Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features

SandersEmm10.jpg

» Scramble for the Ball: Quarter Pole Projections

Mike and Tom weigh the chances of this year's class of receivers, running backs and tight ends who are on pace to break the magical 1,000-yard mark for the first time.

08 Oct 2009

Walkthrough: Incomplete Education

by Mike Tanier

The NFL will soon crack down on end zone meta-brations.

Chad Ochocinco scored a first-quarter touchdown against the Browns last week, then headed toward the infamous Dawg Pound. Ochocinco leapt into the throng of socially maladjusted Browns fans a few years ago, but lineman Anthony Collins grabbed him this time. He bear-hugged the demonstrative receiver and appeared to warn him not to taunt the rowdy fans. Ochocinco complied and followed Collins to the sidelines.

After the game, Collins revealed that the whole scene was staged. Ochocinco never planned to leap into the Dawg Pound; he told Collins and the other linemen to grab him and make an elaborate show of stopping him. That means that the act of stopping the celebration was, in fact, the celebration. A meta-bration.

Ochocinco's meta-bration was clever and entertaining, which is why the league must stop anything like it from happening in the future.

The Ochocinco-Collins skit disobeys many of the league's end zone celebration rules. It was premeditated. It involved teammates. It had all the earmarks of an illicit celebration except the actual celebration. There's no way Roger Goodell will leave such a pesky loophole unfilled. Next year, the rulebook will include language like this:

Meta-brations: Any premeditated act of excessive celebration that involves the deliberate abstinence from excessive celebration will be penalized as if it is an actual excessive celebration: 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff.

Further language will prohibit second, third, or nth degree meta-brations: Teammates cannot prevent teammates from preventing other teammates from celebrating if such prevention appears designed to enhance the overall illusion of celebration prevention.

In this way, the league will completely eliminate subjectivity from officiating.

While deliberating on meta-brations, Goodell and his party posse will develop other rules to help curb the pandemic of spontaneous work-related pride that's eroding our society. The league will also outlaw:

Quasi-brations: Celebrations where the player crinkles his nose and half-heartedly spikes the ball. Quasi-brations cheapen the touchdown experience.

Retro-brations: Celebrations that pay homage to the Funky Bunch or Billy White Shoes Johnson, even if such celebrations somehow fall within the pinky-hold fissures in existing rules. End zone dancing has been around for 40 years, but that still doesn't make it right, dammit.

Gamma-brations: Celebrations involving the Hulk smashing puny humans. Actually, banning these is a good idea.

Anti-brations: Instances where the player hands the ball back to the referee with such nondescript humility that he calls attention to his own nondescript humility, thereby making us all feel guilty about our petty egos and provoking a shameful hatred of the player and his showy modesty.

Eventually, NFL psychologists will determine what level of enthusiasm is appropriate after scoring a touchdown. Youth players across America will then condition themselves to respond appropriately, starting at age 10. Spontaneity will be replaced by carefully-modulated displays of socially acceptable self-satisfaction. Creativity will be stifled in the name of narrowly-defined rules of sportsmanship.

It will be a glorious future. But not too glorious.

Sharper Image

It's hard to say how good the Saints defense really is. DVOA ranks it as the best in football, but DVOA doesn't know about extenuating circumstances. One thing's for sure: The Saints defense is a lot better than it was last year.

New coordinator Gregg Williams came to New Orleans to implement the heavy-blitzing defense he used so successfully in Washington and Jacksonville. The Saints also upgraded their secondary, adding veteran safety Darren Sharper, the NFL's active interception leader, veteran cornerback Jabari Greer, and others. Williams's schemes have the Saints blitzing much more and playing more man coverage than they did last year. The presence of Sharper and Greer gives Williams the confidence to call the defenses he wants to run.

In addition to a new scheme and new personnel, the Saints have a new mindset. The Saints took Gary Gibbs' read-and-react philosophy too far last season. They sat passively in their zones, and too often lapses in coverage led to big gains or long pass interference penalties. Williams has done a fine job of implementing the new defense, and Saints players appear to know their assignments perfectly. That's a must when a defense takes as many chances as the Saints do under Williams.

