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26 Jun 2007

1996 DVOA Ratings and Commentary

by Aaron Schatz

1996 is the first year where the NFL put its play-by-play on the Internet, making it the last year we can translate to DVOA and DPAR without a ton of data-compilation work. I started breaking down the 1996 play-by-play right after Peyton Manning proved that he really can win the big game, so let's take a look back at the year Brett Favre proved that he really could win the big game too.

Green Bay really dominated the league in 1996. The difference between Green Bay's DVOA of 40.6% and second-place San Francisco's DVOA of 29.4% is the second-largest of the DVOA era. (The first-place team with the biggest advantage in total DVOA was the 2001 Rams, 13.0% higher than second-place Philadelphia.) DVOA ranks the Packers first in defense, second in special teams, and third in offense.

Eddie Epstein lists the 1996 Packers as the sixth best team of all-time in his book Dominance. One of his methods for judging teams is called Adjusted Power Index, based on standard deviations above the league average (a.k.a. "z-scores") in points and yards, both on offense and defense, all adjusted for schedule. The Packers have the highest API of any team in the book.

I'll talk more about the Packers after the numbers.  These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings for 1996, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league averaged based on situation and opponent in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

DVOA represents adjusted statistics. OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent quality and to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. NON-ADJ TOTAL VOA does not include these adjustments. DVOA is a better indicator of team quality. VOA is a better indicator of actual wins. WEIGHTED DVOA gives a stronger consideration to games late in the season. Remember that, as always, defense is better when it is NEGATIVE.


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
VOA
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 GB 40.6% 13-3 45.6% 32.4% 1 10.1% 3 -24.1% 1 6.4% 2
2 SF 29.4% 12-4 28.7% 28.2% 2 8.2% 5 -18.6% 2 2.7% 9
3 DEN 24.6% 13-3 20.3% 27.8% 3 9.2% 4 -17.5% 4 -2.1% 21
4 DAL 22.0% 10-6 19.9% 22.7% 4 -0.9% 15 -18.5% 3 4.4% 4
5 CAR 20.0% 12-4 27.2% 21.9% 5 -3.7% 17 -15.6% 6 8.1% 1
6 PIT 14.3% 10-6 12.8% 12.3% 7 0.1% 12 -16.2% 5 -2.0% 20
7 PHI 11.9% 10-6 12.3% 15.2% 6 1.6% 10 -14.2% 8 -3.9% 25
8 NE 8.4% 11-5 10.6% 11.4% 8 -0.5% 13 -7.1% 13 1.8% 10
9 KC 7.8% 9-7 4.0% 4.3% 12 6.4% 6 -4.6% 14 -3.1% 24
10 CIN 7.4% 8-8 6.1% 11.4% 9 4.1% 8 -8.3% 11 -5.1% 27
11 HOU 6.8% 8-8 5.6% 3.0% 14 2.1% 9 -4.3% 16 0.4% 12
12 WAS 6.7% 9-7 8.7% 3.1% 13 10.3% 2 6.4% 24 2.8% 8
13 OAK 3.5% 7-9 3.1% 7.7% 10 -4.1% 18 -8.8% 10 -1.2% 16
14 BUF 1.7% 10-6 6.6% 6.6% 11 -17.2% 26 -14.5% 7 4.4% 5
15 JAC -0.8% 9-7 1.2% -2.0% 17 4.6% 7 3.2% 22 -2.2% 22
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
VOA
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
16 BAL -1.4% 4-12 -9.9% 0.4% 15 17.1% 1 17.4% 29 -1.1% 15
17 MIA -2.1% 8-8 2.4% -3.0% 19 -0.5% 14 1.8% 20 0.3% 13
18 SD -3.2% 8-8 -3.8% -14.7% 23 -12.7% 24 -8.2% 12 1.3% 11
19 MIN -8.7% 9-7 -9.1% -17.8% 25 -5.0% 19 -2.0% 18 -5.7% 28
20 CHI -10.1% 7-9 -9.3% -8.5% 20 -6.1% 22 2.5% 21 -1.5% 18
21 IND -11.6% 9-7 -12.2% -12.8% 22 -5.6% 20 10.9% 26 4.9% 3
22 SEA -12.5% 7-9 -14.4% -2.2% 18 -7.5% 23 4.1% 23 -0.9% 14
23 DET -12.6% 5-11 -11.5% -17.9% 26 1.2% 11 12.5% 28 -1.3% 17
24 TB -13.5% 6-10 -16.0% -1.1% 16 -20.3% 28 -3.7% 17 3.1% 7
25 NYG -13.7% 6-10 -13.9% -9.2% 21 -27.3% 30 -9.9% 9 3.7% 6
26 STL -21.8% 6-10 -27.7% -18.8% 27 -23.4% 29 -4.6% 15 -3.0% 23
27 NO -22.4% 3-13 -22.0% -22.6% 28 -18.2% 27 -0.2% 19 -4.4% 26
28 ARI -23.5% 7-9 -19.5% -17.2% 24 -5.7% 21 11.4% 27 -6.4% 29
29 ATL -25.3% 3-13 -26.2% -26.2% 29 -2.0% 16 21.3% 30 -2.0% 19
30 NYJ -27.2% 1-15 -25.0% -27.2% 30 -13.8% 25 6.6% 25 -6.7% 30

WEIGHTED DVOA makes it look like the Packers were slowing down as they entered the postseason, but that's a bit of a mirage caused by the technicalities of the WEIGHTED DVOA formula. Green Bay had four wins with single-game DVOA of 90% or greater, but that included the first three games of the season: a 34-3 stomping of Tampa Bay in Tony Dungy's head coaching debut, a 39-13 drubbing of Philadelphia (and ex-Mike Holmgren assistants Ray Rhodes and Jon Gruden) on Monday Night Football, and a 42-10 blowout of San Diego. Those happen to be the three games which aren't included in WEIGHTED DVOA by the end of the year. The Packers were not fading going into the postseason -- they dipped in the middle of the year, but after their Week 8 bye, the three highest single-game DVOA ratings came in the last three weeks of the season as they beat Denver 41-6, Detroit 31-10, and Minnesota 38-10.

One of the amazing things about the 1996 Packers is that they dominated the league even though the receivers couldn't stay healthy and weren't necessarily that good when they did play. Brett Favre won the league MVP and definitely deserved it, leading the league's quarterbacks with 83.2 DPAR even though he didn't have a receiver in the top 20. Antonio Freeman ranked 22nd with 18.0 DPAR despite missing five games at midseason. Robert Brooks blew out his knee in Week 7, so he was unranked, but he had 10.5 DPAR before his injury. Don Beebe replaced him in the starting lineup and ranked 32nd in the NFL with 12.7 DPAR. Andre Rison had a -17.8% DVOA when the Jaguars told him to get lost after ten games; the Packers picked him up for the last month and he was even worse, with a DVOA of -36.3%. For the full year, Rison ranked 69th out of 71 receivers with -4.7 DPAR. Finally, Desmond Howard had 23 passes and an abysmal DVOA of -58.8%. He had seven catches on third down and was stopped short of a new first down on four of them. The best receiver on the team was probably tight end/H-back Keith Jackson, who finished second to Shannon Sharpe among tight ends with 20.4 DPAR.

Although he couldn't play wide receiver, Howard probably had the best punt-return season in NFL history. Howard remains the only player to win a Super Bowl MVP award because of what he did on special teams, but you may not remember just how amazing he was during the regular season itself. Howard had 875 yards on punt returns, which remains the NFL record. He dominated just as much based on our stats, which give the point value of field position gained on returns compared to the NFL average on punts of that distance, adjusted for weather and altitude. Howard is the only player to finish a season with punt returns worth more than 20 points of field position compared to league average. Looking at all five units that we measure in special teams, for 11 seasons, only Buffalo's kick returns in 2005 (Terrence McGee) had more value than Green Bay's punt returns in 1996.



Best Punt Returns, 1996-2006
Team Year Pts+ Main Return Man
GB 1996 25.9 Desmond Howard
BAL 2000 18.4 Jermaine Lewis
KC 2003 18.4 Dante Hall
ATL 2003 14.7 Allen Rossum
NYJ 2002 14.2 Santana Moss
PIT 2003 12.7 Antwaan Randle El
PIT 2005 12.4 Antwaan Randle El
TEN 2006 12.4 Pacman Jones
NE 2001 12.2 Troy Brown
NE 2000 12.0 Troy Brown


Best Special Teams Unit, 1996-2006
Team Year Unit Pts+ Main Player
BUF 2005 kick returns 27.2 Terrence McGee
GB 1996 punt returns 25.9 Desmond Howard
HOU 2005 kick returns 22.9 Jerome Mathis
DAL 1998 kickoffs 21.8 Toby Gowin
TEN 2002 kickoffs 20.5 Joe Nedney
ARI 2005 field goals 20.0 Neil Rackers
SD 2001 kick returns 19.5 Ronney Jenkins
KC 2004 kick returns 19.1 Dante Hall
MIN 1998 field goals 19.1 Gary Anderson
HOU 2002 punts 19.0 Chad Stanley

Other than the domination of the Packers, the biggest story of 1996 was the two second-year expansion teams, Carolina and Jacksonville, advancing to the conference championship games. What's interesting was how different these two teams were, both in their quality in 1996 and the direction they were going in future seasons. Carolina took advantage of the first expansion of the salary cap era and built with veterans. They really were one of the best teams in the league in 1996, but they collapsed the following year and did not return to the playoffs until 2003.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, was a bit of a fluke, but a fluke that happened to be building with young players. The Jaguars had a negative total DVOA, and when they beat the Broncos in the second round of the playoffs, it was one of the greatest upsets in postseason history. It is not the greatest upset in the postseason history of DVOA, however; that would be the 1998 Cardinals (-18.7%) beating the Cowboys (14.6%) in the first round.

Jacksonville's actual 9-7 record was not much of a fluke, and the next season they improved to 11-5 and ranked sixth overall in DVOA. Anyway, this gives hope to teams like San Francisco who outperform their DVOA and Pythagorean projection. Usually, that is an indicator of a team that will fall back the next year, but you can counteract this effect if you have enough improving young talent.

Of course, the Jags' upset cleared the way for New England to make its second-ever Super Bowl appearance, back when the franchise was still one of the runts of the league and not the three-time champion most-hated team in football. The Patriots finished eighth in overall DVOA, but third in the AFC, and their victory over Pittsburgh (second in the AFC) was nowhere near as shocking as Jacksonville's victory over Denver.

The most fascinating team in the NFL in 1996 was not Green Bay or Jacksonville, however. It was Baltimore.

Baltimore ranked 16th in DVOA, just one spot behind the Jaguars, yet Jacksonville advanced to the AFC Championship and Baltimore finished 4-12. Cursed by the collective hate of every human being living within 50 miles of Cleveland, Ohio, the Ravens undershot their Pythagorean projection by 2.4 wins and their DVOA estimated wins projection by 4.1 wins.

It seems like the Ravens have combined a great defense with a terrible offense since they first moved to Baltimore, but it turns out that the Ravens have only combined a great defense with a terrible offense since their second year in Baltimore. The 1996 inaugural edition of the Ravens was the complete and total opposite of all the Ravens teams to come: the best offense in the NFL combined with the second-worst defense. The next year, the offense dropped to 19th and the defense rose to 13th, and the Ravens basically stayed like that for the next decade. 1996 is the only year in franchise history where the Ravens had a positive (i.e. worse than average) defensive DVOA and was the only year in franchise history with an above-average offensive DVOA until last year's Ravens finished 15th at 2.6%.

You don't look at the Ravens' roster from 1996 and say to yourself, "oh, yes, that's the best offense in the NFL." Vinny Testaverde ranked second in the NFL in DPAR and sixth in DVOA, despite turning the ball over 26 times. (The Ravens finished with the best team passing DVOA even though Testaverde wasn't ranked first himself because the baselines and variables for team ratings are different from those for quarterbacks.) Testaverde's best receiver was 1994 first-round pick Derrick Alexander, who bounced back from a terrible sophomore slump in 1995 to rank second in DPAR and first in DVOA. Very few people remember Alexander now, but he had a very good five-year run from 1996-2000, first in Baltimore and then in Kansas City. The other starting receiver, Michael Jackson, is not a reclusive pop star, a well-known beer expert, or a Los Angeles radio talk show host, but he did lead the league with 14 receiving touchdowns and finished eighth in receiving DPAR. The tight end, 31-year-old veteran Brian Kinchen, had a total fluke season: 55 catches for 581 receiving yards, even though he never had more than 30 catches or 350 yards in any other year. The next year he dropped to 11 catches and 95 yards, which is just another reason not to draft Desmond Clark for your fantasy team this year.

