Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Aug 2009

Passer Personality Profiles

Jason Lisk over at the pro-football-reference.com blog has put together a neat little study of quarterback "personality" profiles, measuring the STYLE of each passer (as opposed to quality) and sorting them into groups. Tom Brady shows up in the same group as Len Dawson, Danny White, Dave Krieg, and Josh McCown -- they're all better at collecting completions or touchdowns than yards, they have a lot of touchdowns AND interceptions, and they're more likely to take a sack than throw a pick. Peyton Manning is similar, stylistically, to Dan Marino, Erik AND Tommy Kramer, and (somewhat surprisingly) Brett Favre. Michael Vick, as a passer only, is similar to other running quarterbacks like Bobby Douglass and Donovan McNabb, but also pocket passers like Matt Hasselbeck and, of all people, Ron Jaworski. Part One, which explains the methodology, is here and Part Two, which lists the various groups, is here.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 27 Aug 2009

34 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2009, 1:55am by DeltaWhiskey

Comments

1
by Theo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 6:18pm

Does this settle the Ben vs Rivers debate?

28
by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Sat, 08/29/2009 - 3:37pm

No comprendo. How would this solve that debate?

2
by Key19 :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 6:49pm

No shock to see Romo described as:

"When they are on, they can combine with a running game to provide quick strike scores and rip the heart out of the opponent. When they are off, they can rip their own fans’ hearts out with costly interceptions and lots of incompletions."

Thankfully, so far this season Romo has been all of that minus the "rip their own fans' hearts out with costly interceptions and lots of incompletions." We'll see if that holds up when it counts though (hopeful, but not holding my breath).

3
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 6:58pm

I loved this project. However, I was rather dismayed to see my team's quarterback in the same category as Joey Harrington, Steve Spurrier, Kyle Boller, Brian Sipe, and Kordell Stewart.

At least I see that Cutler's personality similarities include a bunch of guys I hate (as players, not as people)--Steve Grogan, Joe Namath, Gus Frerotte, Dan Fouts, Jake Plummer, and Jim Everett.

The best part of all was Steve Young. Only one other person in the category--wow.

However, I wondered when the research first came out and so I will pose the question here: Does it shed any light on the Cutler/Orton situation?

Obviously Tom Brady fit in well with what McDaniels likes to do (I'm frightened if there could be a better fit.), and he and Cutler only have one category in common ("Gambler") while he and Orton have two ("Completer" and "Vulture").

23
by BigCheese :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 2:41pm

I will take my QB being compared to Fouts, Namath, Plummer, Grogan, Everett and even Ferrote over him being compared to Spurrier, Boller, Sipe and Stewart any day of the week and twice on Sunday (or Monday, or Thursday depending on the schedule).

4
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:03pm

RE: Brady - "they have a lot of touchdowns AND interceptions"

Did he miss where Brady had 8 interceptions in 2007, and has never had more than 14 in a season?

He's got 197 career touchdowns and 86 career Ints, compared to Peyton's 333 TDs and 165 Ints.

Danny White, Josh Mcnown, Krieg all have TD:Int ratios right around 1, and got sacked 40 times a year. This doesn't seem to pass the sniff test.

7
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:54pm

The description of Brady's type reads: "The Fun/Vulture combination coupled with the Completer/Holder subgroups means that these guys will wait on plays to develop and throw for completions, but still can rack up league leading touchdown figures. On the negative end, the bad version may not get enough yards to offset the sacks they might take. This personality leads with the most Super Bowl starting appearances, with an overall record of 6-7."

There's nothing there about lots of interceptions. Also notice that Brady is near the bottom of this list, which means that he fits it less than the guys ahead of him. Brady comes out as a "holder" essentially because he takes sacks more than he throws interceptions and as "fun" because he throws so many touchdowns (neither of the other categories has anything to do with interceptions). Nothing in that says he has to throw a lot of interceptions. I think this is rather a misreading by Mr. Verhei.

Manning's profile actually does show him as more of an interception-thrower than Brady, by virtue of his ranking as "gambler" rather than "holder." However, since the types are based on self-comparisons, it does not matter how any of the players' numbers stack up compared to one another.

8
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 8:03pm

"Nothing in that says he has to throw a lot of interceptions."

Your reading comprehension leaves something to be desired:

". Tom Brady shows up in the same group as Len Dawson, Danny White, Dave Krieg, and Josh McCown -- they're all better at collecting completions or touchdowns than yards, they have a lot of touchdowns AND interceptions,"

It clearly does say they throw lots of interceptions.