Figure 1: Saints Screen Contain

In Figure 1, the Jets line up in an ace formation with three receivers (who are not shown). The Saints crowd linebackers Scott Fujita (55) and Jonathan Vilma (51) into the A-gaps, with Scott Shanle (58) head-up on the tight end. The Saints are clearly showing a blitz up the middle, which suits the Jets just fine: they plan to set up a screen to Leon Washington (29).

Williams calls a lot of blitzes, but they aren't very exotic. This is a standard fire blitz. Vilma takes on the center, while Fujita loops behind him. Defensive tackle Remi Ayodele (92) attacks the guard's outside shoulder, creating a lane for Fujita. Fujita gets pressure, but that's to be expected when the offense calls a screen. Several linemen release their defenders so they can block for Washington, who feigns pass protection for a moment before releasing into the flat. For clarity, the motion of his blockers isn't shown.

The Saints blow up this screen because of the discipline of their front seven. Three defenders react immediately to the screen. Tackle Sedrick Ellis (98) engages Washington and slows him down (Ellis gets away with a little defensive holding). Sharper (42) races down from the free safety position to take away Washington's running lane. Slow-moving Ayodele hustles laterally to clog any cutback lanes. The timing of the screen is disrupted, and Mark Sanchez has nowhere to throw the ball, so he dumps it to the sidelines.

This kind of defensive discipline was evident throughout the game. Sanchez's first interception was thrown against basic man coverage with Sharper as a deep safety. There was nothing diagram-worthy about the defensive call, but the defenders covered their receivers tightly, and Shaper read the play and jumped. Sanchez's end zone fumble in the second quarter was the result of excellent coverage and relentless pursuit by the pass rush. Coordinating a defense isn't just about designing blitzes: coaches like Williams must stress pursuit, coverage responsibility, and play recognition. The Saints defense, terribly mistake prone in 2008, did have some lapses in the first two weeks of the season. Those lapses disappeared in the last two weeks.

Figure 2: Saints Safety Blitz

Facing third-and-10 on the next play, the Jets switched to the shotgun and Williams crowded eight defenders on the line. Pre-snap, it appears that Sharper will blitz from the offensive right side while safety Roman Harper (41) covers the tight end, but Williams has a wrinkle for the rookie quarterback. Harper, end Will Smith (91), and tackle Tony Hargrove (69) run a three man stunt. Hargrove sacrifices himself by attacking the left tackle, Smith loops inside, and Harper blitzes wide.

This stunt confounds the blocking scheme, but it comes at a price: Tight end Dustin Keller (81) releases, uncovered, into his route. To compensate, Scott Shanle replaces Harper in man coverage, while Sharper buzzes underneath the routes of the tight end and two receivers who aren't shown. Had Sanchez read the clean release, he might have thrown a completion ... or an interception to Sharper if he reacted too late. Instead, a rushed Sanchez locks onto receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who is well covered by Greer.

Williams is able to call so many blitzes because he has confidence in his man coverage defenders. Neither Greer nor Tracy Porter is a shut-down corner, but they limit their mistakes. Sharper, of course, gives him one of the league's best ballhawks, a safety who is a step slow in man coverage but is second only to Ed Reed at watching the quarterback's eyes and feasting on errant throws. Williams is also helped by the fact that the Saints offense so often forces opponents to play catch-up.

Figure 3: Saints Blitz Eight

When the Jets were down 24-10 late in the fourth quarter, Williams saw no reason to switch to a prevent defense. Instead, he sent an 8-man blitz on second-and-10 (Figure 3). Technically, this is a six-man blitz, as it appears both Harper and Porter have coverage responsibilities for the players in the backfield. When both safeties attack the line at the snap, both backs set to block inside defenders. This is a simple case of overwhelming numbers, and Charles Grant (93) easily gets the edge to net a sack. On the next play, the Saints rushed just three defenders on third-and-21. A confused, out-of-options Sanchez had no where to throw the ball, and the opportunistic Sharper netted his second interception of the day.

So far this season, the Saints have played two rookie quarterbacks, a third quarterback making his first start (Kevin Kolb), and a Bills team that fired its offensive coordinator a week before the season started. You're going to generate some turnovers against inexperienced, unprepared quarterbacks, so the Saints defense probably isn't as good as it currently looks.

