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Eli Manning and the HOF, Part 2

The common argument for why Manning should make the Hall of Fame is that he and the Giants won two Super Bowls, knocking off the legendary Patriots both times. And in the modern era (i.e., ignoring Tobin Rote), only Jim Plunkett has won two Super Bowls and not made the Hall of Fame.  That’s true, but it’s also a wildly misleading way of looking at things.  If you want to argue that Manning should make the Hall of Fame, that’s a good way to frame your argument, but that’s thinking more like a defense attorney and less like a judge.

Here’s another way to think about it: every single quarterback in the Hall of Fame has been named a first-team All-Pro at least once in their career, except for one quarterback.  And that one quarterback was a no doubt Hall of Famer who also won an MVP trophy.

Two years ago, I wrote about how — statistically speakingEli Manning’s Hall of Fame case falls far short. Today, let’s look not at statistics, but at how sportswriters (i.e., those people who vote for things like the Hall of Fame) viewed these quarterbacks during their careers.  If you include Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, there are 29 Hall of Fame quarterbacks who entered the NFL in the last 70 years.

Of that group, 16 have been named an MVP by the Associated Press: Peyton Manning (5 times); Johnny Unitas (3); Brett Favre (3); Joe Montana (2); Steve Young (2); Tom Brady (2); Aaron Rodgers (2); Kurt Warner (2); Dan Marino (1); Fran Tarkenton (1); Y.A. Tittle (1); Ken Stabler (1); Bart Starr (1); John Elway (1); Norm Van Brocklin (1); and Terry Bradshaw (1). [click to continue…]


Eli Manning and the Hall of Fame

Let’s worry about axes and labels later. For now, take a look at the graph below. The red dots represent Hall of Fame quarterbacks (or players not yet eligible but very likely to wind up in Canton). The blue dots represent non-HOF quarterbacks. The black dot? That’s Eli Manning.


Okay, so what the heck is this chart? What it’s *not*, is the most sophisticated way to measure the value of a quarterback. Instead, it’s a quick-and-dirty method I calculated to measure quarterback dominance.

  • Step 1) Calculate each quarterback’s ANY/A for each season of his career where he had enough pass attempts to qualify for the passing title (14 attempts per team game). ANY/A, of course, is calculated as follows: (Passing Yards + PassTDs * 20 – INTs * 45 – Sack Yards Lost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks).
  • Step 2) For each quarterback, award him 10 points if he led the league1 in ANY/A, 9 points if he finished 2nd, 8 points if he finished 3rd, … and 1 point if he finished 10th. A quarterback receives 0 points if he does not finish in the top 10 in ANY/A or does not have enough pass attempts to qualify.
  • Step 3) For each quarterback, add his “points” from each season to produce a career grade.

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  1. For purposes of this post, I have excluded AAFC stats, but combined the AFL and NFL as one league. []

New York Times: Post-Week 4, 2013

This week at the New York Times, I examine the brothers Manning:

Twenty months ago, Eli Manning and the Giants won the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, the home stadium of his All-Pro brother, Peyton. This year, Peyton seems poised to return the favor. No team is hotter through four weeks than the Denver Broncos. Although five teams are undefeated, the Broncos’ scorched-earth pace makes them the front-runners for the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium.

At least, that is how it appears. The Broncos have outscored opponents by an average of 22 points. The Patriots are 4-0, too, but New England has won by 8 points a game. As it turns out, that differential means the Broncos are much more likely to be the better team over the rest of the season.

Consider that from 1990 to 2012, 66 teams began the season 4-0; on average, those teams won a more modest 61 percent of their games over the final three-quarters of the season. In other words, a perfect start to the season does not guarantee much, to which the 2012 Arizona Cardinals can attest.

By looking at points allowed and points scored, we can get more precise estimates of how many wins we can expect from a team over the rest of the season. Using the 66 undefeated teams to start the season since 1990, a linear regression model — using points scored and points allowed as the two input variables — has the Broncos winning 13.5 games this season, well ahead of the Patriots. (Of course, the regression model does not know that the Patriots will be getting Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola back from injury.)

You can read the full article here.

