Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Sep 2011

Week 2 Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

It’s the chicken-or-egg question of football statistics: Do a wide receiver’s numbers tell us how good that receiver is, or do they tell us more about the quality of that receiver’s quarterback?

Consider the cases of Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Smith, a pair of former Pro Bowl receivers who plummeted down Football Outsiders’ rankings in 2010. Fitzgerald posted a catch rate of at least 60 percent and ranked 11th or higher in DYAR (Defense-Adjusted Yards above Replacement, FO’s metric that grades players in total value) every season between 2005 and 2009. In 2010, Fitzgerald’s catch rate fell to 52 percent, and he finished 71st in DYAR, finishing below replacement level in our final standings. Smith has not been as consistent as Fitzgerald, but he was the top-ranked receiver in 2005 and top 15 two other seasons, and he had never finished below replacement level, with his catch rate usually hovering around the 60 percent range. Last year? A 46 percent catch rate and -153 DYAR, the worst for any receiver in football.

Did Fitzgerald and Smith forget how to play football in one season? Of course not. Both receivers, though, played for teams that suffered big downgrades at quarterback in 2010. After years of playing with a borderline Hall of Fame candidate in Kurt Warner, Fitzgerald found himself trying to catch passes from a collection of free agent leftovers (Derek Anderson), undrafted rookies (Max Hall and John Skelton), and UFL refugees (Richard Bartel). Meanwhile, Smith spent the bulk of his career with Jake Delhomme. While Delhomme won’t be getting into Canton without a ticket, he did give Smith a chance to make plays more often than not. When Delhomme departed last year, the Panthers were left with career backup Matt Moore and second-round Jimmy Clausen, who failed miserably to live up to his draft status.

Both the Cardinals and Panthers made big-name quarterback acquisitions this offseason, the Cardinals making a mega-trade for Kevin Kolb, the Panthers taking Cam Newton first overall in the draft. Two weeks into the new season, both Fitzgerald and Smith – who’da thunk it? – have put up much better numbers than they did in 2010. Fitzgerald didn’t do much in Week 1, but he ranked eighth among receivers in DYAR in Week 2 (going into Monday night), and his catch rate on the season is back up at 63 percent. Smith was the top-ranked receiver in Week 1, and though his Week 2 numbers aren’t as good as you might think (six catches for 156 yards are nice, but Smith was also the target on seven incompletions), for the season Smith is eighth among receivers in DYAR and his catch rate is back up at 58 percent.

The QB-WR relationship, incidentally, does not go both ways. When healthy, Tom Brady has been our top-ranked quarterback ever since Randy Moss arrived in Foxborough, and he remains the top QB even as Moss has faded into retirement. (We’ll have more on Brady shortly.) Philip Rivers ranked third in passing DYAR in 2008 and 2009, and was third again in 2010 even though Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates missed a combined 17 games.