The Saints defense, however, doesn't have to be great to complement the offense. There are more suspect quarterbacks in the team's future: Chad Henne in two weeks, two games against one of the Joshes in Tampa Bay, and two games against Jake Delhomme or his inevitable replacement. The Saints now know their defense is good enough to force turnovers and shut down bad offenses. If it is good enough to hold better offenses to about 24 points, the Saints offense should win many games going away.

An Incomplete Failure

JaMarcus Russell's completion percentage is currently 39.8.

That's a staggeringly low number, the equivalent of a baseball player batting about .125. It's like getting 22 percent correct on an A-through-D multiple choice test. Shouldn't you reach 25 percent just by circling C? Shouldn't a quarterback complete 39.8 percent of his passes just on screens and dump-offs to the fullback? If you throw close your eyes and heave a football haphazardly onto a patch of grass, won't it get caught about 40 percent of the time? Russell's numbers seem worse than random chance allows.

Russell is just 12-of-40 on first down attempts (30 percent), which is incomprehensible, because defenses can't sell out on pass defense on first down. Because of three interceptions, his quarterback rating on first down is 10.0, far lower than the rating you get just by throwing incompletions. (If you throw nothing but incomplete passes, your rating is 39.6. His first-down DVOA is -66.4%). Russell is 10-of-24 (41.6 percent) on second down and 18-of-40 (45 percent) on third downs, although only 10 of those third-down completions netted first downs. He is 3-of-4 on fourth downs, with a 57-yard touchdown against the Chargers. Those numbers suggest a new role: Russell could become the NFL's first ever fourth down specialist quarterback.

Russell completes 44.3 percent of his passes in the first half but just 34 percent in the second half, when the Raiders are far behind and everyone has changed the channel. He's 19-of-57 (33.3 percent) on the road and 2-of-5 in the red zone. In short, he's consistent.

It's rare for a modern quarterback to complete far fewer than half his passes; those who do rarely get 108 opportunities to embarrass themselves. Ken Dorsey was as bad as a quarterback can be last year, but he completed 47.3 percent of his 91 passes for the Browns. Bruce Gradkowski replaced Dorsey in Cleveland and completed just 7-of-21 passes (33 percent, as you probably calculated). Gradkowski is now Russell's backup, putting us at the intersection where poetic justice meets job security. Ironically, Gradkowski's two completions on two attempts are the only things keeping the Raiders' team completion rate above 40 percent.

Thanks to Gradkowski and Dorsey (and Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards and so on) the Browns completed just 48.8 percent of their passes last year. Before them. the last team to post a percentage below 50 percent was the 2002 Lions. Mike McMahon completed 62-of-147 passes (42.2 percent) that year, while Joey Harrington barely cracked 50 percent. McMahon thought he could scramble, so he was also sacked 12 times. For this performance, he was rewarded a job as Donovan McNabb's backup, and he started seven games in 2005, completing 45.7 percent of his passes. McMahon moved from Philadelphia from Toronto, where he started a few games for the Argonauts, competing 39.5 percent of his passes in 2007. He is currently the quarterback of the California Redwoods of the UFL. His odds of breaking even are going up.

Akili Smith and Scott Mitchell combined to complete 45.6 percent of their passes for the 2000 Bengals. That's the lowest figure of the last decade, though it is 4.7 points higher than the Raiders current percentage. Smith completed just 44.2 percent of his passes that year. The Steelers completed just 49.2 percent of their passes that season, but Kordell Stewart (52.2 percent) wasn't the primary suspect. Kent Graham threw 148 passes that year but completed just 66 of them (44.6 percent). Early in his career, Graham threw 172 passes in three seasons for the Giants but completed just 44.2 percent of them, but he rebounded to post a completion percentage of 51.8. We're plumbing some cavernous depths here, but even Akili and Graham managed to keep their rates in the mid-40s. It must have been those meetings they didn't skip or that surf 'n' turf they didn't gobble.

