There have been four passing touchdown kings in the last 40 years: Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Brett Favre, and Peyton Manning. I thought it would be fun to plot the number of career touchdown passes each player had on the Y-Axis after each game of their career (shown on the X-Axis):
Tom Brady and Drew Brees ended the 2015 season in a pretty remarkable place: both have 428 touchdown passes, tied for the third most in NFL history. Both threw their first touchdown pass in 2001, which makes it easy — and fun! — to compare the two players. The graph below shows the number of career touchdown passes for each player over every week since 2001:
Brady took an early edge, both because he started earlier (he had 18 touchdowns in 2001; Brees had 1) and played better earlier (Brees had 28 touchdowns in ’02 and ’03 combined; Brady had that many just in ’03). And, of course, Brady’s scorched-earth 2007 season helped see him take his biggest lead. Consider that through 2007, Brees had thrown fewer than 30 touchdown passes in each of his first seven seasons. Since then? Brees has thrown more than 30 touchdowns in all eight seasons! [click to continue…]
Adam Steele is back, this time throwing his hat into the never-ending Brady/Manning debate. Fortunately, this isn’t your typical Brady/Manning post, as Adam brings some new stats to the table. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.
By any statistical measure, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have performed at a nearly identical level in the postseason. Of course, many observers don’t care about passing statistics, and prefer to judge quarterback based on playoff W/L record alone. And as we all know, Brady has a significant edge over Manning in this regard. But if we’re going to judge quarterbacks by the performance of their entire team, it’s only fair to also evaluate the parts of the team the QB has no control over – defense and special teams.
Using PFR’s expected points estimations, I recorded the defensive and special teams EPA for Brady’s and Manning’s teams in each of their playoff games. The “Support” column is the total EPA contributed by defense and special teams. Brady first: [click to continue…]
Those four seasons anchored the narrative for the 15-year rivalry of the two players. Since then, Manning has a 6-5 record against Brady, including a 3-0 mark in the playoffs. Each player has also won “only” one Super Bowl despite the two quarterbacks dominating the AFC for most of the last decade (Manning, of course, could win another next week).
The table below shows the statistics from both players for each of the 17 head-to-head games: [click to continue…]
This week at the Washington Post, an old topic is relevant again: why pressuring Tom Brady is the key to success against New England.
Completion percentage is often overrated, and it isn’t a critically important stat generally, but the Patriots are a unique offense. As a general rule, completion percentage is highly correlated with winning, but a large reason for that is leading teams tend to throw conservative passes and trailing teams tend to throw aggressive ones. Thus the stat is a result of success even more than a cause of it. (In other words, completion percentage is a lot like rushing attempts, where the best teams tend to fare well in this metric, but in a misleading way.) This season, teams won 58.4 percent of games when completing at least 60 percent of passes, and just 33.3 percent of games when completing fewer than that. But the Patriots were more extreme, winning 11 of 12 when completing at least 60 percent of passes, with the one loss coming in overtime against the Jets. On the other hand, New England lost three of the four games this season when Brady completed fewer than 60 percent of passes, and the one victory came when New England held Buffalo to just 13 points.
The reason completion percentage matters for New England is because the Patriots don’t really have a running game, at least not in any traditional sense. Against Kansas City on Saturday, the Patriots threw on 24 of the team’s first 26 plays. All game, Patriots running backs had just seven carries, with Steven Jackson — signed in December — taking six of those carries and gaining just 16 yards. In the regular season game against Denver, the Patriots began the game by calling 18 passes to just two runs on the team’s first six drives.
You can read the full article here.
Since 2001, New England had made the playoffs twelve times, reaching the Super Bowl, incredibly, in half of those seasons. The Patriots have won the Super bowl four times over this fourteen-year span, which made me wonder: how many Super Bowls *should* the Patriots have won?
