Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Dec 2010

FO Mailbag: Dropped Interceptions

As promised in today's DVOA commentary, let's get to this question:

@elliottmann: Do you have quarterbacks ranked by dropped interceptions for 2010?

As many of you know, we started tracking dropped interceptions in the FO game charting project a couple years ago. Right now, I've got the numbers compiled through Week 14, although we are missing anywhere from one to four halves from various teams. Because we don't have the last couple weeks, numbers won't be exact -- for example, we're missing the roughly seven zillion interceptions that were dropped by the Minnesota Vikings last night.

However, in our 14 weeks of data, one quarterback stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack when it comes to dropped interceptions. Would it surprise you that it is a young quarterback who has been praised this year for his improvement even though the only thing that has really improved is his interception rate?

In 12.5 charted games through Week 14, Mark Sanchez has 13 dropped interceptions. That's five ahead of any other quarterback. Derek Anderson has eight, while Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer (who Bill Simmons always highlights as a dropped-pick machine) each have seven.

Obviously, when only one player is in the teens, we're talking small sample size here. And this is the kind of thing, with one player much different from the others, where after the season we would generally go back and review the 13 dropped picks to check over the work of the volunteer charters. Still, even if one of the charters mis-marked one or two, Sanchez still leads the league. Sanchez may have only 13 picks, but his total of actual and dropped interceptions is 26, which ties Sanchez with actual interception leader Eli Manning for the league lead. (Manning has been registered with only two dropped interceptions.)

Actually, an adjusted interception total that considered passes dropped by defenders should go even farther. We can get rid of Hail Mary plays, like we do in the count on the quarterback stats page. And speaking of Eli Manning, what about interceptions caused when a perfectly catchable ball deflects off a receiver's hands or chest and into the arms of a defender? I'm not talking about an overthrown pass where the receiver jumps in an attempt to make the catch, and then deflects the ball. I'm talking about passes that hit guys right in the hands. Well, we can get that count too, because we can count how many interceptions are listed with the "incomplete reason" as "Dropped." Would it shock you that Manning leads the league as the only quarterback with three of these through Week 14?

Put this together, and we get an "adjusted interceptions" stat that has Mark Sanchez leading the league at 26, followed by Carson Palmer and then Peyton Manning instead of his brother. As you might expect, Tom Brady is still insanely low. So is Matt Cassel. And this stat help points out why, although he's struggled in the last couple games, Chad Henne has gotten a raw deal this season. Henne has 18 interceptions -- but only one dropped interception.

Player Team INT Hail
Marys
Dropped
INT
Tipped
INT
Adjusted
INT
Pass
Plays
Adjusted
INT Rate
6-M.Sanchez NYJ 13 0 13 0 26 537 4.8%
9-C.Palmer CIN 18 0 7 1 24 577 4.2%
18-P.Manning IND 17 1 7 0 23 660 3.5%
9-D.Brees NO 21 1 5 2 23 642 3.6%
10-E.Manning NYG 24 1 2 3 22 534 4.1%
4-B.Favre MIN 19 0 3 1 21 389 5.4%
9-D.Garrard JAC 15 0 5 0 20 401 5.0%
8-M.Hasselbeck SEA 17 0 3 0 20 475 4.2%
6-J.Cutler CHI 14 0 5 0 19 446 4.3%
3-D.Anderson ARI 10 0 8 0 18 357 5.0%
14-R.Fitzpatrick BUF 15 1 4 0 18 467 3.9%
5-D.McNabb WAS 15 2 5 1 17 512 3.3%
Player Team INT Hail
Marys
Dropped
INT
Tipped
INT
Adjusted
INT
Pass
Plays
Adjusted
INT Rate
7-C.Henne MIA 18 1 1 1 17 508 3.3%
8-K.Orton DEN 9 0 6 0 15 541 2.8%
8-S.Bradford STL 14 2 3 0 15 587 2.6%
2-M.Ryan ATL 9 0 6 1 14 571 2.5%
12-A.Rodgers GB 10 1 5 0 14 476 2.9%
14-Sh.Hill DET 11 0 4 1 14 392 3.6%
17-P.Rivers SD 12 0 3 1 14 542 2.6%
8-M.Schaub HOU 12 0 3 2 13 590 2.2%
8-J.Campbell OAK 8 0 5 1 12 336 3.6%
5-J.Flacco BAL 9 1 4 0 12 516 2.3%
5-J.Freeman TB 6 0 6 1 11 481 2.3%
5-B.Gradkowski OAK 7 0 4 1 10 170 5.9%
3-M.Moore CAR 10 1 2 1 10 158 6.3%
Player Team INT Hail
Marys
Dropped
INT
Tipped
INT
Adjusted
INT
Pass
Plays
Adjusted
INT Rate
12-C.McCoy CLE 6 0 3 0 9 201 4.5%
2-J.Clausen CAR 8 0 1 0 9 303 3.0%
11-A.Smith SF 10 0 0 1 9 336 2.7%
3-J.Kitna DAL 12 0 0 3 9 340 2.6%
5-K.Collins TEN 8 0 0 0 8 253 3.2%
7-M.Cassel KC 5 0 3 0 8 437 1.8%
9-T.Romo DAL 7 0 2 1 8 221 3.6%
17-J.Delhomme CLE 7 0 1 0 8 156 5.1%
7-M.Vick PHI 5 0 3 1 7 358 2.0%
7-B.Roethlisberger PIT 5 0 2 0 7 395 1.8%
12-T.Brady NE 4 1 3 0 6 509 1.2%
4-K.Kolb PHI 4 2 3 0 5 160 3.1%
10-V.Young TEN 3 1 3 0 5 176 2.8%
1-T.Smith SF 4 0 0 0 4 166 2.4%

Three other notes:

  • Perhaps this adjusted interception total should also include fourth-down interceptions. For now, I didn't include those, since they are meant to be actual passes and aren't just "chuck it up and see what happens" scenarios.
  • I included a rate stat for those of you who want to see the adjusted interception total per pass, but I did not rank the quarterbacks in that order because the denominator of this rate stat isn't quite right -- the tipped picks and dropped picks are measured through 14 weeks, while the actual picks are measured through 16 weeks.
  • Minimum on the table is 150 passes.

Finally, a theory: An interception rate that included both dropped interceptions and actual interceptions will be more consistent from year to year than just the regular interception rate. I haven't gone back and done the math with past years of charting, there wasn't time this week, but I'll do that on the site in the spring or in the book.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 29 Dec 2010

131 comments, Last at 31 Jul 2011, 10:39am by Anonymou

Comments

1
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 8:55pm

So Brady's dropped are Urlacher, Woodson and Indy's LB? Strange that I can recall all three, I would think that there must be another 2-3 that happened when I wasn't watching.

You must also not count tipped balls at the LOS that flutter because there were a couple of those (one against Chicago and another against GB) that seemed interceptable as well.

10
by IAmJoe (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:03pm

Who was the MIN player that let a Brady pass go through his bellybutton to a receiver (Tate?)? I'd have to imagine that's counted as a dropped interception, too.

3 dropped INT's seems unrealistic for any starter.

35
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:31am

Ditto. In fact, I thought there were two on Indy--one in the EZ that was thrown like a rocket and ricocheted off a surprised LB, and the other one, late in the game around the 15 YL that clanged off a LB's hands. Hard to believe in the 2-3 Pats games I have seen, I managed to catch all his dropped INTs.

