NFL's Best Playoff Quarterbacks: DVOA and DYAR

NFL's Best Playoff Quarterbacks: DVOA and DYAR
NFL's Best Playoff Quarterbacks: DVOA and DYAR
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

With the blood of the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks wrote the final chapter of the 2013 season. Football Outsiders now has 25 complete years of data for DVOA and DYAR. Some readers have asked about seeing the postseason numbers for these metrics, which is what we're going to do in the final part of our study of quarterbacks in the postseason. Part I focused on the frivolities of postseason win-loss records and defense-adjusted passer ratings. Part II was all about drive stats for the quarterback's offense.

To start the 2014 season there should be eight active Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, the most ever. Does that make them the eight best quarterbacks in the league? Certainly not, but it's close. The free-agency era has helped the best quarterbacks win a ring, which was definitely not the case in the old days for Dan Marino, Dan Fouts and Fran Tarkenton.

The dig for more DVOA will continue, but going back to 1989 allows us to have full career postseason data for quarterbacks like Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, Kurt Warner and any active great. Oh, and also Mark Sanchez. Do keep in mind this means only partial career data will be presented for the likes of Joe Montana, Dan Marino and John Elway, but we hope to complete their careers at some point.

It will take some time before we know if Dieter Brock had the worst postseason ever in the 1985 season, but a quarter century of data is a good place to start digging.

DVOA: Strength of Schedule

Not to pile on Denver too much -- we have a right to be pissed when the dream Super Bowl became a turd -- but obviously playing San Diego and New England was not the same as playing Seattle, the No. 1 team in DVOA. The opponent matters and that's why there's always a ranking of the hardest and easiest schedules in DVOA each season. I've applied the same concept for opponents of all 42 quarterbacks with at least five playoff starts since 1989.

In the following table the quarterbacks are ranked (Rk) by the average DVOA of their opponents in all playoff starts. The smaller the number, the harder the opponent. The "AVG RK" is the average season rank in DVOA for the opponents. The averages and rankings are also presented for just the opposing defense (AVG DEF DVOA) and then just the pass defenses (AVG PASS DEF). Active players are in bold.

Quarterbacks: Postseason Strength of Schedule by DVOA, 1989-2013 (Min. 5 Starts)
1 Eli Manning 24.6% 4.6 -6.6% 21 11.0 -4.6% 21 10.6 11 8-3
2 Philip Rivers 24.6% 5.4 -12.5% 1 6.0 -14.5% 1 6.1 9 4-5
3 Chad Pennington 22.7% 6.2 -11.2% 2 8.0 -10.4% 4 8.7 6 2-4
4 Peyton Manning 20.9% 5.5 -7.0% 18 11.3 -7.3% 12 10.0 23 11-12
5 Jake Plummer 20.6% 6.3 0.9% 42 17.3 5.4% 42 16.8 6 2-4
6 Ben Roethlisberger 20.4% 6.6 -5.9% 26 11.7 -2.6% 29 11.9 14 10-4
7 Joe Flacco 20.3% 7.4 -5.9% 25 12.5 -2.5% 31 12.5 13 9-4
8 Kerry Collins 20.1% 7.0 -9.2% 5 10.3 -7.6% 11 11.3 7 3-4
9 Jim Kelly 19.9% 6.2 -6.4% 22 9.9 -4.9% 18 11.0 15 8-7
10 Trent Dilfer 19.7% 5.8 -8.0% 10 9.2 -6.8% 13 9.8 6 5-1
11 John Elway 19.4% 6.2 -7.0% 17 9.0 -4.9% 19 9.9 14 10-4
12 Steve McNair 19.2% 6.2 -8.9% 7 9.3 -7.7% 9 9.9 10 5-5
13 Matt Ryan 18.9% 8.4 -7.1% 15 9.4 -5.2% 17 11.0 5 1-4
14 Vinny Testaverde 18.8% 5.8 -3.1% 37 13.0 -1.4% 34 12.6 5 2-3
15 Brad Johnson 18.8% 6.7 -9.1% 6 8.0 -9.6% 5 9.4 7 4-3
16 Mark Sanchez 18.5% 9.5 -1.5% 41 16.3 1.6% 40 14.3 6 4-2
17 Steve Young 18.5% 6.1 -4.7% 30 10.6 -2.9% 27 10.9 14 8-6
18 Joe Montana 18.3% 5.3 -10.9% 3 6.3 -12.6% 3 5.7 9 6-3
19 Brett Favre 18.2% 6.6 -3.7% 36 12.2 -2.9% 28 11.1 24 13-11
20 Rich Gannon 17.9% 6.1 -10.4% 4 10.7 -14.4% 2 10.0 7 4-3
21 Russell Wilson 17.6% 6.2 -2.4% 39 13.4 0.2% 38 12.4 5 4-1
22 Colin Kaepernick 17.3% 8.0 -5.8% 27 12.3 -5.8% 16 10.5 6 4-2
23 Kurt Warner 17.1% 7.2 -8.0% 9 10.8 -9.5% 6 9.4 13 9-4
24 Tom Brady 17.0% 7.4 -4.2% 33 12.3 -3.5% 24 10.9 26 18-8
25 Drew Brees 16.7% 8.7 -6.1% 23 12.1 -2.5% 30 12.6 11 6-5
26 Drew Bledsoe 16.6% 8.8 -5.7% 28 11.0 -0.4% 35 12.5 6 3-3
27 Randall Cunningham 16.4% 7.8 -8.3% 8 8.3 -8.0% 8 8.8 8 3-5
28 Jim Harbaugh 16.4% 6.6 -6.7% 20 9.2 -0.1% 36 11.6 5 2-3
29 Dan Marino 16.3% 7.0 -3.8% 35 11.8 0.0% 37 12.8 12 5-7
30 Aaron Rodgers 16.2% 8.2 -6.0% 24 10.8 -1.4% 33 10.9 9 5-4
31 Mark Rypien 16.2% 7.6 -4.1% 34 11.0 -3.0% 26 10.4 7 5-2
32 Mark Brunell 15.9% 7.9 -6.7% 19 9.3 -2.4% 32 11.8 10 5-5
33 Jeff Hostetler 15.7% 8.0 -7.0% 16 9.2 -7.6% 10 9.4 5 4-1
34 Donovan McNabb 13.9% 9.4 -7.4% 11 10.0 -6.8% 14 10.8 16 9-7
35 Troy Aikman 13.5% 8.9 -4.7% 31 11.3 -4.1% 22 10.1 15 11-4
36 Stan Humphries 13.4% 9.3 -5.2% 29 9.8 -3.2% 25 9.7 6 3-3
37 Matt Hasselbeck 12.2% 10.3 -7.1% 13 8.9 -3.9% 23 10.0 11 5-6
38 Jeff Garcia 12.1% 9.5 -7.1% 14 12.0 -9.2% 7 12.0 6 2-4
39 Neil O'Donnell 11.4% 9.4 -2.3% 40 11.7 4.7% 41 15.0 7 3-4
40 Jake Delhomme 10.9% 10.6 -7.2% 12 10.1 -4.8% 20 12.4 8 5-3
41 Michael Vick 10.2% 11.6 -4.3% 32 11.0 -6.3% 15 9.6 5 2-3
42 Warren Moon 3.7% 12.5 -2.9% 38 11.2 0.4% 39 12.0 6 1-5

Not surprisingly, Eli Manning and the Giants have played the toughest playoff opponents, including three teams (2007 Patriots, 2008 Eagles and 2011 Packers) that ranked No. 1 in DVOA. The Giants played some offensive-skewed teams, including a few of the all-time scoring juggernauts, which is part of the reason why Manning only played average defenses (ranked 21st out of 42) compared to his peers. We know from part I about how well the Giants stepped up on defense in the playoffs.

Troy Aikman (35th) is the most successful playoff quarterback who appears near the bottom for strength of schedule. Factor in how dominant those Dallas teams were, and the results really come as no surprise.

Warren Moon going 1-5 against the "weakest" opponents (3.7%) does not sound good for him, but no quarterback outside of Peyton Manning may have suffered more heart-breaking playoff losses due to factors out of the quarterback's control. The lone win here for Moon came against the 1991 Jets, who went 8-8 and ranked 20th in DVOA (-4.4%).

Philip Rivers is not known for much playoff success either, but he can point to playing the toughest schedule of playoff defenses (-12.5%), including the toughest pass defenses. Rivers played the 2007 Titans (No. 1 defense by DVOA) and two defenses that were the consensus best in football those seasons (2008 Steelers and 2009 Jets). He even played the 2013 Bengals, who were arguably the AFC's best defense.

Rivers played the No. 1 pass defense three times, but one quarterback since 1989 has had more such games. Peyton Manning just played his fourth top pass defense.

I might as well get the first fawning mention of Joe Montana out of the way. Though this only goes back to 1989, in that time Montana was on the average stretch of postseason play ever by a quarterback and he played the third-toughest set of defenses (-10.9%).

We'll talk more about Mark Sanchez later, but his average opponents having the second-worst defense starts to explain his postseason success. Jake Plummer played the worst defenses, but that's not much consolation when running into buzzsaws like the 1998 Vikings and 2003-04 Colts on the road.

This should help in answering who they played, now what about how the quarterbacks played?

Passing DYAR

Our first table looks at the leaders in playoff DYAR, which includes passing and rushing. There's no minimum play or game restriction here as it's just cumulative value. Here are the top and bottom 30 quarterbacks:

Best and Vaguely Unpleasant Playoff Quarterbacks in DYAR (1989-2013)
Rk Player DYAR Games DYAR/G Rk Player DYAR Games DYAR/G
1 Peyton Manning 2,641 23 114.8 125 Cody Carlson -43 1 -43.0
2 Tom Brady 2,147 26 82.6 126 Bobby Hoying -43 1 -43.0
3 Kurt Warner 1,639 13 126.0 127 Vince Evans -44 1 -44.0
4 Troy Aikman 1,505 16 94.1 128 Andre Ware -53 1 -53.0
5 Brett Favre 1,498 24 62.4 129 Joe Webb -54 1 -54.0
6 Drew Brees 1,420 11 129.1 130 Koy Detmer -55 2 -27.7
7 Joe Montana 1,398 9 155.3 131 Jim Miller -56 1 -56.0
8 Steve Young 1,328 18 73.8 132 Rex Grossman -56 4 -14.1
9 John Elway 1,033 14 73.8 133 Chris Simms -63 1 -63.0
10 Aaron Rodgers 984 9 109.3 134 Quincy Carter -65 1 -65.0
11 Jim Kelly 891 15 59.4 135 Damon Huard -68 1 -68.0
12 Matt Hasselbeck 764 11 69.4 136 Scott Zolak -79 2 -39.5
13 Eli Manning 718 11 65.3 137 Rob Johnson -80 2 -39.9
14 Joe Flacco 717 13 55.2 138 Steve Bono -89 2 -44.5
15 Philip Rivers 684 9 76.0 139 Sean Salisbury -110 3 -36.7
Rk Player DYAR Games DYAR/G Rk Player DYAR Games DYAR/G
16 Ben Roethlisberger 583 14 41.6 140 Shane Matthews -115 1 -115.0
17 Donovan McNabb 581 16 36.3 141 Elvis Grbac -125 6 -20.8
18 Dan Marino 575 12 47.9 142 Mike Tomczak -136 4 -34.0
19 Jeff Hostetler 566 5 113.2 143 Matt Cassel -137 1 -137.0
20 Randall Cunningham 554 10 55.4 144 Byron Leftwich -139 2 -69.5
21 Mark Rypien 521 8 65.1 145 Jay Fiedler -145 4 -36.3
22 Colin Kaepernick 507 6 84.5 146 Phil Simms -156 3 -52.0
23 Warren Moon 507 6 84.5 147 Mark Vlasic -160 1 -160.0
24 Steve McNair 463 10 46.3 148 Todd Marinovich -177 1 -177.0
25 Russell Wilson 451 5 90.2 149 Andy Dalton -182 3 -60.7
26 Vinny Testaverde 428 5 85.6 150 Jay Schroeder -182 2 -91.0
27 Kerry Collins 410 7 58.5 151 Gus Frerotte -192 3 -64.0
28 Mark Sanchez 404 6 67.3 152 Shaun King -193 3 -64.3
29 Rich Gannon 316 9 35.1 153 Scott Mitchell -199 2 -99.5
30 Jeff George 310 3 103.3 154 Drew Bledsoe -269 7 -38.5

The top two names come as no surprise given how many starts and production those two have had, but on a per-game basis Tom Brady slips a bit to his elite peers. The aforementioned strength of opposing pass defenses plays a factor here, as players such as Manning and Warner played tougher opponents than Brady. Montana leads the way with 155.3 DYAR per game. While he was not consistently dominant in the postseason until the 1988 season, should we eventually complete stats for his first 14 playoff games, there's a very good chance Montana will have the most playoff DYAR to match his reputation as the best playoff performer.