This could be measured in a few ways. We could look at say, the team’s pre-season odds of winning it all each year. I don’t have that historical data, but we can be sure that New England significantly overachieved by that measure. We could also look at the team’s Super Bowl chances at the start of each post-season. For example, at the end of the regular season, Bovada had the Patriots at 3/1 to win the Super Bowl. That would imply a 25% chance of winning it all, although after adjusting for the vigorish, the Patriots’ true odds would have been 21.8%. I don’t have historical data of this sort, although I am sure one could use a combination of SRS and home-field advantage to come up with something similar. Hey, if you have ideas, present them in the comments.
Instead, I used the same methodology I used a couple of weeks ago to determine the randomness of each post-season. Remember, a point spread can be converted into an expected winning percentage using the following formula in Excel (if you put the point spread in cell L2): [click to continue…]
Let’s get something out of the way.
In the final minute of the game, the Seahawks had an 88% of winning Super Bowl XLIX. To make grandiose statements about the Patriots passing attack and football analytics based on New England winning the Super Bowl would be silly given the way the game ended.
Okay, whew. But I do want to talk about the Patriots offense, and more specifically, ANY/A. As regular readers know, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is calculated as follows:
(Gross Passing Yards + 20*PassTDs – 45*INTs -SkYdsLost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks)
ANY/A correlates very well with winning, and it’s my favorite basic metric of passing play. But ANY/A, based around yards per attempt, is not perfect. And I think SB XLIX provides a good example of that. Tom Brady finished the day with 320 net passing yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs on 51 dropbacks, which translates to an ANY/A of 6.08. Russell Wilson had 234 net passing yards, 2 TDs, and 1 very fateful INT on his 24 dropbacks; that translates to an ANY/A of 9.54. [click to continue…]
Disclaimer: Quarterbacks don’t have records, teams do. A quarterback’s “record” is simply shorthand for saying “the record of a quarterback’s teams in all playoff games started by that quarterback.” Please forgive me for using that shorthand for the remainder of this post.
Eight years ago, Doug Drinen wrote a fun post in advance of the 2006 AFC Championship Game. At the time, Peyton Manning had gone 0-2 in playoff games against Tom Brady, so Doug looked at quarterbacks who had gone winless against another particular quarterback in the postseason.
Manning wound up beating Brady in that game, and evened his record against Brady in the 2013 playoffs. No pair of quarterbacks have ever met as starters five times in the playoffs, so Brady/Manning are tied for the most playoff meetings. Joining them on Saturday will be Brady and Joe Flacco. This weekend’s game will be the fourth time since 2009 that the Ravens have traveled to Foxboro in the postseason, and Brady and Flacco have been under center for each game. [click to continue…]
In the third quarter on Monday night, I texted my Patriots fan buddy Matt, “Is it possible that we suck? Maybe the run is finally over.” Bill Barnwell mused on this, and Aaron Schatz also wrote about it. It was hard not to think that, given the way the Patriots were manhandled by a mediocre team playing without several key players. It looked every bit as bad as the 41-14 score and maybe worse.
I remember the last time I wondered if the Pats were done. In a 34-14 loss to the Browns in 2010, the Patriots looked pretty impotent. In that game, as in the Chiefs one, the Pats had just under 300 yards of offense. Peyton Hillis ran over the Patriots. Of course, that wasn’t the end. Maybe this time is different, though. If anything the Chiefs game was even worse, so it’s possible this time really is the end.1
Will the Patriots offense be good later this year? To provide a little insight into this, I went back and looked at performance trends for quarterbacks who have had long careers. The first table looks at quarterbacks since 1969 who have the biggest single-season drops in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) from the previous five year trend. I look just at quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in a season and I weight by the number of attempts when calculating the average ANY/A over the previous five years.
- And those Pats were 6-1 at the time of the loss to the Browns. [↩]
Jerry Rice’s best year came with Steve Young, not Joe Montana. Randy Moss set the touchdown record with Tom Brady, but his best year in receiving yards was with Daunte Culpepper. Lynn Swann’s best year was with Terry Bradshaw, but John Stallworth’s top season in receiving yards came with Mark Malone. James Lofton’s best season was with Lynn Dickey, Isaac Bruce’s best year was with Chris Miller, Torry Holt’s top season came with Marc Bulger, and Tim Brown’s top year was with Jeff George.