39
by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:14am

"one in the EZ that was thrown like a rocket and ricocheted off a surprised LB, "

That doesn't sound like a "dropped interception" to me.

90
by B :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:25pm

I don't know why everybody considers the Urlacher play to be a dropped Int. It was a great play on Urlacher just to get his hands on the ball, and had he come down with it, it would have been a spectacular catch. If he could be expected to make that catch, he'd be a tight end, not a linebacker.

114
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:12pm

I think you're giving that play too high of a difficulty rating. It didn't hit him in the chest, but it was still a ball he could have caught and probably should have caught.

But they may not even have that one as a drop considering further down they say the Samuel drop in the SB wouldn't be coded as a dropped interception. I disagree with that assessment personally, and it makes me wonder about the numbers that are outlined here.

124
by BSR :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 4:08pm

I don't understand what you are wondering about? Aaron is pretty clear as to what they considered as a dropped interception. All the numbers are reflecting the same standard. The above posts seems very much like people that very much want to find stats that agree with their opinion rather than trying to form an opinion from the facts as they should

As for Aaron's standard I agree with him. Everything is just way too subjective. That play by Urlacher is a perfect expample. I see that as a tremendous play by Urlacher just to get a hand on the ball rather than a terrible throw or decision by Brady. That is why it has to be very clear cut.

131
by Anonymou (not verified) :: Sun, 07/31/2011 - 10:39am

Yes, I thought Brady's dropped INT number struck me as too low as well. I think I should add that I seem to remember Brady throwing multiple dropped INTs against Green Bay, maybe I'm mistaken.

2
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 8:58pm

Again, dropped interceptions and tipped interceptions are only in charted games through Week 14. They played Green Bay in Week 15.

4
by paddypat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:10pm

Where is Jon Kitna on this list? He stands out as the king of tipped/dropped interceptions in my recollection, and I know he's thrown at least 150 passes this year.

5
by Key19 :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:19pm

I'd also be very curious to see Kitna's numbers in this chart. Not sure why he is out while someone like Kevin Kolb is in.

6
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:27pm

Oops! Dunno how that happened. I'll add him to the table in a couple minutes.

EDIT: Totally an oversight on my part, we were missing four guys with zero dropped interceptions in the charting, including Kitna and his three tipped INTs. Adding now.

3
by ferris (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:07pm

The Brady number absolutely looks low to me, and I say that as a Brady guy (this is what happens when you take stock of a judgment-call stat). But this is an interesting piece nonetheless.

22
by BSR :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:03am

I think its probably more telling of the casual observers and what they think are easy interceptions.

30
by MJK :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:42am

For the purpose of this stat, it doesn't matter if Brady's numbers are low, as long as everybody else's is similary low. I.e. if the charters are only counting 70% of the dropped INTs they should be, it's fine as long as the same standard is applied to everyone.

The problem arises if there is bias or variance (conscious or not) in the charters...a Patriots fan and a Bears fan will see the same play involving Brady very differently.

One thing that would probably be effective in squashing bias would be to have multiple charters chart the same games, and aggregate their counts. If you had enough redundancy, you could even do what the Olympics do and throw out the high and low. I don't think this is possible...I don't think there are enough volunteer charters, and I don't think the Outsiders would force people to repeat all that work for the sake of getting slightly more accurate or less biased numbers.

64
by zlionsfan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:47pm

You're correct ... there aren't that many of us in the first place, and if there were, FO would probably have us do quarters or halves instead of halves or games in order to reduce turnaround time (so that they could share charting data more quickly during the season).

There is bias among charters, of course. The FO people reduce it somewhat when they look over what we've done, and they share statistics by charter and feedback with us to help us identify areas where we may be interpreting something incorrectly, but it's still there. Maybe one day there will be enough volunteers to cover games in enough detail that we can provide more accurate information through charting ...

7
by opticallog :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:30pm

Alex Smith has 313 pass attempts so far this season and is not on the list. I'd love to see the number of tipped picks he's thrown.

41
by Arkaein :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:11am

Alex Smith is the third QB in the third section. 0 dropped, 1 tipped.

8
by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:39pm

"to check over the work of the volunteer charters"

A significant source of GIGO?

Also a possible route through which unconscious bias of the observer could impact the analysis.

87
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:21pm

A bit rude to accuse all the charters of bias, isn't it?

96
by Jethro (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:56pm

It's pretty much impossible for human beings to be free of bias. Even the most reasonable fan is going to be unconsciously biased in favor of "their guys". It really can't be eliminated. All you can do is know it exists, watch for it, avoid conflicts of interest where possible, and "average it out" when practical.

9
by nat :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 9:57pm

Aaron:
Did you give the charters any guidance about "dropped" passes and interceptions? Something like: it's not a drop if they only can get one hand on it, or have to go to the ground to get two hands on it, or have to fight the receiver for the ball, or something like that. Because if you use the standards of national telecasts, defensive backs are supposed to catch anything that hits them any where, and all tipped passes are certain interceptions, missed only because the defenders didn't do their job.

20
by BSR :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:53pm

Where does this standard come from? I've never heard of either of these.

115
by dbostedo :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:33pm

"Because if you use the standards of national telecasts, defensive backs are supposed to catch anything that hits them any where"

All he means is the standards that broadcasters seem to hold players to, meaning the the level of play that broadcasters find acceptable from players. There is no actual "standard" in a formal sense.

So by their standards, balls that hit players hands, no matter how difficult it was to get their hands on it, should be caught.

123
by BSR :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 3:56pm

That is nonsense. That is not some even imagined standard. All the time I hear broadcasters say that "and that is why they are a DB and not a WR" when a DB drops a pick. They aren't intended to catch everything coming their way. Its a fabricated standard.

125
by Nathan :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 5:56pm

No to mention the fact that CB is probably a harder position to play than WR.

11
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:08pm

These are the directions given to charters:

"We don't mean a defender sort of near the play, or guys who dive and see interceptions go off their fingertips. We mean guys who dropped balls that hit them right in the hands or chest."

Remember: This is the kind of thing that would be somewhat subjective, no matter WHO was marking it: FO charters or the official scorers at the stadiums.

17
by nat :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:02pm

Well, it's something. Still a lot of room for interpretation. Probably unavoidable.

The interesting point is, subjectively speaking, it's quite average to have close to a third of all "sure" interceptions dropped. Someone like Brady is lucky to have just 3 non-hail-mary interceptions this year. With average luck, he would have had four, maybe five if he was a little unlucky.

19
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:51pm

Just curious, would Samuel's failed pick attempt in the Super Bowl count as a dropped interception?

29
by MJK :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:39am

I assume you mean the play just before the infamous "helmet catch"?

Just going by my memory of the event, if I was a charter following Aaron's guidelines, I would say "no". We Patriots fans like to solace ourselves by saying that the Pats almost won that SB, and would have if only Samuel had held onto that ball, but in doing so I think we exaggerate a bit.

That ball was something like what Samuel had caught in the past, and it would have been possible for him to make that INT, but hardly expected. It would have been a pretty amazing athletic catch. The only reason why people say they expect it from Samuel is that he was a pro-Bowler that year, and was being touted by some as the best CB in the league (probably another exaggeration).

37
by nat :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:12am

I wouldn't have called it a dropped interception. But it did hit him in two hands and wasn't contested by the receiver, and was clearly a case where the defender was trying to catch the ball, not to deflect it.

This is the problem with the whole exercise. If the standard for "dropped" isn't spelled out, there are many more debatable cases than obvious ones. And if you do spell it out, you get threads filled up with "Brady/Manning/Sanchez's" numbers look too high/low" complaints.

