Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Jan 2014

Tanier's NFL Game Riffs: Championship Weekend

This is what happens when you write about the same quarterback matchup for your entire adult life, and also what happens when you write NFL previews while your second grader is studying for his Catholic sacraments.

There are links to some diagram articles. The Patriots and Seahawks diagrams are pretty basic, but the others have some detail.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 16 Jan 2014

75 comments, Last at 19 Jan 2014, 12:25pm by jebmak

Comments

1
by Hurt Bones :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 8:55am

14th matchup. Enough of that. Bring on the Roman Numerals. This is Brady-Manning XIV (now in 3D). If John Fox should retire for health reasons, next year it will be Brady-Manning XV 'After the Fox'. While 2012 when he went to Denver it was Brady/Manning XII 'A New Beginning, Same Old Ending'.

2
by MJK :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:31am

Loved the diagrams. Especially the 9ers'.

3
by nat :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 11:14am

...usual wearisome discussion of Manning's "legacy."
Manning's playoff legacy is pretty much set at this point. He's about on par with Brett Favre. If he wins the Super Bowl, he'll be slightly ahead. If he doesn't and takes sole control of the "QB Playoff Losses" record, he'll be more clearly behind.

The legacy for the whole oeuvre is more cloudy, because people value stats, regular season wins, and playoffs differently as a matter of taste. But that argument wouldn't be much affected by the last two games of one season's playoffs.

4
by SmoothLikeIce :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:13pm

*Braces for Scott Kacsmar reply*

5
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:20pm

Terrific piece, especially with regard to the commentary about the huge value of organizational consistency in New England.

The Manning vs. Brady argument was stupid 10 years ago, and is even more stupid now. They are both great players, and it is impossible to strip context out of their performances, in an effort to determine which one is the better player.

6
by tally :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 12:29pm

It has long since gone second level into psychoanalyzing people based on their preference of Brady or Manning.

Tanier's point about minimum number of championships to qualify for greatness also deserves some deeper analysis. People ragged Marino for not having won a title, fewer people disparaged Favre for having only won one, so is it a compliment to expect Peyton to win multiple Super Bowls? Should we judge QBs not on titles but title expectancy?

8
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:12pm

Favre had the luck of not having his own Brady, somebody clearly defined by the media as his Big Bad Personal Nemesis. If Steve Young had wound up being a starting QB for a significant portion of Favre's career and had won multiple rings while beating Favre in big games, I'm pretty sure Brett's career would wound up being defined similarly to Manning.

Manning gets the "only one ring" argument solely because Brady has more than one. It's just an easy way to contrast them and talk about their levels of OMG SO ELITE-ness".

10
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:17pm

Troy Aikman?

12
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:26pm

This is where a practice I usually avoid, counterfactual speculation, can be useful, in exposing the the frequent emptiness of conventional wisdom.

Imagine a world where a slight difference in perceived arm movement, and a long field goal attempt going wide, results in New England losing in the divisional round in 2001 and 2003. Would that mean Tom Brady is any less great? Of course not. Can you imagine how the conventional narrative would have differed going into the 2004 playoffs?

Most of what we jabber about is just a bunch of confirmation bias.

16
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:29pm

Well, clearly this is just a lot of crap and it's nothing more than trying to find ways to create the proverbial narrative in ways that allow media outlets to package things as being particularly exciting or dramatic. Brady and Manning get linked because their careers start at close to the same time and they've both helmed teams that have been consistently very good over that span, so they've had an opportunity to meet again and again when the games seem to always matter. Favre never had that; sure, the Cowboys were dominant when he was young, but they faded off pretty quickly, and there was really never another rival who the media found easy to name. The Packers weren't consistently winning their division like the Patriots did, and there wasn't another team constantly topping the NFC South or NFC East who would always show up in some dramatic, made-for-TV showdown.

If Manning was in Favre's place and had never had his yearly High Noon Showdown At The Brady Corral, nobody would care he had "only one" ring. The simple fact is Manning has Not Tom Brady's Three Rings, and that's how it's just going to be defined because of the whole convenient rivalry aspect.