In the world of receiving statistics, as in most facets of the NFL these days, it’s all about the quarterback. Something to keep in mind when considering Reggie Wayne for your 2012 fantasy team.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tom Brady NE
31/40
423
3
0
294
296
-2
An example of why total yardage is a bad way to evaluate football players: Brady's 517-yard game in Week 1 was worth 232 passing DYAR, which is outstanding, but his 423-yard effort against San Diego in Week 2 was even better, at 294 DYAR. As it stands, that's the 11th best game in our database, which goes back to 1992. That could change by the end of the year - the "D" in DYAR stands for Defense-adjusted, and right now we don't know how good San Diego's defense is. For now, we can look at his 31-of-40, 3-touchdown, no-turnover day and marvel. Brady wasn't padding his stats with checkdowns, either. His 31 completions produced 23 first downs or touchdowns, and six more plays that gained successful yardage. The other two completions: a pair of six-yard gains, one on first-and-20, the other on second-and-14.
2.
Jason Campbell OAK
23/33
323
2
1
217
215
3
Campbell had the best fourth quarter of the week: 9-of-11 for 162 yards, all while playing from behind on the road. He actually threw two go-ahead touchdowns, but his defense couldn't protect either lead, and Campbell's third try at a game-winner turned into a Hail Mary interception.
3.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
22/31
337
1
0
191
191
-1
In Week 2, no starting quarterback averaged fewer yards to go his third-down dropbacks than Philip Rivers (4.9). Roethlisberger was 10th at 6.5, but that's skewed by one play on third-and-29. His other 12 dropbacks on third down averaged only 4.6 yards to go. He kept the drive alive eight times.
4.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
28/47
295
3
1
170
157
13
In the ESPN.com version of Quick Reads, Fitzpatrick was listed in the "surprising performances" section in both Week 1 and Week 2. Once again, Fitzpatrick did most of his damage in the Red Zone, throwing three touchdowns and a first down in 12 passes inside the Raiders' 20. For the season, he ranks second to Brady in Red Zone passing DYAR. If he's this good again next week, he won't be found in "surprising performances." It won't be a surprise anymore.
5.
Tony Romo DAL
20/33
345
2
0
152
152
0
Romo had only one dropback in the third quarter. If we remove the third quarter from all Week 2 quarterbacks, Romo ends up third in DYAR behind Brady and Jason Campbell. Critics would point out that Romo benefitted from an overtime period. Defenders would point out that Romo threw only one pass in overtime. It just happened to be a really big play. If we remove overtime and look only at quarters 1, 2, and 4, Romo slips back behind Rivers and Matt Schaub as well.
6.
Andy Dalton CIN
27/43
353
2
0
138
141
-3
Dalton's average incompletion came 14.4 yards downfield, deeper than all but four other quarterbacks. Jason Campbell led the way; his average incompletion came 19.0 yards downfield.
7.
Matt Hasselbeck TEN
30/42
358
1
1
127
127
0
The most surprising thing about Hasselbeck's day: His receivers averaged just 3.1 YAC per reception, the fewest for any starter in Week 2.
8.
Philip Rivers SD
29/41
398
2
2
121
124
-3
Rivers had went 14-of-16 for 195 yards and 148 DYAR on throws over the middle against New England. Nobody had more completions over the middle in Week 2, only Rex Grossman and Tom Brady had more attempts, and only Brady had more value on throws in that direction.
9.
Aaron Rodgers GB
19/31
313
2
0
115
114
1
As usual, Green Bay receivers did a lot of damage with the ball in their hands. Rodgers' receivers average 10.0 YAC per reception, the highest figure of Week 2. That's partly a credit to the athleticism of those receivers, obviously, but also a credit to Rodgers for hitting them precisely in stride so they have a chance to run in the first place.
10.
Matt Stafford DET
23/39
294
4
1
115
118
-4
Stafford's reputation is that of a big-armed bomber throwing rainbows, but he did his best work in the red zone against Kansas City. Stafford completed six of 12 passes, all six successful, with three touchdowns and a first down. Only Tom Brady and Matt Ryan had more value inside the opponents' 20.
11.
Drew Brees NO
26/37
270
3
0
115
117
-3
Brees threw 10 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage. He completed all of them, but only three gained successful yardage. That's partly a tribute to Chicago's linebackers (in particular Brian Urlacher, courageously playing through a personal tragedy), and partly a sign to Sean Payton that the league knows he's going to throw a lot of screens. Brees threw deep (more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage) only twice. You have Drew Brees, Sean! It's OK to let him throw downfield more!
12.
Donovan McNabb MIN
18/31
253
0
0
99
110
-11
McNabb threw five passes in the red zone. Three were incomplete. The other two resulted in first downs, but not touchdowns. He also had two goal-to-go runs, a two-yard gain on second down from the 6, and a 5-yard loss on first down from the 4. Those failures left the door open for the Buccaneers to win the game with a last-minute touchdown.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Matt Schaub HOU
21/29
230
2
0
88
90
-2
The Texans let the Dolphins hang around and kick a field goal to pull within 13-16 in the fourth quarter. Schaub threw his only three passes of the final period on the ensuing drive. Those three passes: A 13-yard gain to Ben Tate for a first down, a 7-yard gain to Andre Johnson on first-and-10, and a 23-yard touchdown to Johnson to ice the game. If quarterbacks earned saves like relief pitchers, Schaub would have gotten one for that performance.
14.
Colt McCoy CLE
22/33
217
1
0
85
78
7
McCoy throwing to his left: 6-of-7 (all six for successful yardage), 82 yards. Of course, 59 of those yards came after the catch. In 33 throws, the Browns threw just four times to the left side of the field beyond the line of scrimmage. Who's playing right corner for Indy these days?
15.
Kyle Orton DEN
15/26
199
2
0
71
71
0
Orton's favorite receiver, Eric Decker, got five targets on first down and three on second down, but only one throw on third down. It was incomplete.
16.
Cam Newton CAR
28/46
432
1
3
62
46
16
Cam Newton in the first quarter: 10-of-12, 151 yards, 1 touchdown, 111 DYAR. In the last three quarters: 18-of-34, 281 yards, 3 interceptions, -65 DYAR.
17.
Michael Vick PHI
19/28
242
2
1
56
102
-46
In his return to Atlanta, Vick had one of the best passing days of his career, but almost certainly the worst day as a rusher. Vick was "credited" with three fumbles as a runner, although one of those came when Atlanta defensive tackle Peria Jerry knifed through the line and knocked Vick and the ball to the ground before the quarterback could even get out from under center. The fumble came when Philadelphia had a first-and-goal at the 4. In hindsight, it was the biggest play of the game.
18.
Eli Manning NYG
18/29
200
2
1
54
67
-13
19.
Josh Freeman TB
22/31
243
1
1
49
38
11
Not a lot of diversity in this game plan: Freeman threw only four deep passes, but only two behind the line of scrimmage. Everything else came 1 to 15 yards downfield.
20.
Matt Ryan ATL
17/28
195
4
2
46
44
2
Philadelphia cornerback watch: Ryan was 7-of-14 (only five successful plays) for 71 yards when throwing to his wide receivers. Roddy White, who led the NFL in catches last year, caught 3-of-4 passes for 23 yards. Julio Jones went 2-of-8 for 29 yards.
21.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
17/24
182
2
2
44
29
15
Sanchez throwing to his right: 14-of-15, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns, 124 DYAR. Sanchez to the middle and left: 3-of-9, 36 yards, 2 interceptions, -89 DYAR.
22.
Kerry Collins IND
19/37
225
1
1
36
36
0
After going 0-for-9 on third downs in Week 1, Collins went 5-for-14 on third down against Cleveland. Four of his conversions came with six yards or less to go for a first down, and one of those converted on a defensive pass interference penalty.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Chad Henne MIA
12/31
211
1
1
33
27
5
He only had 12 completions, and he had to work for them Ñ his average completion came 9.6 yards downfield, the deepest of any starter in Week 2.
24.
Rex Grossman WAS
25/45
322
2
2
30
30
0
We could have filled this entire table with Rex Grossman splits Ñ he was either very good or very bad in all situations Ñ but our favorite is this: Grossman had a league-high 120 DYAR on deep balls (more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage), going 5-of-8 for 119 yards and a touchdown. However, he had -74 DYAR on short routes.
25.
Sam Bradford STL
22/46
331
1
0
17
14
3
26.
Mike Kafka PHI
7/9
72
0
0
13
16
-3
Andy Reid said he had faith in his young quarterback, but you wouldn't know by his play-calling. Reid, one of the most pass-heavy coaches in NFL history, called only two passes for Kafka on first down. Don't be overly impressed by his 78 percent completion rate Ñ five of his seven completions came within one yard of the line of scrimmage.
27.
Kevin Kolb ARI
18/30
251
2
1
9
9
0
Kolb to Larry Fitzgerald: 7-of-9, 133 yards, 86 DYAR. Kolb to everyone else: 11-of-21, 118 yards, 8 DYAR.
28.
Alex Smith SF
16/25
204
2
1
-1
-1
0
Most of the blame for the 49ers' loss to Dallas focused on the big plays the secondary gave up and Jim Harbaugh's decision to let a field goal stand rather than accept a penalty and get a new set of downs. Smith, though, deserves scorn for a stinky third quarter that let the Cowboys back in the game. His best play that period was a 29-yard touchdown to Delanie Walker. His only other completion in the third was a six-yard gain on third-and-12. He found time to mix in two other incompletions, two sacks, an interception, and a five-yard scramble on second-and-17.
29.
Jon Kitna DAL
6/10
87
1
2
-1
-1
0
Kitna came in for Romo in the third quarter, played like crap, and then was benched for an injured Romo for the fourth quarter. Romo had the best third quarter of any passer in the stadium, and his entire period consisted of one play in which he suffered cracked ribs and a collapsed lung.
30.
Tarvaris Jackson SEA
20/29
159
0
0
-11
-10
-1
Including sacks, Jackson dropped back 34 times against Pittsburgh. None of those dropbacks occured in the Red Zone. Only four occurred in what we call the Front Zone, from an opponents' 21-yard line to their 40. Those four dropbacks came on one drive, and they went in this order: Sack on first down; 13-yard gain on second-and-16; incomplete on third down; sack on fourth down. And that was Seattle's best scoring chance of the day.
31.
Jay Cutler CHI
20/45
244
1
0
-41
-47
6
Cutler's average pass came with 11.1 yards to go for a first down, the most of any starter in Week 2. That's partly his own fault, though. He was 8-of-18 plus two sacks and an intentional grounding on first down.
32.
Joe Flacco BAL
15/32
197
1
2
-74
-74
0
Flacco threw only one pass behind the line of scrimmage on Sunday. Ray Rice caught it and turned it into a 31-yard gain. Rice is quite likely the best receiver on the roster right now, so the Ravens may want to turn to a heavy dose of screen passes going forward.
33.
Matt Cassel KC
15/22
149
0
3
-148
-148
0
Cassel on third downs against Detroit: 4-of-7, 27 yards, two first downs, two interceptions, -98 DYAR.
34.
Luke McCown JAC
6/19
59
0
4
-232
-231
-1
Meet the anti-Brady. McCown's -232 DYAR was tied for the 21st-worst game in our database. The basic numbers are horrific enough: 6-of-19 passing, 59 yards, four interceptions, 1.8 passer rating, one sack for a safety. Now consider that those completions included a one-yard gain on third-and-4 and a 2-yard gain on second-and-12. Which means, remarkably, that McCown was either sacked or intercepted five times, but gained successful yardage only four times. David Garrard must have enjoyed these highlights. Not as much as he would have enjoyed the nearly $8 million he would have made if Jacksonville had not released him, but enjoying them nonetheless.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Ryan Mathews SD
64
1
62
0
61
34
27
As usual, it's hard for a running back to finish high in our rankings in 2011 unless he's making healthy contributions as a receiver. Mathews ran 12 times for 64 yards, including seven gains of four yards or more, and finished with 34 rushing DYAR. That's good, but four other players were better. Mathews surpassed them all, though, with 27 receiving DYAR. That's what happens when you catch seven-of-nine passes thrown your way, especially when all seven receptions gain successful yardage. One of Mathews' receptions was a 6-yard gain on second-and-7. The other six catches all came on first-and-10, and each gained 5 to 14 yards.
2.
Darren McFadden OAK
74
1
71
1
51
1
50
McFadden had one 14-yarder and nothing else longer than seven yards on the ground, and he also lost a fumble. He made up for it as a pass-catcher, though, with seven catches in nine targets, including five plays of nine yards or more. One of those nine-yarders came on third-and-10, when McFadden caught a pass two yards behind the line of scrimmage and very nearly turned it into a first down.
3.
LeSean McCoy PHI
95
2
21
0
50
45
6
McCoy isn't known as a short-yardage back, but he had eight carries with four yards or less needed for a first down, and picked up a new set of downs six times. He also had 19- and 23-yard runs on first downs. If this was a list of "most valuable rushers" instead of "most valuable running backs," McCoy would have finished second to Arizona's Beanie Wells.
4.
Jahvid Best DET
57
1
66
1
46
9
37
Take away his 9-, 10-, and 11-yard runs, and Best averaged fewer than 2 yards per rush. As a receiver, though, he was both efficient and dangerous. Five of his six catches (on eight targets) were successful gains of 5 to 9 yards. The other was a 35-yarder on third-and-9.
5.
Fred Jackson BUF
117
2
23
0
45
29
16
Feast or famine for Jackson. He had runs of 43, 34, and 29 yards against Oakland. His other 12 carries gained a total of 11 yards, with the only success being a 1-yard touchdown. He was only thrown two passes, but he turned them into 11- and 12-yard gains on first-and-10.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Chris Johnson TEN
53
0
12
0
-59
-38
-21
Two games after signing a $53.5 million contract, here's what Chris Johnson has given the Tennessee Titans: 33 carries for 77 yards (2.3 yards per carry) and nine catches for 37 yards (4.1 yards per catch). He is second-to-last among starting running backs in rushing DYAR, and fourth-to-last in receiving DYAR. The most feared big-play runner in football has yet to go over 11 yards on a single play. Against Baltimore on Sunday, he had two -- two -- successful runs, a 2-yard gain on second-and-two, and a seven-yard gain on second-and-10. His other 22 carries gained just 44 yards, and he was stuffed for no gain or a loss five times. He was also thrown five passes, and all were unsuccessful - two incompletions, two third-down catches that failed to pick up a new set of downs, and a 2-yard gain on second-and-10.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Mike Wallace PIT
8
10
165
20.6
1
88
Wallace was just fifth in the NFL in receiving yards in 2010, but he was the king of receiving in our rankings. He showed why on Sunday against Seattle, when he caught eight-of-nine passes for better than 15 yards a catch. He was actually even better than that, as he also drew a 39-yard defensive pass interference penalty. In ten throws, Wallace had one incompletion, one five-yard gain on first-and-25, and eight first downs or touchdowns.
2.
Denarius Moore OAK
5
8
146
29.2
1
78
It only took two weeks for the fifth-round draft pick to deliver on the promise he showed in training camp. Like seemingly all Raiders wideouts, Moore has blazing speed, but he showed that he also has great hands with his 50-yard touchdown when he out-leaped double coverage. Moore had three other catches of 20 yards or more, plus a ten-yarder on first-and-10, and was the target on only three incompletions.
3.
Vincent Jackson SD
10
15
172
17.2
2
76
Every one of Jackson's catches produced a first down or touchdown. Eight of them gained 10 yards or more, and three of them gained 20 yards or more.
4.
Jeremy Maclin PHI
13
15
171
13.2
2
65
While one of Maclin's two incompletions was a drop on fourth down that should have kept Philadelphia's final drive alive, he was nearly perfect up to that point. His four longest catches averaged 28.8 yards apiece; his other nine catches, just 6.2, although seven of them were successful.
5.
A.J. Green CIN
10
15
140
14.0
1
62
Green's 10 catches produced nine first downs or touchdowns, and four plays of 16 yards or more. One of his incompletions was a desperation heave on fourth-and-19.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Greg Salas STL
4
8
27
6.8
0
-53
Keep in mind that Salas' position at the bottom of our receiver standings doesn't even count his muff on a punt return that set up the Giants' first touchdown. As a receiver, Salas' four catches weren't helpful at all: a pair of 4-yard gains on first-and-10 and second-and-7, a 2-yard gain on third-and-8, and a 17-yard gain that ended in, yes, another fumble.

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 20 Sep 2011

145 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2011, 4:14pm by commissionerleaf

Comments

1
by Dean :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 11:43am

Hey - I think you got Sam Bradford and Matt Ryan switched.

37
by CBPodge :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:38pm

No, I think they got Ryan and Bradford switched.

2
by dedkrikit :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:00pm

A comment about how is presence alone slowed the pass rush enough for Hasselbeck to have a successful day would help. It wasn't as if the Titans lost this game. CJ contributed as a threat - just not one that was actually effective.

3
by asaltz :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:09pm

In the intro, you write that the chicken-egg QB-WR question is much clearer for QBs, but you only mention two excellent quarterbacks. Does the same trend hold for average or crappy QBs?

8
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:40pm

And one of those two quarterbacks (Brady) had another receiver added at the same time, and that receiver has led the league in receptions over that period.

10
by TimTheEnchanter (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:45pm

How many crappy QBs play long enough to get a decent sample size of play with both "good" and "bad" WRs available to them? Maybe Jake Delhomme with and without Steve Smith, although Jake's performance took an odd trajectory (downward) on its own that maybe makes it hard to figure out his baseline.

And if the QB is bad, will you know whether the WR was any good, since we've already seen that WR measurables are more a factor of the QB? I guess they'd have to succeed elsewhere?

22
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:44pm

"since we've already seen that WR measurables are more a factor of the QB? "

Have we?

I have a real problem with the Tom Brady numbers

He goes from:
62% 3700 yds, 26 TDs 13 INTs 27 sacks a year

TO:

67% 4368 yds 38 TDs 8 INT 20 sacks per year.

And the transition happens pretty much exactly when two elite receivers are added to the team. One of which is still there. And its a pretty clear, instant transition.

I have a hard time believing that at 31 years old, Tom Brady just went beast mode.

Maybe its a change of scheme as much as the receivers, I don't know.

35
by El Jefe (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:21pm

I've got to think that Welker isn't particularly elite. He's better than good. Great, maybe. But I don't know if I'd call him elite. Certainly wouldn't compare him to Moss. Nor is Branch. One of the new tight ends could be considered elite in a few years, though...

But they're dangerous. As are Gronkowski and Hernandez. Toss in Johnson and you've got a LOT of options.

In 2006, the lineup of receivers was terrible. Mediocre at best. If you compared them to other teams, you would find them lacking.