To reach below the Russell line you have to reach back in history. Kim McQuilken has always been one of my favorite bad quarterbacks. McQuilken completed 48-of-121 passes (39.7 percent) for 450 yards with two touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 17 sacks for the 1976 Falcons. McQuilken's career NFL completion percentage was also 39.7 percent, in 272 attempts. The 1976 Falcons completed just 44.6 percent of their passes, with Scott Hunter and an inexperienced Steve Bartkowski pitching in their incompetence. McQuilken eventually went to the USFL, then wrote a book about called The Road to An Athletic Scholarship, which no doubt offers valuable advice for youngsters who hope to make college affordable (Chapter One: Be Totally Awesome at Sports).

The 1976 Falcons would be a good comparison to today's Raiders -- they were awful, had a pretty good defense and some talented running backs, and had just fired a coach who threatened to stack chairs and beat up reporters -- but there's a big difference between a 40 percent completion rate in defense-dominated 1976 and the same rate in the era of the spread. Gary Marangi went 82-of-232 (35.3 percent) for the 1976 Bills in relief of Joe Ferguson, whose completion rate was a princely 49 percent. The Bills finished 2-12 despite the fact that O.J. Simpson rushed for 1,500 yards. Marangi is now a school headmaster, which is more than we can say for his running back.

The NFL record for low completion percentage was set by the 1936 (you guessed it) Eagles. Backs Dave Smukler, Don Jackson, and John Kusko, plus a few others, combined to complete 39 of 170 passes (22.9 percent) for three touchdowns and 39 interceptions. The Eagles ran a single-wing offense that year, finishing 1-10 for coach/owner Bert Bell.

Smukler, who completed 30.9 percent of his passes in that record-setting season, was apparently quite a player. According to my Eagles Encyclopedia, Dynamite Dave was compared to Jim Thorpe and Ernie Nevers as a collegian, and he was widely regarded as the Eagles best player at fullback/proto-quarterback/linebacker/return man. After a few seasons, Smukler grew "fed up with the whole thing" and retired to become a leather glove cutter.

Comparing a modern player to a 1930's player is ridiculous, of course. Smukler had to play five positions and work an off season job, while Russell (theoretically) gets to spend the whole off season preparing, can throw tunnel screens, and plays 30 minutes per game against a prevent defense, which didn't exist in 1936. It stands to reason that Russell's completion rate would be almost nine points higher.

Nine points! Sure, Russell is throwing to two rookie receivers who drop two passes per week each and often fall down when cutting. Sure, every Raiders play includes at least one missed block. Sure, Russell has a work ethic that would have led quickly to starvation in 1936. But Russell's completion percentage is just nine points higher than that of a single-wing fullback for a 1-11 team that set the record for futility 73 years ago. And you thought comparisons to Akili Smith and Mike McMahon were damning.

If all else fails, though, Russell can always go to the UFL. Or write a book. Or cut gloves.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 08 Oct 2009

74 comments, Last at 14 Oct 2009, 9:00pm by Lou

Comments

1
by Fontes of Wayne :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:27am

I can kind of follow these plays, but it's difficult, since none of the player numbers listed in the explanations match up with numbers on the play diagrams.

3
by dmb :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:41am

It's not just the player numbers; the plays diagrammed definitely aren't the ones described.

5
by Aaron Schatz :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:46am

Now fixed.

7
by Joseph :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:00pm

Not completely. In the Saints first diagram, the numbers for Fujita and Shanle are mixed up in the text, I believe.

8
by joon :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:04pm

and in the second diagram, the number for charles grant doesn't match the one in the text.

25
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:52pm

And I still can't figure out which one is Waldo in any of the figures.

Can you FO guys add a red/white hat or something?

47
by Theo :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:50pm

at least they found Lamarr Woodley before they put this online.

2
by bomi3ster2 (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:36am

I don't want Russell cutting any glove I purchase. I imagine cut corners, and it will probably be overweight.

I have an honest question. Gary Marangi went 82-of-232, and OJ still managed to go for 1500 yards. Why is no Raider running back producing? In theory the talent is there right? I just figured Russell was so bad, he made the running game even worse since every team can sell out on the run and not worry about Russell killing them. But now that OJ stat has me second guessing. But yea, I mean the obvious answer is that OJ was bad ass, and the Raider RB's are no where near that talent level, and likely overhyped.