This is little more than random trivia, but this site does not have aspirations for March content higher than random trivia. In unsurprising news, 25 different players had their best season in receiving yards (minimum 300 receiving yards) while playing with Brett Favre. That includes a host of Packers, but also a couple of Jets and Vikings, too (including one future Hall of Famer).
After Favre, Marino is next with 22 players, and he’s followed by Manning and Fran Tarkenton (20). From that group, I suspect that Tarkenton might surprise some folks. That is, unless they realized that he was the career leader in passing yards when he retired and played for five years with the Giants and thirteen with Minnesota.
The table below shows every quarterback who was responsible for the peak receiving yards season of at least five different receivers (subject to the 300 yard minimum threshold). For each quarterback, I’ve also listed all of his receivers. [click to continue…]
The average entry predicted 603 pass attempts, 4,467 yards, 30.8 TDs, 10.4 INTs, 28 sacks, and 139 sack yards lost, for an average ANY/A of 7.09. In reality, Brady ended the year with 628 attempts, 4,343 yards, 25 TDs, 11 INTs, 40 sacks, and 256 sack yards lost. Basically, the group over-projected his Yards per Attempt by half a yard, expected six more touchdowns, and 12 fewer sacks. Brady’s ANY/A was 6.13, nearly one full adjusted net yard below the average projection.
When the greatest quarterback seasons of all time are discussed, these three years dominate the discussion. And with good reason. But if you include the playoffs — and frankly, there’s no reason not to include the playoffs — which quarterback produced the greatest season of all time? I’m going to stipulate that the greatest quarterback season ever has to end in a Lombardi Trophy, because otherwise, I think we’ll end up back in the world of Marino ’84/Brady ’07/Manning ’04. Of course, now another Manning season has entered the mix: and with a Super Bowl win, Manning’s 2013 should and would be remembered as the greatest quarterback season of all time.
So, the question becomes, which season would he knock off the top rung? I think there are six seasons that stand out from the rest, based on regular and postseason performance.
Honorable Mention [click to continue…]
Let’s cut off the Patriots fans before they can begin typing in Boston accents: the fact that Manning’s 2013 numbers dwarf Brady’s 2013 numbers does not mean Manning’s career >>> Brady’s career. And it doesn’t even mean (although it strongly implies) that Manning was a better quarterback in 2013 than Brady was. There’s no doubt that Denver’s supporting cast, at least on offense, is much better than New England’s. Manning has Brady’s favorite target from last year, Wes Welker, along with Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas. Brady has dealt with a very inexperienced set of receivers following massive turnover. The Patriots have had to replace Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Danny Woodhead with Julian Edelman, 12 games worth of Danny Amendola, 8 games of Shane Vereen (although he’ll be around on Sunday), 7 games of Gronkowski (he won’t be around on Sunday), and Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. Each quarterback is down a star tackle (Ryan Clady, Sebastian Vollmer) but has an All-Pro caliber guard (Louis Vasquez, Logan Mankins).
But whatever the reason for the discrepancy, one conclusion is inescapable: this is not a meeting of equal passing attacks. On one hand, you have one of the greatest passing offenses ever. On the other, you have an above-average passing offense. And that’s the real story. The Broncos averaged 10 more points per game than New England, while Manning (as representative of the Denver passing attack) averaged 2.75 more adjusted net yards per attempt than Brady (as representative of the Patriots passing attack). [click to continue…]
When it comes Patriots/Colts, it’s easy to want to focus on Tom Brady vs. Andrew Luck. Or to marvel at the sheer number of star players these teams have lost in the last 12 months. If you played college in the state of Florida, you’re probably not going to be playing in this game: T.Y. Hilton is the last star standing with Vince Wilfork, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, and Reggie Wayne gone. The Patriots also have placed Rob Gronkowski, Sebastian Vollmer, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly and Adrian Wilson on injured reserve, while Devin McCourty and Alfonzo Dennard are both questionable. Also, of course, Brady is probable with a shoulder.