This was in response to a Mailbag request, so we should forgive the effort. I do hope it doesn't become a regular feature without more objective criteria. To me, this generates discussion more in line with low-quality sites, not FO.

48
by Sander :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:31am

The way I chart it, I wouldn't call that a dropped interception. While Samuel could catch that ball, that's not a ball that is clearly dropped - it's a tough catch that's not made.

I try to err towards the side of caution, only charting it as a dropped interception if it's clearly a drop. Which I think is in keeping with Aaron's instructions. It's always going to be a judgement call of course, but if you start charting that Samuel play as a drop you're going to be charting a looooot of dropped picks that are actually very unlikely to be caught as interceptions.

55
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:14pm

Thanks for the responses. This matches up with what I think about that play too.

98
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 5:10pm

Aaron is the official FO source on this, but as a charter I concur with Sander no Dropped INT on the Samuel play or the Steelers-Pats play discussed below, and the general comment about erring on the side of caution.

52
by Colts1919 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:48am

Everything you DO is "somewhat subjective". Man - with thos "directions, how could this not be taken seriously. Also - when your readers point out significant errors....maybe Bill Polian has a point.

60
by Sander :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:48pm

So you would rather have Football Outsiders not chart this at all?

54
by Colts1919 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:51am

Everything you DO here is "somewhat subjective".

When readers are pointing out significant errors in your "analysis", how good can it be.

BP is correct.

67
by Mikey Benny :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:14pm

Dumb comment. Any attempt to interpret data is subjective. You try different tools and determine whether or not these tools are useful; this is how it works.

Now please go back to your bridge.

89
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:24pm

Linux must be a poor operating system from your viewpoint then.

12
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:26pm

Good stuff.

However, it says through week 14, so the Packers vs Lions game should be in there, but Rodgers doesn't have a tipped interception. That pass that went off Jennings, that he should have caught and taken to the house but instead went to Spivey who Jennings had beat, has to count as a tipped int.

I can't find the video and the pictures on this link are in reverse order for some reason, but that has to count as a tipped int. Jennings admits he dropped it. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=132014228

I'd also be interested in seeing which defense has the most dropped ints. As you mentioned Minnesota had a ton last night and I swear GB has had more than their fair share.

14
by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:44pm

Probably one of the handful of missing halves.

15
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:49pm

My reading comprehension gets a big minus here....

Right now, I've got the numbers compiled through Week 14, although we are missing anywhere from one to four halves from various teams.

You state right there, some stuff is still missing.

Thank you for responding, even though I feel dumb now.

13
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:33pm

Fun list to look at but not sure if mean anyhting. Like for baseball otusiders would they tabulate list for batters who hit most foul balls that were within 10 feret of foul pole and woudl ahev been home run if ball hit a little to the elft or right?

18
by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:42pm

I think Aaron addresses this with his theory at the end. If it's useful, it will reveal something predictable or consistent about the QBs. Otherwise, you're right that it's random and interesting, but not meaningful.

(By the same token, if BP calculated "just missed" homeruns and it turned out to be a good indicator of next year's homerun totals, then that would be useful too.)

24
by CieloAzor :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:12am

Don't know if BP has done that study, but others have, and it is indeed useful.

58
by ErrantNight :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:37pm

Actually, they've done both... charting "just made" home runs (that barely clear the fence) as a way of determining whether an uptick in power is real or potentially an outlier.

16
by jklps :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 10:56pm

Aaron,

What about breaking up interception rate by pass distance?

21
by Yeah right (not verified) :: Wed, 12/29/2010 - 11:59pm

Yeah... I have an SHORT explanation for the low rates of Brady and Cassel.

They both play under a system where most passes (I'm not saying ALL of them) travel less than 10 yards.

Also, they are instructed to throw the ball away instead of doing passes from outside the pocket. They seldom roll out and throw on the run.

23
by Nathan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:22am

Rusher McFumbles no longer allowed to roll out? What is the world coming to?

25
by AK 48 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:19am

Brady steps up all the time, I'd say Manning throws it away a lot more than Brady does. Also, I think this is more subjective perception than fact. NE actually has been airing it out quite a bit, and I'd say that the Saints throw a pretty high percentage of short passes as well. As for the "system" these teams run, why don't more teams use it? It would seem you don't need as good an offensive line (quicker patterns), as strong-armed a QB (shorter passes) and you don't turn the ball over as much. It boggles the mind, especially when the NFL is such a copy-cat league.

33
by Special J :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:15am

Was curious about this, so I took a quick look at the splits for Brady and then compared them to Manning's, as an example of a pocket passer you wouldn't classify as playing in a "dink and dunk" offense. Interestingly enough, passes 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage or shorter account for almost exactly 3/4 of both quarterback's completions. Given the success shared by these two QBs, my guess would be that this similarity would result because this is what works best in today's NFL.

40
by ammek :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:59am

On pass attempts marked 'deep' by the NFL scorers (sortable at Brian Burke's site: I think 'deep' means 15+ yards through the air), Brady has the third lowest percentage among qualifiers, ahead of only Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen. Cassel is a little below average, level with Sanchez, but well ahead of Brady, Brees, Palmer and McNabb.

The really impressive performer from this perspective (high deep %, low adj int %) is Ben Roethlisberger, who throws deep twice as often as Brady.

53
by Special J :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:49am

I'm not sure that's quite right. Twice as many of Roethlisberger's passes are deep, but Brady generally throws more passes than Roethlisberger. Turns out, Brady's thrown 34 pass attempts longer than 20 yards to Roethlisberger's 42 -- with Brady having completed 14 to Roethlisberger's 13. So, ultimately, Roethlisberger throws more deep incompletions than Brady, suggesting that Brady is more judicious with his deep passes, but more effective when he does throw them.

72
by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:47pm

This year I actually would say Manning has been running a dink and dunk a lot. His YPA, even on his better days, has been low, owing largely to a lot more little short passes they use in place of runs. The last two weeks have had a nice run game boost, but before that they were inept. And in the games missing both Clark and Collie, the defense had a much easier job and barely even had to defend deep. The Colts have still taken their shots, but they have been missing most of them deep. Not sure if it's inaccuracy, bad routes, bad timing/communication, or what, but Manning has been close to useless deep this year.

I'm trying to remember 7 of his dropped INTs and am having a hard time coming up with even one. I know I remember feeling lucky once or twice, each early in the season, but I can't remember any specifics. Which is odd, since I still remember specific non-highlight plays from 2005 and can think of at least 3 dropped Brady INTs and I don't even watch every Pats game. I think there was one against the Chiefs... blanking on the rest though.

Oh, @ Jags. Definitely at least one there. And another @ Texans? Skins? Colts fans - any help?

84
by dmb :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:05pm

I'm pretty certain at least two came in the game against the Redskins: one by Carlos Rogers, and one by Kareem Moore. (Then again, Rogers has bad enough hands that throwing directly to him is generally harmless.) Rogers dropped a third potential INT, but I don't know if it would have counted under these guidelines or not; it took a somewhat athletic play to get the ball in his hands, but he didn't drop it for nearly a full second later. (It was very nearly a fumble by Rogers, rather than an incomplete.)

All three plays can bee seen in the link below; the first clip is the borderline one by Rogers, followed by the two that were pretty likely to be charted as drops.

http://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2010/10/17/1758147/redskins-dbs-putting-on-a...