What I think we saw was that Brady was holding stuff together as the offense came apart. In the superbowl years, it's not like they ever had a parade of deadly receivers. They had guys that got the job done, and when they moved to other teams, they were comparatively ineffectual. Then, as 07 rolled around, a lot more skill was added in Moss and Welker. But the offensive line was better in 07 than it had been too.

Just consider this:

Brady in 2003-4 was a very good quarterback behind a balanced, very good, but not spectacular offense. In 2005-6, the team got worse. A lot worse. It was more the defense's failing, which put a lot more pressure on the offense to perform, so Brady was relied upon more. It peaked in 2006. The Caldwell/Watson/Brown/Faulk show.

Now, his #5 passing option is better than anyone on the 2006 team.

Anyway, I think the decline in the receivers masked some gains Brady was making, and then when Moss and Welker came in, and the offensive line gelled completely, he demonstrated that he had become an elite QB, too.

52
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:48pm

I would argue, having watched the Patriots the last couple years, that Welker was singificantly more important to the offense than Moss was.

As to him not being elite, thats how I felt a year or two ago. Now I'm not sure I agree. He's a funny thing, and he affects the game in a way that very few other players do. He's almost ALWAYS open.

A player like Moss creates big plays, and its very easy to see. Welker does something very different: he prevents bad plays. A very large percentage of passes to him come on plays where a lot of QBs would have to throw the ball away. Its tough to tell how much is Welker's ability, and how much is scheme though.

He's a possession receiver, albeit a strange one, but he's probably the best possession guy in the game. I mean, is there anyone else in the game that pretty consistently catches 100 balls a year at a 70+% rate?

94
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:22pm

Thing is, I think you do have to attribute quite a lot of it to the scheme and the quarterback. I mean, there probably isn't another receiver in the game who could be as productive as Welker is in that role, but there are probably quite a few who wouldn't be that much less productive. And when Welker played on a more normal team, he was a hell of a lot less productive. Whereas when the Andre Johnsons and Larry Fitzgeralds of this world get stuck in a lousy situation, they're still very productive. DYAR doesn't think so, but DYAR is a crappy way of assessing receivers. Andre Johnson was a superstar even when he was catching passes from David Carr. Welker wouldn't be.

And anyone who doesn't believe a healthy, motivated Randy Moss inflated quarterback production significantly is smoking something.

134
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 1:32pm

Welker was the #3 receiver in Miami in 2006, on a team with a lot of 2-WR sets, and still lead the team in receptions with otherwise very Welkeresque stats.

135
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 6:18pm

It also says something that the Pats gave up a 2nd (60th) an 7th (238) for him. Those are actually fairly high picks when you look at some recent trades. The reason they traded, at least as I recall, was that they were worried about another team signing him (he was restricted and Miami put a 2nd round tender on him) or of Miami matching the contract.

He wasn't just being pursued by New England, there were rumors in Packers land about Thompson looking at him. This was before he looked to completely avoid Free Agency as he had brought in Pickett and Woodson the year before. This was with Driver coming off a nearly 1300 yard season and a rookie Greg Jennings putting up 600 some yards on 40 something receptions, but they had no 3rd option still.

Like you said Welker was not a nobody, he was an up and coming starter at the end of a 3 year rookie contract. Sure his return skills had something to do with his appeal but he was looking like a receiver getting ready to bust out.

139
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 8:08am

I think it's pretty damn rare for a receiver with c.10ypc to "bust out". I think a reasonable expectation for Welker's peak based on 2006 might have been 80-90 catches for 800-1000 yards. His production in New England is pretty clearly surprising based on what was known in summer 2007. He's clearly an awesome spread slot receiver, but only certain teams can really get that amount out of a player like that.

140
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 9:05am

I didn't say bust out. I said up and coming starter and I think 80 - 90 for 800-1000 is fine for a starter who had demonstrated great hands in Miami already. I think those are quite possibly the numbers he would have had if he stayed in Miami. So he got 20 - 30 more catches in NE and hit 1100 yards. So the system was a boost sure, but the guy didn't come out of nowhere. There are enough examples of receivers really putting it together in their 3rd or 4th season to find that reasonable.

I could have seen him being what he is in GB, I could have seen it in Detroit the last couple of years too because some of that ability to just be open is part of what makes Welker special and he can work like a safety valve. I could have seen him being that good in Indy. I think he would have been alright with the Giants too. I don't think the system is that much of a boost. 15% or so, I'll give you (though current GB and healthy Peyton Indy he's probably the same). He can still be a 1K receiver, a good option to get a first down, a great option under pressure, in several places.

141
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 10:50am

You said "he was looking like a receiver getting ready to bust out."

Knowing what we know now, maybe he would have posted 80-90 for 800-1000 in Miami (though maybe not). But knowing what we knew then, I think that would have been a reasonable expectation for what he would do in New England. Quality WR2 stuff (in real terms, not fantasy). My expectation would have been that he already had put it together, and would then get a boost from the change of environment.

Scheme was too narrow a way of putting it, you're right, and I don't mean to suggest there aren't other places he would be successful - look at what Brandon Stokley did in Indy. But I also think there are plenty of places where he wouldn't be particularly productive, whereas the best conventional do-everything flanker types would be productive absolutely anywhere (and indeed more productive than Welker if they got to play with Brady).

45
by Led :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:57pm

It's not that WR quality has no impact on QB performance. They are interrelated. It's just that "WR measurables are more a factor of the QB" than QB measurables are a factor of the WR (with some possible exceptions). I'd argue that Brady's 2006 measurables were heavily depressed because his receivers stunk, but his numbers were still good and better than most other QBs playing with the same low quality receivers.

Schemes also matter, however. Offenses and defenses and becoming so complicated that I suspect (but admittedly have no evidence of on hand) that peak performance for QBs in this era will be later in their careers than in previous eras. The mental side of the game is sufficiently important that the decline in physical skills as QBs pass age 30 is more than offset by the increased experience and understanding of the offensive/defensive schemes. In other words, it's not that surprising to me that a QB like Brady, in particular, whose comparative advantage is his intelligence, film study, etc., rather than pure physical talent, would begin to peak at age 31.

EDIT: Kinda what El Jefe said. That'll learn me not to write a comment and then go do something else before I post it.

20
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:37pm

McNabb in 2004, when he had Owens for a year (instead of Thrash, Pinkston, or FredEx) and broke out?

Young in 1997 had a down year when Rice was injured.

64
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:03pm

In 1997, Steve Young completed 67.7% of his passes for 8.8 AY/A and a 104.7 rating. I think we can safely say he was elite even without Rice.

McNabb broke out in 2004 with Owens (8.8 AY/A and 104.7 rating - eerily, the same numbers as Young without Rice), but two seasons later he had 8.7 AY/A and a 95.5 rating without Owens, so it's not like he fell off the face of the earth when TO was doing situps in his driveway or discovering how many million reasons he had to live in Dallas.

4
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:30pm

I kind of like this line about Jahvid Best:

"Take away his 9-, 10-, and 11-yard runs, and Best averaged fewer than 2 yards per rush."

Yes; not counting his good plays, his plays were not good.

7
by Arkaein :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:37pm

Looking at a RB minus his best one or two runs is a good way to measure the back's consistency in the running game. Although taking away three carries is a bit much, it shows that Best was not dependable.

DYAR prefers a grinder that gains 3-4 yards reliably, setting up short 2nd and 3rd downs and converting short yardage situations for 1st downs over players who mix a couple of big gains with a bunch of 0, 1, or 2 yard gains and consistently put their offense in long yardage situations.

Boom-and-bust runners can be effective, but the booms need to be a bit more than 10 yards unless you have a lot of them.

12
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:49pm

Well, I mean, it says he only had 57 yards rushing. It seems kind of silly to take away 30 yards worth, especially if it was spread over three good carries.

Also, I seem to recall watching him score a goal line TD on the Red Zone channel, so unless I'm imagining that, at least one of his "bad" runs was a one yard TD.

With that said, Best does not strike me as a good runner, though he seems like a pretty lethal receiver, which is essentially the end point of his blurb.

15
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:01pm

A quick look at the play by play while I should be working instead yields the following rushing information:

Total Carries: 16
Successful Carries: 7 (3 first downs, one TD)
Unsuccessful carries that gained positive yardage: 6
Unsuccessful carries for no gain or a loss: 3 (-4 yards total)

One of those unsuccessful carries was a first and ten carry for four yards, which I think is unssuccessful, but I can't recall.

So basically, he was close to a 50-50 proposition.

God, I'm so bored at work.

5
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:35pm

Do pass interference calls drawn by wide receivers count as incomplete passes? It seems counterintuitive, but it's the only way I can account for Wallace going 8-10 with just 1 incompletion.

(By the way, John Skelton was a 5th round pick, not undrafted like Max Hall.)

18
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:26pm

They count as a separate category -- there are catches, incompletes, and DPI calls. In our database, DPI calls credit the WR with yards gained and a successful play, but not a reception.

24
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:46pm

Is there any reason they don't count as a reception? Seems kind of strange to assume the receiver would gain the yardage, but not assume he'd catch the ball.

29
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:59pm

They're not assuming he WOULD gain the yardage, they're acknowledging that he DID, in fact, gain the yardage. Whether he would have caught the ball in an alternate reality doesn't really matter, since it's a spot foul and the offensive team gains the yardage whether he would have come down with the ball in an uninterfered reality or not.

It's like a basketball player getting fouled on a shot and then making the two free throws. He doesn't get credit for a made FG, but he does get the points and a statistical acknowledgment that he shot and made two free throws. Here, the reciever doesn't get credit for a reception, but he gets the yards and the statistical acknowledgment that he drew a DPI.

67
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:05pm

I'm not entirely sure about this, but I thought that if a basketball player gets fouled while missing a shot, he gets the free throws but the shot isn't recorded in the stats as a missed attempt.

82
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:23pm

You are right, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. It was an imperfect analogy, I was just noting that he gets points, but no FG, while the WR hear gets yards, but no catch. And like how basketball keeps track of free throws, you can tell how many points came from "penalties" rather than field goals, while in football you can keep track of DPIs to tell how many yards came from penalties ratehr than receptions.

69
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:05pm

Actually, a basketball player that gets fouled while shooting doesn't get credited with a shot attempt if he misses. Otherwise his shooting percentage would be distorted. Which is actually what is happening here. It appears that Wallace caught 8 of 9 passes (89%) on non-penalty plays plus drew a DPI. The statline shows him at 8 of 10 (80%). So by rewarding Wallace for drawing the penalty, his yards go up but his catch percentage goes down. Seems like he should be 9-10 for 165. If he's getting the yards and you're counting it as a target, you might as well count it as a reception.

83
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:27pm

FO breaks down targets as completions, incompletions, and DPIs. So an "official" FO break down would say Wallace had 10 targets, 8 completions, 1 incompletion, and 1 DPI.