And yes, it's idiotic, but that's why people talk about Peyton somehow being lessened because his teams only won one Big Game when plenty of other QBs get to be just plain great even with that sole, lonely ring. Favre and Steve Young don't have Tom Brady to be compared against, so they get to keep being TEH AWESOME even though they only have one finger laden by the championship ring.

20
by Bjorn Nittmo :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:54pm

Barnwell wrote an excellent piece last year after the conference championship games speculating how Brady would be perceived if his career ran in reverse (that I'm guessing almost everyone reading this thread has already read). Even without counterfactual speculation, Brady would have spent 3/4 of his career to date confirming that he just didn't have what it takes to win the big one.

http://grantland.com/features/bill-barnwell-conference-championships/

76
by jebmak :: Sun, 01/19/2014 - 12:25pm

Yes. Love that section.

18
by Theo :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:42pm

Not 'solely'... I think they see Peyton's 1 ring as a less accomplishment because Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger won 2 also.
So it's not only Brady winning 3.

21
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:00pm

If Terry Porter caught passes like Lewis Billups, and vice versa, Peyton Manning would likely be a measurably better qb, and Joe Montana likely measurably worse, according to a lot of people, some of them paid a lot of money, who watch football.

If there is anything I could tell sports fans, when they are judging athletic careers, it would be this. If changing the outcome of one shot, play, at-bat, etc. would make a big difference in how you evaluate an athlete's career, you really don't understand athletic competition at all.

25
by Theo :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:54pm

Yes, and I agree with that.

What I read a lot is "I think his career is great, but I consider Super Bowl wins important because others will list Super Bowl wins as important" and then they parrot each other making Super Bowl wins more important than being (among the) best in every conceivable category.

61
by Dennis :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 1:22pm

Absolutely. Dan Lebatard had a great column after the Heat-Spurs series about how reluctant people are to acknowledge the role of luck in sports. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/23/3465942/dan-le-batard-not-very-muc...

11
by doktarr :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:25pm

I guess he's being graded on the curve of his own regular season excellence. Even if the Broncos win this year people will still compare his postseason unfavorably to his regular season record. I think it would take two more titles to really bury it.

To look at it another way, is it fair to fault Manning for somehow dragging a deeply flawed 2010 Colts squad into the playoffs before losing to a better team?

13
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:27pm

I think if the Broncos win it all this year, the story line will be that Peyton learned to win late in his career, with his 3 superbowl appearances coming since 2006.

14
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:43pm

If they win with that defense, Manning is going to have to play out of his mind. I'd rank the Broncos #4 among remaining teams, and I don't think it is especially close.

The notion that he suddenly got better in the last few years, of course, will be idiotic.

45
by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:33pm

I don't have any particular issue with/argument against ranking the Broncos fourth, but I do wonder what it is that you see from the Patriots that makes you think that it's not especially close.
I'm not trying to be a dumb Bronco homer or pick a fight, but while I can certainly see making the case that the Patriots are better than the Broncos, but I have trouble making the case that the Patriots are a lot better than the Broncos.

46
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:23pm

Because I saw Quentin Jammer, 14 yr veteran, run around like he was in the depths of an ether binge last Sunday, and Chris Harris ain't coming back. Now maybe Quentin will get sober up by this Sunday, or maybe they'll have somebody else in the spot, but from the information which was available to us, the Broncos are going to be playing a power running team, with a HOF qb, and if not dominant receivers, professional receivers. The Broncos will be doing so with a secondary which was, when we last saw them, stretched past the breaking point. Sometimes, when a secondary gets stretched too thin, the failure is catastrophic I don't like the Broncos defense at all right now.

47
by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 10:24pm

Fair enough.

51
by The Hypno-Toad :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 9:59am

Basically, I don't think it's possible that the non-Rodgers-Cromartie CB spot can actually be as bad as it looked in the fourth quarter last week. Is it likely to be an exploitable weakness? Absolutely. But with a week to plan substitution packages and actually practice the guys who will be in those packages, I don't expect that side of the field to just be open season the way it was at the end of the Charger game.
And while Tom Brady's ability to exploit mismatches will lead to successful plays in the hole where Chris Harris used to be regardless of his supporting cast, I do think it's worth pointing out that the quarterback/receiver tandem that did most of the exploiting of Jammer on Sunday was pretty good too. Rivers finished second in DYAR and third in DVOA, and Keenan Allen was eighth in DYAR and fifth in DVOA.
I wouldn't be surprised if Jammer winds up as the Broncos new Roc Alexander, but I would be surprised if the Broncos scheme coming into this game is set up to leave him alone out there for long series of plays at a time.