26
by JonFrum :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:36am

I've seen Brady throw a few passes that were borderline interceptions that weren't caught. Maybe not in the breadbasket, but reasonably catchable. There were three or four in the last 3-4 weeks that bounced off defender's hands - probably not catchable, but certainly possible. The guy's been on a lucky streak, no doubt. As a Pat's fan, I'll take it.

118
by socctty :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 2:22am

Deleted; replied to wrong poster.

27
by parttimemovieguy :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:59am

Granted you mentioned this stat's only been around for a couple years, but is there enough data for a baseline? In other words, what's the the average dropped pass of a starting/replacement QB so far (or a given year)?

28
by Scott Kacsmar (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:15am

These numbers look way off to me. Some consensus on what is a drop needs to be established better.

Re: Brady

http://img837.imageshack.us/img837/8761/dropf.jpg

Is that not a drop? Both hands on it, goes through them. Difficult play, but both hands were on the ball. I keep up with what STATS does with their drops for a few teams each week, and I can tell you they'd give an offensive player a drop on that play, so the defense should be getting a dropped INT here.

34
by Karma Coma :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:18am

That would mean they'd have to go back and adjust stats for "tipped completions" and "tipped TDs," right? Passes that hit defenders in the hands, only to glance into the lucky mitts of their intended targets?

"Profit is limit ONLY by your ability to BANG SPORK"

36
by Bobman :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:35am

Woodhead clearly threw that one. That little guy does EVERYTHING!

49
by Sander :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:34am

This is just my opinion and I don't know if other charters would agree with me or not, but I don't think that's a drop - not according to the instructions we get anyway. That's a very good interception if he makes it, but that's not a ball that's going to be intercepted a significant amount. You'd basically be penalizing the QB for the defensive player making a very good play on the ball.

What STATS does or doesn't do shouldn't really have an impact on what Outsiders does, in my opinion. They're two separate entities.

74
by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:55pm

I'd want to see the whole play again. I don't see any point penalizing a QB for a good throw that a defender made an amazing play on. And that's quite a play if he had made it.

In context, I get a lot more upset and/or assign more blame to the badly underthrown balls or inaccurate ones that are lucky enough to drop incomplete (or, worse, draw a DPI and free first down at the 1, the play that annoys me more than any in football that can't be changed). In that photo, it looks like Tate might be coming back to the ball, indicating that it's underthrown some, in which case if the pick was made, I wouldn't consider it too "unfair" to the stats (the Jennings tip drill INT for Rodgers being the opposite scenario). But I don't remember the play.

101
by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 5:50pm

The throw was TERRIBLE by Brady, but it still would have been a fantastic play for the steeler to pick it off. Tate was coming across the endzone, right to left, and had beat his defender badly, and the ball was probably 5 yards behind where it should have been (althout it was thrown probably 40 yards), but the defender had to make a pretty athletic play just to get his hands on it.

86
by B :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:21pm

I'm not a charter (I was, but found it too time consuming), but there's no way I'd count that as a drop. In fact, if the Pittsburgh player was the intended receiver, I'd call that overthrown under the reason for incompletion column.

121
by Special J :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 1:27pm

If STATS counted that type of backwards-leaping lunge for the ball as a "drop" for receivers, there is no way there would only be 5 receivers with double-digit drops over 15 games. I've spent some time myself trying to retro-engineer STATS' criteria for dropped passes, and I don't believe I ever saw them award a drop on diving attempt at a catch.

31
by MJK :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:48am

The interesting thing about Brady is that, of his four actual interceptions, only two (or, depending on how much you hate Moss, one) is really his fault, in the sense of it being either a bad decision or a bad throw.

* As noted above, one was a hail mary on the last play of regulation in a tie game.

* One was a genuinely poor decision, throwing to a double or triple-covered Welker in the face of a blitz (and was a bad throw on top of it all, because Brady was hit as he was throwing).

* One was a long bomb to a single-covered Moss down the sidelines. Moss was not the primary receiver on the play, and was either dogging it, or had genuinely not beaten his man. Brady aired it out anyway, and it was intercepted by Revis (I think?), who had a step on Moss.

* The last was directly Moss's fault (and bad luck)...Brady overthrew a single-covered Moss slightly. Moss leaped above the DB for it, failed to catch it, knocked it up into the air, juggled it briefly, and then bounced it directly into the hands of a safety who had by that time come across (the safety made an amazingly acrobatic catch that was originally ruled out of bounds, but overturned on replay).

You can argue that it was a bad decision to make the first throw to Moss, and a bad throw that caused the second throw to Moss to be an INT. Or you could argue that throwing to a single covered Moss down the sideline is usually a good idea, and that it's not Brady's fault that Moss tipped the ball into the safety's hand.

But even if you lay both on Brady, that's only 3 bad throws that ended up biting him. If you lean towards blaming Moss, then it's only one.

75
by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:00pm

I guess that's sort of interesting, but you could play that game with every QB. And if you're going to play that one, then any Brady detractor could point out several instances (the Branch TDs against the Lions and Bears) where Brady didn't even make a very good throw but got a long TD out of it anyway because the defenses failed so colossally in covering Branch.

It all evens out, I think. Regardless of how many INTs we're going to blame him for and how many he had dropped or that could've/should've been picked, it's obvious that he has been extraordinarily careful with the ball this year, luck or no luck. Even if he had 10 picks this year, we'd probably still be near unanimous on it being the best QB season in the league.

32
by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:07am

I just charted a half from KC-SEA in Week 12. You can add one more dropped INT for Hasselbeck.

38
by Adam (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:50am

Favre had more than one tipped INT this season
The away game in Chicago two were tipped!
His own players have tipped or dropped balls to cause an INT more than once.

Or how about getting crushed so the ball loops up for an INT......hardly his fault.

Any stat you use Brady is the MVP

93
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:41pm

Pssst your bias is showing.

Maybe FO could chart " Manly hairstyles" to make you happy? I'm sure Brady would be non-MVP in that discussion. (though his hair is taking on a Samson-esque quality...)

103
by Raiderjoe :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:14pm

Manliest hairstyle foe qb ever- Ken Stabler

Worsy matbe David Carr that one ywar when had girly hair

42
by Glenn (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:14am

I think it would be interesting to see this type of chart for defences too. Find out which defences have the best hands and which ones couldn't catch the ball if you hand it to them.

43
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:17am

poor Henne seems unlucky having thrown so many ints with so few tipped or dropped. I guess he needs to play against his own secondary to get more dropped INTs.

44
by slomojoe (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:33am

It's probably entirely overkill for the limited relevance of this stat, but one easy way to minimize observer bias would be to have two independent observers tabulate the dropped passes, and take the average.

Still, I doubt it would change the results by much, and again, this has only been an issue this year because of Brady's entirely freakish (statistically speaking) streak. Ultimately, the take home message is that as expected there is a general trend toward a correlation between dropped INT's with total INT's (not statistically significant here because of the low numbers, even excluding Sanchez's outlier numbers, but suggestive). Or in other words, luck is just stochastic noise.

45
by nat :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:50am

One thing I'd like to get, but can't, from these numbers is the number of actual interceptions that would have been counted as "drops" had they not been made. Interceptions that are touched by the receiver, touched by multiple defenders, involve great catches, happen after tips, etc would not have shown up in the "dropped" stats had they been missed.

With the stats shown here, it's easy to see that nearly 30% of all possible interceptions are dropped. I suspect that if we count only "easy" (i.e. "droppable") interceptions it would something like 50% of all "easy" interception chances are dropped.