The bottom quarterbacks offer few surprises and many mediocre (at best) names. The best quarterback there might be Phil Simms, but this only represents his final three playoff games. Drew Bledsoe being the worst is no surprise to those who have studied any of his playoff history. Andy Dalton has been as bad as you've imagined and he's been consistent at doing so with games of -54, -64 and -64 DYAR.

Speaking of games, here are the 25 best by DYAR:

Best Playoff Games by DYAR Since 1989
Rk Player Year Team Round Opp. TOT DYAR Result Att. Cmp Pct. Yds TD INT
1 Kurt Warner 2009 ARI NFC-WC GB 380 W 51-45 OT 33 29 87.9 379 5 0
2 Drew Brees 2011 NO NFC-WC DET 339 W 45-28 43 33 76.7 466 3 0
3 Peyton Manning 2004 IND AFC-WC DEN 329 W 49-24 33 27 81.8 458 4 1
4 Peyton Manning 2009 IND AFC-C NYJ 293 W 30-17 39 26 66.7 377 3 0
5 Joe Montana 1989 SF SB DEN 288 W 55-10 29 22 75.9 297 5 0
6 Peyton Manning 2003 IND AFC-WC DEN 284 W 41-10 26 22 84.6 377 5 0
7 Warren Moon 1991 HOU AFC-D DEN 279 L 26-24 36 27 75.0 325 3 1
8 Aaron Rodgers 2010 GB NFC-D ATL 269 W 48-21 36 31 86.1 366 3 0
9 Russell Wilson 2012 SEA NFC-D ATL 265 L 30-28 36 24 66.7 385 2 1
10 Steve Young 1994 SF SB SD 263 W 49-26 36 24 66.7 325 6 0
11 Tom Brady 2011 NE AFC-D DEN 254 W 45-10 34 26 76.5 363 6 1
12 Joe Montana 1989 SF NFC-D MIN 250 W 41-13 24 17 70.8 241 4 0
13 Joe Montana 1989 SF NFC-C LARM 245 W 30-3 30 26 86.7 262 2 0
14 Kerry Collins 2000 NYG NFC-C MIN 239 W 41-0 39 28 71.8 381 5 2
15 John Elway 1989 DEN AFC-C CLE1 237 W 37-21 36 20 55.6 385 3 0
16 Tom Brady 2007 NE AFC-D JAC 235 W 31-20 28 26 92.9 262 3 0
17 Peyton Manning 2013 DEN AFC-C NE 235 W 26-16 43 32 74.4 400 2 0
18 Jim Kelly 1990 BUF AFC-D MIA 231 W 44-34 29 19 65.5 339 3 1
19 Kurt Warner 2008 ARI SB PIT 229 L 27-23 43 31 72.1 377 3 1
20 Kurt Warner 1999 STL NFC-D MIN 229 W 49-37 33 27 81.8 391 5 1
21 Kurt Warner 2008 ARI NFC-C PHI 228 W 32-25 28 21 75.0 279 4 0
22 Brett Favre 1995 GB NFC-D SF 226 W 27-17 28 21 75.0 299 2 0
23 Jeff Hostetler 1993 LARD AFC-WC DEN 225 W 42-24 19 13 68.4 294 3 0
24 Tom Brady 2012 NE AFC-D HOU 224 W 41-28 40 25 62.5 344 3 0
25 Ben Roethlisberger 2005 PIT AFC-C DEN 224 W 34-17 29 21 72.4 275 2 0

Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning lead the way with four games apiece. Out of the 35 playoff games with at least 200 DYAR, Manning has the most with six. Warner and Montana each had four. Amazingly, all three of Montana's games from 1989 rank in the top 13. He topped it off with the best Super Bowl, producing 283 DYAR against Denver's No. 1 scoring defense.

The Denver defense makes a whopping seven appearances, including four of the top seven games. If there's a bright side for the Broncos, it might be that Russell Wilson's Super Bowl performance (151 DYAR) only ranks 91st. I still believe Wilson's best playoff game was the one he lost and now I have some statistical support with his 265 DYAR performance in Atlanta. That game makes up 58.8 percent of his total playoff DYAR and is one of the best games in defeat.

Defeat is almost certain with a pathetic playoff performance from your quarterback. Here are the 25 worst:

Vaguely Unpleasant Playoff Games by DYAR Since 1989
Rk Player Year Team Round Opp. TOT DYAR Result Att. Cmp Pct. Yds TD INT
1 Kerry Collins 2000 NYG SB BAL -294 L 34-7 39 15 38.5 112 0 4
2 Jake Delhomme 2008 CAR NFC-D ARI -220 L 33-13 34 17 50.0 205 1 5
3 Donovan McNabb 2003 PHI NFC-C CAR -205 L 14-3 22 10 45.5 100 0 3
4 Dan Marino 1997 MIA AFC-WC NE -196 L 17-3 43 17 39.5 141 0 2
5 Stan Humphries 1992 SD AFC-D MIA -180 L 31-0 44 18 40.9 140 0 4
6 Todd Marinovich 1991 LARD AFC-WC KC -177 L 10-6 23 12 52.2 140 0 4
7 Jay Schroeder 1990 LARD AFC-C BUF -175 L 51-3 31 13 41.9 150 0 5
8 Neil O'Donnell 1992 PIT AFC-D BUF -168 L 24-3 29 15 51.7 163 0 2
9 Troy Aikman 1998 DAL NFC-WC ARI -167 L 20-7 49 22 44.9 191 1 3
10 Tony Romo 2009 DAL NFC-D MIN -164 L 34-3 35 22 62.9 198 0 1
11 Mark Vlasic* 1991 KC AFC-D BUF -160 L 37-14 20 9 45.0 124 1 4
12 Tom Brady 2009 NE AFC-WC BAL -157 L 33-14 42 23 54.8 154 2 3
13 Elvis Grbac 2001 BAL AFC-D PIT -155 L 27-10 37 18 48.6 153 0 3
14 Rich Gannon 2000 OAK AFC-C BAL -153 L 16-3 21 11 52.4 80 0 2
15 Trent Green 2006 KC AFC-WC IND -149 L 23-8 24 14 58.3 107 1 2
16 Phil Simms 1993 NYG NFC-D SF -144 L 44-3 25 12 48.0 124 0 2
17 Matt Cassel 2010 KC AFC-WC BAL -137 L 30-7 18 9 50.0 70 0 3
18 Byron Leftwich 2005 JAC AFC-WC NE -131 L 28-3 31 18 58.1 179 0 1
19 Shaun King 1999 TB NFC-C STL -131 L 11-6 29 13 44.8 163 0 2
20 Mike Tomczak 1996 PIT AFC-D NE -125 L 28-3 29 16 55.2 110 0 2
21 Eli Manning 2005 NYG NFC-WC CAR -124 L 23-0 18 10 55.6 113 0 3
22 Tim Tebow 2011 DEN AFC-D NE -121 L 45-10 26 9 34.6 136 0 0
23 Brett Favre 2004 GB NFC-WC MIN -119 L 31-17 33 22 66.7 216 1 4
24 Sean Salisbury 1992 MIN NFC-WC WAS -119 L 24-7 20 6 30.0 113 0 2
25 John Elway 1989 DEN SB SF -118 L 55-10 26 10 38.5 108 0 2

Note: Backup Mark Vlasic only got in a pickle after starter Steve DeBerg left with an injury.

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Bookended by Super Bowl losses, there are at least five games here from Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Sometimes things just snowball quickly. You knew Jake Delhomme would show up near the top, but even after opponent adjustments, Kerry Collins' inability to move the football against the 2000 Ravens reigns supreme. In addition to the putrid throwing stats, Collins was also sacked four times and fumbled once. The opponent adjustments aren't as strong as you might expect, as the Ravens had the average run defense DVOA in history but ranked only seventh that year in pass defense DVOA.

The worst DYAR in a playoff win belongs to Drew Bledsoe. He had -116 DYAR in the 1996 AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville (20-6 win). On New England's three scoring drives that day, Bledsoe contributed 68 passing yards -- all on one field-goal drive before halftime.

Passing DVOA

Next I looked at the top quarterbacks by playoff DVOA. This is only for passing plays, so all rushing is excluded. Players needed a minimum of 150 pass plays to qualify, which gave us a round number of 40 quarterbacks. The DVOA listed here is a weighted average taken over multiple seasons.

Playoffs: Passing DVOA Leaders Since 1989 (Min. 150 Attempts)
Rk Player Games DVOA Rk Player Games DVOA
1 Joe Montana 9 62.3% 21 Kerry Collins 7 12.1%
2 Kurt Warner 13 42.3% 22 Randall Cunningham 10 10.7%
3 Drew Brees 11 32.5% 23 Matt Ryan 5 9.1%
4 Peyton Manning 23 31.3% 24 Ben Roethlisberger 14 7.1%
5 Troy Aikman 16 31.0% 25 Dan Marino 12 6.6%
6 Aaron Rodgers 9 28.9% 26 Chad Pennington 6 6.1%
7 Mark Sanchez 6 28.3% 27 Rich Gannon 9 5.4%
8 Philip Rivers 9 27.5% 28 Michael Vick 6 4.0%
9 Steve Young 18 26.2% 29 Neil O'Donnell 9 3.8%
10 John Elway 14 24.7% 30 Brad Johnson 7 3.3%
11 Tom Brady 26 21.9% 31 Jake Delhomme 8 3.2%
12 Mark Rypien 8 21.5% 32 Jeff Garcia 6 2.4%
13 Vinny Testaverde 5 20.0% 33 Steve McNair 10 2.2%
14 Colin Kaepernick 6 19.9% 34 Donovan McNabb 16 -1.3%
15 Eli Manning 11 17.9% 35 Jake Plummer 6 -6.5%
16 Brett Favre 24 17.1% 36 Mark Brunell 11 -6.7%
17 Warren Moon 6 15.8% 37 Stan Humphries 6 -13.0%
18 Joe Flacco 13 15.2% 38 Jim Harbaugh 5 -14.0%
19 Matt Hasselbeck 11 14.9% 39 Kordell Stewart 6 -16.3%
20 Jim Kelly 15 14.8% 40 Drew Bledsoe 7 -25.4%