Even more mind-blowing is the fact that Baltimore led the league in both passing offense and rushing offense. They had a running back committee with Bam Morris (24.2 DPAR, fifth, and 17.6% DVOA, fifth) and Earnest Byner (17.9 DPAR, 15th, and 10.1% DVOA, seventh). Fifth and seventh in DVOA sounds good, but the Ravens were one of three teams with two running backs who ranked in the DVOA top ten, the others being Kansas City (Greg Hill second, Marcus Allen sixth) and Pittsburgh (Erric Pegram first, Jerome Bettis ninth). The real reason the Ravens ranked first in rushing DVOA was, believe it or not, Vinny Testaverde, who was out of his gourd as a scrambler that season. Ignore the official stats and take out the kneels, and Testaverde had 197 yards on just 23 carries, 8.6 yards per carry. He scrambled seven times on third down with 5-10 yards to go and converted six of those. He scrambled six times on first-and-10 and gained a new first down five times. Testaverde had not rushed for 100 yards since 1992, and never again rushed for more than 150 yards, so it is possible that he spent the 1996 season possessed either by aliens or the disembodied spirit of Bobby Douglass.

The final interesting team is Tampa Bay. As noted earlier, this was the first head coaching season for Tony Dungy, and the moment he turned the Bucs around is easy to identify. The Bucs lost their first five games in a row, and three of those losses were by more than two touchdowns. After their bye week in Week 6, they beat Minnesota and then lost another three straight, but those losses were completely different. In each of those games, the Bucs held their opponent to just 13 points and lost by less than a touchdown. The Bucs then went 5-2 over the final seven games, and were 10-6 in 1997 for their first winning record since 1981.


Tampa Bay DVOA in 1996

OFF Rank DEF Rank ST Rank TOTAL Rank
Weeks 1-5 -49.5% 30 6.5% 25 0.7% 11 -55.4% 30
Weeks 6-17 -8.1% 24 -8.6% 10 4.5% 5 4.9% 14

Here's a look at some other bits and pieces from 1996:

  • Although Brett Favre finished first in DPAR, he was only fifth in DVOA. The top four quarterbacks in DVOA were Paul Justin of Indianapolis, Steve Young, Dan Marino, and Gus Frerotte, who was in Washington at the time. Justin barely qualifies to be ranked with 127 passes, but in that limited playing time he was excellent converting third downs and never turned the ball over.
  • Drew Bledsoe ranked second in PAR, not adjusted for opponent, but ninth in DPAR because the Patriots played a schedule of teams with poor pass defense.
  • Miami ranked fourth in passing DVOA and 22nd in rushing DVOA. Remember when the Dolphins had a rep as "all pass, no run" instead of "all defense, no offense?"
  • The worst quarterback DVOA belonged to Glenn Foley of the Jets, then Billy Joe Hobert of Oakland and Sean Salisbury of San Diego, who never played in the NFL again. Whatever happened to that guy?
  • When you go through the play-by-play like this, you see some names connected to teams that just make no sense. I had no idea David Klinger once played for the Raiders (23 passes, -37.8% DVOA).
  • Kordell Stewart was a dangerous weapon as "Slash," right? That's how I remember it, but it wasn't that way in 1996. He had -100.7% DVOA on 21 passes as a quarterback, -25.1% DVOA on 42 passes as a receiver, and -4.1% DVOA on 38 runs.
  • The New York Giants' running game was very, very, very bad in 1996. Rodney Hampton (-10.7 DPAR) and Tyrone Wheatley (-15.5 DPAR) were the two worst running backs with at least 100 carries. Hampton averaged 3.3 yards per carry and Wheatley averaged 3.5 yards per carry with five fumbles in only 112 carries.
  • Gradually going backwards season by season, we've finally reached a year -- one of many, I assume -- where Jerry Rice led all wide receivers in DPAR.
  • When I did commentary on 1997, I talked about the amazing season Jake Reed had in Minnesota, one of only two wide receivers to lead the NFL in both DVOA and DPAR (the other one was Steve Smith in 2005). His reward for this amazing season was to get bumped down to the slot when the Vikings drafted Randy Moss. Was 1997 just some sort of one-year fluke? Nope. Reed is third in DPAR for 1996, behind Rice and Alexander, and fourth in DVOA, behind Alexander, Henry Ellard, and obscure Tampa Bay slot receiver Robb "Screw Matchbox 20" Thomas. Cris Carter was 24th in DPAR and 48th in DVOA (out of 71 receivers with more than 50 passes), so that makes two straight years where Reed's numbers blew Carter's numbers out of the water.
  • Curious about the legendary wide receivers from the draft class of 1996? Terry Glenn may have gone to the Super Bowl, but a pre-Peyton Marvin Harrison led rookie receivers with 15.8 DPAR (25th). If you want to know more about how the Class of '96 did as rookies, or in any other season, you will want to buy Pro Football Prospectus 2007, which has a long essay tracking the history of these receivers now that we have every single season of their careers broken down for DVOA and DPAR. 
  • Larry Centers, no surprise, led all running backs with 24.3 DPAR as a receiver. He was targeted on 128 passes, 30 more than any other running back.
  • All throughout the 1996 play-by-play, there are references to a team called "HO." I was trying to figure out when Velvet Jones had coached in the NFL, then realized that this was a reference to the Houston Oilers, in their final season before leaving for Tennessee.

It took a lot of work to compile all this 1996 data from various Internet archives (thanks to Jim Armstrong for most of that) and even then we were missing a number of games from the first four weeks of the season, and a handful of random quarters in games later in the year. Michael David Smith got us most of that play-by-play during a visit to the Hall of Fame, although an intern then had to type it all into the computer. The missing quarters in later-season games were provided by the public relations departments of the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, and we thank them for their help. We're still missing a handful of opening second-half kickoffs which were inexplicably just missing from the HTML pages of third-quarter play-by-play, but otherwise we have every play from the entire season.

The next step is to go back to 1995, and the days when gamebooks were only printed on dead trees. I've already begun the process of collecting gamebooks from the 1995 season. Originally, the plan was to send a reader to the Hall of Fame to stand there all day mimeographing gamebooks, but I've spoken to a few teams and many of them are very helpful with this project, so it looks like we may collect a lot of the 1995 play-by-play from the teams themselves. I already have games from the 49ers, Eagles, Bills, and Broncos, with the Seahawks and Titans (Oilers) on the way and a number of teams still left to be contacted.

However, even with these better copies of gamebooks, or with PDF files like those downloaded from the Denver Broncos website, we're still stuck with the same problem. The text just is not clear enough for a text recognition program to make it into something that doesn't look like this:

Buffalo DilTh vs Denver Broncos at Nile high Stadium
NFL Play By Play 1st Quarter 09/03/95 Page 1
SB wins toss, elects to receive, iMDE elect, to defend the South goal.
J.Blam kicks 67 yards fromDRSO to 553, Y.Swmtsin teL. to 3315 far 12 yards (T.hlsuck).
Buffalo Silts at 15:fl
1-19-8315 T.Theess.a right arid to 1)5)8 far 3 yards (S.Fletcher).
2-7-ED
18 SXelly pest iIICOIIWWC WT.Thoreaa (htPerty). Pass deflected t th, line otecsimmag&
3.7-3318 S.Kelly pan InCOçIeW to C.Oaniner (E.Alexander; B.Rager).
4-1-Ba IS CMohr p.mts 37 yards to 1)345, Center-A.Lingner. Fair catch O.Milbuxn.
DenvwBro&vs at 1352
1-10-1)545 3.Elway past to 3.Sbaspe, pushed out of bounds at 81)6 for 49 yards (K.Schulz). P1
1-6-31)6 tDavis right guard to 1)34 for 2 yards W.Smith; lEarns).
2-4-334
LBlway pass Incouçldo to .T.DSVIS J.Burds).
3-4-31)4 S.Blway pass bicon,psbs to R.&rnstbe (K.Schulz).
4+1)84 121am 22 yard field — is GOOD. Centa-3.Rohlmcoa Hal der-TJLaun
SD 0 nfl 3, S plays, 51 yardo, 1.20 drive, 2:28 elapsed s======= LBlsnJdclw 10 yards from 1)530 to 81)0, D.Rolmeo ret, to 51)23 for 23 yards (R.Hilliard).

OK, who the hell are the Buffalo Dilth?

Anyway, the moral of the story is that we need an army of volunteer readers to do the mind-numbing work of typing this play-by-play into the computer, either into Word or right into the filtered format I use in Excel. I know when I mentioned this a few months ago, a number of readers said they were willing to help out, which is personally I find the idea of doing this way too mind-numbing. If you want to be part of the 1995 play-by-play volunteer army (and the 1994, 1993, etc. army after that) please e-mail your name to 1995@footballoutsiders.com.

People are probably still wondering when we are going to finally put up the individual statistics prior to 2000, and here's your answer: Over the next couple months I'll do some articles reviewing the history of DVOA and the best and worst performances at each position. As we hit each of those positions in turn, I'll post all the individual stats pages.

And, as long as I have your attention, one more note: Readers who use an RSS feed rather than visiting the actual Football Outsiders website have not seen our advertisement looking for new writers for Pro Football Prospectus 2008. A lot of people e-mail us asking how they could get involved in writing for FO, so here's your chance. The linked page describes what we want as an entry, so I want to make this clear: DON'T ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT BECOMING A NEW WRITER IN THIS DISCUSSION THREAD. This thread is for talking about the 1996 DVOA ratings. The only reason I'm mentioning the search for new writers is that on some of our pages, the announcement was incorrectly linked to the t-shirt store until this morning, and I want to make sure anyone who is interested in writing for us gets their chance. Anybody who asks a question about the announcement in this thread is going to have their entry tossed out. Thanks for understanding.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Jun 2007

115 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2007, 9:32pm by Packer Pete

Comments

1
by Hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:03pm

Wow...

J. Blam, the Denver kicker

Buffalo Dilth (and Silts)

Elway becomes Blway (both L. and S.)

Maybe TMQ should do this to update his team nicknames...

This just made my day.

Oh, and Hir8th..

2
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:08pm

You quote DPAR numbers for many palyers. Why aren't they posted on the site for all to review.

Lookin' for Dorsey Levens' stats.

3
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:09pm

Larry Centers, no surprise, led all running backs with 24.3 DPAR as a receiver. He was targeted on 28 passes, 30 more than any other running back.

So all the other runningbacks were targeted -2 times or fewer?

4
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:10pm

Re: 2
"People are probably still wondering when we are going to finally put up the individual statistics prior to 2000, and here’s your answer: Over the next couple months I’ll do some articles reviewing the history of DVOA and the best and worst performances at each position. As we hit each of those positions in turn, I’ll post all the individual stats pages."

5
by MCS (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:14pm

oops. Just got to the end of the article. Sorry for #2

6
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:31pm

Where's Kordell's punting DVOA?

7
by dilthjoe (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:41pm

Euffa1o that goes to the Super plate of xxxii. Copy papers to Saint Diego. Billyjoe holbert considers the panel of serrage like of the Todd Collins who is better a lot that of the Kerry Collins sacked with of the Smith bruce.

8
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 5:44pm

The commentary about Reed and Carter once again leads me to believe that the FO individual performance measurements miss significant elements, or to state it better, they should be viewed through the right prism. There weren't any defensive coordinators gameplaning that year to keep the ball away from Reed, and there were plenty doing so for Carter. Also, Carter had a well earned reputation for making very difficult catches, whereas Reed had a well earned reputation of sometimes being mediocre in that regard; his career almost never took off due to difficulty in catching the ball. Might this affect a qb's decision of where to throw the ball, and thus catch percentage?

I deeply respect what Aaron has developed here, but in regards to measuring individual player performance and value in particular, one has to be very careful about seeing the numbers for what they represent. No, Jake Reed was not a better receiver than Cris Carter.

9
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 6:08pm

I think your Raven hatred radius of 50 miles might be a bit small.

Sure that Dungy guy had a decent second half for Tampa that season, but what has he done lately?

10
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 6:17pm

I don't think Ravens hatred really started outside of Cleveland until Billick was the HC and Ray-Ray was charged with a double homicide. How could anyone hate a sweet old man like Ted Marchibroda?

11
by Alex (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 6:54pm

#8:
"Cris Carter? All he does is catch touchdowns."

