≡ Menu

Since 1970, only three teams have finished first in both offensive and defensive ANY/A:

  • The 1996 Packers were the last team to do it. Brett Favre and Antonio Freeman helped the Green Bay offense average 6.5 ANY/A, just ahead of Miami for the league lead. On the other side of the ball, Reggie White and LeRoy Butler guided a dominant Green Bay defense that allowed just 3.1 ANY/A, far ahead of the rest of the NFL (Pittsburgh, at 3.8, was the only other defense that allowed fewer than 4 ANY/A).

[click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }
The braintrust.

The braintrust.

The Jets passing offense being bad does not qualify for news.  However, the Jets passing offense and passing defense combining for historically inept numbers? Sure, that qualifies.

New York has thrown 8 touchdown passes this year against 11 interceptions. That’s a -3 differential which is pretty bad.  Only two other teams have negative ratios this year: the Jaguars, also at -3 (11 TDs, 14 INTs), and the Vikings at -5 (6/11).  But the Jets pass defense has allowed 24 touchdowns while forcing just 1… ahem, ONE… interception.  That +23 ratio for opposing quarterbacks is better than any offense this year (the Broncos are at +19 (24/5), and the Patriots and Steelers are both at +20 with matching 23/3 TD/INT ratios).

From the perspective of the Jets defense, though, that +23 reverses to a -23.  Add to that the -3 from the offensive side of the ball, and New York’s combined TD/INT ratio from both units is an incredibly bad -26.

How bad? It’s tied for the 2nd worst number through 9 games since 1970, just narrowly behind the 1975 Cleveland Browns. Those Browns began the year with 3 passing touchdowns and 17 interceptions through nine games. Okay, that was even bad for the dead ball era, but what about the defense? Cleveland allowed 19 passing touchdowns while forcing just six interceptions during that stretch! Those numbers led to an 0-9 start under first-year head coach Forrest Gregg.

The table below shows all teams to start the season with at least a -20 ratio in this statistic I just made up. Here’s how to read the line from the famous 1944 Card/Pitt combination, forced together due to World War II. Through nine games, that team threw 8 touchdowns and 40 interceptions (-32), while allowing 19 passing touchdowns and intercepting just 15 passes (-4), for a total score of -36. [click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

The Pro-Rex Ryan Argument

Rex Ryan’s sixth year as head coach of the Jets will almost certainly end the way each of his last three seasons ended: with New York missing the playoffs. While that lack of success often leads to a coach getting fired after just a couple of down seasons, Ryan’s career in New York — in many more ways than what will be described below — has been a unique one. If so inclined, one could argue that no coach has done more with less than Ryan.

To make that statement, one simply needs to define “more” as “win games” and “less” to mean “having an efficient passing offense.” From 2009 to 2013, the Jets averaged just 4.60 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, which was 1.21 ANY/A below league average. That was the 2nd worst performance over that period, ahead (just barely) of the Cleveland Browns.1

The metric ANY/A correlates very strongly with winning percentage, but here’s the weird part: New York has averaged 8.4 wins per year over those five years, making the Jets a slightly above average team. For reference, the other four teams in the bottom five in ANY/A averaged just 5.6 wins per season. New York has been a crazy outlier: none of the other teams that ranked in the bottom 12 in ANY/A posted a winning record during that time span.

Take a look at the graph below. The Y-Axis shows wins per year, while the X-Axis depicts ANY/A relative to league average from 2009 to 2013. The Jets are the biggest outlier in that group, with only the Ravens coming anywhere near the Jets level of “overachievement.” [click to continue…]

  1. And from 2009 through eight weeks of the 2014 season, no team has a worse ANY/A average than New York. []
{ 25 comments }

Seattle trades Percy Harvin to the Jets

When John Schneider sent a 1st round draft pick1 to Minnesota for the right to pay Percy Harvin $67M over six years, it looked like a risky move that might pay off if a whole bunch of “ifs” came true. Today? After paying Harvin more than eighteen (18!) million dollars and getting little in return, the Seahawks are sending him to the Jets for a conditional pick (rumored to be a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th, depending on what exactly those conditions are). The 2012 transaction now looks like one of the worst trades in recent NFL history. What was Seattle thinking?

Let’s travel back in time to October 31, 2012. Would you be shocked to learn that Percy Harvin may have been the best wide receiver in football? To measure this, I looked at how all receivers had performed over the trailing 365 days. The table below shows the production for each receiver from week 9 of the 2011 season through week 8 of the 2012 season. I’ve also calculated each wideout’s fantasy points, with 0.5 points given for each reception, 0.1 points for each yard from scrimmage, and 6 points for each offensive touchdown. Since, due to bye weeks, some receivers could have played between 15 and 17 games, the table includes the 20 wide receivers with the most fantasy points but is sorted by FP/G: [click to continue…]

  1. And a little more. As it turned out, the Vikings drafted Xavier Rhodes, Jerick McKinnon, and Travis Bond with those picks. That looks even better today than it did a year and a half ago. []
{ 12 comments }

Sons of Anarchy

Sons of Anarchy.

I’ve already spent some time this off-season discussing the Rams fantastic front four. Robert Quinn made the Pro Bowl last season, and he’s a good bet to make the trip to Hawaii again this year as long as he stays healthy. Adding Aaron Donald to a line that also has Chris Long and Michael Brockers means St. Louis should have the best 4-3 defensive line in the NFL this year.

The best 3-4 defensive line? That honor probably belongs to the New York Jets. Muhammad Wilkerson made the Pro Bowl last year and would have been a second-team AP All-Pro choice if that organization knew anything about how to create a ballot. The other defensive end, Sheldon Richardson, was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. The nose tackle, Damon Harrison, was easily the top run-stuffing tackle in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus, and was PFF’s highest-graded nose tackle overall.  You will probably find this hard to believe, but Rex Ryan has said that he wants to have all three of the Jets starting defensive linemen make the Pro Bowl.

How rare is that? Pretty rare — in fact, a 3-4 line has never sent all three players to the Pro Bowl. But even among 4-3 teams, sending three defensive linemen to Hawaii is a very rare feat. Although you might be surprised about when it last happened.

Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

What other teams have sent three defensive linemen to the Pro Bowl during the Super Bowl era? [click to continue…]

{ 3 comments }

Is Chris Johnson Better than Chris Ivory?

Over the last three years, Chris Johnson has rushed 817 times for 3,367 yards, a 4.12 yards per carry average. Over the last three years, the Jets have had running back seasons where a rusher recorded at least 150 carries: Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory in 2013, and Shonn Greene in both 2011 and 2012. Collectively, in those four seasons, the group rushed 887 times for 3,647 yards, a 4.11 yards per carry average.

If you put a lot of stock in yards per carry as a metric, it would seem as though Johnson won’t be bringing much to New York in the running game. But today we’re going to take a closer look at the production of Johnson and the Jets back. And I’ve created some graphs that I think are pretty interesting.

