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03 Jan 2012

Week 17 Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

Quarterback Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns against Detroit yesterday, setting Green Bay Packers benchmarks in both categories. As Flynn passed names like Bart Starr, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers (not to mention 4,000-yard passers Lynn Dickey and Don Majkowski) in the Green Bay record books, he clearly played the best game of any passer this week, but where does it rank on the all-time list? And as Flynn enters free agency, what can it tell us about his future potential?

Flynn completed 31-of-44 passes with three sacks, one fumble, and one interception against Detroit. Combined with a couple of rushing plays, that all worked out to 290 DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement - more info available here). That's the third-best game of year - Drew Brees' 412-yard, 5-touchdown game against Minnesota in Week 15 is still tops, and Tom Brady's 361-yard, 3-touchdown performance against Philadelphia in Week 12 is second. No other quarterbacks, though, have played a game this good all season. Not Ben Roethlisberger. Not Philip Rivers. Not Tony Romo or Matt Ryan or Eli Manning or Cam Newton. Not even Aaron Rodgers has played this well in 2011.

Football Outsiders' play-by-play database goes back to 1992, and Flynn's game against Detroit ranks as the 15th best game in that timeframe. The best game belongs to Trent Green, who in 2002 threw five touchdowns against a Miami team that only gave up 20 passing scores all year. Four former Super Bowl winners make the top-15 list: Brady (five times), Brees (three times), Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger.

Maybe Flynn will never win a Super Bowl like those men did. So let's not look at the best quarterbacks who have played this well, let's look instead at the worst quarterbacks to ever hit 290 DYAR in a game. In alphabetical order, that leaves us with Marc Bulger, Randall Cunningham, Green, and Scott Mitchell. The first three names of that list were Pro Bowlers, and the fourth was essentially a league-average starter for a half-decade in the mid-'90s.

Going a little further down the list, down to the 260-DYAR level, gives us more of the same: Pro Bowl quarterback after Pro Bowl quarterback, from Rodgers to Matt Hasselbeck to Carson Palmer to Rich Gannon to Steve Young to Drew Bledsoe to Bobby Hebert to Troy Aikman to Neil O'Donnell to Daunte Culpepper to Jeff Garcia. Obviously, some of those names are a lot better than others, but with the exception of Mitchell, every quarterback who has ever played even one game anywhere near Flynn's level played in Hawaii at least once in their careers. It's only one game, but the simple fact is that mediocre quarterbacks are almost never this good.

On the other hand, it's not the first start of Flynn's career. Last year, Flynn started in Foxborough and completed 65 percent of his passes with three touchdowns. New England's weak secondary had a lot to do with that, but it's still not a game that looks bad on a quarterback's resume.

Matt Flynn is 26 years old. He has four years of apprenticeship on one of the best offenses in the league. His ceiling is Hall of Famer; his realistic floor is Pro Bowler. That's got to be worth more than an unproven rookie, doesn't it?