Once again that active trio of Brees, Peyton and Rodgers rises near the top. The guys with multiple rings or a Super Bowl MVP like Brady, Eli, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger don't stack up as well to their team's success and record. Roethlisberger in particular looks bad here, but he does have a couple of the best passing games by DVOA (minimum 15 attempts):

Top 20 Playoff Games in Passing DVOA Since 1989
Player Year Team Round Opp. TOT DYAR PASS DVOA Result Att. Cmp Pct. Yds TD INT
Jeff Hostetler 1993 LARD AFC-WC DEN 225 178.7% W 42-24 19 13 68.4 294 3 0
Philip Rivers 2007 SD AFC-D IND 182 155.7% W 28-24 19 14 73.7 264 3 1
Kurt Warner 2009 ARI NFC-WC GB 380 147.4% W 51-45 OT 33 29 87.9 379 5 0
Joe Montana 1989 SF NFC-D MIN 250 146.1% W 41-13 24 17 70.8 241 4 0
Peyton Manning 2003 IND AFC-WC DEN 284 143.1% W 41-10 26 22 84.6 377 5 0
Mark Sanchez 2009 NYJ AFC-WC CIN 136 138.8% W 24-14 15 12 80.0 182 1 0
Joe Montana 1989 SF SB DEN 288 136.3% W 55-10 29 22 75.9 297 5 0
Tim Tebow 2011 DEN AFC-WC PIT 201 119.5% W 29-23 OT 21 10 47.6 316 2 0
Troy Aikman 1992 DAL NFC-D PHI 218 119.1% W 34-10 25 15 60.0 200 2 0
Troy Aikman 1993 DAL NFC-C SF 176 119.1% W 38-21 18 14 77.8 177 2 0
Ben Roethlisberger 2005 PIT AFC-WC CIN 172 115.4% W 31-17 19 14 73.7 208 3 0
Jim Kelly 1990 BUF AFC-C LARD 199 113.6% W 51-3 23 17 73.9 300 2 1
Peyton Manning 2004 IND AFC-WC DEN 329 113.3% W 49-24 33 27 81.8 458 4 1
Mark Rypien 1991 WAS NFC-C DET 157 112.3% W 41-10 17 12 70.6 228 2 0
Joe Montana 1989 SF NFC-C LARM 245 111.9% W 30-3 30 26 86.7 262 2 0
Brett Favre 1995 GB NFC-D SF 226 111.4% W 27-17 28 21 75.0 299 2 0
Tom Brady 2007 NE AFC-D JAC 235 108.4% W 31-20 28 26 92.9 262 3 0
Ben Roethlisberger 2005 PIT AFC-C DEN 224 103.3% W 34-17 29 21 72.4 275 2 0
Jim Kelly 1990 BUF AFC-D MIA 231 101.3% W 44-34 29 19 65.5 339 3 1
Warren Moon 1991 HOU AFC-D DEN 279 99.8% L 26-24 36 27 75.0 325 3 1

Nineteen games surpass 100% DVOA and once again Montana's entire 1989 appears. Warner's game against the 2009 Packers wears the DYAR crown, but he's also third in DVOA. Rivers missed the fourth quarter of that Indianapolis game with an ACL injury. Hostetler only played five playoff games so he missed the 150-play cut in the previous table, but his passing DVOA is 58.1%, second only to Montana if we moved the requirement down to 125 plays.

Here are the 22 worst games, all registering a DVOA worse than -75.0%.

Vaguely Unpleasant Playoff Games in Passing DVOA Since 1989
Player Year Team Round Opp. TOT DYAR PASS DVOA Result Att. Cmp Pct. Yds TD INT
Matt Cassel 2010 KC AFC-WC BAL -137 -141.2% L 30-7 18 9 50.0 70 0 3
Donovan McNabb 2003 PHI NFC-C CAR -205 -136.6% L 14-3 22 10 45.5 100 0 3
Mark Vlasic 1991 KC AFC-D BUF -160 -131.1% L 37-14 20 9 45.0 124 1 4
Todd Marinovich 1991 LARD AFC-WC KC -177 -124.1% L 10-6 23 12 52.2 140 0 4
Kerry Collins 2000 NYG SB BAL -294 -122.8% L 34-7 39 15 38.5 112 0 4
Shane Matthews 2001 CHI NFC-D PHI -115 -115.8% L 33-19 17 8 47.1 66 0 2
Eli Manning 2005 NYG NFC-WC CAR -124 -101.4% L 23-0 18 10 55.6 113 0 3
Jay Schroeder 1990 LARD AFC-C BUF -175 -100.8% L 51-3 31 13 41.9 150 0 5
Jake Delhomme 2008 CAR NFC-D ARI -220 -100.1% L 33-13 34 17 50.0 205 1 5
Rich Gannon 2000 OAK AFC-C BAL -153 -97.6% L 16-3 21 11 52.4 80 0 2
Mark Brunell 2005 WAS NFC-WC TB -81 -96.6% W 17-10 15 7 46.7 41 0 1
Sean Salisbury 1992 MIN NFC-WC WAS -119 -90.9% L 24-7 20 6 30.0 113 0 2
Phil Simms 1993 NYG NFC-D SF -144 -87.2% L 44-3 25 12 48.0 124 0 2
Neil O'Donnell 1992 PIT AFC-D BUF -168 -87.1% L 24-3 29 15 51.7 163 0 2
Trent Green 2006 KC AFC-WC IND -149 -85.2% L 23-8 24 14 58.3 107 1 2
Dan Marino 1997 MIA AFC-WC NE -196 -82.0% L 17-3 43 17 39.5 141 0 2
Mike Tomczak 1996 PIT AFC-D NE -125 -81.4% L 28-3 29 16 55.2 110 0 2
Damon Huard 1999 MIA AFC-D JAC -68 -78.5% L 62-7 16 5 31.3 46 0 0
Stan Humphries 1992 SD AFC-D MIA -180 -77.4% L 31-0 44 18 40.9 140 0 4
Shaun King 1999 TB NFC-C STL -131 -76.6% L 11-6 29 13 44.8 163 0 2
David Garrard 2007 JAC AFC-WC PIT -66 -76.6% W 31-29 21 9 42.9 140 1 2
Byron Leftwich 2005 JAC AFC-WC NE -131 -76.1% L 28-3 31 18 58.1 179 0 1

Vlasic returns along with two other backup performances: Damon Huard's feeble attempt to follow Dan Marino in the 62-7 Jacksonville debacle and Shane Matthews coming in for Jim Miller against the 2001 Eagles.

It's not a good table for Raiders fans with three appearances in the bottom 10. Those horrific games from Jay Schroeder and Todd Marinovich, which were actually back-to-back playoff failures in 1990-91, both show up as does a Rich Gannon performance against the 2000 Ravens before he left injured.

Mark Brunell picked up the "worst win" for the 2005 Redskins in a game discussed last week. David Garrard has the only other win here, but that one never happens without his 32-yard scramble on fourth-and-2 to set up the game-winning field goal. Of course there was a holding penalty the league later admitted to missing on the play, but so goes the postseason and luck. This is only for passing so such a play is not recognized.

The boost from a rushing quarterback can be seen well with Colin Kaepernick's solid, but unspectacular passing DVOA. Kaepernick has already been one of the most prolific postseason rushers ever, which is why his total DYAR per game (84.5) places him considerably higher than any stat that's just focused on passing. Kaepernick's had prolific drive stats in the playoffs, but those speak more about the offense as a whole. We could use some more quarterback-specific stats to judge the player.

Third-Down Conversions

Breaking down the third-down numbers is always crucial because of their importance to the game. Most third downs directly decide whether or not the offensive drive extends and it's also a very quarterback-dependent down with roughly 80 percent of the attempts being passes.

I wrote a third-down analysis in the build-up for Super Bowl XLVIII and sure enough it proved to be important when the game was actually competitive -- a better word may be "undecided" given how this one played out. Seattle converted a few early, Tony Carter's pass interference in the end zone was a third-and-4 and both Manning interceptions were on third down. The deadly stat of quarterbacks being 1-of-39 at converting on third-and-11 or longer when passing against Seattle provided the game's key moment. Manning was hit as he threw on third-and-13 and the pass was intercepted for a touchdown by game MVP Malcolm Smith.

It should be hard to have a lot of playoff success without a lot of third-down success, but here are the numbers for 19 quarterbacks who made their playoff debut since 1999 (minimum five starts). All plays are included except for kneel downs and spikes. The "Avg. Yds Needed" are the average yards needed to convert on third down.

Playoff Quarterbacks - Third-Down Conversion Rates
Rk Quarterback Games Record Plays Avg. Yds Needed 1st Downs Conv. Rate
1 Mark Sanchez 6 4-2 61 7.08 28 45.90%
2 Ben Roethlisberger 14 10-4 155 7.72 71 45.81%
3 Michael Vick 5 2-3 54 6.87 24 44.44%
4 Aaron Rodgers 9 5-4 98 6.84 43 43.88%
5 Peyton Manning 23 11-12 224 7.15 96 42.86%
6 Philip Rivers 9 4-5 96 7.88 41 42.71%
7 Matt Ryan 5 1-4 54 7.67 23 42.59%
8 Kurt Warner 13 9-4 125 8.39 53 42.40%
9 Eli Manning 11 8-3 131 7.35 55 41.98%
10 Tom Brady 26 18-8 266 6.95 109 40.98%
11 Colin Kaepernick 6 4-2 54 6.85 22 40.74%
12 Russell Wilson 5 4-1 47 7.62 19 40.43%
13 Joe Flacco 13 9-4 145 6.63 57 39.31%
14 Jeff Garcia 6 2-4 67 7.07 26 38.81%
15 Jake Delhomme 8 5-3 70 7.86 27 38.57%
16 Drew Brees 11 6-5 109 6.94 41 37.61%
17 Donovan McNabb 16 9-7 190 7.47 66 34.74%
18 Chad Pennington 6 2-4 61 8.15 21 34.43%
19 Matt Hasselbeck 11 5-6 121 7.44 36 29.75%

Surprise, it's Sanchez at the top. While it's only 61 plays, there had to be a reason he had such a good passing DVOA (28.3%), right? We have to call his six-game playoff career for what it was in 2009-10. He had two really good road games (2009 Bengals and 2010 Patriots), a good half in each of his AFC Championship losses and two subpar games where he needed to be bailed out by his teammates, but did get credit for a game-winning drive and fourth-quarter comeback (2009 Chargers and 2010 Colts). Personally, I would like to see him have a career revival at some point -- crazier things have happened -- so he can play in the playoffs again and prove if he can sustain his small sample size of success. If not, then he's going to be an eyesore on these lists, but that shouldn't degrade the merit of the metrics. Sanchez is just proof that the playoffs are too small of a sample to put more weight on than the regular season when judging the true caliber of a player.

Brees only ranking 16th shocked me given his overall statistical success in the playoffs. You can see his average length needed was not even that big, so it's not like he was often in third-and-long. Or was he? I broke down the third-down numbers by ranges of short (1-3 yards), medium (4-7) and long (8-plus). Quarterbacks are sorted by ascending average distance needed.