Is JaMarcus Russell a black-hole of suck-i-tude, that eviscerates all talent from those unfortunate enough to have him leading their team? Great article. Smukler, that is a story I will be sharing with all Raider fans I know this Sunday.

23
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:44pm

I'd think it was that the 70s was a decade when teams were more focused on running. OJ's o-line probably spent 5 or 6 seasons together given the lack of free agency.

The Raiders running game was good last year, especially in the final games, but apparently they decided to spend training camp focusing on the passing game. So they've ingrained their o-line into thinking about backpedalling rather than aggressively pushing out of the blocks.

50
by SteveGarvin :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 8:20pm

That Buffalo team ran first all the time. They had a very solid O-line with Joe DeLamiellure and Reggie McKenzie. And, despite an incredibly crappy 2-12 record, they ran the ball 548 times against 383 throws (and you can add in 33 more sacks). It should be noted that they actually ran more plays than their opponents.

The 70s was a different time, to be sure.

JaCrapus rules.

59
by Yaguar :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:14am

"Why is no Raider running back producing?"

Could it be possible that none of their backs is as good as OJ Simpson?

4
by drobviousso :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:45am

And yet those '36 eagle rank #3 in DVOA that year (I KID)

9
by A Dallas Fan (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:10pm

Winner.

41
by TomC :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:55pm

(golf clap)

74
by Lou :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 9:00pm

+1

Would LOL again.

6
by Led :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:57am

I think Chad Ochocinco is possessed by the spirit of Andy Kaufman.

13
by starzero :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:26pm

maybe andy kaufman is ochocinco.

33
by The Powers That Be :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:57pm

No, Andy Kaufman's dead. Tony Clifton is Ochocinco.

38
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:32pm

We'll know for sure if Jim Carey plays Ocho in the movie.

10
by C (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:14pm

Jamarcus has horrible horrible footwork ( maybe the worst I can remember). There could be no pressure and for no reason the guy is throwing the ball without his feet set fading backwards. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to why some of his passes are comically off target. If he didn't have such a strong arm and size, the Raiders would have given up on him a long time ago. The guy far to often even fails to complete basic passes.

Throw in the fact that he shows up to camp over 30 pounds overweight and doesn't put in the time and effort to be a good quarterback and leader.

Jeff Garcia bet on the right team to go to, but he underestimated the team's willingness to cut free their mistake.

Isn't it funny how before the Raiders/San Diego game and during the preseason people were talking about how "Russell showed improvement" at the end of last year? Now you are comparing him to some of the worst quarterbacks in history.

14
by JasonK :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:42pm

For all the abuse the Raiders are taking for cutting Garcia loose, he really was a terrible fit for them. If that offense was going to be anything close to effective with the supporting cast they've got, it would've been with "run, run, run, BOMB" playcalling, similar to the '08 Ravens. Garcia is a "slants & slats" maetsro with a little mobility; fitting him into a "stand in the pocket and throw deep off play-action" offense was doomed to fail from the start.

30
by Kibbles :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:28pm

Have you seen Jamarcus Russel this season? The "fit" of his backup shouldn't even come up in the conversation. The Raiders could put Chad Pennington under center and ask him to throw nothing but fly routes and the offense would still improve- and Chad Pennington's on IR!

45
by Led :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:45pm

I suspect Chadwick might be able to complete 40% of his passes left handed.

11
by qed :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:17pm

I think this Walkthrough has an optimal ratio of play analysis, historical analysis, and humor.

19
by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:15pm

I agree! This is the kind of work you can't find elsewhere in print or on the net, and it's what I look forwarg to each week.

Well done, Mike.

37
by DZ (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:32pm

This was brilliant in every way.

58
by E :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 10:02am

Agreed, one of the best of the season, funny and informative. Great work as always Mike.

12
by Bobman :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:23pm

Wait, wait! No updates on the Beefstro? Delaware's best-named eatery? Hell, I am cancelling my subscription!

15
by ammek :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 12:58pm

Great stuff. McQuilken is one of my favorite bad quarterbacks too. What an era the mid-70s were for horrible quarterbacking! Bob Avellini, Mike Boryla, Jerry Tagge...