Because Johnson has 817 carries since 2011 and the Jets backs have 887, we can’t just compare things on a carry per carry basis (i.e., 20th best carry for each).  So instead, I’m going to look at their percentile ranks — i.e., how many yards they gained on X percent of their carries. This first chart looks at the percentile ranks for Johnson and the Jets backs over the last three years. For example, 22% of Johnson’s runs have gone for negative yards or no gain, while the 22nd percentile of Jets runs has been for one yard. In the table below, the X-axis represents percentile, and the Y-axis represents yards gained. In this chart, being higher is better, and the Jets green line is higher or even with Johnson’s blue line on about 75% of all runs. Then, at the end, things switch, with Johnson being more productive with respect to each group’s best runs. [click to continue…]

{ 12 comments }

Predictions in Review: AFC East

During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West, the NFC West, the AFC South, the NFC South, the AFC North, and the NFC North.  Today, the AFC East.

Buffalo Bills website complains about team’s schedule, June 24, 2013

Last summer, the Buffalo Bills website argued that the NFL schedule makers did Buffalo a big injustice by giving the team six games against teams coming off extra rest.  That was the most in the league: no other team had five such games, and as it turned out, the two other teams that had 4 games against teams with extra rest were the two most disappointing teams in the NFL (Houston and Atlanta). Meanwhile, the Chiefs, 49ers, and Patriots were the only teams in 2013 not to face an opponent coming off extra rest, and all three wound up making the playoffs.

So yeah, the Bills had a legitimate gripe. But what actually happened?

  • The Jets played the Patriots on Thursday night in week two, and then hosted the Bills ten days later in week three. The Jets won, 27-20.
  • The Jets then got to play the Bills in week 11 after New York’s week ten bye. That wasn’t so helpful for Gang Green: the Bills crushed the Jets at home, 37-14.
  • Another division opponent, Miami, got to play Buffalo after the Dolphins’ bye week. But the Bills went into Miami in week 7 and won, 23-21.
  • While the Bills were beating Miami, the Saints enjoyed a bye. In week 8, Buffalo went to New Orleans and was slaughtered, 35-17.
  • In week 12, the Bills were off, but the team’s week 13 opponent, Atlanta, was playing on Thursday night. So Buffalo’s game off the bye came against a team with 10 days rest. In Toronto, the Bills collapsed at the end, ultimately losing in overtime, 34-31.
  • In week 14, the Jaguars played on Thursday night and won their third game in a row; in week 15, Buffalo edged the Jaguars, 27-20.

[click to continue…]

{ 1 comment }

How Have Previous Eric Deckers Fared?

Decker learns how to run a Papa Johns franchise

Decker learns how to run a Papa John's franchise.

Just a few minutes before press time, the Jets signed Eric Decker, generally considered the best wide receiver available in free agency. But for weeks, the #hotsportstake on Eric Decker has been pretty clear: he’s a product of playing with Peyton Manning and alongside Demaryius Thomas (and Wes Welker and Julius Thomas). It would take you awhile to find a discussion of Decker’s free agent candidacy without hearing the phrase “he’s not a number one wide receiver.” This sort of analysis is obviously lazy, but it’s also a fascinating counter to an unmade argument. In the same way that Joe Namath is now an underrated quarterback, it’s fair to wonder: if so many people are calling Decker overrated, how can he be overrated?

In today’s post, I want to look at how the previous ten Eric Deckers have fared. What’s an Eric Decker? A gritty hard working player who runs great routes receiver who met each of the following criteria:

  • Finished as a top-20 fantasy wide receiver (with 1 point per 10 yards, 6 points per touchdown, 0.5 points per reception as the scoring system) in Year N
  • Was not his team’s top fantasy wide receiver in Year N
  • Played for a different team in Year N+1

[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

Was Smith's fast finish a sign of things to come?

Was Smith's fast finish a sign of things to come?

In Geno Smith’s first 12 NFL starts, he completed 179 of 327 passes (54.7%) for 2,256 yards, with 8 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Those numbers translate to a 6.9 yards per attempt average, quite respectable for a rookie, and a 4.8 Adjusted Yards per Attempt average, abysmal for anybody. But over the last four weeks of the year, Smith went 68/116 (58.6%) for 790 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. His yards per attempt actually went down slightly to 6.8, but he averaged 6.7 AY/A, much closer to league average. Touchdowns and interceptions are less sticky statistics than yards per attempt, but Jets fans looking for reasons for optimism would cling to the massive flip in touchdown-to-interception ratio over the final quarter of the season.

The real question is whether any of that matters. In general, I’m a Splits Happen type of analyst, but I thought I would run some numbers. As it turns out, perhaps there is some reason to think Smith’s strong December (subject to the caveats below) is a sign of good things to come.  Here’s what I did:

From 1990 to 2013, there were 51 quarterbacks who threw at least 224 passes during their rookie season. Toss out the 2013 rookies (EJ Manuel, Smith, and Mike Glennon), along with the nine quarterbacks who threw fewer than 100 passes in year two (Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Leaf, Kyle Orton, Chad Hutchinson, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Weinke, Ken Dorsey, and Matt Stafford), and that leaves us with 39 quarterbacks who threw at least 224 passes as a rookie since 1990 and then at least 100 passes in their second season. For those quarterbacks, I calculated their Y/A and AY/A averages over their final 4 games of the season, and their Y/A and AY/A averages over the first 1-12 games of the season (with the 224 pass attempts minimum, I felt pretty confident that we would have a large enough sample on the “early” portion of the season).  Then I looked at how those 39 quarterbacks fared in their second years.

The table below shows all 39 quarterbacks, plus the 2013 rookies.  Here’s how to read the table below.  Heath Shuler, a rookie for Washington in 1994, had 150 “early” season attempts, defined as all pass attempts before the final 4 games of the season.  His early year Y/A average was 5.0 and his AY/A average was 2.8.  Shuler had 115 “late” season attempts, defined as pass attempts in the final four games.  His Y/A in the late part of the season was 7.9, and his AY/A was 7.8.  As a result, Shuler improved his Y/A by 3.0 and his AY/A by 5.0 over the final four games of the season.  In Year N+1 — i.e., 1995 for Shuler — he had 125 pass attempts, and averaged 6.0 Y/A and 3.9 AY/A. [click to continue…]

{ 12 comments }

Smith against the Bucs

Smith looks to go deep against the Bucs.

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

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

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

{ 14 comments }

The Jets beat the Browns 24-13 today, bringing New York’s record up to 7-8. With Rex Ryan on the hot seat — more on this in a few hours — some have defended the controversial head coach by lauding his work this season. After all, if the Jets are one of the least talented teams in the NFL, isn’t it the product of great coaching that the Jets got to 7-8?

That would be true if the Jets were playing like a 7-8 team. But that’s not the case. The Jets have been outscored by 110 points this year, which makes them a bottom five team, a level of production more in line with the team’s talent. If Ryan is getting bottom five production out of a team that’s bottom five in talent, well, that’s not nearly as impressive.

