018
38Priest Holmes2001KANNFL155561421693111601009161009
39Priest Holmes2003KANNFL142069021103211081002161002
40Chuck Foreman1975MINNFL107069117612689087114995
41Edgerrin James1999INDNFL1553586213931114799216992
42Priest Holmes2002KANNFL1615672228732129699116991
43Larry Johnson2006KANNFL1789410219932120999016990
44Marshall Faulk2001STLNFL1382765214731116098716987
45Jim Brown1964CLENFL144634017861492386314986
46Edgerrin James2000INDNFL1709594230331131798616986
47William Andrews1983ATLNFL1567609217628119298416984
48Walter Payton1984CHINFL1684368205228107098216982
49Charley Hennigan1961HOUAFL017461746888885814981
50Garrison Hearst1998SFONFL1570535210530113097516975
51Frank Gore2006SFONFL1695485218032120997116971
52Lydell Mitchell1975BALNFL119354417372689084714968
53Earl Campbell1980HOUNFL193447198128101896316963
54Elroy Hirsch1951RAMNFL3149514981277772112961
55Lenny Moore1958BALNFL59893815361281771912959
56O.J. Simpson1976BUFNFL150325917622893183114950
57LeSean McCoy2013PHINFL1607539214632119794916949
58Larry Johnson2005KANNFL1750343209332114694716947
59Lydell Mitchell1976BALNFL120055517552893182414942
60Wilbert Montgomery1979PHINFL1512494200628106993716937
61Eric Dickerson1988INDNFL1659377203628110293416934
62Roger Craig1988SFONFL1502534203628110293416934
63Brian Westbrook2007PHINFL1333771210432117293216932
64Jim Brown1961CLENFL1408459186714105381414930
65Eric Dickerson1986RAMNFL1821205202628110092616926
66Emmitt Smith1995DALNFL1773375214830122492416924
67Ricky Williams2002MIANFL1853363221632129692016920
68Tiki Barber2006NYGNFL1662465212732120991816918
69Herschel Walker1988DALNFL1514505201928110291716917
70Terrell Davis1997DENNFL1750287203730112191616916
71Chet Mutryn1948BUFAAFC8237941617882379414907
72Billy Sims1980DETNFL1303621192428101890616906
73Chuck Foreman1976MINNFL115556717222893179114904
74Lorenzo White1992HOUNFL122664118672896690116901
75Ray Rice2011BALNFL1364704206832117189716897
76Roger Craig1985SFONFL10501016206628116989716897
77Emmitt Smith1993DALNFL1486414190028100689416894
78Tiki Barber2004NYGNFL1518578209632120689016890
79William Andrews1981ATLNFL1301735203628114788916889
80Ray Rice2009BALNFL1339702204132115788416884
81Larry Brown1972WASNFL121647316892691877114881
82Walter Payton1978CHINFL139548018752899887716877
83LaDainian Tomlinson2002SDGNFL1683489217232129687616876
84Marshall Faulk2000STLNFL1359830218931131787216872
85John David Crow1960STLNFL107146215331388365012867
86Gene Roberts1949NYGNFL63471113451069664912865
87Walter Payton1985CHINFL1551483203428116986516865
88Marcus Allen1984RAINFL1168758192628107085616856
89Frank Gifford1956NYGNFL81960314221278064212856
90Walter Payton1979CHINFL1610313192328106985416854
91Ottis Anderson1979STLNFL1605308191328106984416844
92Jim Benton1945RAMNFL0106710671054352410838
93Lawrence McCutcheon1974RAMNFL110940815172678473314838
94Walter Payton1983CHINFL1421607202828119283616836
95Barry Sanders1991DETNFL1548307185528102083516835
96Fred Taylor2003JAXNFL1572370194232110883416834
97Don Woods1974SDGNFL116234915112678472714831
98Jamaal Charles2010KANNFL1467468193532110982616826
99Edgerrin James2004INDNFL1548483203132120682516825
100Tony Dorsett1981DALNFL1646325197128114782416824
101Ahman Green2001GNBNFL1387594198131116082116821
102Ron Johnson1972NYGNFL118245116332691871514817
103Gerald Riggs1985ATLNFL1719267198628116981716817
104Marcus Allen1982RAINFL6974011098286394599816
105Shaun Alexander2005SEANFL188078195832114681216812
106Calvin Johnson2012DETNFL01964196432115481016810
107Maurice Jones-Drew2011JAXNFL1606374198032117180916809
108Walter Payton1980CHINFL1460367182728101880916809
109Thurman Thomas1990BUFNFL1297532182928102180816808
110Greg Pruitt1977CLENFL108647115572885470314803
111Emmitt Smith1991DALNFL1563258182128102080116801
112Clinton Portis2003DENNFL1591314190532110879716797
113Gale Sayers1966CHINFL123144716781598469414793
114Thurman Thomas1989BUFNFL1244669191328112478916789
115Don Hutson1944GNBNFL87866953115054489.1788
116Jamaal Charles2013KANNFL1287693198032119778316783
117Clem Daniels1963OAKAFL109968517848110168314781
118LaDainian Tomlinson2007SDGNFL1474475194932117277716777
119William Andrews1982ATLNFL5735031076286394379777
120Wilbert Montgomery1981PHINFL1402521192328114777616776
121Herschel Walker1987DALNFL89171516062888172515773
122Doug Martin2012TAMNFL1454472192632115477216772
123Jim Brown1960CLENFL125720414611388357812771
124Jim Brown1959CLENFL132919015191294257712769
125Matt Forte2014CHINFL1038808184632107776916769
126Barry Sanders1990DETNFL1304480178428102176316763
127Adrian Peterson2008MINNFL1760125188532112576016760
128Wes Chandler1982SDGNFL3210321064286394259756
129Ricky Watters1996PHINFL1411444185530110075516755
130Lawrence McCutcheon1977RAMNFL123827415122885465814752
131Billy Hillenbrand1948BCLAAFC5109701480882365714751
132Terrell Davis1996DENNFL1538310184830110074816748
133William Andrews1980ATLNFL1308456176428101874616746
134Chris Warren1994SEANFL1545323186828112774116741
135Billy Sims1981DETNFL1437451188828114774116741
136Bill Brown1964MINNFL86670315691492364614738
137Charley Taylor1964WASNFL75581415691492364614738
138Billy Cannon1961HOUAFL9485861534888864614738
139Matt Forte2013CHINFL1339594193332119773616736
140Curtis Martin2004NYJNFL1697245194232120673616736
141Rick Casares1956CHINFL112620313291278054912732
142Timmy Brown1965PHINFL86168215431490963414725
143Curt Warner1986SEANFL1481342182328110072316723
144Earl Campbell1979HOUNFL169794179128106972216722
145Ron Johnson1970NYGNFL102748715142688363114721
146Steve Van Buren1949PHINFL11468812341069653812717
147Ottis Anderson1984STLNFL1174611178528107071516715
148Terry Allen1992MINNFL120147816792896671316713
149Andy Farkas1939WASNFL5474379841049648811710
150Brian Westbrook2006PHINFL1217699191632120970716707
151Tony Dorsett1978DALNFL132537817032899870516705
152Abner Haynes1962DTXAFL104957316228100961314701
153Jim Benton1946RAMNFL09819811050148011698
154Emmitt Smith1994DALNFL1484341182528112769816698
155Edgerrin James2005INDNFL1506337184332114669716697
156Thurman Thomas1993BUFNFL1315387170228100669616696
157Walter Payton1976CHINFL139014915392893160814695
158Gerald Riggs1984ATLNFL1486277176328107069316693
159Tiki Barber2002NYGNFL1387597198432129668816688
160LaDainian Tomlinson2005SDGNFL1462370183232114668616686
161Jim Taylor1964GNBNFL116935415231492360014686
162Dorsey Levens1997GNBNFL1435370180530112168416684
163Cliff Battles1933BOSNFL7371859221043548711.4684
164Marshall Faulk1994INDNFL1282522180428112767716677
165Barry Sanders1995DETNFL1500398189830122467416674
166Curtis Martin2001NYJNFL1513320183331116067316673
167James Brooks1986CINNFL1087686177328110067316673
168Arian Foster2011HOUNFL1224617184132117167016670
169Leroy Kelly1968CLENFL123929715361695258414667
170Ray Rice2010BALNFL1220556177632110966716667
171Jerome Bettis1993RAMNFL1429244167328100666716667
172Larry Brown1970WASNFL112534114662688358314666
173Adrian Peterson2009MINNFL1383436181932115766216662
174Chuck Foreman1974MINNFL77758613632678457914662
175Cliff Battles1937WASNFL874819551050145411660
176Shaun Alexander2004SEANFL1696170186632120666016660
177Jerry Rice1995SFONFL361848188430122466016660
178Johnny Strzykalski1948SFOAAFC9154851400882357714659
179Steve Van Buren1945PHINFL8321239551054341210659
180Charles White1987RAMNFL137412114952888161415655
181Jerome Bettis1997PITNFL1665110177530112165416654
182George Rogers1981NORNFL1674126180028114765316653
183Jim Nance1966BOSAFL14581031561999057114653