In other words, we are counting plays as "dropped interceptions" that are hardly sure things.

46
by TonytheTiger (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:55am

This may have been addressed previously so if I missed it I apologize:

Do you count dropped INTs in the adjusted number if the QB later threw an actual INT on the same possession?

47
by Athelas :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:00am

I believe each int is counted separately, so yes, 2 on the same drive would be counted as 2.

50
by adamsternum :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:40am

What about interceptions that are caused by receivers being idiots and defensive backs ripping the ball out of their hands, as happened to Sanchez twice against the Packers?

I also wonder about closing-drive interceptions. For example, Sanchez threw a pick in the last minute of the Bears game this week, but he had to force the issue, as the Jets were trailing, in their own territory, with no timeouts. Is there a way to account for interceptions thrown because late-game risks needed to be taken?

73
by JaketheMistake (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:49pm

I'd have to agree about those two Sanchez INTs in the GB game -- the ball was literally in the receiver's hands both times before being wrestled away. How is that different from a pick that goes through a receiver's hands?

Won't change the numbers all that much, tho. And I don't think you can count 2-minute drill INTs like Hail Marys -- sure, there's pressure to huck it up, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and 2-minute quarterbacking is one of the key things, I think, that separates good QBs from bad ones.

51
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:41am

Hmmm. It seems that the complaint is that FO is counting too many interceptions where the defender didn't really have a good chance to catch the ball, except for Tom Brady, where any time the defender gets a hand on the ball we have to count it.

I hate to tell people this, I know it will upset many of you, but...

1) We use the same standards for Tom Brady as we do for everyone else.
2) There is no one charter who regularly does the Patriots.
3) There are only two Patriots fans who do charting, me and French, and we rarely do the Pats because French lives in Tampa and I do teams I'm doing for the book (AFC North).

Oh, and one more...

4) If you want every game to be covered by two or three people, you should volunteer for the game charting project next year. And if you think that the volunteers suck and don't mark dropped interceptions correctly, perhaps you should volunteer for the game charting project next year.

It's a volunteer effort, but hey, if we have 100 readers who each want to pony up $100, I could probably pay people and get slightly better results.

(Sorry to sound bitter... I don't mind if people criticize FO constantly, but people here aren't criticizing me personally. They are criticizing the more than 30 people who do a lot of hard work to produce this data, including Sander Philipse who commented above, and Peter Koski, and Rivers McCown, and a bunch of other people you don't know.)

68
by Mikey Benny :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:26pm

Well-said, Aaron. Although many of the posters are intelligent and insightful, FO also seems to attract a bunch of idiots who think they have to always be the smartest person in the room.

Just see the TMQ threads if you don't believe me.

70
by lester bangs (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:45pm

You really should put the names of the charters in your book next year. They do something *very* important for your site and book, and deserved to be named.

I'm not a charter and I don't know any of them. But I know they deserve it.

76
by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:07pm

My apologies for being so forward, but you seem a bit touchy lately (this and the Polian thing). These comments and questions seem pretty level-headed and non-confrontational if you ask me. I don't see anyone claiming Brady bias except what appeared to be a joke and one moron Colts troll. I think it was predictable that people would respond with a bit of curiosity about Brady, given that he's had three very memorable ones in just the recent past and his total is three... but asking questions and discussing it in [mostly] sane terms hardly seems offensive. It's as if you're anticipating the type of complaints you'd get from morons, which is understandable, but I'm not really seeing it here.

I don't blame you for being upset yesterday though.

79
by M :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:40pm

1. I agree that the game charters should be acknowledged in the book as well - it's not easy and it requires watching (and re-watching) ALOT of football or having zen-like concentration and never missing anything that happens live during a broadcast. Either way, kudos to the charters - bias is inherent in almost any recorded observations, regardless of what our ideals are.

2. Regarding FO criticism - I just won my fantasy league playoffs this week with the team that not only won the most games but also had the most points scored in my league (to the best of my knowledge those three things have never happened to the same team in the same season in our league, which I feel is due to the league structure, but whatever). The point that may be surprising is that I work so much that I've only watched a TOTAL of 5 hours of televised football games since the first week.

So where do I get the bulk of my information that allows me to crush the opposition? From FO - via either KUBIAK projections, Quick Reads, team DVOA commentary, player rankings, etc. I watch less football than anyone else in my league by far; but I still feel like I have the best source of data of anyone I compete against.

Simply, I want to thank you, Aaron, for founding Football Outsiders. It's been a pleasure reading this website since 2003 and seeing how it's evolved and grown. The fact that plagiarism from "experts" and criticism from real NFL-decision-makers has increased so much over the past few years is a great sign that you've "arrived", and the fact that you've pretty much stayed the same person who was doing this for the love of the game while unemployed and struggling financially shows that you aren't about to let your ego or others' criticism screw up a good thing.

This work isn't easy or perfect, and I challenge any of you haters out there to start up your own competitor site that's better in every way that you think is possible. As for myself, I used to think I was hot $h!t when it came to understanding and developing unique sports statistics, and I am consistently in awe of what the contributors to this site come up with each year. For those people who think what Aaron, et al. are doing is a piece of cake that involves no real effort and feel free to criticize his work as if he writes everything after waking up at 1 pm from a hangover - get a grip on reality and move out of your parents' basement.

80
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:43pm

Thanks for the kind words. I actually had the names of the main charters in the Acknowledgments section for years and for some reason I didn't do it in 2010, but I will in 2011.

Like I said above, I get extra touchy about the game charting project because that's not really criticism of me. That's criticism of a lot of people who work really hard.

82
by M :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:47pm

I actually really wanted to do this kind of work, but seeing you chronicle openly about the struggles involved in creating and maintaining a website/franchise of this scope made me appreciate how hard it really is. Luckily, I'm gainfully employed (if overworked) at a company where I can go on the internet once in a while without worrying constantly about getting fired. I just don't have the "stones" to try and strike out on my own, and I get fed up when I see other people acting and commenting like it's so ridiculously easy.

83
by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:53pm

I get extra touchy about the game charting project because that's not really criticism of me. That's criticism of a lot of people who work really hard.

Understood.

Is there more detail about what the job entails and/or how the video is obtained? I'd be more than happy to volunteer if logistics permit.

97
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:58pm

Check out the Charting page for some details and explanations. At the start of next year, Aaron will chart one of the nationally-televised Week 3 preseason games (normally) and do that as an example for new charters.

To do the charting, you record the TV broadcast of the game. I used a VCR when I first started (2006), and now use my DVR. I now normally use Short Cuts, supplemented by Game Rewind on NFL.com for plays not included in Short Cuts or where I want a less-truncated view of what happened. Using Short Cuts saves me time from when I did it off the game broadcast, just because I don't have to fast-forward through the announcer blather between plays.

A common question is how long charting takes. It takes some adjustment period, to where you know you're paying attention to everything you need to. I'd say a half took me 70-90 minutes while I had my VCR, a little longer when I switched to DVR just because rewinding and fast-forwarding was less convenient, and now takes 50-80 minutes off Short Cuts. Part of it is how often you watch plays. Since I normally chart the Titans and am also a fan and writing about them for FOA11, I'll watch plays more often than charting requires, so it takes me longer to do a half. Charting W15 KC-STL 2H, I didn't rewatch plays I didn't need to, so that didn't take me as long.

56
by Rob Pitzer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:23pm

Using your numbers, it looks like about 73% of catchable INTs are in fact intercepted. So...