But perhaps you want to argue that the Jets have overachieved in record (but not anywhere else) because of Ryan? Let’s investigate that claim. New York has just 4.45 Pythagorean wins, which means that they’ve won 2.55 more games than expected. The table below shows the 24 teams to exceed their Pythagorean record1 by at least two wins while posting a negative points differential. [click to continue…]

  1. Among teams in 16-game seasons []
{ 19 comments }

Checkdowns: Tale of a Tailspin Graphic (NYT)

I contributed to this New York Times graphic regarding the Jets struggles.

{ 0 comments }

Checkdowns: How to Fix the Jets

What are the biggest problems facing the Jets? What should GM John Idzik do in the offseason? Should Rex Ryan be fired? Jets fan and friend of the program Jason McIntyre reached out to me, Jason of NYJetsCap.com and OvertheCap.com, and Brian Bassett of The Jets Blog for our thoughts.

One of the questions was whether Geno Smith was the quarterback of the future for the Jets. Here was my answer:

No question is harder than determining when to give up on a quarterback. There’s no right answer: give up too soon, and you miss out on Drew Brees; wait too long, and you have four years of Mark Sanchez. It’s not really “fair” to give up on a quarterback after one season, particularly one saddled with such a weak supporting cast. On the other hand, that’s exactly what the Jets did with Kellen Clemens. Drew Stanton was the 43rd pick in the draft and he’s started 4 games – is that “fair”?

My favorite part of Smith’s game is that (at least, when he’s not being neutered by the coaching staff) he’s a gunslinger at heart. Did you know that Smith’s average pass travels 9.7 yards in the air, the third highest number in the league? The average Smith completion travels 7.87 yards in the air and has 4.85 yards of YAC (which ranks only 24th); as a result, his 12.7 yards per completion ranks seventh in the league. I at least think there’s a chance that when his line is better and he has legitimate downfield weapons, he could be a very good quarterback. The issue, of course, is how long do you wait to find that out?

You can read the full article here.

{ 2 comments }

Jets, Falcons pull off rare feat

Is a left-arm-only Geno better than Sanchez?

Next on First Take: Is a left arm only Geno better than Sanchez?

Under Mark Sanchez, the Jets were never very good at completing passes, because of, well, Mark Sanchez. The Jets ranked 29th, 30th, 24th, and 30th from 2009 to 2012 in completion percentage. Over that four year period, no team completed fewer passes (1,080) or had a lower completion percentage (55.2%) than the Jets. But as bad as the Jets offense has been at completing passes, the defense was even more extreme at preventing completions. Over the last four full years, the top two single seasons in completion percentage allowed were recorded by the ’09 and ’10 Jets. The 2011 Jets ranked 4th in completion percentage allowed, while last year’s team ranked second. From 2009 to 2012, no team allowed fewer completions (1,069) or at a lower rate (52.6%) than the Jets. In fact, the 2nd best team at completion percentage allowed over that period, the Packers at 56.9%, were closer to the 18th best team in opponent’s completion percentage than they were to the Jets.

If you average the completion percentages of the Jets and their opponents over that four year period, you get an average completion percentage in Jets games of 53.8%, easily the lowest rate in the league (Arizona, Kansas City, and Oakland are next at 57.6, 57.7, and 57.7%).

Under Geno Smith and without Darrelle Revis, things hadn’t changed much.  Through four weeks, the Jets defense ranked — you guessed it, 1st in completion percentage allowed at 51.4%, while the Jets offense ranked 26th in completion percentage.

Switching gears for a second, only three games in NFL history had ever seen both teams complete 80% of their passes in a single game. What were the odds, then, that the 2013 Jets would be involved in the fourth such game? I have no idea, but I know they were really, really, really low. Yet on Monday Night against the Falcons, that’s exactly what happened.
[click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

Instant Analysis: Jets top Tampa Bay in week 1

Jets BucsThirteen months ago, Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano said that he didn’t ever want to be the least penalized team in the league. I don’t think Sunday’s game was exactly what Schiano had in mind.

The Jets and Bucs battled in one of the closest games on Sunday, if not necessarily one of the most well-played ones. I was at the game, rooting on the home team, and can file this game under “all’s well that ends well.” While there are many takeaways from the game, the Bucs’ discipline problems will dominate discussion in Tampa Bay this week.

The Buccaneers looked unprepared at the start of the game and sloppy throughout. The Bucs were having some problems with Josh Freeman’s headset, which might explain why the team had to call timeout after an incomplete pass on the fourth snap of the game. But Tampa Bay followed that timeout with a delay of game (how?), which was followed by another delay of game (how??). That was followed by a sack, a false start, and then another false start.

The discipline problems continued throughout the game. Freeman wasn’t prepared for a Jeremy Zuttah snap, which resulted in a safety (and another penalty when Freeman kicked the ball out of the end zone). New Buc Dashon Goldson committed a brutal personal foul on Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland on one drive; on the next, the other safety, Mark Barron, was flagged for unnecessary roughness on an eight-yard pass to Jeremy Kerley on 3rd-and-21. That gave the Jets a first down, and let to New York’s only offensive touchdown of the game, a seven-yard throw from Geno Smith to ex-Buc Kellen Winslow.

Leading 14-12 in the fourth quarter, the Jets had 3rd-and-6 from their own 27. Smith couldn’t find anyone and ran out of bounds, but a defensive holding kept the drive alive (which led to a field goal). But despite all the penalties, Tampa Bay still managed to gain the lead in the game’s final minute. With 15 seconds remaining, the Jets had the ball at their own 45, a good 15-20 yards away from field goal range. Geno Smith scrambled and ran out of bounds with seven seconds left, placing the Jets at the Tampa Bay 45-yard line. But after the play, second-year linebacker Lavonte David was flagged for a personal foul, putting the Jets in field goal range. Nick Folk connected from 48 yards out, and David’s blunder is up there with Dwayne Rudd‘s helmet toss as the most costly penalties of the last 15 years.
[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

Projecting the 2013 Jets

Let’s start with a picture showing just how ugly the Jets passing game has been over the last four years. The chart below displays where New York has ranked in Net Yards per Attempt, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, passer rating, Football Outsiders DVOA, and ANS’s Pass EPA/Play in each season starting in 2009. The black line shows an average of the team’s ranks in those five metrics. On the left, is the team’s rank from 1 to 32.

Jets passing

There are a few things that should be pretty obvious: all data points reside in the bottom half of the picture. New York ranked 18th in passer rating in 2011, its highest ranking in any of the five passing measures over the last four years. The Jets passing game was bad last year and looks to be bad this year, but we’re only talking about measures of degrees. The 11-5 Jets in 2010 ranked 20th in ANY/A and made it to the AFC Championship Game. In Mark Sanchez’s rookie year, the Jets ranked 27th in ANY/A and were leading the Colts at halftime of the AFCCG in Indianapolis.

