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Stafford wins the prize for most mega contracts signed by a quarterback in his 20s

Four years ago, I wrote about Matthew Stafford and his poor record. At the time, his career mark stood at 17-28 and he had just received a big money extension. In that piece, I noted that his career record was not predictive of much. Well, four years later, and Stafford just received another big money extension. And over the last four years, Stafford has gone 34-30. That’s not great, but it’s not bad, either.

But what’s notable about the Lions offense over the last four years is how reliant on Stafford the team has been. Since 2013, no team has rushed for fewer yards than Detroit, and the Lions also rank 30th in yards per carry. The Detroit offense goes as Stafford goes, and while the former number one pick hasn’t been the best quarterback in the NFL, he’s been pretty valuable.

Stafford became the youngest player to join the 30,000 yard club, which is a function of (1) how young he was when he entered the league, (2) the era he plays in, (3) the pass-happy offenses he has led, and (4) his talent/ability. Stafford played with Knowshon Moreno at Georgia and both were drafted in the first round of 2009. Steve Young didn’t make his first Pro Bowl until his age 31 season. Warren Moon didn’t make his first Pro Bowl under age 32. [click to continue…]


The guy on the right was a loser until he wasn't.

The guy on the right was a loser until he wasn't.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of Matt Stafford. Last year, when most people were praising his breakout 2011 season, I questioned whether he was as good as his backers claimed. And, of course, his 2012 performance only raised more questions.

Stafford has a 17-28 career record, which in light of his recent contract extension, has caused people to criticize the Lions for giving big money to a player who is not a “winner.” There are legitimate reasons to criticize Stafford, so why would people fall back on statements like this? I’m sure Lions fans wish the team had won more games under Stafford, but that’s in the past. The real question — and the one faced by Lions management before giving him the extension — is whether his current career record has any predictive value when it comes to his future record.

Since 1960, there have been 77 quarterbacks1 who started at least 25 games in their first four seasons and then 25 more games in years five through eight. There’s some survivor bias in the sample — if you stick around for 25+ starts in years five through eight, you’re probably a pretty good quarterback — but there’s not much we can do about that. If you run a regression using winning percentage through four years as your input and winning percentage in years five through eight as your output, you get the following best-fit equation:

0.450 + 0.20 * Old Win %

The correlation coefficient is a tiny 0.04, and the p-value on the “Old Win %” variable is 0.09. Putting aside the questions of statistical significance, there is no practical effect. Stafford has a 0.377 winning percentage, which means this formula would predict him to win 52.6% of his games from 2013 to 2016. Joe Flacco won 68.75% of his games in his first four seasons; this would say he should be expected to win 58.7% of his games in years five through eight. In other words, someone with a great winning percentage should be expected to win only one more game per season than someone with a terrible winning percentage. And that’s even assuming the results are statistically significant, which many would say they are not.2
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  1. Because their first seasons as starters came after age 25, I decided to eliminate Jeff Garcia, Trent Green, Warren Moon, Kurt Warner, Ed Brown, Tony Romo, Mark Rypien, and Jim Kelly from this study. []
  2. And, of course, it doesn’t mean that that one extra win is because of the quarterback. Presumably, like in the case of Flacco, those quarterbacks who win games early are on good teams, and those teams are more likely to stay good than the bad teams. []

NYT Fifth Down: Post-week 16

This week at the New York Times I looked at some record-breaking performances from week 16.

Sunday was a record-setting day in the N.F.L. In case you missed it …

  • The rookie Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh connected on a 56-yard field goal in the second quarter against the Texans, making him the first kicker with nine field goals of 50 yards or longer in a season. Even more impressive: Walsh is 9 of 9 from 50-plus yards this year.
  • Kansas City rushed for 352 yards against the Colts, easily breaking the record for rushing yards gained in a losing effort and also for rushing yards differential in a loss. How do you lose when you rush for so many yards? Brady Quinn threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and threw another pick in the Colts’ end zone. Another Chiefs drive ended on a fumble inside the Colts’ 20-yard-line. But the turning point of the game may have been when Quinn was stuffed on a fourth-and-1, one of the few times in the game that the Colts’ run defense won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
  • In the same game, Jamaal Charles recorded the 750th carry of his career, giving him enough rushing attempts to be eligible for the career yards-per-carry title. Jim Brown averaged 5.22 yards per carry during his Browns career. That’s now second highest among running backs in N.F.L. history. Charles has a mind-boggling 5.82 average gain over his five-year career.
  • Brown might take a back seat to another running back this season. Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller has averaged 6.48 yards per carry this year on 183 carries, the highest single-season average of any player with that many carries. The previous record holder was Brown, who averaged 6.40 yards per rush in 1963.
  • It’s been another remarkable season for Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, but he actually was nudged out of the record books this weekend. In 2004, Gonzalez set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 102, but Dallas’s Jason Witten caught his 103rd pass of the season in overtime against the Saints on Sunday.
  • The Seattle Seahawks have outscored their last three opponents, 150-30. That 120-point margin of victory is the largest differential in a three-game span in 70 years. In 1942, the Chicago Bears won three straight games and did it with a combined 127-7 score; the year before, Chicago outscored its opponents, 136-14, over a three-game stretch.

Mega Record for Megatron

Of course, the most noteworthy individual record to fall this past weekend was Jerry Rice’s single-season receiving record of 1,848 yards. Calvin Johnson needed only 15 games to break the record Saturday night, and with 1,892 yards, he has a good chance of becoming the first N.F.L. receiver to hit the 2,000-yard mark.

With 225 yards against the Falcons, he also became the first player to gain 100 receiving yards in eight straight games and to collect 10 receptions in four straight games. For Johnson, it was his fifth career game (including the postseason) with at least 200 receiving yards, tying him with Lance Alworth and Rice for the most 200-yard games since 1960.

Detroit has averaged 47 pass attempts per game, and will set the single-season record for attempts on its 12th pass attempt Sunday. Most of those passes have come from the right arm of Matthew Stafford, who threw 663 passes in 2011, (now) the fourth-highest number ever. On his seventh pass in Week 17 against the Bears, he’ll set the record, and he needs just 15 passes to become the first quarterback with 700 pass attempts in a season.

You can check out the full post here.

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Trivia of the Day – Sunday, December 2nd

Matt Stafford won the ESPY for most double chins in a leading role

In case you haven’t noticed, Detroit’s Matt Stafford is throwing the ball a lot this year. He’s thrown the second most passes of any quarterback through 11 games in league history.

In 2011, Stafford led the NFL with 663 pass attempts, the third most in NFL history. In my preview of the 2012 Lions, I threw some cold water on Stafford’s outlook, noting that while he threw for 5,000 yards, his 13th-place finish in Y/A was more telling. This season Stafford is throwing even more frequently — he’s up three pass attempts per game — and is on pace to break the record for pass attempts in a season. And while Stafford may again hit the 5,000-yard mark, he currently ranks just 21st in yards per attempt, which is less forgivable in connection with a 4-7 record than a 10-6 mark.

I suspect that most fans of Football Perspective are pretty good at trivia, so I’m not going to let you off easy. You probably know which quarterback holds the record for pass attempts in a season:

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show

The more challenging question is this: which team holds the record for most team pass attempts in a season? Right now, Detroit is on pace for 729 pass attempts this season (Shaun Hill threw 13 passes), which would break the record.

Trivia hint 1 Show

Trivia hint 2 Show

Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


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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