3rd Down - Playoff Splits 1-3 yards 4-7 yards 8+ yards
Quarterback Avg. Yds Plays 3D% Conv% Rk 3D% Conv% Rk 3D% Conv% Rk
Joe Flacco 6.63 145 24.1% 51.43% 13 38.6% 42.86% 14 37.2% 27.78% 13
Aaron Rodgers 6.84 98 16.3% 50.00% 14T 49.0% 47.92% 7 34.7% 35.29% 2
Colin Kaepernick 6.85 54 20.4% 63.64% 5 31.5% 29.41% 18T 48.1% 38.46% 1
Michael Vick 6.87 54 27.8% 60.00% 8 33.3% 44.44% 12 38.9% 33.33% 4T
Drew Brees 6.94 109 31.2% 47.06% 18 24.8% 40.74% 15 44.0% 29.17% 12
Tom Brady 6.95 266 25.6% 54.41% 10 36.8% 46.94% 8 37.6% 26.00% 14
Jeff Garcia 7.07 67 20.9% 50.00% 14T 31.3% 57.14% 2 47.8% 21.88% 17T
Mark Sanchez 7.08 61 13.1% 50.00% 14T 50.8% 54.84% 3 36.1% 31.82% 7T
Peyton Manning 7.15 224 24.6% 54.55% 9 32.1% 50.00% 6 43.3% 30.93% 11
Eli Manning 7.35 131 19.1% 64.00% 4 36.6% 43.75% 13 44.3% 31.03% 10
Matt Hasselbeck 7.44 121 23.1% 32.14% 19 34.7% 45.24% 11 42.1% 15.69% 19
Donovan McNabb 7.47 190 24.7% 53.19% 11 30.5% 34.48% 17 44.7% 24.71% 16
Russell Wilson 7.62 47 17.0% 62.50% 6T 31.9% 53.33% 4 51.1% 25.00% 15
Matt Ryan 7.67 54 14.8% 62.50% 6T 44.4% 45.83% 10 40.7% 31.82% 7T
Ben Roethlisberger 7.72 155 23.2% 50.00% 14T 29.0% 60.00% 1 47.7% 35.14% 3
Jake Delhomme 7.86 70 20.0% 64.29% 3 24.3% 29.41% 18T 55.7% 33.33% 4T
Philip Rivers 7.88 96 17.7% 52.94% 12 34.4% 51.52% 5 47.9% 32.61% 6
Chad Pennington 8.15 61 13.1% 75.00% 1 34.4% 38.10% 16 52.5% 21.88% 17T
Kurt Warner 8.39 125 18.4% 65.22% 2 31.2% 46.15% 9 50.4% 31.75% 9

No one's had shorter third downs than Flacco, yet he ranks 13th or 14th across the board. Matt Hasselbeck ranks dead last on third-and-short and on third-and-long. Kaepernick has the third-shortest average distance, but has converted on third-and-long the best. Keep in mind we are talking about a conversion rate of 10-of-26 plays. Brady is the only player with 100 third-and-long attempts.

Staying out of third-and-long is another offensive goal. Sanchez stands out again in that 36.1 percent of his third downs are third-and-long, which is the second lowest percentage, but he also has the lowest rate of third-and-short attempts. He played on a run-heavy team, so running the ball was more logical in those situations. This creates a split where 50.8 percent of his third downs were third-and-medium, which is the highest rate of all quarterbacks here. Sanchez has the third-best conversion rate on those plays. Roethlisberger had the best and was third best on third-and-long, yet he was just 50 percent on third-and-short.

The only quarterbacks to rank in the top 10 in each range are Matt Ryan and Warner. Peyton just misses out by ranking 11th in third-and-long, trailing his brother Eli thanks to one more conversion. Of course there is some Manning's Law at work here. In this study of 2,128 plays, there were 50 plays involving a fumble. Most were sacks, but there were three plays where a quarterback completed a third-down pass that gained enough yards for a first down, but his receiver fumbled, costing him credit for the conversion. Peyton has two of those plays (Chargers got Marvin Harrison in 2007 and Julius Thomas this year) and Rodgers has the other (2010 Falcons).

This was just success rate for one down and we have already looked at DVOA and DYAR, but there are two more advanced stats we can look at to judge quarterbacks in the playoffs for better context.

Win Probability and Expected Points

Most of us are probably familiar with Brian Burke's work at Advanced NFL Stats for Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA). I love the concepts behind these stats. Manning's lone touchdown pass in the Super Bowl came with a 36-0 deficit on the final play of the third quarter -- the first garbage-time scoring toss of his playoff career. A play like that will do practically nothing to the WPA, which is what should happen, just as an interception should also do nothing with the game already long decided.

So I collected all of the WPA and EPA postseason data from Advanced NFL Stats, which goes back to the 1999 season, leaving us with incomplete career data for some quarterbacks. Ultimately, we have 24 quarterbacks with at least five playoff starts since 1999. The quarterbacks are ranked by Win Probability Added per game.

Advanced NFL Stats: Playoff Win Probability Added (1999-2013)
Rk QB Games Record WPA Per Game EPA Per Game EPA Rk
1 Drew Brees 11 6-5 3.60 0.33 101.6 9.24 3
2 Colin Kaepernick 6 4-2 1.73 0.29 56.5 9.42 2
3 Kurt Warner 13 9-4 3.67 0.28 110.0 8.46 5
4 Russell Wilson 5 4-1 1.11 0.22 44.8 8.96 4
5 Mark Sanchez 6 4-2 1.29 0.22 30.3 5.05 9
6 Aaron Rodgers 9 5-4 1.92 0.21 102.7 11.41 1
7 Peyton Manning 23 11-12 4.80 0.21 145.8 6.34 6
8 Jake Delhomme 8 5-3 1.55 0.19 26.7 3.34 14
9 Tom Brady 26 18-8 4.59 0.18 134.6 5.18 8
10 Jeff Garcia 6 2-4 0.80 0.13 23.2 3.87 13
11 Ben Roethlisberger 14 10-4 1.76 0.13 87.8 6.27 7
12 Eli Manning 11 8-3 1.22 0.11 47.1 4.28 12
13 Philip Rivers 9 4-5 0.85 0.09 41.4 4.60 11
14 Brett Favre 10 4-6 0.90 0.09 10.2 1.02 19
15 Joe Flacco 13 9-4 1.13 0.09 33.2 2.55 15
16 Kerry Collins 5 2-3 0.40 0.08 11.6 2.32 17
17 Matt Hasselbeck 11 5-6 0.51 0.05 51.2 4.65 10
18 Rich Gannon 7 4-3 0.19 0.03 -3.3 -0.47 23
19 Steve McNair 10 5-5 0.21 0.02 2.6 0.26 22
20 Brad Johnson 6 4-2 0.03 0.01 5.8 0.97 20
21 Chad Pennington 6 2-4 -0.07 -0.01 -15.1 -2.52 24
22 Donovan McNabb 16 9-7 -0.26 -0.02 4.6 0.29 21
23 Matt Ryan 5 1-4 -0.14 -0.03 6.1 1.22 18
24 Michael Vick 5 2-3 -0.39 -0.08 12.3 2.46 16

Again, elder Manning and Brady lead the way in most cumulative WPA and EPA with Manning ahead on a per-game basis. The Super Bowl was a big hit for Manning with -0.19 WPA and -15.3 EPA. I have called it the second-worst playoff game of his career and that was before WPA and EPA, which are not adjusted for opponent, further supported that stance. Only the 2003 AFC Championship loss in New England had a worse WPA (-0.42) and EPA (-20.4) for Manning. However, over the course of 23 games these are still two more stats that show Manning as one of the best postseason quarterbacks ever.

Kaepernick and Wilson have been impressive, but their sample size is right there with Sanchez's. It will be interesting to see where they rank in a few years. Both will soon be looking for a huge pay raise, which in turn makes it difficult to keep such a balanced team around them like they have been able to enjoy so far.

Though his fall from grace was not cap related, Jake Delhomme should make everyone remember the danger of small sample sizes for playoff success. Delhomme once looked like a playoff stud with a 5-1 record, 0.37 WPA per game and 9.65 EPA per game. He would have been at the top of this table, but then the playoff disasters happened against the 2005 Seahawks and 2008 Cardinals. Those two games alone produced -0.64 WPA and -31.2 EPA for Delhomme. I am not saying this will happen to young quarterbacks like Wilson and Kaepernick, but future playoff success does not have many good predictors. Everyone thought Marino would return to the Super Bowl, but that never happened. Many thought the current Packers would go on a dynasty run, but they have not advanced past the Divisional round in the last three seasons. It's hard to keep making the playoffs, let alone doing something productive while there.

Brees does not get to the postseason as often as you'd like, but once he's there the performance is usually pretty good. Yet he's still just a game over .500 thanks to some close losses, including one in San Francisco where he threw two go-ahead touchdown passes and still lost.

Interesting how the three quarterbacks from the class of 2004 are bunched together. They also have been missing the playoffs more frequently these days. Rivers missed three in a row before this year. Roethlisberger's been out of three of the last five and it's four out of five for Eli.

Donovan McNabb looks out of place near the bottom with his 9-7 record, but it makes sense. Most of those Philadelphia playoff wins were thanks to the defense, so McNabb did not have to do that much. When the Eagles lost in the playoffs, it always meant multiple turnovers from McNabb and some came when the game was late and close.


There have now been 504 playoff games in NFL history. Football Outsiders has analyzed the play-by-play and done game charting for 534 games (including playoffs) since the 2012 season. That's just two years. While we may never get a clear picture of how the 1940 Redskins lost 73-0 to the Bears, we should be able to at least track down every playoff game since the merger at some point.

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If the playoffs are so important for a quarterback's legacy, then justice must be served to the analysis instead of simplifying things to a win-loss record. Tracking events like dropped passes, pressure and yards after the catch would be very beneficial to understanding how the quarterback played relative to his teammates in the playoffs. We have more information than ever before on what happened in games, but rarely is it put to good use.

When there's a quarterback that's 10-4 in the playoffs and anyone can point to four plays, none of which even involved the quarterback, where if they had gone differently, his record would be 3-6*, then that should matter when comparing him to someone who may have had those crucial plays go against his team every time.

*There's no next week when you lose in the playoffs.

In the regular season, I always hear how "things even out" for quarterbacks in terms of breaks (good or bad) during a game. Over a long career I might believe that, but it's not true for one season and it's especially not true for the postseason. The sample size is not big enough for us not to be able to keep a balance sheet. I have already put in a lot of work to create a balance sheet for the last 30-plus years of the regular season. You want to know how many times a quarterback's kicker missed a clutch field goal or the defense gave up a fourth-quarter lead? I can produce that. Doing so for just the postseason is a piece of cake by comparison.

Now there is nothing simple about quantifying the contributions of a quarterback independent of those around him and adjusted for situations and opponent. But we still try, because we must. When the weight of evidence reveals the same conclusions, then it is pure ignorance to continue rejecting the facts.

Perspective cannot be lost. The numbers validate Mark Sanchez's postseason success, but at the end of the day it's a six-game sample. How could anyone think that means more than the 62-game performance Sanchez has shown in the regular season? Geno Smith wasn't drafted because the Jets felt bad for his draft day wait.

While it's undeniable the stakes change in the playoffs, the marks of individual greatness are the same if it's the first game of the season or the last. A quarterback has to make plays that help his team score points to put them in a position to win games. How those points are scored and how many are needed vary greatly, which is why we analyze data.

I will continue collecting and analyzing playoff data, because unlike Eli Manning, you can count on irrational arguments showing up for every postseason.


102 comments, Last at 01 Jan 2015, 12:34pm

#1 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 12:35pm

Clearly, Joe Webb has been underrated.

Points: 0

#2 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 12:37pm

More seriously, when a metric is developed which indicates Sanchez has outperformed Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, some work on the metric may be in order.