53
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 11:15am

Well, if it was as bad as it showed in the 4th quarter last Sunday, the Patriots would score 40-50 points. I don't think it will be that bad either. However, what I saw was not just a good receiver exploiting an inferior athlete; it was a receiver who wasn't even close to being covered, with a very experienced guy getting on the field. Old, disorganized, and exploited is no way to play pass defense.

Guys get hurt in football, and you have to have guys on the sideline who can step on the field without doing an imitation of The Hindenberg when they are called upon, and the fact that the Broncos couldn't indicates to me that even if they aren't that bad, the non DRC parts of the field are going to need substantial safety support, which means less run support by safeties. If the Broncos' front 7 can't stifle the run all by their lonesome, I suspect the Patriots are going to have some very, very, easy yardage and points.

Am I super confident the Patriots will win? Nope. If the Broncos don't turn the ball over, substantially win on special teams, and play their normally good offensive game, besides not turning it over, then they might win even with a poor defensive performance. That wouldn't greatly surprise me. If it was true however, that you could get, briefly, 6.5 points with the Patriots last Sunday night, that was the NFL steal of the season.

56
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 11:45am

the Broncos are going to be playing a power running team, with a HOF qb, and if not dominant receivers, professional receivers
-------

They played that team last week, and held them to 1 passing yard in the first half.

With 7 minutes left, SD had a 4th-7 at their own 23, down 24-7.

58
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:07pm

Yeah, then they had to put a guy on the field who looks like he is completely, totally, finished. If Belichik put me in at center for the Patriots, I'd predict a 49-0 Broncos victory.

Some failures are catastrophic.

62
by Dennis :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 1:25pm

I'm not seeing the "Rivers is a HOF qb" thing.

63
by Dennis :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 1:26pm

And don't forget that despite being down 24-7 with 4th and 7 on their own 23 with 7 minutes left, the Chargers were a third-down stop away from having a chance to tie the game.

7
by nat :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:10pm

I agree. We have almost no statistical help in separating a QB from the quality of his supporting cast.

Oddly enough, QB wins, as flawed as they are as a stat, come closest to separating that QB from his context. Every team plays under the same salary cap. So, while you can pad your QB's stats by overspending on offense, you can't pad his winning percentage that way.

Of course there is a litany of problems with judging QBs by winning percentage: strength of schedule including "soft" divisions to play year after year, small samples, the all-or-nothing nature of wins, the varying ability of teams to get value for their cap money... But wins do at least partially factor out the effect of loading up or not on offense.

9
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 2:16pm

I don't agree with this at all. You'd have to assume all teams have approximately equal total amount of talent and coaching except at QB.

19
by nat :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:46pm

That would fall under "varying ability of teams to get value for their cap money" as a flaw with QB wins. Did you read that paragraph?

I didn't say that wins are the go-to stat for judging QBs. I said that they are the commonly used stat we have that comes closest to separating a QB from his offensive teammates. Do you know a better stat to do that?

Yes, it's a very coarse adjustment. Money doesn't translate one-to-one into talent. But all other things being roughly equal or at least unknowable, a team that spends more on offense at the expense of its defense and special teams will boost its offense's (and QB's) statistics of all kinds - except winning percentage.

23
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:12pm

Then you should look at actual cap space devoted to each side of the ball.

However, I'm rejecting the entire concept that team has that much control over where their talent is. Teams get good players where they can when they can and there are so few of them they rarely get to decide if it's the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Also, there are still huge gaps in talent in the NFL. Neither Peyton Manning or Tom Brady could get the Jaguars to the playoffs, while Chad Henne could probably get the Seahawks or 49ers to the playoffs.

29
by JIPanick :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:21pm

"Neither Peyton Manning or Tom Brady could get the Jaguars to the playoffs."

I'm not convinced this is true.