184Dalton Hilliard1989NORNFL1262514177628112465216652
185Franco Harris1975PITNFL124621414602689057014651
186Barry Sanders1998DETNFL1491289178030113065016650
187Joe Morris1986NYGNFL1516233174928110064916649
188Chuck Foreman1977MINNFL111230814202885456614647
189Eddie George2000TENNFL1509453196231131764516645
190Ottis Anderson1980STLNFL1352308166028101864216642
191Jim Musick1933BOSNFL809788871043545211.4634
192Delvin Williams1976SFONFL120328314862893155514634
193Antonio Brown2014PITNFL131698171132107763416634
194Mark van Eeghen1977OAKNFL127313514082885455414633
195Marshawn Lynch2012SEANFL1590196178632115463216632
196Barry Sanders1989DETNFL1470282175228112462816628
197Shaun Alexander2003SEANFL1435295173032110862216622
198Lawrence McCutcheon1976RAMNFL116830514732893154214619
199Charlie Garner1999SFONFL1229535176431114761716617
200Eric Dickerson19872TMNFL128817114592888157815617
201Ottis Anderson1981STLNFL1376387176328114761616616
202Spec Sanders1947NYYAAFC1432131445890653914616
203Michael Turner2008ATLNFL169941174032112561516615
204Ricky Williams2003MIANFL1372351172332110861516615
205Eddie George1999TENNFL1304458176231114761516615
206Walter Payton1986CHINFL1333382171528110061516615
207Barry Sanders1992DETNFL135222515772896661116611
208Otis Armstrong1976DENNFL100845714652893153414610
209Ted Brown1981MINNFL1063694175728114761016610
210Maurice Jones-Drew2009JAXNFL1391374176532115760816608
211Billy Sims1982DETNFL639342981286393429608
212Charlie Garner2002OAKNFL962941190332129660716607
213Sam Cunningham1977NWENFL101537013852885453114607
214O.J. Simpson1972BUFNFL125119814492691853114607
215Jim Taylor1962GNBNFL1474106158014104953114607
216O.J. Simpson1974BUFNFL112518913142678453014606
217Barry Sanders1996DETNFL1553147170030110060016600
218Leroy Kelly1966CLENFL114136615071598452314598
219Mike Pruitt1979CLENFL1294372166628106959716597
220Marshawn Lynch2014SEANFL1306367167332107759616596
221Ricky Williams2001NORNFL1245511175631116059616596
222Billy Howton1952GNBNFL0123112311278444712596
223Freeman McNeil1982NYJNFL786187973286393349594
224Torry Holt2003STLNFL51696170132110859316593
225Jamaal Charles2012KANNFL1509236174532115459116591
226Lydell Mitchell1974BALNFL75754413012678451714591
227Matt Forte2008CHINFL1238477171532112559016590
228Freeman McNeil1985NYJNFL1331427175828116958916589
229Joe Perry1954SFONFL104920312521281144112588
230Mack Herron1974NWENFL82447412982678451414587
231Tony Dorsett1985DALNFL1307449175628116958716587
232Clinton Portis2005WASNFL1516216173232114658616586
233Mike Thomas1975WASNFL91948314022689051214585
234Neal Anderson1989CHINFL1275434170928112458516585
235Abner Haynes1961DTXAFL8415581399888851114584
236Curt Warner1983SEANFL1449325177428119258216582
237Joe Cribbs1980BUFNFL1185415160028101858216582
238Steven Jackson2009STLNFL1416322173832115758116581
239Clinton Portis2008WASNFL1487218170532112558016580
240Hoyle Granger1967HOUAFL11943001494998750714579
241Tony Dorsett1984DALNFL1189459164828107057816578
242Clinton Portis2002DENNFL1508364187232129657616576
243Curtis Martin1999NYJNFL1464259172331114757616576
244Napoleon Kaufman1997OAKNFL1294403169730112157616576
245Tom Tracy1958PITNFL71453512491281743212576
246Don Hutson1943GNBNFL41776817105292888576
247Isaac Bruce1995STLNFL171781179830122457416574
248Floyd Little1971DENNFL113325513882688650214574
249Steve Owens1971DETNFL103535013852688649914570
250LaDainian Tomlinson2004SDGNFL1335441177632120657016570
251Domanick Williams2004HOUNFL1188588177632120657016570
252Lenny Moore1960BALNFL37493613101388342712569
253Tiki Barber2003NYGNFL1216461167732110856916569
254Jerry Rice1993SFONFL691503157228100656616566
255Joe Washington1979BALNFL884750163428106956516565
256Bobby Mitchell1963WASNFL24143614601496749314563
257LeSean McCoy2010PHINFL1080592167232110956316563
258Don Hutson1945GNBNFL608348941054335110562
259Leroy Kelly1967CLENFL120528214871699649114561
260Lenny Moore1957BALNFL48868711751275741812557
261Bob Margarita1945CHINFL4973948911054334810557
262Darren McFadden2010OAKNFL1157507166432110955516555
263Calvin Hill1973DALNFL114229014322694748514554
264Raymond Berry1960BALNFL0129812981388341512553
265Joe Cribbs1981BUFNFL1097603170028114755316553
266Robert Smith2000MINNFL1521348186931131755216552
267Calvin Hill1972DALNFL103636414002691848214551
268Lance Alworth1965SDGAFL-12160215908110848214551
269C.J. Spiller2012BUFNFL1244459170332115454916549
270Don Hutson1939GNBNFL268468721049637611547
271Steve Van Buren1947PHINFL10087910871067741012547
272John Riggins1975NYJNFL100536313682689047814546
273Peyton Hillis2010CLENFL1177477165432110954516545
274Greg Pruitt1975CLENFL106729913662689047614544
275Billy Howton1956GNBNFL0118811881278040812544
276Demaryius Thomas2014DENNFL01619161932107754216542
277Randy Moss2003MINNFL181632165032110854216542
278Jerry Rice1986SFONFL721570164228110054216542
279Neal Anderson1990CHINFL1078484156228102154116541
280Ricky Watters2000SEANFL1242613185531131753816538
281Tony Reed1978KANNFL105348315362899853816538
282Tom Matte1969BALNFL90951314221695247014537
283Josh Gordon2013CLENFL881646173432119753716537
284Ottis Anderson1983STLNFL1270459172928119253716537
285Alfred Morris2012WASNFL161377169032115453616536
286Bob Boyd1954RAMNFL0121212121281140112535
287Steve Slaton2008HOUNFL1282377165932112553416534
288Wendell Tyler1982RAMNFL564375939286393009533
289Maurice Jones-Drew2010JAXNFL1324317164132110953216532
290Corey Dillon2004NWENFL1635103173832120653216532
291Art Malone1972ATLNFL79858513832691846514531
292Gale Sayers1965CHINFL86750713741490946514531
293Don Maynard1967NYJAFL1814341452998746514531
294Jim Brown1962CLENFL996517151314104946414530
295Adrian Peterson2010MINNFL1298341163932110953016530
296Clem Daniels1966OAKAFL8016521453999046314529
297Mike Thomas1976WASNFL110129013912893146014526
298MacArthur Lane1970STLNFL97736513422688345914525
299Curtis Martin1995NWENFL1487261174830122452416524
300Curtis Martin1998NYJNFL1287365165230113052216522
  • Walter Payton and Barry Sanders lead the way with 9 seasons apiece in the top 300, although as you learned yesterday, Payton still has a big edge over Sanders. That’s because of the top 10 seasons by the duo (all in the top 125), 7 came from Payton.
  • O.J. Simpson has two top-5 seasons; no one else has two in the top 15. Jim Brown has three top-25 seasons; no one else has three in the top 40, and Priest Holmes and Marshall Faulk are the only others with three top-50 seasons. Brown is the only player with 4 top-50 seasons; and Eric Dickerson is the only other player with four top-75 seasons. Brown has five top-65 seasons; Payton is the only other player with five top-100 seasons (next is Emmitt Smith, whose fifth best season is all the way down at 154). But that’s when Brown passes the baton to Payton: the Bears legend has six top-100 seasons, which nobody else can match (Brown’s 6th best year was #123).
  • The Texans have four seasons in the top 300, which puts the following in some perspective. The Bengals have just one season — James Brooks, 1986 — in the top 300. Brooks ranked 3rd in yards from scrimmage that season, the only time any Bengal has ever ranked in the top 3 in that category. The Dolphins have just two top-300 seasons: Ricky Williams in ’02 and ’03. In fact, the single-season YFS leaders for Miami is just a really weird-looking list. Tampa Bay also has just two top-300 seasons, and only two times when a player gained 1,650 or more yards from scrimmage.