Starting with your Adjusted INTs (INTs plus Dropped INTs, less Hail Marys and Tips) and multiplying by .73 we can get expected INTs.

Subtract actual INTs from Expected INTs and you have a luck factor for QB INTs. As you point out... Manning and Henne have been reamed. And Sanchez has obviously sold his soul:

Player Int Adj Exp Luck
6-M.Sanchez 13 26 18.9 5.90
3-D.Anderson 10 18 13.1 3.09
5-J.Freeman 6 11 8.0 2.00
8-K.Orton 9 15 10.9 1.91
2-M.Ryan 9 14 10.2 1.18
7-M.Cassel 5 8 5.8 0.82
8-J.Campbell 8 12 8.7 0.73
10-V.Young 3 5 3.6 0.64
12-C.McCoy 6 9 6.5 0.54
12-T.Brady 4 6 4.4 0.36
5-B.Gradkowski 7 10 7.3 0.27
12-A.Rodgers 10 14 10.2 0.18
7-M.Vick 5 7 5.1 0.09
7-B.Roeth 5 7 5.1 0.09
6-J.Cutler 14 19 13.8 (0.19)
5-J.Flacco 9 12 8.7 (0.27)
18-P.Manning 17 23 16.7 (0.28)
4-K.Kolb 4 5 3.6 (0.36)
9-D.Garrard 15 20 14.5 (0.46)
9-C.Palmer 18 24 17.5 (0.55)
14-Sh.Hill 11 14 10.2 (0.82)
1-T.Smith 4 4 2.9 (1.09)
9-T.Romo 7 8 5.8 (1.18)
17-J.Delhomme 7 8 5.8 (1.18)
2-J.Clausen 8 9 6.5 (1.46)
17-P.Rivers 12 14 10.2 (1.82)
14-R.Fitzp 15 18 13.1 (1.91)
5-K.Collins 8 8 5.8 (2.18)
8-M.Hasselbeck 17 20 14.5 (2.46)
8-M.Schaub 12 13 9.5 (2.55)
5-D.McNabb 15 17 12.4 (2.64)
3-M.Moore 10 10 7.3 (2.73)
8-S.Bradford 14 15 10.9 (3.09)
11-A.Smith 10 9 6.5 (3.46)
4-B.Favre 19 21 15.3 (3.73)
9-D.Brees 21 23 16.7 (4.28)
3-J.Kitna 12 9 6.5 (5.46)
7-C.Henne 18 17 12.4 (5.64)
10-E.Manning 24 22 16.0 (8.00)

(ETA: maybe someone can format this?)

57
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:33pm

Here it is in google docs.

Although the percentage of interceptions dropped is probably higher than your figure as sometimes defenders make great plays which wouldn't have been counted as drops if they had failed to secure the catch.

62
by Rob Pitzer (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:58pm

Thanks Tuluse!

I also realized that you had to compare the expected INTs with actual INTs adjusted for Hail Marys and Tips (but not drops). Making that fix you end up with...

Player Luck
6-M.Sanchez 5.90
3-D.Anderson 3.09
5-J.Freeman 3.00
2-M.Ryan 2.18
8-K.Orton 1.91
8-J.Campbell 1.73
10-V.Young 1.64
4-K.Kolb 1.64
12-T.Brady 1.36
5-B.Gradkowski 1.27
12-A.Rodgers 1.18
7-M.Vick 1.09
7-M.Cassel 0.82
5-J.Flacco 0.73
18-P.Manning 0.72
12-C.McCoy 0.54
9-C.Palmer 0.45
5-D.McNabb 0.36
14-Sh.Hill 0.18
7-B.Roeth 0.09
9-T.Romo (0.18)
6-J.Cutler (0.19)
9-D.Garrard (0.46)
8-M.Schaub (0.55)
3-M.Moore (0.73)
17-P.Rivers (0.82)
14-R.Fitz (0.91)
1-T.Smith (1.09)
8-S.Bradford (1.09)
17-J.Delhomme (1.18)
9-D.Brees (1.28)
2-J.Clausen (1.46)
5-K.Collins (2.18)
11-A.Smith (2.46)
3-J.Kitna (2.46)
8-M.Hasselbeck (2.46)
4-B.Favre (2.73)
7-C.Henne (3.64)
10-E.Manning (4.00)

63
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:05pm

Doc is updated. Looks a lot better now, before only 14 out of 39 QBs had good luck, not it's 20. Interesting that Palmer looks a lot better on this list, going from kind of dropped picks to almost exactly average luck.

95
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:52pm

I found this nifty link. It converts the messy MSexcel code to HTML

http://tableizer.journalistopia.com/

106
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:24pm

Don't know if that will help because I don't think the FO message board supports the needed HTML.

59
by jmaron :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:40pm

Regarding Brady, in the games I've watched of NE this year I think NE has provided the best pass protection I've seen.

I have no idea how good Brady is or isn't - but I do know from what I've seen he is operating in incredibly good environment to be successful.

I think any decent QB who had an opportunity to play for the NE Patriots in the last 10 years or so would be a guaranteed star. I think the same was true for any decent QB that played for Bill Walsh in SF.

In short - I think the system is more important than the player. That doesn't mean Brady isn't great - he may be - but I doubt we'd be talking about him as a great star if he was drafted by Matt Millen.

65
by nat :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:01pm

This year, despite the groans and whines, the Colts have by far the best pass protection as measured by FO's adjusted sack rate. In fact, going back to the 2000 season, the Colts have had the best pass protection 5 times, second best 4 times, sixth best and seventh best 1 time each, averaging 2nd (median also 2nd) No other team even comes close in terms of their rank in protecting the QB.

A lot of that is Manning's ability to get the ball out quickly, and his receivers' ability to get open quickly. A lot of it is scheme, too, I guess. But a lot of it is a line well built to protect the passer.

In that same period, the Patriots have ranked 2, 4, 5, 6 (this year), 6, 7, 8, 13, 19, 26, 26, averaging 11th (median 7th). Good, yes, but not great.

So, you're full of baloney. And if what you say were even remotely true, then Peyton Manning would have to be the biggest fraud of a "system QB" ever. (Hint: he's not a fraud, just fortunate to have a great line in front of him year after year, and great receivers to throw to almost his entire career.)

That's what I love about FO. When people say inane things, the rest of us can look up the objective stats and blow them to pieces.

66
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:06pm

A lot of that is Manning's ability to get the ball out quickly

I would phrase that as the "the vast majority of this effect is Manning's ability to get the ball out quickly." Now true their line is built to pass protect first and run block second, and it's a smart group that rarely allows the immediate pressures where the QB has no chance and just instantly dead to rights. However, I think Manning gets about a handful of clean pockets per game from what I've seen. While Brady is getting 10-15 drop backs each game where no defender comes close to him.

92
by nat :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:31pm

I can't refute you with stats, since we both agree that the Colts are world class at preventing sacks.

So instead I will cite authority: Peyton Manning himself. When Peyton gets sacked a bunch in a critcal game, does he stand up and say "I had some trouble releasing the ball quickly enough today"? Nope. He says his team "had some problems with protection". The man himself knows that he is dependent on others for the time he gets to throw, and suffers when he doesn't get enough time.

So, I stand by the FO stats. I stand by Peyton Manning. The Colts have and have had a great offensive line (for pass protection) for at least a decade, and Peyton Manning gets a lot, but by no means most, of the credit for the Colts' ability to prevent sacks.

88
by jmaron :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:22pm

nat you are very rude.