One interpretation is that Sanchez was steadily improving, as he made gains in most metrics in both 2010 and 2011. I don’t think that’s the correct interpretation, however. Yes, the Jets ranked 18th in passer rating and in the top 20 other three other categories, but the real story is that New York only finished 25th in NY/A. The discrepancy between the statistics is the result of a fluke season with respect to passing touchdowns, which are ignored in NY/A but a part of passer rating, ANY/A, DVOA, and EPA. The Jets ranked 2nd in red zone scoring percentage in 2011, but ranked 17th (2009), 28th (2010), and 25th (2012) in that metric the other three years. Sanchez threw 14 touchdowns from inside the ten-yard line that year, more than double his performance in any other season. Some credited his red zone performance in 2011 to offensive guru Tom Moore’s tenure with the team that year, others believed it was due to the addition of Plaxico Burress, while still more thought it was a sign of Sanchez’ improvement as a passer. In retrospect, I think we can chalk most of that up red zone success up to good old fashioned luck and small sample size.
[click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

Last night, David Wilson ran 84 yards for a touchdown on the Giants first play from scrimmage. Without being touched. How does that happen? Let’s start with a look from the end zone right at the snap:

Giants Jets Wilson Snap

The Jets are lined up with four down linemen: from left to right, you can see DE Muhammad Wilkerson, first-round tackle Sheldon Richardson, backup NT Damon Harrison, and outside linebacker/edge rusher Garrett McIntyre. At linebacker, we see Calvin Pace, David Harris, and Demario Davis — the new starter whom Rex Ryan has compared to Ray Lewis — tight inside the tackles. Left cornerback Kyle Wilson is off screen, covering Rueben Randle on the Giants right, while the Jets show a single-high safety look: Dawan Landry, the free agent addition from Jacksonville, is 13 yards off the line of scrimmage, while safety Antonio Allen (the Jets 7th round pick a year ago and expected starter in 2013) has creeped towards the line. What’s not shown: a few seconds earlier, the Giants motioned TE Brandon Myers to the offense’s left before the snap, causing Antonio Cromartie to line up right in the face of Hakeem Nicks and Allen (39) to drop down closer to the line of scrimmage (he was ten yards off the line before Myers moved).

The Giants know what is coming: a handoff to David Wilson, who will read the Jets defense to determine whether he bursts up the gut or bounces outside. From a numbers game, the Giants like what they see: even after Allen comes down, the math looks even. Assuming Nicks can handle Cromartie (he will), the Giants have the center, left guard, left tackle, Myers (a yard off the line) and TE Bear Pascoe (playing the traditional fullback slot) to block five Jets – Harrison and McIntyre on the line, Harris and Davis in the second level, and Allen.

In theory, you would think the Giants would have the C block the NT, the uncovered LG would make a beeline towards Harris (52), the LT would take care of McIntyre, and Pascoe and Myers would be assigned to Davis (56) and Allen (39). Some of that happens — the center (backup Jim Cordle) handles the nose; he also gets an assist from LG Kevin Boothe, who nudges Harrison away from the play a second before he manhandles Harris (a mismatch for most linebackers, so we can’t be too harsh on Harris). LT Will Beatty also overpowers the RDE, McIntyre, unsurprising considering (1) Beatty is a pretty good player and McIntyre is a backup 3-4 OLB, and (2) Beatty outweighs him by 64 pounds. Credit the Giants for good blocking, but blocking your assigned man doesn’t turn into 84-yard runs very often. The real cuprit on the play is Allen, but he was only the last domino to fall.
[click to continue…]

{ 6 comments }

Football Perspective’s Thoughts on the Jets Draft

Yesterday, I discussed some of my general reactions to the NFL Draft. Today, my thoughts on the Jets draft in particular.

Milliner Island

Milliner Island.

Round 1, Pick 9: CB Dee Milliner (Alabama)

Some mocks had Milliner, the consensus best cornerback in the draft, going as high as third overall.  The Jets had a need at cornerback following the Darrelle Revis trade, and perhaps the same scouts who fell in love with Revis (and not the ones scouting Kyle Wilson) saw similar traits in Milliner. So from that standpoint, the pick makes sense.

But I’m not sure if the selection fits in with the team’s overall philosophy.  By trading Revis, the implication was that the Jets don’t think any individual cornerback is all that valuable in both Rex Ryan’s scheme and in a division that features a two (tight end)-headed bohemoth. That’s a reasonable position to take, and trading Revis — instead of paying him $16M/year — is consistent with an organizational philosophy that values depth rather than a singular talent at cornerback.

But then why spend a top-ten pick on a corner?  Perhaps the Jets just think Revis wasn’t ever going to be Revis again, and the two moves had nothing to do with each other.  Maybe New York just likes young corners.  New general manager John Idzik restructured Antonio Cromartie‘s contract to provide immediate cap savings, but he’ll count for $15M against the salary cap in 2014.  And while Cromartie was excellent in 2012, he’ll be 30 years old this time next year; the Jets may want to move on from him at that point.  Add in the fact that 2014 is Wilson’s final year, and Milliner may be the only cornerback on the roster in both 2013 and 2015.
[click to continue…]

{ 17 comments }

We would like to start the bidding at Fort Knox.

We would like to start the bidding at Fort Knox.

This trade was a Win-Win-Win for all three sides. The Buccaneers received the best cornerback in the NFL when healthy, the perfect elixir for a team that ranked 1st against the run and 32nd against the pass in 2012. I’m a big fan of Josh Freeman, who should continue to improve as he matures. The Bucs were the 3rd youngest team in the NFL last year, making them a team on the rise. Adding Revis and Dashon Goldson to the secondary makes Tampa Bay an immediate playoff contender and a darkhorse Super Bowl contender.

Meanwhile, this is a big win for Revis, who received an incredible $96 million dollar contract and no longer has to worry about playing this season on a three million dollar base contract. Instead, he has a $13M base for each of the next six seasons, as well as a $1.5M workout bonus and $1.5M roster bonus in each season. By making $16M per season, he’s making just a hair below what Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald are making, and he’s trumped the averages per year going to Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. He’s making not just quarterback money, but elite quarterback money. The trade-off for that insanely high annual figure is that he has little protection. Technically, he has no guaranteed money, but absent a season-ending injury — and maybe not even that — he’s going to make at least $32M over the next two years. And unless he falls apart, he’ll pocket $48M from 2013 to 2015, an incredible three-year haul. It’s also a few million dollars more than what DeMarcus Ware, Terrell Suggs, and Clay Matthews received on their monster deals. Unless Tampa Bay cuts Revis after two years — in which case they would have paid $32M and lost a first round draft pick and obviously received very little — a deal with no guaranteed money isn’t particularly risky for Revis. In reality, zero guaranteed dollars is a red herring, and Revis will receive $40+M over the next three years even if Tampa Bay cuts him after year two or $48M if he stays on the team.
[click to continue…]

{ 8 comments }

Morhinweg

Mornhinweg and Vick plan for their dream season.