Last week, we looked at the career leaders in rushing yards over worst starter; today, we use the same methodology but with yards from scrimmage. Let’s use Walter Payton’s 1977 season as an example.

That season, the NFL had 28 teams, and the 28th-ranked player in yards from scrimmage gained 854 yards.  But Payton, in his best season as a pro, rushed for 1,852 yards and picked up another 269 yards through the air, for a total of 2,121 yards from scrimmage.  That gave him 1,267 yards above the baseline of “worst starter.”  But remember, in ’77, the NFL had a 14-game schedule; pro-rate that to 16 games, and Peyton is credited with 1,448 yards over the baseline.  That’s the 2nd best season ever by this formula.

While 1977 was by far Payton’s best year, he dominated in this metric for most of his career, posting the 48th, 82nd, 87th, 90th, 94th, 108th, and 157th best seasons. And while Emmitt Smith finally edged past Payton on the career yards from scrimmage last in the final games of his career, Payton has a big edge in this metric because we are removing “junk” seasons. In fact, Payton has a big edge over just about everyone. Nobody forgets about Walter Payton, of course, but I wonder if sometimes his dominance in this metric is overlooked: he led the NFL in YFS in ’77 and ’78, then finished 2nd in the category in ’79. He ranked 3rd in YFS in ’80 and in ’83, ’84, and ’85. Add in a 4th-place finish in ’76 and a 5th-place in ’86, and that gives Payton a whopping 9 finishes in the top 5 in yards from scrimmage.

If we use the methodology described above for every season of a player’s career, we get what I think is a better version of the career yards from scrimmage leaders (at least for running backs) because we are removing junk seasons. Below are the career grades for the top 200 players (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career yards from scrimmage and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]


Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. What follows is Brad’s latest work on the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Part I: Pre-Modern Era
Part II: 49-101
Part III: 40-48
Part IV: 31-39
Part V: 21-30

This week, I’m profiling the players who rank about 40-48 on my list, in alphabetical order:

Charlie Conerly
New York Giants, 1948-61
19,488 yards, 173 TD, 167 INT, 68.2 rating

The hype was always there for Chuck Conerly. He was a star at Ole Miss, and he was the Giants’ quarterback when they were the only team in New York. Playing for a coaching staff that included Tom Landry and Vince Lombardi, alongside Hall of Fame players like Rosey Brown, Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, Andy Robustelli, and Emlen Tunnell, Conerly was set up for success. The Giants were competitive every season, and they won an NFL championship in 1956. [click to continue…]


On Friday, I looked at the career rushing leaders in “yards over worst starter.” Today, let’s look at the single-season list.