Flynn is about to enter free agency, but the Packers would never be foolish enough to let him walk away for nothing. They're sure to franchise him and trade him away for picks, just like New England did with Matt Cassel. The Pats sent Cassel and Mike Vrabel to Kansas City for a second-round pick. Given how many teams are desperate for quality passing - Seattle, Miami, and Washington, to name some of the top candidates - the Pack are bound to get more than that for Flynn. Any team that gets Flynn for a first-round pick, though, will have gotten quite a bargain.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Matt Flynn GB
31/44
480
6
1
290
295
-5
We just talked a lot about how good this game was. Well, here's a little more: On deep passes (more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage), Flynn went 5-of-7 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and also drew a 21-yard DPI call.
2.
Drew Brees NO
28/35
389
5
1
238
234
4
With Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines and Tom Brady playing up-and-down against Buffalo, Brees finished the season atop FO's quarterback rankings with 2,544 passing DYAR. That's the second-best season in our database, trailing only Brady's 50-touchdown campaign in 2007. Against Carolina, 21 of his completions went for first downs (including five touchdowns). He had five completions for 20 or more yards, including gains of 31 and 42 yards.
3.
Philip Rivers SD
19/26
310
3
1
223
223
0
Second half: 7-of-8 for 139 yards, six first downs, including touchdowns of 13 and 43 yards.
4.
Matt Stafford DET
36/59
521
5
2
206
206
0
Calvin Johnson helped, as we'll get to shortly. But Stafford had five other 20-yard completions on the day, and 16 other first downs (including four touchdowns), plus multiple dropped passes that could have led to scores as well.
5.
Eli Manning NYG
24/33
346
3
0
196
199
-3
Third-down passing: 8-of-9 for 192 yards and seven first downs, including a 74-yard touchdown, plus gains of 44 and 36 yards. His other completion was a 5-yard gain on third-and-6. He was also sacked once.
6.
Carson Palmer OAK
28/43
417
2
1
154
154
-1
Palmer's first three deep passes were incomplete. And then he hit his groove. After that he went 6-of-8 for 212 yards on deep passes, including a 22-yard touchdown.
7.
Matt Hasselbeck TEN
22/35
297
2
0
133
133
0
Hasselbeck's third quarter was rather erratic. He went 3-of-5 with a sack, and gained only one first down. On the other hand, that first down was a 55-yard play to Nate Washington.
8.
Michael Vick PHI
24/39
335
3
1
124
123
1
With nothing on the line, Vick was content to throw deep over and over again, hoping to at least make SportsCenter a couple of times. He went 5-of-13 on deep balls for 158 yards and a touchdown, with an interception. Only Matthew Stafford (19) threw more deep passes this week.
9.
Andy Dalton CIN
22/44
232
0
0
109
110
-1
Dalton's ranking among the top 10 quarterbacks this week is only surprising if you haven't been paying attention to the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens defense finished in the league's top three in completion percentage, yards per pass, touchdown passes, passer rating, and sacks. Dalton's raw numbers - 22-of-44 for 232 yards and no touchdowns - may not look so hot, but considering he threw no picks and was sacked just once, it was really a pretty good day. Dalton also had four 20-yard plays against Baltimore.
10.
Tom Brady NE
23/35
338
3
1
104
104
0
Brady's first two passes were incomplete, then he was sacked. By the time the Patriots' third drive started, they were down 21-0. Brady then completed 11 passes in a row for 134 yards and six first downs (including a 39-yard touchdown to Aaron Hernandez). His next 14 dropbacks saw only three completions (albeit for 85 yards) with two sacks, an interception, and a fumble. His last 12 dropbacks saw one incompletion, one sack, and ten completions for 138 yards and eight first downs (including touchdowns of 17 and 7 yards).
11.
Matt Ryan ATL
6/9
106
2
0
79
79
0
Ryan actually had the highest DVOA of any starter this week (134.0%), but he mainly handed off before sitting out the final three quarters. His last two passes were touchdowns to Julio Jones for 17 and 48 yards.
12.
Kellen Clemens STL
14/31
226
1
1
70
48
22
Clemens' first four third-down plays went sack, sack, incomplete, incomplete. After that, he went 4-of-6 for 91 yards on third downs, with each completion successful, including a 36-yard touchdown to Brandon Lloyd.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Alex Smith SF
21/31
219
1
0
68
54
14
Smith played a part in letting St. Louis crawl back into this game. After his 44-yard completion to Vernon Davis in the second quarter, Smith went 12-of-19 with three sacks, for just 59 net yards and four first downs.
14.
Rex Grossman WAS
22/45
256
1
1
60
60
0
At the end of the third quarter, the Redskins were only down 13-7. Grossman's next 11 dropbacks resulted in one sack and ten incompletions. With the game out of reach, he then hit his last two passes for 15 yards and his only first down of the period.
15.
John Skelton ARI
22/40
271
1
1
51
42
9
It says a lot about Skelton that he threw 45 percent of his passes to Larry Fitzgerald. It says a lot about the Seahawks cornerbacks that only half those passes were caught. It says a lot about Larry Fitzgerald that those nine receptions resulted in six first downs and 149 yards.
16.
Jake Delhomme HOU
18/27
211
1
0
42
42
0
Delhomme threw either very deep or very short against Tennessee. He threw 12 passes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. His other six passes went 13 yards or more downfield, an average of 20.3 yards each.
17.
Joe Flacco BAL
15/19
130
1
0
41
40
1
Ten of Flacco's 15 completions failed to pick up a new set of downs. Matthew Stafford completed 36 passes, and only nine of them finished short of the sticks.
18.
Dan Orlovsky IND
27/40
264
1
2
32
28
4
Orlovsky only thew four deep passes against Jacksonville, going 1-of-4 for 19 yards and an interception. I'll be the first to predict that Andrew Luck will complete more than one deep pass in each of his starts in 2012.
19.
Kyle Orton DEN
15/29
180
0
0
26
26
0
In the second half, Orton went 5-of-11 for 52 yards and only two first downs. And yet he was not the worst passer in Kansas City this weekend.
20.
Tony Romo DAL
29/37
289
2
1
24
35
-11
First seven dropbacks Sunday night: 3-of-4 passing for 17 yards, no first downs, three sacks. By the time he got his first first down, the Cowboys were down 14 points in the middle of the second quarter. He then hit 13 of his next 14 passes for 156 yards to get Dallas back in the game, but he couldn't maintain that momentum.
21.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
23/40
221
0
0
20
20
0
First half: 13-of-24 for 130 yards, but only five first downs, plus two sacks, -31 DYAR. Second half: 10-of-16 for 91 yards, seven first downs, 52 DYAR.
22.
Matt Moore MIA
22/32
135
1
2
15
22
-7
First half: 8-of-16 for 43 yards, four first downs, one sack, two interceptions, -73 DYAR. Second half: 14-of-16 for 92 yards, eight first downs (including one touchdown), 95 DYAR. Yes, the Dolphins managed to win a game in which they averaged 6.1 yards per reception.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Josh Freeman TB
31/45
282
2
3
3
-7
10
Freeman had been sacked twice and thrown two interceptions (including a pick-six) before he hit his first 20-yard gain. 16 of his completions failed to gain a first down, which was the highest total in the league this week. Over the course of the season, Freeman was tied for second in this category. Of course, he was tied with Matthew Stafford and trailing Drew Brees, so we can safely say that non-first down completions are not a sure sign of incompetence.
24.
Seneca Wallace CLE
16/39
177
0
1
-22
-34
12
Wallace was pretty useless once the Browns crossed midfield. In the Deep, Back, and Mid zones (from his own goal line to the Steelers' 40), he went 15-for-27 for 165 yards, 10 first downs, one sack, one interception and 13 DYAR. In the Front and Red Zones, he went 1-of-12 for 12 yards, with one first down and one sack, for -47 DYAR.
25.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
29/46
307
2
4
-34
-43
10
First quarter: 13-of-16 for 156 yards, nine first downs (including two touchdowns), plus one sack and one 47-yard DPI call, for a league-high 132 DYAR. Fourth quarter: 5-of-11 for 40 yards, two first downs, three interceptions (including a pick-six), for a league-worst -136 DYAR.
26.
Chris Redman ATL
7/12
71
0
1
-41
-41
0
By and large, Redman was much better than the No. 26 quarterback this week, but when the DVOA/DYAR system sees an interception (a pick-six, no less) thrown on first down with a 32-point lead in the second half, it goes crazy and tries to re-write reality like the Scarlet Witch. That one bad throw is worth a whopping -63 DYAR, in part because it was only a two-yard pass (the shorter the pass, the longer the average return, and thus the worse the DYAR penalty for a pick). The average INT this year was worth -47 DYAR, so this was a particulary harsh penalty, although there were several this week that caused even more damage.
27.
Cam Newton CAR
15/25
158
1
1
-48
-52
5
Take Newton, for example. His second-quarter interception, on second-and-3 from the Saints' 4-yard line when the Panthers were down just seven points, was worth -73 DYAR. He had plenty of other bad plays, though. In the second half, he went 6-for-11 for 52 yards and only two first downs, although another completion would have resulted in a first down if Steve Smith hadn't fumbled it away. Newton was also sacked once in the second half. It all added up to -34 DYAR.
28.
Joe Webb MIN
17/32
200
0
2
-53
-36
-17
Perhaps the weirdest day of the week. In about three quarters of action, Webb managed to complete five passes that each gained 9 yards or more but failed to pick up a first down, including a 17-yarder on third-and-21. He also had a -3-yard run on second-and-5 and a -10-yard run on third-and-4.
29.
Christian Ponder MIN
4/10
28
0
1
-64
-64
0
Ponder gained one first down in 11 dropbacks. Meanwhile, he gave up an interception and a sack.
30.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
21/32
207
2
3
-72
-70
-2
Two of Sanchez's interceptions were thrown in the backfield, and the other was thrown just 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage. Only one other quarterback threw three interceptions within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage all season: the other New York passer, Eli Manning.
31.
Blaine Gabbert JAC
11/19
92
1
0
-78
-78
0
Forgive me, but I feel the need to detail Gabbert's final 11 dropbacks in order: completion for zero yards; 5-yard gain on third-and-8; five incompletions in a row; sack; 8-yard gain on third-and-14; 12 yards and a first down (!!!) on third-and-4; 4-yard gain on third-and-7. Gabbert started 14 games this year, and made the bottom four in Quick Reads eight times.
32.
Tarvaris Jackson SEA
21/35
222
1
1
-88
-86
-2
Now here's an amazing stretch of misery. Late in the first quarter, Jackson completed back-to-back passes for negative yards. His next pass gained 23 yards and a first down, but then he was sacked three times in a row. And then he threw an interception. I don't know if you could find six plays so bad out of seven from anyone, all year. Still, Jackson finished 20th in DYAR and 23rd in DVOA. It was the best year for a quarterback in Seattle since 2007. He did it with an undrafted rookie as his leading receiver, and with an offensive line that was missing 60 percent of its starters by season's end, and with a torn pec for most of the year. He showed mental and physical toughness (if not mental or physical talent). He may have started his last game for the Seahawks, but he was easy to cheer for and fun to watch.
33.
Tim Tebow DEN
6/22
60
0
1
-93
-67
-27
I'm going to plagiarize myself here, from this week's Any Given Sunday: Tim Tebow's last 14 dropbacks on Sunday resulted in two completions, two sacks, one interception, 7 net yards, oodles of incompletions, no first downs, and ultimately, defeat.
34.
Josh McCown CHI
15/25
160
1
1
-137
-147
10
The Minnesota Vikings gave up 34 passing touchdowns this year, with only eight interceptions. They were worst in the league in both categories. In their last three games, they had allowed opposing quarterbacks to throw for nine touchdowns with only one interception. McCown threw one of each on Sunday, and considering the opposition, that's a lousy performance. Worse, though, McCown was sacked seven times in 32 dropbacks, and two of those sacks ended in fumbles. Counting his touchdown, he had only five first downs on the day.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Evan Royster WAS
113
0
52
0
63
39
24
Royster makes the "most surprising" list for the second straight week. Royster ran 20 times against Philadelphia. He was stuffed for no gain just once. Half his carries gained 4 yards or more, including gains of 28 and 15, and two of his shorter runs picked up first downs in short-yardage plays. He converted all three of his third-down runs, including a 9-yard gain on third-and-5. Royster also caught five of the seven passes thrown his way for 52 yards. Three of his catches gained first downs. The other two were an 11-yard gain on second-and-13 and a 7-yard gain on first-and-10.
2.
Michael Turner ATL
172
2
0
0
59
63
-4
Turner finished second among running backs this week (and first in pure rushing value) even though he didn't play in the second half, and wasn't thrown a single pass was only thrown one pass. His first carry against Tampa Bay gained 26 yards, and his last went for 81 and a touchdown. In between, he averaged 4.3 yards per run and picked up five first downs, including another touchdown.
3.
Ray Rice BAL
191
2
8
0
50
50
0
63 percent of Rice's rushing yardage came on touchdown runs of 70 and 51 yards. On his other 22 runs, he gained only two other first downs. On the other hand, he was stuffed for no gain or a loss only three times. He was also thrown two passes, resulting in a 3-yard gain on first-and-10 and a 5-yard gain on second-and-17.
4.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis NE
22
2
53
0
44
19
25
The Law Firm's only target resulted in a 53-yard gain. He only ran seven times, but two of those were short touchdowns, and two others gained first downs.
5.
Willis McGahee DEN
145
0
0
0
42
48
-6
McGahee was stuffed for no gain just once in 28 carries. He had four 10-yard runs and three other first downs. His longest run, though, was only 15 yards. He averaged 5.2 yards per run, with a standard deviation of 4.0. For comparison, Rice averaged 8.0 yards per rush with a standard deviation of 16.8.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Peyton Hillis CLE
30
0
-3
0
-39
-9
-30
Hillis' only first down in ten carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers was a 2-yard gain on second-and-1. His only carry in the red zone came with a tie score in the second quarter. Hillis proceeded to lose 4 yards on first-and-goal from the four. The Browns would get a field goal instead of a touchdown on that drive, and went on to lose by four points. The Browns also threw Hillis three passes. Two went incomplete. The third was caught for a loss of 3 yards (and a fumble) on third-and-5.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Calvin Johnson DET
11
17
244
22.2
1
122
Johnson's last game of the season was the best game of the season - not just for him, but for any receiver in the league. Johnson surpasses Wes Welker's 16-catch, 217-yard game against Buffalo in Week 3. Yes, five of the passes thrown Johnson's way were incomplete, but all of his catches gained at least 12 yards and a first down. Seven of them gained at least 20 yards, capped off by a 41-yarder. Nobody else had more than five 20-yard catches in a game this year. On top of all that, he also drew a defensive pass interference flag for a 36-yard gain.
2.
Malcom Floyd SD
7
9
127
18.1
1
69
Floyd finished with a DVOA of 51.9%, making him kind of the Sammy Sosa to Jordy Nelson's Mark McGwire (see note below). Each of Floyd's catches produced a first down against Oakland. Six gained at least 10 yards, capped off by a 43-yard touchdown. He also drew a 13-yard DPI flag.
3.
Marques Colston NO
7
10
145
20.7
2
69
Six of Colston's catches against the Panthers gained first downs; the seventh was a 14-yard gain on second-and-15. That was also his shortest catch of the day. He had two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder.
4.
Jordy Nelson GB
9
15
162
18.0
3
65
At this point, it wasn't too surprising to see Nelson play well, even without Aaron Rodgers. No, we're listing Nelson as a surprising player because his season-long performance was so unexpected. In his first three seasons, Nelson never ranked in the top 20 in DVOA. In 2011, Nelson set a new record with a DVOA of 54.1%. (Aaron had more to say this in his DVOA analysis this week.) Nelson had nine catches in 15 targets against Detroit for 162 yards. Six of his catches produced first downs, including touchdowns of 7, 36, and 58 yards.
5.
Antonio Gates SD
5
5
106
21.2
1
56
Gates' first catch was a 5-yard gain on second-and-9. His next four receptions totaled 101 yards and four first downs, including a 38-yard touchdown and another 37-yard play.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Jabar Gaffney WAS
4
11
28
7.0
0
-40
Gaffney averaged 2.5 yards per target against Philadelphia, which is, um, bad. His only first down was a 13-yard gain on second-and-10. His other catches: a 4-yard gain on second-and-10; an 8-yard gain on third-and-13; and a 3-yard gain on second-and-7. And then there's the seven incomplete passes, two of them on third down.