It is interesting that the top seven teams in DVOA all have new defensive coordinators. It will be worth observing whether this early advantage is maintained, now that opponents have a month's game tape to go on. Of course, I find it slightly chilling that two of the unsuccessful candidates for the Packer vacancy last offseason, Mike Nolan and Gregg Williams, now sit atop the listings.

17
by Sophandros :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:05pm

Don't forget that Dan Snyder had the brilliant plan to pass over Williams in favor of a guy who had never held a coordinator job, much less a head coaching position...

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

16
by Sophandros :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:04pm

If we're just focusing on Russell's completion percentage, let's not look at the raw #'s. Let's look at how much worse than the average QB he really is. For example, in the 1936 Eagles example, they league average completion percentage was 36.5%. Nobody could throw back then, for various reasons.

You alluded to comparing him to his contemporaries when you mentioned the '70s Falcons and Bills, but again, those two were in an era when the league completed 52.2% of its passes, on average.

The average QB today completes 61% of his passes. That's almost DOUBLE Russell's completion rate, which shows just how futile he is. And it's been mentioned before, both in this column and in Quick Reads: He's better than what they have on the bench.

-------------
Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

39
by the silent speaker (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:38pm

Actually, by my figuring it's only about half again, not double. A quarterback as far proportionately behind the 1936 league average as Russell is behind today's would have had a 23.8% completion percentage, so the record is still safe for now.

Of course, "arguably not the worst QB in the history of the game" is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

53
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 11:58pm

It's relatively easy to use the p-f-r "advanced passing" stats to do that--they're normed to have a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15 (the same as IQ). I tried to find everyone Mike mentioned in the article this week (minus a few who didn't throw enough passes for the stat to get listed).

Brady Quinn (2008)-68
Derek Anderson (2008)-66
Glenn Dorsey (2008)-64
Mike McMahon (2002)-39
Joey Harrington (2002)-68
Akili Smith (2000)-44
Scott Mitchell (2000)-58 (also 45 in 1999)
Kordell Stewart (2000)-77 (also 70 in 2003)
Kent Graham (2000)-46
Kim McQuilken (1976)-65 (also 45 in 1975)
Scott Hunter (1976)-84 (also 67 in 1973)
Steve Bartkowski (1976)-86 (career low was 80 in 1975)
Gary Marangi (1976)-53
Joe Ferguson (1976)-91 (70 in 1986)
Dave Smukler (1936)-33
Jamarcus Russell (2009)-39 (so far)

So, out of this group, only Smukler, who was obviously not a true QB, was worse and only McMahon was as bad as Russell so far this year. Akili Smith, Gary Marangi and Kent Graham were the only others within a standard deviation of Russell.

The only other one I found that was even close in about half an hour of looking up the worst QBs who actually threw some passes was Spergon Wynn (2000-Cle) with a 31.

57
by ammek :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 8:42am

Yeah, it's a great function.

Limiting the search to QBs who threw 100 or more passes, with a completion percentage of less than 40%, there are two seasons worse than Russell's (so far) — although both were by backups. Mike Tomczak started only two games for Chicago in 1990, completing 39 of 104 (plus 11 sacks), giving him a completion rating of 28 according to PFR. We don't (yet) have DVOA for that Tomczak season, but we do have it for the other sub-Russell showing: Kurt Kittner in 2003, who earns a 32 from PFR. Kittner's performance was spectacular, since his 44 completions netted 391 yards, or 3.43 yards/attempt. However, he didn't have a single fumble, which boosted his DVOA to -57.2%.

Also worth noting is Packer legend Stan Heath's 1949 season: 24.5% completion percentage, a TD:Int ratio of 1:14, and a passer rating of 4.2.

60
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:51am

Thank you both Guy and Ammek; this is a nice addition to Mike's article.

63
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 5:54pm

I oddly didn't even think of using the season finder until you said "limiting the search." Those two seasons you found are utterly amazing.

18
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:14pm

Funky Bunch? Marky Mark's posse played football?

Were the Redskins' Fun Bunch really just posing rip-off artists capitalizing on the end-zone ingenuity of a bunch of South Boston punks? You know, like the way the Funky Bunch was really just a group of posing rip-off artists capitalizing on . . . well, you get the picture.