Points: 0

#10 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:04pm

Well no one should ever look at a table and conclude one QB is better than the other based on ranking. Maybe he is better in that particular area, but there's no perfect stat and never will be. If you look at multiple tables and keep seeing the same type of rankings, then you can start to conclude who's really better.

But with Sanchez, who is unlikely to lead any future teams to the playoffs, it's best to just conclude he actually played well in the few opportunities he's had in January. Doesn't mean you take him over Tom Brady.

And it's not like I had to lower the minimum to fit him in here. NFL requires 150 pass attempts to qualify for postseason rate stats. Sanchez had 157.

Points: 0

#14 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:27pm

Well, I didn't say that you did. Look, I appreciate the fact that you are putting a lot of work into these qb rankings. I'm just skeptical that the data which is available can allow us to have confident conclusions about the validity of these rankings.

Points: 0

#13 by mehllageman56 // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:24pm

You put 1985 Ken O'Brien on those teams, they probably go 14-2 and win a Super Bowl at least one of those years. There's probably at least ten quarterbacks in the league who would have won a championship with those teams, and Sanchez wasn't one of them.

Points: 0

#41 by Bobman // Feb 04, 2014 - 6:04pm

Will, of course by "dominated" you really meant "running into his own linemen's posteriors and fumbling, right?"

(I know that was not a playoff game, but there is a NFL rule that every Sanchez discussion must bring up the butt-fumble, no? I don't want to get flagged for a sin of omission.)

Points: 0

#3 by jandrewyang // Feb 04, 2014 - 12:56pm

"When there's a quarterback that's 10-4 in the playoffs and anyone can point to four plays, none of which even involved the quarterback, where if they had gone differently, his record would be 3-6*..."


Points: 0

#6 by commissionerleaf // Feb 04, 2014 - 1:11pm

I strongly suspect that when all is said and done, the answer to most questions is going to be "Peyton Manning, Joe Montana, or sample size theater".

Roethlisberger is a good quarterback, but he has had postseason success for the same reason as Trent Dilfer (and Kaepernick and Wilson). He is a good quarterback with a dominant defense (well, in those years when he got his team to the postseason at all). His DVOA is higher than it would be if he had, for instance, been desperately dragging his team into, and through, the postseason a la Manning in 2009-2010, Rodgers in the Green Bay defense off-years, and Brady in 2010-2011.

I think the DYAR numbers are a better, but still imperfect, measure, if only because they recognize the amount of work the QB did.

Points: 0

#9 by nat // Feb 04, 2014 - 1:31pm

Words not appearing in the article:

Outside (meaning outdoors)

With some QBs on the list playing more than 75% of their playoff games indoors or in warm weather with light winds, and others playing most of their games in cold and/or windy conditions, this kind of stats munching is a waste of time. It's a pretend analysis.

No amount of time will "even-out" the unearned statistical advantage an indoor QB has over outdoor and especially cold weather QBs in January.

It's not so bad in the regular season, although the effect happens then, too. But in January, the difference to a QB's stats coming from playing indoors vs. outside is quite large. NFL Freakonomics (episode 12) measured a drop in average completion% from 61.1% to 56.4% just by comparing indoor play to outdoor play, without regard to the kind of outdoor conditions.

That's like replacing Tom Brady with Geno Smith. Do you think anyone would notice the change in passing stats? Well, the effect is going to be even larger when you compare indoors passing to passing in just the worst weather stadiums in January.

Meh. This whole enterprise is a non-starter.

Points: 0

#12 by Hurt Bones // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:16pm

Of the "top ten" games on this list, 9 were played in a dome or in near perfect playing conditions (i.e 73° in Miami). Only Warren Moon's playoff game in Denver was in poor conditions 30° (23° windchill).

Points: 0

#33 by nat // Feb 04, 2014 - 4:53pm

Of the bottom ten games, none were played indoors. None were played in temperatures over 60 degrees.

Two were played in "nice" conditions. That is, in the fifties with winds under ten miles per hour.

Two were played in "not nasty" conditions, 39 degrees with 9 mph winds or 43 with 10 mph winds. That's actually not good weather for throwing the ball. But it's better than...

...the other six, which had sub-freezing wind chills, with kickoff temps ranging from 18 to 38.

Yup. We have ourselves a weather detector.

Points: 0

#63 by nat // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:55am

What's your point here? That if we were to adjust those indoor/perfect weather games by 80 DYAR or so, then they would only be 50% of the best games instead of 90%? That's still too high, since they are less common than normal and bad weather games in January.

I'm not saying that's the way to do an adjustment, just that it's clear that passing in perfect conditions is much, much easier than passing in bad conditions. That makes this series worthless.

Points: 0

#66 by dmstorm22 // Feb 05, 2014 - 9:17am

My point is saying 'X of the Top 10' is a bad way to prove your point. How many playoff games have there been in the timeframe of this study.

Also, team building has a factor in this as well. Indoor teams generally build offense-heavy. Their defenses naturally aren't as good. WHich should be accounted for in DYAR/DVOA. Yes, the raw stats may be better, but there should be some natural adjustment for playing against worst defense (the inverse being hte case outdoors).

This is also a case-by-case thing. The same day Tim Tebow, outdoors in the cold, had one of the worst games in this timeframe, Tom Brady had one of the best.

Points: 0

#70 by Hurt Bones // Feb 05, 2014 - 12:21pm

273 playoff games between 1989 and 2013. 59 (21.6%) have been in domes. There have also been 59 where the wind chill was 21° or lower.

"My point is saying 'X of the Top 10' is a bad way to prove your point."

Let's phrase it another way. The top ten represents the biggest outliers and have been played in mostly optimum conditions. If weather weren't a factor, then one might expect an even distribution of temperature and wind conditions over good and bad DYAR games, but there isn't. As temperature decreases and wind increases, DYAR performances decrease.

This becomes more problematic as the season goes along as outdoor conditions deteriorate culminating in the playoffs which are played in the coldest part of the year. So some quarterbacks have played their playoff games in pristine conditions (i.e. Kurt Warner). Some have in mostly favorable conditions Brees, P. Manning, and Montana to some extent. Some QBs get the short end of the weather straw (Neil O'Donnell). Others have played in mostly below average to poor conditions: Hasselbeck, Favre, Roethlisberger, etc.

I don't know what the solution is, but it's pretty clear to me that weather represents a significant factor in DYAR performance.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Mean/Median ° _ _ _ Mean/Median Wind _ _ _ Mean/Median WC
Playoff Games (89-13) _ _ _ 47.3°/48° _ _ _ _ _ 8.5 mph/9 mph _ _ _ _ _ _ 42.8°/44°
Top 10 DYAR Games _ _ _ _ 67.9°/72° _ _ _ _ _ 1.3 mph/0 mph _ _ _ _ _ _ 67.2°/72°
Top 25 DYAR Games _ _ _ _ 56.2°/54° _ _ _ _ _ 5.1 mph/5 mph _ _ _ _ _ _ 53.9°/54°
Bottom 10 DYAR Games _ _ 45.1°/40.5° _ _ _ _ 11.4 mph/10.5 mph _ _ _ _ 39.2°/31°
Bottom 25 DYAR Games _ _ 43.9°/39° _ _ _ _ _ 9.1 mph/10 mph _ _ _ _ _ _ 38°/31°

Points: 0

#64 by Jerry // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:56am

I look forward to your definitive article on the effects of weather on playoff performance. I'm sure Aaron will run it, and it will be a vast improvement over your complaints that Scott hasn't written it.

Points: 0

#67 by Cro-Mags // Feb 05, 2014 - 9:46am

It's a pretty big omission, the home conditions that say Favre, Kelly and Brady played in during the playoffs are pretty stark to those of a climate controlled dome with artificial surface of say Warner, Brees and Peyton Manning. How you quantify the effects is one thing, not to broach it at all though...

Points: 0

#72 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:50pm

I wasn't going to broach it when I think it's an overrated factor of the game and we don't have the means of quantifying it properly yet. How many truly bad weather games can you say there have been in the playoffs since 1989? "It's cold outside" does not count. I'm talking about when the weather actually had a significant impact on both teams like it did in this 2007 regular-season game between Pittsburgh and Miami where the rain made the field unsuitable to play on:

Now that 3-0 game involving a 1-15 team and playoff team could use a weather adjustment. The weather ruined an already bad field. Packers/49ers Wild Card game, because it was really cold? No. The field looked just fine and both offenses played well. Brett Favre having some awful playoff games later in his career in the cold doesn't deserve a weather excuse. He looked just fine in the snow against the 2007 Seahawks. One week later against the Giants? Not so much. Opponent matters much more. Favre also threw six picks in a dome against the 2001 Rams. Couldn't beat the 90s Cowboys, who didn't exactly play in perfect weather conditions, yet Aikman was on fire in 92-95.

If anyone deserves a weather adjustment, it might be the dome/warm QBs when they go on the road to play cold games they're not as prepared for. That history speaks for itself of how those games usually play out.

Didn't mention them in this part due to obvious reasons, but didn't Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw play in "bad weather" too? Didn't prevent them from being two of the most prolific playoff QBs. Flacco/Roethlisberger/Eli/Rodgers all from cold-weather cities, right? Can't think of a single playoff game they played where weather was significant. Ben's worst game was probably SB XL, in Detroit's dome. One of Flacco's very worst games was in Lucas Oil in 2009 season.

Dan Marino light it up in sunny Miami? Not that often. Did he fail in cold Buffalo? Sometimes, or in 1990 he had one of his best playoff games ever in a high-scoring loss. High scoring because Jim Kelly had his way with that defense, bad weather or not. Marino's last game was 62-7 in Jacksonville.

When did Dan Fouts have his two PO games with 5 INTs? Once at home, once in Miami with both games around 60 degrees.

And since when does Candlestick represent perfect conditions (Montana/Young)? That place could be a quagmire some days. Montana's coldest playoff game was in 1988 Chicago. He went 17/27 for 288 yards, 3 TD. McMahon and Tomczack played poorly as you might expect. They weren't very good in the regular season either. So should stats from subpar QBs in a really cold game help support the weather adjustment, or is this just the case of one superior QB handing it well and bad QBS playing badly against great defenses?

Is weather the only reason Chicago QBs have been so poor for so many decades? Is that what stopped Cade McNown and Rex Grossman from becoming studs? Didn't Sid Luckman have a Championship Game with 5 TD passes? Wonder what the weather was...

Is weather the reason Russell Wilson's best playoff game was in a dome (ATL), or was that his best game because it's the only one where his defense struggled and he had to come through with a huge 4Q that actually meant he needed to throw the ball a lot? Did Seattle's defense struggle because it was a dome, or was it because they lacked a pass rush and the Falcons were the only team with the QB and weapons to score on them? Atlanta put up 30 points in Seattle in 2011.

Is weather the reason Montana, Warner, Peyton and Brees have had so much success for multiple teams in their careers? I doubt it.

Let's stop beating around the bush. The whole reason nat keeps bringing up weather is because of where Tom Brady ranks in all of these metrics despite his gaudy 18-8 record. Would Brady's stats look better with more indoor games? SBs 36, 42 and 46 say otherwise, as does the 2006 AFC-C. How about a game in San Diego? No, he threw three picks, just as he did a year later at home. The field looked great in January 2008 for both NE home playoff games. It was fine in 2009 and 2010 as well when the Patriots lost in poor fashion. Did the 2010 game have bad weather? Mark Sanchez didn't have a problem.

Even Sanchez had his two worst playoff games in SD (63 degrees) and Indy (indoors). His best games were in Cincy (21 degrees, WC 9) and NE (30 degrees, WC 19). Does he need a reverse weather adjustment?