12
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 7:09pm

While Michael Jackson indeed is "a well-known beer expert," I contend that his best and most important contributions to alcoholic beverage connoisseurship have come in the whisk(e)y realm.

13
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 7:10pm

As a Dolfan, I hated Marchibroda from way back. So it's definitely doable.

"Of course, the Jags’ upset cleared the way for New England to make its second-ever Super Bowl appearance, back when the franchise was still one of the runts of the league and not the three-time champion most-hated team in football."

Not that Aaron's bitter about that or anything :-) At least the Pats are hated for a reason. It's easier to put up with rampant hatred of your team when they've done something like, oh for example, win every single game in a season :-)

The '96 Packers BTW were the first and only team since those '72 Fins to both score the most points and allow the fewest during the same season. Yet some people on the Dolphins board I post at insist they were nothing without Desmond Howard. Incredible.

Memories from '96: I do remember the Ravens being involved in a lot of shootouts (there's a reason they drafted so many defensive players in the late 90s), and I also remember that late in the season it looked for certain that the Chiefs would make the playoffs while the Jags were languishing at 4-7 or so. To me, seeing the Jags get in while the Chiefs collapsed was the biggest shocker of the regular season. And their victory over the Bills (first playoff loss ever at Rich Stadium) might be the most underrated playoff upset ever because of what happened the next week.

I also remember the SI Cover Jinx biting the Broncos as for whatever reason they decided to do a cover story called "John Elway: An Appreciation" in which the theme was "Elway's been a great QB considering all the complete losers he's had to work with over the years". Seriously, the story bashed every other Bronco player during Elway's career so much it infuriated me.

'96 was also a groundbreaking year for player misconduct, as this was when they decided to kick it up a notch and it first got headlines. I remember turning on the Cowboys because of Irvin's antics when before I had liked them for beating the Bills twice in the Super Bowl and also the Niners who I hated as well. They were my second favorite team from '90-94 but in '95 the bloom was coming off the rose and when the Panthers faced them I was openly rooting for Dallas to lose.

'96 was also the last time a team I liked won the title until the '05 Steelers. That's a pretty long drought methinks.

14
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 7:58pm

Let's hear it for T.hlsuck! Best ... misprint ... ever ...

Interesting--the first three times the Patriots make it to the SB, they face the team that was (according to DVOA in '96 and '01, and according to conventional wisdom in '85) by far the best team in the NFL that year. In fact, I wouldn't be completely surprised if the '85 Bears rivaled the '96 Packers and the '01 Rams as the teams with the highest DVOA differential over their competition, if only we could calculate the '85 Bears DVOA. I guess going 1-for-3 in such superbowls isn't bad, especially when you lose one of them while your coach is busy interviewing for another job.

This article brings back memories of the old Patriots-Dolphins games in the mid-90's. Neither team EVER had much in the way of a running game, and both teams generally had less than amazing defenses, too, so they became quite the crazy passing fests. Unfortunately, an aging Marino was still better than a young Bledsoe, at least until 1996, so the Dolphins usually won.

15
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 8:12pm

And Barry Sanders v. TD continues, as the Broncos were #4 in rush DVOA and the Lions were #5, though the Lions were better in VOA.

I was very surprised to see the Oilers with the 9th best offense, though I guess they were 10th in scoring. Seriously, though, their top three WRs were Chris Sanders, Willie Davis, and Derek Russell, and Ronnie Harmon was one of their leading receivers. And Frank Wycheck finished under 10 ypc, so it's not like he was tearing up the field.

Looking at the adjustments, the Packers, like the 2000 Ravens, look like a team that played such a soft schedule, their undeniable quality got exaggerated to massive proportions.

16
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 8:40pm

The '96 Packers prove yet again my theory that not only does a team not need big talent prima donnas like TO, Meshawn, "Eight Four" and Moss to win a title, but these players are actually detrimental to a team's chances of doing so.

On the other extreme, last year's Pats show that you also can't win a title by depending on ex-Gator WRs either.

17
by admin :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 8:45pm

The fact that Jake Reed had better numbers than Cris Carter for two years doesn't mean DVOA is saying Reed was the better player. It means DVOA is saying SOMETHING about the Vikings offense of the time. It isn't necessarily that Reed is better, but it may be that Reed was underrated. Let me also add that I often hear the argument that "of course the number one receiver has a lower DVOA, because he gets all the defensive attention," but that hasn't stopped guys like Lee Evans, Steve Smith, Andre Johnson, and Joe Horn from far outshining their lesser teammates in our numbers.

I originally had it in here and I guess I edited it out at some point by accident, but Sanders does lead the league in running back DPAR by a very hefty margin, 42.3 DPAR, with Terrell Davis second at 30.6. (Something close to that, I don't have the numbers in front of me right now.)

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 10:00pm

Aaron, I appreciate your remarks, and am not surprised by them, but I think the first time visitor here might take a statement like this......

"...so that makes two straight years where Reed’s numbers blew Carter’s numbers out of the water."

.....in a way that you do not intend. I know it would be tiresome in the extreme to laden every piece with excessive caveats, and the statement is technically accurate, but it was just something I thought was worth making a remark about. Yes, I think Jake Reed was better than was commonly perceived by the average fan, but I will also note that the only guy of the four you mention I would put in Carter's class is Steve Smith.

My biggest problem in wr evaluation is catch %, because it is so much a function of qb decision-making, and it is a variable which cannot be held constant across wide receivers. Mike Shanahan once said, when Randy Moss was in his prime, that the Vikings offense was the only one he had ever seen in the NFL where the default position was just to toss it in the general vicinity of a certain player. Now, what would the catch percentage be of the typical replacement level receiver if he were asked to adopt that role? I suspect Moss' performance in his prime years has been significantly understated.

Not that I need to tell Aaron, but this is hard, hard, stuff to measure accurately.

19
by David Brude (not verified) :: Tue, 06/26/2007 - 11:27pm

Vinny REALLY must have tore things up for the Ravens rush offense to be number 1. I also suspect that the Ravens deep vertical passing game that year opened things up for the unspectacular backs.

On the cris carter issue. He did have 122 catches and 17tds the previous season, so it could have been defenses adjusting his prior season performance. Reed porbably was a very underrated 2nd WR.

20
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:15am

Just a few comments to add to to Will Allen's comments on Reed and Carter.

As far as I understand, DVOA and DPAR do not credit TDs (correct me if I am wrong). In the two years being discussed, Carter had 23 TDs and Reed had 13. Touchdowns are one of the non-FO stats that I still think matter. Yes, just about any RB can get a one yard TD run, and goal-line rushing TDs are based a lot on coaching decisions. But catching TD passes seems like something else: that's not a matter of coaching decision as much as skill. Carter's red zone ability was far ahead of Reed's: Reed's career high for TDs was 9, which Carter bested 6 times and matched twice.

I think FO is doing an outstanding job analyzing football through statistics. But most of the FO explanations I've read do contain the caveats: that the numbers don't isolate individual players from their team contexts, that the numbers are used in addition to our own observations, etc. So the numbers suggesting Reed was actually very good are helpful; combined with the observations of those of us who watched most of Reed's and Carter's careers, however, it's not enough to convince us that Reed was better than Carter.

And here's the completely subjective argument, devoid of any attempt at reason or support. I remember individual catches Carter made. I don't remember individual catches Reed made. Somehow, Carter was a football player whose performances made an impact on my memories of following the Vikes; Reed was not.

21
by rick (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:58am

How much was Green Bay's huge DVOA differencial effected by it's dominance of Denver, who was a top 3 team.

In a controversal decision, Shanahan thought that resting nearly all of his starters was the best way to prepare for the game. Essentially, Denver surrendered this game because they had home field locked up. This backfired as Denver lost to Jacksonville in one of the biggest playoff upsets of all time.

Dominating a top team 3 by over 5 TDs would definitiely have a positive effect on a team's DVOA.

22
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:18am

Hooray... another year to argue about Jake Reed and Cris Carter! I'm the one always saying that he's over-rated... although that's in the context of HoF discussions vis-a-vis YPC and Art Monk... and also Carter's TD stats.

I think maybe Carter doesn't catch as many first downs as we think? In looking at the WR stats (which I've looked at extensively), it seems that YPC ~ 12 are given a huge hit. Probably because they don't result in as many first downs.

I don't know about the argument of DPAR/DVOA discounting TDs, but I do know that if you look at WR stats, 50% of the WRs in the top 25 are from the same team. I'd say that means Reed "has significantly better stats" than Carter for 1996, and I'd take that one step further and say significantly better.

I can't believe defensive coordinators would be so stupid to focus on Carter and ignore Reed... I think Reed has got to be AT LEAST as good a 3rd down threat as Carter.

I'd really like to see what the stats bear out, because most of the times to top WRs are at least close enough to each other... there must be some greater explanation.

Jake Reed and Gary Clark for the Pro Football Hall of Fame!

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:47am

I believe that it is extremely unusual for any wide receiver to be ever "ignored", absent a touchdown, and an easy one at that.

24
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:14am

I have a few comments and they are Colt-related (surprise).

1) Ah, for the good old days, when Indy's O was ranked 22 and their ST ranked 3!

2) Looking at the table of all-time great (since 96) ST unit ratings, how can Rackers' 2005 FG season (40/42 and 140 pts) be better than Vanderjagt's perfect 37/37 season in 2003 with 157 pts? Same for Gary Anderson in 98. Do I detect an anti-dickhead bias in the formulas?

3) Ted Marchibroda is a wonderful coach and human being whose only mistake was leaving Indy to coach in Crabtown. An under-appreciated gem.

25
by Bobman (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:25am

BTW, Aaron, I kneel before thee (figuratively) with your Velvet Jones reference. Painfully funny. Back when SNL was... never mind, it'll just make me sound ancient to rehash Garret Morris announcing "Lord and lady Douchebag!" and Velvet Jones saying "The bitch ugly" on broadcast TV.

Well now, that makes an even dozen of us, coast-to-coast, who remember this raconteur/author/pimp.

26
by Becephalus (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 4:08am

They were both dome kickers

27
by Ilanin (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:39am

24 - it's to do with field position as much as anything. Vanderjagt, kicking mostly short distances mostly in a dome, was expected to make all 37 of those kicks, whereas Rackers, kicking outside from wherever the Arizona offense stalled and left him at, was presumably not expected to make even close to 40/42

28
by Waverly (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 8:35am

Why don't you change the captchas to (sometimes?) show an image of part of a gamebook that you couldn't automatically text recognize?

Or set up a wiki of images with place for anyone to provide text?

29
by ammek (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 10:39am

Well I've been waiting a long time for this article - memories and all that. It now seems rather as though the Packers wasted this great team by winning 'only' one superbowl.

The receiver problem was much commented on at the time, but it's fascinating to discover that Rison, who was considered to have been the solution, was in fact a bust - although his postseason DVOA might be better. Ron Wolf, Green Bay GM, took a lot of flak for not re-signing Rison for 1997; you've proven him right.

It's hardly fair to say the Packers lacked big-time prima donna talent, DolFan. Between Favre (post-addiction), Eugene Robinson and Rison there was a fair amount of posturing - and talent.

I'd long wondered whether the offense would come out as superior to the defense - the media attention was focused on Favre and Howard, but this was by far the Packer D's best year. Why? Sean Jones and Robinson were about to move on, rookie CB Craig Newsome got hurt the next year, and Wayne Simmons would get into trouble. Reggie White got the hype, but these guys made a good defense better.

Kudos for the nod to Keith Jackson, too. I think the two-tight-end offense worked wonderfully well that season. Oh that we had even a half-capable tight end now!

PS How about dem Bengals!

30
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 11:02am

24, I watched two Cardinals games that year. In those two games, Rackers hit 5 field goals of 50+ yards.

31
by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:01pm

Two comments:
1. Will, I disagree when you say that the only receiver you put in Cris Carter's class is Steve Smith. It is far too early to judge Lee Evans. Look at Carter's stats for... say... the first 6 or 7 years of his career.

"All Carter does is catch touchdowns." He was spectacular though.

2. When did we start debating Sanders vs. TD? TD was a flash in the pan. A very bright flash, but a flash nonetheless. He had 4 outstanding seasons and his career was virtually over. Please don't say that if he had stayed healthy he would be considered one of the best of all time. Fact is he had 4 great seasons. Career length needs to be a factor in these debates.

Note that I am biased for two reasons:
1. Sanders remains the greatest running back I have ever seen play live. TV does not do him justice. It is a crime that those Lion teams of the early-to-mid 90's never won anything. Fontes is a joke. I could have coached those teams to 8-8.