I would assume, but don't actually know, that they would calculate catch percentage as: completions/(targets-DPIs)

That's the only way to not distort the numbers.

31
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:03pm

It's not assuming anything. We're not assuming he gained the yards, he DID gain the yards -- the ball was moved from Point A and spotted at Point B.

Arguing about which play should go in which category, at this point, is largely just semantics.

46
by Israel P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:16pm

So the quarterback gets the yards as well?

47
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:19pm

I'm almost certain that they do. If I recall correctly, part of Favre's great year two years ago was the number of big DPIs he racked up throwing to Berrian, in addition to his excellent traditional production.

It's really the only logical way to handle it, particularly when you consider the size of some DPIs.

50
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:39pm

Right, but if he did "gain the yards", are we penalizing QBs for delays of game? Are we penalizing a WR when he false starts? They did "lose the yards" there.

6
by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:36pm

Kolb's DYAR numbers don't add up in his writeup. Is that normal?

11
by nat :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:48pm

Sacks and fumbles count against his passing DYAR, but don't show up in the DYAR in the writeup since there is no intended receiver for those.

13
by Blackamallow (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:50pm

Ah thanks, that must be it.

9
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 12:43pm

It sounds like it should be possible to normalize a WRs numbers for his QB, just like in baseball you can normalize offensive and defensive numbers for park effects. In fact, it would be interesting to know how WR performance covaries with QB performance -- does a -10% DVOA QB have the same effect as a +10% QB, but in the opposite direction? Or is there a threshold above which improving QB ability has a diminishing effect?

16
by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:08pm

This is the holy grail of advanced statistical analysis of sports. Unfortunately, it, like the grail, is more illusion than reality. The sample size in baseball is humongous. The sample size in football is miniscule. We'll never know these answers other than by better scouting reports.

17
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:26pm

Not only is the sample size in football much MUCH smaller, the performances are much harder to untangle from one another. It'd be more like normalizing a batter's stats for the pitcher he's facing. Even in the best case the samples are really small, plus since they're so spread out, there are other performance factors you'd have to account for (injury, normal decline, hell even weather)

21
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:38pm

You would have much less precison than you would in baseball, but I don't see why it would be impossible in principle. We have the stats for the performance of wide receivers playing with replacement-level quarterbacks, all you need to do is aggregate them and perform a regression analysis. You'd have huge error bars but it would be a start.

102
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:49pm

Sure... but would it be any value at that point, much less worth the trouble?

25
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:48pm

Your average QB throws 650 passes a season. Your average hitter stands at the plate 700 times.

I'm not seeing a huge sample size issue there.

The WRs are smaller, but there are plenty of things in baseball (like K%, BB%, etc), that stablize in well under 100 PA.

14
by Southern Philly :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:01pm

"Sanchez throwing to his right: 14-of-15, 146 yards, 2 touchdowns, 124 DYAR. Sanchez to the middle and left: 3-of-9, 36 yards, 2 interceptions, -89 DYAR. "

Sounds like Rick Mirer.

19
by alaano (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:35pm

Kolb's numbers in the blurb add to 94 DYAR but his "Total" is 8. He just had one pick, right? What am I missing?

28
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:58pm

As stated in an earlier comment, the numbers in the blurb account only for the plays in which Kolb actually threw the ball. His total DYAR also includes three sacks.

39
by alaano (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:46pm

Wow, big penalty for 3 sacks and a pick--erasing 130 yards and a TD to Fitzgerald.

61
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:00pm

It's when and where they happened too. The interception came deep in Washington territory and cost Arizona at least a field-goal try, possibly a touchdown. One of the sacks was an 8-yard loss on first down in the red zone that virtually guaranteed they would not score a touchdown on that drive. He also had a fumble on one of his other sacks.

But yes, sacks and interceptions are very bad.

23
by Bay Area Bengal (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:44pm

How on earth is Kurt Warner "a borderline Hall of Fame candidate"? Was that sarcasm? If not, I'd love to hear the argument for why Warner might not make the Hall of Fame. My bet is he gets his bust in 2014...

27
by dryheat :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:52pm

Some great years, some not so great. Twice benched for other quarterbacks (even allowing Eli's contract was in part responsible).

That's the "trying to get out the door" version.

38
by Spielman :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:45pm

More like four times benched for other QBs: Bulger, Manning, McCown, Leinart. The last two times he just won the job back eventually. Also, he was by my amateur figures the most fumble prone QB of all time by a wide margin, despite not being fumble prone at all from 1999-2001. (Meaning that following the hand injuries in 2002 he was just godawful.)

I'd put him in the Hall, though.

44
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:54pm

An extraordinarily short period of quality play for a quarterback, and pretty much only with an excellent receiving corps. Outstanding peak value, of course, but his overall level of performance in Arizona probably wasn't as good as you think. Some very fine playoff performances. Overall, I see his candidacy as having many of the same pros and cons as Terrell Davis, who's not in the Hall of Fame. I expect Warner to make the Hall of Fame, partly because I don't know of any media people who will argue against him, but personally oppose his election.

99
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:42pm

The Davis comparison would be more apt if Warner hadn't had those last three seasons in Arizona. Yes, the receiving talent he had work with was excellent, but the line play and running backs were atrocious. I think those years are a pretty important part of the CV.

Also, Davis played running back. Warner played quarterback. I have absolutely no problem with the idea that - say - the fifth best QB of a generation should get in and the fifth best running back shouldn't.

72
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:09pm

Terrell Davis is a nice test case, and he isn't in yet. His peak was short because of injury while Warner just plain couldn't play for a few years. Warner may get in, but it almost certainly won't be in his first year of eligibility.

84
by Spielman :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:29pm

I'd argue that Warner's mid-career disappearance was due to injury as well, specifically to the four major hand injuries he suffered from 2000-2002. His passing numbers were never bad outside of 2002 when his hand was worst. He was just a fumbling machine after the hand got clobbered.

93
by RickD :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:16pm

I wouldn't be so certain that Warner would have to wait. He's a high visibility QB who posted the two best Super Bowl performances ever.

Also, he'll be the first reasonable QB candidate in several years when he first becomes eligible. If he had to go head-to-head with Favre, he might have more difficulty. But I suspect the voters will want to get Warner out of the way to clear the decks for Favre one year later.

97
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:37pm

The three best, if you're going by passing yardage, as well as the most career Superbowl passing yards and a history of generally outstanding personal performance in playoff games.

73
by Lance :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:10pm

I agree that Warner should be in the Hall of Fame. But there are those out there who will point to various factors-- namely a stretch of bad years (particularly while in New York), and an overall lack of career statistical success (i.e. he wasn't good enough over a long enough stretch of time)-- as reasons not to put him in. For me, their argument breaks down once those people rally around the "it's not the 'Hall of Very Good'" argument. No, it's not the Hall of Very Good, it's the Hall of Fame. And in light of that, when you have a guy who was an MVP in 1999 and 2001, put up incredible numbers during a(n admittedly short) period of time, was the starting QB in three Super Bowls (for two different teams-- a rather uncommon event for a QB), won a Super Bowl (and Super Bowl MVP), and really dominated a lot of the NFL watercooler discussion during St. Louis' heyday, and again with Arizona, it should be enough to get a guy into the Hall of Fame.

That said, there's such a logjam for the HoF now that I'm not sure that he's going to get in "first ballot". NOTE: the whole "first ballot" thing for the football HoF is nonsense; its HoF doesn't work like baseball's. Outside of Warner, I can name 15 guys who should be in the HoF, but aren't yet. And even if the HoF continues to enshrine players as its full capacity, I don't see how they're going to catch up anytime soon. Thus, it wouldn't surprise me if a guy like Warner has to wait a year or two until guys like Chris Carter, Will Shields, Andre Reed, Richard Dent, Tim Brown, Bill Parcells, (is Cowher done coaching?), Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Jonathan Ogden, and Michael Strahan all get in. (Your list may vary; the point is that there's a huge logjam and some worthy "first ballot" guys may have to wait.)

129
by Marko :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 1:55am

Richard Dent is already in the Hall of Fame - he was elected this year. I don't think Chris Carter will make it because all he ever did was create The X-Files.

26
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 1:51pm

I don't think concerns about concussions will be the undoing of the NFL

I am beginning to wonder whether they will have enough guys capable of playing qb at even a remotely competent level.

87
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:38pm

I really don't understand this comment. I'd say that there are better quarterbacks now than maybe ever - we just remember the really good ones. The bar is just higher now, and quarterbacks are asked to do much more.
We have several HOF/possible HOF qbs playing right now: P Manning, Brady, Rothlisberger, Rivers, Brees, Rodgers. Some interesting/good quarterbacks (with faults): Vick, Romo, E. Manning, Cutler, Schaub. A bunch of young qbs who have shown some skills and upside: Ryan, Stafford, Bradford, Freeman, Kolb, Flacco. That's 17, and it ignores average qbs like Jason Campbell, Orton, and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
You can quibble with qualifications for all of these players, but I feel like that's 20 qbs that belong in this league, and there are some rookies/2nd years who could be anything (Newton, Locker, Gabbert, Dalton, McCoy) and a guy on the way who everyone thinks is the next Manning (Luck).
There, by nature, has to be a curve of quarterback play in the NFL. There will be some All-Pros and some with questionable talent, and a lot of average in between. But to say that the league doesn't have a majority of guys playing qb at a remotely competent level rings false to me.

105
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:00pm

The fact that you only came up with 20 guys that clearly "belong in this league" of 32 teams, should more than explain his comment.

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

109
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:08pm

I'm not sure what this whole designation of "belongs in the league" even means.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is clearly among the 30 best QBs on earth, and therefore he should definitely be starting in the NFL.

It isn't his fault that guys like Phillip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers are ruining the grading curve and making him look "bad." There are always going to be some QBs who are better than others.

114
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:26pm

I was trying to use a broad terminology - the 20th best qb isn't above average or even average, but I don't think it's debatable that he's an NFL qb. I'd imagine that the worst 6 qbs in a given year are interchangeable with a backup qb somewhere else.
Ideally, I'd like to avoid a discussion focused on semantics (who's better than who) and point out that the overall qb play in the league right now is probably better now than it has been in years past.

122
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 8:06pm

I fully agree. It's the wrong narrative.

The gap between the great and the good is widening, and the gap between the good and the terrible is widening, too - not because the terrible QBs are getting worse, but because the great QBs are getting better.

You probably need a top-20 QB to win a Superbowl, and you probably need a top-10 QB to be a repeated contender. You probably need a top-3 QB to put together a dynasty.

Some teams are consigned to "wandering in the desert."

I understand the frustration that people must feel; however, we can't all have above-average teams. And it's not like certain teams have no chance of ever getting a good QB. It's not like there's some sort of QB cartel that keeps them in the hands of particular teams.

