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.
|Quarterback||Year||Team||Age||Attempts||ANY/A||ANY/A Prev 5 years||Chg in ANY/A|
Other than incredible near-zero ANY/A for Bob Lee and Dan Pastorini, one thing that jumps out is the infrequency with which great quarterbacks appear on the list. Joe Namath is the Hall of Famer who ranks highest. His age 32 and 33 seasons were huge drop-offs from his previous performance trend, as Chase has described before while focusing on his early career success. Further down the list, we find should-be HOFer Ken Anderson, deserving-of-consideration Trent Green, Dan Fouts, Troy Aikman, and Fran Tarkenton.
The relative lack of HOF-worthy QBs is a little surprising since they have further to fall by virtue of starting so high. Of course, Brady isn’t actually a likely candidate for this list, since his fall in ANY/A started in 2012. He fell to 6.13 last year and is at the very pedestrian 5.00 this year. To get a handle on quarterbacks who have a more gradual fall, here’s a list of quarterbacks who fell by at least two ANY/A over a previous five year high in any season at least two after the previous high.
|Quarterback||Year||Last Year||Peak Yr||Team||Age||Attempts||ANY/A||Highest ANY/A||Diff|
Note that Brady’s fall from a high of 8.19 ANY/A over a five-year period to 6.13 last year already appears on the list. His fall to 5.00 ANY/A this year would rank fifth. It is unlikely that he will stay there, but his fall to 6.13 ANY/A last year was already unlikely. Note that this list has some additional great quarterbacks on it in Dan Marino and Brett Favre, too. I don’t know that either of them are all that instructive for Brady, though. Marino’s best five year run ended in his age 26 season, Favre’s in his age 29 season. Brady’s best run ended in his age 34 season.
The main takeaway is that there is not much historical precedent for a quarterback of Brady’s late-career success having a drop in performance as big as we are seeing. It happened to Fouts2 and maybe Tarkenton if you want to count him in that class.3 There is also not a lot of historical precedent for a quarterback having Brady’s kind of late career success. The limited evidence we do have suggests it’s unlikely Brady will continue under to post numbers even nearly so poor.
One Interesting Play for Brady
There was a play in the second quarter that Barnwell referenced that also got me thinking, but for different reasons. Barnwell already made a gif out of it. Watching it initially, I thought Brady should have run for the first down. Watching it from that angle, though, I wondered whether Brady in an earlier year might even have bypassed the throw to Edelman and gone downfield to LaFell.
LaFell starts the play in the slot and I think he’s just running a corner to clear out some traffic. As Brady steps up, though, the safety cheats and it looks to me like he could throw LaFell open to the inside down the field. This may not have worked. LaFell was turned to the outside and he may not be on the same page with Brady enough. But it is a play that Brady has made in the past. He isn’t making these kinds of plays now. Part of it is the line, part of it is Brady, and part of it may be that lack of like-mindedness that he shared with limited players like Deion Branch.
A Few Thoughts on Jack Tatum and Football Violence
Two weeks ago, I wrote about how I actually find it easier to watch football than I used to because the gratuitous violence, particularly to the head, has decreased dramatically. A few additional thoughts:
- I appreciate a good, clean hit. To me, a clean hit means a hit on someone who has some clue that it’s coming and an ability to defend himself. It is possible that my preference for speed and strategy as a football fan comes from my own relative strengths as an athlete and otherwise. Someone with hitting experience may have a different perspective.
- When I wrote the initial post, I tried to figure out whether NFL Films had edited the tape of the Tatum hit on Sammy White in recent years. In the original Super Bowl highlights film, I could have sworn that they replayed the hit three or four times with the Raider theme in the background and John Facenda saying something like the hit was “a symbol of Raider intimidation.”4 That piece does not appear in the video now. I did not feel as clearly in the past that Tatum’s hit was unacceptable as I do now, but I think I was just wrong in the past. Sure, that hit is intimidating. Using your helmet to nail someone who has no idea you’re coming will always be intimidating. Not a lot of courage in it, though.
- What Tatum did to Darryl Stingley (in a preseason game, no less) is indefensible. Yes, it was legal. It shouldn’t have been. And it is important to make a distinction between what’s legally OK and what’s morally right. Tatum’s hit on Stingley was immoral. What George Atkinson did to Lynn Swann in this picture was also immoral.
Away from the play, he whales a guy in the head who has no idea it’s coming, and knocks him out. It is infinitely weird that anybody ever celebrated this as symbolizing toughness. As Swann said at the time, it was basically “a criminal act.”5
All of this revisiting the bad stuff past is meant to point out the improvements. By getting rid of this kind of stuff, what happens on the field is considerably more moral now than it used to be.
The Stone-Cold (I Think There May Be a 60% Chance This Bet Will Win) Mega-Lock of the Week
Everybody who plays poker takes bad beats, those times when you have a 90% chance to win when the money goes in and the 10% chance comes in. The more excruciating thing about having football bets is watching them unfold over the course of three hours and those excruciating fourth quarter moments.
Last week’s Steelers-Buccaneers game was one of those very tough ones. I need the Steelers to win by more than one point to seal my tease. The Steelers dominated most of the game after falling behind early. Antonio Brown dropped a deep pass in the fourth that would have sealed it, and Ben Roethlisberger missed him on another a few plays later.
Then, Pittsburgh has the ball under two minutes and the announcers are coming close to saying the game is over. But the time is just right for them to get another chance. As the Steelers line up to punt with about fifty seconds left, I’m saying to myself, “Just get a 40-yard net and we’re good.” And, of course, Brad Wing boots it 28 yards.6 All the stats still favor the Steelers there, but none of it can overrule the sinking feeling in your gut after that punt.
So I lost. Again. Sweet fancy Moses. I beginning to think writing about bets is the best way to jinx your bets, but I still offer my bet of the week:
Two-team teaser: Seahawks down to -1.5 and Chargers down to -1
I am more worried about the Jets end of this bet.7 Philip Rivers has struggled against the Jets the two times he’s played them in the Rex Ryan era. He had a 47.8 QBR in the 2009-10 playoffs and a 30.9 QBR in the 2011 regular season. The one time he’s looked bad in 2014 was when Arizona repeatedly brought double A-gap blitzes, and you might expect Ryan to do a fair bit of that on Sunday.
Season record: 1-3
- And those Pats were 6-1 at the time of the loss to the Browns. [↩]
- Fouts even kept most of his weapons intact, but suffered through injuries in 1986. [↩]
- Some evidence from Chase that we should count him in that class [↩]
- To be clear, I love NFL Films. They are a huge part of why I love football. [↩]
- Thinking about another physical sport, those Tatum hits and that Atkinson hit and others they doled out symbolized toughness about as much as this hit that Dale Hunter sucker punch on Pierre Turgeon. [↩]
- I’m no punting expert, but watching him kick that ball was actually pretty odd. As he made contact, I remember thinking it looked like he was going to fall over backwards and to the right as if he’d been recoiling as in Newman’s recollection of the spitting incident with Keith Hernandez. [↩]
- Chase note: No, you don’t get to pick against the Jets and then argue that they might win. [↩]