As a Packers fan, I am required by Brown County Ordinance to hate everything about the late 90's Broncos. :-)

Peace.

32
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:46pm

As the one who brought up Sanders v. TD, I'd first like to thank Aaron for posting those numbers.

Second, in response to #31, two of the more interesting questions historical DVOA can help us answer is (1) just how good, really, was TD, and (2) was Sanders really as good as we thought watching him? I believed the answers to those were (1) appreciably better than the more recent Denver RBs and (2) yes, but it's nice to have evidence to back us up. Sanders' FO excellence was, before the pre-99 data came out, a debatable point, as he was considered by some a boom-and-bust runner of the sort who tends to fair poorly in DVOA (see, e.g., pre-injury Deuce McAllister). Their respective excellence was noted in the 1998 retrospective in particular, when they had arguably the finest pair of running back seasons ever. Overall, TD's career is too short, but he did have several absolutely spectacular seasons. If he'd sucked, I bet you wouldn't dislike him nearly as much. So, neer.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 12:47pm

Well, that's my point, MCS, there is not enough data yet to put any of those guys in Carter's class, with the possible exception of Smith.

34
by admin :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:00pm

Those of you who are interested in the debate about Barry Sanders vs. Terrell Davis (or, for that matter, Emmitt Smith) will enjoy the Best Running Back Seasons of All Time article in Pro Football Prospectus 2007. (PLUG!) Here's a sneak peek: Only two running backs have six seasons in the Top 100. Jim Brown is one. Barry Sanders is the other. Sanders is the only running back with two seasons in the top 10, and the only running back with three seasons in the top 20. However, Sanders does not have the season that tops the list.

35
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:01pm

Speculating how Sanders' and Emmitt Smith's careers would look today if their teams had been reversed is almost as interesting as speculating the same about Terry Bradshaw and Archie Manning.

I love Emmitt Smith, but there are times in which I doubt he would have had a HOF career in Detroit. I know for a fact that Bradshaw would not have had one in New Orleans, and I suspect that Manning the Elder would be viewed as on par with Joe Montana if he had been with the Steelers, with people speculating whether Peyton would ever be as good as the old man.

Even we die-hard analytical types must be constantly reminded of how player interdependence makes measuring individual football player performance and value an extraordinarily difficult task.

36
by Alex (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:39pm

#8,17, 18:
I think the fact that Reed had a higher DVOA than Carter probably means that opposing defensive coordinators underrated Reed relative to Carter. Otherwise, they would've focused a bit more than they did on stopping Reed. The reason Lee Evans, Steve Smith, etc. are able to far outshine their teammates is that they usually don't have any teammates who are even pretty good. I think it's safe to say that Reed was at least a pretty good receiver.

On a related note, I think the fact that Smith, Evans, and others have a much higher DVOA than their lesser teammates shows that defenses should devote even more attention than they already do to stopping them. Basically, keep increasing your focus on Smith and Evans until their DVOA is about the same as their teammates'. Which, from what I understand, is pretty much what Seattle did in the 2005 playoffs against Carolina.

Also, wrt Carter, I don't think 1996 or 1997 were his best years, so even if Reed played better in those particular years, I'm not going to suddenly think that his career was more impressive.

#20: "As far as I understand, DVOA and DPAR do not credit TDs (correct me if I am wrong)."

Nope, DVOA and DPAR do credit TDs. From "New Stats Explained":

"A successful play is worth one point, an unsuccessful play zero points. Extra points are awarded for big plays, gradually increasing to three points for 10 yards, four points for 20 yards, and five points for 40 yards or more...Red zone plays are worth 20 percent more, and there is a bonus given for a touchdown."

37
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:41pm

#34,

I would reckon the top 2 would have to be 1984 Dickerson and 1973 Simpson.

38
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 1:48pm

I think the fact that Reed had a higher DVOA than Carter probably means that opposing defensive coordinators underrated Reed relative to Carter. Otherwise, they would’ve focused a bit more than they did on stopping Reed. The reason Lee Evans, Steve Smith, etc. are able to far outshine their teammates is that they usually don’t have any teammates who are even pretty good. I think it’s safe to say that Reed was at least a pretty good receiver.

Oh I don't know. I'd have to (anecdotally from a talent standpoint) believe that Keyshawn Johnson, Donte Stallworth and Muhsin Muhammad are on or above Reed's level and Peerless Price is a notch or three below. It's not like the opposite side was manned by the Justin Gages and Bobby Wades of the world. Although I agree that Reed is underrated, probably because he caught the back end of the Anthony Carter era, the prime years of the Cris Carter era, and the front end of the Randy Moss era. Forever a Dick Grayson, never a Bruce Wayne.

39
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:00pm

Aaron: I'm guessing the top season goes back to 1975 O.J.? He really slashed defenses to shreds that year.

40
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:02pm

I have to admit that I was never a huge fan of Dickerson, due to his propensity to fumble, and now, after examining fumble stats in detail, I've reappraised my estimation of more than few rbs, including a guy who was an all-time favorite, Walter Payton. Of course, I also think faster whistles in today's game, especially compared to, say, Jim Brown's era, and fewer defensive players in the box, may have some impact on fumble trends through the decades.

41
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:03pm

#37: I'm guessing the 1975 season will be better if receiving stats are included, but 1973 may be better if we're only talking about rushing.

42
by the K (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:16pm

Dude! I remember when T. Hlsuck returned kicks for the Dilth! We had good speshul teams that yeer!

43
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:30pm

Oh great, this article reminds me why I drafted Vinny Testaverde in the 2nd round for my fantasy team in 1998. He really was that good in 1997.

I still think Green Bay is pretty interesting. From a yards/drive standpoint, Green Bay was #1 on both offense and defense that year. In DVOA, they are still #3 and #1, for an "ordinal total" of 4. I'm willing to bet (I haven't looked through the rest of the stats) that is the lowest ordinal total for any team in the DVOA era.

44
by Lee Casebolt (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:32pm

As a Broncos fan, I'm required to tell you that the Packers were lucky Denver choked against the Jags. We really should've had three in a row.

45
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:32pm

Follow up to 43: Among posting that, I suspected in the '99 Rams might be close, and indeed, they also add up to 4 (#1 on offense, and #3 on defense).

46
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:35pm

44 - Yep, and the diehards will tell you that the 41-6 loss to Green Bay referenced above was only because Bill Musgrave started at QB in place of Elway. However, when I was trying my own power ranking #s that season, Green Bay (by estimation of PYTH wins) was clearly superior. I caught a lot of flak on the Broncos e-mail list during that season for having an 11-2 Green Bay show up ahead of 12-1 Broncos team in my power rankings, but (unfortunately) was ultimately proved right.

47
by Carl H. (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 2:50pm

I think the Bradshaw/Manning point is an interesting one. Bradshaw certainly had a lot of flaws as a QB, and Manning appears to have been the more polished decision-maker, more accurate, and all that.

However, I think Bradshaw (though obviously he had some horrible years statistically) is in an odd way, underrated, now that we sit on this side of the 1978 rules-changes divide.

A couple things about T.B. that is often overlooked: one, he was a tough s.o.b., and football in the early 1970s was simply brutal.

Two, Bradshaw was fearless and reckless and that combination made him a scary player to go against in a big game. In a sense, he had the courage to play against stats, to play against trends. He could throw two picks in the first half, but come out throwing downfield in the second. Defenses couldn't count on him changing his tendencies because they'd accomplished something (forcing turnovers early). And that really helped, I believe, the Steelers offense work, particularly in playoff games.

Conversely, we don't know how Manning would have played in big games. I know that "winning big games" is a difficult if not impossible metric to capture, FO-style. And I certainly believe that Manning would have put up gaudy numbers running the steelers offense in the 70s. But it's hard to conclude that Manning would have, ultimately, made the 70s Steelers as memorable a team as Bradshaw made them.

48
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:11pm

36: Thanks, Alex. Do you know what the bonus for a TD is?

I was just checking: Carter had 130 (110 with Vikes) career TDs, and Reed had 36 (33 with Vikes). Maybe in a few seasons Reed was a better WR than Carter, but I find it hard to believe that Carter did less to help the Vikings win games over his career than Reed did.

49
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:14pm

Oh, gosh, Carl, I don't mean to knock Bradshaw, because I think he was a great player, but geez, he played with more great teammates than any quarterback in NFL history, outside of possibly Bart Starr. Meanwhile, Archie Manning played for the 1970s era New Orleans Saints, where he still managed to have some great seasons. If you think Bradshaw suffered brutality, well, Manning got treated like Dresden at the end of WWII. There is absolutely no comparison.

If Bradshaw had played for the Saints, he would be viewed no better than Archie Manning is today, a talented qb who was abused in a hideous environment, and possibly would be viewed as a player much worse than Archie Manning is today. Getting hit a lot when winning Super Bowls is a lot more manageable than getting absolutely killed, and I mean killed, while your team doesn't even get a whiff of the playoffs, and the genetically engineered clone of Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, John Elway, and Dan Marino could not have made the Saints competitive in the '70s.

If Archie Manning had played for the '70s Steelers, especially with the defense of the '70s Steelers, I think there is a pretty good chance they would have started their run earlier in the decade, and Manning would now have more Super Bowl championships than any qb in history. Let's put it this way; the odds of there ever being a qb controversy between Archie Manning and Joe Gilliam, like there was between Bradshaw and Gilliam, are pretty long.

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:21pm

CarlH., the winning big games factor can't be captured statistically for quarterbacks because there aren't enough big games to have the slightest idea of whether what you saw was just a random occurence or not. We can see from baseball, however, that "clutch hitting" and "postseason performance" are largely just fictions. Guys are pretty much the same players in big games as they are in little games, once adjustments are made for the fact that big games are usually played against better competition.

51
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:30pm

Let me just add some commentary on the conventional stats (DVOA and DPAR, for me, supplement and clarify the conventional stats rather than replace them), just looking at the four seasons Reed was very effective.

From 94-97, Carter had 47 TDs to Reed's 26, 429 receptions to Reed's 297--but interestingly, just 4,859 yards to Reed's 4,800. So from a yardage standpoint, it does seem Reed did as much to help the Vikes in those four seasons as Carter. In those four seasons, Carter averaged just 11.3 yards per catch, while Reed averaged 16.2 yards per catch. Carter has never been known as a real deep threat; he did most of his work on short patterns. Reed and Carter were a perfect compliment to each other's abilities (in the same way Carter and Moss complimented each other). Given that Reed did a lot more with the receptions he did get, it makes sense that his DVOA and DPAR are better than Carter's. From a yardage standpoint, he did as much with fewer opportunities, making him appear to be a more efficient player.

And that gets into how they were used. Carter was more than a possession receiver: he was a dominant possession receiver, capable of spectacularly difficult catches and very effective in the red zone. His low yards per catch signal him as different than the great, versatile WRs capable of big plays. And yet, he still accumulated incredible numbers and often did it with really impressive individual playmaking ability.

I'm glad the DVOA and DPAR show the effectiveness of Jake Reed. For me, anyway, that doesn't diminish the effectiveness of Cris Carter.

52
by Carl H. (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:31pm

Good points, Will.

Just to be more clear (and concise, for the sake of time/space/argument): I think the evidence is pretty strong that Manning was a better passer than Bradshaw.

I just think that Bradshaw is a bit undervalued for being a great big-game QB. Paradoxically, he's almost so overrated that he's underrated. He wasn't a pinpoint passer, to say the least, but by the mid-70s he'd developed a style of play that made that team incredibly tough to beat.

If I were starting a team and drafting players who spent most of their career in the 1970s, I honestly don't know how highly I'd pick Bradshaw for a regular season run. But I think I'd pick him first if I needed to win one big game.

Very subjective criteria, I will concede straightaway.

53
by Carl H. (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 3:44pm

"CarlH., the winning big games factor can’t be captured statistically for quarterbacks because there aren’t enough big games to have the slightest idea of whether what you saw was just a random occurence or not. We can see from baseball, however, that “clutch hitting� and “postseason performance� are largely just fictions. Guys are pretty much the same players in big games as they are in little games, once adjustments are made for the fact that big games are usually played against better competition."

I agree with the first claim, but not the second -- and, unless I'm misreading it, they seem contradictory. If we can't draw conclusions from postseason play, then surely we can't conclude that there's no clutch factor in football.

That statistical analysis can't find a clutch factor in baseball is interesting, but I think not relevant. What if I could show you that there's a clutch factor in golf, for example? Or brain surgery?