The Colts just put defensive starters Gregory Toler and Fili Moala on injured reserve, adding to a list that already included Wayne, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Dwayne Allen, Donald Thomas, Montori Hughes, and Pat Angerer. LaRon Landry and Darrius Heyward-Bey are both questionable, and the latter’s injury caused the team to sign ex-Patriot Deion Branch.
All the injuries and changing parts make this a pretty tough game to analyze. So I’m not going to, at least not from the usual perspective. Instead, I want to take a 30,000 foot view of the game. According to Football Outsiders, the Patriots were the most consistent team in the league this season, while the Colts were the fourth least consistent team. Rivers McCown was kind enough to send me the single-game DVOA grades for both teams this season, and I’ve placed those numbers in the graph below with the Colts in light blue and the Patriots in red. The graph displays each team’s single-game DVOA score for each game this season, depicted from worst (left) to best (right). For Indianapolis, the graph spans the full chart, from the worst game (against St. Louis) to the best (against Denver). As you can see, the portion of the graph occupied by New England is much narrower, stretching from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh. [click to continue…]
So which season is more impressive? That’s a complicated question, and one that could be answered in many ways. In my view, the question boils down to which performance was more outstanding; in mathematical terms, we could define that as which season was farthest from the mean.
To make life a little simpler, I’m going to analyze this question on the team level, meaning we will compare “Denver 2013” to “Miami 1984.” Of course, this approach is preferable in many ways, since when we praise Manning we really mean “Manning with his offensive line and his coaching staff throwing to Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, and Julius Thomas.” And “Marino in 1984” means “Marino and Mark Clayton and Mark Duper and Dwight Stephenson and Ed Newman.”
This season, the Broncos have 51 touchdown passes. The other 31 teams (through 15 games) are averaging 22.8 passing touchdowns, which means Denver is 28.2 touchdowns above average. The standard deviation of the 32 teams in passing touchdowns is 7.4; as a result, we can say that the Broncos are 3.84 standard deviations above average, also known as their Z-score.
In 1984, the other 27 teams (through 16 games) averaged 21.0 touchdowns, while the Dolphins threw 49 scores (Jim Jenson, a college quarterback who played receiver for Miami, threw a 35-yard touchdown to Duper against the Patriots off a Marino lateral). The standard deviation that season in touchdown passes at the team level was 7.5, which gives Miami a Z-score of 3.72 in 1984.
So the Broncos this season have been more extraordinary, at least by this measure. One nice thing about using the Z-score is we don’t need to adjust for games played. I went ahead and calculated the Z-scores for every team since 1932. The current Broncos are #1, with the ’84 Dolphins in second place. The third place team isn’t the Tom Brady 2007 Patriots; that team is down at #7, because the standard deviation in passing touchdowns among the league’s 32 teams was 8.8 that season. Instead, the third slot goes to the 1986 Dolphins. Few remember that Marino threw 44 touchdowns that season; add in Don Strock’s two touchdowns, a lower league average and a smaller standard deviation, and those Dolphins get a Z-score of 3.70.
Let’s look at the top 100 teams using this metric. The 2004 Colts ranked fifth (if you click on the cell in the team column, the link takes you to that team’s PFR page) in Z-score. That year, Indianapolis threw 51 touchdowns, while the other 31 teams averaged 21.97 touchdown passes. That means Indianapolis was 29.03 touchdowns above average, the highest production above average to date. But that year, the standard deviation among the 32 teams in passing touchdowns was 8.53, giving the Colts a Z-score of “only” 3.41; that’s why they’re 5th, not first.
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Every year at Footballguys.com, I publish an article called Rearview QB, which adjusts quarterback (and defense) fantasy numbers for strength of schedule. I’ve also done the same thing using ANY/A instead of fantasy points, and today I revive that concept for the 2012 season.
Let’s start with the basics. Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is defined as (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing Touchdowns – 45 * Interceptions – Sack Yards Lost) divided by (Pass Attempts plus Sacks). ANY/A is my favorite explanatory passing statistic — it is very good at telling you the amount of value provided (or not provided) by a passer in a given game, season, or career.