On Friday, the Jets finally concluded their search for a new offensive coordinator by hiring Marty Mornhinweg. The reaction was predictably mixed, but one of the facts trumpeted by the pro-Mornhinweg crowd was that he has been an offensive coordinator for 11 years and his teams never ranked lower than 15th on offense. Besides my initial reaction of “well, that’s about to change“, my next thought was: wait, the 2012 Eagles were a top-fifteen offense?!

Philadelphia turned the ball over 37 times last year, tied with the Jets and the Chiefs for most in the league. The Eagles ranked 29th in points scored. But when people speak of things like a top-fifteen offense, the convention is to refer to a team’s rank in yards gained, and Philadelphia did rank 15th in yards in 2012.
[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

Yesterday, I reviewed how the Jets defense performed in 2012 and previewed the team’s outlook for 2013. Today, the heavy lifting begins, by looking at the offense. If you didn’t feel bad for Tony Sparano before this post, I can guarantee you will by the end of it.

Quarterback

There is no point in ignoring the elephant in the room, so let’s just get it out of the way: Mark Sanchez is a below-average starting quarterback and not the answer for the Jets. After committing 26 turnovers in 2011, Sanchez laughed in the face of regression to the mean and matched that number on fewer plays in 2012. Sanchez also turned the ball over 23 times in his rookie season, leaving 2010 (14 turnovers) as his only season with fewer than 20 turnovers. To be fair, every hand that touched the 2012 Jets passing game deserved criticism, as Sanchez received almost no support from his teammates or coaches.

The past, not the future.

The past, not the future.

Still, the quarterback gets the credit and the blame, and there’s no escaping the fact that Sanchez ranked 30th in Net Yards per Attempt over the last two seasons, a disproportionate performance compared to his bloated salary.1 There are some creative things the Jets could do to lessen his salary cap hit in 2013, but that just delays the bill to 2014. Currently, Sanchez will count for $12.9M against the cap next season, and would count for $17.2M (yes, that means $4.3M of dead money) if released. While it’s not impossible that the Jets could trade him, I’m going to ignore that option for this post. The other problem? His cap hits are $13.1M and $15.6M in 2014 and 2015. You probably didn’t know that — heck you probably thought he was a free agent after 2013 — because it’s so far out of the realm of possibility that Sanchez would be on the team in 2014 that no one mentions it. But as a technical matter, Sanchez is signed through 2016 at superstar quarterback money, and the most likely scenario is the Jets cut him after 2014 (leaving $4.8M in dead money but still saving $8.3M on the cap).

The fact that his contract runs through 2016 is more important than you might think. Even under the best case possible, pigs flying 2013 scenarios, Sanchez still won’t be worth $29M in 2014 and 2015. Sanchez would have to turn in a season like Aaron Rodgers in 2013 to make the Jets want to keep him at his current contract (which, if he played at such a level, he’d have no incentive to restructure) after this season.
[click to continue…]

  1. Among Jets fans, there is some argument that Sanchez used to be good but now is struggling; that’s not really the case. In 2010, the year the Jets went 11-5 and made it to the AFC Championship Game, Sanchez ranked 29th out of 32 quarterbacks in Net Yards per Attempt and 24th in ANY/A. Now he tied Matt Ryan for the NFL lead with 6 game-winning drives that season — no asterisk there, this actually happened — but that only served to obfuscate the fact that Sanchez struggled on a play-by-play basis. Sanchez actually peaked in NY/A rank as a rookie in 2009, finishing 21st, although he ranked 27th in ANY/A. []
{ 19 comments }

Outlook for the 2013 Jets: Part I (The defense)

Have you seen my new tattoo?

Have you seen my new tattoo?

In the preseason, I provided an in-depth preview of the 2012 New York Jets. By mid-season, I questioned the track records of Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, and Mark Sanchez and wondered whether or not they should (and would) be back in 2013. As we now know, after the season Tannenbaum was fired, Ryan was retained, and Sanchez remains on the roster in a salary cap-induced purgatory.

In this post, I’m going to review the Jets defense, analyze how they performed in 2012, and examine the outlook for 2013. Let’s start with one of the strengths of the team:

Defensive Line

I thought the defensive line would be very good in 2013, and they largely met expectations. Muhammad Wilkerson was the best 3-4 defensive end in the league outside of J.J. Watt, and Wilkerson looks to be a perennial Pro Bowler. At the other end spot, the Jets rotated first round pick Quinton Coples with incumbent Mike DeVito. Coples delivered as a pass rusher while DeVito was stout as usual against the run. And while DeVito is an unrestricted free agent and could follow Mike Pettine to Buffalo (although rumor is he wants to stay), Coples has the ability to develop into an every-down player as early as next year. The Jets don’t have anything behind Wilkerson and Coples, but depth can be addressed.
[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

Season in review: AFC and NFC East

This season, I published power rankings after each week where I stated my updated projected number of wins for each team. The point of those posts was to put in writing my thoughts at that time, so that once the season was over, I could look back and see how I did. Over the next two weeks, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

The picture below graphs my projections for each team for each week of the season. I’ve also added the Vegas futures win totals for each team from the pre-season as the first data point in each graph and the final number of regular season wins for each team as the final data point. My projected win totals for each week N come following the conclusion of week N (i.e., my week 1 power rankings were released after week 1).

AFC East

New England Patriots

Pre-season Projection: 12 wins
Maximum wins: 13 (after weeks 1 and 14)
Minimum wins: 10 (after weeks 6 and 7)
Week 1 comment: Incredible offensive weapons, an improved defense and a cupcake schedule. Only injuries on the offensive line or to Tom Brady could derail them.

The Patriots started hot with a big win over the Titans, but managed to lose nail-biters to the Cardinals and Ravens the next two weeks. A loss in Seattle — which was an upset, at the time — dropped them to 3-3 and my projected total to just 10 wins. An overtime win over the Jets the following week was unimpressive and didn’t cause me to bump them, but I kept steadily increasing their win total after that.

In the end, it was another monster statistical season for Brady and the Patriots. New England broke a record for offensive first downs and finished with the third most points scored in a season. I was a little bumpy in my New England projections, but they ended up landing right on the Vegas number.

New York Jets
Pre-season Projection: 8.5 wins
Maximum wins: 9 (after weeks 1 and 2)
Minimum wins: 6 (first after week 8)
Week 1 comment: The additions of Quinton Coples and LaRon Landry were easy to mock, but these two could make the Jets defense a top-three unit. So far, so good. Right tackle Austin Howard exceeded expectations by infinity against Mario Williams, and his play this year will be tied to the Jets success on offense.