In 1963, Jim Brown rushed for 1,863 yards in a 14-team NFL. The baseline that year was 541 yards, which represents the 14th highest individual rushing total that year. So Brown exceeded that number by a whopping 1,322 rushing yards. Given that 1963 was a 14-game NFL season, that translates to a pro-rated value of 1,511 yards, the third best ever. The table below shows the top 300 single seasons. [click to continue…]


There have been 49 Super Bowl champions. But only one of those teams managed to win it all with a quarterback that was in his first season with the team. Can you name that team?

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

There have been seven other quarterbacks who have won Super Bowls in their second season with a team. How many can you name? [click to continue…]


Fantasy: New Extra Point Rule (FBG)

Over at Footballguys.com, I provided my thoughts on what the new PAT rule means for fantasy players.

What does that mean in practical terms? Instead of there being one missed extra point every 2-3 weeks, there will be about two missed extra points per week. For fantasy owners, that means you might wind up losing a point a couple of times during your regular season, but, of course, you are just as likely to benefit from your opponent missing out on that point, too. In general, kickers are often an afterthought in many fantasy leagues; this rule is not going to change that, although it will make the best kickers (and kickers who play in friendly conditions) imperceptibly more valuable than before.

You can read the full article here.


Last year, DeMarco Murray led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards. The 32nd-ranked rusher last season rushed for 570 yards, which means Murray rushed for 1,275 yards more than the Nth-ranked rusher, with N representing the number of teams in the NFL. That’s obviously excellent, although not quite the best of all time.

That honor, as regular readers could have guessed, belongs to O.J. Simpson. In 1973, Simpson rushed for an incredible 2,003 yards, while the 26th-ranked rusher in the 26-team NFL rushed for 655 yards. As a result, Simpson is credited with 1,348 yards over the Nth-ranked rusher. Then again, remember that this was a 14-game NFL season; we need to pro-rate that number to 16 games to make for a fairer comparison. That brings Simpson’s season up to +1,540, slightly edging out Adrian Peterson‘s 2012 season (2,097, 564, +1533).

What if we use that methodology for every player during every season of his career? That, to me, is an improvement on just a list of the career rushing leaders, since we don’t give players any benefit for junk seasons. That may be the only thing this list is an improvement on — after all, it is still based on only one statistic — but hey, it’s Friday. Below are the career grades for the top 150 running backs (note that by default, the table only displays the top 25). I have also listed for each back his career rushing yards and his rank in that category. [click to continue…]


Quarterback Rushing Data Since 1950

The 2007 season was the ultimate fantasy of the immobile quarterback lover. No quarterback rushed for 400 yards, after at least one quarterback did so in each of the ten prior seasons. Just as importantly, the top quarterbacks were all pocket passers: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo (only 129 rushing yards that season), Brett Favre, Jon Kitna, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the top 12 leaders in passing yards. As a group, those dozen quarterbacks rushed for just 67 yards, led by Cutler’s staggering 205 rushing yards.

But it was only seven years earlier that the mobile quarterback wave was taking the NFL by storm. Six quarterbacks hit the 400-yard rushing mark: Donovan McNabb (629), Rich Gannon (529), Daunte Culpepper (470), Kordell Stewart (436), Jeff Garcia (414), and Steve McNair (403). Of the top ten leaders in passing yards, only Vinny Testaverde and Kerry Collins failed to rush for at least 100 yards, and the top 12 leaders in passing yards rushed for an average of 236 yards.

Since 2012, the mobile quarterback has re-emerged. So how do we test how much each quarterback has run since 1950? Here’s what I did. [click to continue…]


The Jerick McKinnon/Matt Asiata Time Share

Last year, I looked at the unusual running back by committee in Arizona in 2013.  Rashard Mendenhall was the team’s primary back, but he averaged 3.17 YPC that season, while Andre Ellington averaged 5.53 YPC. To measure how “unusual” the split was, I came up with the following methodology: calculate the difference between the YPC of the top two running backs (as measured by carries) on each team, and multiply that difference by the number of carries given to the running back with fewer carries. So for the 2013 Cardinals, the difference between Ellington and Mendenhall in terms of YPC was -2.36; we multiply that by 118 to get a value of -278. For 2014, the most extreme result along this line came in Minnesota.

Matt Asiata had 164 carries for the Vikings but gained just 570 yards, for a 3.48 YPC average. Meanwhile, Jerick McKinnon rushed only 113 times but picked up 538 yards, a 4.76 YPC average. So McKinnon averaged 1.28 more yards per carry than Asiata. Then, we multiply -1.28 by 113, which produces a value of -145, the most extreme of the 32 teams last year.

The reason for this two-step process is that when dealing with backup running backs, you sometimes get small sample sizes. For example, Latavius Murray averaged 5.17 YPC on his 82 carries, but the Raiders split doesn’t count quite as extreme as the Vikings split based on this method.  Also, the Cowboys split would look pretty funky if you didn’t penalize RB2s that had only a handful of carries: [click to continue…]


Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. What follows is Brad’s latest work on the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Part I: Pre-Modern Era
Part II: 49-101
Part III: 40-48
Part IV: 31-39
Part V: 21-30

I’ve been studying NFL history throughout my life. It’s a journey that began the first time I watched my dad’s copy of NFL’s Greatest Hits on VHS, accelerating when I read Total Football II, and continuing when I began sportswriting over a decade ago.

Something I’ve never done is publish my list of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. I’m finally stepping into the ring. But because I’ve done so much research over the years, this is not a simple list. Instead, I’ll present my choices as a series of articles, highlighting about 10 players per list, and counting down to number one. We began last week, with quarterbacks who preceded the Modern Era, like Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman. [click to continue…]


Memorial Day 2015

Pat  Tillman

Pat Tillman.

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Father Dennis Edward O’Brien, USMC

Today is a day that we as Americans honor and remember those who lost their lives protecting our country. As my friend Joe Bryant says, it’s easy for the true meaning of this day to get lost in the excitement of summer and barbecues and picnics. But that quote helps me remember that the things I enjoy today are only possible because those before me made incredibly selfless sacrifices. That includes a number of football players who have lost their lives defending our country.