20
by Temo :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:18pm

What, no ban on Caucasian-brations, or awkward celebrations by a white guy scoring an improbable rushing TD?

As demonstrated here.

27
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:10pm

Per recollection, the Pewter Rhino
scored numerous TDs, without excessive celebration. I recall he mostly got animated in that 'frat boy won a keg stand' way.

28
by Temo :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:13pm

The fact that he scores numerous TDs kinda makes the "improbable" part obsolete.

29
by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:17pm

This is very true.

21
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:27pm

Even more disturbing than the utter ineffectiveness of Russell is that he's regressing (and I don't mean performing statistical calculations). As bad as he's been before this year, this four-game stretch has been putrid. Some of this is likely due to small sample size and the Raiders' lack of bipedal receivers, but it has to be discouraging to Raiders fans.

22
by Anonguy :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:38pm

Probably good for Oakland liquor stores though.

24
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 1:48pm

Apparently the Raiders offense failed to post 200 yards for the past 3 games ... the first time they did that since the 1970 merger. That's even more inept than the 2006 B&B Shell offense ...

26
by jds (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:03pm

I feel oh so sorry for raiderjoe.

31
by Whatev (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:31pm

What happened to that guy, anyway? I haven't seen him around lately.

34
by BucNasty :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:11pm

Wait 'til the offseason.

35
by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:19pm

What would happen to you if your team looked like this?

70
by zlionsfan :: Sun, 10/11/2009 - 1:59pm

I don't know. Nothing happened last year.

72
by jody (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 3:01pm

we drafted Mario Williams instead of the much more hyped Vince Young or allegedly greater needed Reggie Bush. I would expect Al Davis to draft some fast track star to catch the balls that are thrown 70 yds in the air from someone with a good workout but poor college resume. Oh wait...
I am curious how much of JaMarcusuckiness is because of him, and how much is because of his really crappy receivers letting balls bounce off their chests, fall down on routes, get called for pass interference, dropping catchable passes, etc. Basically, how bad would the raiders be if they had a competent QB?

40
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:39pm

He's been on a few times, mostly just before week one. Maybe he just hasn't had the desire to sober up enough to post. I know if the Eagles looked like the Raiders, I'd be sloppy drunk too.

32
by morganja :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 2:52pm

I wonder if Raiderjoe can play QB.

36
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 3:20pm

So if the player scores, hands off to the ref, but he's THINKING about celebrating, that's a penalty too? Makes me think of my days back in Catholic school. Maybe instead of fines, Goodell can just whack the more brazen articles accross the knuckles with a yardstick?

42
by Dired :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 4:12pm

Is that right? 39 interceptions in 170 attempts? That has to be a record (if it isn't a typo repeating the completion numbers). If not, hey, 46% of those passes were completed to *someone*!

43
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 4:22pm

Here's a thought ... could Jamarcus Russell overtake Ryan Leaf for the biggest bust in draft history?

Al Davis seems committed to starting him, and no second half (or should that be quarter?) benching for poor performances. Think what kind of spectacular(ly bad) numbers Russell might put up over the next 2-3 seasons ...

46
by Led :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:48pm

Leaf combined unprecedented terrible play with nasty, assholish behavior. That's a potent combo. When Russell starts screaming at reporters, he'll be in contention for the top spot.

54
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 12:03am

I would also say that, to my memory, people did not seem anywhere near as high on Russell coming out as they did Leaf. Maybe it's just who I ran into at the two times, but that's the impression I had.

And Led's point about Leaf's behavior is certainly on point as well.

61
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 12:21pm

I think your recollection is correct. In 1998, it was widely believed that Leaf and Manning were both can't-miss prospects, and if anything, there were more doubts about Manning not having enough room to improve. Leaf was all upside.

In contrast, I can remember there being a lot of talking heads who were uncertain about Russell prior to the draft.

One example --
http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3629365

62
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 4:24pm

Interesting commentary in one of the final paragraphs ...

"At his pro day, Russell showed off his arm and compact throwing motion, along with his remarkable footwork and body control while on the move. In the pocket, though, he struggled while setting up on his short drops and showed poor anticipation with targets coming out of breaks. On one series of 12-yard outs, where he had to throw across his body to the sideline—a crucial conversion throw in the NFL that requires laserlike accuracy—he missed badly on nearly half of his attempts."