And thanks, btw, for the reply, Will.

54
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 4:05pm

I guess my point is Carl that if there isn't any significant evidence to suggest a phenomena exists, then there is limited value in making judgments based on perceptions of that phenomena. If somebody has demonstarted a measurable clutch factor in a sport, then it would counterbalance what has been shown in baseball. If it has been done, I'm unaware of it.

Then again, and it may seem like a contradiction, while I doubt "clutch" performance exists in most sports, I will concede I sometimes suspect otherwise in a few, like golf, where the competitors do not directly affect each other's performance. I do think internally felt stress can degrade performance, otherwise known as "choking", and that individuals respond to stress differently. I think the differences are small, however, in that large amounts of stress, all beliefs about "clutchness" aside, degrades everybody's performance. A small amount of stress may just sharpen focus, but stress like that produced on the largest stages harms everybody, and when individuals compete against each other directly the stress they both have to manage cancels each other out.

On the other hand, in a competiton like golf, the course is the opponent, and no golf course has ever choked, while every player has. This is all speculative of course, as it is, for instance, regarding large muscle groups being less affected by stress than small muscle groups, and would perhaps be an interesting avenue of inquiry.

55
by Xian (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 4:19pm

ammek, Thanks for being one of the few people who remembers Craig Newsome. Heh. I thought he had a bright future, and was really disappointed when he blew out his ACL.

"It’s hardly fair to say the Packers lacked big-time prima donna talent, DolFan. Between Favre (post-addiction), Eugene Robinson and Rison there was a fair amount of posturing - and talent."

Very true. IIRC, Keith Jackson was pretty good too (and the numbers back it up), and there was a lot of talent on the defensive side in general, while the offense was mostly younger guys, except I believe the line was fairly solid/veteran.

"...but this was by far the Packer D’s best year. Why? Sean Jones and Robinson were about to move on, rookie CB Craig Newsome got hurt the next year, and Wayne Simmons would get into trouble."

Of course, Robinson was mostly just solid (IMO), and the next year Darren Sharper was paired with Butler (or was that 98 that he started?) and had something like 3 or 4 defensive TDs in his rookie year. So it didn't get terrible, it just wasn't nearly as good.

Anyway! Carter and Reed! As a Packer fan, I recall being more worried about Reed, and I couldn't understand why the Viking fans that I knew (I was living in MN at the time) didn't think more of Reed. Sure, Carter was going to catch some stuff, but (hopefully not with my hindsight goggles on), it seemed like Reed was more dangerous, and more likely to keep the drives going.

56
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 4:49pm

@51

I can't understand why Reed's DPAR would be higher based just on the stats you're talking about. DPAR is a cumulative stat, isn't it?

57
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 5:11pm

56, I may be mistaken. I was going off of what #36 quoted about extra points being awarded for bigger plays (though I've read the explanations myself, too).

I thought it possible that Carter's many short passes gave him a lot of plays worth 1 or 0 points, while Reed's big play ability allowed him to get more catches worth a lot of points.

58
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 5:15pm

44:

Wouldn't the Broncos still have had to get through the Patriots to play Green Bay in the SB? I know they were probably a slightly better team in '96, but the '96 Patriots weren't exactly chopped liver. To assume that the Broncos would have certainly beat both the Pats and the Pack is like assuming that the Raiders would have automatically beaten both the Steelers and St. Louis in '01, and hence the "tuck rule" cost them a SB. (I know that many Oakland fans do this, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous).

Even against a bad team, a good team probably only has an 80% chance of winning. Against playoff calibur teams--well, figure the Broncos would have had at most a 60% chance of beating the Patriots, and a 55% chance of beating Green Bay (I'm being generous to the Broncos fans). That's only a 1-in-3 chance that they would have made it 3 in a row if they had beaten Jacksonville...

59
by Unshakable Optimist (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 5:21pm

"I have to admit that I was never a huge fan of Dickerson, due to his propensity to fumble, and now, after examining fumble stats in detail, I’ve reappraised my estimation of more than few rbs, including a guy who was an all-time favorite, Walter Payton. Of course, I also think faster whistles in today’s game, especially compared to, say, Jim Brown’s era, and fewer defensive players in the box, may have some impact on fumble trends through the decades."

I'd add to that challenges and instant replay reversals. Many of the fumbles back then may well have been ruled down by contact if they played by today's rules and had access to current technology.

60
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 5:25pm

58 - 55% is probably generous for the Packers, but only 60% against the Patriots in Mile High? No, I think the Broncos would have had a much better chance than that. Just by weighted DVOA above, the Broncos were 27.8% compared to New England's 11.4%.

And the Broncos actually played New England that season in Foxboro and won 34 to 8 (it was the infamous Shannon Sharpe on the phone get-the-national-guard game).

61
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 5:25pm

A couple divisional notes.

First, in the 49ers XP thread last week, I noted that the DVOA gap in the 1999 NFC West was probably the largest I'd ever see. I was wrong. Green Bay is a whopping 49.3% over #2 Minnesota. The 6.3 PythWins difference between the Packers and Vikings is also a record, edging out the 5.9 difference between the Seahawks and Rams in the '05 NFC West.

The AFC Central is the other division of note; the Ravens at #16 in DVOA were last in the division. This is the highest a division's worst team has ranked in the DVOA era, though the '99 Pats had a higher DVOA (.9% v. -1.4%). The overall division doesn't rank that highly, though, because most of the division was average or just slightly above it, and there weren't any great teams. Still, every team in the AFC Central would rank second in DVOA if you put them in the NFC Central, and I bet that's pretty danged rare.

62
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 6:24pm

"That statistical analysis can’t find a clutch factor in baseball is interesting, but I think not relevant. What if I could show you that there’s a clutch factor in golf, for example? Or brain surgery?"

Every clutch analysis I've seen has been done in exactly the same way. Its pretty obvious that people dont become better in high stress situations. Its also pretty obvious that a lot of people fold in those situations. Clutch is maintaining your performance in those situations while people around you are folding.

63
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 6:30pm

62 - And the most common argument I've seen in the baseball clutch debates is that the factor probably exists in people, but the people that don't have it (or the people that fold in your approximation) were already weeded out in the minors. My guess is a similar argument could be made for NFLers.

64
by C (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:01pm

Baseball research hasn't shown that there is no clutch factor. Baseball has been able to show that that the majority of players play the same in clutch situations as they do in "normal" situations (whether you measure it 'close and late' or 'runners in scoring position').

Some people (including famous people like Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield) do seem to have a year-on-year correlation in their batting average with runners in scoring position versus batting average with the bases empty. Because of sample size issues, it can't be stated clearly whether they are truly clutch or just lucky.

Bill James' "Underestimating the Fog" sparked a long debate in SABR circles about this sort of thing (he argued the position outlined above). When I say "sample size issues" I am grossly simplifying- read that article and the responses to get the details. Other SABR people disagreed with James, and argue that clutch in fact doesn't exist, but at the very least discussion exists within the SABR community as to that issue.

And a note about cross-sport comparisons: baseball is the sport with the most statistical backing of any sport in existence- the most games, the most events tracked in the stats, the most play-by-play, the most players tracked. So if they have sample size issues that might preclude a definitive statement about whether "clutch" exists, then I doubt that any other sport is going to ever be able to say for certain.

65
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:11pm

I'm interested in seeing if Cris Carter had a phenomenal catch % over Reed. In my arguments for Monk getting into the HoF I've looked at the mantra that catches have some value... but I've found that a low YPC like Carter has... especially when you get to 12 really hurts as far as DVOA/DPAR.

There are only a few players with low YPC that succeed at DPAR (I think I put the cutoff at 13.5 YPC). You'd really need a season like Marvin Harrisons 140+(?).

All of my research is packed away with copies of PFP 2005 and 2006... although I think I wrote a FO type article but never submitted it. I think TJ Houshmanzedeh and Hines Wards are the 2 "current" WRs who succeed at these stats with low YPC. But for the most part, success is rare (my success was something like top 15 in DPAR). Success is especially hard because catch % has to be in the 60s.

Basically I was trying to refute Peter King's arguments for keeping Monk out, specifically when he points to YPC. I don't think any current WRs had as low of a YPC level as Carter does.

Based on YPC argument one could make a similar case against Monk as Carter. Sure you can say Carter caught TDs, but you could also give Monk the "ring benefit". Even the same "not best WR on his team". Maybe Carter had 1 season when he had a higher DVOA/DPAR than Reed or Randy Moss... just like Monk and Gary Clark.

The more I look at it, the more strongly I side on DPAR/DVOA being correct. In fact its the personal biases, mine towards Monk and yours towards Carter that DVOA/DPAR are trying to remove from the equation.

If Carter is in the Hall, then I don't see how you can keep Moss out of the Hall, his rookie season didn't he out-produce a veteran Hall of Famer?

66
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:17pm

Well, I did find one article arguing for clutch hitting (linked in my name). This one has a trend - singles hitters: clutch; power hitters: not clutch.

67
by James G (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:21pm

65 - I think Moss, based on his first 6 years, with the Vikings was easily on pace for a 1st ballot HOF career. It's his career since that time that may derail it. I really don't understand arguments "if you let x in, you have to let Moss in." Moss was likely one of the top 3 receivers in the game at that point.

68
by cbmff (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:28pm

1996 Reed
72 rec
126 targets
56 first downs

1996 Carter
96 rec
167 targets
57 fd's

69
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 7:31pm

65: It is my opinion that Cris Carter and Randy Moss are both HOFers--though that doesn't mean either or both will get in. Carter is currently second only to Rice in receptions and receiving TDs, and Moss currently has 101 TD receptions (and a lot of outstanding individual seasons). Carter should get in because of his cumulative success, while Moss probably will not get in because many of the selectors have explicitly stated that they hate him.

70
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 8:13pm

"It’s hardly fair to say the Packers lacked big-time prima donna talent, DolFan. Between Favre (post-addiction), Eugene Robinson and Rison there was a fair amount of posturing - and talent."

One, I was only talking about prima donna WRs. Two, Favre today is a much bigger prima donna since even he realizes his time in the spotlight is shrinking. Three, this was just before or at the very beginning of the era of the prima donna head case WR. Rison was as close as you can get to that, and he was Marvin Harrison compared to the prima donnas of today. Four, I don't recall Eugene Robinson acting that way or doing much of anything before his infamous date with a hooker before the Super Bowl two years afterwards.

"65 - I think Moss, based on his first 6 years, with the Vikings was easily on pace for a 1st ballot HOF career. It’s his career since that time that may derail it."

I agree with this completely. Enough of this "HOF voters hate Moss" hyperbole, he's doing a fine job of killing his chances all on his own. He's been regarded in league circles as mainly irrelevant for a good 2, maybe 3 years now.

71
by Xian (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 8:51pm

#70

Moss is certainly doing a good job on his own, but I believe both Peter King (maybe?) and Dr. Z (definitely) have stated that they won't vote for him unless he turns his act around. I don't know about the ESPN guys, I mostly just read the Jaws stuff over there. (And yet I torture myself with PK every week? Why?)

72
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 9:04pm

The ESPN guys hang around with Irvin every day without calling him an idiot on air, they've got no room to talk about ANYBODY cleaning up their act. Peter King changes his mind from one minute to the next. So really Dr. Z is the only credible person on your list who really might not vote for Moss and he doesn't seem to have as much influence in the process as he'd like (it took him years to get his guy Rayfield Wright in).

73
by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 9:21pm

Will Allen states:
"We can see from baseball, however, that 'clutch hitting' and 'postseason performance' are largely just fictions."

That is often misquoted. (I harp on this because I feel it's not helpful to say clutch doesn't exist, because everyone knows someone who does perform in the clutch, or was there when someone came through in a tight spot, or felt that they caved due to pressure when they came up, so it tends to get rejected out of hand.)

What has been largely demonstrated is that, for whatever definition of clutch you use (hitting in close games with runners on, etc.), performance - whether good or bad - doesn't correlate well from one season to the next. It has also been demonstrated, although not to the same degree, that good clutch performance is generally not sustained over a career.

"Clutch performance" isn't predictive. That is not to say it is a fiction, or didn't occur, or that David Ortiz's string of 9th inning game-winning homeruns weren't clutch performances.

Baseball Prospectus has a couple of good articles (in their free section, I believe) summarizing their work.

74
by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Wed, 06/27/2007 - 10:42pm

70: At least two HOF selectors have explicitly stated they won't vote for Moss no matter what. Sure, maybe he's brought their hatred on him, but it's not hyperbole: they do hate him.