Every single team passed on Drew Brees. Every team passed on Tom Brady five times. Most teams passed on Aaron Rodgers. Tony Romo was undrafted. Pretty much anyone could have put together a package to move up and draft Roethlisberger or Freeman. Every team passed on Schaub.

It's perhaps fair to say "I think that the NFL would be more interesting if winning were somewhat less dependent on who you select to be your QB." However, it's not fair to say "I feel persecuted because my team doesn't have Drew Brees." Your team doesn't have Drew Brees by choice. I'm sorry if it regrets that decision now.

116
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:38pm

Ah.. I was quoting the phrase. In any event, I think we're mixing arguments.

Yes, the 30th best QB in the world belongs in the NFL, by virtue of there being 32 starting slots. Somebody has to fill it.

However, being #30 does not imply competency. Not if there are only 20 gentlemen in the world actually capable of running an NFL offense competently. #s 21-32 would "belong" by virtue of being better than #33+, but at the same time be incapable of adequately doing the job--- a situation which would obviously be bad for the league, and would suggest there are too many teams for the amount of competent QBs available.

Personally, I think there are certainly quite a few more than 20 competent QBs (including Fitzpatrick), but somewhat less than 32 at any given time. There is a clear scarcity, which becomes all the more evident when there are injuries. The market price for a competent (or hoped to be competent) QB bears that out.

118
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:54pm

Perhaps we are mixing arguments, but I think we're arguing the same thing at this point if you think there are more than 20 competent qbs (I was trying to be conservative with that number).
I think it's a bit unreasonable for us to believe that there should be 32 starting caliber or "competent" qbs in the NFL. Why? Because there never has been, which is the reason the first comment confused me. Look at qbs in 1990 or 1982 or 1970 or literally any year - there's going to be some greats at the top and shit at the bottom. So why is it that the league is in trouble of not having competent qb play now?

123
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 8:10pm

guess that depends on whether or not we think qb play is more important to team viability today than before...

113
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:20pm

No, it doesn't. 66% of the league has above reasonable quarterback play. Another 5-7 teams have "Qbs of the future" and we really don't know what they're capable of. That leaves 4-5 teams that don't have an answer at quarterback - off the top of my head, Miami, KC, Seattle, Washington, SF, and MN are really lacking. Even that's debatable with Cassell, Grossman having shown some decent play in the past. SF drafted Kaepernick and MN drafted Ponder - I don't think they'll be any great shakes, but we won't know until they play.
My point is you can look at any year in the history of the NFL and see this breakout - you can't have 32 above average starters, it's an impossibility. Not every team can have Brady or Rivers or Brees - there's a Luke McCown every year.
Thanks for offering your thoughtful remark to the the discussion.

117
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:49pm

The man said "competent," not "above-average." The 4 or 5 teams that don't have an answer at QB is the exact problem being pointed out. There aren't enough guys to adequately fill the position for each team.

Compare that to RB where there are two or three times as many competent players as there are teams. There is always another guy. Not so with QB play.

120
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:59pm

Well, actually he said, "I am beginning to wonder whether they will have enough guys capable of playing qb at even a remotely competent level."

I don't know if there is more than two teams that can really say that don't have anyone "even remotely competent." Meanwhile, I think there are more than a handful of teams that have more than one competent QB. Hell, David Garrard doesn't even have a job, he's ok.

Personally, I think the caliber of QB play in the NFL right now is pretty damn good.

121
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 8:02pm

As I said above, show me a year when every team in the NFL had a competent starting quarterback. It's an impossibility and will never happen - the great quarterbacks will cause evolution in the game, defenses will improve to combat qb efficiency, and the benchmark for competency will increase, leaving at least 4-5 teams as also-rans at the position every year. It's the nature of the beast.

124
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 9:17pm

David Garrard is maybe the 26th best quarterback on earth, and he's unemployed right now. The teams that aren't playing him are choosing to do so, because they want to try out young prospects who have a chance of busting into the top 25, or even the top 10.

The teams that don't have an immediate answer are that way because they chose to clear the way for their prospect.

(Unless they're Seattle, in which case they are just literally crazy people who think that Tarvaris Jackson was a great QB who wasn't given a chance in Minny.)

130
by Will Allen :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 2:04am

Pete Carroll has gone completely insane. It is literally unfathomable.

30
by Boots Day :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:02pm

Wow, that seems like an unnecessarily harsh assessment of Mike Kafka. We should be unimpressed by his 7-for-9 completion percentage - but you don't mention that his two misses were a flat-out drop by Jeremy Maclin on a pass that would have converted a fourth down, and a Hail Mary.

And by my count, Kafka was on the field for seven first-down plays: four runs and three passes (counting his scramble as a passing play). I'm not sure why this reflects poorly on him.

32
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:10pm

"Grossman had a league-high 120 DYAR on deep balls (more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage), going 5-of-8 for 119 yards and a touchdown. However, he had -74 DYAR on short routes."

Unleash the dragon.

88
by Snack Flag (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:41pm

"Fuck it, I'm going deep"
/Ksk

33
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:11pm

I guess I don't really understand Smith's ranking. It seems like a 66% completion rate averaging 7.5 YPA (if you don't count the PI) or 8.1 YPA (if you do), converting 50% of 3rd downs with 2TDs and 1 INT is a better than replacement level performance, even accounting for the 6 sacks.

34
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:16pm

How soon before we stop pretending that Tom Brady isn't the most dominant passing quarterback in the history of the league? I'm not trying to incite Manning/Brady nonsense. I'm a big old Colts fan and still think Manning is the best ever. But in terms of on field success, Manning's career sot of tailed off after age 30; Brady's has taken off. And a lot of that has to do with the respective work done by the Colts and Pats front offices: Wes Welker, Chad Johnson, Deion Branch, Randy Moss (just since 2007) vs. Anthony Gonzalez, Pierre Garcon, Blair White, and Austin Collie. Not to mention Bill Polian's inability to find offensive linemen on his draft board, let alone in FA.

So yes, I'm bitter that my guy has been playing on a 2-14 team, trying to make it into the playoffs, while Brady has been playing for an 11-5 (or better) team, trying to go 16-0 every year. But Brady's had two of the three of four best passing years ever by a quarterback, out of his last three seasons played. And he's above trend so far this year.

36
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:25pm

If things keep going the way they're going statistically in the NFL, Brady's numbers will look a lot less impressive in 10 years time.

And that's not to take anything away from Brady, because he's great. I just think it's going to be fairly commonplace for three or so of the best five statistical passing seasons in history to have come from the three or so most recently completed seasons from now on.

Which makes it kind of crazy that Marino still has the single season passing yardage record.

54
by mike abbott (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:55pm

Marinos 48 TD record stood a lot longer than Peyton's 49 and I would bet Tom's 50 gets topped soon as well (maybe by Tom)

I would factor length of time held in how impressive a record is compared to being a product of its time.

I would count how much it topped the previous record by as well - there wasn't a 47 before Marino put up 48

But I wouldn't even try to extrapolate how Marino would do in today's protect the QB, protect the WR game

I'm a Pats fan who hated Marino back when he was beating the Pats (except in 85!) but I have to give the man his due

48
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:29pm

Branch, probably the best receiver for Tom Brady before Moss arrived, had multiple playoff games of 8-10+ catches and 100+ yards, some of those games with multiple touchdowns.

David Givens, while not the best receiver ever, caught touchdowns in the playoffs like it was his job (it was), and actually had a string of games spanning multiple years where he caught a touchdown in every playoff game.

In Brady's first year, Troy Brown had 100+ catches and nearly 1,200 yards; this followed a year (2000) where Brown had 80+ catches and nearly 1,000 yards, so it was not like Brady took him to the next level. In 2002, he had almost 100 catches and 900 yards.

In 2004, Corey Dillon rushed for over 1,600 yards and had 12 touchdowns, essentially being the only pre-2007 season Brady was not the center of attention on the offnese.

Reche Caldwell had a "breakout" year in 2006 with Tom Brady -- the only player to more than double their production with Brady as his quarterback -- catching 60 for 700 yards.

Gaffney played significantly better with Brady than without, but for such a small window, that it is hard to tell if it was because of Brady. Since the production was not continued over multiple years, in the same system, with the same quarterback, it would not be prudent to pass judgment.

Kyle Brady caught 70 balls and had a couple of touchdowns in 2007, the year Brady "made the statistical jump." Also in 2007, Wes Welker had 110+ catches and 1,000+ yards. Even further, when Cassel was throwing to him in 2008, he had essentially the same production. Moss caught 98 for nearly 1,500 yards in 2007. In 2008, his production dropped to 69 catches for 1,000+ yards.

Upon Brady's return in 2009, Welker once again had 1,000+ yards and 100+ catches, while Moss caught 83 for nearly 1,300 yards.

Looking at last year, Welker had 86 catches and 850 yards, and Moss went insane. However, BJGE rushed for 1,000 yards; Gronkowski caught 42 balls, amassed nearly 550 yards, and had 10 touchdowns; Hernandez caught 45 for 550+ yards and 6 touchdowns; Woodhead finished with nearly 550 yards rushing, and also pulled in 30+ catches and nearly 400 yards.

As you can see, through the history of Tom Brady, as his threat density has increased, so has his production. When he was out, the offense was still great, because he had great players around him. When his teammates were bad, he was never bad, but also never great.

Again, I would like to point out that I do not think he is the greatest passer ever (I note your distinction between passer and quarterback), but I would definitely put him near the top, if not tied for first place amongst others. But, I do want to stress that as his *threat density* increased, so did his production, as it should. He never really made any receiver look amazing (except Caldwell), and he never really played with entirely terrible players around him. It is just that, in the years where he had bad skill-position players, they won Super Bowls. In years where they have had good skill-position players, they have not. That is why people remember his entire career as being great, and not just statistically impressive like Manning.

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by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:40pm

Your last point is the thing I find interesting about Brady. If his career ended today, his legacy would be the three Super Bowl wins and the historically great passing seasons, but those two accomplishments have never actually overlapped in his career.

You can look at the gaudy stats and the Super Bowl rings and say "he wasn't just putting up huge stats, he was putting up huge stats while winning championships!", but that wouldn't actually be true.

Of course, this whole historical curiosity becomes moot if the Patriots win another ring during the "Brady as passing god" era, but for now I think it's interesting. For the last few years Brady has essentially become Payton Manning of the mid-2000s, but because he has Super Bowl rings from his earlier, less prolific years, he's immune to the criticisms that used to dog Manning.

I really wonder what the debate will look like if Brady never wins another ring, but puts up another three or four ridiculous statistical seasons.

Of course, the Pats might win the Super Bowl this year.

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by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:06pm

I agree -- the narrative of their careers is not mutually exclusive. They both can end their careers today and would/should be, at least for a while, the top-2 quarterbacks this league has ever seen, in whatever order you want to place them.