The Jets best game of the season came in week 1, which inspired a glimmer of early-season hope. In the end, Coples and Landry had strong seasons, but the loss of Darrelle Revis and the disappointing years by Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Aaron Maybin prevented the Jets from having a complete defense. Mark Sanchez regressed, and injuries to Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, and Stephen Hill didn’t help the offense. Rex Ryan lost control of the team, again, and the Jets struggled against good teams early before disappointing against bad teams late. For the second straight year, the Jets lost their final three games of the season, and it appears like they will fire the offensive coordinator again, too.
[click to continue…]

{ 4 comments }

Every hand in the Jets passing game is to blame

Not Don Coryell.

It’s a special edition of Saturday rant day at Football Perspective.

I’m no Mark Sanchez apologist. But that doesn’t mean he’s the only one to blame for the Jets’ passing game struggles.

The Supporting Cast

Jeremy Kerley, Dustin Keller, Chaz Schilens, Stephen Hill, and Jeff Cumberland are the team’s leading receivers. Clyde Gates has started two games at wide receiver. Kerley would be a great #3 receiver, but he’s the Jets #1. Schillens and Gates are best left as fifth receivers, while Stephen Hill is incredibly raw and has struggled most of the year. Keller would be a good tight end on a good passing offense, but is overmatched as the team’s #2 target. I don’t think anyone would disagree that the Jets’ receivers (including stone-hands Shonn Greene) rank in the bottom five of the league.

Mike Tannenbaum

Tannenbaum has come under heavy criticism from Jets fans of late. While I think much of that is probably unfair, there are several areas to point the finger at Tannenbaum — starting with drafting Sanchez in the first place. The Jets general manager listens to eternal optimist Ryan too much when it comes to personnel decisions, which led the Jets to start Wayne Hunter at right tackle last year and enter the pre-season with him, somehow, still entrenched at the spot. The Vlad Ducasse pick has been a bust, leaving Matt Slauson to cover at left guard (you know, when he’s not being rotated out of the game). Trades for Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes yielded immediate dividends, but have only added to the disruption in the locker room without helping the 2012 version of the team. Sanchez is playing with one of the worst supporting casts in the league, so the man who picks the talent certainly bears some of the blame.

Rex Ryan

There are very few head coaches who are excellent on both sides of the ball, but Rex Ryan is one of the most specialized head coaches in the NFL. He’s a defensive mastermind — no doubt about that — but he’s as helpless on offense as he is strong on defense. He vowed this year to get more involved in the offense, which should start sending red flags to begin with since 2012 is his fourth season as head coach of the team. To the extent that he has been more hands on in 2012, the results aren’t any better.

Perhaps Ryan is the mirror image of a Gary Kubiak, who took awhile to find the right man to run the other half of his team. But from the standpoint of developing a quarterback, Ryan may even be counterproductive. The red light-yellow light-green light system he gave Sanchez in his rookie season was Ryan’s first attempt to right the ship and a sign of what the coach expects out of the quarterback position. The bottom line is Ryan is focused on playing good defense and running the ball, and as long as his quarterback doesn’t mess up, he thinks his team will win. That’s not the ideal environment for a young quarterback to blossom in, and we learned exactly what Rex thinks about his quarterback when this off-season he chose to hire as his offensive coordinator…

Tony Sparano (hat tip, Brian Schottenheimer)
[click to continue…]

{ 12 comments }

An interesting story today on Antonio Cromartie, courtesy of Bob Glauber of Newsday. Cromartie says that after Revis was injured, the All-Pro cornerback told Cromartie that he needed to start taking his job more seriously and that it was time for him to reach his potential. Cromartie stated: “Hearing it from your peers, you take more out of that than hearing it from your coach…. Your peers expect so much out of you and expect you to play at a higher level, especially when he’s one of the best corners in the league.”

I’ve been very impressed with Cromartie this season, and Pro Football Focus’ numbers back in up. PFF’s subscriber content ranks Cromartie fourth in pass coverage among cornerbacks this season, behind only Charles Tillman, Casey Hayward, and Richard Sherman. He’s playing as well as I’ve seen him since he’s been a Jet, and he’s changed his demeanor off the field, too.

Your reaction to Cromartie’s comments is essentially a Rorschach test of your views on life. Whether you find it disappointing that this is what it took for the light to go on (and who knows when the bulb will need to be replaced) or inspiring that he was able to elevate his play is left to the reader.

Cromartie realized he had to take on more of a leadership role, and admitted that his level of play leading up to this season wasn’t as proficient as it should have been. It was a startling admission from a player who rarely suffers from a lack of self assurance, yet it was a moment that signaled a major turnaround. Cromartie is indeed playing his best football, and now laments that he didn’t take his craft more seriously before.

“It shouldn’t have taken for Revis to go down for me to be playing at a very high level,” he said. “There’s something I think I took for granted having Revis on the other side and not being able to play at a high level when he was here.”

“I think the biggest thing that’s changed for me is the leadership role,” Cromartie said. “Just making sure everyone was on top of everything, helping guys study film and knowing how to study film. I think I just took on a role that once [Revis] left, and I wanted to make sure I played at a higher level every single week.”

{ 4 comments }

NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 10

This week at the New York Times I looked at several interesting statistical developments in both the 2012 season and in week 10.

Even in today’s pass-happy N.F.L., it pays to have one of the best running backs. In one of the bigger surprises of the season, the best of the best is Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson.

He’s a four-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All-Pro selection, but few expected a big year out of Peterson. That’s because last year, on Christmas Eve, Peterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Redskins. Such a brutal injury often permanently robs a player of his elite ability; the rule of thumb tells us that it’s not until the second full season after the injury that the player regains his old form, if he ever does.

An injury so late in the 2011 season had most people figuring his 2012 season would be a lost year. Instead, Peterson leads the league in rushing with 1,128 yards and is on pace for a remarkable 1,804. Peterson is the first player since 2009 to rush for 1,100 yards in his team’s first 10 games, and he’s showing no signs of slowing. He has rushed for 629 yards in his last four games, including an impressive 171 rushing yards in a victory over the Lions on Sunday.

Peterson is also averaging 5.75 yards per rush the season, the most among players with at least 100 carries. He joins Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Chris Johnson as players with 1,100 or more rushing yards and such a high yards-per-carry average after his team’s first ten games.

Minnesota’s passing game ranks 26th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt and last in the league in yards per completion, a sign of an offense that doesn’t stretch the field through the air. But despite a passing attack that doesn’t scare any defense, thanks to Peterson, Minnesota is 6-4 and a potential playoff team.

The Return of Megatron

For most of the season, N.F.L. fans wondered what was wrong with Calvin Johnson. It wasn’t until the final minutes of Detroit’s loss to the Vikings on Sunday that Matthew Stafford and Johnson connected on a touchdown pass this season (Johnson did catch a touchdown pass from Shaun Hill earlier this year). Well, after a 207-yard game against Minnesota, Johnson is again leading the league in receiving yards. With 974 yards in nine games, Johnson is actually ahead of last year’s pace, when he gained a league-high 1,681 yards. The big difference: in 2011, he caught 16 touchdown passes, but he has only two in 2012.