10
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 8:10pm

"That" clearly referred to the previous paragraph I had written, which did not say "Tom Brady shows up in the same group as Len Dawson, Danny White, Dave Krieg, and Josh McCown -- they're all better at collecting completions or touchdowns than yards, they have a lot of touchdowns AND interceptions."

Since it obviously escaped your mind the first time, here that paragraph from the PFR post is again:
"The Fun/Vulture combination coupled with the Completer/Holder subgroups means that these guys will wait on plays to develop and throw for completions, but still can rack up league leading touchdown figures. On the negative end, the bad version may not get enough yards to offset the sacks they might take. This personality leads with the most Super Bowl starting appearances, with an overall record of 6-7."

You go ahead and explain where it says, "Tom Brady shows up in the same group as Len Dawson, Danny White, Dave Krieg, and Josh McCown -- they're all better at collecting completions or touchdowns than yards, they have a lot of touchdowns AND interceptions" within that paragraph, since according to you it does and I'm incapable of reading it.

Idiot.

11
by Eddo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 9:00pm

Rich, you're quoting Vince, not the linked article. How's your reading comprehension?

The only category that might suggest that Brady throws a lot of interceptions is the Fun-Safe one, but that's technically saying that, compared to himself, he throws for touchdowns more than he avoids interceptions. I'd guess that his 50-TD 2007 contributes to this distinction quite a bit as well.

15
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 11:34pm

His TD%+ in that year was 153 (it's done like an IQ score, so average is 100 and a standard deviation is 15--league leaders will usually come in around 130), so it definitely helps. (INT%+ was 126.)

Just because that comment made me curious (and because I love the "advanced passing" stats on PFR), I figured out where he would be for his career without the 2007 season in those two categories. As it stands, his career TD%+ is 117 and his career INT%+ is 113. If we remove 2007, his career TD%+ is 110 and his career INT%+ is 111. They're actually so close that different rounding rules could make them equal, but you could at least make an argument that he was "Safe" instead of "Fun" 2001-2006. In all reality, he's a borderline guy between safe and fun. Jason Campbell is safe (career TD%+ is 90 while career INT%+ is 116). Terry Bradshaw was fun (career %+ is 114 while career INT%+ is 96). Brady's much more on the fence.

9
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 8:04pm

I was misreading Mr. Verhei's description, so no he did not actually misread (I'm starting to sound like Roger Clemens). He was talking about just the "fun" vs. "safe" designation. It's that his TD% relative to the league average is better than his INT% relative to the league average, which doesn't necessarily mean he throws a lot of interceptions. With Brady himself it looks like it's more that he throws a lot of touchdowns than that he throws a lot of picks.

And Brady and Manning both come out as "fun," btw.

12
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 9:37pm

ATTENTION EVERYONE: I wrote poorly. Rather than saying Brady (and company) threw a lot of touchdowns and a lot of interceptions, I should have just quoted the story:

"A passer who is better at throwing touchdowns than avoiding interceptions is 'Fun'. A passer who is better at avoiding the interceptions is 'Safe and Secure.'"

In Tom Brady's case, he is very good at avoiding interceptions, but he is BETTER at throwing touchdowns. So he goes in the "Fun" group, most of whom will be guys who throw lots of TDs and lots of INTs. But Brady doesn't.

Sorry for the confusion.

22
by Yaguar :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 1:36pm

You have not apologized enough. You have insulted Tom Brady, and you must pay.

25
by Bobman :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 6:29pm

Staked to an anthill with molasses poured on him? Forced to watch Gigli?

Man, these guys are sensitive.

29
by Guy #1 (not verified) :: Sat, 08/29/2009 - 7:16pm

I'm a pats fan, I'm gay for tom brady, but I don't s--- myself whenever somebody suggests something remotely negative about him. Pats fans (and perhaps football fans in general) have it in them to be really, really annoying.

5
by ChiTown11111 (not verified) :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:15pm

Does Cutler = nameth mean I get to win 1 Superbowl in an upset? I'd take that.

6
by Theo :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 7:27pm

Namath... unlike the drugs you're taking.

13
by Telamon :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 10:45pm

"1. Bombers versus Completers [B/C]: This category compares performance in yards per attempt versus completion percentage. If a passer is better at yards per attempt, he is a Bomber. If a passer is better at completion percentage, he is a Completer (and if he is really bad at yards per attempt while completing an okay amount, he is a Captain Checkdown)."

Excellent.

14
by dbrude@gmail.com :: Thu, 08/27/2009 - 11:24pm

welcome to last week's news. It was a fun article though.