75
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 10:33am

MJK
There was a stretch from the mid 80s to late 90s where Denver won 13 or 14 games against NE in a row. Denver absolutely owned the Pats in that era (and still plays them better than everyone else).
Had Denver played GB in the SB, who knows what would have happened. As a huge Bronco fan I think Denver improved greatly from '96 to '97 with the development of Smith & McCaffrey and the addition of Neil Smith.

In terms of the Denver GB reg season game of '96, they also rested SHarpe, Zimmerman, Atwater, Davis, along with sewveral other players. I would like to see what GBs DVOA would have been had they won by a more likely margin, (1-10 pts.)

76
by Zac (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 10:42am

RE: 72. You'll have to exclude Tom Jackson from that list, of course.

77
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 12:34pm

I agree that as a Pats fan, I wouldn't have wanted to see New England have to play Denver in Mile High in '96. Denver probably would have won. But to assume it as an automatic win seems a little presumptous. After all, weren't people considering Jacksonville to be an automatic win for Denver that year? Haven't people been talking about how the Patriots "own" the Colts in the playoffs in recent times?

1996 was the first time the Patriots went to the SB in my adult memory (I was 7 and uninterested in football in '85). It was a magical season for New England fans. After years of being a crappy joke, Parcells had transformed the team, led by an exciting 1st round QB Drew Bledsoe (yes, Bledsoe was exciting then), a rough-and-tumble no-nonsense coach, and a terrorizing defense better than any they'd had since Andre Tippet retired. We were thrilled that they made it to the SB. No, they probably weren't the best team in the AFC that year. Yes, Denver was better. But the Pats were still good, well above average, and I believe that you never have more than about a 60%-56% chance of beating a well above average team.

History, like "Team A is X-and-Y against Team B" (where X >> Y) "over the last 20 years, so they must own them" is actually meaningless. Teams change so much from year to year, let alone over a multi-year period, that whether or not Team A beats Team B today is almost completely independ of who won last year, and certainly independent of who won in years before that. All that you can get, sometimes, is that certain coaches or styles match up well against certain other coaches or styles, and then only looking back about 3 or four years. That is the current case with the Broncos and the Pats... The Belichick Patriots rely strongly (on defense in particular) on scheme and power and experience (i.e. age), but Shanahan is better than most coaches at adapting to complex defensive schemes, so his teams match up well against Belichick's. Add the thin air at Mile High that is tougher on bigger, stronger, more experienced (older) defenses than on smaller, quicker, younger player, and I think that explains the good play of the Broncos against the Pats recently.

78
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 12:44pm

I'd just like to add that I enjoy the WR discussions because I think it's an interesting debate and study. It all began due to Peter King's assertion that Art Monk's YPC is too low for him to be in the hall.

Looking at WRs, I filtered off those who were top 10 in receptions, but not top 10 in yards. It was hard for any of these WRs to crack the top 10 in DPAR in any of the 6 years I studied (I'll have to include 2007). The best years were McCardell (2001) and Rod Smith (2005). Carter has the 3rd best year (from this filter) in 2000. If you think TDs are discounted, look at McCardell and Carter from 2000.

I then ranked the top 15 WRs by DPAR for 2005-2000 by YPC. With a YPC as low as Monk, it's hard to be in the top 10 DPAR... more so top 5 DPAR. What's also interesting is that I noticed a trend where the WRs were starting to get more YPC (I hadn't put 2000, 2006, or 2007) into my data. 2001 and 2002, there were WRs that cracked the top 5 in DPAR with below Monk YPC, and more in the top 10 (Marvin Harrison, Hines Ward, Jimmy Smith).

As a last ditch effort I compared Monk to his peers... but nearly all the WRs (save Dwight Clark) have at least 2 YPCs on Monk. I know I'm pissing on one of the players who I'd like to be in the HoF, but based on the DPAR evidence, I actually think King's point is significant. If you think about it, most great WRs have catch %s around 60s... so essentially any WR with low YPC needs to get into 65%, or have a lot of TDs (although it seems this doesn't help Cris Carter). I like using DPAR as a tool because it takes out biases, and I agree with the basic methodology... if you are worried about QB effects, look at DPAR for all players on the same team.

In fact, from my findings I think the biggest HoF snub from this period is not Art Monk, but Henry Ellard. Jerry Rice raised the bar pretty damn high.

Now looking at Carter, it seems like 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, he wasn't even the best WR on his team (according to DPAR). This is another strike against Monk. So for the Hall to accept Cris Carter, but not take in Monk looks like a load of hypocrisy. I'm really interested in seeing DPAR for Carter's 1994, and 1995. To me this seems like a case of "conventional stats" vs. "new supposedly better stats". I don't know if there is a baseball equivalent player.... and yes I'm aware Cris Carter's affinity for catching TD passes alone will more than likely put him in over Monk.

79
by SNL Bears Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 12:55pm

The 70s Steelers would have won 7 or 8 titles with Ditka coaching no matter who the quarterback was. :).

80
by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 1:01pm

78 - I don't think any game is a given, but I still think the Broncos had better than a 60% chance to beat the Pats in a head-to-head matchup that year. Yes, they lost to Jacksonville. They probably had something like an 85% of beating Jacksonville in that game, but that game just happened to be one of those that makes up the other 15%.

81
by Xian (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 2:38pm

#72
Peter King changes his mind from one minute to the next.

Well, yeah. Thus the "maybe". Still, he's usually so positive about every single player, that for him to even suggest that he might not vote someone into the HoF means that he might stick to that for a few years. I'm sure if someone offered him a really good latte, he might change his mind again, but that would take Belichekian-style (sp?) genius to come up with that plan.

So really Dr. Z is the only credible person on your list who really might not vote for Moss and he doesn’t seem to have as much influence in the process as he’d like (it took him years to get his guy Rayfield Wright in).

From what I understand about HoF voting, it's relatively easy to deny entry, much more difficult to actually get anyone in, especially if there's any real disagreement about the player. Didn't Dr. Z resign his position on the Seniors Committee because he was tired of dealing with people that were doing behind the back (such as it is) character assassination of his favorites, without having the gumption to stand up in the voting process and actually say why they didn't think the candidate was HoF-worthy?

Anyway, my point is that if there's still divided opinion on Moss once he's out of the game, it's quite likely that HoF voters that hate Moss will be able to keep him out.

We agree that he's killing his own chances, and whether or not sports writers like him, at the rate he's going, he probably won't get in.

82
by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 3:02pm

re: 49 Manning was a rookie in 1971. The Steelers run in the 70's began in 1972 with their 11-3 division winning season. To claim that the Steelers run would have started earlier had they had Manning is basically saying that Manning would have led the Steelers to a divisional title in his rookie year of 1971. Manning wasn't the leading passer for his Saints team in 1971. If you think that the Steelers would have won the Super Bowl in 1972 & 1973 with a young Manning, it would have required the Steelers to knock off the Dolphins, who were one of the best teams in NFL history during that time. As for the mention of Joe Gilliam, Gilliam was a very hot-and-cold player. He had a huge game early in 1974 where he threw for 348 yards against the Broncos. I would be interested in knowing if Archie Manning ever threw for 348 yards in a game in his career, much less a pre-1978 game. Out of curiosity, I looked at Gilliam's and Manning's numbers for 1974. They were very similar in their mediocrity. Who knows if a controversy could have developed or not? Bradshaw was a perfect fit for the Steelers. He could throw deep, and he was a strong runner. He could beat even the best defenses by throwing deep.

83
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 3:44pm

senser81, comparing a qb's performance while surrounded by the 1974 Pittsburgh Steelers to a qb's performance while surrounded by the 1974 New Orleans Saints, is like, well, probably the less said the better.

Yes, I know the Dolphins had a great team. They beat the Steelers in the 1972 AFC Chamionship Game by all of four points. Bradshaw was not a great quarterback in 1972, and yes, Manning was better early in their careers, in good part because Manning played in the SEC, while Bradshaw went to a very small school. It isn't a stretch at all to say that a little better qb play in '72 may have resulted in an earlier Super Bowl championship for the Steelers.

I'm not being harshly critical of Bradshaw; he was a great player. I'm trying to suggest that failing to recognize the full import of playing with a very large number of Hall of Fame teammates, and others, like L.C. Greenwood, who belong in the Hall of Fame, compared to playing with the New Orleans Saints of the early '70s, is a mistake when comparing two qb performances of the past.

84
by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 4:13pm

re: 83

No, please say as much as you like. The reason I compared a QB's performance while surrounded by the 1974 Steelers and a QB's performance while surrounded by the 1974 Saints is because those were the teams Gilliam and Manning played for. Its hard to compare them any other way. But I guess its ok for you to have a hypothetical argument as to how many more titles the Steelers would have won with Manning at QB.

A big reason as to why Gilliam started the 1974 season as the QB instead of Bradshaw was the strike. Gilliam crossed the picket line and got the training camp work in, Bradshaw did not. Gilliam started off hot then fizzled out. Also, the Saints thought highly enough of Gilliam to have acquired him in 1976 after the Steelers released him.

The 1972 Dolphins also went undefeated with basically their backup QB, and won the SB again in 1973. Pretty much any QB in NFL history was better than Bradshaw early in his career, but Bradshaw had a good season in 1972, accounting for 19 TDs vs. 12 INTs (Manning had a decent year in 1972 with 20 TDs and 21 INTs , but I guess thats irrelevent...LOL). Bradshaw wasn't the reason the Steelers lost to the Dolphins in the Championship game, so I don't know what you are talking about with the "better QB play", much less assuming that a 2nd year Archie Manning could have provided it.

Your argument is that the Steelers would have won more SBs and would have won SBs earlier had Manning been their QB instead of Bradshaw. I'm just pointing out that in order to do so, Manning would have had to lead the Steelers over the Dolphins at some point in the playoffs. I'd say the odds are against that happening.

85
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 4:37pm

No, senser, that isn't the only way to compare them. For instance, instead of writing.....

"He had a huge game early in 1974 where he threw for 348 yards against the Broncos. I would be interested in knowing if Archie Manning ever threw for 348 yards in a game in his career, much less a pre-1978 game. Out of curiosity, I looked at Gilliam’s and Manning’s numbers for 1974. They were very similar in their mediocrity"

....you could write...

Manning and Gilliam had similarly mediocre numbers in 1974. Gilliam put up his numbers while surrounded by perhaps the greatest collection of talent in NFL history, while coached by Hall of Famer. Manning did while surrounded by a collection of bums, coached by someone long forgotten".

Now, if you had to choose a paragraph which better represented reality, which would you pick?

By the way this is what profootball reference says about Bradshaw's and Manning stats in 1972:

pct. td int y/a
Bradshaw 47.7 12 12 6.1

Manning 51.3 18 21 6.2

Now, given that the Saints were terrible, and the Steelers were great, it would be a lot more useful to have FO stats to compare; I'd guess the Saints were well behind in most games, and the Steelers were running out the clock most of the time. That might make it all the more remarkable, though, that Bradshaw's td/int ration wasn't much, much better than Manning's instead of only being slightly better.

Bradshaw was not a great qb in 1972, Manning was better, and in a four point game, slightly better qb play can close the gap.

86
by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 5:02pm

re: #85

This whole discussion is pointless. I am trying to talk with specifics, you are just throwing out general statements. Whats funny is that I've never heard Bradshaw described as being an elite QB that didn't benefit from his teammates, and I've always heard Manning described as a great QB stuck on a bad team. So you are preaching to the choir.

The Steelers offense while Gilliam was the QB consisted of Gilliam throwing passes to Larry Brown, Ron Shanklin, and Frank Lewis. Mike Webster didn't play. Franco Harris was hurt and Rocky Bleier wasn't a starter so the Steeler ground game was Preston Pearson and Steve Davis. Swann and Stallworth were rookies that didn't start. Just wanted to point out some specific fact.

Your 1972 analysis is incomplete. Bradshaw was a great runner. He gained an additional 346 yards on the ground and accounted for 7 more TDs. These TDs weren't 1-yard gimmes, either.

As for the TD/INT ratio, you must be unfamiliar with how things were in 1972. Of the top 10 QBs in TDs that year, only 4 had a better than +2 difference. So to ask Bradshaw to have a much much better ratio than Manning is to not understand the times.