Basically he's good at throwing on the move, poor in the pocket.

Now if I was the Raiders coaches I think I'd know what I'd be doing with my gameplan ...

65
by NRG :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 11:45pm

I lived in Washington state at the time, and recall that Leaf was known as a prick during his college years. Washington State University is in a small town, and arrogant prima donna behavior is about as out of place as a flaming drag queen at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

55
by Marver :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 3:12am

On playing ability, perhaps. After you consider the Chargers traded away two first round picks, a third, and a player to move up ONE slot to pick him, the nod has to go to Leaf.

44
by Theo :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:42pm

Sorry I haven't read every comment so this might have been said before.

Every celebration of a TD should be that 3 linemen keep the scorer from celebrating.

That should make a statement. I LOVE sharpies! I love guys passing the ball around in a circle as if it was a bottle of wodka.

48
by Marcumzilla :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 5:59pm
52
by knappster :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 9:51pm

Money.

67
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Sat, 10/10/2009 - 8:24pm

That IS awesome--I got my rj fix for the week.

His genius can only be admired, never emulated. Seriously, try to write like that some time. Its n5ot posssilbe.

And some others.

49
by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 7:35pm

The Bills finished 2-12 despite the fact that O.J. Simpson rushed for 1,500 yards. Marangi is now a school headmaster, which is more than we can say for his running back.

Of course with O.J. now in the Big House (not the one in Ann Arbor), "headmaster" is not completely out of the question.

{Sorry}

51
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 10/08/2009 - 9:30pm

Russell didn't really hide his wish not to be drafted by the Raiders. Apparently playing him a lot of money didn't exactly change this wish. I'm not sure he would be good on a different team with a better motivating environment. Basically by sucking this bad the guy has to realize he is never going to get that chance... well maybe.

56
by lobolafcadio :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 6:00am

New coordinator Gregg Williams came to New Orleans to implement the heavy-blitzing defense he used so successfully in Washington and Jacksonville.
Not so successful in Jax...

64
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 10/09/2009 - 10:14pm

Russell going to trun it around on Sunday vs Giants. Just you wait and see. Russell has all the tools. Termendous arm strength. Great passing skills when scrambling like Jelway. Has gerat up and comingers at tigh end Z Miller and Wr Schilens, Higgins, Heyward-Bey and some others. Having a little trouble early on but just mechiancle. Paul Hakcett excellent qb coach maybe one of best ever. so you know he working hard and loking at film. things get turned around soon and Raiders still on tracjk for playoffs. Chargers too inujured and coached by moron to win. Broncos are crap tema. beat nobody good yet except Raiders who werent even playing hard that day. Raiders going to trash broncos in Demver on decemb 20. Just like 2008 when broncos win in Oakland then Raiders go to denver later in seaosn and bitchslap broncos. Chiefs arenmt even wortg talkig about. worst tema in league

68
by prophetik (not verified) :: Sun, 10/11/2009 - 1:17am

you are an orator in a nation of cannibals. your silver tongue declares your glory, o LORD, may it never cease.

69
by tuluse :: Sun, 10/11/2009 - 5:39am

Are you sure the Bengals aren't good?

It seems like they might be for real this year.

71
by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sun, 10/11/2009 - 4:38pm

I really wish I could do crazy Packer fan, or considering where I live, crazy Charger fan, anywhere near this well.

chargerjoe sez -
Season same as always. Chargers suck early, Broncos beat crap teams so look good, KC and Raiders still suck, end of the world coming. Chargers win six games in a row, Broncos fall apart, Chargers win division, lose in playoffs. Rivers best passer in NFL. Have to fix losing in playoffs.

66
by NRG :: Sat, 10/10/2009 - 12:06am

Raiderjoe, you are a scholar and a gentleman, as are so many of your silver-painted brethren. However, if you think the Chiefs are the worst tema in the league, you have not yet watched St. Louis play. I assure you that St. Louis will be the only team the Seahawks will shut out this year, though it could happen twice.

73
by DEW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/12/2009 - 10:28pm

Funny you should mention the Seahawks shutting someone out...