The 2011 Tim Tebow Broncos had 7.0 Estimated Wins, and the 2012 Peyton Manning Broncos had 14.7 (+7.7). Most of their other key pieces (Thomas, Decker, Clady, Bailey, Miller, Moreno, Fox) are already in place by then anyway. The drop off from the 2010 to 2011 Colts was 5.2 in the same stat; it's not unreasonable to think Manning is worth about six wins over a bottom drawer QB like Henne.

A six-win improvement to this years Jags would have put them in a fight with the Colts for the South title, and probably at least gotten them that last wildcard.

I'm not saying Peyton Manning on the Jags would be a sure-fire playoff team by any means, but it is not at all absurd to expect that such a team would be a playoff contender. The bottom line is that whether Manning *would* get the Jags to the playoffs is debatable, but I am quite comfortable in saying that he *could*.

64
by Dennis :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 1:30pm

I agree. Manning's last year with the Colts, they were 10-6 and in the playoffs. The following year with Painter/Orlovsky/Collins at QB, they were 2-14. Then they put Andrew Luck at QB the next year and went 11-5 and were back in the playoffs.

41
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 6:06pm

"I said that [QB wins] are the commonly used stat we have that comes closest to separating a QB from his offensive teammates. Do you know a better stat to do that?"

OK, this is just absurd on its face.

All of the QB metrics (e.g. DVOA, QBR, passer rating, AY/A) are driven by the following:
1. QB's actual level of play
2. Offensive scheme and coaching
3. Quality of QB's offensive teammates
4. Random factors, such as weather and luck

QB wins, which is really just team wins, is driven by the following:
1. QB's actual level of play
2. Offensive scheme and coaching
3. Quality of QB's offensive teammates
4. Random factors, such as weather and luck
5. Defensive scheme and coaching
6. Quality of QB's defensive teammates
7. Quality of QB's team's special teams play

I don't see how QB wins - which depends on the exact same factors as any QB metric plus other factors, such as defense - does a better job of isolating QB play.

43
by Red :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 8:33pm

Because nat is a biased Patriots fan, and the QB Wins "stat" happens to confirm his preconceptions?

50
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 8:54am

So, no, you don't know of a better stat to separate a QB from his supporting cast. Which is how this topic started.

You just know, as I do, that wins is a crude measure. Well, duh. It's still the only one you can't inflate just by shifting resources from defense and special teams to offense.

BTW, Manning has really good total winning percentage. So I doubt you could pin his middling playoff winning percentage on underfunding his defenses to boost his receiving corps and OL. Teams don't shift resources after week seventeen.

60
by Eddo :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:57pm

Well, I thought I listed four such stats, but OK...

FO's QB DVOA, ESPN's QBR, the NFL's passer rating, and P-F-R's ANY/A (along with its related stats) all do a better job at separating a QB from his supporting cast.

None of those four do it perfectly, of course; let's once again compare and contrast. (My personal favorite is ANY/A, so I'll use that as a stand-in.)

ANY/A is influenced by:
1. QB's actual level of play;
2. Offensive scheme and coaching;
3. Quality of QB's offensive teammates;
4. Random factors, such as weather and luck.

QB wins is influenced by those same four things, along with:
5. Defensive scheme and coaching;
6. Quality of QB's defensive teammates;
7. Quality of QB's team's special teams play.

So there are six things besides the QB's actual level of play that can influence the stats in question. ANY/A removes three of the six; QB wins removes zero. Thus, ANY/A isolates the QB's actual level of play better than QB wins.

65
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 1:53pm

QBR DVOA does not separate a QB from his receivers and OL at all. Read the FAQ.
Nor does QBR.
Nor does passer rating.
Nor does ANY/A, if I recall.
Each of those would be massively affected by diverting talent (via cap spending) from defense to offense.

You found 0 stats that deal with separating a QB from the spending on his offensive teammates. Not "perfectly". Not at all. 0. Fail.

I do get what you're saying. It seems crazy counter-intuitive that adding defensive and special teams things to the mix would help with dealing with the way teams spend resources on offense. I agree. It is counter-intuitive.

But the quality of a QB's offensive teammates is greatly affected by the amount spent on offense. The quality of a team's defense and special teams is also greatly affected by the amount spent of offense, but in the other direction. Why? Because a dollar spent on offense is a dollar taken away from the rest of the team.