Also, another benefit that we have with viewing Tom Brady's career is that the Patriots are not Free Agent or trade-averse. The Patriots will bring in players for their offense if they think those players can help. I cannot think of one player on the Colts offense in Manning's career that played a significant snap for another team. Therefore, we cannot discuss whether or not Peyton made a player great or if players made Peyton great.

That is, Harrison was there when he arrived. They drafted Wayne and Clark, later Addai, and this new crop of players. This new crop, while being the weakest crop, has never been together long enough as a group to show what they can do. Gonzalez, Garcon, and Collie have alternated being injured or bad, but never really collectively awful as to write the entire group off. Granted, they are still playing behind Wayne and Clark; however, Wayne, Clark, and Peyton are all aging, so their numbers are expected to decline anyway.

[Up to the start of this year, Tom Brady is functionally 5.5 years younger than Manning, and it shows. Peyton has started since 1998, is 1.5 years older than Brady, and started one more year due to Brady's injury.]

Now, as somebody above mentioned, we are discussing all-time greats with Manning and Brady, and we are not considering players like Kolb. We know Fitzgerald is amazing because of his work with Warner. Playing with a worse-than-average quarterback brought his numbers down, and while Kolb may yet be average or below average, Fitzgerald is doing okay so far. So I would not exactly trust any analysis beginning with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning on whether or not a quarterback makes any significant difference with respect to how great a receiver can be.

59
by nat :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:59pm

This kind of analysis has been done before - in the irrational thread in June 2009.

Brady's main receivers, and what they've done since or before (in order of appearance):
Patten - washout
Branch - disappointment at Seattle, his DVOA was a drag on the team's passing DVOA
Brown - got old, lost his starting job to washouts, retired
Givens - washout
Caldwell - washout
Gabriel - washout
Moss - traded to Patriots for a 4th round pick (deemed uncoachable by almost all teams)
Welker - traded to Patriots for a 2nd and 7th round pick
Stallworth - washout, DUI
Gaffney - went to DEN as free agent
Before Moss's arrival, none of Brady's receivers have proved themselves elsewhere, and all but Brown have strong signs of being positively bad.

Since that time, Gaffney has been a serviceable number-two quality WR. Moss washed out again and again. Welker has been great - with Brady. Branch is back with the Patriots and saw a 40% increase in DVOA with Brady.

It's a pretty strong indication of a two-way effect. Brady clearly makes WRs look better. On the other hand, he gets his best results when he has at least two quality WRs to target. (2007,09,10)

I guess the lesson is that WRs and QBs depend on each other to be great. The one-way street idea is probably wrong.

74
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:12pm

Again, none of my analysis was to say Brady or anybody else is the best, but to at least compare production before, after, and with Brady. Most of his receivers have been relatively productive with him, and a good portion of them have been productive before and after him. That is not to say all of them have, nor is it to say all of them will continue to be productive with him.

And, as I said above, it is probably wrong to look at a "known quantity quarterback" to get an idea of "two-way amelioration."

81
by rk (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:21pm

Lots of good, interesting points. I just want to point out that Kyle Brady did not catch 70 balls: he had 70 yards for the whole season (on 9 catches).

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by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:32pm

You are much better at reading than I am. Thanks!

;/

58
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:59pm

How soon before we stop pretending that Tom Brady isn't the most dominant passing quarterback in the history of the league?
--------

Because when Brady missed a season in his prime, a 13-3 team went 11-5.
When Manning missed a season on the tail end of his career, a 10-6 team might go 0-16.

100
by RickD :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:45pm

That sounds more like a comment on Matt Cassel than anything else.

104
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:59pm

We're about to get to see Matt Cassel with a variety of different supporting casts over a very short timespan.

11-5 with the Patriots

1-6 before Jamaal Charles started getting starter carries
3-5 in Charles' beast half-season

10-5 in Charles' beast season (This also had him with an incredibly weak schedule. He had above-average schedules for the previous two seasons.)

0-2 so far this year, and the rest of it will be without Charles again.

I think the evidence doesn't point to him being particularly exceptional in any way for an NFL starter. Obviously better than the riff-raff, and obviously worse than guys like Matt Schaub, or even Eli Manning.

75
by tuluse :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:13pm

How soon before we stop pretending that Tom Brady isn't the most dominant passing quarterback in the history of the league?

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean the most prolific? Best? Why are you limiting it to passing only? Would you argue Vick is better than him if everything is taken into account?

101
by RickD :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:49pm

I don't know what he means but that's because my mind collapses at the sight of a double negative.

So wait...we're pretending that Brady isn't the most dominant passing QB in history...? But we should stop. OK, parse finish.

Suggested change "stop pretending -> admit" and "isn't -> is".

40
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:48pm

Battle of the NFL stat mavens!

FOers:
"In the world of receiving statistics, as in most facets of the NFL these days, it’s all about the quarterback."

PFR.com:
1.) "passers get 28.3% of the passing game points and receivers get the other 71.7%. Remember, there are a lot more people that have to split the receiving points."

2.) the average value of a starting QB over his substitute sitting on the bench is 2.3 points per game.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"The QB-WR relationship, incidentally, does not go both ways. When healthy, Tom Brady has been our top-ranked quarterback ever since Randy Moss arrived in Foxborough"

*Since* Moss arrived -- as if Moss, Welker and Stallworth arriving made no difference?

Brady ranked by DYAR, DVOA:

2001 12, 12
2002 9, 16
2003 9, 13
2004 4, 3
2005 5, 5
2006 5, 8
2007 1, 1 <--- Moss + Welker arrive
2008 .... Cassel does surprisingly well, for a kid who hadn't started since high school!
2009 1, 2
2010 1, 1

We read this as the WRs *don't* help the QB's numbers? The relationship does *not* go both ways??

43
by Temo :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:52pm

Obviously there's some shared responsibility there. Neither Moss nor Welker were doing much of anything with their previous teams, after all.

I don't think it would be controversial to suggest that on a successful pass to a WR, the responsibility is split between the QB, WR, and protection (and, I suppose, the OC/HC, if you want to take it that far).

78
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:15pm

I don't think it would be controversial to suggest that on a successful pass to a WR, the responsibility is split between the QB, WR, and protection

Of course. And also among the other receivers and backs who do a good job of drawing coverage and misleading/blocking defenders. Yet the QB gets all, or at least hugely disproportionate, credit (and blame) for the result of the play personally, all on himself.

There are 11 players on the field for the O at all times. Say the QB is worth three starters, far more than any other player on the team. Then he accounts for 23% (3/13ths) of the offense on average -- about what PFR.com gives him above.

Expand this concept to the entire team. There are 22 starters, plus say a dozen more important regular players, situation players and key special teamers. Give each starter a "share" of team performance, each of the others a half-share, say the QB is worth three starters.

Then the QB accounts for 10% (3 of 30 shares) of team performance. That 10% is about as much as goes to the sixth man on a basketball team. A lot of fans have apoplexy if someone tells them this -- but PFR.com ran 35 years of game data through the computer and came to a starting QB being worth 2.3 points per game as the empirical result. That's a little more than one win per season.

So all these personal QB "W-L" records (as if NFL football is singles tennis, or a one-on-one punt, pass & kick competition) and claims that "everything comes down to the QB", "the QB carries the team", "the QB wins the championship", etc, is just blind QB hero-worshipping (and scape goating).

Or, as Vince Lombardi put it: The QB is the linchpin of the offense. So a really bad QB can destroy an O all by himself via bad picks, bad sacks, bad calls. But a really good QB *cannot* make the O better than it is. What a good QB does is get all other 10 offensive players into the game in a way that lets them contribute their most -- but he can't make them better than they are, they only do what they can do. So the "upside" of the QB, how good his numbers are, are determined by the rest of the team. (See Brady's numbers when Moss and Welker arrived.)

IOW, there is diminishing returns to QB play (just as to so much else in the world). The effect of QB play on W-L record is much larger as the QB goes from "terrible" to "average" than it is as the QB goes from "average" to "superior". The numbers of the "superior" QB are generated in large part by his teammates (PFR.com's "passers get 28.3% of the passing game points") ... including even by defensive teammates, since QB passing numbers average significantly higher when ahead on the scoreboard than when behind, and the defense has a lot to say about that.

Bottom line: The QB is indeed the most important player on the team, by a lot. But he is nowhere near as important as the people who think "it all comes down to the QB ... the QB carries the team" believe. There is no contradiction there.

111
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:15pm

"IOW, there is diminishing returns to QB play (just as to so much else in the world). The effect of QB play on W-L record is much larger as the QB goes from "terrible" to "average" than it is as the QB goes from "average" to "superior". The numbers of the "superior" QB are generated in large part by his teammates"

I really, really don't think this is true in the extreme cases. I think the difference between Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton is at least as large as the difference between Orton and your friendly local McCown brother, or Bruce Gradkowski, or Sage Rosenfels, or whoever you think is a generic bench QB. Of course, quarterbacks as good as Manning are rather rare, whereas generic backups are quite common. But if the hypothetical 2010 Kyle Orton Colts are better than 4-12, or the 2010 Peyton Manning Broncos worse than 9-7, I'm a monkey's uncle. Great quarterbacks don't just make their receivers better by identifying when they're open (or about to be open) early and hitting them in stride, they mask offensive line deficiencies through pocket awareness and quick reads and releases, and force defenders out of the box to make room for backs. And that's without going into the effects of the no huddle offense and pre-snap adjustments.

I guess maybe what I'm trying to say is that there are major outliers at the elite end of the spectrum, but that only through incompetent personnel evaluation or incredible bad fortune will you ever see one at the bottom.

125
by Jerry :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:08pm

You can build a scheme around any outlier. As long as you know that you're going to have Peyton Manning or Lawrence Taylor or Darrelle Revis for a while, you can design your offense or defense accordingly. If Randy Moss is being doubled every play, a smart offense will take advantage.

55
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:55pm

Moss was AWOL in 2010 and Welker was injured, yet Brady's ranking didn't change.

68
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:05pm

Welker got hurt in week 17 of 2009 and missed a week 16 game in 2010.

That said, NWE couldn't pass in that 1st round 2009 playoff game.

41
by Temo :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:48pm

Surprised Miles Austin wasn't one of the top 5 performers this week. The offensive inflation is crazy that his performance doesn't even crack the list.

56
by Travis :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:57pm

Austin was targeted on four incompletes on makeable 3rd downs (3&1, 3&5, 3&8, 3&8), which probably weighed down his performance enough that he missed the list.

60
by Temo :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:00pm

True enough. Austin did fail to catch a couple of catchable balls. Not sure they were drops, but makeable catches nonetheless.

65
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:04pm

Austin had 53 DYAR, so he wasn't too far off the top 5.