I differ with your arguement. I don't see how one can take sack rates and judge the quality of an offensive line solely on that basis. The QB's ability to get the ball out is an enormous part of the equation.

94
by nat :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:49pm

I re-read my post looking for rudeness. I found it.

I apologize for saying "baloney" and "inane". I meant to say "badly done analysis" and "poorly thought out". In my defense, I wanted to save myself a little typing.

If you'll re-read my post, you'll see that I did give Manning "a lot" of the credit, along with his receivers for getting open quickly and his line for protecting him. Why would you want to disrespect his excellent teammates, and claim the majority of the credit for Manning?

116
by jmaron :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 10:22pm

Over 13 years Manning has had a sack rate of 3.1%. His high was 3.7 and his low was 1.7.

Ben Roethlisberger has a 9.0% sack rate over a 7 year career. A low of 7.9 and a high of 10.4%

So do you think that tells you that Indy's had far superior offensive lines for 13 years or is it more likely that the qb's - both very successful - have completely different styles that result in dramatically different sack rates?

I think the stat you referenced is a perfect example of what Bill Polian was talking about when he said that standalone stats have no meaning.

The essential problem I have when people want to assign huge of amount of credit to a qb for wins (I typically hear the difference between a star and an average qb means about 3-6 wins a year - Advanced Pro Football for instance suggested the drop off from Romo to Kitna would be 6 games over a full season) is twofold:

1) Offence is about 3/7 of the game according to FO. The QB is one of 11 guys on offence. While it is true the QB has a huge effect on the offence how is it possible that he would account for such a huge effect on wins when he is only participating in 3/7th of the game?
2) But even if you accept that the QB position is so crucial they actual have that kind of effect - I would then argue talent is not distributed in the human race in such a way that there is some enormous gap between the best athlete in the world and say the 32nd best in the world. Take the 100 metre dash - every once in a while you have a Usain Bolt or Ben Johnson that completely shatters the competition. But even then the drop off to the next guy is rather small and further to that their is a massive bunching of talent right after the top guy.

I did a little study once - took a list of the top 50 QB's of all time and for each QB in the list I looked for seasons where they missed at least three games. What I found was the winning percentage of the backups amounted to a 1 game differential over 16 games.

Every year I look at all the starters and their ratings or dvoa and then look at all backups that had more than 75 attempts and every year the stats are very close. Some years the starters are better (usually) but some years the backups are better. What is most common is that if your starter had good stats so does your backup - if your starter has crappy stats - so does your backup.

Here's this year list of starters and backups:

Kolb 13.5 Vick 20.5
McNabb 0.4 Grossman-38.9
Romo 21.8 Kitna 5.7
Favre -16.7 Webb -12.9
Staffo 7.8 Hill 11.8
Moore -37.4 Clausen -45.4
SmithA -9.2 SmithT -13.5
Anderson 19.2 Skelton -37.3
Campbel -5.3 Gradkow -13.4
Young 25.1 Collins -2.2
Delhomme-35.9 McCoy 12.9
Roethlis32.8 Dixon -35.2
Edwards -48.5 Fitzpatrick 5.7
avg -5.446153846 -10.93846154

For teams that had multiple backups I just listed the guy who played more.

I really wish someone with some real statistical skills would undertake such a study to see what effect there is when a star qb goes down. None of what I've done is a proper study. But what seems to jump out at me when I do my little studies is there just isn't much difference in wins and loses when "good" qb's get injured.

104
by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:18pm

I'm a Patriots fan. I watch a lot of the patriots. I also watch a lot of other games.

Honestly, the Patriots line isn't the best at pass blocking in the NFL. It isn't in the top 10. Its probably not even in the top half.

Connoly is passable, Mankins is good. Koppen is great at a lot of the things a center does, but maintaining his position isn't one of them. He's often sitting in Brady's lap. Light is decent, but can't handle anyone with any speed, and while Vollmer is looking pretty good, he still gets beat too often by technical rushers.

The single thing that most sets Brady apart from other quarterbacks, is his ability so sense the rush, and make small adjustments to his position to avoid rushers. The line can absolutely collapse, and Brady takes a half step back, two steps to the right, another step forward, ducks, then steps back again and releases the ball. And he does it without ever taking his eyes off downfield.

You don't see Brady roll out often, or pull the ball down all that often because he doesn't have to, because he moves so well within the hashmarks. He can't run, but hes one of the most mobile, and agile quarterbacks in the NFL. He just has no speed.

113
by lester bangs (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 9:09pm

Exactly, Rich. Brady's pocket awareness is outstanding. This is one of the skills that a guy like Jason Campbell never seems to have. The sense to take a step here, move a little over there, find a quiet place in a muddied pocket to deliver the ball.

Brady had a step or two forward in the second Jets game, first half, leading to a completion on a crossing pattern and a third-down conversion. It was so gorgeous, it made my knees weak.

120
by JL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 11:27am

Rich:
As someone who also watches a lot of Patriots (and other NFL games,) and a former offensive lineman, I don't think you are evaluating the pass protection fairly. I agree that the Pats pass protection isn't necessarily the best in the league, but it is a much better than average unit, and importantly provide protection that is complimentary to Brady's skill set. As you said, Brady is not fast but has excellent footwork. This allows him to avoid pressure coming from around the edge, while he is not likely to avoid anyone with a straight shot at him. The pats protection schemes seemed designed with this in mind.
The Patriots offensive line as a unit also performs better in protection than the sum of its parts because they are fundamentally strong and do not make mental mistakes. They rarely get beat by stunts and twists, and they are good at not allowing pressure up the middle. Koppen may get pushed back sometimes, but this is much less bad then letting his man get past him, which you almost never see. If someone is coming in clean, it is when the defense has sent more rushers than there were blockers, and it is the outside guy. Part of the reason Brady is able to move around and avoid pressure is that the breakdowns in his pocket happen in more observable and predictable ways, with pressure typically coming from the outside.
I would not say that light cannot handle anyone with speed. He has had trouble with the Freeney and Jason Taylor types in the past, but it is usually once or twice a game, and those guys get sacks against everyone.
At least once a game Brady has a clean pocket for 5 plus seconds often in the red zone.
Off the top of my head, notable bad games for the offensive line/pass protection this year were Cleveland and Green Bay (they were better in the second half).
The patriots adjusted sack rate is sixth. You can say that part of this is due to how well Brady identifies and avoids pressure, but he has also taken a few sacks when he held onto the ball for too long.

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by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 2:38pm

Thank you for this excellent post

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by CoachDave :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 9:10pm

Amen. If the Pats aren't in the top 10 in pass protection I'll eat my hat.

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by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 12:54pm

(The other note is that Brady's worst dropped interceptions have generally come in the last couple weeks -- in other words, games we have not yet charted.)

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by Joe Treutlein (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:49pm

For all the talk of Brady's allegedly deflated dropped interceptions, people are peculiarly only looking at his total number of dropped INT's as the measuring stick.

The interesting thing is of the 27 players listed, only five have a ratio of n:(n-1) or greater in actual:dropped INT's.

Sanchez 13:13
Freeman 6:6
Brady 4:3
Kolb 4:3
Young 3:3

Relative to his actual interceptions, Brady is among the highest of anyone on the list. So are the NFL's scorekeepers marking down his real interceptions, too?