For a playoff game the first thing I'd rather have is a subpar defense to play against than a strong one. Then I'd rather be at home than on the road. Then I'd want the better team around me. Then maybe down the list I'd ask for nice weather conditions, but it's not more important than who you play, where you play and who you're playing with.

If someone wants to do a full study, have at it. I'll make sure we publish it here. But picking through game logs of extreme performances -- not to mention the top games are filled with the best QBs of the era and the worst games are filled with subpar players -- when I had around 650 game logs to go through here is just not cutting it.

Warning: PFR weather data does not match NFL game books for some reason.

Points: 0

#84 by Purds // Feb 05, 2014 - 3:58pm

"Let's stop beating around the bush. The whole reason nat keeps bringing up weather is because of where Tom Brady ranks in all of these metrics despite his gaudy 18-8 record. Would Brady's stats look better with more indoor games? SBs 36, 42 and 46 say otherwise, as does the 2006 AFC-C. How about a game in San Diego? No, he threw three picks, just as he did a year later at home. The field looked great in January 2008 for both NE home playoff games. It was fine in 2009 and 2010 as well when the Patriots lost in poor fashion. Did the 2010 game have bad weather? Mark Sanchez didn't have a problem."

Agreed. So obvious that it's painful. Can we get a "block contributor" button here -- not for everyone, but just for our own feeds. nat can contribute all he wants, and everyone else can read him, but as it's the same drum beat every time, I'd prefer to skip it, and do so the best I can. I hope that I can at least understand and admit some times that my favorites fail (to wit: 2003/4 AFCCs, this year's terrible PO performance vs. NE, etc.). You haven't seen me stick up blindly for the Colts or Luck these past two years; in fact, I am utterly confused by them -- how did they beat SF, SEA, and DEN this year, and then show so poorly in the PO vs NE? And, while I won't anoint Wilson yet, I would not be crazy and call Luck better.

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#94 by Red // Feb 06, 2014 - 1:57am

I second the "block contributor" idea. The vast majority of posters on FO are thoughtful and intelligent, and it's fun reading all the discourse, even when people have differing opinions. But then we have a whiny, biased, petulant blowhard like nat, who peddles his transparent agenda in nearly every article, over and over and over. Personally, I have stopped reading comment threads several times because I found nat's argumentative rubbish to be unbearable. He can single-handedly ruin a discussion.

Aaron, please give your loyal reading the power to block other users. Hell, I would even pay a small premium for the privelege.

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#95 by eagle97a // Feb 06, 2014 - 7:40am

A block contributor idea is interesting but i lean more towards a way to filter or minimize comments by some contributors. The last thing we need or want to become is some sort of a "groupthink" that incline towards certain areas of the football universe.

My point is this site and others are focused on reasoned analysis and debate about football stats and that we need divergent opinions and different perspectives to further refine our understanding of the game and how to apply reasonable statistical methods to it.

Now we all are fanboys/girls at heart and should understand the passion that the game evokes from us but a little bit of civility in these debates should go a long way in helping the discourse in this site specifically this subject matter. Who knows nat might come up with a weather adjustment we all might agree it or the perfect metric for quarterbacks will be unveiled by scott in the future nevertheless different viewpoints are very welcome to me and I'm sure to the other readers but pointless harping and uncivility is to say the least frowned upon and deserves filtering.

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#99 by Jerry // Feb 06, 2014 - 7:47pm

We don't need a "block contributor" functionality. If I'm not interested in reading a long discussion of the Bears offensive line, I just scroll past it. The participants will make useful contributions to conversations that do interest me.

Similarly, nat's comments are usually worthwhile. I'd rather just skip over these posts about weather than lose his contributions elsewhere.

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#85 by anotherpatsfan // Feb 05, 2014 - 4:09pm

Let's stop beating around the bush. The whole reason you keep writing these pieces is to prove that Manning is awesome in the post season and Brady's teams are good but Brady not so much. Don't think you need to try so hard to pump up Manning -- relax.

Obviously a Pats fan, but despite Sunday, I continue to believe Manning is an all-time top 5 (maybe top 2 or 1) QB. He has had a better statistical career than Brady -- don't really know how you construct an argument to the contrary without being able to separate out receiver and o-line influence on QB stats and even then doubt you get there. IMO, Brady will finish as a top 5-10 all time guy. I am just fine with that discrepancy, as it has been a good run.

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#86 by nat // Feb 05, 2014 - 5:30pm

The whole reason nat keeps bringing up weather is because of where Tom Brady ranks in all of these metrics despite his gaudy 18-8 record.
Bullshit. The reason I keep bringing it up is that it's true. Insulting long time readers is unprofessional.

Weather affects passing stats. This is well known. There is no weather in an indoor stadium. This is obvious. There is a lot of bad (I.e. windy and/or cold) weather during the playoffs, bad enough to on average depress passing stats. You deny it, but the stats show it to be true. And different QBs face very different playoff weather. This is obvious and remains true when you look at the game logs. Therefore....?

The only real question is how big the effect is. NFL freakonomics says merely playing outdoors knocks 4 points off your completion percentage in the playoffs, something that doesn't happen in September. Your own stats show that your passing statistics lose most of the their ability to predict wins in the playoffs, in exactly the manner we would expect if weather were the cause.

Your long winded fleet of anecdotal claptrap is too stupid, obvious, biased, cherry-picked, and desperate to respond to point by point. Suffice it to say that some QBs manage to have great games in bad weather and QBs can be bad in great weather, too. So what? Who ever said otherwise?

This whole project is an utter failure. It reeks of bias and agenda. Meh. What an embarrassment. What a blow to FO's reputation and brand.

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#90 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:25pm

"NFL freakonomics says merely playing outdoors knocks 4 points off your completion percentage in the playoffs, something that doesn't happen in September."

Know what else happens in September? Every team, including all the lousy ones, plays games. It's not apples-to-apples. Completion percentage is also a stat that can be very misleading. Go to the playoffs where the standard of defense is always going to be better than the regular season and it's a given the numbers will look worse.

Instead of all the time you spend complaining, you should write your own playoff article. If it takes 11 months to finish, then so be it. If it's actually good, then it will be posted.

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#96 by nat // Feb 06, 2014 - 5:16pm

Both indoor and outdoor games in the playoffs feature playoff defenses. That's an apples to apples comparison.

Apple 1 = the passing difference comparing September to Playoffs indoors.
Apple 2 = the passing difference comparing September to Playoffs outdoors.

The question: Which apple is bigger, and by how much?

You called completion percentage a misleading stat? Well, it does turn out that even indoors completion percentage drops comparing September to the Playoffs. Outdoors, the drop is much bigger. Why the difference? We know the weather is different indoors. But in the playoffs the quality of teams, the quality of opponents, the refereeing, the pressure... those are all the same. Weather is really the only difference of note.

From the Freakonomics study: Indoors, the Comp% drop is 1.8. Outdoors the drop is 4.6. That gives us a difference of 2.8% in completion percentage that has nothing to do with the change in opposing defenses, the switch from averaging all QBs to just playoff ones, and so on. The only difference between these two apples is whether the games are played indoors.

Can we really use completion% as an approximate measure of QB quality?

It turns out that completion percentage correlates very well with passing DVOA (I checked using the regular season QB stats page), at an impressive 0.77. That makes it a good proxy for passing well per play, since DVOA is the go-to stat for that. It's not perfect, and there are examples of QBs who don't fit the pattern (Josh Freeman, I'm looking at you!). So what? There are always outliers. But with that high a correlation, it's pretty damned good. It seems we can safely use the completion percentage difference of 2.8% to help us estimate the effect of moving from indoors out into the weather on passing DVOA.

The linear best fit (using the regular season FO table again) gives a slope of 3.16 DVOA/Comp%. That is, improving your completion percentage by 1% adds around 3.16% to your DVOA.

So the weather effect on outdoor playoff games is approximately equivalent to knocking 2.8 * 3.16 = 8.85% off your QB's effectiveness as measured by DVOA. (Without the Freeman outlier, the slope is 3.93, but I'll go with the more conservative number for now.)

What we get is an approximation of the effect of playing outdoors vs. indoors in the playoffs: moving outdoors knocks a minimum of 8-9% off your per play effectiveness as measure by DVOA.

Keep in mind, this is comparing indoor games to all outdoors games, not just bad weather games. The real weather effect (comparing indoors or perfect weather to cold or windy weather) is likely to be larger than that. That's just common sense. Again, I'll be very conservative for now and stick with around 8.8%

In brief, there's your study. It would be better to redo the NFL Freakonomics study with DVOA and with a larger data set. I can think of other refinements, such as looking at only games vs. playoff-bound teams in the regular season, or factoring out home field advantage and playoff seeding. We could even come at this from other directions as well. But the existence of refinement ideas doesn't change this central finding:

In the playoffs, playing in perfect indoor conditions inflates passing effectiveness vs. playing in worse ones - by 8 to 9% or more.

And, frankly, it's always been obvious to thoughtful observers that playing in 60-70 degrees and zero wind was ideal for passing stats, and that playing outdoors in January was seldom that ideal. It remains mind-blowing that you continue to insist that playing in bad weather in the playoffs has no effect on passing stats.

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#98 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 06, 2014 - 5:46pm

How many playoff games have been played indoors since 1989? Around 50? And there's no doubt many dome teams have had some of the best QBs on their offenses and some of the weaker playoff defenses in that (small) sample.

And how consistent are playoff stats? I ran some year-to-year correlation tests.

1989 to 2013 year-to-year correlation for completion percentage
Regular season - 0.916
Postseason - 0.371

Going to get some goofy results when you're comparing ~64 games (September) to a couple at best in the playoffs each year. This season, the only indoor playoff game was Chiefs/Colts. That was the highest-scoring game with 89 points. Was that because it was in a dome, or was it because of who was involved in the game and just the random way it played out? After all, the Colts allowed 43 points in NE (outdoors) the very next week.

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#91 by Duff Soviet Union // Feb 05, 2014 - 9:35pm

"This whole project is an utter failure. It reeks of bias and agenda."

What bias and agenda? He's presenting numbers as they are. You might not like the fact that Peyton Manning has better numbers in the postseason than your favourite player, but it's not like he's manipulating anything to make it so.

"What a blow to FO's reputation and brand."

LOL. Way to be melodramatic there.

As others have said, if it's that important to you, write your own damn stuff rather than coming into every thread and saying "this isn't 100% perfect so the writer is a hack and an embarrassment". Comments like this make me embarrassed for you, not Scott.

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#97 by Jeremy Mullin // Feb 06, 2014 - 5:21pm

Regarding the weather, most observers seem to think that guys like Peyton who played in a dome at home had a playoff advantage over guys like Brady who played in the outdoors at Foxborough. Am I the only one who thinks the opposite? I feel that Brady playing in cold weather consistently throughout Decembers CONDITIONED him for cold weather games in January, whereas Manning who often played AFC South teams when he actually was away from home, had a to deal with the rude-awakening of cold weather football when he went to Foxborough (and other cold venues) in the playoffs. Furthermore, it extended far past just Manning and Brady--- the whole Pats team would have been used to practising and playing in cold weather for two months before the playoffs while the Colts which were a finesse offense prepared for playoff football in predominantly warm weather indoors. To me that is a huge DISADVANTAGE for Manning.