136
by rfh1001 :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 6:30pm

Who's Miles Austin? Does he even play for New England?

42
by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 2:51pm

We Vikings fans look for pleasure where we can, so we paint our faces purple, upon hearing that Donovan McNabb has now statistically surged past Tavaris Jackson. YES!!!!!

On other matters, Romo clearly leads in the PLADYAR category (Punctured lung adjusted defensive-adjusted yards above replacement).

I still think the "least valuable wide receiver or tight end" category should be relabeled the "least valuable wide receiver or tight end who doesn't suck so bad as to have his play completely unmeasurable, and indistinguishable from a mop set in a wash bucket on wheels". Otherwise, people may conclude that most Viking receivers are dissimilar to inanimate cleaning tools.

53
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:51pm

I know the WRs suck, but you're giving McNabb a whole lot more credit than he deserves. He's as much a part of the problem as they are.

63
by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:02pm

All I gave him credit for was being better than Tavaris Jackson for a week.

76
by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:14pm

But if you are going to explore the issue, I'll make this assertion; if the Vikings swapped McNabb for Brady, they would not be as good as they would be if they swapped Berrian and Jenkins for Fitzgerald and oh, I dunno, some other Pro Bowl level receiver.

80
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:21pm

As long as any receiver is better than pre- and post-2006 Reche Caldwell, I would take Brady as quarterback over Fitzgerald as wide receiver with McNabb as his quarterback.

86
by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:37pm

Ah, but Brady has to play behind the 2011 Vikings offensive line.

89
by Keith(1) (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:42pm

Then run a bunch flats, wheels, and quick outs, then exploit some bubble screens behind the defensive end if he hangs out in short coverage on those! With those spreading out the defense, throw in some Peterson runs in the open lanes created by the spreading. That is, just go with timing patterns, misdirection, and Adrian Peterson!

90
by Will Allen :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 5:06pm

Yes, it worked so well when Brady had inadequate protection, and far superior receivers in Welker and Moss, against the Giants in the Super Bowl.

There is no such thing as a "run this" solution when a qb is getting hammered, or is threatened to on each pass. Manning showed the limits of that last year. At some point, somebody has to get blocked, and when bad blocking is combined with receivers who don't get seperation and don't catch the ball in traffic, playcalling doesn't make much difference.

95
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:31pm

Limits of what a QB is supposed to be able to accomplish just don't really seem to apply to Peyton Manning.

As an aging QB in the twilight of his career, he dropped back seven hundred times, something none of his contemporaries has ever been asked to do.

He did it with the worst offensive line of his career, the worst running game of his career, his second-favorite target out for the season, his third-favorite target racking up concussions, and his fourth-favorite target racking up drops.

His defense was 24th in the league, his special teams were 31st - saved from last place only by the Chargers' epic inability to create a proper punt formation.

The result was nearly 5000 yards, 33 touchdowns, a 10-6 record, and a playoff win if Blair White could have held onto the ball. The result was Jacob Tamme becoming the leading fantasy tight end.

In general, I would certainly not say that the QB is more important than all of the receivers or all of the offensive linemen. But there obviously exists a counterexample.

112
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:17pm

Yup. Manning is absolutely absurd.

144
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 09/23/2011 - 3:56pm

"Oh, I don't have an offensive line this year? Okay. Just put some fat guys in front of me to stand around and sort of get in the way, and I'll receive the snap, go through my drop, go through my reads, and release the football in under two and one half seconds.

But I warn you, while I'll still get yards and touchdowns, my rate stats will be less impressive than they would be if we had ten more football players on offense."

-Peyton Manning, when asked before the 2010 season about Bill and Chris Polian's draft and free agency strategy.

49
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:31pm

How soon before we stop pretending that Tom Brady isn't the most dominant passing quarterback in the history of the league?

Now, now, let's not get carried away.

Brady's had two of the three of four best passing years ever by a quarterback, out of his last three seasons played.

For instance, Namath's 4000-yard season -- well before they changed the rules to open the passing game -- was equivalent to 5,330 in 2010, while the all-time record is "only" 5,084 (Marino, 1984). So that was pretty darn dominating. And those are two of the top four seasons not belonging to Brady right there. Go through the records you'll find a whole good lot more of the most dominating seasons not belonging to Brady. Remember those Rams teams of the 1950s are part of league history too.

It's curious how NFL fans are so unlike baseball fans in that so many seem to think the history of the league does not predate ESPN, and there's no such thing as an era-adjustment.

57
by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 3:58pm

If you're going to argue against Brady as #1, you had better lead off with a better example than Namath, who was a mediocre QB who doesn't belong in the HoF.

66
by nat :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:04pm

Johnny Unitas? After all, he's the best Colts QB ever. And he's more durable than Manning, too, which is an important skill. (duck)

77
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:14pm

I understand that you were joking, but you might want to look up who started Super Bowl III (one reason why Joe Namath isn't regarded as his generation's Dan Fouts).

92
by nat :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 5:43pm

I was joking and I am aware. But at least the "Manning has teh injury-avoidance skill" numbskulls have shut up.

Which is the only good thing to come out of Manning's injury, in my opinion.

98
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:38pm

Manning does have an injury-avoidance skill. He avoids sacks by being by far the fastest decisionmaker in NFL history. Manning dropped back 700 times last season.

Exactly one of those dropbacks lasted longer than 3 seconds and resulted in a sack. The numbers for Brady, Rodgers, and Rivers are 8, 10, and 13 - even though each of them threw considerably fewer passes than Manning did.

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/23/when-it-comes-to-holding-the-ball-joe-...

91
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 5:06pm

Well, just think how lame that makes Brady -- with not even one 5,330-yard season playing on two good legs and on all those *good* teams.

"Namath, who was a mediocre QB" :-)

Let's see...

4,007 yard season -- not matched until after they lengthened the season to 16 games and changed the passing rules to open the game, more than a decade later -- equivalent to 5,330 today, with the all-time record still only 5,084.

Bill Walsh called Namath "the perfect passer" and said he drafted Joe Montana because Montana's footwork reminded him of Namath's ... Vince Lombardi called him the best pure passer ever, and on his deathbed cried out "You are not bigger than the game, Joe Namath!" ... John Madden named him to his All-Forever team -- and said the one QB of all time who was feared the most by opposing defenses for what he could do on any one play was Joe Namath.

"mediocre QB". Gee, whose opinion should one most respect here? :-)

Career statistics?

PFR.com ranks Namath #24 all time statistically, in spite of his injury-interrupted and shortened career, chronic injury handicap while playing, and playing on one bad team after another. Quoting:

Namath exceeded 8.0 yards per attempt in 1967 and 1968, and was at 7.0 or higher every year between ages 23 and 32. Using our advanced passing table which adjusts to league average, he was above average in that category in every one of those seasons. He was insanely above average in 1972 -- over two standard deviations above the league average...

From 1969 forward, which would be after he won the Super Bowl and most think he stopped being a good quarterback, he was over a standard deviation better than the league in 1969, 1971 and 1972. He was above average in 1973 and 1974 as well. The only year he was average was in 1970, when he played in only 5 games...

He is ranked in the top 30 despite missing a substantial portion of what would be the prime years for other quarterbacks (missing 28 games between ages 27 and 30).

The one year he played almost a full season during that stretch (1972), he led the league in passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per attempt.

Oh, and he completed 50% of his passes, so he sucked.

They put in that last comment for *you*. :-)

Remember when I said so many football fans think "all history" doesn't pre-date ESPN and don't know what an "era adjustment" is? I was talking about you.

106
by RickD :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:00pm

I guess if you don't care about interceptions, Namath was wonderful.

Yes, he had a very good season in 1967. He got his completion % up to 52.5%!

He was godawful in 1975, with a 48.2% completion rate and 28 picks compared to 15 TDs.

Yes, he had skills. Bill Walsh liked his footwork and he threw a nice deep ball. Also, he was not terribly accurate given his elated status. Don't lecture us about "era adjustments" as if Namath's poor completion rate was typical of his era. Unitas was much better. Tarkenton was much better. Baugh was much better.

108
by tuluse :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:02pm

Sammy Baugh wasn't close to Namath's era. He had been out of the game for 12 years when Namath was draft.

126
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:44pm

He was godawful in 1975, with a 48.2% completion rate and 28 picks compared to 15 TDs.

Boy, who likes to cherry pick? Yup, on his last legs as a starter on a 3-11 team he had a real bad year. Should've retired before then. (What numbers do you think Brady would put up playing on half-a-leg on a 4-12 team with a mid-season coaching change from Charlie Winner to Ken Shipp?)

Yet *still* PFR.com says he belongs in the HoF, for reasons quoted above. You might want to read those again and argue with them, not me.

Yes, he had a very good season in 1967. He got his completion % up to 52.5%!

Yes, with a mere 5,330 yards adjusted to the 2010 level.

Then in 1972 he was as far above league average as 4,807 yards was in 2010 -- 900 more than Brady had last year -- while "he led the league in passing yards, touchdowns, yards per attempt, adjusted yards per attempt, net yards per attempt, and adjusted net yards per attempt.

"Oh, and he completed 50% of his passes, so he sucked."

They put that last comment in there for you, too! :-)

Don't lecture us about "era adjustments" as if Namath's poor completion rate was typical of his era. Unitas was much better.

Unitas MVP season completion percentages:

1958: 51.7%
1959: 52.6%
1964: 51.8%

Keep digging. :-)

Did I say anything about how remarkably many football fans think all history started with ESPN and don't know what an "era adjustment" is?

For those who might be interested in what one is, before the rule changes opened the passing game and created the high-percentage, low-risk passing of the West Coast Offense and so many such pitty-pat variants, things were different -- e.g. NFL average completion pct was 50% to 52% during the Unitas-Namath era.

And the big-armed QBs back then won *not* by increasing their completion % but with high *yards per completion* -- Namath's in 1972 was 17.4 yards(!), a good 45% more than Brady's 12.0 last year -- and 67% more than Peyton's 10.4!

BTW, Unitas' MVP year Y/C numbers: 1958 14.8, 1959 15.0, 1964 17.9! ... all *way more* than Brady and Peyton, or anyone else these days.

But, hey, among the children of today's pitty-pat "completion percentage is all" passing games ... who remembers or knows such things? Nobody. And since they don't know, obviously they conclude no such thing ever mattered! :-)

if you don't care about interceptions, Namath was wonderful.

So was Terry Bradshaw -- his first eight years before the passing rules were changed: average 49% completion rate, 93-to-118 TD to Pick ratio ... as it happens, the exact same ratio as Namath's! That's through his first two SB wins.

And he was a completely healthy stud and on a great team ... so we know he *really sucked*.

Then they changed the passing rules in 1978 ... and suddenly he got a whole lot better!

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by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 10:58pm

What is the era adjustment for unnecessary snark?