Continued Dominance in New England

When it comes to the Patriots, mind-boggling offensive numbers are the norm. That means we occasionally ignore just how impressively the New England machine is operating. The Patriots lead the league in points scored, yards gained and first downs. Since 1990, only the 1993 49ers, the 1997 Broncos, the 2001 Rams and the 2007 Patriots have finished first in each metric.

The Patriots are averaging 33.2 points per game, 3.1 points more than the second-place Broncos. At 430.3 yards per game, the Patriots far outpace the rest of the league; Detroit (406.1) is the only other team averaging more than 400 yards per game.

But where New England really stands out is the 259 first downs it has gained. Last year, New Orleans set the N.F.L. record for first downs in a season with 416; the 2011 Patriots also broke the old record (held by the 2003 Kansas City Chiefs) with 399. This year’s team is on pace for an incredible 460 first downs. And the Patriots are on pace to crush the record in a surprising way: New England leads the N.F.L. in rushing first downs with 92, and Stevan Ridley leads all running backs with 54 rushing first downs.

You can read the full article here.

{ 1 comment }

NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 8

My post for the New York Times this week takes a look at the triumvirate of Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, and Mark Sanchez.

Rex Ryan was hired by Mike Tannenbaum on Jan. 19, 2009. Three months later, they traded up in the 2009 N.F.L. draft to acquire Mark Sanchez. Since that moment, the three of them — the general manager, the head coach and the franchise quarterback — have had their fates intertwined. When the Jets made the A.F.C. championship game in their first season together, they far exceeded expectations, reaching that level far sooner than expected.

In the following off-season, Tannenbaum became the toast of the N.F.L. as he acquired four veterans – Santonio Holmes, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, and Antonio Cromartie — to help put the Jets over the proverbial hump. In August, it was Ryan’s turn to steal the spotlight, as he became a national sensation and the coach everyone wanted to play for following his appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” During the season, it was Sanchez’s time to shine, as he led the Jets on game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime in six different games, the highest number in the league. The Jets won 11 games and went back to the A.F.C. championship game, but again, were stuck at the Super Bowl’s doorstep.

That was the high-water mark of the Tannenbaum-Ryan-Sanchez era. The Jets regressed to 8-8 last season and with a 3-5 record in 2012, appear to be continuing in a downward spiral. With Tannenbaum, Ryan, and Sanchez forever linked, the question the Jets will have to answer at the end of the season is whether all — or any — of them are the right men to take the Jets back to the Super Bowl.

The Quarterback

Statistically, Sanchez has been a disappointment his entire career with the Jets. On the field, he has struggled with reading defenses and throwing accurate passes, and as a result, he is ranked below the league average in completion percentage and yards per attempt in each of his four seasons in the N.F.L. Only 18 quarterbacks in N.F.L. history have ranked below league average in those categories while playing for the same team in three consecutive years. Perhaps surprisingly, all but three — Joe Ferguson, Mark Malone, and an aging Marc Bulger — returned to the same team for a fourth season.

Of the remaining 15, one was Phil Simms, who tore his knee in the 1982 preseason, ending his streak of mediocre play. It wasn’t until he turned 30 that Simms had his first statistically solid season in 1985. David Woodley returned to Miami but lost his job to Dan Marino. Kyle Boller went back to Baltimore, but Steve McNair was acquired to replace him. Sanchez and Matt Cassel each received a fourth year in 2012 to prove themselves.

That leaves 10 quarterbacks who had three straight years of below average play in both yards per attempt and completion percentage, and were brought back by their team and remained as starters. Five quarterbacks — Donovan McNabb, Tobin Rote, Jim Hart, John Elway, and Drew Bledsoe — responded with above-average seasons in their fourth year in at least one of the two categories.

The other five? All again finished below average in the two categories for a fourth straight season. Mike Phipps in Cleveland, Rick Mirer in Seattle, Trent Dilfer in Tampa Bay and Joey Harrington in Detroit were the first four; the fifth was Eli Manning. I excluded Manning’s rookie season because he did not have enough pass attempts to qualify, but technically, he finished below average in both completion percentage and yards per attempt in each of the first five seasons of his career.

Sanchez currently ranks 33rd in completion percentage and 31st in yards per attempt, so absent Peyton Manning wearing his jersey for the rest of the year, Sanchez is going to finish below average for the fourth straight season in both categories. In Kansas City, Matt Cassel may match his streak, although his days with the Chiefs are numbered.

Can the Jets justify starting Sanchez in Year 5? If previous examples are considered, it’s doubtful. Mike Phipps, like Sanchez, was a top-five pick a franchise gambled on. In fact, Cleveland traded the future Hall of Fame wide receiver Paul Warfield to Miami to acquire Phipps, so the Browns were very hesitant to admit their mistake. In his fifth year, Phipps entered the season as the starter but an injury in the season opener against the Jets allowed Brian Sipe to take the job. Mirer was also a top-five pick, but after his fourth year, the Seahawks traded him to the Bears. Somehow, they were able to package him with a fourth-round pick for Chicago’s first-round selection. Tampa Bay, a team that was able to win despite its poor quarterback play because of a great defense, kept Dilfer as the starter in his fifth year, although an injury paved the way for the team to move on. Detroit traded Harrington after his fourth season to Miami for a late round pick. And while Manning’s individual statistics were not impressive, he had already won a Super Bowl with the Giants, ending any questions about his job security.

If the Jets go into the 2013 season with Sanchez as the starter, they will essentially be giving him as long a leash as any quarterback in N.F.L. history has ever had. There are obviously other considerations with Sanchez. He will cost the Jets salary cap over $17 million if they release him before the start of the 2014 season. As it stands, the Jets will pay him nearly $13 million in 2013. But it’s the extreme exception to the rule for a quarterback to have four consecutive years of mediocre play be given the starting job in his fifth year on a silver platter. When a highly drafted quarterback struggles so consistently and fails to develop, there are usually severe ramifications. And they extend far beyond the quarterback.

For a look at the coach and the general manager, you can read the full article here.

{ 2 comments }

A couple of years ago, my colleague Jason Lisk explained why Joe Namath is a legitimate Hall of Famer. With each passing year, it seems as though Namath’s career gets more misunderstood, particularly by those who look at his career stats without context. One of the main pieces of evidence that sounds damning: among Hall of Fame quarterbacks who began their careers after 1950, Namath ranks last in both touchdown/interception differential and passer rating:

RkQuarterbackFromToTDIntRateTD-INT
1Dan Marino1983199942025286.4168
2Joe Montana1979199427313992.3134
3Steve Young1985199923210796.8125
4Fran Tarkenton1961197834226680.476
5John Elway1983199830022679.974
6Sonny Jurgensen1957197425518982.666
7Jim Kelly1986199623717584.462
8Warren Moon1984200029123380.958
9Len Dawson1957197523918382.656
10Roger Staubach1969197915310983.444
11Johnny Unitas1956197329025378.237
12Troy Aikman1989200016514181.624
13Bob Griese1967198019217277.120
14Bart Starr1956197115213880.514
15Dan Fouts1973198725424280.212
16Terry Bradshaw1970198321221070.92
17Joe Namath1965197717322065.5-47

But analyzing a player by his career numbers is too broad a brush for advanced analysis. Brandon Jacobs is 107 yards away from matching Gale Sayers’ career rushing total. Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey have caught more passes than Lance Alworth and Kellen Winslow. At quarterback, comparing players across eras by their raw numbers is a pointless exercise. Byron Leftwich, Kyle Orton and Aaron Brooks have higher career passer ratings than Johnny Unitas. As always, we can only compare players by how they compared to their peers.