Its odd that you keep bringing up the 1972 Dolphin game (I guess the 1973 Raider game isn't as exciting?). Bradshaw got injured during that 1972 game, and the Steelers were leading 10-7 at the time. When he reentered the game, the score was 21-10 for Miami. All Bradshaw's fault, right? Bradshaw rallied the Steelers by throwing on every down, and the final was 21-17. Mansfield and Russell both said that the only way the Steelers would have beaten Miami that game was because of Bradshaw's singular performance.

87
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 5:40pm

senser, if you are going complain about a waste of time, and argue with me, would you at least have the common sense to argue with me regarding something I actually wrote, instead of what you purely imagined that I wrote? I never said the defeat to the Dolphins was "all Bradshaw's fault". You made that up. I said Manning was a better qb in 1972, Bradshaw was not great, and that slighlty better qb play in a four point game can close the gap. You, in fact, are the only one to have made a ridiculously critical statement about Bradshaw, by saying....

"Pretty much any QB in NFL history was better than Bradshaw early in his career"

....and nothing I've said about Bradshaw approaches that.

As to not understanding the times, yes it was quite different then, which you seem to incompletely grasp. For instance, among teams with similarly bad records to the Saints we see td/int ratios among starting qbs like 6/26 8/25 9/12 15/26, etc. Manning's performance was terrific, given his teammates.

Regarding the 1974 teammates, guys like Manfield, Kolb, etc., were darn good players, far superior to what Manning had. The Steelers receiving corps was far superior, even with Swann and Stallworth as rookies, as were the Steelers running backs, even with the Harris injury. If you don't appreciate how Hall of Famers on defense greatly aid a qb's performance, or how a far superior offensive line and receivers help a qb's rushing performance, well, that's a whole other post.

88
by Steely Glare (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 6:05pm

#82-#87:

A quote from nflhistory.net on the 1972 AFC Championship: "Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw was injured in the first half on a running play in which he fumbled into the end zone where Gerry Mullins fell on the ball for the opening score. Bradshaw came back in the fourth quarter and directed the Steelers to their other TD on four successive passes, climaxed by a sensational catch by WR Al Young." I would like to add that the Steelers scored only 3 points in the 2-1/2 quarters Bradshaw was out.

89
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 6:31pm

I've really tried to emphasize that my comments are not meant to be harsh criticism of Bradshaw, but more an argument that Manning was a truly historic talent trapped in a horrible situation, and that if he had benefitted by having Bradshaw's teammates, he almost certainly would have matched Bradshaw's career, and had a pretty good chance to end up with more Super Bowl rings. Is that to say Bradshaw played badly, or did not play well, in the '72 or '73 playoffs? No, it's an argument that there is a pretty good chance that a quarterback who was better in those years could have made a 4 point difference in '72, and perhaps made a difference in '73 as well, although undefeated '72 record notwithstanding, the '73 Dolphins team was better.

Have I said it's a sure thing? No. Have I denigrated Bradshaw in any significant way? No. What I have done is assert that even very hard-core football fans underestimate the degree to which player interdependence affects the way we evaluate careers.

90
by Raiderjoe Joe (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 8:07pm

This is what I love about Football Outsiders. Only here could a discussion about the '96 season turn into Manning The Elder VS Bradshaw :-) On any other site it would degenerate into juvenile smack.

Will, with all due respect, there's no way the '72 Fins would've been taken out by Archie Manning any time, any place any where. That season was just meant to be. The point others are trying to make is that Bradshaw played as well as any QB could have against that team in that game and the Steelers still lost. Manning could not have fared any BETTER than Bradshaw, and likely would've fared worse.

Also what is being overlooked is that in '74 the Steelers' passing game was mediocre no matter who was at QB. I get the impression that at the time pundits were looking at the Steelers and concluding that they had the running game, they had the D, but that dicey passing game might keep them from winning a title. In other words, the same thing they were saying about the 2000 Ravens. Who also replaced their starting QB in midseason.

I have to disagree with #58. Sure teams change, but the Broncos defeated the '97 and '98 Pats as well. Some teams just flat-out own others for a time and that's that. In fact I'd have to say the Jags actually had a better chance of beating the Broncos in the playoffs that year than the Pats due to Denver's month-long lethargy and the Broncos not having a history of owning them. The Jags were literally too ignorant to realize they were supposed to lose. Had the Broncos won they'd have shaken off the rust and would be facing a team who KBEW they couldn't beat them deep down inside. There's a sizeable difference there.

Besides, how does MJK explain the Fins beating the Bills all 20 times in the 70s, or the Jets and Bills faring far better against the Fins over the past 6 years than the stronger Pats?

91
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 8:15pm

Whoops, that last poster was really me. I only wanted to do the Raiderjoe Joe thing for one post :-) Darn name changes...

92
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 8:35pm

Dolfan, I've never been one to credit the "just meant to be" philosophy much, and a four point game is basically within the margin of error, so unless someone establishes that Bradshaw played the first perfect game in history, it's not all that outlandish to think that just a little more from the position could have made a difference. I had forgotten, however, how well Bradshaw played in that game.

I was at the game the Dolphins came closest to losing that year, by the way, when I was kid in Bloomington, MN. An absolute phantom roughing the passer call on the Vikings, on fourth and goal, gave the Dolphins the chance to score the winning touchdown on the next play, in the waning seconds of the game. I was in an end zone seat, and the zebra shaft job happened right in front of me. I'm still bitter.........

93
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 8:45pm

Will, this is the first I've heard of such a call, and you'd think *somebody* in the anti-Fins media who loves to tear down the '72 Fins at every opportunity would've mentioned it by now.

Are you sure you aren't confusing that call with the infamous roughing call in the '76 Pats-Raiders game? I'm not saying it didn't happen but it just seems odd that I wouldn't find out about it until just now.

I think you're also isolating QB play and forgetting that maybe if the Steelers D had played a bit better, or they hadn't given up a long run on a fake punt to keep a scoring drive alive, etc. then they could've won even if Bradshaw or manning or whoever you want to put at QB had played the same.

94
by cbmff (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 8:58pm

Will Allen, as always, some great points.
Leaving aside 72-73 I would have to say that the Steelers were in big trouble against the Raiders in 76 without Harris and Bleier, regardless of the qb.
In 1977, perhaps Manning would have done better than Bradshaw but Denver had a very strong defense that year.
When the steelers won in 78-79, Bradshaw had become a very good qb.
Perhaps you are right and in 72 or 73 the Steelers would have done better with Manning.
I think the other years are more suspect

95
by cbmff (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 9:07pm

Returning to 1996 the 1997 Pro Football Revealed book had some interesting points.
1. The jags o-line outweighed the bronco d-line 318 to 281
The jags o-line is ranked (2) and the bronco d-line is ranked (17)
It also points out how Tony Boselli owned Alfred Williams

2. Brunell was the first time all year the Bronco's faced a mobile qb, except possibly Jeff Blake.
"The message was sent repeadedly throughout the contest: no matter what denver tried, Brunell would be one step faster."

96
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 9:08pm

BTW Will, how do you explain the Vikings' mysterious slump in '72? I know the D suddenly stopped playing as well as they had the previous few years but WHY was that so? That season sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of their seasons from 1968-77.

97
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 06/28/2007 - 9:59pm

Trust me, DolFan, it happened. The call was made on pass rush specialist Bob Lurtsema, but it's funny how your childhood memories play tricks on you. I just looked it up. It happened further up the field on the final drive. This is from the Dolphins' website....

Now it was up to the Miami defense to get the ball back for Griese, and it did so in three plays. Mike Eischeid's punt was fair caught by Dick Anderson at the Miami 41 with 2:11 remaining.

Facing a second-and-8 situation, the Dolphins benefited from a marginal 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Minnesota defensive tackle Bob Lurtsema that resulted in a first down at the Vikings' 42.

"Don Shula still sends me a Christmas card every year thanking me," Lurtsema recalled, wryly.

....which doesn't relieve the bitterness at all....

As to what happened to the Vikings defense that year, it's hard to say. I do think I remember them having their defensive coordinator, Bob Hollway, hired as a head coach in that time period, but just as sometimes a team can have a bunch of guys have career years all at once, it may have been a case where everybody was just off that year. I do know that on offense their running backs had gotten old, and the addition of Chuck Foreman in the following spring's draft really improved the team.

The defense was good in the next few years, but never quite a dominant as it had been from 1969 through 1971. The 1970 team, overall, was really, really good. It beat the eventual NFC champ Cowboys by 41 points, and had beaten the eventual Super Bowl champ Colts the year previously by 38 points. They were weak at the qb position, however, and came up against a very good 49er defense in the playoffs, and lost the game when they couldn't move the ball at all.

The two best Vikings teams may have been ones that didn't get to the Super Bowl, in 1970 and 1975. The 1969 team was very good, but a little inexperienced, and they were up against a great Chiefs team with a lot of future HOFers. The 1970 team really had better talent than the eventual champs, the Colts, but having a at best average qb in the playoffs is always a risky proposition. Think of how people now look back at the 2000 Ravens as a great team, forgetting how easily they could have lost to the Titans that year.

98
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 6:36am

Just looked it up myself. Big difference between 4th and goal and 2nd and 8 around midfield. You should've known something was up when it was 70 degrees in Minnesota :-)

Hollway was hired away to be the Cards head coach in '71. That year the Vikes actually allowed slightly fewer points than in '70 but the offense plummeted, scoring 90 fewer points. I'm guessing a big part of that was that in '70 the Vikes D was TERRIFIC at scoring and getting the offense the ball.

The Niners D, at least judging from points allowed, wasn't *that* great. But they seemed to match up real well against the Vikes and were pretty much the only team in the league not fazed by playing them on the road for whatever reason.

Also since the merger there's nothing quite like the nonconference road game to derail an unbeaten team. That's what stopped the '85 Bears, the '98 Broncos, and the '99 and 2000 Rams. It also bit the '96 Packers (lost at KC) but they'd already lost a game by then. The '72 Fins were the one team that just happened to come through in that situation. Of course these days unbeaten teams just lose at home instead ('05 Colts, '06 Bears).

99
by senser81 (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 9:14am

I love this site, too, because in addition to having an argument over the potential six SB rings the Steelers would have won with Archie Manning, we get the usual backslapping like in post 94. Great points? Come on. What great points? I'm trying to make sense of some generalized BS by looking at what actually happened.

For instance, in post 94, its said that perhaps the Steelers would have done better in 1972 with Manning. I guess anything is possible, but the only way the Steelers would have done better in 1972 with Manning is if they won the Super Bowl instead of the undefeated Dolphins. Same story in 1973...the Steelers would eventually had to have beaten the Dolphins. So its easy to say "The Steelers would have won more rings (I'm ignoring the additional 'great point' that the Steelers would have started their run sooner with 1971 rookie Manning))", its harder to explain exactly when the Steelers would have won these additional rings with Manning.

I would like to get back to the 1972 TD/INT ratio. First, Bradshaw accounted for 7 additional TDs with his running, which was completely ignored. Second, comparing Manning to guys like John Reaves and Bobby Douglass isn't the point. You said that Bradshaw needed to have a much much better TD/INT ratio than Manning. My point was that hardly any QB in 1972 was putting a great TD/INT ratio (although Bradshaw's 19/12 ratio that includes his running TDs was much better than Manning's 20/21 running TD inclusion ratio...a fact completely ignored by you). Maybe you could point out for me which QBs in 1972 had a much much better TD/INT ratio than Bradshaw's 19/12, and I'll understand your point.

Your fascination with Pittsburgh's 4-point loss to the 72 Dolphins is nonsensical, because you are basically holding Bradshaw's own performance in that game against him. Bradshaw was the main reason the game was so close, so to say "the Steelers came so close to defeating the Dolphins, its logical to conclude that better QB play would have provided them with the margin of victory" is a real head-scratcher.

As for your mantra that hard-core football analysts underestimate how player interdependence affects the way we evaluate careers, did someone recently write an article proclaiming Bradshaw the best QB ever? I've never heard a hard-core football analyst failing to point out how much talent Bradshaw had around him, and how little talent Archie Manning had around him. So I don't know what you are getting at, other than to inform me that the 1974 Steelers had more talent than the 1974 Saints.

100
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 11:50am

Well Senser, one thing I'm getting at is that you keep arguing with things I never wrote. For instance, I never wrote that the Steelers would have won a lot in 1971 with Manning. You just made something up, completely, out of thin air, yet again. I said they may have made their run earlier in the decade, meaning Super Bowl run. You seem to be of the opinion that it was impossible for a qb to play any better than Bradshaw did in those two playoff games, or at least any better that would have made any diference. I am always reluctant to say that the qb performance could not have been any better in any game, or that it could have made no difference. Even having to gameplan for a better qb changes things.