Because those are so closely linked, any stat that factors in all three phases of the game is going to be less susceptible to being inflated by merely shuffling money around between different squads. There's one commonly used QB stat that has that feature: winning percentage.

It sucks as a stat for a number of other reasons. but it is the only one in the discussion that even begins to deal with the problem we're talking about.

66
by Eddo :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 2:20pm

"QBR DVOA does not separate a QB from his receivers and OL at all. Read the FAQ.
Nor does QBR.
Nor does passer rating.
Nor does ANY/A, if I recall.
Each of those would be massively affected by diverting talent (via cap spending) from defense to offense."

Read what I wrote again. ANY/A (which I used as a stand-in for itself, DVOA, QBR, and passer rating), is influenced by "3. Quality of QB's offensive teammates".

"You found 0 stats that deal with separating a QB from the spending on his offensive teammates. Not 'perfectly'. Not at all. 0. Fail."

But I didn't have to. You only asked for something that isolates QB play better than QB wins. And QB wins depends on all the same things as those stats, plus defense and special teams.

And, as you so astutely point out, QB wins is also dependent on how well the front office manages the cap. So that's yet another thing working against it isolating QB play.

EDITED TO ADD:
By your logic, "QB wins" does an equally effective job of isolating the play of middle linebacker, or kicker, or #1 WR.

69
by tally :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 3:02pm

Two glaring weaknesses of using team wins to rate QBs independent of or accounting for his teammates:

1. Where the other units are so dominant that even adequate or mediocre QB play is sufficient (e.g., Trent Dilfer on the 2000 Ravens).

2. Where the QB takes a pay cut so that the team can spend more on other positions. That can translate into more wins but doesn't make the QB any better.

71
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 3:24pm

Where the QB takes a pay cut so that the team can spend more on other positions. That can translate into more wins but doesn't make the QB any better.
Yes. That is a problem. As is a QB who demands a large premium. He may still be a great QB talent but not a great value for the money.

I'm not sure how to separate that from a QB who plays great but somehow makes his teammates play badly, what we call a "bad leader". Do we give a QB a bonus factor for being paid a lot of money? That doesn't seem right. If his pay demands are hurting the team around him then he is hurting the team around him, isn't he?

But a good point to think about.

70
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 3:16pm

Here's a simplified equation, leaving out the strength of schedule, coaching, scheme and on-field luck stuff that affects almost everything. It's conceptual rather than rigorous, but it should be clear enough.

QB stat = a Function of (QB quality, Offense Teammate Quality)
Offense Teammate Quality = a Function of (Offense Spending, Offense Talent Evaluation "luck")
Therefore
QB stat = a Function of (QB quality, Offense Spending, Offense Talent Evaluation "luck")
That is, when we see a QB Stat like DYAR, part of it is due to the amount of money the team dedicates to the offensive supporting cast.

Meanwhile...

QB Wins stat = a Function of (QB quality, Offense Spending, Offense Talent "luck", Non-Offense Spending, Non-Offense Talent "luck")
But (Offense Spending + Non-Offense Spending) is a constant called "The Cap", and the market should float until a dollar spent on defense is worth a dollar spent on offense. Therefore

QB Wins Stat = a Function of (QB quality, Offense Talent "luck", Defense Talent "luck")

QB Wins is a noisy stat, no doubt about it, since it adds in defensive talent "luck" as a factor. But unlike other QB stats, it contains no bias from the amount of resources a team devotes to the offense.

The conclusion: if you have questions about whether a QB's stats are deflated or inflated by the team spending or not on his supporting cast, look to his winning percentage vs. his other stats. Is he an outlier? If so, dig deeper. He might be a fraud or a hidden gem.

If he's not an outlier, then his stats are probably not being unduly biased by spending on his supporting cast.

42
by Kordell Stewart (not verified) :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 6:43pm

So a quarterback with a 48-34 record should be considered really good. I'm okay with that.

67
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 2:24pm

Hi, Kordell. Good to hear from you. :-)

No, we look at your stats to decide that. But your moderate winning record indicates that your stats weren't being inflated by your team selling off the defense to give you targets and an OL.