It is very similar to the battle-tested argument--- would you rather your team play a weak schedule and secure home field advantage only to be left shell-shocked in the SB by a team like the Seahawks? or would you rather grind through a 10-6 season and be prepared for a dog-fight? Teams like recent champs Green Bay, Giants (twice) and Baltimore last year really seem to support the latter scenario and I personally feel that it is true. I would rather my team be battle-tested and playing in cold weather for as long as possible before the playoffs hit.

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#101 by Zach Nepa // Mar 01, 2014 - 2:32am

Excellent point. We all know that Brady-Manning is the greatest debate of this generation. I would love to see their statistics adjusted for conditions, regular season as well. Also, Brees-Rodgers adjusted for conditions would be interesting. This is not to take away from Brees or Manning, I would just like to see Brady and Rodgers compared in similar conditions.

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#11 by mehllageman56 // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:16pm

The thing about Sanchez is that he plays better on third downs, even in the regular season, and that partially explains how those Jets teams got to the playoffs in the first place. Although I would love it if Sanchez went somewhere else in the AFC and the Jets and Geno blew him out in the playoffs.

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#76 by Ryan D. // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:27pm

That's a huge wish, for Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez to both make the playoffs in the same season with different teams as starting quarterbacks.

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#15 by young curmudgeon // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:29pm

"we have a right to be pissed when the dream Super Bowl became a turd"

With no rooting stake in the game, and acknowledging that a down-to-the-wire game is more exciting, I suggest that watching a truly superior performance in which one team dominates the other does have some interest. I found watching the way Seattle overwhelmed a 'number one' offense, along with Denver's evident inability to respond or adjust, did hold my attention for much of the game.

We sometime hear complaints that the winner of the Super Bowl is not really the best team, or that "there aren't any great teams anymore." A game like the one just concluded seems a great response to the first point, and a suggestion that, with continued success, Seattle could ascend to historical greatness. Whether it happens or not, it already gives next season a better "storyline" than Brady/Manning volume 476.

If you like football, you should get some enjoyment out of seeing it played at such a high level.

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#17 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:36pm

We only saw a high level from one side, however. This wasn't a case of Seattle simply being overwhelmingly great. When stuff like lane discipline on a kickoff, or trying to complete a catch, thus drawing a PI penalty, are executed at a junior college level, people have reason to be a little irritated.

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#18 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:38pm

Yeah, I can't say a game was football at a high level if only one team was on that level. Routs are boring. Look at our Audibles compilation this week. Not the most interesting read to be frank. The blowout leaves little room for insightful analysis. If the game was close we might be talking about those dumb early challenges each coach had, but they're irrelevant now.

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#27 by young curmudgeon // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:42pm

Not to get too carried away with this (I've already acknowledged that a close game is more exciting), but I think there's plenty of room for insightful analysis:
1. How did that just happen?
2. Did only one team play at a high level because they simple wouldn't permit the other team to do so?
3. Have we been overrating Denver's offense all this time?
4. Why haven't other teams taken this approach to playing Denver? (Some obvious answers, but a discussion might also bring up points you or I haven't thought of.)
5. What is it about Seattle's defense that makes them so good--is it speed? Is it rotation of good, but not great, linemen? Is it the size of their backs? Is it the individual greatness of certain players, and if so, which ones? If it's a combination of all these, which ones can be fairly easily replicated by (insert team you root for here) so that they might become a highly ranked defense?
6. Is this just a "match up" situation, where Seattle's defense is uniquely capable of stopping an offense like Denver's?
etc. etc.
While some, perhaps all, of these might just lead to a lot of noise instead of insight, they strike me as at least as interesting as a discussion of whether Carroll wasted a challenge in the first quarter (BTW, the replay looked to me like Wilson had extended the ball far enough; at that point in the game, one still had the idea that it was going to take a lot of points to beat Denver and a first down there could well have ended up being worth 4 points.)

OK, that's a long comment for someone who was "not going to get too carried away," I too would have enjoyed watching a close, down to the wire game more, and Denver did not look like a team that belonged in the Super Bowl. But I think the developing meme that the game was a "turd" devalues Seattle's achievement and undervalues excellence.

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#29 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:54pm

Think of the Broncos as the turd the Seahawks flushed away before halftime. For a game that was hyped as the best SB matchup in years, this just didn't cut it.

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#74 by intel_chris // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:08pm

Scott, while I hate to call you out on this publicly, these "turd" comments are ruining your narrative. You did a wonderful article showing (among other things) that Manning is a good playoff QB by some measurements. However, when you make comments like this about this game, it undercuts those comments. In particular, you sound like a 5th grade boy whose just discovered scatological humor. It doesn't fit well with reasoned analysis. While you may be profoundly disappointed at the play of the Broncos especially when compared to your expectations, you need to tone down the rhetoric you are expressing that disappointment with.

Compare that to Will Allen's comments. He is clearly unimpressed also, although his words suggest he always felt the Broncos were overrated. Still, he makes some specific points where the play disappointed him. While I may still feel that he is overly critical, at least the way he has presented his view allows for reasoned discussion--and in fact, I've seen replies that have argued whether Moreno should be held responsible for that interception and not coming back (one of his points). That's the way it should be.

We know that FO writers are also fans of the game and excuse them for a certain amount of fan-like behavior. However, try to not let your opinions come out so colorfully and with so little supporting arguments.

The SB may have been extremely one-sided and the Broncos certainly laid an egg, but there are ways of presenting that fact that aren't irrationally critical and allow credit to the Seahawk's the honor of playing outstanding football which certainly had some impact on why the Bronco's performed so poorly.

To some extent football is a zero-sum game and for one team to play well, it must force the other team to play poorly. In my opinion, Seattle played that well (or nearly that well) and while there are specific points where Denver was not playing up to par, you cannot be entirely critical of Denver without not honoring what the Seahawk's did. It is offensive both to the Broncos and the Seahawks to use offensive language to describe Denver's play, as it belittle's Seattle's involvement in forcing Denver to play that poorly.

It is not offensive to say Seattle delivered an a**-whooping or that Denver got their head handed to them on a platter, or use any other metaphor to describe the rout. Clearly, Seattle beat Denver in every (or almost every) facet of the game.

You can also call the game umwatchable, boring, lousy (or even a colorful version of that word) when trying to describe the viewers' experience.

You can also pick out certain points where Denver specifically played poorly and say they should have done better there, and had they the game might have been closer.

However, Seattle did not win because Denver played a totally lousy game and never tried. Seattle beat a team that they simply over-matched, that they beat at every important facet. Denver may have been beat thoroughly, but it was not a "turd". Well, not unless you want to discount the rest of your analysis of Peyton's post-season career, and simply be one of those who use "choker" labels.

If you want analysis, do analysis. If you want 5th grade analogies, use them. Don't think for a moment that the two are compatible.

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#77 by Will Allen // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:31pm

Thanks for the compliment, but I was not among those faulting Moreno. I don't know enough about the Denver offense to definitively say that Moreno should have been looking back for the ball. To me, among the generalized disaster that was the Broncos on Sunday, three plays stuck out as being complete amateur hour....

1. First play from scrimmage. Denver lose a possession, two points, and field position on play that is just ridiculous.

2. Thomas quits on an attempt to get to a pass, thus failing to get the referee to toss a PI flag at Seattle's 10, near the end of the half, with the score 22-0. 22-7 at the half would have hugely increased the chance for meaningful competition in the 2nd half.

3. The 2nd half kickoff is covered with a total lack of discipline, rendering moot any hope of the 2nd half being worth watching.

I said two months ago that Seattle was hideous matchup for Denver, so the fact that Seattle won easily doesn't really surprise me. The fact that Denver just threw away any chance of of competing, by what I can only call non-professional execution, surprised, and disappointed, me quite a bit.

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#79 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:41pm

To be honest, you can find plays like that for most teams in every game (Wilson wildly overthrowing the short pass to a wide-open receiver under no pressure, Sherman not selling the OPI enough). They're only magnified by how poorly the rest of the game went.

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#83 by Will Allen // Feb 05, 2014 - 3:05pm

A physical error like an overthrow is not like the mental mistake of snapping at the wrong time, or horribly failing to maintain lane discipline. Dbs aren't expected to sell PI by completing a route, like a receiver is.

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#88 by EricL // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:02pm

Regarding the Moreno thing...

Check out the photo at the top of this article:

This is the Malcolm Smith interception brief moments after Manning releases the ball, taken from behind the Broncos offense. It's very clear that Smith is watching the ball, and Moreno has not yet made his break: his back is still to the line of scrimmage.

My take from this photo is one of two things happened. Either Manning was forced to throw early because of the pressure, or it was a timing route where the ball was supposed to be on the way before Moreno turns around. Probably the least likely possibility is Moreno was lax on his route. I fully expect Moreno turned when he was supposed to, and simply couldn't find the ball as it was three times as far into the air as it should have been.

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#100 by mrt1212 // Feb 09, 2014 - 8:31pm

I totally think he couldnt find the ball immediately and it was too far out where he could conceive it could be - he probably thought it was fumbled until it came into visual range. Smith had total luxury on that play.

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#93 by intel_chris // Feb 06, 2014 - 1:24am

You're welcome on the compliment and sorry on lumping a criticism you didn't make in with those you did. I understand your points on the amateur hour. It's why I cited you. While those weren't the only plays that put Denver in a hole, they certainly make the argument that Denver was not playing at the level one expects for a SB team. I can see how a neutral observer could have found the Broncos' play not worthy of watching.

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#87 by SmoothLikeIce // Feb 05, 2014 - 5:33pm

The frustrating contrast between unbelievably well-researched writing and analysis versus petty defensiveness and use of haughty, borderline angry speech seems a consistent and unavoidable issue with Scott (granted, more prevalent in these comments sections and on his Twitter account, neither of which anyone has to read). In a vacuum, he's not wrong to call out "nat" above for his Brady-motivated protests, but it reads sillier when it's so easy to counter-argue that he is the nat version of Peyton Manning with more time on his hands and a legitimate platform from which to write.

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#89 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:12pm

This is a case of semantics. If I called the game lousy or a dud, then that's fine to you? It doesn't matter which teams were playing. I always hate to cover a rout which is why I write a column where I get to ignore such games. Seattle's 29-3 win over San Francisco and 34-7 win over New Orleans were also games I'd dump in the turd category, but that does not mean I'm not acknowledging how well the Seahawks played.

Pretty sure my comments in Audibles summed this up:

The way Denver played that first half, I get the feeling starting the third with a surprise onside kick would result in another return touchdown and 29-0 score. The only people who ever enjoy a rout are the fans of the winning team. Takes away so much of the analysis and interest in the game. "They got their asses kicked" is simplistic, but there's not much more to add right now.

They should just let the Seahawks accept the MVP award as a team. Not sure we've seen many games where a team was this good in every phase of the game.

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#92 by intel_chris // Feb 06, 2014 - 12:31am

Yes, I said as much. There were two specific things I objected to.

The point you understood, the use of "childish" language where unnecessary, and that's just a personal pet peeve.

The other was associating that with just one team without giving the supporting details. Yes, the game was a rout, but why so. Was it really Denver's poor play, or was it Seattle forcing Denver to play poorly? I think the later (Seahawks good play was primarily responsible), although I do see obvious points where the former were also true. Calling Denver's play a turd is not very enlightening.

Anyway, I've belabored my point, and this article was about way more than Sunday's game, so I'll shut up.