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by Fielding Melish (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 12:38am

I found it totally necessary. FO commenters are some of the biggest blowhards on the internet, the usual political stuff aside, and this fellow was trying to make a point to a guy whose default mechanism on this site is always 'I know stuff! You don't!' The comments on this thing are becoming more and more of a drag to read. I find a lot of the information interesting, but these math formulas are hardly the holy grail. People seem to think that it's god's work or something. It's just fucking football. It really doesn't matter, unless you're gambling you're kids lunch money on it or something. If you are, you should probably stop doing that.

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by ASmitty :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:28am

Call me old fashioned, but I've never really thought that the response to a blow hard was to blow harder. The poster here raises some valid points about why Namath may be underrated statistically, but manages to make all of them while making the same ridiculous claim that anyone who disagrees with him has no knowledge of football prior to the dawn of ESPN, and by treating era adjustments as though they are the Holy Grail of statistical analysis, which they are certainly not.

To be clear, I think Joe Namath deserves to be in the HOF, and I did see him play and am not some internet toddler born from the union of my smart phone and my twitter account. With that said, I've also seen Payton Manning play, and there is just no comparison between the two.

First off, fans of completion percentage and efficiency aren't being "pitty-pat children" or whatever other grade-school insult the poster above used, they're people who realize the value of moving the chains. Rex Grossman aside, unleashing the dragon on every down isn't necessarily the smartest thing to do in football.

Second, the popularity, importance, and stakes of the game in the modern era absolutely dwarfs that of Namath's era. As such, the stakes are higher, the pressure is higher, and offenses and defenses are far more complex than in earlier permutations of the game. In my opinion, the tasks of running an offense and reading a defense are far, far more challenging today than they were in prior eras.

Third, because the rules have gone to favor the passing attack so much, offenses themselves have moved to favor the passing attack. As such, not only is the quarterback's job more complex in a more evolved era of the game, but he's called upon to carry that job out on the vast majority of snaps. Very few quarterbacks in the NFL are caelld upon to hand it off first and play action it deep second. Most carry the entire weight of the offense on the majority of snaps.

And of course, it also all depends on your definition of "greatest of all time." Throwing for more yardage relative to your peers is a reasonable but rough measure. You may want to make contextual adjustments as well, and more things have changed for QBs in this leauge since Namath played than just rule changes favoring the passing game.

And look, I did this without insulting groups of people or using emoticons.

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by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 8:27pm

Good manners are a virtue, however...

1) The following is not a snark, it is an observation of fact:

"It's curious how NFL fans are so unlike baseball fans in that so many seem to think the history of the league does not predate ESPN, and there's no such thing as an era-adjustment."

If you don't beleive it, consider how on the NFL Hall of Fame's official all-time QB passer rating list all the top 17, and 29 of the 30 all-time top QBs, have played their careers after 1978. And how football fans accept this!

Imagine the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown publishing an official all-time rating list of batters or pitchers that ranked all the top 17, and 29 of the top 30, as having played since 1978. And which ranked mediocrities who spent half of their careers as backups ahead of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson, etc.

Forget "snark" -- baseball fans and commentators en masse would mock and ridicule whoever was responsible for such idiocy into immediate retirement and a hall of shame.

But the NFL actually does publish an all-time QB rating list that ranks Brian Griese, Matt Cassel and Jason Campbell *far* above Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, Fran Tarkention, Troy Aikman, Len Dawson, John Elway, Dan Fouts, Terry Bradshaw, Sammy Baugh, not to mention Brian's old man Bob -- and football fans go... Well, nothing. Don't even know it. Don't care.

That's a pretty stark difference. Then when some QB has five or even three very good years in a career, the fans rush out "Best QB ever!!!". *NO* baseball fan in the same situation would declare "Better than Babe Ruth!" C'mon.

Noting that NFL fans are highly dismissive of football history and of the great players of football history, compared to the fans of baseball and other sports, is no snark -- it is an observation of true reality.

2) Those who open a conversation with an attacking snark well deserve to be put in their place accordingly.

Take, for instance, one who jumps into a discussion of Namath glibly applying the word "godawful" and criticizing his "poor completion rate" with the sarcastic "He got his completion % up to 52.5%!" ... oblivious to the fact that the league average rate that year was 47.6% ... so the "poor" 52.5% was actually above average by 5 points, equivalent to about 66% today. And who then goes on making other like howlers about Unitas, etc.

That person is *posing* and *patronizing* as having superior knowledge, when in fact showing off the classic combination of ignorance and arrogance. He deserves to have his howlers pointed out with an :-) showing that the person he was patronizing is laughing at his errors. If he doesn't like that experience, then maybe it will help teach him to be more careful about facts, and polite to others, in the future. And we will all be better off.

I did this without insulting ...

Really? The false representations below seem pretty snarky to me:

The poster here raises some valid points ... but manages to make all of them while making the same ridiculous claim that anyone who disagrees with him has no knowledge of football prior to the dawn of ESPN, and by treating era adjustments as though they are the Holy Grail of statistical analysis."

1) Where is the claim that anyone who disagrees has no knowledge of football before ESPN?

2) How ever do you manage to change another person's position from 'people should at least know era adjustments exist, not totally ignore them' all the way to 'era adjustments are the Holy Grail' ?

Really.

I'm insulted. ;-(

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by tuluse :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 9:14pm

Nobody takes QB rating seriously, and I'm sure you can find an official baseball stat that favors some era of baseball.

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by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 6:56pm

Nobody takes QB rating seriously

Tell that to the game announcers this Sunday.

and I'm sure you can find an official baseball stat that favors some era of baseball.

Of course you could. But anyone who used such a stat to "offically" rank 29 of the top 30 baseball players of all time as having played since 1978 would be ridiculed into another existence by baseball fans. The flood of emoticons shot at them would be the least of it. :-)

Yet the NFL HoF publishes that list and NFL game announcers and sportswriters and fans quote it all the time. Such is how we live...

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by tuluse :: Thu, 09/22/2011 - 11:16pm

Yet the NFL HoF publishes that list and NFL game announcers and sportswriters and fans quote it all the time. Such is how we live...

I've never heard anyone claim that Brian Griese is better than Fran Tarketon because he had a higher QB rating. So I guess we're watching different broadcasts.

Again, I don't think anyone takes these thing seriously, which is why there is no ridicule.

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by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 09/23/2011 - 4:14pm

Note that I originally said "statistically dominant", not "best".

I appreciate Namath, although I believe he really was his generation's Dan Fouts, since I view postseason opportunity and performance as basically a function of a quarterback's luck in teammates than a function of skill. Hence, I don't think Terry Bradshaw belongs in the Hall, and Troy Aikman is probably borderline. But I digress... Saying Tom Brady is "the most statistically dominant quarterback" isn't a knock on Namath; no one thinks Namath's raw numbers match Brady's.

Brady's era begins the moment Peyton Manning is drafted, comes into being with Kurt Warner's ascension to NFL starter, and kicks into high gear in 2004. It will end when the NFL finally lets CB's cover again, or pass rushers rush, or starts calling holds, or something to end the continuing inflation of offensive passing statistics.

But Brady's 2007 and 2010 are very, very special. Only Manning's 2004 and a couple of Warner seasons even come close to being as impressive in the same timeframe. And Brady threw fewer interceptions in 2007 and 2010 combined than Warner has managed in any full season. And Brady appears to be preparing to outdo both this year.

I wonder then as I wonder now if Peyton Manning might not have crushed even those performances if Bill Polian was half as smart as people give him credit for. Bill, if it isn't worth giving Edgerrin James a contract, why is the RB position worth all those high draft picks? What, exactly, excited you about Jerry Hughes and Fili Moala? Why do you give Kelvin Hayden and Gary Brackett big contracts when better free agents go for less? Are decent offensive linemen somehow toxic?

Angry Colts fans want to know.

103
by RickD :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:52pm

I'm very leery of inflating the yardage of past QBs to be somehow a measure of "equivalence". That's not really a rigorous process.

110
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:15pm

where does pro-rating to account for extra games lie on your leeriness spectrum?

I'm equally uncomfortable using raw counting stats when the opportunity numbers are widely apart.

_______________________________
armchair journeyman quarterback

115
by Yaguar :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:33pm

Counting stats are bad - in some cases, awful.

But prorating has its problems too, if you take a biased selection.

Imagine that the future NFL expands to a 32-game season, and we're trying to compare old seasons to new ones. Would you be comfortable saying that Peyton Manning would have had 98 TDs in 2004, if he had gotten to play another 16 games?

Of course not. He did get another 16 games, and brought his two-year TD total out to 77, not 98. Peyton's 2004 season was luck; over the long term you expect him to throw maybe 2.1 TDs a game, and he just luckily got 3 TDs per game because everything broke right for him.

Would you say that he would have had a 24-8 season, though, in an imaginary 32-game 2004? Sure. His 12-4 record in 2004 wasn't particularly unusual for him, so it's reasonable to assume that would continue.

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by armchair journe... :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:58pm

Certainly. I meant to express discomfort with both options.

I'll do neither and just have a beer instead.

133
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 1:31pm

His two year total would be 78, based on his exemplary second half to the 2003 season.

I also greatly enjoyed Eric Dickerson's 3913 yard rookie season.

62
by Duke :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:02pm

Given the dominance of Receiving DYAR for running backs I'm surprised that Matt Forte isn't on the list. I remember him being the only Bears receiver doing anything, and doing it well.

71
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:09pm

Forte had 48 DYAR receiving this week, but -9 DYAR rushing. His average was boosted by a 42-yard run, but he gained one yard or less on on seven of his ten carries.

96
by Duke :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 6:37pm

That was going to be my guess; I remember him having the one good run and a lot of bad ones (which is making the current media drumbeat that the Bears needed to run more quite annoying). Was on my iPhone, though, so I wasn't really motivated to check the play-by-play.

Thanks for filling me in.

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by tuluse :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 7:00pm

(which is making the current media drumbeat that the Bears needed to run more quite annoying)

No they are right, the Bears should have run much more. The line was getting Cutler killed, and he was falling apart himself. His mechanics went to shit, and he was getting skittish, which meant even on the few plays he did have protection he didn't trust it. By running the ball, it meant that Cutler wouldn't be getting beat up every play, so when they did call a passing play he would have been better able to play.

It's much better to have your running back get tackled for no gain than your quarterback.

79
by ASmitty :: Tue, 09/20/2011 - 4:15pm

Having only seen the highlights, this occured to me as well. I would have to guess, not looking at the play-by-play, that he may have suffered from a bout of Ray Rice Disease: racking up a lot of unsuccessful plays through forced, doomed screen plays that were unsuccessful through no fault of his own.

FO stats can really unfairly penalize good safety-valve RBs.

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by FBCapper :: Wed, 09/21/2011 - 11:57am

Amazing that Orton is at 15 with such a poor offensive line