And I did check. During your entire stay as the Steelers primary starter, you never once sucked resources to your side of the ball. You played on a well known defense-first team. I suspect if you had been treated like a QB star (like Brady 2007-2012, Manning always, and countless others) and given a better supporting cast, you would have improved your stats a bit at the expense of the defense.

But not your winning percentage.

Bye, Kordell. Enjoy your life, man.

68
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 2:48pm

Good thing we have his 57.8% winning percentage to differentiate him from stat padders like Fran Tarkenton (he of 55.4% win percentage), Warren Moon (50.2%), and Drew Bledsoe (50.7%).

48
by Theo :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 6:23am

How is this a good stat to seperate them from team mates if it's the only stat that they accumulate together?

I actually think it's the WORST stat to seperate anyone from his team mates.

49
by nat :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 8:17am

It's strange, isn't it. But it's the only QB stat you can't inflate simply by overspending on receivers and OL.

It's a weak stat in most ways. But it has that one feature going for it.

Sure, you can inflate the stat by drafting well and hiring unexpectedly good free agents. That's equally true of all QB stats. But Wins removes the crude effect of just throwing more money at your receiving corps. That money has to come from somewhere.

54
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 11:31am

Won't a team with good WRs and OL and a bad defense win more games than a team with bad WRs, OL and defense?

72
by Theo :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 8:32pm

well no. If you add a bunch of good cheap defenders, then the win stat will rise, but not the QB stats.

I'm reading this, and I'm a bit baffled that you miss the simple idea that 'wins' is a sum of a whole.
While any QB stat (almost all) take at least the defense and special team factors away, filtering at least 'passing offense' or 'offense' if you will.
Yet you pick the win stat as the better stat. While everyone knows that you can pass for crap and win and pass for a mile and lose. But you can't pass for a mile while sucking hard and you can't throw 5 picks and tell the world you've played a great game.

The QB has the most influence on a win of any player, I'll agree with that, but that doesn't reversely mean that winning means you have a good QB.
If the grass gets wet while it rains doesn't mean that it's raining when the grass is wet.

Or you're pulling a bad joke on everyone. I would believe that explanation.

74
by nat :: Sun, 01/19/2014 - 10:48am

If you add a bunch of good cheap defenders, then the win stat will rise, but not the QB stats.
Sure. You always do well by getting great talent cheap. You can improve any unit by getting lucky enough to get great players cheap. But normally you get what you pay for, either in cash or draft picks or roster spots.

I never said Wins was a better stat. I said it was unique in that you cannot inflate it by merely shifting resources between units.

Your scenario involved not just shifting resources but also getting better at picking players. Otherwise you would have had to let "a bunch of good cheap" offensive players go, and wins would not have gone up.

So, if you see a QB with great stats but lackluster wins, then you can wonder if the reason is that the rest of the team is starving for resources. Or a QB with middling stats on a winning team might be the one getting little support. You look for unusual discrepancies between stats and wins. They don't prove, but do indicate, a spending imbalance.

32
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:25pm

At this point, I think people knock manning sheerly because he's been too good and too consistent. Notice how the "he does this because he plays in doors" narrative has fallen away given these last two seasons in denver(which were two of his best statistical seasons). It's the same bs that lebron got even when it was so ridiculously obvious that lebron was by far the best player on the planet.

I'm a manning fan. People know that. But my friends have asked me, why care what people think. Does it matter? No it shouldn't, but it does and it goes back to Tanier's article on the Mcnabb Deniers. Sad as it is, these narratives do determine legacies and they do drown out logical arguments to the contrary. People prefer simple ideas even if it's a big lie. Its like with philip rivers. To me, Rivers is the best qb of his draft class, but the other two have two rings a piece so he will be underrated historically. Mcnabb will also be barely recollected 10 years from now(other than as an occasional punching bag). It still bothers me to see articles about manning's choking. It bothers me to hear Deion Sanders pick at Manning's legacy. It bothers me to see nonsense on forums or articles written by haters. Just like it bothers pats fans to see all their accomplishments be denigrated by spygate(seriously, they clearly dropped the ball on david Tyree's helmet catching videos).