Namath’s career is misunderstood for several reasons. Younger fans think he’s famous because of The Guarantee, but he would have been an elite quarterback (and was acknowledged as one by his contemporaries) even if he never won a Super Bowl. He was among the best ever at avoiding sacks, an often overlooked but key element of effective quarterback play. He played in one of the worst eras for quarterbacks to compile strong passing stats, which is why his numbers don’t compare to modern quarterbacks. And his career arc was unusual, which further makes the use of career numbers an inappropriate way to understand Namath’s career.

There are 17 Hall of Fame quarterbacks to enter the league since 1950, and we can add Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady to get to an even twenty. Through age 26, Namath was outstanding, and was the second most productive quarterback of the twenty behind Dan Marino during those years. The table below1 shows how much value was added by each of the twenty quarterbacks through the age of 26:
[click to continue…]

  1. This list is sorted by how much Adjusted Net Yards over average each quarterback produced each season. This is calculated by taking each quarterback’s ANY/A, comparing it to league average, and then multiplying the difference by the number of total attempts each quarterback had. []
{ 48 comments }

I spent the weekend in Cortland, New York covering Jets training camp. So what should we expect from the Jets this year? As the team enters its fourth season under Rex Ryan, it’s impossible to look at the 2012 season without putting it in the context of the Ryan’s other Jets teams. And while the Sanchez/Tebow stories will dominate the media’s attention, in reality, the defense and the running game will be the key elements of the 2012 Jets.

Defense

The table below lists the 15 major contributors for the Jets for each year since 2009. Ryan’s defenses are some of the most exotic in the league, and the Jets often have placed six or seven defensive backs on the field at one time. In addition to nickel corner and the third safety, I’m including a fourth defensive lineman slot and a “Designated Pass Rusher” position, a third down specialist and staple of the Ryan defense.

Pos2009201020112012
DEShaun Ellis (32)Shaun Ellis (33)Muhammad Wilkerson (22)Muhammad Wilkerson (23)
NTSione Pouha (30)Sione Pouha (31)Sione Pouha (32)Sione Pouha (33)
DEMarques Douglas (32)Mike DeVito (26)Mike DeVito (27)Mike DeVito (28)
4DLMike DeVito (25)Vernon Gholston (24)Marcus Dixon (27)Quinton Coples (22)
OLBBryan Thomas (30)Bryan Thomas (31)Jamaal Westerman (26)Bryan Thomas (33)
ILBBart Scott (29)Bart Scott (30)Bart Scott (31)Bart Scott (32)
ILBDavid Harris (25)David Harris (26)David Harris (27)David Harris (28)
OLBCalvin Pace (29)Calvin Pace (30)Calvin Pace (31)Calvin Pace (32)
DPRVernon Gholston (23)Jason Taylor (36)Aaron Maybin (23)Aaron Maybin (24)
CB1Darrelle Revis (24)Darrelle Revis (25)Darrelle Revis (26)Darrelle Revis (27)
CB2Lito Sheppard (28)Antonio Cromartie (26)Antonio Cromartie (27)Antonio Cromartie (28)
CB3Dwight Lowery (23)Drew Coleman (27)Kyle Wilson (24)Kyle Wilson (25)
S1Jim Leonhard (27)Jim Leonhard (28)Jim Leonhard (29)Yeremiah Bell (34)
S2Kerry Rhodes (27)Brodney Pool (26)Eric Smith (28)Laron Landry (28)
S3Eric Smith (26)Eric Smith (27)Brodney Pool (27)Eric Smith (29)

[click to continue…]

{ 11 comments }

I’ll be spending the weekend in Cortland, New York, covering Jets training camp. The big story there, of course, will be how the Mark Sanchez/Tim Tebow drama unfolds. The party line among media members is that the duo is doomed to fail, because a team with two quarterbacks doesn’t have one.

Last year, Mark Sanchez ranked 27th in Net Yards per Attempt, so the Jets were behind the 8-ball at the quarterback position well before the Tebow trade. Not that he’ll necessarily help things: Tebow averaged even fewer net yards per attempt than Sanchez in 2011, although arguably his numbers should be viewed in a more positive light.

In my view, the Tebow trade simply gives the Jets more chances to succeed, not unlike when a team throws multiple late round picks at the same position. The most tired complaint regarding the situation is that if Sanchez has a bad drive, quarter or game, fans will call for Sanchez’ head and the Jets will bring in Tebow. But such analysis never goes beyond that. If the Jets do make Tebow the starting quarterback, and he does well, that’s a good thing. If the Jets bring in Tebow, and he fails, New York can go back to Sanchez. At that point, even if Sanchez has some struggles, the calls for Tebow will be muted. However, some will argue that if Sanchez is benched even once his confidence will be shot.

You may find it absurd to suggest that benching a professional athlete may be enough to derail a great career; in fact, that’s what I originally thought. But after combing through the annals of NFL history, I’m unable to find any proof in the other direction. Truth be told, I do think having two quarterbacks is essentially the football kiss of death. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.

Can you believe McElroy thinks the girls at Alabama are better than the coeds at Florida and USC?


In the early ’50s, the Los Angeles Rams alternated Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield as their quarterbacks. In 1950, the team averaged 38.8 points per game while each quarterback started six games, and Los Angeles won the championship the next season. But while both Van Brocklin and Waterfield would end up in the Hall of Fame, neither player is well known today by most fans.

A few years later, the Giants would have Don Heinrich as the nominal starter for the first series or two before having Charlie Conerly come in and replace him one the coaching staff had a better read on the opposing defense. Sure the team won the NFL championship in 1956 using this method, but New York ultimately lost the championship to Baltimore in both ’58 and ’59, and neither Heinrich nor Conerly were able to slow down Johnny Unitas in either gmae. In John Eisenberg’s great book on the late ’50s Green Bay Packers, he explained how Vince Lombardi treated Bart Starr like a yo-yo, inserting him and out of the lineup. And while Starr would achieve some success in the ’60s, he ultimately failed as head coach of the Packers in the ’70s and ’80s, going 52-76-3 in 9 uneventful seasons.
[click to continue…]

{ 9 comments }