Let’s start with some basic information. The league average ANY/A in 2012 was 5.93. Peyton Manning averaged 7.89 ANY/A last year, the highest rate in the league among the 39 passers with at least 75 attempts. Since the Broncos star had 583 pass attempts and 21 sacks in 2012, that means he was producing 1.96 ANY/A over league average on 604 dropbacks. That means Manning is credited with 1,185 Adjusted Net Yards above average, a metric I simply call “VALUE” in the table below. Manning led the league in that category, with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Ryan rounding out the top five. Remember, the ANY/A and VALUE results aren’t supposed to surprise you, so it makes sense that the best quarterbacks finish near the top in this category every year.
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On September 13, 2008, Doug Drinen wrote this post, which I reproduce in full below.
With the combination arrest/release of Aaron Hernandez stacked upon five surgeries in seven months for Rob Gronkowski and the departure of Wes Welker to Denver, it’s fair to say that many are wondering about the fate of the New England passing game. In addition to those three, Tom Brady is without Brandon Lloyd (free agent) and Danny Woodhead (San Diego), the fourth and fifth leading receivers on the 2012 Patriots. As Jason Lisk pointed out, that puts Brady in historically bad territory when it comes to roster turnover.
I’m hearing and reading a lot of crazy stuff this week.
So I just want to document my predictions that (a) the Patriots will win at least 11 games this year, (b) the Patriots will clinch the East before week 17, and (c) Matt Cassel will be a top-12 fantasy quarterback from here out.
That is all.
So today’s post doubles as a temperature check and a contest entry. Please predict the following for Tom Brady in 2013, based on the assumption that he is responsible for 99.4% of all Patriots pass attempts by quarterbacks for the second year in a row. To the extent he is not, I will pro-rate his numbers for purposes of judging the contest. To enter, simply copy and paste this table below in the comments and fill out each line.
Brady’s number of pass attempts:
Brady’s number of passing yards:
Brady’s number of passing touchdowns:
Brady’s number of interceptions:
Brady’s number of sacks:
Brady’s number of sack yards lost:
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On April 17th, the day after the draft concluded, the Globe provided a full summary of each player. Here’s how they described the 199th pick:
6, 199 – Tom Brady, QB, Michigan
A pocket passer who will compete for a practice squad spot with the Patriots . . . Drafted as a catcher by the Montreal Expos in 1995 out of Serra (San Mateo, Calif.) HS . . . Completed 62.8 percent of his passes with 20 TDs and six interceptions. Only Elvis Grbac had more TD tosses in a season for the Wolverines . . . Throws a great slant . . . At almost 6-4, 214 pounds, has some mobility . . . Platooned with sophomore Drew Henson . . . Was projected to go in the third round, but dropped quickly.
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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In my week 11 power rankings, when Baltimore was 8-2, I wrote: “According to Football Outsiders, Baltimore has the best special teams since 1991 through 10 weeks. Schatz tweeted that Baltimore’s the 16th best team based on just offense and defense.”
A few days later the Ravens defeated the Chargers in the famous 4th-and-29 game, which certainly didn’t change my outlook on Baltimore. Then the Ravens tanked down the stretch, seemingly fulfilling their reputation as an average team. And let’s not forget: had Ben Roethlisberger stayed healthy, it’s possible the Ravens don’t even make the playoffs. Without the 13-10 ugly win over Byron Leftwich and the Steelers, both Baltimore and Pittsburgh would have finished 9-7 with the Steelers holding the tiebreaker. To be fair, the Ravens did not compete in a meaningless week 17 game, but the point is that the Ravens were barely above-average team during the season that got a few breaks along the way.
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The Best Weekend of the Year lived up to its reputation this weekend, as the divisional round of the playoffs gave us three outstanding games. Here is my reaction, with a disproportionate amount of time spent on the Denver-Baltimore game, because, well, if you saw it, you’d understand.
One of the best playoff games in NFL history, and an instant classic. This game could be analyzed for hours and there are countless talking points (Fox playing not to lose, Manning’s playoff failures, Ray Lewis’ retirement tour making at least one last stop, Tim Tebow anyone?) that will fill up the schedules of ESPN and talk radio for weeks. But let’s start with a big picture review of the game from the perspective of the team I expected to win the Super Bowl.