On the other hand, I have to remember that I've been privileged as a fan. It's one thing to watch a great play(like AP Or Calvin). I don't root for their teams or even them specifically, but I admire the heck about them. I admire the seahawk defense and how its constructed. I admire the great pass rushers of today and of the past. But I admire Manning and I root for him. I did so before he was what he is today, back when I was in college and the la market only played colts or cowboy games repeatedly. Around 2002, he was "only" Matt Ryan level good. No one expects your favorite player to become something like this. It's fun and its great and it makes your sunday's so much better. For that, I should be satisfied.

And in the end, I will be. Even with all the venom, his statistical greatness, like marino's, is so immense that he will always be in the conversation. For that, I can be satisfied.

44
by Red :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 9:08pm

Well said.

I don't care what the average fan thinks. They're not industry insiders, they don't watch film, and they don't understand statistical analysis. I can forgive their simplistic thinking, because frankly they don't know any better.

But the "experts" infuriate me. These people are paid lots of money to know what they're talking about, yet they resort to the same lazy thoughtlessness as the drunken guy at the sports bar. Take Ron Jaworski: a former QB who supposedly watches more film of QB's than anyone on the planet. Yet, he thinks Joe Flacco is better than Drew Brees. And we all know why he thinks that. This is how legacies are ruined. When the most influencial people are spouting falsities and nonsense, that nonsense eventually gets accepted as truth.

15
by young curmudgeon :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:05pm

"At their core, the 1970s Steelers were one draft class that rose and fell." This is a ridiculous oversimplification, presumably for rhetorical purposes. I assume Tanier refers to the renowned 1974 draft (Swann, Lambert, Stallworth, and Webster), but it's hard to see the Steelers reaching their level of success without pretty much equivalent contributions from the 1971 draft (Ham, Lewis, White, Mullins, Brown, Holmes, Wagner.) Bradshaw and Blount (1970 draft) might have had a little something to do with those Super Bowl victories, and the 1969 draft of Greene, Greenwood, and Kolb was fairly significant as well.

17
by serutan :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 3:41pm

It's true that the Steelers did not literally put the team together with one draft,
but it is true that the group they had at the start of the 1974 season was the group that won the championships, and that as they aged, the Steelers declined (i.e. the team
failed to draft an effective new core group to replace them).
_________________________
Was wr

22
by Ryan D. :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:02pm

Let's get irrational for a minute. Anyone want to tackle this article's major question: What would happen if you could magically trade places for Peyton Manning and Tom Brady?

Would Manning+Belichick Patriots have been more successful than Brady+Belichick Patriots?

What about Brady+Dungy Colts vs Manning+Dungy Colts?

Who would have won more Super Bowls, Manning+Belichick Patriots or Brady+Dungy Colts?

http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2013/story/_/id/10300335/what-peyton-man...

24
by tally :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:29pm

My guess? The same number.

The SBs that the Pats did win early in the decade were not terribly dependent on Brady's play, and while Peyton was at that time a demonstrably better QB, he wouldn't add to their SB count, only perhaps better ensure that they'd win the ones they already did.

The SBs that the Pats lost in 08 and 12, Brady was more or less Peyton's equal, if not superior, so having Peyton wouldn't have won the Pats those SBs, either. I'm also assuming that those years where the Pats didn't make the SB, Brady to Manning wouldn't be a big enough upgrade (or any upgrade at all) to make a difference.

We wouldn't be able to factor in the various breaks the Pats did (Tuck Rule) or did not (helmet catch) get. Which goes back to my point about judging a QB (or team) based on expectations (which are formed from a larger sample size of events) than on results (which hinge on the randomness of any one game or even playoff run of events).

57
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:06pm

I'm inclined to say that Peyton wins those 2008 and 2012 games against the NYG, if only because he's basically immune to Brady's kryptonite -- fast pressure from a 4-man rush.

Peyton might be the only QB in the league who could Satchel Paige his offensive line.

59
by Will Allen :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:09pm

He is remarkable in that regard. That 2009 Colts offensive line had zero business playing in the last game of the year.

73
by MJK :: Sat, 01/18/2014 - 11:43pm

Brady's actually pretty good against some kinds of fast pressure. He handles pressure off the edge generally really well. It's fast pressure up the middle that kills him...basically, when his center gets beat off the line.

The 2007 SB was tough because Dan Koppen is decent against power rushers, but couldn't handle more athletic type rushers that the Giants moved inside. And one of their starting guards (Mankins?) went out in the first half with an injury, if I recall correctly...