The most famous, of course, is Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety who chose to quit football to enlist in the United States army. On April 22, eleven years ago, Tillman died in Afghanistan. Over thirty years earlier, we lost both Bob Kalsu and Don Steinbrunner in Vietnam. You can read their stories here. For some perspective, consider that Hall of Famers Roger Staubach, Ray Nitschke, and Charlie Joiner were three of the 28 NFL men who served in the military during that war.

An incredible 226 men with NFL ties served in the Korean War, including Night Train Lane and Don Shula. Most tragically, World War II claimed the lives of 21 former NFL players.

Jack Chevigny, former coach of the Cardinals, and John O’Keefe, an executive with the Eagles, were also World War II casualties. The Pro Football Hall of Fame has chronicled the stories of these men, too. Lummus received the Medal of Honor for his bravery at Iwo Jima, and you can read more about his sacrifice here. [click to continue…]

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A quick data dump today. Since 1960, players who record 20+ carries in a game were on the winning side of things 72.7% of the time. Steven Jackson, however, is just 30-31-1 in his 62 games where he has had at least 20 carries. Given that we would “expect” a player to win 45.1 games given 62 games with 20 carries, Jackson’s 30.5 wins falls 14.6 wins shy of expectation. That, perhaps not surprisingly to regular readers, is the worst record relative to expectation among all running backs since 1960.

The table below shows all running backs who had at least 20 games with 20+ carries over the last 55 years, including the postseason. Thurman Thomas is on top of the table because he had 71 games with 20+ carries, and his teams went 63-8 in those games for an incredible 0.887 winning percentage. That gave Thomas 11.4 wins over expectation, the most ever. If you want to sort by a different category (say, win%), you can: the table is fully sortable and searchable. [click to continue…]


This week, a pair of Jets fans have weighed in on the contract standoff between Muhammad Wilkerson and the New York Jets. Jason at OverTheCap explained why it may be difficult for the two sides to get a true sense of Wilkerson’s market value. Jason points out that the 3-4 defensive end market is pretty weird: You have J.J. Watt at $16.67M per year, then a big drop to Calais Campbell at $11M per year, Jurrell Casey (who was a 4-3 DT when he signed his contract) at $9M per year, and then another big drop. After those three comes Jason Hatcher (also a hybrid 4-3 DT/3-4 DE player) at $6.88M, Desmond Bryant at $6.8M, and then Allen Bailey at $5M per year. And that’s it: no other 3-4 defensive end is making more than five million per year, while Wilkerson reportedly wants upwards of $14M per season. Perhaps we should also include Buffalo’s Kyle Williams — the Bills seemingly switch between a 3-4 and a 4-3 every month — who is making about $10M per year.

But there are three big problems when looking at these contracts and trying to structure a fair deal for Wilkerson, and all three point in Wilkerson’s favor. [click to continue…]


Comparables To Ryan Tannehill

In 2012, Ryan Tannehill averaged 5.23 ANY/A, which was 0.70 ANY/A below the league average.

In 2013, Tannehill averaged 5.00 ANY/A, which was 0.87 ANY/A below league average.

In 2014, Tannehill averaged 5.83 ANY/A, which was 0.30 ANY/A below league average.

I thought it would be interesting to look for comparables to Tannehill using just those metrics. I ran a query for all quarterbacks since 1970 who were within a 0.5 ANY/A of Tannehill’s Relative ANY/A in three consecutive seasons: that is, quarterbacks who averaged between -1.20 and -0.20 Relative ANY/A in Year N-2, between -1.37 RANY/A and -0.37 RANY/A in Year N-1, and between -0.80 RANY/A and +0.20 RANY/A in Year N, with a minimum of at least 200 pass attempts in all three seasons.

As it turns out, there were just 12 quarterback seasons that met that criteria, with one quarterback meeting those criteria twice over a four-year span. Making the data set even less helpful, just six of those 12 seasons came by players in their 20s, and even one of those came by an over-the-hill Joey Harrington in his final season at age 29: [click to continue…]


You remember 2012, don’t you? Among quarterbacks with 200 pass attempts, Colin Kaepernick ranked 2nd in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, RG3 ranked 4th, and Cam Newton ranked a respectable 11th. The young quarterbacks — Kaepernick and Griffin were in their first years as starters, while Newton was just 23 — seemed poised to take over the NFL. If they were this good in 2012, how good would they be in 2014?

As it turns out, not all young quarterbacks improve gradually with age. Some even take a step back. Or, in the case of these three, two steps back. Take a look at their respective ANY/A ratings in each of the past three seasons:

Colin Kaepernick7.556.655.58
Robert Griffin7.475.485.17
Cam Newton6.655.695.45

In terms of Relative ANY/A — that is, ANY/A minus league average — Kaepernick has fallen from +1.6 to +0.8 to -0.6. Newton has had a similar decline but just from a lower starting point, dropping from +0.7 to -0.2 to finally -0.7. Griffin, of course, has seen the most dramatic change, going from +1.5 to -0.4 to -1.0 last year.

Each player has his own story. RG3 was lights out as a rookie, then struggled in 2013 seemingly as a result of tearing his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, a breakdown in his relationship with the Shanaclan, and [insert your other favorite reason here]. His descent continued in 2014, and he frankly looked like a lost quarterback, with this play being perhaps the most damning example.

For Newton, the issue seems to be entirely about a decline in his supporting cast, along with injury issues in 2014. I’m not particularly worried about Newton, who almost seems to make the cut (you’ll see what I mean below) on a technicality. I have little doubt that a healthy Newton with an improved supporting cast — you know, if we ever see that1 — would be a very productive quarterback. Kaepernick, to me, is the real wild card.

Kaepernick’s RANY/A dropped by 0.84 from 2012 to 2013, and then by 1.34 from 2013 to 2014.2 Which made me wonder: how often does a quarterback who is still in his 20s see a decline in RANY/A of at least 0.5 in consecutive years?

Since 1970, it has happened just 19 times, with Kaepernick, Newton, and Griffin being the most recent three. Newton and Griffin are also two of the three youngest, while Kaepernick is more in the middle of things (he was a sneaky old 27 in 2014).3 So what happened to the first 16?

Six of them did not retain their jobs, and you can read about them in this footnote.4 What about the other 10?