Year QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yards TD TD% Int Int% Y/A Y/C PRate ESPN QBR Sk Yds NY/A ANY/A Sk%
2004 1-6-0 95 197 48.2 1043 6 3.0 9 4.6 5.3 11.0 55.4 13 83 4.57 3.21 6.2
2005 11-5-0 294 557 52.8 3762 24 4.3 17 3.1 6.8 12.8 75.9 28 184 6.12 5.63 4.8
2006 8-8-0 301 522 57.7 3244 24 4.6 18 3.4 6.2 10.8 77.0 25 186 5.59 4.99 4.6
2007 10-6-0 297 529 56.1 3336 23 4.3 20 3.8 6.3 11.2 73.9 27 217 5.61 4.82 4.9
2008* 12-4-0 289 479 60.3 3238 21 4.4 10 2.1 6.8 11.2 86.4 62.56 27 174 6.06 6.00 5.3
2009 8-8-0 317 509 62.3 4021 27 5.3 14 2.8 7.9 12.7 93.1 69.75 30 216 7.06 6.89 5.6
2010 10-6-0 339 539 62.9 4002 31 5.8 25 4.6 7.4 11.8 85.3 65.88 16 117 7.00 6.09 2.9
2011* 9-7-0 359 589 61.0 4933 29 4.9 16 2.7 8.4 13.7 92.9 59.39 28 199 7.67 7.45 4.5
2012* 9-7-0 321 536 59.9 3948 26 4.9 15 2.8 7.4 12.3 87.2 67.39 19 136 6.87 6.59 3.4
Career 78-57-0 2612 4457 58.6 31527 211 4.7 144 3.2 7.1 12.1 82.7 213 1512 6.43 5.94 4.6

In 2011, Eli Manning threw for 4,933 yards and won the Super Bowl. Last year, he threw for 3948 yards and missed the playoffs. It’s tempting to think that something was “wrong” with Manning last year. Another narrative would be that 2011 was a career year far out of line with anything else he’s done, which would make 2012 was the real Manning. I’m not sure I buy either of those explanations.

Let’s start by comparing Manning’s numbers in 2011 and 2012. Yes, his passing yards dropped, but that’s a meaningless metric on its own. He threw 53 fewer passes in 2012, a partial explanation for why his yards declined. And while his yards per attempt did drop from 8.4 to 7.4, about 20% of that dip was mitigated by the fact that he took fewer sacks (his Net Yards per Attempt dropped from 7.7 to 6.9). In addition to improving his sack rate, Manning’s touchdown and interception rates were virtually identical, which means his decline was limited to pass attempts and yards per attempt.

We can break down the numbers on why his yards per attempt declined thanks to some additional data courtesy of NFLGSIS. In 2011, Manning averaged 8.4 yards per attempt. That was a result of three things: a 61.0% completion rate, 5.82 yards after the catch (per completion), and 7.92 Air Yards per Completed Pass. In 2012, Manning averaged 7.4 yards per attempt, with a 59.9% completion rate, 4.33 average YAC, and 7.97 Air Yards per Completed Pass.

The tiny drop in completion percentage is more than offset by the better sack rate, and if Manning was throwing incomplete passes instead of taking sacks, that’s a good thing. As for what happens when he completed a pass, his entire decline was in the form of yards after the catch. In 2011, he ranked 3rd in Air Yards per Completed Pass and 6th in YAC per completion; in 2012, he ranked 2nd in AY/CP and 30th in YAC per completion.

Now there’s some evidence to indicate YAC might be more on the quarterback than Air Yards. Other studies, and what I think is popular opinion, is that YAC is more about the receiver than the quarterback. But let’s further investigate why the Giants dipped in YAC. The table below shows a more precise breakdown. For both 2011 (in blue) and 2012 (in red), you can see the number of Receptions, Air Yards per Reception, YAC per reception, and Yards per Reception. The rows show each of the Giants top three receivers, top tight end, and top running back, along with the other players at wide receiver, tight end, and running back.
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In October 2009, Neil Paine wrote that Eli Manning had seemingly turned the corner, starting with the five-game stretch from week 17 of the 2007 season that ended in the Super Bowl. And since that post, Manning has been even better, with his 2011 season standing out as the best year of his career. I thought it would be fun to chart Eli’s career game-by-game according to ANY/A. Actually, since that chart would be incredibly volatile, I’m going to do it in five- and ten-game increments.

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

weekly ELI
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Those are some clutch shirts

Those are some clutch shirts.

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

Doug ran that study in the midst of the 2004-05 playoffs, so it shouldn’t be surprising that Tom Brady (who was at the time 8-0 as a playoff starter and would run it to 10-0 before ever suffering a loss) came out on top, winning 3.5 more games than you’d expect from the particulars of the games he started. Fast-forward eight years, though, and you get this list of quarterbacks who debuted after 1977:
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Have you taken a look at a passing leaderboard lately? Here’s the PFR passing leaderboard sorted by ANY/A; as always, all columns are sortable.