75
by PatsFan :: Sun, 01/19/2014 - 11:48am

Neal. His replacement, Kazcur, was eaten alive.

26
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:58pm

The thing that gets me is...how many teams actually win championships being so one sided? How many teams have won a sb where the win/loss for the majority of the season rested on the shoulders of a passing game?

2009 saints
2006 colts

Those are really the only two I can name in the last 25 years. No seriously, go look.

Even brady, as magnificent as he is, did not win a sb as the qb of a team that was led by passing.

This point feels like its stating the obvious, but its actually more subtle. Its really really hard to simultaneously field a great offense with a great defense and even if you manage to do so, the window for both slams shut very quickly. I'm not sure if its an organizational decision or just natural evolution, but eventually, that's how the great passing teams evolve. Over time, they become incredibly one sided and then just hope to have a short term boost to the defense for a year or two(like denver last year or NO this year).

27
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:59pm

It is interesting that the team the Saints beat for the trophy was more dependent on the passing game than the Saints.

28
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:16pm

'm trying to remember another game where one team basically destroyed the other on offense and defense and still managed to lose. Any takers?

30
by JIPanick :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:23pm

"They are who we thought they were"?

52
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 10:27am

I'm pretty certain that if you trawled through Norv Turner's years with the Chargers there would be a game where their special teams had just screw it all up for the offense & defense.

55
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 11:44am

I think the Norv'd Chargers have an example of each. They have the Scifres playoff game. Where they beat the Colts because of the closest thing to robopunting we've seen.

Then they was the 2010 Chargers where they lost the Seahawks because they allowed 2 kickoff return TDs, and lost the Raiders because they had two punts blocked (one for a safety one for a TD), Seabass hit a 50 yard FG, and the Raiders had a 42 yard punt return. Also Shane Lechler averaged 52.3 yards per punt.

31
by Independent George :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:24pm

It's also interesting that both of those teams won largely because the defenses stepped up significantly in the postseason (with all the usual caveats about Gregg Williams).

34
by theslothook :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:28pm

Well, yes and no for the colts. I'd say it was more a miracle of scheduling that saved them. The chiefs were starting trent green on his last legs. Baltimore with Mcnair on his last legs. They then were pretty terrible against the patriots. And then go the mother of all miracles with rex grossman as the opposition. Of course, manning wasn't perfect that postseason. He was up and down against the chiefs and dreadful against the ravens. That sb was as much about good fortune and timely plays than anything. They weren't the best or even second best team that year. They weren't better than the patriots that year either.

38
by Independent George :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:44pm

I'll grant you KC, but BAL, NE, and CHI were the #2, #3, and #5 teams in overall DVOA that year (with Baltimore and Chiago having the #1 and #2 defenses at -23.0% and -20.1% DVOA, respectively).

I just watched the Pats the other night game on NFLN; that was the game that Jeff Saturday recovered a Dominic Rhodes fumble in the endzone, and Reggie Wayne fumbled a red zone reception straight into the air before recovering it. Peyton played great in the 2nd half, but nearly lost the game on account of those two mistakes (plus a 70-yard Ellis Hobbs kickoff return).

Had the Colts not recovered either of those fumbles, Peyton would have again been labeled a choker, in spite of his play, not because of it.

Of course, that was also the year that Marty Schottenheimer allegedly choked when Marlon McCree fumbled a late Brady interception.

39
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:48pm

I hate you haters, who just can't admit to Mr. Bundchen's special winning sauce!

36
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:36pm

And if a wide receiver, better known for marrying a Playboy Centerfold than playing football, recovers an onside kick, at the start of the 2nd half, when it hits him square in the hands, the narrative on both Manning and Brees would have a very good chance of being significantly different, and yo yos on sportstalk shows on radio and t.v. would be yammering in a different, yet still very stupid, manner.

35
by doktarr :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:29pm

What about the greatest show on turf?

37
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 5:43pm

They were 4th in points allowed. It was a good defensive club.

40
by Eddo :: Thu, 01/16/2014 - 6:01pm

And, like the 2003 and 2004 Patriots, they were fueled quite a bit by their rushing offense.