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 03 Jan 2012

130 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2012, 6:32pm by Will Allen

Comments

1
by MJK :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:45pm

Out of curiosity, where did the impressive TE's of the week (Gronk, Hernandez, Graham) end up in receiving DYAR?

40
by NotJimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:58pm

Yes, I'd like to see some tight end "stats" as well...

2
by widderslainte :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:47pm

Can we get the DVOA listed for each player in Quick Reads in the future?

3
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:50pm

Your Vick blurb seemed a little extra-snarky. Did you let Tanier do that one?

105
by chemical burn :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:54pm

I actually had the same thought during the game - or actually, "wow, he's really intent on getting DeSean a new contract by ending the year with some highlight plays..."

110
by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 3:38pm

Well, I'm all for Jackson getting a new contract. My take on the comment, though, was that he seemed to be saying Vick didn't care about how well he (or the team) played as long as he put up some highlights for ESPN. Maybe I read him wrong, but that's how it came off to me.

113
by chemical burn :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 4:54pm

Well, we agree: that is how Vick played, especially in the second half, just winging the ball down the field trying for big highlight reel plays, especially show-off shots to Jackson and not necessarily being careful or methodical with the ball... My idea was that he wanted Jackson to get some big plays and end the season on a high note instead of with the lingering taste of alligator arms and dropped TD's...

4
by Tim R :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 12:52pm

Where would Kurt Warner's playoff game against the Packers rank all time if playoff matches were included?

10
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:34pm

I might be wrong, but I think it was #1 all time.

5
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:02pm

Jordy Nelson had a 39.6% DVOA in 2009, however it was on only 31 passes. Last year (with a solid DVOA of 9.8%) was the first season Nelson had enough passes to qualify.

Still surprising that any player would post his best DVOA in his first year as a starter (or at least de facto starter, since I think Driver may be the official starter opposite Jennings), but he has at least shown glimpses of excellence before this season.

On another note, I expected to see a more tempered view of Flynn's future prospects, but instead read that his floor is future Pro Bowler. I don't even think most die-hard Packers fans believe that. Also, he's a free agent, so if GB wants a draft pick for him beside a compensation pick they would have to Franchise tag him first.

7
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:22pm

Still hard to argue with the logic though: A QB worse than Scott Mitchell has never in the DYAR era played anywhere near as good a game as Flynn just did.

"All games by a QB worse than Mitchell in the DYAR era" is a pretty big set. The fact that no outlier in that set comes close to Flynns game heavily suggests that that game soesn't belong in the set, ie Flynn doesnt belong in a set of QB's worse than Mitchell.

32
by PackersRS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:18pm

It's hard to argue with that logic if you believe 2 game is statistically relevant.

BTW, on a non-related topic, how does Timmy Smith's performance in SB XXII ranks all -time, in DYAR.

70
by thebuch :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:30am

The argument isn't about the statistical relevance of a two game set though. My interpretation is that each quarterback has a bell curve of potential they will play within each time they take the field, with most performances being somewhat around their average performance (obviously less consistent players will have wider bell curves), and then with occasional outliers on the outskirts of their personal bell curve. What these numbers tell us is that, taking this game as one of the best possible for Matt Flynn, if you follow his bell curve back his median ability is, at worst, amongst quarterbacks who at least spent a year playing at a pro bowl level, and that no mediocre quarterback's bell curve has extended to this level of play in the past 20 years. Since this argument is built around the outlier, "statistical relevance" is a moot point.

94
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 11:17am

But you're assuming every quarterback's bell curve has the same width! That seems like a highly dubious claim, given that we've quarterbacks who have dizzying highs and terrifying lows (Cutler, Romo, Eli Manning, Grossman) along with ones who are much more consistent, be it bad or good (Matt Ryan, Brady, Campbell).

You can't assume that every quarterback (using DVOA as an example) has, say, a 60% range in performance. Some might top out at 80% and bottom at -100%. Others might top out at 25% and bottom at -10%.

And the thing is, since Flynn has only started two games, and played meaningful snaps in three total, the uncertainty on his bell curve's width is really high.

EDIT: Also, I'd be curious to known Flynn's DVOA for this game, and how that compares historically. Flynn was given every opportunity, thanks to a high-scoring opponent and mostly ineffective running game, to rack up cumulative value. I'm sure his DVOA is high, but I also imagine more QBs historically have had single-game DVOAs that are quite high, as opposed to the number with that much DYAR.

99
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:36pm

I don't think thats right, Eddo. This study, by virtue of it's enormous sample, controls for "differing bell-curve width". All QB-games in DVOA-era is thousands and thousands of games, posted by hundreds of QBs with all kinds of bell curves, in all kinds of situations with all kinds of coaches and all kinds of teammates. And not one og those QBs, not a single one of them, put up numbers in Flynns ballpark without making a pro bowl.

102
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:12pm

You mean besides Matt Stafford, who has consecutive 198, 204, 234 DYAR games without a Pro Bowl?

I don't have access to DVOA for the time period, but Jon Kitna and Chad Pennington have had some monster games in Bowl-less careers.

104
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:45pm

I can only argue from the numbers provided in the article - if they are wrong, then everything goes out the window.

Besides Matt Stafford is 23 - he'll make a pro bowl and Pennington should have (over Kerry Collins in 2008 for example). I'd say Pennington and Stafford are only non-pro bowlers by technicality - for intents and purposes MS and CP pro bowl caliber players. Besides if your floor is Chad Pennington Matt Stafford you're pretty good prospect.

106
by D Jones :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:59pm

Right, but Flynn's performance was a 290! In the article, they dropped the bar down to 260 to include a few more QBs in the comparison, but still, 234 < 290.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to Flynn in the market over the next couple of years. Will he be a bust, and show some flaw in DYAR with small sample sizes? Will he blow up and show the awesome predictive power of DYAR? Good stuff either way.

108
by thebuch :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 2:13pm

I never made the assumption, I did state that less consistent quarterbacks could have wider bell curves, but the fact remains that no wildly inconsistent mediocre quarterback puts up games like this, and even if Matt Flynn has a very wide bell curve, it was outside the realm of what any mediocre quarterback has done before.

96
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:23pm

Some QBs have a pretty wide bell-curve.

Jake Delhomme and Kurt Warner have mixed some amazingly superlative games with some eye-bleedingly awful ones. Some guys are just consistently inconsistent.

8
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:24pm

It is mentioned that they would have to franchise him in order to trade in the last paragraph of the write-up. This issue with this is that if they want to keep Finley he is likely going to require being franchised as well because he is going to be aggressive in his negotiations. I'm pretty sure the Packers are going to want to keep Finley so Flynn may in fact walk and the Pack will only get a compensatory pick for him.

I also don't think it's crazy to to think that Flynn has a floor of future pro bowler. All he has to do is make one Pro Bowl and he makes that floor. With the way the Pro Bowl works now you only need to be about the 5th or 6th best QB in your conference to make it because it's very likely one of the 3 choosen will make the the SB so #4 gets in, it also seems to be likely that another one of the selected players will skip it so #5 is now in. That being said I think Flynn is good enough to keep starting for the next 4 or 5 years at least (like a Cassel or Orton he is not worse than them) and while there are young QB's that are coming in that are PB worthy, I think Brady and Manning are both likely to be done playing in 4 to 5 years, and I'm wondering about Big Ben as well with the injuries. Why do I mention AFC QB's? Well if the Packers to franchise and trade him I've got a feeling he is going to the AFC it's not the same as the Favre trade situation, but I don't think the Packers front office would want him in their conference. If he stays in the NFC I don't think Vick will be playing that long either (he's got about 3 years left with the way he gets injured) though if Newton doesn't drop off like Bradford did in his second year that doesn't matter for this discussion. :)

13
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:46pm

Matt Stafford just posted the 5th most prolific passing season in NFL history, lead *the Lions* to playoffs, and failed to make the Pro Bowl.

It's not so easy to make the Pro Bowl in the conference with Rodgers, Brees, Cutler, Stafford, Newton, Ryan, Vick, and Manning the Younger. Flynn might be only the 4th best QB in the NFC North.

24
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:13pm

I actually think Stafford is going to be playing in the Pro Bowl this year. Rodgers or Brees won't be (since I expect NO or GB to make the SB), I have a feeling the Eli is going to sit out as well which I think puts Stafford in (I think is he 2nd alt, I could be wrong). That means he makes it.

And like I said I don't think Flynn will be in the NFC, I think he will end up in the AFC.

45
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:22pm

This is why we need to separate "voted to the probowl" from "played in the probowl"

47
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:50pm

I agree and yes if you measure Pro Bowler by the voted to measure, it actually has some value and I agree it's much less likely Flynn makes the PB, but that isn't what the historical definition of a Pro Bowler is, and my argument was simply that it's not as hard for a QB to make a PB as some think even with some of the recently "stacked decks". It's even worse now with the PB being the week before the SB. I figure in probably 4 out of 5 years that is going to eliminate one PB voted QB from each conference.

I also agree that the article is making a pretty wild claim even though I find the reasoning sound, this despite me thinking Flynn actually does have a good chance to be a pro bowl quality QB. As I've mentioned elsewhere his throwing mechanics aren't the same as they were coming out of college, he's obviously taken coaching and used it to improve. He has shown twice that with a full week of prep that he can look like a NFL starting QB, the loss to NE last year is likely a victory if the horrible GB special teams don't allow a lineman an 80 something yard kick return.

He has more indicators than just the game vs Detroit to show that he has potential as an NFL starter, but yes it's still a crap shoot, just less of one than a rookie draft pick would be.

20
by Viliphied (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:01pm

Yeah. No offense guys, but for a stats site, that prediction is absolutely ridiculous. SSS much?

71
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:01am

The only problem is that DVOA doesn't account for 93 yard TD passes that resulted from two defenders running into each other.

116
by KB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:04pm

I would of said last year that I believed Flynn could be great and would be a top 10 QB in the league within 3 years. Now it looks like he will get his shot. A West Coast offense would be lucky to grab him. I was thinking what if Philbin(Packers QB Coach) goes to KC(I believe that is where he interviewed) would they go for Flynn? I know they have cassel but he isn't near the QB.

6
by BJR :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:20pm

I accept the numbers, but suggesting that Matt Flynn's "ceiling is Hall of Famer; his realistic floor is Pro Bowler" seems like monster hyperbole at this stage, surely? How about: he played great with a great supporting cast in a game that didn't matter to his team.

Still, Flynn deserves credit for putting in such a performance in what was his only opportunity before becoming a free agent. That's some kind of pressure to perform under, and suggests positive things about his character.

9
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:27pm

The fact that the game didn't matter to his team makes it more impressive not less.

And the game mattered to the opponent.

15
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:48pm

Somewhat. Detroit's going through NO or GB at some point, and isn't going to beat either team, so I'm not sure it mattered *that much* to Detroit.

30
by zlionsfan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:57pm

I think there was a pretty significant difference between "NFC East champion" and "not NFC East champion", especially given that Detroit had beaten one of the two possible teams in the former category and lost to both teams in the latter category.

When your modern playoff history consists almost exclusively of blanks and Ls, any possibility of a W is pretty important.

72
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:06am

Most people expected that the Chiefs fell into the category of "not going to beat the Packers" this year. Gotta love the "no alternative possible" crowd.

21
by BJR :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:05pm

You can interpret it as you like; I was mentioning it in the brief summary of Flynn's performance because I thought it was relevant, one way or another.

I personally think proclaiming a QB to be potentially HoF calibre after a week 17 performance that ultimately did not matter is bordering on the lunatic.

27
by thebuch :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:31pm

But still, why does the fact that it does not matter for his team used against him? You can use it against Stafford's performance because the Packers were not playing their starters, but you're ignoring the fact that he took a bunch of backups and put up the third best game of the season against a playoff team fighting as hard as they can to avoid a date in New Orleans. The point of the article is that no mediocre quarterbacks put up such performances.

73
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:08am

The Lions were playing without two starters on defense, too you know.

61
by Subrata Sircar :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:04pm

We have a lot less data about Andrew Luck. That hasn't really stopped the proclaiming that I've seen.

The prediction is saying something like this: "If Flynn is given a starting job on a non-complete-tire-fire-of-a-team for five years, over that time he'll be the one of the top 6 QBs in the NFL at least once." That doesn't sound quite as outlandish to me, but it still seems unlikely.

The reason it shouldn't, though, is because the big difference between Andrew Luck and Matt Flynn is that a professional, at-least-competent-and-probably-superior NFL coaching staff has been evaluating and coaching him for 4+ years. Each time, they've judged him superior to the other rookie QBs they could draft and the other free agents they could sign. Some of that is the devil you know, but some of it is that they thought he was better. And Green Bay, after last year's Rodgers-concussion incidents, has reason to choose its backup QB carefully.

64
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:40pm

Luck's been evaluated for 4 years by a professional, at-least-competent-and-probably-superior NFL coaching staff. It's just they were coaching Stanford until last year.

That said, I wonder how different Luck is from Russell Wilson. Wilson had an amazing year for the Badgers -- substantially better than his NC State years. Wisconsin is very similar to Stanford -- overwhelming offensive line with underwhelming receivers and good to great running games (very similar rushing numbers), with defenses just bad enough to make them keep scoring.

I wonder how Luck will do when he's on an NC State-caliber team, and doesn't have a Toby Gerhart or Montee Ball or All-Pro-caliber offensive lineman to lean on.

65
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:54pm

The pro staff that's had Luck in practice (for only 2 years I believe, not 4) is one that probably won't be drafting him. Any team that does draft him will be doing so based on 3 years of college game tape. Of course, there's much less tape on Flynn, but that is balanced by the fact that GB's coaches, proven at developing NFL QBs, considering worth a number 2 spot with the benefit of 4 full seasons of regular practices, training camps, and mini-camps. Seeing what McCarthy has done with Rodgers, I think NFL GMs will give a lot of weight to McCarthy's confidence in Flynn as evidence that he's for real.

Luck may turn out great, but he has much less experience being developed by NFL or NFL-quality coaches than Flynn has. Given the longer seasons and that fact that the NFL is full time job while college athletes are more restricted in practice time, I'd guess that an NFL QB gets roughly double the practice experience per year that a college QB does. That's got to have significant value for Flynn, or any similar player with NFL experience, that can't be immediately matched by any college prospect, no matter how talented.

69
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 11:10pm

But couldn't you say the same re: Kevin Kolb under Andy Reid's tutelage?

88
by Arkaein :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:10am

Responding to both you and LionInAZ, I'd say that none of the QBs listed have either shown a top level performance like Flynn just has (though I've singled out games elsewhere that were very good for Kolb), and none of the coaches has a QB development record to match McCarthy, though again, Reid comes closest.

The biggest difference between Kolb and Flynn is that Kolb's track record is longer and mixed, while Flynn's is mixed if you count non-starts, but excellent in games where he's had the full week of prep.

74
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:10am

Or Caleb Hanie? Or Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez, for that matter?

80
by greybeard :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 3:07am

It is 3 years not 2.
Also, the starter at the college team gets more real reps than the second QB at the NFL. That is why teams are so eager to declare a starter as early as possible.

41
by Dave :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:00pm

"And the game mattered to the opponent."

Which is why I found their defensive effort so appalling.

To my eyes that was one of those games where the D in DYAR doesn't really do a whole lot for me. That was a 2008-level performance by the Lions secondary.

49
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:10pm

A lot like the 2009 Wild Card game. Yes, I understand that GB was really high in pass D, but they couldn't sniff Warner and didn't cover anyone.

53
by Dave :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:58pm

Agree. Nothing against Warner, who I have always intensely supported, but I thought Manning's game two weeks later was better by a wide margin.

That said, Warner was flawless that day, from what I recall. Very different from Flynn on Sunday, who was fine, but got away with things / got lucky. Coverages could've been tight and he may very well have still put up over 40.

58
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:58pm

Manning had more incompletions, and two failed drives inside the 10 that resulted in field goals. That said, I definitely thought leaving that game that Manning just had one of the most incredible QB performances ever, against a top-5 all time DVOA-era pass defense. The Jets were draping the Colts on coverages most of that day, but Manning just consistently hit tight window after tight window. He did end up with a 300+ DYAR for the day.

51
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:14pm

Yeah...I think his realistic floor is just as likely to be Kevin Kolb as it is Pro Bowler.

11
by TimK :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:35pm

Kyle Orton was playing in Denver, but for Kansas City, so some confusion in that entry.

12
by slopduck (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:38pm

You have Orton down as DEN still, and also the game was played in Denver, not KC.

14
by ammek :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:48pm

Matt Flynn now holds the Packers franchise records for single-game passing yardage and TDs (as well as DYAR), yet he's almost certain to leave Green Bay after making just two starts. What other franchise records are held by players who made relatively few appearances for that team?

17
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:53pm

How few is few? Oddly, looking through the various franchises, it's more common than you'd think for a journeyman to have a franchise's single-game record.

Esiason has the Cardinal's best game. Sipe has the Browns'.

19
by RickD :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:57pm

Brian Sipe started 111 games and never took a snap from any team other than the Browns.

This is a journeyman?

55
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:57pm

Sipe was better than I thought, actually, although I'd argue still not elite. (One really nice season, though). I mean journeyman more in the sense of Just A Guy, something less than a master.

Even Sipe's big game came in the disastrous 1981 season, not the superlative 1980 season.

28
by zlionsfan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:51pm

Well, up until Sunday, the two best passing-yardage marks by Lions were posted by Jon Kitna and Charlie Batch. They started roughly 2 and 3 years' worth of games for Detroit, respectively, but I think that is probably close to what you want to know.

Of course pretty much any Detroit passing record prior to Stafford's breakout season was held by "some guy".

Single game:
-- TDs: 5, Gary Danielson, best known for repeatedly insisting that the spread offense has come and gone in college football today. (Stafford has matched that three times.)
-- Completions: 36, Charlie Batch, best known for leaving me a voice mail asking me to renew my season tickets in 1999. (OK, so maybe it was a prerecorded message, but you can't prove it.) Stafford matched that Sunday.
-- Attempts: 62, Batch. Broken Sunday by Stafford.
-- Completion percentage, 25 or more attempts: 80%, Danielson (twice) and Dave Krieg. Broken last week by Stafford (80.6% against San Diego).
-- Passer rating, 25 or more attempts: 158.3, Krieg, in the game where he completed 80%. (20-25-0-351-3)
-- Adjusted yards/attempt, 25 or more attempts: 16.64, Eric Hipple. (14-25-0-336-4)

Season:
-- Completions: 372, Jon Kitna. (Stafford had 421.)
-- Attempts: 596, Kitna. (Stafford = 663.)
-- Completion %: 63.3, Kitna, not in the same season. (Stafford = 63.5.)
-- Yards: 4338, Scott Mitchell, whom you may know from "What quarterbacks previously parlayed spectacular backup performances into full-time gigs?" (Stafford = 5038.)
-- TDs: 32, Mitchell. (Stafford = 41.)
-- AY/A: 7.6, Mitchell. (Stafford = 7.7.)
-- Rating: 92.3, Mitchell. (Stafford = 97.2.)

50
by ammek :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:12pm

Yeah, that's the kind of "few" I was thinking of. I'd kind of overlooked teams that haven't really had a franchise QB in the mad-passing-stats era. I was also thinking of LeShon Johnson (I believe he held the single-game rushing record for the Cards until this year). Did Billy Volek's two wild performances break any records?

36
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:30pm

When I was a kid, one of the first NFL games I attended was the Cards-Packers game in 1969. Don Horn set the then Packers record of 410 yards that game. Until last Sunday, it was still the second-most yards for a Packer in a game (Lynn Dickey held the record).

While I think Flynn will be good, I also would not go so far as to say his floor is Pro Bowl.

75
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:15am

That just tells me you can not possibly be a Packer fan. They only talk down players they think can't make it on any other team.

86
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:27am

I am a Packers fan. It's just that 1) one of the names in that greatest games ever list is Scott Mitchell and 2) my name's not Paul.

16
by CoachDave :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:52pm

With the new CBA I thought it was not allowed to Franchise a player and then trade him in that year?

I may be highly mistaken...anyone have enough command of the new CBA to know the rule?

18
by RickD :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 1:55pm

Matt Flynn's floor is as a Pro Bowler?
That seems a bit strong for somebody who's had two career starts. Should we bring up names of other QBs who have shined in relief for a small number of games? Kevin Kolb?
I'm not saying he won't be a Pro Bowler. But really, should we "crown his ass" already? There seems to be a good number of young QBs who have done a lot more

23
by Darrel Michaud :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:06pm

Matt Flynn just put up a better DYAR than Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers ever did. I think that's a lot better than what someone like Kevin Kolb did.

But yeah... I do feel it's premature.

34
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:26pm

Yeah, I do agree that it's early to say that the worst Flynn will be is a Pro Bowler. But I think you have to give him credit for not just a good or a great game, but a record-setting one. It's not like he went out there and threw for 250 yards and 3 TDs and basically didn't embarrass himself; he did something that Favre and Rodgers have never done (though I wouldn't be surprised if Rodgers had a better game someday).

31
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:13pm

I you should bring up other QBs who've shined in relief? Yes, by all means, find me a QB with a game in the same ballpark as Flynn's. Kolb was in another galaxy.

Of course the variance in a prediction like this is huge (HoF to one-time Pro Bowler is a huge interval), but Flynns production so far makes it, as the above investigation shows, incredbly unlikely that his mean career value will be anything below that floor.

Of course there's a chance that he flames out, but there's really noone to compare him to - Your Kolbs and Garcias never reached Flynns production in their first few games. We can ony compare him to "regular" QBs.

The variance of the prediction is big, but the mean is so very high.

37
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:40pm

Out of curiosity I looked up Kolb's game splits on PFR. To compare to Flynn, who has two career starts, I looked for Kolbs best pair of consecutive starts (didn't have to be in consecutive games, just no games in between).

Pretty clearly the best are games 5 and 6 last year:
@SF 21/31, 253, 1 TD, 0 INT, 103 rating
ATL 23/29, 326, 3 TD, 1 INT, 133 rating

Not as good as Flynn:
@NE (2010) 24/37, 251, 3 TD, 1 INT, 100 rating
DET (2011) 31/44, 480, 6 TD, 1 INT, 136 rating

Flynn's only starts are better than Kolb's best consecutive starts. Flynn also has no bad starts, while Kolb had plenty before this year.

For other notables, Derek Anderson had 3 great games in his first 7 starts in 2007, but mixed these with average and bad games, and wasn't particularly good in 3 starts late in 2006. Matt Leinart notably never has had an exceptional game in his career (never more than 2 TDs, only ratings over 101 came in two games with 13 attempts each).

Based on this I'd say Flynn's floor is probably Derek Anderson, who did, of course, make one Pro Bowl.

54
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 6:47pm

That's splitting hairs somewhat. He played 3/4th of the week 13 game to Detroit last year, for a 15/26, 177, 0 TD, 1 INT, 62.5 rating.

I'm curious how DVOA treats the Kolb/Flynn comparison. I suspect last year's Falcons/49ers were better defenses than 2010 Pats and 2011 Lions.

67
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:09pm

Yeah, I didn't include that game since he didn't have a week of practice as the starter leading up to the game. It was also earlier than the other two games, so there's a good chance that this last game at least represents fundamental improvements in Flynn's QB abilities since that first Detroit game.

Obviously that game would be scrutinized by any GM thinking about signing Flynn.

Looking at individual game DYAR from last year's Quick Reads, Flynn had a whopping 3 in his game against the Pats (hurt by the sack fumble on the final desperation play). Kolb had 55 and 157 DYAR in his two games I highlighted. Not sure about precise DVOA or opponent adjustments since those aren't listed, and the games were early enough in the season that the opponent adjustments used to calculate those DYARs are probably not as reliable as the adjustments would be for games later in the season.

103
by RickD :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:26pm

So there's a threshold for shining in relief in a small number of games that Kolb didn't cross, but Matt Flynn did?

There's another problem: if/when Matt Flynn gets a starting job next year, it won't be with Green Bay's offense around him. Kevin Kolb saw a notable dropoff moving from Philly to Arizona, and Matt Cassell saw a dropoff moving from New England to KC. Hell, even Kurt Warner had a serious nosedive after leaving St. Louis, and his early production was far more substantial than Flynn's has been. Warner wasn't just a talented backup in St. Louis - he was the freakin' MVP.

It's a silly prediction, and trying to extrapolate Pro Bowl level of success from two games is an inherently silly thing to do. And you don't rebut that kind of argument by challenging others to find counter-examples based on two games.

22
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:06pm

OK, I'll bite: how in the hell did Victor Cruz not crack the top 5 receiving games? I imagine much of the blame goes to Dallas's weak pass defense, but still. Not sure how many targets he didn't catch, but it couldn't have been many with Eli having only 9 incompletions, and I believe every one of his six catches went for a first down. DVOA probably doesn't give him the credit he deserves for the 2 most important plays of the game, his 74-yard catch and run and the 44-yard Tyree-lite catch in the 4th quarter, nor for the pass interference he drew on the Giants 2nd TD drive.

25
by BJR :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:14pm

We know DVOA tends to diminish the value of yards per play as they increase. And in the case of Cruz's touchdown this seems apt. He doesn't deserve a great deal of extra credit for Gerald Sensabaugh taking a terrible angle to the ball, Hakeem Nicks throwing a great block and then running in a straight line for 60 yards into the end zone.

33
by greybeard :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:23pm

You must be kidding. 90% of receivers would not have that TD nor would have significant amount of yards, because they would have been caught by one of the defenders. The reason he has that TD is because he accelerates well and he is fast.

117
by KB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:17pm

Did you see the week some of the receivers had. Jordy Nelson had a very good game with something like 160 yards(I completely forget the real amount) and 3 TD's. Some of those catches he made were very impressive.

26
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:24pm

As someone who watched the game it sure LOOKED like the game mattered to the Lions. Those guys were hyped up all game.

If that counts for anything.

76
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:20am

Of course they were. They were playing for playoff seeding. It didn't help to have a big TD catch by Titus Young negated on a very bad call with no recourse. That no doubt led to some infuriated expressions as well.

90
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:25am

Yeah that was a very bad call and pointed out yet another flaw in the replay system. If that had been ruled a score it would have been been reviewed as a scoring play, but since it wasn't ruled a score it wasn't up for auto review. It really should be that all potential scoring plays are booth reviewed if they are going to do that.

I'm very curious how the game would have gone had that counted like it should have. There are many times I wish I could peek into alternate realities where things unfolded differently. :)

92
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:56am

I think the college review system is just better in many ways. Have a guy upstairs review every single play, period, and stop things when necessary. Get rid of the darkened booth on the sideline, which, it seems to me, just slows things up. If you want to retain coaching challenges, for instances where the guy in the booth doesn't see soemthing questionable that a coach sees that way, fine.

97
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:29pm

Well, yes and no.

You can ask Oklahoma and VT about how well the NCAA replay system works when Pac-1x officials are in charge of it.

112
by tuluse :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 4:53pm

It's also worse in some ways. They challenge plays no coach in his right mind would ever care to review for one.

29
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 2:55pm

Out of curiosity, where did the impressive TE's of the week (Gronk, Hernandez, Graham) end up in receiving DYAR?

Gronk 7th (8 recs, 108 yds, 10 targets), Hernandez 13th (7-138-11), Graham 15th (8-97-9).

Your Vick blurb seemed a little extra-snarky. Did you let Tanier do that one?

No, that was me. Sorry if it came off that way, I didn't mean it as anything negative.

Where would Kurt Warner's playoff game against the Packers rank all time if playoff matches were included?

Best game in history, by a wide degree.

OK, I'll bite: how in the hell did Victor Cruz not crack the top 5 receiving games?

Just missed. He finished sixth, just behind Gates. Five incompletes hurt him.

42
by chemical burn :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:02pm

That's the funny thing about Cruz - he looks like an unstoppable monster on half his catches and then on the other half... he looks like he doesn't have any place on an NFL roster, dropping super easy catches and running the wrong routes. I think he's going to be one of the best in the game, but you can't ignore he's still a little raw, young and mistake prone...

43
by chemical burn :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:03pm

That's the funny thing about Cruz - he looks like an unstoppable monster on half his catches and then on the other half... he looks like he doesn't have any place on an NFL roster, dropping super easy catches and running the wrong routes. I think he's going to be one of the best in the game, but you can't ignore he's still a little raw, young and mistake prone...

35
by ChuckC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:28pm

How did Michael Turner put up negative receiving DYAR if he wasn't thrown any passes?

39
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:56pm

Whoops. Error on my part. Fixed.

38
by John Courage (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 3:51pm

In Joe Webb's blurb:

"He also had a -3-yard run on second-and-5 and a -10-yard run on third-and-4."

Since he's a QB, I thought those were called sacks...

I understand one might call some designed runs with a player like Webb, but do the official scorekeepers make a judgement call about whether it's a designed QB run vs a scramble/bootleg/busted play/etc where he was taken down before he could pass? Or was he lined up as a RB while Ponder was still in? Or were these gadget plays where someone else took a snap and handed off to Webb?

44
by erniecohen :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:15pm

The claim that Flynn's realistic floor is pro bowler is ridiculous. I'd be happy to bet at 5/1 odds that Flynn does not make a pro bowl in the next 10 years.

If Flynn is truly a po-bowl+ quality QB, we would expect that his coaching staff to realize this. Keeping a proi-bowl quality backup QB on your roster is inefficient; you are better off trading him for a player that fills a need. It would be in their interest to showcase him throughout the season to improve his franchise/trade value. Indeed, GB has had plenty of opportunities to play him in blowouts, with little or no risk.

Moreover, it's not as if Flynn hasn't had other opportunities to demonstrate his ability, besides his two starts. His stats prior to this game are nothing special. He has played in preseason games, where his performance was also nothing special.

Finally, rookie QBs come with an important benefit that Flynn does not: the rookie wage scale. Andrew Luck will cost no more than $5M/year for four years. Flynn will be considerably more expensive - if the Packers franchise him, why should he give up a guaranteed $14.4 M salary to go to some lousy team, when he can sit around for a year and get the same deal next year? So if they franchise him, it will cost a team, say, $10-12M per year, plus a first-round draft pick (which is itself worth several million per year, just because of the salary benefit). That's pretty darn expensive.

46
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 4:33pm

The Packers knew they had a potential starting quality backup QB on their roster before this season started. There was a lot of discussion before last off season whether it was smarter to get one more year out of Flynn as a backup and then lose him to free agency, or to trade him.

I think GB made the smart move. Before this year GB wouldn't have been able to get nearly as much value for Flynn as they would in hypothetical trade next off-season, no matter how highly they regarded him. Additionally, a good backup QB is far more valuable to GB than to many teams, because they run a pass-first offense with aspirations to repeat as Superbowl champs.

If GB had traded Flynn for a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick, and Rodgers got hurt in this season's playoffs with only Graham Harrell or some journeyman QB as backup every GB fan would be asking if that draft pick was really worth it. Now every GB fan is thinking that even if Rodgers does get hurt that GB has a great chance to repeat.

Draft picks are valuable, but legitimate chances to contend for a championship are much harder to come by.

And regarding the Franchising idea, I don't think GB will go that route. They kept Flynn for insurance this year, and will be happy to take their compensatory pick rather than the risk of the salary cap implications of a tag-and-trade.

48
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:06pm

Ted Thompson has spoken of mimicking the Ron Wolf approach of regularly drafting quarterbacks so that you not only mitigate risk but also generate trade material.

77
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:23am

Maybe the Packers will try to trade Rodgers for some defense and name Flynn the starter next year. I'd say Ted Thompson is not beneath such shenanigans.

91
by NYMike :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:35am

The Lions could use a QB that good.

Semi-seriously (since you obviously weren't all that serious), TT does not trade much. His preferred mode is clearly draft and develop.

52
by erniecohen :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 5:33pm

There are several other relevant things to mention:

- QB performance is greatly effected by the quality of the team around him.

- There is a big correlation between being in pro bowls and playing on good teams. If Flynn plays at Niel O'Donnel's level for a crappy team, he won't be sniffing at a pro bowl.

- Flynn himself pointed out that his monstor game was largely due to the fact that the game became a shootout. Most teams take the foot off the pedal once they get a good lead, particularly if they don't have an elite QB. This means that non-elite QBs can have monster games only in big shootouts, which are relatively rare. His DVOA just about matched Rogers' season average, which is awfully good, but playing at Rogers' level for one game doesn't exactly guarantee superstardom.

83
by Bjorn_ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 6:36am

Yes, that was what struck me. Not so much that calling Flynns likely floor is pro bowler was overreaching, but that it is so context-driven that it is not a very reliable indicator of QB quality.

You can't really compare Flynns PB chances if (which while unlikely is certanly not impossible) Rodgers has a careerending injury this playoff, whith what would would happen if i he signs with say the Browns or something.

Realisticly, playing as an around average NFL starter for 3-5 years is probably enough to pick up a pro bowl along the way as long as your team does not suck.

Looking at the Tag-projection article I would suggest that unless the colts decide to drop Payton and go with Luck all the way (assuming Payton is healty), Flynn is probably the hotest FA QB availible.

85
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 8:17am

No thats the whole point of this study - it's not context driven!

All those thousands of QB-games this one is compared to will have been played by QBs in all kinds of situations and sorroundings and with all kinds of teammates. And none of those QBs, not a single one of them, had a game in the ballpark of Flynns, without stumbling into a pro bowl somewhere along the way.

95
by Bjorn_ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 11:34am

My problem is not with the study, but with the "term" pro-bowler as used in this arcticle and as it seems to be percived by most.

If the author had said that Flynns floor was "league average starter" I think many less people would have reacted, but my point is that it is more or less equivalent unless your career is very short or you play for a poor team.

Simply put "pro-bowler" sounds a lot more special than it is. (Or maybe its the oppposite, that people grossly underestimate what it thakes to be an average starting QB in the NFL, considering it essentially means you are top 20 in the world at something.)

56
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:23pm

M. Fkynn reak deal. Going to be worthy strater for some team 2012. Remenrber wnen GB got Broom.and Flynn? What a dunb move and good move thise were

57
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:34pm

I'm glad to see that we've decided to skip the whole "wait and see" thing and just skip directly to declaring a guy a lock for the Pro Bowl after playing 2 games in 4 years. It's a lot more efficient that way. It's also the kind of thing that results in a $63 million contract for Kevin Kolb, but hey, what're you going to do?

If I were the Colts, I'd trade Peyton Manning AND the #1 pick for Matt Flynn straight away. Why mess aroung with unknowns like Peyton Manning's neck and Andrew Luck's potential when you've got a guy like Matt Flynn, who's REALISTIC FLOOR is to make the Pro Bowl?

107
by RickD :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 2:06pm

Well stated.

59
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 7:59pm

Flynn won the Poweball Lottery this weekend, that at least is for sure.

Some team sorely in need of a QB is going to look at that one game, project it over an entire season, and up its bidding for him by deca-millions. Tiny sample size and Winner's Curse notwithstanding.

When it does, Flynn is going to owe Rodgers a very nice fruit basket for deciding to sit a game and give him that start.

60
by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 8:07pm

I want to hear the "Statistics don't capture the intangibles Tebow uses to win" story once more.

Tebow's 4th Q clutch-play magic yesterday during his last two drives, down by 4 points:

Incomplete, incomplete, sacked, punt ... incomplete, incomplete, incomplete (1st down by penalty), incomplete, incomplete, 8-yard completion, intercepted, end.

Seems tangible enough to me.

62
by tunesmith :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:04pm

Yeah, Tebow's stats have probably regressed to whatever mean is for him at this stage. Still, it's only what it is - a quarterback and an offense that doesn't have an answer for press-man cover-1. The wide receivers played about as badly as Tebow did this last week. Drops, plus I saw two plays where Tebow's primary read was to an area where two receivers were basically occupying the same spot, and a flea-flicker attempt from outside the hashmarks, where the deep receiver for some reason decided to cut towards the opposite sideline rather than run deep. Just a crap passing offense all around. Yes, Tebow needs to improve. It's also not just him.

68
by NYMike :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:59pm

I saw at least two plays where the wide receivers were all alone and Tebow didn't throw, the flea-flicker being one of them.

78
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:27am

Tebow's regression has been to be below the mean of any quarterback at this stage already.

84
by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 7:55am

Have tk look at nunbeers to see if Tebow was beloe the Pickett Line. Like MendozabLine in basbeall Pickett Line is linebof crap for Nfl qbs. Is named afyer SF 49ers crap qb Cody Pockett

87
by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:59am

So, he was a pickpockett? No wonder you think he's a piece of crap.

93
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 11:15am

Brilliant.

98
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:34pm

37th on the season in DVOA. Which is theoretically below starter-level, but commensurate with what was turned in by other QBs with his level of experience and surrounding talent.

Sam Bradford was 38th.

In other news, in the short sample size grouping, Jake Locker did pretty well.

63
by Dennis :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 9:05pm

"In the second half, Orton went 5-of-11 for 52 yards and only two first downs. And yet he was not the worst passer in Kansas City this weekend."

Seeing as how Orton played in Denver this weekend, it's pretty obvious he wasn't the worst passer in KC.

66
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/03/2012 - 10:01pm

Orton actually looked pretty decent until Bowe (just over 90 yards receiving) was knocked out of the game with an injury late in the first half. Without Bowe, not so decent.

79
by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 1:29am

Nor was Orton the worst passer in Denver this weekend, either.

81
by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 4:45am

What we can learn about Matt Flynn is that he has had the good fortune to be trained by the key coaching and player personnel in what I believe will ultimately be regarded as the greatest offense in the history of the league, and that the Packers have had the good fortune (though it is a franchise habit) to have as a backup a player who will instantly become one of the "top half" QBs in the league next season, and absolutely have a very good chance to make more than 1 Pro Bowl.

All of which is somewhat obscuring the biggest truth of the above paragraph-- this Packer team ain't your average bear. Consider the following:

1) I tell you before the season a NFL team will allow 5000 yds in passing, including multiple 400 Yd games, and I say its ultimate record will be either a) 15-1 or b) 1-15. Be honest, which do you select? Or maybe to be more fair, since you might argue that teams would constantly convert to a run orientation in the 4th Q against the 1-15 team, 15-1 or 6-10?? We'd all say 6-10.

2) I tell you before the season that a NFL QB will throw for 500 yds and 6 TDs in a January game at Lambeau Field against a team bound for the playoffs-- and I say will it be Aaron Rodgers or Matt Flynn-- what do you answer??

3) or I ask you after Week 15 last season, with 2 games remaining, whether or not you believe that a given NFL team is about to win 21 of their next 22 games, do you believe me, and can you name the team??

4) Or I say anytime prior to this season that there is a receiver about to establish the best per play DVOA mark in the history of the FO ratings-- where might Jordy Nelson fall in the names you would offer as being that player? In the top 30? 40?

My point being this. Youth, depth, draft and free agency selection, passing, multi-faceted QBs, aggressive offensive schemes and coaching are the hallmarks of the new NFL. One team has the entire package-- and only one team-- though others have many of the elements in place. With all due respect to this site and any others who must, by definition, look backwards against preestablished norms to determine current success, the offensive-defensive balance has utterly changed. GB and NO are head and shoulders above their NFC competition; given the QB woes in Houston, Baltimore and possibly Pittsburgh, so is New England. Parity begins around Seed 4 in each league.

These Packers are the new Packers, the new Steelers, the new 49ers. They are going to lead the league through an entire paradigm shift, and in doing so establish historic greatness, so long as their QB stays healthy. And since the sport's very survival rests on protecting its players, the offensive trend will never abate. Not as long as the sport remains. One day the Lombardi Packers will be viewed as strangely as the 19th Century Cincinnati Reds-- who played a game called baseball, and very well, but in an unrecognizable form to the modern day. Bill Walsh was Babe Ruth-- Rodgers and Brady and Manning are Aaron, Mantle and Mays-- one day there will be a McGwire and Bonds that we can only hope is on the up and up.

82
by ammek :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 5:37am

Barf.

Do those backups include Doug Pederson, Craig Nall and Ingle Martin IV? The Packers have trained some fine backups, but in your blissed-out world you make it sound as though they have a midas touch. They don't. And Matt Flynn has started two games.

Seriously, I don't understand why you're posting this stuff on FO. You'd get the reaction you want on just about any other football site, but over here such evidence-free homerism comes across as … obnoxious. And I say that as a Packer fan. What you see as a paradgim shift looks to me like a team with an almost unstoppable pass offense winning close games in the only way they can — with unstoppable pass offense. The astonishing development of the past few seasons is QBs (Brady, Manning and now Rodgers) putting up huge yardage totals without turning the ball over.

109
by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 3:19pm

Midas Touch? of course not. But Wolf believed in acquiring QBs that had ability, and Thompson learned from him. Thompson's first draft choice was at a time when he had a Hall of Fame QB who was 35 and obviously still had good years in front of him. That is an organizational strength. As is the way they approach the passing game, which I believe only Peyton and the Saints come close to matching.

As for Rodgers' health, agreed. It is the one potential fly in the ointment-- but if he stays healthy, I can't see this team doing less than the Patriots and Colts have, and because of the overall depth and youth of the roster I think it will be more. Perhaps much more. And the paradigm shift is real-- Walsh started the ball rolling; Brady and Manning perfected the stationary QB role; Rodgers (and Newton, Griffin and still unknown others behind him) is taking it up to another level, IN LARGE PART because of the injury cloud hanging over the entire sport. Pro football cannot survive at anywhere near its current level of popularity if its players keep wounding each other-- the pool of kids playing the game will dry up. This is not simply a Packer homer commentary which I grant you I could do anywhere-- it is a very specific observation about team, philosophy, player(s) and sport-- all converging to produce what I believe could/should be a historic run of greatness. It will be the dominant focus of this site and all others over the next 3-5 years-- so I'll be happy to be recognized as one of the first that spotted it, and then defer to people smarter than me to explain it more carefully.

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by ammek :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:23am

But Wolf believed in acquiring QBs that had ability, and Thompson learned from him.

Unlike all those teams who acquire QBs without ability. (Okay, the Browns.)

Thompson's approach to drafting QBs has been nothing like Wolf's. Wolf never picked a QB higher than the fourth round, although he did trade a first-rounder for Favre. His three draft hits were in the middle rounds: Aaron Brooks (4th round), Mark Brunell (5th) and Matt Hasselbeck (6th). His highest-drafted failure was Jay Barker (5th).

Thompson has drafted four QBs, only one of them in the middle rounds (Ingle Martin, 5th). Flynn was picked much lower than any of Wolf's successes — unless you count Ty Detmer (9th round) — and Brohm much higher (2nd) than any of Wolf's QBs at all.

There's no coherent philosophy here. If scouting QBs is an "organizational strength", you have to wonder why half of the QBs drafted since 2001 have been busts. If the fact of having an NFL-ready backup is a philosophy, what's the plan for next year? Graham Harrell? And Flynn was hardly ready in 2008-09. The Packers have been, above all, lucky with QB health for two whole decades. That's their true "organizational strength".

89
by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 10:24am

You have this much right; the game being played now is very different than what was played even 10 years ago. Whether it is an improvement depends on what you like about the game. The new paradigm reduces the interdependence of 22 starters and special teams, in order to make qb play and, to a lesser extent receiver play, more prominent. This definitely attracts more eyeballs at the margin, which, of course drives up revenues.

For those who are attracted to the game due to it having a huge amount of player interdependence, with a huge variety of skill-sets among the players on the field, this change does not make the game more entertaining, and sometoimes makes it rather less so.

If I could make one single change, it would be to expand the zone from 5 to 10 yards where contact with a receiver was allowed. It'll never happen, of course, so if I'm around in 40 years, I'll be able to nostalgically regale young football fans with tales of an era where 5 offensive linemen, working in exquisite coordination as run blockers, was an important element to winning football games.

101
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:47pm

This may be a good time to raise this question:

The period from 1962 to 1972 or so was the one stretch since the 1920s that passing declined as a percentage of plays executed. Does anyone know why? Were there any rule changes or demographic shifts that would explain that?

111
by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 3:44pm

I'd expect that expansion had something to do with dilluting the talent pool, but that's just a guess.

100
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 12:45pm

These Packers are the new Packers, the new Steelers, the new 49ers. They are going to lead the league through an entire paradigm shift, and in doing so establish historic greatness, so long as their QB stays healthy.

There's the rub.

Ask the mid-80s Bears, late-80s 49ers, and Kurt Warner's Thumb how relying on your QB to stay healthy works out for potential dynasties.

It's also telling that two HOF QBs retired early in the last decade or so due to concussion issues, which Rodgers is already dealing with.

114
by MJK :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 6:47pm

Wow. Just...wow. Holy hyperbole, Batman! I really, really hope this post was meant to be ironic... If not...well, I kind of like the Packers (at least, the most of the four NFC-north teams), and I'm afraid what the FOMBC will do to them if this post was meant to be serious...

115
by MJK :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 7:24pm

Just in case it WAS serious, let me address a few points...

"Greatest offense in the history of the league". Well. I'm not even sure there is a conclusive case that the Packers had the best offense THIS SEASON. It's really a 3-team race between GB, NO, and NE. Yes, DVOA likes the Pack *slightly* more, and my eyeballs tell me that maybe they were the best as well, by the narrowest of margins, but I'm sure a lot of people can make arguments for all three.

Now, if you want to consider "in the history of the league", you're up against some even steeper competition. Not only the 2007 (and 2010) Patriots (which I, and most other Pats fans at least, would certainly put ahead of 2011 Green Bay), but all the run of greatness that was the middle-2000's Manning-led Colts, not to mention the two glorious years St. Louis had (including the "Greatest Show on Turf"). Now go historical and you'll see offenses that, while didn't produce the raw numbers of the modern era (not surprisingly since the game has been making it easier to pass all the time) outshone their competition and defense of their day to huge extents and certainly enter into the disucssion...Jim Kelly's K-Gun, Walsh's version of the "West Coast Offense" with Montana and then Young, the "Triplets" in Dallas, the original Run-n-shoot. And that's just in my lifetime. Go back further and there are some other legendary offenses.

The Packers have a good offense this year, certainly, and one that is well suited to the rules as they are enforced right now, and the (relatively weak) competition they happened to play this year. I wouldn't go further.

Onto your questions:

1). Given how well all-offense and no defense teams have done lately (the Colts throughout the entire decade, the Patriots in the latter half of the decade, even the Packers last year), I don't know that people would automatically expect a bad defense team to have a losing record. I certainly wouldn't expect a 1-15 team to give up all those passing yards, since, as you bring up, teams only pass a lot if they are trailing. In fact, I would expect a team that sets a record for giving up passing yards to have a winning record, because frantic passing only happens when a team is trailing, meaning the team that gives up all those passing yards must have been leading late and often. Maybe not 15-1, but it's not impossible. (It could easily have happened for two teams this year...the Patriots lost all three of their games by less than a TD, which means they were two bounces of a ball away from 15-1, with a defense every bit as bad as the Pack's).

2). If you told me the Pack was facing a team bound for the playoffs in late January, I would assume it was a meaningless game against scrubs, so I would actually pick Flynn. Assuming I thought the Pack was also going to the playoffs. Not sure why this relates to anything whatsoever...

3). Of course I believe you. Winning 21 out of 22 games isn't exactly unheard of. The record for CONSECUTIVE wins in games that matter (which the Packers did not break) is held by the Patriots (21 wins). The "official" record for consecutive regular season wins is 23 (held by the Colts). And good teams regularly put together back to back 14-2 or 13-3 seasons, which makes it quite possible and not particularly remarkable to have 20+ wins for only one loss. As far as naming the team goes...I might not have picked the Pack, but given that even then they had an excellent QB, they would certainly have been in the discussion (along with the Colts, Patriots, Jets, Saints, and maybe the Ravens and Falcons). But how does implying that people wouldn't have picked the Pack have reinforced your point that the Pack is somehow the new "Superteam"? Seems to me it identifies their success this year as surprising and possibly unrepeatable, not destined.

4). Players have surprising breakout years all the time (even considering only WR's: Victor Cruz....Wes Welker...Laurent Robinson...etc.). So what? Why does this imply that the Packers are somehow trancendent?

"Youth, depth, draft and free agency selection, passing, multi-faceted QBs, aggressive offensive schemes and coaching are the hallmarks of the new NFL. "

Well, not exactly. They're certainly all valuable traits to have in a football team and the surrounding organization. And in other news, water is wet. It's not exactly groundbreaking knowledge here, or something that the Packers just figured out. You don't hear many GM's or coaches talking about wanting to get older, or having too much depth, or wishing their scouting department sucked more. You don't hear many experts saying their team is too good at passing to succeed, or that a QB is too multi-faceted to play well, or that they wish Dennis Green would coach their team.

The Packers had a few other things this season that you didn't mention, that also help: Reasonably good injury luck (until the end). A fairly easy schedule. The Minnesota Vikings. (twice). Only six games against playoff teams (two against the Lions, and one each against the Giants and Denver, who barely count). A (probably not repeatable) career year out of their QB.

But here are a few other things that also are good to have, that the Packers decidedly lack: A good defense. A secondary that doesn't leak yards like a sieve. A half decent running back. A receiving threat out of the backfield. A QB who is not prone to concussions. Depth on the offensive line.

There are a lot of ways to win in the NFL, a lot of good things to have. The Packers happen to have a lot of those things, and also some good luck and an easy schedule, and hence put up a pretty good year. So far. I'm hoping they run into the Niners, or the Ravens, in the playoffs/SB (well, not the Ravens, since I'm a Patriots fan... :-) so we can see how they do against an actually good defense.

I certainly agree that passing and agressive gameplay are certainly rewarded in today's NFL. But there is more than one way to build a good team.

119
by KB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:32pm

About comment number 1. Packers were the second rated defense last year in Points allowed. I believe after week 8 they allowed something like 10 points a game in 2010. I consider that a fairly good defense if not very good.

120
by Eddo :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 11:44pm

The 2010 Packer defense was pretty damn good, you're right.

The 2011 version? Not so much. MJK was not talking about the 2010 version.

128
by NYMike :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 12:09pm

The Packer defense was terrible by the end of 2009, great last year, and pretty much terrible this year, except for ball hawking. I took that MJK was talking about the 2010 Packer defense and was going to make the same remark. They really miss Collins and a second pass rusher, and I think some of them are more dinged up than last year. That explains the difference, and is not an excuse. Every team has injuries, and injuries may very well entirely derail Pittsburgh this year.

121
by Paul M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 1:11am

1) you're not being honest. The Vikings had an abysmal pass defense-- they won what? 3 games. There's no way you pick a 15-1 team to have the defensive pass yardage stats the Packers had instead of a team with a losing record. Now if I throw in the 31 INTs, of course it changes, but that's the point, isn't it?

2) you're not only not being honest, you are being disingenuous. And of course ignoring the point-- bad QBs don't have games like Flynn-- hell, most good QBs never have a game like Flynn-- well let's make it most great QBs-- most HOF QBs. The point is not that Flynn is the latter (even though the article above suggested that is his ceiling) but that he may be surprisingly good when given a starter's job next year, and that the Packer QB coach is real good (just ask Penn State, who just interviewed him a 2nd time) and that Thompson has followed the Wolf model that has produced more quality backup QBs in the past two decades than any other franchise;

3. best I can tell, maybe a handful of teams in the past 30 years have won 21 out of 22 games. So yeah you knew it would happen last December, and that it could easily be the Packers. Sure you did. That's about a 1 in 5 times a 1 in 16 (since the streak could start anywhere in a season) times another 1 in 6 (let's give the Packers fairly generous odds for being "that" team) 1 in 480 but you knew. Sure you did.

4. yes they do have breakout seasons. But never this good. Never, since FO has been following this. And of the 32 teams the record breakout receiver season could have happened on, it just so happened to be GB.

As to the broader and infinitely more interesting questions, the Packers have more closely followed the successful model-- in every facet of their organization-- than any other team. Their water is not only wet, but it is flowing more rapidly than the others. Thompson is a stickler for the draft over free agency. Thompson unloads players a year early rather than a year late (Favre, Jenkins). Thompson feasts on young undrafted talent. McCarthy calls a bold game-- at least until the 4th Quarter. They have made brilliant skill player draft decisions-- Rodgers, Jennings, Nelson, Driver, Finley, Collins, Williams-- that cannot simply be matched in the league right now given the draft position.

And when all is said and done i believe-- and the results will prove me right or wrong-- that they will exceed the Patriots, Colts, Saints, Cowboys, Rams, 49ers, Chargers and all other claimants as the best offense ever-- not for a 1 or 2 or even 3 year period-- but over a half-dozen seasons or more with Rodgers at the helm. At least until the team comes around that trumps them, which will inevitably occur. either the Packers aren't that special and we're looking at an amazing (shocking, actually) but little more than random group of statistical variation, or they are and we aren't. I prefer to believe the simpler explanation.

123
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 2:19am

Look, you may be right about Thompson for all I know, but do you understand what nonsense it is to make confident projections about future performance based upon nothing more than the track record from a tiny sample size? How many players has Thompson drafted? Fifty or sixty? How many undrafted rookies has he signed? Forty?
Do you know how a baseball analyst would be laughed at if he looked at a sample size of 100 plate appearances, and declared a hitter historically great? Large sample sizes are hard to come by when evaluating drafting acumen, but that doesn't make it any less silly to draw strong conclusions with small evidence.

No, if five years from now we are saying the same thing about Thompson, it won't mean you have demonstrated great insight, any more than it would be significant if I called the roll of the dice correctly. If we don't have the evidence to know something, then we don't have the evidence to know something, and pretending we do is just without merit.

124
by Paul M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:07am

I think the sample size argument can be and in fact often is a copout. And I am in a field whose entire foundation rests on them.

Top executives in the NFL have perhaps 8-10 years to demonstrate their strengths or weaknesses, and far fewer than that to demonstrate them before one day the ax did fell. If we say that Executive A drafting for, say, 5 years and choosing 35-40 players in the draft and another 25-30 from free agency cannot be judged in comparison to Executive B over the same time period, then what's the point of the games that are played which their decisions affect?

And the comparison to baseball is fallacious. Collectively those 60-70 players are putting a lot more sample size into the equation than their identity as a player.

If the ethos of this site-- and sometimes it seems to veer dangerously close to this-- is that it's all one big roll of the dice-- well, what did Einstein say?? Rozelle doesn't roll dice?? How did Russell win a championship nearly every year? Or Jordan for 6 straight seasons when he was a full-time player? Or UCLA? Or the Steel Curtain? Were these simply statistical anomalies whose sample size was too small to call them truly great??

I wish Walsh were still alive-- and for that matter Lombardi-- to comment on what Thompson, McCarthy and Rodgers are doing-- they'd get it before the rest of us. Even as they also praised Belichick, brady, Polian (oops) and Matthews, Brees and Peyton, etc, etc.... Lombardi never won 'em all either-- he just won nearly all the ones that really counted.

125
by Paul M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 3:10am

Sorry-- Manning, not Matthews-- I had a hair fart.

127
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 9:32am

I don't know what this sentence means.....

"Collectively those 60-70 players are putting a lot more sample size into the equation than their identity as a player."

The point of the NFL is not to prove who drafts best. The point of the NFL is to play football games that people watch. The fact that we rarely have someone draft enough people to have any confidence that their results were not due to random chance is irrelevant to the goal of having people watch football games.

In UCLA's storied winning streak, there were thousands of possessions with which to demonstrate that UCLA was a superior basketball team. Whether Wooden was a historically superior recruiter is another thing. He wasn't a young man by 1964; did he all of a sudden become a genius at recruiting?

If you want to claim to "know" who is clearly more highly skilled at drafting, relative to other people, based upon 50 data points, well, golly, you just go right ahead.

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by Paul M (not verified) :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:03pm

The 50 data "points" are in fact each individual players who are amassing hundreds, if not thousands, of data points concerning their skills. That cannot be compared to the 100 ABS of one baseball player in one season.

And the logical outgrowth of your view is that we can never rate all but the most successful NFL executives or personnel directors (or the ones who have the pictures of the owner that mean they get to keep their jobs far longer than deserved), since none will ever have enough data points to be significant. I think that's pretty much a textbook definition of a cop-out. Jerry Angelo and Brad Childress no longer have jobs in part because of what Thompson and McCarhty have done-- I'd say that's the most telling evidence of their acumen.

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by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 6:32pm

The draft selection itself was either good, bad, or mediocre. The thousands of data points is what we use to make that categorozation. You are using 50 data points to make a strong assertion pertaining to your knowledge. Hey, it's a free country, but let us not pretend that you are doing something more.

If you want to say it is a cop-out to make an accurate characterization of what is known and what is unknown, again, go right ahead, but the fact that we really can't know who is truly superior at drafting, after 50 picks, in the way we can know who is a truly superior hitter after 5000 plate appearances, does not change because we really, really, really want it do. Do I strongly suspect Ted Thompson is better at drafting than Jerry Angelo? Sure. Do I know that he is, or how much better he is, compared to how I know Albert Pujols is a better hitter, and how much better a hitter, compared to the average major league hitter with a 10 year career? Not even close, and it is just plainly ridiculous to claim otherwise.

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by KB (not verified) :: Wed, 01/04/2012 - 9:23pm

I am wondering if people have forgot that Cassel was a pro bowler last year. Just watching the two Flynn is the much better QB. It isn't that huge of a statement really to say that is his floor.

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by dryheat :: Thu, 01/05/2012 - 8:44am

I wouldn't say that at all. I'm willing to bet if you dropped Cassel in the Green Bay offense, he'd perform at a similar level over the course of a season as Flynn. I'm willing to bet if you dropped Flynn in the middle of the Kansas City offense, he'd have a very mediocre season.

I think this point's been made ad nauseum by others. I don't think Cassel's a great quarterback, but I'd like to see him perform again in a non-Haley offense. He's not as good as New England 2008, but he's not as bad as Kansas City 2011 either.