1Peyton ManningDEN615422767.81808146.241.888.411.710637.47.84.2
2Josh FreemanTAM610418755.61538115.952.
3Eli ManningNYG716926563.82109124.572.687.712.55407.77.41.9
4Robert Griffin IIIWAS713318970.4160173.731.68.58.512151067.37.47.4
5Drew BreesNOR616627360.82097186.672.67.77.812.612867.17.24.2
6Ben RoethlisbergerPIT6155235661765114.731.37.57.911.413726.87.25.2
7Tom BradyNWE718628565.32104124.
8Aaron RodgersGNB718326269.81979197.341.57.68.310.8261426.47.19
9Matt SchaubHOU714022263.11650104.541.87.47.511.88596.973.5
10Jake LockerTEN46710663.278143.821.97.47.311.731676.92.8
11Matt RyanATL616023667.81756145.962.57.47.511131076.66.75.2
12Carson PalmerOAK614824161.4173272.941.77.2711.712936.56.34.7
13Alex SmithSFO712719066.8142794.752.67.57.311.2181006.46.28.7
14Joe FlaccoBAL715025259.5183793.662.47.36.912.2181106.46.16.7
15Andy DaltonCIN715624364.21831135.3104.17.56.811.7171026.75.96.5
16Cam NewtonCAR610117358.4138752.963.58713.7151026.85.98
17Tony RomoDAL615022167.9163683.694.17.46.310.99596.95.83.9
18Ryan FitzpatrickBUF7133218611435156.994.
19Christian PonderMIN71522276714929462.
20Sam BradfordSTL713121959.8159273.
21Ryan TannehillMIA611819859.6145442637.36.412.3121096.45.55.7
22Matthew StaffordDET616426462.1175451.962.36.6610.7128665.44.3
23Michael VickPHI613623158.9163283.583.57.16.21217906.25.46.9
24Andrew LuckIND613425053.6167472.872.86.7612.516995.95.36
25Mark SanchezNYJ711621853.2145394.173.26.7612.514775.95.36
26Jay CutlerCHI610618756.7135984.373.77.36.412.81912165.39.2
27Russell WilsonSEA710417559.4123084.67476.111.8149765.27.4
28Brandon WeedenCLE715427256.6178393.3103.76.65.611.611696.15.13.9
29Philip RiversSDG613920966.51492104.894.
30Kevin KolbARI610918359.6116984.431.66.46.510.7271594.84.912.9
31Matt HasselbeckTEN59615661.593153.242.665.59.710745.24.76
32Blaine GabbertJAX68815855.790663.831.95.75.610.3151054.64.58.7
33Matt CasselKAN510317658.5115052.895.16.54.811.213745.74.16.9

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The third and fourth most popular quarterbacks in New York this week.

There are few nights as precious as tonight, the official start of the 2012 regular season. Even after tonight, 255 regular season games remain for us to enjoy. As usual, the defending Super Bowl champion hosts the opening game, and it didn’t take the NFL schedule makers long to decide on an opponent. This will be the 6th time in 8 meetings that the Giants and Cowboys will meet on primetime television. And as usual, the media will turn this game into another referendum on Tony Romo and Eli Manning.

Public perception says that Manning is the better quarterback, based largely exclusively on his post-season success and reputation as a clutch quarterback. And there’s a good reason he has such a reputation: Manning has won 8 of his last 9 playoff games and tied NFL single-season records with seven 4th-quarter comebacks and eight game-winning drives in 2011. Romo has a reputation as the chokiest of chokers, is 1-3 in playoff games, and has been less stellar than Manning late in games. While Manning has 21 career 4th quarter comebacks and is 21-22 in games where he had an opportunity for a 4th quarter comeback, Romo is just 13-20 in 4th quarter comeback opportunities. But let’s leave that to the side for now.

Because based on their regular season statistics, Romo absolutely crushes Manning, at least statistically. The gap shrunk significantly in 2011, but Romo’s track record of production and efficiently is considerably more impressive. Manning entered the league in 2004 but struggled his first three years; Romo first started in 2006 and was above average immediately. But let’s just focus on the past five seasons. The table below displays the statistics each quarterback produced from 2007 to 2011. Note that since Romo has missed time due to injury, I have added a third row, which pro-rates Romo’s numbers to 80 starts:
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In 2006, I took a stab at ranking every quarterback in NFL history. Two years later, I acquired more data and made enough improvements to merit publishing an updated and more accurate list of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. In 2009, I tweaked the formula again, and published a set of career rankings, along with a set of strength of schedule, era and weather adjustments, and finally career rankings which include those adjustments and playoff performances.

