Are the best defenses against play action the best against regular passes too? How much impact does play action really have in an NFL game, and does it correlate from year to year?
16 Jul 2008
by Aaron Schatz
Today we start a new series of articles in honor of our fifth anniversary, looking at the best and worst players in the history of our advanced stats. Football Outsiders launched on July 30, 2003 and has now been looking at NFL teams and players through the prism of DVOA for five years. When we started, we had just one season of play-by-play breakdowns (2002) and roughly the same number of readers. Now we have every play broken down for 13 NFL seasons, 1995-2007.
We've looked at the best seasons and games in various columns we've written over the last couple years, particularly in "Quick Reads" when somebody has a big game. Our fifth anniversary seemed like a good time to get all the information in one place, especially since we've just re-formatted and improved our individual player stats.
(The traditional gift for a fifth anniversary is wood; apparently, the McCown brothers are already hard at work choppin' something up for us.)
The original plan with this series was to hit the best games, seasons, and career totals all in one article for each position. However, with some other things going on, I have not had a chance to finish everything up -- and that includes formatting all the new stats pages from 1995-2007. Rather than make everybody wait another few days, we'll do quarterbacks in two parts. Today I'll look at the best and worst quarterback games of the DVOA Era, and we'll get to the rest of the quarterback rankings Friday or Monday.
Note that I haven't had a chance to compute the new DYAR and DVOA for individual postseason performances, so these games are regular season only. Each game is also listed with the opponent and that team's rank for the season in pass defense DVOA.
|Best Quarterback Games by DYAR, 1995-2007|
|Player||Team||Year||Week||Opp|| Pass D
Trent Green, ladies and gentlemen! Green's top-ranked game is a great example of why DYAR is a better measure of player value than standard yardage. Green chopped up one of the top defenses in the NFL despite being in long-yardage situations all day -- maybe the only day in 2002 where that was true. The Dolphins kept Priest Holmes to 52 yards on 23 carries, and 25 of those yards came on one run. Holmes had just 16 yards on his other 15 first-down carries. Green, meanwhile, had nearly as many rushing yards as Holmes did, converting third-and-8 and third-and-9. Green may have been one of the most underrated scramblers in NFL history, with an extremely strong sense of when he could make it to the sticks and when he should just throw it away.
Another player getting a boost from opponent adjustments is Drew Brees. Nobody really noticed when Brees went nuts on the Jaguars last year, because he did it at the same time Adrian Peterson was setting the all-time rushing record against San Diego, and then both performances were overshadowed later that afternoon by the Game of the Century. Brees would not be anywhere near the top ten without opponent adjustments, but the quality of the Jaguars' defense pushes this game up from 244 YAR to 295 DYAR.
How absurdly out of place is Tom Brady's 2007 season on his career record? Brady had seven of the top 12 DYAR games last season. All seven games had more DYAR than any game in Brady's career through 2006.
Readers may be surprised to only see one game from Peyton Manning in the top ten, but if we take out Brady's 2007 season, Manning dominates the list of the top games past the top ten. Manning has eight games in the top 50. The next highest team is New England with six -- five from Brady in 2007, and a 1998 game where Drew Bledsoe had 263 DYAR in a 26-23 win over Miami. Trent Green also has five games in the top 50, all with Kansas City. No other quarterback or team has more than three. In fact, there are only two quarterbacks who have more games in the top 150 than Manning has in the top 50: Brady and Brett Favre.
Bulger's big 2002 game against San Diego would be the top game without opponent adjustments (323 YAR) followed by Matt Hasselbeck's 25-for-35, 362-yard performance against Kansas City in Week 12 of 2002, which finished 11th after opponent adjustments. Hasselbeck moved the chains a ridiculous 24 times that day: 18 passing first downs, three passing touchdowns, two defensive pass interference calls, and a 19-yard scramble.
For those wondering, the -23 rushing DYAR for Randall Cunningham comes from a fumbled sneak or blown handoff (it is hard to tell which from the play-by-play) on third-and-2.
|Worst Quarterback Games by DYAR, 1995-2007|
|Player||Team||Year||Week||Opp|| Pass D
Crown that ass, baby! Yes, Rex Grossman had the worst quarterback performance of the past 13 seasons and the Chicago Bears managed to win the game anyway. This proved that the Bears were who we thought they were -- on both sides of the ball -- and the Cardinals let them off the hook.
Grossman also fumbled twice in that game, although that's nothing compared to Ryan Leaf. In Week 3 of 1998, he fumbled four times -- once on a sack, and three times when he couldn't hold onto the snap. That's four times as many fumbles as complete passes. The only reason why that game doesn't have the lowest DYAR ever is that DYAR is a cumulative stat, and the Chargers mercifully pulled Leaf after 15 pass attempts.
Without opponent adjustments, the worst game of the DVOA Era belongs to Donald Hollas, who was worth a mind-blowing -347 YAR when he threw six picks with eight sacks against Miami in 1998. The Dolphins had the best pass defense in the NFL, so at least there is some explanation. Just like with the best games, the second-best game before opponent adjustments finishes just outside the DYAR top ten: Jon Kitna's 19-for-43, 197-yard, five-interception day for the 1999 Seahawks against Tampa Bay (-325 YAR, but -239 DYAR).
Kitna is also the only quarterback with more than one game in the bottom 20, while Drew Bledsoe is the only quarterback with games in both the top 20 and the bottom 20.
Coming soon: The best and worst quarterback seasons and career totals.
74 comments, Last at 25 Jul 2008, 10:17am by Geronimo