QuarterbackYear NTmYr N AgeYr N-2 RANY/AYr N-1 RANY/AYr N RANY/AYr N+1 RANY/A
Colin Kaepernick2014SFO271.620.78-0.56
Cam Newton2014CAR250.72-0.18-0.69
Robert Griffin2014WAS241.53-0.39-0.97
Daunte Culpepper2002MIN252.070.12-0.431.49
Dave Krieg1985SEA271.140.61-0.081.30
Neil O'Donnell1994PIT280.790.28-0.321.24
Neil Lomax1986STL271.690.01-0.890.79
Jim Everett1991RAM281.910.68-0.270.60
Ken O'Brien1987NYJ271.740.670.00-0.06
Jon Kitna2001CIN/SEA290.30-0.78-1.43-0.08
Boomer Esiason1990CIN292.771.480.07-0.09
Trent Dilfer1999TAM5270.30-0.26-0.90-0.74
Mark Malone1987PIT6290.46-0.76-2.19-1.21

There are some promising stories in here. Daunte Culpepper was great at age 23, decliend at age 24, was even worse at age 25, and then was great at age 26 and had a career year at age 27.

Dave Krieg had great efficiency numbers at age 25, pretty good (but worse) ones at age 26, and then struggled at age 27. But at age 28 he had a great season, and he had a great 9-game year at age 30.

Neil O’Donnell was a Pro Bowler in his first full year as a starter at age 26, but took steps backwards at ages 27 and 28. Then, at age 29, he had a career year and made it to the Super Bowl.

Neil Lomax was outstanding at age 25, then had RG3-like slides at ages 26 and 27. Then, at age 28, he had another great season, and followed it up with a great performance at age 29, too.

Jim Everett also took an RG3-like slide: he was unreal at age 26, but below average by age 28. He rebounded at age 29 and was above average during his age 31 and 32 seasons, too.

Ken O’Brien was lights out at age 25, worse at age 26, and then average at age 27. The age 25 year (1985) looks like the outlier, though: he stayed as a roughly league average quarterback from ages 28 through 31.

Jon Kitna looked completely washed up at age 29, but he rebounded with two solid statistical years at ages 30 and 31.

Boomer Esiason was the NFL MVP at age 27, still very good at age 28, and then just average at age 29. He had one more average year, then struggled at age 31 in his final year in Cincinnati, before a mini-resurrection with the Jets.

Trent Dilfer showed steadily decline from ages 25 to 27 during his final three years in Tampa Bay before… not really improving during his first year in Baltimore, despite you know, winning a Super Bowl. He did put up some impressive efficiency numbers over the next couple of seasons in part-time duty, however.

Mark Malone is an example of things not getting much better, but even he still rebounded at age 30 after declining at ages 28 and 29.

So What Does This Post Mean?

Well, let’s start with the obvious: it’s not common for a young quarterback to take consecutive steps backwards, and we have three of them that have done so since 2012. Kaepernick, at least to me, is the most intriguing of the bunch, as it’s harder (at least for me) to really understand what’s going on there. I have a pretty good idea of where Newton’s career is headed, and Griffin seems destined for failure in Washington (and perhaps beyond), while Kaepernick truly appears to be at a crossroads.

The table above presents overwhelmingly positive news if you are a 49ers fan. Could Kaepernick have a revival the way Culpepper did in 2003 and 2004? Could he turn into an above-average quarterback like Lomax or Everett? Eight of the ten quarterbacks who had declines like Kaepernick bounced back the following year. That’s promising.

Of course, it doesn’t mean all that much, either. Kaepernick is an individual, not an amalgamation of historical figures. And his struggles in San Francisco last year were very real, and didn’t appear to be a product of a poor supporting cast. And it’s not as though most of the news for the 49ers has been very positive this offseason, either.

But I guess if there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s this: even if a young quarterback struggles for a couple of years, the odds are in his favor that he’ll bounce back. For Newton, that seems like a safe bet. For Griffin, his ANY/A was so poor that an improvement seems very likely, too. For Kaepernick, the 2015 season looks like a real tipping point in his career, and one I can’t quite get a read on just yet.

  1. Carolina’s projected 2015 offensive line, from left to right: Michael Oher, who may be the worst starting left tackle in the NFL; Andrew Norwell, an undrafted free agent who was a rookie last year; Ryan Kalil, a Pro Bowl center; Trai Turner, a third round pick in 2014; and Mike Remmers, an undrafted free agent in 2012 who has been on six teams so far. At wide receiver, the Panthers have Kelvin Benjamin, who was tied for 2nd in the NFL in drops last year; Jerricho Cotchery, whom the Jets released in 2010 because he looked washed up; Ted Ginn, Jr., who had 14 catches last year; and second round rookie Devin Funchess. []
  2. The NFL ANY/A decreased slightly from 2012 to 2013, but then jumped by 0.26 last year, which is why you might not have noticed the true impact of the declines of Newton and Kaepernick based on just their raw numbers. []
  3. Note that Jon Kitna is the only one of the players on the list to switch teams, moving from the Seahawks to the Bengals. []
  4. Aaron Brooks declined with New Orleans from 2003 to 2005, and then joined the Raiders. He was an even bigger disaster there: he failed to reach 200 pass attempts, but produced career-low numbers and never played again in the NFL after 2006. Don Majkowski and his numbers dropped off with the Packers from ’89 to ’90 and then from ’90 to ’91; he entered ’92 as the starter, but was hurt early in the third game. That allowed Brett Favre to take the job and never look back. The Packers quarterback before the Majik Man also made the cut: Randy Wright saw his RANY/A drop off from ’86 to ’87 and then ’87 to ’88; he never played again in the NFL.

    Steve Grogan saw relatively modest drop offs in his RANY/A from ’79 to ’81; due to the strike and missing three games, he did not hit the 200 attempt cut-off in ’82, but he posted career-high efficiency numbers in ’82 and ’83. He’s our first success story. Pat Haden was excellent in 1977, declined in ’78, and then struggled at quarterback with the Rams in 1979; he lost the job to Vince Ferragamo, but after the ’80 season, Ferragamo went north to Canada. Haden played again in ’81, but posted career-low numbers. Haden started at least half his team’s games in five seasons, and incredibly, his ANY/A decreased in each year. And finally, Archie Manning saw his RANY/A drop from -0.1 in ’73 to -1.6 in ’74 and bottom out to -2.7 in ’75. He then missed all of ’76 due to shoulder surgery, but would turn in the best seasons of his career beginning in the late ’70s. He’s another promising sign, perhaps for Newton in particular, since both have been plagued with weak supporting casts. []

  5. Was on Baltimore in Year N+1. []
  6. Was on San Diego in Year N+1. []

Yesterday, the NFL announced the extra point will be moved to the 15-yard line (although two-point conversion attempts will stay at the 2-yard line). What will this mean?