If you want to assign credit and blame to Denver, this is how I would rank the five Broncos units on Saturday, from best to worst.
1) Special teams. Sure, Matt Prater missed a long field goal, but Trindon Holliday’s two return touchdowns were a thing of beauty — especially for fans of excellent blocking. Holliday’s runs were more about textbook blocking by the return unit and poor coverage by the Ravens than Holliday himself, but in any event, the Broncos special teams had a great day. In fact, here is how Pro-Football-Reference broke down the game by unit in terms of Expected Points Added:
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Yesterday, I previewed Saturday’s games with um, mixed results (skip the Denver-Baltimore preview and just read the San Francisco-Green Bay breakdown twice). Let’s take another crack at it by examining Sunday’s matchups.
Seattle Seahawks (11-5) (+1) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3), Sunday, 1:00PM ETOnce again, Atlanta is tasked with facing a dominant wildcard team. Is this the year Matt Ryan finally silences his critics?
Atlanta is only a one-point favorite, just the seventh time a home team has been given such little respect this late in the season since 2000. Home teams are 3-3 when underdogs or small favorites over that span in the divisional conference championship rounds, although one of those losses came by the Falcons in 2010 against the Packers when Atlanta was a 1.5-point favorite. But let’s focus on these two teams, because the stats might surprise you.
Russell Wilson edges Matt Ryan in Y/A (7.9 to 7.7), AY/A (8.1 to 7.7), and passer rating (100.0 to 99.1), despite having a significantly worse set of receivers. Ryan does have the edge in NY/A (7.0 to 6.8) but the two are deadlocked in ANY/A at 7.0. Both quarterbacks led four 4th quarter comebacks this year, and Wilson led 5 game-winning drives while Ryan led six. Considering one quarterback has Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez, and the other is a 5’10 rookie, I consider this pretty remarkable.
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I looked at all games, including playoffs, from 1960 to 2011, for all quarterbacks with at least 5,000 career passing yards over that time period. The table below lists the following information for each passer:
– His first year (or 1960, if he played before 1960) and his last year (or 2011, if still active)
– All the franchises he played for (which you can search for in the search box)
– His number of career wins, and his touchdown rate, interception rate, yards per attempt and Adjusted Yards per Attempt (which includes a 20-yard bonus for touchdown passes and a 45-yard penalty for interceptions) in wins1
– His number of career losses, and his touchdown rate, interception rate, yards per attempt and Adjusted Yards per Attempt in losses
The table is sorted by AY/A in wins; unsurprisingly, Aaron Rodgers — who is the career leader in that metric — tops this table, too. In fact, Rodgers is also the leader in AY/A in losses. Note that this table includes all games played by the quarterback, not just his starts.
|147||Dave M. Brown||1992--2000||nyg-crd||10304||29||4.1%||2.5%||7.2||6.1||42||1.9%||4.2%||5.8||4|
|192||Billy Joe Tolliver||1989--1999||sdg-atl-oti-kan-nor||10760||24||5%||2.6%||6.8||5.7||53||3%||4.1%||6.1||4.4|
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- Unfortunately, I excluded sack data from this study due to its general unavailability for most of the covered time period. [↩]
Over at Football Outsiders, Aaron Schatz has always compared to “replacement level”, borrowing a concept from baseball. I like that approach, but replacement level can be hard to empirically determine. So for the purposes of this post, I wanted to come up with a quick-and-dirty baseline to which we can compare QBs.
To that end, I looked at all players who were not their team’s primary passer in each game since 2010. Weighted by recency and the number of dropbacks by each passer, they performed at roughly a 4.4 Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt level. This is not necessarily the replacement level, but it does seem to be the “bench level” — i.e., the ANYPA you could expect from a backup-caliber QB across the league.
Using 4.4 ANYPA as the baseline, we get the following values for 2012:
If we weigh each game by how recent the results took place, we get this list:
This kind of thing isn’t exactly the most advanced stat in the world, but it’s pretty good if you want to sort QBs into general groups based on how good they are (the assumption being that a player who never plays is implicitly a bench-level player by definition).