16
by Eddo :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 12:50am

I can't figure out how Gambler vs Holder is figured out. I get that Holder is sack rating (well, technically, the 1/sack rating). The first entry doesn't say how the actual Gambler rating is calculated, and the second says Comp%/Int% (ratings, obviously, not actual percentage).

What I don't get is this: increasing completion percentage would increase the Gambler rating, yet the first article says, "A passer who avoids sacks at the expense of throwing a few more incompletions and interceptions is a Gambler." This seems to imply that decreasing completion percentage should increase the Gambler rating.

So really, is Gambler rating just 100*(100/Int%Rating)/(Comp%Rating)?

17
by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 6:09am

I think the "Comp%/Int%" is just a screw-up in the listing. I think guys who take sacks and avoid picks are "holders," and guys who throw picks but avoid sacks are "gamblers." So it's only comparing INT%+ and Sack%+.

20
by nat :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 11:33am

The article says something like "combined Comp% and Int%". Since each of the scores is normalized so that higher is better and league average is 100, I'm guessing that "combined" means "the average of" in this case. The Gambler-Holder dimension is a measure of what kinds of bad results the QB tends to get, when he gets bad results. A Gambler is more likely (compared to league average) to get his bad results by throwing the ball. A Holder is more likely to get his bad results by taking the sack.

21
by Eddo :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 12:34pm

Thanks for the clarification, guys. I still wonder what the actual calculation is, if only because I was having trouble fitting certain guys listed as Gamblers into that distinction.

24
by Eddo :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 2:46pm

I posted my question on P-F-R's blog last night, and here was Jason's very helpful response:

"Eddo, the personality types are calculated by simply subtracting the scores in the two categories. In the Gambler/Holder case, it is sack% score - (int% score + comp% score)/2. If it is a positive number, that means the player had a higher rating in avoiding sacks than cumulatively in avoiding interceptions and completing passes.
A higher rating in the sacks category means less sacks, just like a higher rating in the interceptions category means less interceptions. Higher is always better on the advanced passing table."

I was overthinking the rating. His reply makes perfect sense.

31
by DeltaWhiskey :: Mon, 08/31/2009 - 7:44am

What's even more stunning is the willingess to divulge the formula.

32
by Eddo :: Mon, 08/31/2009 - 7:52am

Well, it's extremely simple and also not being used for any proprietary purposes. Much of baseball's sabermetric community uses "open source" formulas (wOBA, for example), especially if they're not selling the results.

33
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 08/31/2009 - 11:15am

It's not stunning when you realize that this is a silly exercise rather than a serious investigation.

If you're making a subtle dig at FO, you should know that A) Aaron makes his living off this website and he needs to protect his income, and B) Even if he didn't, he'd still have every right to protect his proprietary discoveries. It might be good for DVOA if it was open-sourced, but it would be very bad for Aaron.

34
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 09/01/2009 - 1:55am

A) I understand that Aaron is more similar to the Pharmaceutical Industry than the University Biochemist.

B) It would be good for DVOA if the tweaking and development process were better explained.

18
by andrew :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 8:10am

Tarkenton had a tendency to take sacks?

Well, to not give up on plays, definitely, but wondering if there's a difference between eating the ball when no one's open or scrambling around for 20 seconds before being sacked...

and definitely he managed to get rid of the ball instead of taking the sack in many of those. I think part of that "personality" stemmed from the (lack of) quality of his offensive line when he started...

19
by Mr Shush :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 9:53am

I suspect that the Vulture-Yard Eater category is skewed (maybe even primarily dictated) by team quality. Put the same quarterback on a better team, and he'll be in the redzone more often and throw more touchdowns. Put him on a worse team, and he'll have more long fields and be called on to throw more while trailing, and so rack up more yards. I'm not convinced this category is actually telling us very much about quarterback personality. Note that the three categories with most agregate Superbowl wins are all Vultures.

27
by tuluse :: Sat, 08/29/2009 - 2:14am

Aikman and Young are both yard eaters. I think they played for some pretty good teams.

It's probably more a reflection on how good the offensive line and running backs are. Got a strong line and a good running back, you're going to run in the redzone.

30
by Megamanic (not verified) :: Sun, 08/30/2009 - 3:22am

My thoughts exactly - the only difference between Fouts´ & Rivers´ personalities (in the same offensive scheme:- remember Coryell->Zampese->Turner) is Fouts is a Vulture & Rivers a Yard Eater - oh & the fact that Rivers has LT to hand off to in goalline situations.

26
by Bobman :: Fri, 08/28/2009 - 9:38pm

A few teams were consistent. By that I mean the 2000 Saints had "twins" and the Dolphins with Marino and Woodley adjacent in the ratings. Probably some others I missed.