Probably not too much. You can expect the extra point conversion rate to go from a hair shy of 100% to say, 95%. On field goal attempts from 31 to 33 yards (assuming the average XP will be a 32-yarder), kickers were successful on 96% of attempts last year, 96% in 2013, and 92% in 2012. This rule change would have made a much bigger impact … well, just about at any other time in NFL history. The graph below shows field goal success rates from 31 to 33 yards since 1960: [click to continue…]


Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. You may recall that in April, he gave us a sneak peak at some quarterback rankings. Today, we begin seeing the words behind those numbers, starting with the pre-modern era quarterbacks.

Part I: Pre-Modern Era
Part II: 49-101
Part III: 40-48
Part IV: 31-39
Part V: 21-30

I’ve been studying NFL history throughout my adult life. It’s a journey that began the first time I watched my dad’s copy of NFL’s Greatest Hits on VHS, accelerating when I read Total Football II, and continuing when I began sportswriting over a decade ago.

Something I’ve never done is to publish my list of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Sparked by Adam Steele’s crowd-sourcing project here at Football Perspective, I’m finally stepping into the ring. But because I’ve done so much research over the years, this is not a simple list. Instead, I’ll present my choices as a series of articles, highlighting about 10 players per list, and counting down to number one. [click to continue…]


You probably have not given much thought to Ty Law since he retired, and you almost certainly haven’t given much thought to what Law did as a member of the Jets in 2005. But it was a pretty remarkable season.

Law had 10 interceptions that year. That number may not sound like a lot to you — it’s not a record, and we rarely focus on interception totals — but no player has had more than 10 interceptions in a season since 1981. Since Everson Walls of the Cowboys recorded 11 interceptions in 1981, eleven players have intercepted exactly ten passes in a single season. Of those, Law played on the team that faced by far the fewest passes, and he did so in an era where it was very difficult to record interceptions. That’s why, by the metric I’ll describe below, it’s the most impressive interception season in NFL history.

First, I calculated each player’s individual interception rate, defined as his number of interceptions divided by his team’s pass attempts faced.1 The record here was set in 1946 by Pittsburgh’s Bill Dudley, a former first overall pick. That year, Dudley led the NFL in rushing… and punt return yards… and interceptions! Dudley intercepted 10 passes, while the Steelers faced just 162 pass attempts, giving him an interception on 6.2% of opponent dropbacks. Perhaps most amazing, the Steelers leading receivers each had just ten catches, which means Dudley caught as many passes on defense as any Pittsburgh player did on offense in 1946.

Law’s 10 interceptions came against 463 opponent pass attempts, giving him an interception on 2.2% of opposing pass plays. That remains the highest rate in a single season since Walls picked off a pass on 2.4% of opponent pass plays in 1982. But obviously interception rates have been sharply declining, which is what makes Law’s accomplishment so remarkable. [click to continue…]

  1. Perhaps in a future version, I will adjust for games missed due to injury. []

On Thursday, I looked at yards per attempt and outlier teams. Today, we use the same methodology but look at yards per attempt allowed (or, more specifically, Relative Yards per Attempt, which subtracts the league average from each team’s Y/A allowed).

In 2014, the best-fit linear formula to correlate relative yards per attempt allowed and winning percentage was 0.5019 – 0.1646 * Relative Y/A allowed. In the picture below, each team’s Relative Yards/Attempt allowed is on the X-Axis, while their winning percentage is on the Y-Axis. Since a negative RY/A is better — it means a team has allowed fewer yards per attempt than league average — you would expect the best teams/pass defenses to be on the top left of the chart. [click to continue…]


Weekend Trivia: Elite Passing Offenses

Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt starts with Yards per Attempt, but is also influenced by things such as sack rate, interception rate, and touchdown rate. There is, arguably, a negative relationship between some of these variables: for example, some quarterbacks deliberately trade interceptions for sacks, so it’s difficult to be excellent in all four metrics.

Since 1950, there have been just seven teams to rank in the top 3 in Y/A, Sack Rate, Touchdown Rate, and Interception Rate in the same season. Can you name them? [click to continue…]


Yards per Attempt is not as good as Net Yards per Attempt, which accounts for sacks, and it’s not as good as Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt when it comes to predicting wins, since that metric includes touchdowns and interceptions. But still, vanilla Yards per Attempt usually correlates decently well with winning teams. The emphasis here is on the word usually.

There were four teams that stood out from the pack in yards per attempt last year: while 28 teams averaged less than 8.0 Y/A, four team averaged 8.2, 8.3, or 8.4 yards per attempt. Those teams were Dallas, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and…

Why don’t you try to guess the 4th team.

[Come on, give it a good try.]

[Wrong. Guess again.]

[Nope. One more guess.] [click to continue…]


Quarterback Heat Maps

Since my running back heat maps post was so popular, I thought it made sense to perform the same analysis for quarterbacks. So here’s what I did. And as a reminder, BLUE means GOOD or above-average, while RED means BAD, or below-average.

I looked at all quarterbacks with at least 100 dropbacks (i.e., pass attempts + sacks) in 2014, and then measured on what percent of their dropbacks did each quarterback gain at least 0 yards1, at least 1 yard2, at least 2 yards, etc., up to 10 yards. I also calculated the percentage of runs that went for at least 15+, 20+, 25+, and 30+ yards. [click to continue…]

  1. This is essentially a proxy for percentage of times the quarterback wasn’t sacked. []
  2. This is a decent proxy for completion percentage, or, frankly, an improvement on completion percentage. []

Previously on “take away his X [best/worst]” plays:

In April, I noted that you would need to take away Peyton Manning’s best 19 passes in order to bring his stellar Net Yards per Attempt average to below league average. Today, we look at the reverse question: How many of Derek Carr’s worst dropbacks would we need to erase to bring his NY/A above league average? I’ll give you a moment to think about the answer. [click to continue…]


As you know by now, Tom Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the season. This seems to have sparked outrage among everybody because that is what we do in 2015. But let’s try to take a logical approach to things.

Do you think the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs?

The answer to this one seems to be almost certainly yes. The numbers bear that out, as does the very lengthy Wells Report. There has been some confusion about the Wells Report findings, so let’s try to clear that up now.

What exactly did the NFL ask Wells and his team to do? To “conduct an investigation… pursuant to the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of Competitive Rules.” The very first footnote in the Wells report reads

Under the Policy, the “standard of proof required to find that a violation of the competitive rules has occurred” is a “Preponderance of the Evidence,” meaning that “as a whole, the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not.”

So the NFL asked Wells to determine if it was more probable than not that the Patriots violated the rules. Here was Wells’ conclusion:

For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.