On Sunday Night, the Patriots trailed 31-3 halfway through the third quarter. But that’s when Tom Brady got hot, and New England tied the game with 6:43 left in the 4th quarter. At that moment, many fans probably had visions of the Oilers-Bills playoff game, where Buffalo came back from a 32-point deficit to win.
And while there are a lot of famous comebacks, the failed comeback is much less memorable. But in fact, this was the 4th time a team trailed by 28 points in the game only to tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter… but ultimately lose.
The table below shows all games prior to 2012 where a team trailed by at least 21 points, was trailing entering the 4th quarter, came back to tie or take the lead in the 4th quarter, but then still lost. The table is listed from the perspective of the eventual winner and shows the final points for and points allowed in the game, along with the biggest lead and the largest fourth-quarter deficit the winning team faced despite the large early lead.
Note that this excludes games this game between Green Bay and Pittsburgh from 1951, where the Packers held a 28-point lead and won, but actually trailed entering the 4th quarter.
If there was one thing you can count on in New England, it’s that the Patriots passing attack would be more efficient than their opponent’s nearly every week. From 2003 to 2011, New England averaged 6.9 net yards per pass attempt while their defense allowed 6.0 NY/A. But this season, the Patriots passing offense is struggling by New England standards while the pass defense is worse than ever. Take a look:1
Playing the Jets on Sunday is the perfect medicine for a NY/A-imbalance, but what do you make of New England’s struggles this year?
- Note that the table below lists team passing yards, which already deducts sack yardage lost [↩]
Using the same formula, we can grade each quarterback in each game and adjust for era1. However, it should be obvious that the sample sizes here are incredibly small, and the stats are even less likely to tell the true story when looking at just one game. Strength of schedule becomes a significant factor here, as well. But, caveats aside, there’s a lot we can do with playoff data. For example, we can rank every quarterback performance in Super Bowl history:
If you type Montana’s name into the search box, you can see that he has the 1st, 4th, 11th and 27th best performance in Super Bowl history. The best performance in a losing effort goes to Jake Delhomme, who shredded the Patriots secondary in the second half of Super Bowl XXXVIII (he began the game 1 for 9 for 1 yard). The worst performance in a winning effort, unsurprisingly, goes to Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XL, although Joe Theismann against the Dolphins gets an honorable mention. Worst performance overall goes to Kerry Collins, although Craig Morton’s 4 interceptions and 39 yards on 15 attempts against his former team in Super Bowl XII could give Collins a run for his money.
What about best championship game performances in the pre-Super Bowl era?
|10||Norm Van Brocklin||RAM||CLE||1951||W||6||128||1||0||148||24.7||129|
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- Note that I do not have individual playoff sack data prior to 2008, so I am using pro-rated sack numbers based on team sack data. [↩]
Yesterday, I explained the methodology behind the formula involved in ranking every quarterback season in football history. Today, I’m going to present the career results. Converting season value to career value isn’t as simple as it might seem. Generally, we don’t want a player who was very good for 12 years to rank ahead of a quarterback who was elite for ten. Additionally, we don’t want to give significant penalties to players who struggled as rookies or hung around too long; we’re mostly concerned with the peak value of the player.
What I’ve historically done — and done here — is to give each quarterback 100% of his value or score from his best season, 95% of his score in his second best season, 90% of his score in his third best season, and so on. This rewards quarterbacks who played really well for a long time and doesn’t kill players with really poor rookie years or seasons late in their career. It also helps to prevent the quarterbacks who were compilers from dominating the top of the list. The table below shows the top 150 regular season QBs in NFL history using that formula, along with the first and last years of their careers, their number of career attempts (including sacks and rushing touchdowns), and their career records and winning percentages (each since 1950). For visibility reasons, I’ve shown the top 30 quarterbacks below, but you can change that number in the filter or click on the right arrow to see the remaining quarterbacks.
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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.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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- 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. [↩]
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: