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Inspired by Terrelle Pryor's do-it-all day against Miami, Bryan and Andrew try to put together the NFL's best 11-man double-duty lineup.

12 Feb 2016

Quarterback Postseason Drive Stats

by Scott Kacsmar

Many great offenses have crashed and burned on the game's biggest stage, the Super Bowl, and often it happened against a great defense. The Parcells/Belichick Giants held back the K-Gun Buffalo Bills. The 2002 Oakland air show imploded against a legendary Tampa Bay defense. The most recent Super Bowl blowout featured the 2013 Seahawks shutting down the high-flying Broncos. No one would confuse this year's Carolina offense with what the Broncos had two years ago, but a 24-10 loss sure looks better on the surface than a 43-8 thrashing, right?

Of course we could compare these games with DVOA ratings, but it is always good to look at a collection of stats rather than focus on just one specific type of metric. We can learn more about a game that way. I have long advocated for the use of drive stats, which do not adjust for opponent, but do adjust for the pace at which games are played. In comparing these two Super Bowls, it is important to note that Carolina had 16 drives and the 2013 Broncos had 11 (including the unforced error on the botched snap for a safety by Denver to start the game). By that measure, Denver's offense edges out Carolina in points per drive (0.73 to 0.63) and yards per drive (27.9 to 18.2).

There is also the problem with the score. Carolina's offense took the field with an average deficit of 7.5 points on Sunday night -- making Super Bowl 50 a close, one-score game most of the way. Two years ago, Denver's offense had an average deficit of 22.6 points. Had the game not gotten out of hand so quickly, Denver's offense likely would have scored more than 8 points. The Broncos bypassed a 37-yard field goal before halftime because it was 22-0 instead of, oh, let's say 13-7. Carolina had the luxury of kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter because Denver's offense never pulled away. It was more crucial for Denver's defense to perform well over the full game than it was for Seattle two years ago.

Obviously, identifying historical superlatives such as "worst offensive flameout" or "best defensive performance" is still going to be subjective, but it is worth considering the drive stats when these things come up. The following is my annual update to the quarterback playoff drive stats I first introduced five years ago at Pro-Football-Reference. You can read last year's edition here. Each year this study grows and it now includes 35 quarterbacks (17 active) and 4,844 drives. Nonetheless, since these are stats for the whole offensive unit, not just the quarterback, we always need a warning here.

Disclaimer: While passing stats are not truly individual stats either, drive stats are even more teammate-focused. There are of course drives where the quarterback never drops back and just hands the ball off every play. The entry "Cam Newton" is another way of saying "2013-15 Carolina Panthers" and considers Steve Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Greg Olsen, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Remmers, offensive coordinator Mike Shula, etc. Drive stats are not adjusted for opponent.

Generally, only games started by the quarterback are included, but there are some significant backup performances included for Steve Young, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Mark Brunell, Dave Krieg, Bernie Kosar, and Randall Cunningham. Every player has at least five playoff starts. Cam Newton and Alex Smith are two new additions this season.

Most of these stats will be familiar to users of Football Outsiders' drive stats -- my inspiration for collecting this data in the first place. Yards per drive are still net yards that include penalties. As always, kneeldown drives are excluded, and any kneeldown is removed from the drive stats.

General Drive Stats

Our first table includes general drive stats for things like yards (Yds/Dr), points (Pts/Dr) and starting field position (LOS/Dr). QBTO/Dr refers to the turnovers by only the quarterback, which include interceptions and lost fumbles. PEN +/- is a per-drive measure of the net yardage gained or lost due to penalties for the quarterback's offense. So if an offense drew an encroachment penalty on the defense but also committed a 10-yard holding penalty on the same drive, the net would be -5.0 for that drive. 3Outs/Dr is the percentage of drives ending in a three-and-out. Please note that drives where an offense ran three plays, gained zero first downs and kicked a field goal because they started in ideal field position count as a three-and-out drive. Active players are in bold, and the average of the sample is included at the bottom.

Quarterback Drives Games Yds/Dr Pts/Dr Punts/Dr QBTO/Dr PEN +/- LOS/Dr Plays/Dr 3Outs/Dr
Colin Kaepernick 60 6 41.48 (1) 2.75 (1) .300 (1) .100 (13) 1.07 (1) 27.20 (33) 6.08 (3) .217 (11)
Drew Brees 130 11 35.53 (2) 2.35 (6) .315 (3) .069 (5) -0.22 (23) 27.51 (32) 5.88 (9) .177 (3)
Aaron Rodgers 138 13 35.05 (3) 2.43 (4) .384 (16) .087 (8) 0.61 (5) 28.06 (30) 6.00 (7) .217 (12)
Steve Young 141 15 34.63 (4) 2.46 (2) .333 (6) .128 (26) 0.38 (11) 31.44 (16) 6.01 (5) .199 (8)
Andrew Luck 69 6 34.58 (5) 1.90 (20) .333 (7) .188 (34) -0.22 (24) 24.03 (35) 5.87 10) .217 (13)
Kurt Warner 144 13 33.64 (6) 2.35 (5) .354 (8) .118 (23) -0.69 (34) 32.69 (6) 5.26 (31) .194 (6)
Peyton Manning 293 27 33.14 (7) 1.95 (18) .358 (10) .106 (15) 0.53 (8) 28.06 (29) 6.00 (6) .239 (24)
Russell Wilson 106 10 33.11 (8) 2.22 (9) .358 (11) .094 (11) -0.62 (32) 31.52 (15) 5.57 (17) .198 (7)
Troy Aikman 164 16 32.81 (9) 2.44 (3) .329 (5) .116 (22) -0.31 (28) 33.12 (4) 5.82 (11) .159 (1)
Tom Brady 337 31 32.54 (10) 2.23 (8) .403 (23) .092 (10) 0.04 (18) 31.01 (20) 6.03 (4) .249 (27)
Joe Montana 248 23 32.41 (11) 2.15 (10) .395 (20) .089 (9) -0.27 (26) 31.62 (13) 5.53 (20) .226 (17)
Warren Moon 107 10 32.37 (12) 1.87 (22) .308 (2) .168 (33) -0.79 (35) 28.01 (31) 6.35 (2) .224 (16)
John Elway 239 22 32.03 (13) 2.13 (11) .384 (17) .109 (17) 0.63 (4) 31.79 (12) 5.53 (21) .205 (10)
Cam Newton 68 6 31.52 (14) 1.91 (19) .367 (13) .162 (32) -0.31 (27) 28.90 (27) 5.72 (14) .221 (15)
Ben Roethlisberger 188 17 31.27 (15) 2.09 (12) .372 (14) .112 (19) 0.19 (15) 30.37 (22) 5.74 (13) .186 (4)
Tony Romo 62 6 31.09 (16) 1.81 (26) .387 (19) .065 (3) 0.05 (16) 28.40 (28) 5.98 (8) .161 (2)
Neil O'Donnell 78 7 30.92 (17) 1.85 (23) .410 (24) .115 (21) -0.38 (30) 33.33 (1) 6.56 (1) .192 (5)
Jim Kelly 195 17 30.89 (18) 2.08 (13) .328 (4) .159 (31) 0.55 (7) 33.18 (3) 5.57 (16) .231 (19)
Quarterback Drives Games Yds/Dr Pts/Dr Punts/Dr QBTO/Dr PEN +/- LOS/Dr Plays/Dr 3Outs/Dr
Alex Smith 62 5 30.82 (19) 2.26 (7) .435 (28) .048 (1) 0.00 (19) 32.74 (5) 5.56 (18) .274 (32)
Matt Ryan 53 5 30.71 (20) 1.74 (30) .358 (12) .189 (35) 0.96 (3) 25.72 (34) 5.77 (12) .245 (25)
Bernie Kosar 93 8 30.60 (21) 1.98 (15) .387 (18) .108 (16) 0.44 (9) 29.14 (26) 5.27 (30) .237 (23)
Jeff Garcia 64 6 29.98 (22) 1.89 (21) .438 (29) .125 (25) 0.25 (14) 29.92 (25) 5.55 (19) .266 (29)
Brett Favre 274 24 29.96 (23) 2.03 (14) .358 (9) .128 (27) -0.04 (20) 33.22 (2) 5.37 (25) .204 (9)
Eli Manning 119 11 29.88 (24) 1.80 (27) .445 (30) .076 (7) -0.22 (25) 30.12 (24) 5.71 (15) .235 (22)
Mark Sanchez 65 6 29.75 (25) 1.85 (24) .523 (34) .062 (2) -0.32 (29) 32.28 (8) 5.45 (23) .262 (28)
Philip Rivers 96 9 29.73 (26) 1.83 (25) .469 (33) .104 (14) -0.64 (33) 31.25 (18) 5.35 (26) .229 (18)
Jake Delhomme 93 8 29.61 (27) 1.78 (29) .452 (32) .129 (28) -0.15 (22) 30.35 (23) 5.04 (34) .269 (30)
Dan Marino 205 18 28.64 (28) 1.79 (28) .380 (15) .141 (30) 0.04 (17) 30.56 (21) 5.42 (24) .234 (21)
Joe Flacco 173 15 28.56 (29) 1.97 (16) .434 (27) .075 (6) 1.00 (2) 31.32 (17) 5.35 (27) .272 (31)
Matt Hasselbeck 133 11 28.21 (30) 1.95 (17) .451 (31) .068 (4) 0.33 (12) 32.08 (10) 5.32 (29) .278 (34)
Donovan McNabb 187 16 27.48 (31) 1.68 (31) .401 (22) .134 (29) 0.27 (13) 31.99 (11) 5.33 (28) .219 (14)
Steve McNair 117 10 26.96 (32) 1.54 (33) .410 (25) .111 (18) 0.57 (6) 32.34 (7) 5.52 (22) .248 (26)
Mark Brunell 113 11 26.41 (33) 1.56 (32) .398 (21) .124 (24) -0.52 (31) 31.16 (19) 5.26 (32) .274 (33)
Randall Cunningham 125 10 25.64 (34) 1.46 (34) .432 (26) .112 (20) -0.06 (21) 32.09 (9) 5.02 (35) .232 (20)
Dave Krieg 105 11 23.36 (35) 1.31 (35) .543 (35) .095 (12) 0.41 (10) 31.57 (14) 5.11 (33) .324 (35)
AVG 138.4 12.6 31.01 1.98 .393 .112 0.07 30.52 5.63 .229

If Carolina's 18.2 yards per drive in the Super Bowl sounded bad, Denver was worse at 14.4, the 12th-lowest game in my database. Newton's numbers are a good example of the small sample size of the postseason. His best postseason game so far is clearly the NFC Championship Game against Arizona where Carolina averaged 43.1 yards and 3.82 points per drive. Through five career playoff games, Carolina averaged 2.31 points per drive behind Newton, which would have him ranked seventh here ahead of Alex Smith, another player with small-sample problems. Add in the Super Bowl against the best defense in the league and that Newton number has fallen to 1.91, ranked 19th.

How long do we need to wait to judge a quarterback's postseason production with even a shred of confidence? Some of the great numbers for Colin Kaepernick, Smith, and Mark Sanchez are not likely to continue should they get into more postseason games, while we should not yet write off the likes of Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan. Remember, Joe Flacco was pretty terrible in his first three trips to the playoffs. Of course, the problem is that so few quarterbacks consistently get to the playoffs, so we are left with oddities like Kaepernick and Sanchez appearing much higher than would be expected based on their regular-season performances.

I took the five quarterbacks with at least 20 playoff starts (John Elway, Joe Montana, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady) and plotted their progressive career average for points per drive in the playoffs. Note that Montana's early performance is literally off the chart here, since the 49ers scored a touchdown on the first drive of his first playoff game, which skewed his average at the beginning of his career.

Once you get to about 100 drives (or, around 10 playoff games), you see the quarterbacks start to converge around that average of 2.0 points per drive. Favre was pretty consistent throughout his career, Montana had to fall back to earth before another peak, while Brady, Manning, and Elway all had to pick it up after slow offensive starts. Manning tailed off at the end here with his physical decline in the last four playoff games; obviously, we might still see that happen to Brady in 2016 and beyond.

One area where I think we might need an adjustment for drive stats, particularly in the context of a quarterback, is in the impact the scoring margin has on production. My data definitely suggests it is more likely for an offense in the lead to go three-and-out, though we should use years of regular-season data to confirm just how much of an impact that makes. It certainly makes sense, as the leading team wants to run clock, which is why Denver barely did anything in the fourth quarter of its last two wins. Trailing teams are more likely to do things that avoid three-and-out drives, such as going for it on fourth down, turning the ball over by being aggressive, and passing more in general.

Here is a handy reference chart that summarizes how each quarterback's drives have ended in the playoffs. There are 11 possible outcomes. Miss is a missed field goal. BOTFG is a botched field goal that means a bad snap or hold never allowed the kick to happen. (Yes, I gave Tony Romo a failed fourth-down play for his infamous botched hold since he specifically was at fault.) Clock is a drive that ended because the clock expired at the end of a half. FUM-TM and FUM-QB are lost fumbles split up by teammates (TM) and the quarterback himself. Downs always means a failed fourth-down conversion.

Playoff Drive Results
Quarterback Drives Punts FG Miss BOTFG Clock INT FUM-TM FUM-QB Safety Downs TD
Tom Brady 337 136 45 6 0 10 28 6 3 2 13 88
Peyton Manning 293 105 53 7 0 12 25 9 6 2 16 58
Brett Favre 274 98 34 13 0 6 30 9 5 1 13 65
Joe Montana 248 98 25 14 0 4 21 12 1 0 7 66
John Elway 239 92 28 12 0 7 21 5 5 2 6 61
Dan Marino 205 78 19 9 0 3 24 11 5 1 11 44
Jim Kelly 195 64 29 8 0 5 28 5 3 0 7 46
Ben Roethlisberger 188 70 29 2 0 5 19 9 2 2 6 44
Donovan McNabb 187 75 26 5 0 9 17 6 8 1 6 34
Joe Flacco 173 75 23 1 0 5 10 8 3 2 7 39
Troy Aikman 164 54 22 5 0 2 17 5 2 0 9 48
Kurt Warner 144 51 15 8 1 3 14 3 3 0 4 42
Steve Young 141 47 14 3 0 7 13 4 5 0 4 44
Aaron Rodgers 138 53 21 2 0 3 8 5 4 1 2 39
Matt Hasselbeck 133 60 19 3 0 3 9 2 0 0 8 29
Drew Brees 130 41 17 4 0 9 6 5 3 1 8 36
Randall Cunningham 125 54 16 4 0 8 9 5 5 0 5 19
Eli Manning 119 53 18 6 0 4 8 1 1 1 4 23
Quarterback Drives Punts FG Miss BOTFG Clock INT FUM-TM FUM-QB Safety Downs TD
Steve McNair 117 48 16 8 0 2 11 7 2 0 4 19
Mark Brunell 113 45 17 2 0 5 11 3 3 1 7 19
Warren Moon 107 33 16 7 1 3 14 4 4 0 3 22
Russell Wilson 106 38 15 1 0 4 9 2 1 0 9 27
Dave Krieg 105 57 9 3 0 4 9 3 1 0 3 16
Philip Rivers 96 45 10 7 0 2 9 1 1 0 0 21
Bernie Kosar 93 36 10 5 0 4 10 5 0 0 1 22
Jake Delhomme 93 42 15 2 0 1 10 1 2 0 1 19
Neil O'Donnell 78 32 13 1 1 0 8 2 1 0 5 15
Andrew Luck 69 23 11 3 0 2 12 2 1 0 1 14
Cam Newton 68 25 8 2 0 3 7 1 4 1 2 15
Mark Sanchez 65 34 5 3 0 3 3 0 1 0 1 15
Jeff Garcia 64 28 7 1 0 3 7 0 1 0 3 14
Tony Romo 62 24 7 4 0 3 2 2 2 1 4 13
Alex Smith 62 27 12 0 0 2 1 1 2 0 2 15
Colin Kaepernick 60 18 11 1 0 1 5 2 1 0 2 19
Matt Ryan 53 19 5 0 0 2 7 1 3 1 4 11
AVG 138.4 38.8% 13.2% 3.3% 0.1% 3.1% 9.1% 3.0% 1.9% 0.4% 3.9% 23.1%

I mentioned this last year, but it is worth updating: in his 19 playoff games with Indianapolis, Manning only lost one fumble, and that was on a handoff to Joseph Addai that the Bears blew up in Super Bowl XLI. But since going to Denver, Manning lost five fumbles in eight playoff games, including two this postseason.

Starting Field Position and Touchdowns

Field position is a crucial element to success, and the offense has no direct control over it. It's a part of the game that gets overlooked too often, but some quarterbacks have definitely had a bigger advantage than others when it comes to how far they had to drive to score points.

The following table shows each quarterback's average starting field position (LOS/Dr). You can see the number of drives where the offense started inside its own 20, at exactly the 20, their own 21-35, own 36-49, and in opponent territory. Worst GP is the worst average starting field position the quarterback had in any one playoff game. The top figure in each column is in bold, while the worst figure is in red and bold.

Average Field Position for Playoff Quarterbacks
Quarterback Drives LOS/Dr 1-19 Pct. On 20 Pct. 21-35 Pct. 36-49 Pct. Opp. 50+ Pct. Worst GP
Neil O'Donnell 78 33.33 (1) 10 12.8% 5 6.4% 36 46.2% 20 25.6% 7 9.0% 27.6
Brett Favre 274 33.22 (2) 56 20.4% 23 8.4% 102 37.2% 46 16.8% 47 17.2% 24.1
Jim Kelly 195 33.18 (3) 29 14.9% 26 13.3% 70 35.9% 37 19.0% 33 16.9% 21.5
Troy Aikman 164 33.12 (4) 26 15.9% 25 15.2% 57 34.8% 30 18.3% 26 15.9% 23.1
Alex Smith 62 32.74 (5) 13 21.0% 11 17.7% 21 33.9% 7 11.3% 10 16.1% 28.4
Kurt Warner 144 32.69 (6) 25 17.4% 19 13.2% 49 34.0% 29 20.1% 22 15.3% 22.9
Steve McNair 117 32.34 (7) 20 17.1% 8 6.8% 49 41.9% 25 21.4% 15 12.8% 26.3
Mark Sanchez 65 32.28 (8) 11 16.9% 6 9.2% 28 43.1% 12 18.5% 8 12.3% 26.6
Randall Cunningham 125 32.09 (9) 17 13.6% 24 19.2% 44 35.2% 25 20.0% 15 12.0% 22.4
Matt Hasselbeck 133 32.08 (10) 19 14.3% 9 6.8% 65 48.9% 25 18.8% 15 11.3% 22.1
Donovan McNabb 187 31.99 (11) 37 19.8% 14 7.5% 68 36.4% 40 21.4% 28 15.0% 20.0
John Elway 239 31.79 (12) 47 19.7% 35 14.6% 82 34.3% 36 15.1% 39 16.3% 19.3
Joe Montana 248 31.62 (13) 49 19.8% 36 14.5% 89 35.9% 36 14.5% 38 15.3% 20.2
Dave Krieg 105 31.57 (14) 23 21.9% 10 9.5% 37 35.2% 19 18.1% 16 15.2% 22.4
Russell Wilson 106 31.52 (15) 15 14.2% 27 25.5% 28 26.4% 21 19.8% 15 14.2% 26.1
Steve Young 141 31.44 (16) 32 22.7% 19 13.5% 43 30.5% 18 12.8% 29 20.6% 16.7
Joe Flacco 173 31.32 (17) 37 21.4% 30 17.3% 52 30.1% 26 15.0% 28 16.2% 20.0
Philip Rivers 96 31.25 (18) 16 16.7% 13 13.5% 34 35.4% 17 17.7% 16 16.7% 19.0
Quarterback Drives LOS/Dr 1-19 Pct. On 20 Pct. 21-35 Pct. 36-49 Pct. Opp. 50+ Pct. Worst GP
Mark Brunell 113 31.16 (19) 27 23.9% 8 7.1% 45 39.8% 19 16.8% 14 12.4% 18.0
Tom Brady 337 31.01 (20) 66 19.6% 46 13.6% 122 36.2% 56 16.6% 47 13.9% 16.1
Dan Marino 205 30.56 (21) 37 18.0% 24 11.7% 86 42.0% 32 15.6% 26 12.7% 19.0
Ben Roethlisberger 188 30.37 (22) 33 17.6% 34 18.1% 64 34.0% 34 18.1% 23 12.2% 22.8
Jake Delhomme 93 30.35 (23) 20 21.5% 9 9.7% 35 37.6% 20 21.5% 9 9.7% 21.5
Eli Manning 119 30.12 (24) 25 21.0% 16 13.4% 44 37.0% 17 14.3% 17 14.3% 24.1
Jeff Garcia 64 29.92 (25) 10 15.6% 6 9.4% 32 50.0% 9 14.1% 7 10.9% 27.1
Bernie Kosar 93 29.14 (26) 22 23.7% 12 12.9% 37 39.8% 13 14.0% 9 9.7% 22.6
Cam Newton 68 28.90 (27) 19 27.9% 15 22.1% 17 25.0% 7 10.3% 10 14.7% 16.6
Tony Romo 62 28.40 (28) 17 27.4% 10 16.1% 16 25.8% 13 21.0% 6 9.7% 23.5
Peyton Manning 293 28.06 (29) 65 22.2% 57 19.5% 104 35.5% 45 15.4% 22 7.5% 15.7
Aaron Rodgers 138 28.06 (30) 28 20.3% 34 24.6% 41 29.7% 23 16.7% 12 8.7% 17.6
Warren Moon 107 28.01 (31) 27 25.2% 23 21.5% 35 32.7% 6 5.6% 16 15.0% 20.7
Drew Brees 130 27.51 (32) 35 26.9% 18 13.8% 48 36.9% 19 14.6% 10 7.7% 21.6
Colin Kaepernick 60 27.20 (33) 18 30.0% 19 31.7% 10 16.7% 5 8.3% 8 13.3% 22.1
Matt Ryan 53 25.72 (34) 10 18.9% 14 26.4% 18 34.0% 7 13.2% 4 7.5% 21.7
Andrew Luck 69 24.03 (35) 12 17.4% 28 40.6% 19 27.5% 7 10.1% 3 4.3% 19.4
AVG 138.4 30.52 27.2 19.9% 20.4 15.6% 49.3 35.3% 22.9 16.3% 18.6 12.9% 21.7

What impact has the 2011 rule change for kickoffs had? Starting field position prior to 2011 in this sample averaged out to be 31.4. Since 2011, that average has dropped to 28.5. If you played the majority of your playoff games since 2011, then you are likely going to have worse starting field position due to the rise in touchbacks. If not, then you have lucked out like Alex Smith, who has yet to have a game with average starting field position worse than his own 28.4-yard line (that was the New England loss this year).

But when I first looked at this before 2011, Manning's time in Indianapolis was the poster for routinely bad field position in the playoffs. That is just another reason why this Super Bowl run in Denver was such a phenomenal change of fortune for Manning in what will likely be his final postseason. It's as if the football gods were on his side.

In his 27th game, Manning finished his 293rd playoff drive (excluding kneeldowns, of course). Of those 293 drives, only 11 of them started inside the opponent's 33-yard line -- essentially leaving a third of the field to go. Six of those 11 drives happened this postseason for Manning in Denver, including his three best starting field position opportunities. His 16-yard touchdown drive in the AFC Championship Game after Von Miller intercepted Brady was the shortest playoff touchdown drive of Manning's career -- at least it was for two weeks, until he topped it with a 4-yard drive after Miller forced that game-deciding Newton fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Also in the Super Bowl, Manning had a minus-1-yard field goal drive, the first scoring drive that lost yardage in his playoff career.

Denver had 14 scoring drives this postseason, and Manning got to start at his 34 or better on 11 of them. Manning has had four drives in his playoff career that resulted in three-and-out field goals -- three of them happened this postseason. After a career of being saddled with bad field position, Manning really got the help he needed this year. Denver's ultra-conservative offense this postseason did drop Manning's career averages under 35.0 yards per drive and 2.0 points per drive, but ultimately it also led him to a second ring, which is more important in the way he will be viewed historically.

When breaking down the touchdown drives each quarterback has led in the playoffs, those differences in field position start to show up more. 70+ lists the number of touchdown drives of 70 yards or more that each quarterback led; 80+ is the same for touchdown drives of 80 or more yards. <50 lists touchdown drives starting at or beyond midfield, while <20 lists drives starting in the red zone. Avg. Lead is the average scoring margin at the start of the touchdown drive.

Playoff Touchdown Drive Splits
Quarterback Drives TD Avg. Length TD/Dr 70+ Pct. 80+ Pct. <50 Pct. <20 Pct. Avg. Lead
Andrew Luck 69 14 72.6 .203 (27) 11 78.6% 7 50.0% 2 14.3% 0 0.0% -9.36 (35)
Aaron Rodgers 138 39 72.0 .283 (5) 25 64.1% 20 51.3% 2 5.1% 0 0.0% -2.23 (19)
Tony Romo 62 13 71.4 .210 (23) 8 61.5% 6 46.2% 1 7.7% 1 7.7% -1.23 (15)
Jeff Garcia 64 14 71.4 .219 (19) 9 64.3% 6 42.9% 1 7.1% 0 0.0% -7.21 (34)
Philip Rivers 96 21 70.7 .219 (20) 14 66.7% 5 23.8% 3 14.3% 0 0.0% -4.43 (31)
Peyton Manning 293 58 70.2 .198 (28) 38 65.5% 24 41.4% 6 10.3% 3 5.2% 1.19 (9)
Colin Kaepernick 60 19 69.4 .317 (1) 13 68.4% 11 57.9% 4 21.1% 1 5.3% -4.26 (28)
Warren Moon 107 22 68.5 .206 (25) 14 63.6% 10 45.5% 5 22.7% 1 4.5% -1.55 (18)
Drew Brees 130 36 68.4 .277 (6) 22 61.1% 13 36.1% 6 16.7% 1 2.8% -3.00 (24)
Eli Manning 119 23 67.3 .193 (29) 12 52.2% 8 34.8% 4 17.4% 1 4.3% 0.13 (12)
Bernie Kosar 93 22 67.0 .237 (13) 12 54.5% 9 40.9% 4 18.2% 1 4.5% -3.50 (27)
Jake Delhomme 93 19 66.2 .204 (26) 9 47.4% 5 26.3% 3 15.8% 1 5.3% -2.37 (22)
Matt Ryan 53 11 65.9 .208 (24) 6 54.5% 4 36.4% 2 18.2% 0 0.0% -1.27 (16)
Steve McNair 117 19 64.8 .162 (33) 7 36.8% 1 5.3% 1 5.3% 0 0.0% -3.26 (25)
Brett Favre 274 65 64.6 .237 (12) 36 55.4% 16 24.6% 12 18.5% 4 6.2% -1.22 (14)
John Elway 239 61 63.7 .255 (9) 28 45.9% 21 34.4% 15 24.6% 3 4.9% 0.08 (13)
Alex Smith 62 15 63.5 .242 (11) 10 66.7% 7 46.7% 3 20.0% 3 20.0% 3.47 (4)
Dan Marino 205 44 63.0 .215 (22) 20 45.5% 9 20.5% 11 25.0% 2 4.5% -4.41 (30)
Quarterback Drives TD Avg. Length TD/Dr 70+ Pct. 80+ Pct. <50 Pct. <20 Pct. Avg. Lead
Tom Brady 337 88 62.8 .261 (8) 39 44.3% 18 20.5% 18 20.5% 4 4.5% 1.07 (10)
Russell Wilson 106 27 62.4 .255 (10) 11 40.7% 5 18.5% 7 25.9% 0 0.0% -4.48 (32)
Kurt Warner 144 42 61.7 .292 (4) 19 45.2% 8 19.0% 9 21.4% 2 4.8% 0.95 (11)
Mark Brunell 113 19 61.7 .168 (32) 9 47.4% 3 15.8% 3 15.8% 2 10.5% -1.53 (17)
Cam Newton 68 15 61.7 .221 (18) 8 53.3% 4 26.7% 5 33.3% 1 6.7% 4.27 (1)
Dave Krieg 105 16 61.2 .152 (34) 5 31.3% 3 18.8% 3 18.8% 1 6.3% -4.31 (29)
Joe Montana 248 66 60.8 .266 (7) 34 51.5% 16 24.2% 18 27.3% 6 9.1% 4.15 (2)
Ben Roethlisberger 188 44 60.2 .234 (15) 14 31.8% 7 15.9% 12 27.3% 2 4.5% -2.59 (23)
Donovan McNabb 187 34 60.2 .182 (31) 15 44.1% 7 20.6% 9 26.5% 3 8.8% -2.29 (20)
Randall Cunningham 125 19 60.1 .152 (35) 10 52.6% 5 26.3% 5 26.3% 2 10.5% -6.47 (33)
Mark Sanchez 65 15 59.8 .231 (16) 6 40.0% 3 20.0% 5 33.3% 1 6.7% -2.33 (21)
Steve Young 141 44 58.8 .312 (2) 17 38.6% 9 20.5% 18 40.9% 1 2.3% 3.84 (3)
Joe Flacco 173 39 58.5 .225 (17) 18 46.2% 9 23.1% 11 28.2% 5 12.8% 1.54 (7)
Neil O'Donnell 78 15 58.5 .192 (30) 5 33.3% 1 6.7% 2 13.3% 1 6.7% 1.67 (6)
Jim Kelly 195 46 58.4 .236 (14) 13 28.3% 5 10.9% 13 28.3% 2 4.3% 1.48 (8)
Troy Aikman 164 48 58.3 .293 (3) 22 45.8% 10 20.8% 16 33.3% 6 12.5% 3.10 (5)
Matt Hasselbeck 133 29 57.0 .218 (21) 11 37.9% 2 6.9% 9 31.0% 2 6.9% -3.34 (26)
AVG 138.4 32.0 64.1 .231 15.7 50.4% 8.5 28.0% 7.1 21.0% 1.8 5.5% -1.42

Andrew Luck's average touchdown drive has been the longest, but it has also come with the largest deficit on average. Newton's average lead is the largest thanks to the two blowout wins this postseason, but expect those numbers to change as he plays more playoff games. It also feels kind of fitting that Alex Smith currently has the highest rate of his touchdown drives that start in the red zone.

Average Scoring Margin

This final section focuses on the scoreboard. The Avg. Lead is again the average score margin at the start of the drive (negative numbers indicate that the quarterback's team was usually behind). Then it's broken down by the number of drives when the offense was behind, tied, or ahead. 3SD" is the number of drives that started with the offense trailing by at least three scores (17-plus points since 1994 or 15-plus prior). 3SL+ is the number of drives that started with the offense holding at least a three-score lead. The shades of green (better) and red (worse) show how many standard deviations from the average the number is. For example, Randall Cunningham starting 70.4 percent of his drives with a deficit is an extremely bad outlier in this set.

How does Smith have the best scoring margin to go with a 2-3 record? In case you forgot, his Chiefs blew a 38-10 lead in Indianapolis in the 2013 season, which also explains part of why Luck has the worst margin. It also helps Smith when he gets a 30-0 shutout win in Houston, including a kick return touchdown to start the game.

Newton, our other small-sample darling this year, has the highest rate of drives with a three-score lead at 17.6 percent thanks to those fast starts against Seattle and Arizona this year. That 31-0 halftime lead in the Seattle game also explains part of why Russell Wilson, despite a 7-3 record, has played from behind on 56.6 percent of his playoff drives. The Seahawks also trailed 27-7 in Atlanta in 2012 and by 16 points to Green Bay in the 2014 NFC Championship Game. Naturally, Seattle always makes a game of it late, but Wilson's young playoff career has seen a lot of wild swings already.

Mandatory mention: Dan Marino trailed by at least three scores on 23.4 percent of his postseason drives. Luck is not far behind at 20.3 percent. It is inevitable that people will continue to compare Luck to Manning due to the replacement angle in Indianapolis, but Marino may be a better comparison. The following graph looks at the average scoring margin by drive number for Manning, Luck, and Marino in their playoff careers. Most games do not exceed 12 possessions, so you get some wonky results at the end due to small sample sizes of games with lots of drives. Still, you can see that Manning's games (represented by the green line) are usually right around zero, or a tied score. Luck and Marino get behind rather quickly. For example, Manning's fourth possession of a playoff game (which usually came early in the second quarter) on average started with a deficit of 0.4 points. Luck's average fourth drive came with a deficit of 6.3 points, and Marino's came with a deficit of 4.7 points. This backs up a table in my recent "Solving the Peyton Playoff Puzzle" article that showed Marino struggled the most to win or keep playoff games close among 28 quarterbacks with at least 10 playoff starts.

After Marino's Super Bowl commercial with Alec Baldwin aired on Sunday and mocked his lack of a ring, I saw some mentions that Marino does not rate as highly anymore when it comes to all-time quarterbacks. I have to disagree with that, but you rarely see him compared to Manning anymore unless it is about quick releases and sack percentage. Those comparisons were always pretty apt, but slowed down once Manning won a ring. Now that Manning has most of the records and another ring, you probably won't see many comparisons again to Marino.

Instead, it could be Luck that we start comparing to Marino, in that he has to do too much on a yearly basis for his team to succeed. The Colts are not putting enough around him, and 2015 was an awful season cut short by injury for Luck, who was playing poorly since Week 1. With Colin Kaepernick, Wilson, and Newton all getting to a Super Bowl before him, there will be more pressure on Luck to carry the Colts over the hump, especially once he becomes the highest-paid player in NFL history with his second contract.

But as Manning and these other successful quarterbacks can tell you, it takes a team effort to win in the playoffs. And some (lowercase) luck.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 12 Feb 2016

43 comments, Last at 17 Feb 2016, 9:26pm by Richie

Comments

1
by RickD :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 5:26pm

The blue curve in the last graph is fascinating. I guess when Luck wins, the offense has 11 drives or fewer, with a sizable bump at exactly 11 drives.

2
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 5:32pm

Little context on that one

Andrew Luck: 6 PO games, each went 10 drives, five games went 11 drives, 1 went max. 14 drives
Dan Marino: 18 PO games, each went 8 drives, 12 went 11 drives, 3 went max. 14 drives
Peyton Manning: 27 PO games, each went 8 drives, 17 went 11 drives, 3 went max. 14 drives

3
by theslothook :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 7:07pm

The dan marino comercial was awful. Its a huge reason why no qb wants to be the guy with no rings...because then you become the posterchild for endless pot shots by everyone who loves seeing a great player humbled. I bet it bothers Marino, but the money he made from the comercial being the soul reason for it.

And now look at the narrative thats been burned into every fan since. Was Montana really better than Marino? is it definitive? When I first started to follow football, it was taken for granted that Montana was/is the best because of his 4 rings. But just because its formed into the collective memory of mythmaking sportswriters, doesn't mean its true.

5
by hscer :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 8:09pm

I kinda wish there were more than one irrational one-on-one QB debate. Montana-Marino, Young-Aikman, Baugh-Luckman, Bradshaw-Staubach all have potential. But there's only been one perfect storm.

6
by theslothook :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 8:35pm

I suspect Young is universally recognized as the better qb than Aikman, which is odd only in the sense that its inconsistent with the rings = better standard the media tends to use.

I've posed this question in the comment section before and the general answer I keep seeing is - Elways was the best of the three, then montana, then Marino. Marino seems to get the favre treatment of throwing a lot but not being as generally efficient as montana. Elway seems to get the supporting cast benefit of the doubt(something I tend to be pretty sympathetic towards).

I suspect with his second ring, the average person probably has montana, brady, and manning in the top 3.

If it were up to me, I'd like to include people like Tarkenton in that discussion, but hes become barely a footnote in nfl history these days. A little like Oj is with running backs.

7
by JIPanick :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 8:46pm

"I suspect Young is universally recognized as the better qb than Aikman, which is odd only in the sense that its inconsistent with the rings = better standard the media tends to use."

Staubach - Bradshaw is actually similar, the consensus seems to favor Staubach but he has half the rings.

Tarkenton deserves to be included.

9
by hscer :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:01pm

Young and Aikman always seem ranked really closely with Aikman slightly ahead. NFL Films in 1998 (QB's) and NFL Network in 2011 (all players) both had Aikman one spot above Young.

Marino actually got lucky relative to Tarkenton. Even though Tarkenton's career ended five years before Marino's began, you wouldn't exactly expect the guy with one Super Bowl appearance to remain that much more in the general consciousness than the guy who had three.

Elway above Montana and Marino? I actually rarely see that. His numbers have always seemed a little too inefficient, even with the cast argument. But, I literally just checked something for the first time, and people who bag on Dan Reeves in terms of his relationship with Elway seem to have a decent case. Elway's numbers took a massive jump as soon as Reeves left, even before Shanahan arrived, and stayed up. (101 ANY/A+ from 83-92, 115 after.) Maybe that is generally known in these circles, but I haven't seen or noticed it before.

10
by theslothook :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:12pm

Elway is who the people in comment section of FO were saying. I dunno how true that is since I didn't watch any of the three.

Even ranking the five best qbs I've seen personally is hard. Top 2 spots are taken by Manning/Brady(no ordering there - not going to bait an irrational thread).

3 -5 gets very interesting. I would probably put Rodgers, assuming he has at least 2 more seasons like this. Then it comes down to Favre vs Brees vs Big Ben vs Warner vs Rivers.

Probably go favre, brees, big ben. So thats 1-2) Tom Manning, 3) Rodgers, 4) Favre, 5) Brees.

17
by t.d. :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 6:34am

Rodgers absolutely has better arm talent than either Brady or Manning (so did Favre). To be honest, I think Favre is slighted by the 'ringz' crowd as much as anyone. Rodgers, Favre, Roethlisberger, Marino, and Elway were all on a different level athletically than Brady, Manning, or Montana

14
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 11:23pm

The interesting thing about Reeves is that he was actually really good for his other quarterbacks.

Vick probably had the second best season of his career with Reeves, Chris Chandler had a career year with him and Phil Simms had one of his better seasons with Reeves despite being 38 at the time. I don't know why he couldn't work with Elway.

42
by Richie :: Wed, 02/17/2016 - 9:19pm

Don't forget that Fran Tarkenton starred in a prime-time TV show for 5 years in the 1980's.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/That's_Incredible!

What a time! We also had Alex Karras in Webster, and Fred Dryer on Hunter.

Marino only had Ace Ventura.

27
by lenny65 :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 10:37pm

You're right, Tarkenton is kind of forgotten somehow, as is Bradshaw (and his four rings). There seems to be an idea that NFL football in the 60s-70s was somehow a lesser game, as the QB stats weren't nearly as impressive then. But this completely discounts how much the rules have changed to open up the passing game, which is indisputable. And fact is that back then QBs took a hell of a lot more punishment than they do today, just go back and re-watch some of the "hardest hits" videos of that era, most of what you'll see is downright illegal today. The NFL, more so than any of the four major US sports, dismisses the achievements of the past, like just because the players are larger and faster today the game was somehow "easier" and more simplistic in the past. Which is silly, as those guys were still the largest and fastest players of their time.

28
by theslothook :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 10:49pm

Mike tanier in his walkthroughs noted how primitive the pass game was in the 60s and 70s. The modern passing game really was born in 1978 and really flourished in the mid 80s. Its pretty much where I would start the cutoff in comparing qbs from the past to the modern era. Everything before is impossible to disentangle.

4
by pm :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 7:22pm

Is there a chart for Defense allowed points/drive, TO/Dr and yards/drive?

8
by Vincent Verhei :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 8:51pm

Not in the playoffs, but in the regular season, yes, back to 1997.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/drivestatsdef

15
by Scott Kacsmar :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 11:54pm

Yeah, if you mean the defenses for these QBs in the playoffs, I don't have that ready. I definitely thought about recreating at least the general table (with TD/Dr included) for their defenses, but I just didn't have time to add all of those games to do it. I'd have to do all four of Rex Grossman's games (he played Delhomme, Hasselbeck, Brees, Peyton), both Trent Green starts, Erik Kramer games, one-offs like Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Joe Webb, and the list just goes on.

But don't count it out down the road. Just wasn't possible this year.

11
by theslothook :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:23pm

Seeing peyton Manning's dip toward these last 4 games is pretty funny because I thought even these numbers understate how bad he was. I counted at least 5 dropped ints in this one postseason run. Its a big big reason why I hate postseason stats to begin with.

Contrast that with the 2010 playoff game against the jets. About half a year ago, I got into a debate about whether that was a poor manning playoff performance and the numbers certainly don't say it was anything special. But rewatching it, Manning basically did nothing wrong the whole game, but drives were killed either by dropped third down passes or failed 3rd and short runs. Then in the second half, the colts basically saw the ball three times, scoring on all three drives with fgs but going uber conservative with runs just to milk the clock. And they still lost. The lions really really should fire Jim Caldwell. The timeout decision may have been his most flagrant offense, but his stink was all over this game.

12
by eagle97a :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 9:33pm

Thanks Scott, this are some of the analysis that's very useful and interesting. Now if we can see the same data from the regular season that will be wonderful. I know that's a massive undertaking but one can wish. :)

13
by lenny65 :: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 10:01pm

People love to chop away at Dan Marino, but just go back and check out some of those rosters he was saddled with. Clayton, Duper, K. Jackson and Fryar were easily the four best offensive threats he had during his career and not a single quality RB in the mix. And those defenses were mediocre to dreadful. One-man teams rarely go far in the NFL playoffs, it was borderline miraculous how far he took those crummy teams. Look at the 1994 roster, for example, take away Fryar and it's awful.

19
by TXinsider :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 10:27am

To add: Dan Marino was so talented, blessed with such an outstanding arm, he converted a run-1st, strong defensive HC, in Shula, to a pass-happy fool. Shula was so enthralled with Marino's arm, he spent almost 2 decades ignoring everything else but it.

In my book, Marino has been the most talented. The best QV evah, however, entails a few more requirements.

22
by lenny65 :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 6:56pm

I'd never rate him as "best ever", however (and IMO you see this a lot with former NFL greats) there's a tendency to look back at his career and assume he was merely a guy who threw all the time and amassed numbers without winning the big one. Which is true to a degree but also discounts the level of talent around him. IMO few QBs have done as much while working with as little. I mean the best RB he had during his career was arguably Tony Nathan, a fine receiving threat out of the backfield but hardly a top-drawer back. Bernie Parmalee, Sammie Smith, Lorenzo Hampton...it's not a pretty picture.

16
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 5:39am

"After Marino's Super Bowl commercial with Alec Baldwin aired on Sunday and mocked his lack of a ring, I saw some mentions that Marino does not rate as highly anymore when it comes to all-time quarterbacks. I have to disagree with that, but you rarely see him compared to Manning anymore unless it is about quick releases and sack percentage."

I made that comment - I think on the Clutch Encounters thread. I said fifteen years ago people used to put him in the top 5, now I think he hardly gets a mention for the top 10 because of lack of rings.

It was taken from my view that when I watch NFL games or shows, I hardly hear Marino's name being called anymore when they talk about great QBs ... you get a list that begins (alphabeticised) with something like ... Brady, Favre, Manning, Montana ... and then begins to consider Elway, Rodgers, Starr, Staubach, Unitas, Young. The millenials might go for Roethlisberger or Brees over the old-timers. But we're somewhere around ten QBs who would likely get named ahead of Marino by the average person.

In the days that passed since I wrote my comment I realise that 15 years ago, Marino had just retired and held all the passing records.

Now Favre/Manning hold all the records and Marino doesn't have the benefit of winning a Super Bowl, and therefore appearing in the highlights or parade of MVPs, to keep his legacy in the mind.

Just like Dan Fouts is no longer mentioned for the same reasons. When I first started watching in the 80s, Fouts was in the top 10. Does he even make the top 20 now?

Debate as you will. Personally I don't give a hoot which QB comes in at #1 or #2 or #5 or #8 - it's a pointless unwinnable. If was I coaching then I'd want someone competent at doing the job and they all qualify in that respect.

18
by t.d. :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 6:50am

Fouts was clearly the best quarterback in the league for a while. The kids on reddit have him behind Rivers

23
by lenny65 :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 6:58pm

Fouts was a marvelous QB, during his day he was as feared as any of the greats ever were.

41
by johonny :: Tue, 02/16/2016 - 11:59am

I think players like Ken Anderson, Dan Fouts and Marino would have been far more dangerous in these modern offenses than they were even in the more run heavy era in which they played. They all had nice careers and Fouts still is good inside a booth. I'd take him over Sims to call a game any day.

43
by Richie :: Wed, 02/17/2016 - 9:26pm

Fouts led the league in passing yards 4 straight seasons (79-82). I believe the only QB ever to do that.

20
by TXinsider :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 10:40am

I'll disagree with that.

I think the very fact that everyone knows how Marino won nothing keeps the conversation conscious of him, which then has them recall (or lookup) his accomplishments.

I've always heard it as: (in no particular order) Montana, Marino, Brady, Unitas, and Manning.

21
by Will Allen :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 10:51am

Am I reading the 3outs/drive % stat wrong? How does Brady end up at .249 on a 27/337 fraction?

26
by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 7:53pm

The 27 in parenthesis is where his rate ranks among the 35 QBs. It's 84/337, or .249. All of the numbers in parenthesis are rankings. Trust me, it'd be much quicker for me to do a separate column for rank, but I do it this way to replicate how our drive stats always look.

29
by Will Allen :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 10:09am

Oh, that's fine I was just too dim to figure that out.

It is intesting to me to see Brady and Manning, with their much larger sample of playoff drives, have a higher % of 3 and outs than so many others. Really makes me suspect, once again, that pulling playoff data out from the qb's total data is a very dubious exercise, as likely to obscure as it is to illuminate.

32
by TXinsider :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 9:15pm

Then don't pull dubious data out. Just observe.

The opinion most have is anecdotal, but even so, still more meaningful than stats based on a handful of games. To the author: Yep, that does mean most recognize Peyton for who he was: Regular Season hero. He choked when the beans were being counted because he didn't trust his team, and usually did something stupid because of that.

33
by theslothook :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 10:04pm

/

34
by theslothook :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 10:11pm

And yet somehow, he got over his "nerves and selfishness" by winning the afc championship game to get to the superbowl. I guess its one of those selective choking afflictions Peyton has. Sort like fortune tellers; they may not be 100 percent accurate(or even 25%); but hell - if they get one right; we have found our true messiah.

35
by Will Allen :: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 2:28am

I don't think you have meaningful concept of "usual".

24
by Duff Soviet Union :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 7:36pm

Is Drew Bledsoe missing from this list?

25
by Scott Kacsmar :: Sat, 02/13/2016 - 7:50pm

He's never been part of the study. He's on a short list with a guy like Chad Pennington that I've been meaning to add, but never got around to.

30
by nat :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 4:45pm

It turns out that playoff field position is a non-factor among this cohort. If you look at the correlation between average starting LOS and the percentage of drives ending in a FG attempt or a TD, it's tiny and negative. That is, having a "bad" average starting field position has zero effect on a team's average chance of getting into at least field goal range.

What's more interesting is what happens once teams get into field goal range. If we look at TDs / (TDs+ FG Attempts) we get an idea of how good each QB is at converting field goal range into touchdowns. It's kind of like a Red Zone stat, with a wider red zone. It's a critically important stat since, as we've heard from this author and many others, you can't win by settling for FGs too often. Call it the "Not Settling" Rating, if you like.

Ryan (68.8%), Sanchez (65.2%), and Garcia (63.6%) are in the top ten at this skill, but with less than 70 drives each. The top QBs at finishing drives among those with at least 100 playoff drives are:

Steve Young (72.1%)
Troy Aikman
Kurt Warner
Tom Brady
Drew Brees
Aaron Rodgers
Joe Montana
Russell Wilson
Joe Flacco
Dan Marino (61.1%)

The bottom 5 all have at least 100 playoff drives. These are the QBs who have struggled to lead their teams into the end zone during the playoffs:

Peyton Manning (49.2%)
Eli Manning
Randall Cunningham
Warren Moon
Steve McNair (44.2%)

As you can see, it is possible to win Super Bowls with this low level "Not Settling Stat". But it takes a strong showing by the defense.

31
by theslothook :: Sun, 02/14/2016 - 5:30pm

If avg starting field position is your only regressor, you have a serious omitted variable bias.

37
by nat :: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 1:54pm

It was a simple statement of correlation, not a full multi-variate analysis.

You're not entirely wrong here. It may be that there is some factor that causes the same teams to have bad field position, but also be better at getting yards outside of field goal range. We would have to imagine something that would help both offenses in that way - because that's what it would take.

I can think of two candidates:

1) Playing in perfect weather (i.e. indoors) - that might explain a relative ease in advancing the ball when the field is unconstrained. This would affect both teams, meaning they would each get worse field position than otherwise, canceled out by easier conditions for the offense.
2) A tendency of teams to stack the offense or defense with resources, but not both. That could also explain bad field position being correlated with good yardage, since the same teams would have a good offense and a bad defense based simply on where they put resources. But it wouldn't explain a team being good outside field goal range but bad within it.

I'd be open to other ideas. What do you suggest as the missing variables that would correlate with starting field position, but also determine the ability to advance the ball into field goal range?

My suspicion is that playing in perfect conditions makes the yardage outside field goal range easier to come by (option 1). Once you get closer to the end zone, the end line constricts the offense's choices somewhat as bad wether and footing and wind might do over the whole field outdoors. So playing indoors could help teams get into field goal range without helping their ability to score TDs.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

38
by theslothook :: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 2:45pm

All of what you said is true.

Avg starting field position is by nature a giant aggregation compared to another aggregation. There all kinds of effects that are being average across various observations. Its that aspect of it that makes me question the robustness of that result.

In any case, I haven't given the issue a whole lot of thought; but I tend to trust prior analysis that shows field position materially affects the success of a drive, so its hard for me to believe where you start has no impact on your ability to score/attain first downs.

36
by Guest789 :: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 10:47am

The discussion of QB history here requires me by law to shout BART STARR.

Thanks, I'll take my leave now.

39
by Bisquick :: Mon, 02/15/2016 - 11:46pm

Since they've included Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, sure, why not include Bart Starr too? Decent player, couple of rings, I figure a few Green Bay fans might still remember him. As far as quarterbacks from that little team in Wisconsin, he might even crack the top three. Probably worth a passing mention, maybe?

Nah. Pass the bath salts.

40
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 02/16/2016 - 12:28am

Find us the gamebooks from the 1960's and we'll get right on that. Find the 1970's and we can add guys like Bradshaw, Staubach and Stabler too.