Wells’ report did not say he thought there was a 51% chance the Patriots violated the rules. In reading the report, it seems pretty clear that Wells thought it very likely that the Patriots violated the rules. But that wasn’t the question he was asked. He was asked if he thought it was more probable than not that the Patriots deliberately circumvented the rules, and to that he answered in the affirmative. At this point, I don’t see any rational argument to be made to the contrary, given the duration and depth of Wells’ investigation. Sure, it’s theoretically possible that the Patriots did not intentionally cheat, but that seems to be very unlikely. [click to continue…]


In April, I looked at how each defense fared at recording sacks. Today, we flip things around and look at it from the offensive perspective.

In 2014, there were 17,879 pass attempts in the NFL, and another 1,212 dropbacks that ended up as quarterback sacks, translating to a sack rate of 6.35%.

Peyton Manning offenses are always excellent, and they’re always particularly excellent at avoiding sacks. In 2014, the Broncos had 624 dropbacks; given the league average, we would “expect” that Denver’s quarterbacks would have been sacked 39.6 times. In reality, Manning was sacked just 17 times, of 22.6 fewer sacks than “expected” last season. Only one other team, the Joe Flacco and the Ravens at 17.4, had 15 fewer sacks than expectation.

The worst team, by over 10 expected sacks, was Jacksonville. The Jaguars had 628 dropbacks and were sacked an incredible 71 times. Using the league average as our guide, we would have expected Blake Bortles and the Jaguars quarterbacks to have been sacked 38.4 times, which means the Jaguars were sacked 31.1 more times than “expectation.” [click to continue…]


Justin Houston had 22 sacks last year for the Chiefs, just one sack shy of breaking the modern NFL record. Houston did it while playing a full slate of games for the Chiefs, and Kansas City faced 591 pass attempts last year (including sacks). That means Houston recorded a sack on 3.7% of Kansas City’s opponent dropbacks.

That’s very good, although it’s just the 11th best rate since 1982. But we have to remember that sack rates have been steadily declining over the past few decades. For example, from 1982 to 2014, the average sack rate was 6.87%, but the 2014 rate was just 6.35%. In other words, we would need to increase the sack rate last year by 8.2% in order to adjust for era. So if we adjust for Houston’s 3.7% average by multiplying that average by 108.2%, his adjusted sack rate jumps to 4.03%. And that’s the second best rate since 1982. [click to continue…]


In 2002, Rich Gannon, a former 4th round pick, led the NFL in passing yards. That year, Tom Brady (6th round), Trent Green (8th round), Aaron Brooks (4th round), and Jeff Garcia (undrafted) were in the top 11 in passing yards, while Jon Kitna (undrafted), Matt Hasselbeck (6th), and Brad Johnson (9th) all gained at least 3,000 passing yards, too.  You can find all that information here.  So in a year where only 17 quarterbacks threw for 3,000 yards, nearly half of them were drafted in the 4th round or later.

Ten years later, the quarterback landscape was very different. Other than Tony Romo, Brady, and Matt Schaub, all of the top 17 leaders in passing yards were drafted inside the top 35. Last year, Brady, Romo, and Russell Wilson were the only quarterbacks in the top 20 in passing yards not taken inside the first 36 picks (#36 was the draft slot for both Bay area quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Derek Carr).

But those are just three isolated years.  How does the trend look over time? Here’s what I did.

1) Convert each player’s draft pick selection to its draft value.

2) For each player with passing yards in a season since 1970, calculate their percentage of league-wide total passing yards.

3) Multiply that number by each player’s draft value. Then sum those values to get a weighted-average of the draft value for each quarterback.

Here are the results: the number on the Y-Axis may not mean much to you in the abstract (it’s the weighted average draft value), but it’s the shape of the curve that’s important.

draft val QBs

As a general rule, the modern passing attack barely resembles what was going on in the early ’70s, but there is at least one exception: an emphasis on quarterbacks that were highly drafted.  For example, an overwhelming number of early draft picks are at the top of the passing charts from 19721  That trend didn’t hold for very long, though.  Then, in the early ’90s, things peaked again for highly drafted quarterback.  In 1994, five of the top seven passers were former top 3 picks, with the other two going in the top 33 selections.

My hunch is that this trend is going to stick around this time: once Brady and Romo retire, there may not be much out there other than Wilson (and perhaps Nick Foles) when it comes to quarterbacks drafted outside of the top 40.  This year, Buffalo, Houston, and Cleveland may be going with quarterbacks that were not highly drafted, but those appear to be short-term solutions, anyway.   And, at least for 2015, we have four top-2 picks that should boost the average. Carson Palmer should be back in Arizona after starting just 6 games last year, while Sam Bradford is a projected starter after missing all of 2014.  And we should also see Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota helping to bring up last year’s average.

  1. Note that for players who went in both the AFL and NFL drafts, I assigned the better pick to them. []

Andrew Healy, frequent contributor here and at Football Outsiders, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Andrew’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @AndHealy.

For a stats guy, the Wells Report is gripping reading, particularly the appendices provided by the consulting firm Exponent. The conclusion there is pretty simple. Compared to referee Walt Anderson’s pregame measurements, the Patriots’ footballs dropped significantly further in pressure than the Colts’ footballs did. Therefore, even if Tom Brady’s involvement is unclear, a Patriots’ employee probably deflated the balls.

At first glance, that evidence seems pretty convincing, maybe even strong enough to conclude more definitively that tampering occurred. And it is kind of awesome that the officials even created a control group. But there is a problem with making firm conclusions: timing. As Exponent acknowledges, the measured pressure of the balls depends on when the gauging took place. The more time that each football had to adjust to the warmer temperature of the officials’ locker room at halftime, the higher the ball pressure would rise.

And, not surprisingly given the Colts’ accusations, the officials measured the Patriots’ footballs first. This means that the New England footballs must have had less time to warm up than the Indianapolis footballs. Is that time significant? We will get to that, but it does make for a good argument that the Indianapolis footballs are not an adequate control group for the New England footballs. Given the order of events, we would expect the drop of pressure from Anderson’s initial measurements to be lower for the Colts’ balls that had more time indoors at halftime. As the Wells report notes, the likely field temperature was in the 48-50 degree range, compared to the 71-74 degree range for the room where the footballs were measured.

So, how much lower? Here it gets a little fuzzy. The report is clear that the Patriots footballs were gauged first during halftime, but it is unclear about whether the second step was to reinflate the Patriots’ balls or to measure the four Colts’ balls. In Appendix 1 (see p. 2 of the appendix), Exponent notes “although there remains some uncertainty about the exact order and timing of the other two events, it appears likely the reinflation and regauging occurred last.” If events unfolded this way, it would make the Indianapolis footballs at least a better sort of control group. [click to continue…]

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