If nothing else, that was three years ago, so the series was due for an update. I’ve also acquired more data, enabling me to tweak the formula to better reflect player performance. But let’s start today with an explanation of the methodology I’m using. To rank a group of players, you need to decide which metric you’re ordering the list by. I’ll get to all of the criteria I’m not using in a little bit, but the formula does use each of the following: pass attempts, passing touchdowns, passing yards, interceptions, sacks, sack yards lost, fumbles, fumbles recovered, rush attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Most importantly, the formula is adjusted for era and league.

Two of the best quarterbacks ever.

So where do we begin? We start with plain old yards per attempt. I then incorporate sack data by removing sack yards from the numerator and adding sacks to the denominator1. To include touchdowns and pass attempts, I gave a quarterback 20 yards for each passing touchdown and subtracted 45 yards for each interception. This calculation — (Pass Yards + 20 * PTD – 45 * INT – Sack Yards Lost) / (Sacks + Pass Attempts) forms the basis for Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, one of the key metrics I use to evaluate quarterbacks.

For purposes of this study, I did some further tweaking. I’m including rushing touchdowns, because our goal is to measure quarterbacks as players. There’s no reason to separate rushing and passing touchdowns from a value standpoint, so all passing and rushing touchdowns are worth 20 yards and are calculated in the numerator of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. To be consistent, I also include rushing touchdowns in the denominator of the equation. This won’t change anything for most quarterbacks, but feels right to me. A touchdown is a touchdown.
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  1. I have individual sack data for every quarterback since 1969. For seasons before then, I have team sack data going back to 1949. For seasons before 1950, I ignored sacks; for seasons between 1950 and 1969, I gave each quarterback an approximate number of sacks, giving him the pro-rated portion of sacks allowed by the percentage of pass attempts he threw for the team. While imperfect, I thought this “fix” to be better than to ignore the data completely, especially for years where one quarterback was responsible for the vast majority of his team’s pass attempts. []

Quarterback wins over Pythagoras

No, this article isn’t an article about quarterbacks squaring off against ancient Greek mathematicians. Today, we’re going to look at quarterback win-loss records and see how they compare to their Pythagorean win-loss records.

Over 30 years ago, Bill James wrote that, on average, baseball teams’ true strengths could be measured more accurately by looking at runs scored and runs allowed than by looking at wins and losses. Since then, sports statisticians have applied the same thinking to all sports. The formula to calculate a team’s Pythagorean winning percentage is always some variation of:

(Points Scored^2) / (Points Scored ^2 + Points Allowed^2)

With the exponent changing from 2 to whatever number best fits the data for the particular sport. In football, that number is 2.53. We can look, for example, at the Pythagorean records for each team in the league last season, and line it up against their actual record:

YearTmRecordWin%PFPAPyth WinsDiff

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Franchise leaders — passing stats

Happy 4th of July! Before you head to your barbecue, I’d recommend you take a look at the incredible document our founders signed 236 years ago.

As far as football goes, today’s a good time for a data dump. The table below shows the career passing leaders for each franchise, organized by when the current leader last played for that team.

TeamYardsQuarterbackLast Yr
NWE39979Tom Brady
NOR28394Drew Brees
HOU16903Matt Schaub
BAL13816Joe Flacco
IND54828Peyton Manning2011
SEA29434Matt Hasselbeck2010
PHI32873Donovan McNabb2009
CAR19258Jake Delhomme2009
GNB61655Brett Favre2007
JAX25698Mark Brunell2003
DAL32942Troy Aikman2000
MIA61361Dan Marino1999
DEN51475John Elway1998
BUF35467Jim Kelly1996
TEN33685Warren Moon1993
NYG33462Phil Simms1993
STL23758Jim Everett1993
SFO35124Joe Montana1992
TAM14820Vinny Testaverde1992
SDG43040Dan Fouts1987
CIN32838Ken Anderson1986
WAS25206Joe Theismann1985
ATL23470Steve Bartkowski1985
ARI34639Jim Hart1983
PIT27989Terry Bradshaw1983
CLE23713Brian Sipe1983
OAK19078Ken Stabler1979
MIN33098Fran Tarkenton1978
NYJ27057Joe Namath1976
KAN28507Len Dawson1975
DET15710Bobby Layne1958
CHI14686Sid Luckman1950

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