The funny thing is nothing about Brady's ratio is out of the ordinary relative to the rest of the list. In fact, if Brady had just two more dropped INT's on his tally, he'd be the only player on the list with a ratio greater than 1:1, making him the luckiest player in the entire league. And if he had more than two more like some seem to be claiming, he'd be the luckiest player by a long shot. If that were the case, then there'd be ample reason to sniff out bias, but in the other direction.

And this is coming from a die hard Jets fan (and not the typical "woe is me, the Jets are the worst franchise in the history of football" Jets fan either). It's usually best to step back and analyze things objectively before letting your bias color your observations.

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by Sander :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 7:59pm

Him being the luckiest player actually fits very well with breaking the consecutive throws without interceptions record.

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by Nathan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:08pm

if Brady had just two more dropped INT's on his tally, he'd be the only player on the list with a ratio greater than 1:1, making him the luckiest player in the entire league.

Wait, what? If hypothetical QB had 95 TDS and 0 INT but 1 dropped INT he'd have a ratio of infinity. Would that make him the luckiest QB ever? Or just the best?

So are the NFL's scorekeepers marking down his real interceptions, too?

What does this even mean? The NFL is covering up Brady interceptions? It's been a long day but this entire post confuses me.

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by Joe Treutlein (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:11pm

"What does this even mean? The NFL is covering up Brady interceptions? It's been a long day but this entire post confuses me."

I was making an absurd statement to illustrate my point. Thought that was pretty obvious.

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by Nathan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 8:13pm

I assumed that comment was tongue in cheek but I still don't get what you're trying to say with your numbers. Unless they're tongue in cheek too.

But like I said, it's been a long day.

Being at work this week suuuucks.

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by Joe Treutlein (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 11:31pm

My entire post is not tongue in cheek and I have no idea what's so hard to understand.

If you look at Brady's dropped INT numbers only, as everyone is doing, it shows him with among the fewest in the league, opening question to bias in charting. However, when you consider his actual INT's are also so drastically low, the fact that his dropped INT's are so low shouldn't be that questionable. His ratio of actual:dropped is among the highest in the league.

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by Dave B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:40pm

Other sources of interception noise:

1. When a defender makes an extremely athletic and non repeatable lucky interception. If you aren't going to count a guy leaping and not catching the int as a drop, shouldn't you not also count interceptions where on average the defender isn't going to make the interception.

2. WR falls down or runs the wrong route. Obviously wrong route is a bit subjective but there are definitely times where its obvious the WR falling was the cause of the interception.

3. The INT is the result of the QB being hit as he throws...

4. INT's as a function of game state. This is sort of a chicken and egg problem but QB's tend to throw more int's if they are behind late in the game as they have to try risker passes in order to win.

5. INT rate adjusted for pass distance. I think someone mentioned this above.

Obviously dropped int's are a step in the right direction but I think there is still a lot of noise to be removed from the signal.

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by tuluse :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 2:46pm

The QB actually has a lot of control over points 3 and 5, so I'm not sure how much noise they add to the numbers.

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by Dave :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:47pm

#2 touches on another of those things about why this game is so great (but also, sadly, on why we can't ever create the perfect stat) - sometimes it really just is impossible to know what's going on. Hell, even for the players involved sometimes it's not clear. We can look back at those INTs Manning threw in New England to see why it's impossible to measure or even to assign blame. Manning play actions, turns around, and throws deep right to Garcon... except that Garcon saw that the safety was shading that way so he cut the route off and came back, wide open underneath the corner.

Good decision by Garcon, and fine throw by Manning (who couldn't see the safety since his back was turned)... EASY pick for the Patriots. No chance for success whatsoever for the Colts.

At the time, Garcon was playing terribly so people rushed to blame him, Manning haters rushed to blame Manning, etc... Manning blamed himself afterwards, but really, both guys made a perfectly fine decision and play. They just didn't make THE SAME fine decision and play.

I know the Colts offense has a million of these option routes that require QB and WR to basically communicate telepathically, and that was one of the factors in that 11-pick skid... what I'd love to learn is whether they do that any more than other teams. Does anyone else at all run that many of that kind of play? Does everyone?

I would be very interested in learning the answer to that.

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by PatsFan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:29pm

Does anyone else at all run that many of that kind of play? Does everyone?

The Patriots certainly do. I've read lots of articles over the years talking about and quoting how NE receivers need to make the same reads Brady does so that when things don't go as planned both Brady and receivers are making the same adjustments and that such adjustments are expected on virtually every passing play.

Personally, I'd have to believe all 32 teams do a decent amount of stuff like that. How are you supposed to have a passing offense if the QB and receivers can't adjust during the play to what the defense is doing??

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by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:21pm

The Patriots don't run that sort of play, their offense IS that sort of play. The receivers don't know what route they're running until the defender reveals how hes covering them.

Its pretty much why some receivers do fantastic there, and look terrible elsewhere (Branch, Givens, etc), and why some guys just never seem to get it in NE (Galloway, etc)

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by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:21pm

Hey..former major commenter who now mostly just reads FO for the articles (and not the centerfolds and dirty letters)...just dropping in to say I certainly appreciate and enjoy the results of the collective effort by FO and the charters. I'm sure the silent majority would agree.

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by Daniel :: Sat, 01/01/2011 - 1:26am

Yep

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by First_Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 3:25pm

What is Percentage of balls that are "Dropped Interceptions" instead of regular Interceptions?

Is it higher for Linebackers than Defensive Backs?

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by Nathan :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 4:14pm

2nd'ed

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by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 5:27pm

I'd like to see a chart of team defenses and how many they drop. Which Ds are good/lucky at holding onto the ball, and which not?

It seems like the logical flip-side to produce, if all the work on the charting has already been done.

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by Rand (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 5:43pm

Brady's 2nd INT of the season was a tipped pick - the one to Moss along the sideline vs. the Jets.

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by RichC (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:11pm

In fact, it was actually tipped by 2 different players, Moss and Cromartie, and intercepted by Pool

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by bednarik (not verified) :: Thu, 12/30/2010 - 6:44pm

Regarding tipped interceptions, or drops, the numbers listed are inaccurate. Eli Manning as an example:

Wk 1- WR88 inside 2slant, settle 4, partial extension w/ 2 hands.
-RB44 angle route, no extension.

Wk 3- Strong rollout, WR88 hook4 cross extension at 1/4 2 hands.

Wk 7- WR12 slot right, 8yd 3 full extension 2 hands.
- WR88 inside 4, partial extension 2 hands.

This also does not include maladjusted routes by the receivers.

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by Chiefsfan12000 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/31/2010 - 3:26am

Do you have information on who is dropping interceptions? As a Chiefs fan it seems like we have had more than our fair share of dropped INTs but that may be just a frustrated fan's view of things. I'm pretty sure we have caught less than 73% of our possible interceptions. My hunch is that Derrick Johnson would have made the Pro Bowl if he had hung on to the dropped INTs he should have caught.

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by William Lloyd Garrision III (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 6:23pm

Yes they do, but Carlos Roger's agent is working very hard to keep that list from coming out.

Is the bottom line of this article = another way of saying Sanchez isn't really that good? I agree then.

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by 57_Varieties (not verified) :: Sat, 01/01/2011 - 8:18pm

Could we add fumbles?

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by TooN (not verified) :: Tue, 03/22/2011 - 7:50pm

The most important thing here is, how well Rivers did without so many of his WR's and TE for all atleast 5 or more games. Also the fact that Rivers completed as many 41 plus yd passes as Peyton, Brady, Ben, Brees and Rodgers combined.

Further the distance the pass is, the increased probability of an ints due to it being a tougher pass with lower success rate.