I also note yet again that you completely discount the quality of Manning's 1972 performance, which really is my main point. A qb completely surrounded by bums doesn't get nearly the opportunity to get rushing tds, because he doesn't get as many trips into the red zone. Even so, comparing Manning's td/int ratio to what other qbs on lousy teams did that year gives some indication of how far he was outperforming his surroundings. If even the qbs on very good teams were barely throwing more tds than ints, it isn't unreasonable to surmise that Manning, if surrounded by talent, would have been close to the best qb in the league.

Really, if you are going to adopt an insulting tone of "generalized b.s.", you would be better served by examining all qb play, and not just the guys surrounded by above average talent, and maybe, just maybe, reflect on the signifigance of completion percentage, along with producing more information about Bradshaw's rushing tds, before simply adding them to his throwing totals. And before you just make something up, yet once more, I'm not saying Bradshaw was bad. I'm saying Manning was better, especially adjusted for surrounding talent, which, for some reason you seem to believe to be inconsequential when evaluating players.

Finally, saying that "hard core football fans often underestimate the importance of player interdependence when evaluating careers" is not a statement in opposition to "Bradshaw was the best QB ever", so it appears you've imagined something yet again. Look, to save time, why don't you post under a different name the points you want to argue against, instead of falesly attributing them to me?

101
by Carl H. (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 12:18pm

Even though I unintentionally set off this debate in a post directed to Will, for which I'm sorry by the way, I agree with him in the argument that's followed. I haven't enjoyed the course the argument has taken, but some of the details that have emerged have been fun to read.

When I replied a long way back to Will's first Bradshaw/Manning comparison, I took (though I didn't make this explicit) as given Will's premise: that Manning the elder was an excellent QB, among the very best of that decade. And I just wanted to add to the Bradshaw case because I thought it was widely assumed that Bradshaw had kind of a strange career. It took him a while to adjust to the pro game, and I think he never became as polished a passer as more than a few of his contemporaries. As a result, his stats for many of his years don't appear as impressive as, say, Staubach's, Stabler's, Anderson's, to name just a few.

All that said, my point was to suggest that stats don't tell much of the tale of Bradshaw's effectiveness as a player, and that the stats underrate his performance. I meant this simply in the context of FO, whose approach to stats I think is rich, original, and inventive. Here was a case, Bradshaw's, though, where I think "thick description" needs to be added to stats to get a full picture.

And, for Bradshaw, that means adding a lot of unquantifiable elements to an evaluation of him. More than a few players on teams the Steelers competed against in the 1970s remarked at the time that Bradshaw was an unpredictable player, which made him difficult to defend. In playoff games, as I mentioned earlier, he seemed unafraid to take chances. He seemed to be an exceptional leader, and particularly good at loosening up his teammates in big games. He was also a terrific bad-weather QB, for which numbers might even back up my impressionistic account.

How does this relate to Manning? Simply to say that it's an unknown whether Manning would have brought these elements to the Steelers. Let me say here, Will, that I don't think I disagree with you about Manning's excellence (as I know you don't disagree about Bradshaw's); I don't even discount the liklihood that with the two of them swapped, the Steelers probably would have won 3 to 5 titles anyway, with Manning. In an open draft of 1970s players, I'd think long and hard about picking Manning over Bradshaw. Where we do seem to disagree, though, is on the question of intangibles, which I think does matter more than you indicated (apologies if I'm misinterpreting).

And for the record, while not a Steelers fan, they are one of my favorite teams and I loved that 70s team in particular. I agree with Will's other general comments, too. I think, for example, that Swann shouldn't be in the Hall, Stallworth is borderline, and Kolb and Greenwood should be in. And also, incidentally, the Steelers had excellent receivers in the early 70s, even before Swann/Stallworth (both very good players, obviously) showed up.

These are entirely my opinions, and others are certainly welcome to disagree, as I enjoy the debate.

102
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 12:53pm

Thanks, carl, and of course I agree it's all speculative. I don't even necessarily disagree with you about Bradshaw and intangibles; it's just that intangibles don't even become noticed until a team has a base line of talent.

In any case, I really was just relating some previous thoughts I've had about two qbs who came from the same region, were highly drafted a year apart, and found themselves in professional situations that could hardly be more different. I really was also interested in the Emmitt Smith/Barry Sanders dichotomy, and how their careers may have differed, if their teams had been reversed. Another time, I guess.

103
by senser81 (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 1:10pm

re: #100

Once again, you are missing the point. I am saying that a 2nd year Archie Manning would most likely not have led the 1972 Steelers to a victory over the 1972 Dolphins and then to a SB victory over the 1972 Redskins. I am saying that a 3rd year Manning would most likely not have led the 1973 Steelers to victories over the 1973 Raiders, Dolphins, and Vikings in the postseason. Your implication that the 1972 Dolphins would have had to "gameplan differently" for a Manning-led Steelers team is going from point A to point D in its hypothetical assumptions.

In regards to Manning's 1972 performance, you have said nothing. Manning was much better than Reaves and Douglass...agreed. Was he much better than Bradshaw (19/12 v. 20/21)? Possibly. Is it safe to say that rushing TDs would have more of an impact in TD/INT totals than completion percentage? Most likely.

To revisit again, since you constantly claim I am misquoting you, what about that 1972 AFC Championship game analysis?

As for your final paragraph...Huh?

104
by coldbikemessenger, fan favorite! (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 1:28pm

I stand by my comments in post 94
I think Will made a good arguement
I don't really know very much about the 72 or 73 season
I think its fair to say that the Steelers won 4 super bowls in 6 years and I do not think they would have won more with Manning, from 74 to 79 anyway.

105
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Fri, 06/29/2007 - 1:46pm

No senser, I am not just constantly claiming you have misrepresented my views, you HAVE constantly misrepresented my views. Read the thread, and please reprint where I wrote what you claim I wrote.

Believe it or not, you are also hypothesizing regarding what the Steelers would have done with Manning at qb. My hypothesis is that Manning was already one of the league's best qbs by 1972, and that his performance while surrounded by bums is indicative of this. Furthermore, my hypothesis is that Bradshaw was not yet at that level by 1972, and that in two playoff games, having one of the league's best qbs, as opposed to not having one of the league's best qbs, has a good chance of making a difference in one of them.

People can reasonably have different opinions about this stuff, of course, but it is unfortunate that it devolves to the point where invective and misrepresentations become the norm.

106
by Miles (not verified) :: Sat, 06/30/2007 - 4:55pm

Will volunteering to do the mind-numbed volunteers get anything in return (kubiak projections, premium stat DB access, or something else that has a 0 marginal cost)?

107
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 06/30/2007 - 6:32pm

A few things on 1996 GB

-I can't imagine what their Offensive DVOA would have been without the crippling Mid Season WR injuries. They went through a 3 Game stretch where they almost had nobody playing WR. I recall the famous Dallas game that they lost (Where the Cowboys kicker had 7 fgs) where GB was reduced to using a TE (Jackson) as their flanker becuz all but essentially 1 other WR was injured.

-In a hypothetical matchup featuring GB 1996 vs any other All Time team they would be at Full Strength for the 1st time (Rison, Brooks, Freeman). This combo never played a single down together.

- GB set the record for most blowout wins (20+ points). As a result they often spent the majority of the 2nd half running out the clock as opposed to actually trying to further score. One can only imagine what they would rank if this garbage/clock killing time was removed. (Yes all good teams run into this but having more blowouts than anyone else would make them even more affected by it)

*GB's blowout record was broken by the 2001 Rams which is unsurprising considering the Rams had 1 of the easiest schedules in NFL history (something like a combined 34% winning percentage for their opponents)

108
by Zac (not verified) :: Sat, 06/30/2007 - 7:58pm

Re: 106. Did game charters get anything? That's comparable, I think.

But at least you're willing to work about it. Mulgrew wanted a shout out because he is a FO reader, apparently.

109
by /\'joe Blow (not verified) :: Sun, 07/01/2007 - 12:23pm

LOL at HO!

When they were on FOX the little score panel would say "HOU."

But HO in the game books is hilarious .

110
by rs (not verified) :: Sun, 07/01/2007 - 9:52pm

So is Arcry Branning the long lost father of Peytom? And who is his younger, less impressive quarterback son?

111
by pharmboyrick (not verified) :: Wed, 07/04/2007 - 4:12am

Getting back to '96...

GB was good, certainly the best team, but as an above poster said, theie DVOA was the benefactor of one of the least competitve divisions in NFL history, which would explain the high amount of blow outs (along w/ the Denver game which has been mentioned).

It seemed overall like this was the year that the AFC began to truly close ground on the NFC in terms of the quality of the top teams in the conference.

112
by mrparker (not verified) :: Wed, 07/04/2007 - 12:52pm

1. Alot of guys are jumping ship on Randy
Moss too soon. It seems that everyone is
forgetting the grandpa factor. Player
that we all hated when they were yound who are able to play for 10+ years slow
down in their personal lives trememdously
after they reach 30. Look at Moss, he's a friggin business executive now. I predict that he will undergo a major image makeover ala Chris Carter or Corey
Dillon. People will forget what he did in his 20s and remember him for his 30s. America couldn't have more of a short memory when it comes to our idols and heroes. There are too many instances of people who have been forgiven for all of their early ills to chronicle them here though the plight of Michael Jordan comes to mind first. I write this not to compare Moss and his talent directly but to point out how easily we change our opinions are our sports heroes.

2. Shouldn't some credit be given for usage rate when it comes to wide receivers. Its great that Jake Reed had a great fd % but maybe its Carter who did the dirty work of getting closer to the sticks. Being targeted 25% less times is significant if you ask me. Maybe some sort of usage rate needs to be introduced to further evaluate wr performance. What I've found in basketball is that players like Reed don't always produce with an increased load but players like Carter always produced no matter what. Peerless Price is a quick example. From ranking 10th in DPAR while being targeted 20% less than the teams number 1 receiver in 2002 to ranking 70th in DPAR as the number 1 receiver in 2003.

Alot of credit should be given to guys who's teams can target them 10+ times a game. What DPAR does is give a great picture of what a certain guy does for his team without being able to assess what they would do for any team.

Catch percentage needs to be proxied with target percentage if you want to truly evaluate a player independant of his offense.

Realistically the difference between very good football teams and average football teams is maybe 2-5 plays a game.
When you consider that the game
consists of about 120-150 plays we are talking very minute percantage differences being significant when concerning player production. A second fiddle being targeted 20% less than the number 1 receiver is a huge difference and in my opinion makes comparisons of the second fiddles stats to the number 1 receivers stats insignificant.

113
by Conor (not verified) :: Wed, 07/11/2007 - 5:40pm

I know I am a week late to the party, but I feel like senser doesn't understand the point Will is attempting to make regarding the td/int ratio of the two guys. All things being equal, Bradshaw should have had a much better td/int ratio than Manning; Bradshaw was on a much better team, he didn't have to play from behind as much, etc. The fact that they had td/int close to each other is a sign than Manning was more impressive, at least in that season.

114
by senser81 (not verified) :: Thu, 07/12/2007 - 4:03pm

re: #113

My points, once again, were that Will Allen completely ignored the TDs Bradshaw scored by running, and that to expect Bradshaw to have a "much better" TD/INT ratio than Manning (even though 19/12 is much better than 20/21 in my book) in an era when most QBs had a negative TD/INT ratio, is asking a bit much of Bradshaw.

Manning probably was more impressive than Bradshaw in 1972. Does that mean that the Steelers would have won the Super Bowl in 1972 and 1973 had they had Manning? Thats a stretch.

115
by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 09/24/2007 - 9:32pm

I've always felt the 1996 Packers have been overlooked as one of the great teams of all time. The team had been improving the previous seasons, and after the loss to the Cowboys in the 1995 NFC Championship, the feeling in GB was that 1996 was the Packers' year. The Super Bowl win was inevitable.

The '96 Packer defense set the record for fewest TDs allowed in a 16 game season at that time. The '96 Packers are the only team in the past 34 years to score the most points and allow the least. The regular season record was only 13-3, but following injuries to Brooks and Freeman, the Packers were playing with street free agents at wideout at mid-season.

The '96 Packers had the best blocking unit on punt returns I've ever seen. Howard was great, but on several of his punt returns, including TD runs, he simply caught the ball, raced to the corner, and turned upfield behind a solid wall of blockers. I'd love to watch a DVD solely of the punt returns to see Howard's magic and the incredible blocking.