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#30 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 4:05pm

I've been saying Denver's offense was overrated all year, in that their success has not been predicated on clear physical superiority across multiple positions, but rather on scheme, and one player's ability to nearly invariably make the smart decision. I think they started out the last game very conservative schematically, gave up two points, a possession, and field position on the first snap of the game, and then didn't come out of their shell until they were on the precipice of disaster, against a now thoroughly confident and energized, very talented defense. Even at 22-0, if they get in the end zone with their last possession of the half, they might have hopes of competing in the 2nd half, assuming they don't cover the 2nd half kickoff like they were blindfolded. Then, on third down, Thomas doesn't try to sell what should have been an easy PI call on Earl Thomas, at about Seattle's 10 yard line, they get zero points, and that's it.

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#42 by Bobman // Feb 04, 2014 - 6:14pm


Speaking of refs (I can't discuss this in the office in Seattle or I'll get "Lynched"), when did "close enough" enter the rulebook lexicon regarding intentional grounding? If the refs could have seen the blue line, they'd have seen a ball fall two yards short. Can they apply that "close enough" to the tackle box? Or the next first down? A TD? "The ruling on the field is the receiver got close enough to the goal line and it therefore is a TD."

My view of the game was that 2 of six units played really well (Sea D and ST--did Hauschka score a FG on a kickoff? That's impressive.). Den's D played okay and Seattle's O played about the same. Den's ST were a bit of a mess and their O was inconsistent at best. Like in the Colts-Steelers playoff game in 2005, Peyton had some protection problems. If anyone had told mea earlier that Den would limit Lynch to 50 yards and that Manning would set a record for completions, I'd say it was a Denver win all day long. I would have been guilty of forgetting about that Harvin guy and that Sea pass rush.

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#44 by EricL // Feb 04, 2014 - 6:28pm

Having the ball reach the line of scrimmage doesn't matter when there's an eligible receiver "in the area." And there can be a very loose definition of "in the area."

In this particular case, the ball was thrown on a direct line to (I think) Willson, but never had a real chance of reaching him. That's usually enough to avoid the call.

The line of scrimmage bit matters when there's no receiver around and the QB is out of the pocket. They're not just going to let you throw it straight at the sidelines.

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#53 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:07am

" Den's D played okay and Seattle's O played about the same."

Okay, it's simply a joke that this keeps getting repeated. Seattle's offense had the best points per drive average in any Super Bowl since SF's last one in 1995, with 3.4 (the next-highest was Denver's 3.1 in SB XXXIII against Atlanta). The DVOA isn't that high because they stopped trying the last two drives (and because Denver's defense is mediocre), but you don't score 27 points in the first 6 drives by playing okay.

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#54 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:10am

Well the Seahawks offense only scored 20 points of their first 6 drives. The special teams had a TD. Though this does include a 2 play drive at the end of the first half.

They did score a TD on the 7th drive though.

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#57 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:26am

I'm not counting end-of-half non-drives, and I didn't count them for any of the other teams either.

I've seen several comments that suggested Denver's defense did well to hold Seattle to two field goals after getting short fields. This wasn't like Seattle going three-and-out after Baldwin's kickoff return in the NFC championship game --- they went over 50 yards in both those drives; the starting positions were the 28 and 36: somewhat short but not overly so. I have a feeling people would've thought more of their offense had they only made it to the 35-yard-line and kicked a difficult field goal from there, because it seems that just missing out on a TD is somehow more disappointing than barely getting in field goal range.

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#59 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:39am

As I said, I'm not counting their 2-play, 5-yard drive at the end of the half, because neither team was actually trying at that time; if either team had used any timeouts, it'd be different. Don't know why they don't just kneel, as Barnwell has constantly urged.

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#60 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:42am

Okay, but that's really not how drive stats work. If Seattle actually had good gains, you can bet they would have tried to use timeouts and do more on that drive. They were in no huddle to snap the ball on second down. They only conceded the drive when they gained one yard.

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#71 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 12:39pm

Perhaps it's not how FO's drive stats work, but everyone does it differently. For instance, ESPN, Pro Football Reference and several other sites decided that Harvin's kickoff return for a touchdown was a drive as well, and of course pretty much every site but this one counts end-of-game kneel-down drives.

"If Seattle actually had good gains, you can bet they would have tried to use timeouts and do more on that drive."

If Seattle wanted good gains, they would've thrown the ball, and not run Lynch into the middle of the line, which hadn't worked all day.

"They were in no huddle to snap the ball on second down."

Given what actually transpired, this was a bluff to prevent Denver from calling timeout after the first run.

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#78 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:32pm

I just don't see any difference between Seattle's end-of-half drive and a end-of-game kneeldown drive, which FO doesn't count. Green Bay ran their own draw play in Super Bowl 45 with 39 seconds left from their 20. They're just glorified kneeldowns.

In any case, even if you count it, that means that Seattle tied for the most points per drive since 1998. The offensive explosions people remember in recent Super Bowls were really confined to one half.

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#80 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:46pm

If you don't want to count it, I'm actually fine with that. I even put a caveat in my own post that I was counting it. You should probably make it clear when you are doing something like that, otherwise you get smart alecs like me refuting you.

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#81 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 05, 2014 - 2:47pm

I agree such drives are cheap to include, but removing them would be success bias. Like I said, if Seattle gained good yardage on those first two plays they would have approached the drive differently, making you count it. And it's very common to start such drives with a run to see what happens, especially up 22-0.

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#19 by Perfundle // Feb 04, 2014 - 2:46pm

Yeah, if anything, I lost interest by the middle of the fourth quarter when Seattle stopped trying so hard. And given the record-breaking ratings the game achieved, it seemed like a lot of people wanted to watch the defensive dominance as well.

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#26 by Vincent Verhei // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:23pm

I was cheering for Seattle, but in the big picture, I agree with you. My first choice would obviously be a tight affair that comes down to the final seconds. If I can't have that, I would rather have a blowout like San Francisco-San Diego or Dallas-Buffalo, instead of a middle-of-the-road game where one team just kind of hangs around for a while but never really gets back in the game (think Dallas-Pittsburgh in the 90s, or Pittsburgh-Seattle this century). At least with a blowout, you feel like you're watching a coronation ceremony.

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#20 by MilkmanDanimal // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:01pm

I see Shaun King with the third-worst playoff game by DVOA ever, and Tampa still only lost that game 11-6 to the Greatest Show on Turf. Sigh. I really miss that defense.

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#23 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:11pm

Yeah, it was something else. I think Dungy is easily a HOF coach, but his greatest weakness was one shared by a lot of good to great coaches; excessive loyalty to assistants. Think if he had reunited with Tom Moore in Tampa, instead of sticking with the lamentable Les Steckel as his offensive coordinator. Moore likely would have had enough influence to change qb personnel, and he was a good enough coach to figure out how to play very efficient offense matched with that defense. I think there is a good chance that Dungy wins multiple Super Bowls in Tampa, and then who knows what the history of the NFL looks like over the last 14 years.

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#25 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:20pm

I mentioned that game the other night before SB 48. Most mentions of that game are about the Ricky Proehl TD and the Bert Emmanuel play, but it's bigger than that. The 1999 Rams are the only team in the top 10 in points scored that won a Super Bowl. Like most of those teams, they suffered a huge offensive letdown in the playoffs that probably should have ended their season. They ran into that nasty TB defense. However, despite throwing 3 picks, Kurt Warner had the ball in the fourth quarter and only trailed 6-5. Cue the game-winning throw to Proehl and the Emmanuel controversy from an inept TB offense and the Rams hung on.

Without their defense keeping them in the game, the 1999 Rams would have made it another playoff flop for the scoring juggernaut. Similar things can be said about the 1961 Oilers, who won the AFL Championship in a 10-3 game despite seven turnovers.

Always has to be that one game in the playoffs where the defense bails out the historically great offense. 2009 Saints needed Tracy Porter's picks (really, that Minnesota game was an overlooked subpar outing for Brees' offense). The 1998 Broncos struggled with the Jets in the AFC-C. The best example of winning with great offense all year was probably the 1994 49ers, but look at that first quarter of the NFC-C against Dallas. Huge takeaways to jump out to a 21-0 lead.

The hypothetical Super Bowl I'm always going to point to will be 1998 Vikings vs. Broncos. Both could score, both had some issues on defense, though I think the Broncos had a better team. Still would have liked to have seen how that one played out. Damn Gary Anderson.

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#28 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:50pm

This Vikings fan has more pain recalling the 2009 team than the 1998 team. The Vikings absolutely kicked the crap out of the Saints, on both sides of the ball, and managed to get it to overtime by (beyond the last minute Favre int that get way, way, too much attention) by having really bad ball security, some slightly bad ball on the ground luck, and by (in what is completely overlooked) dropping more than one lame duck from Brees should have been ints. If the Vikings just have slighty better fumble luck, and catch the balls from Brees that a high school player could catch, they probably win that game by at least 17 points.

That '98 Falcons team was underrated, Randall Cunningham's performance was greatly overrated that year, and the Vikings really didn't clearly win on the line of scrimmage in that game, Gary Anderson or not.

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#65 by CincySaint // Feb 05, 2014 - 9:15am

Turnovers - Vikings 5, Saints 1. Fumbles - Vikings 6, lost 3. The fumbles luck was dead even. As a Saints fan, I saw it the other way. Peterson was remarkably lucky to fumble a ball forward into the secondary and recover it himself.

And let's not forgot the genius 12 men on the field penalty that set up the Favre interception.

PLEASE give the winning team some credit. They did create 5 turnovers including the one to send the game into OT. They did drive in overtime to win the game. They did win the Super Bowl.


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#68 by Will Allen // Feb 05, 2014 - 10:21am

I didn't write that the Vikings had bad fumble luck. I wrote that if they had been blessed with just slightly better fumble luck (btw, the Saints fumbled on 4th and short in ot, but it doesn't show in the stats, because after the ball carrier had the ball knocked out, it bounced off the helmet of a player he was leaping over, and right back into his hands), and caught three ducks from Brees that a high school db typically catches, they probably win by at least 17, because outside of ball security, they kicked the hell out of the Saints in every other area.

The Saints won the game. They deserve credit for taking advantage of poor ball security. They also deserve to be recognized for giving up 475 yards, while only gaining 257. For yielding 31 first downs, while gaining 15. For having 88 plays run against them from scrimmage, while only having 55 of their own. Unless somebody wants to make the case that the grand strategy was to pull the game out in overtime, while getting whipped to that degree, at home, because they are confident that the other team will keep putting the ball on the ground, and keep dropping easy interceptions, I don't think it is engaging in Vikings homerism to note that winning a playoff game in that fashion is something that we may not see again for three or four decades.

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#69 by Joseph // Feb 05, 2014 - 11:23am

Also remember that on the Saints last 2 TD drives (iirc), they had a total of ~42 yds because of a recovered fumble and a long KR. Obviously they could have helped themselves by moving the ball more on their non-scoring 2nd half drives, but still. That Saints team won multiple games by scoring with their defense and/or forcing turnovers in the red zone (@ MIA, @ WAS, NFCCG, and the SB come to mind). While they definitely did not play as well vs MIN as they did in many of their other games that year, they did play well enough to win the game. That happens to most teams every year--they win a game that they didn't "deserve" to. In baseball, that usually evens out over the course of a year. In the playoffs, there is no chance for that. [Isn't that why March Madness is so riveting?]

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#31 by Vincent Verhei // Feb 04, 2014 - 4:46pm

The Falcons finished with the edge in total yardage (427-356), yards per play (5.7 to 4.2) and yards per drive (32.8 to 25.4). That last number is skewed a bit because the Vikings had quasi-kneeldown drives at the end of each half, but even if we remove those drives Minnesota's average only climbs to 26.1. The Vikings defense allowed Chris Chandler to drive 71 yards in 1:18 to throw a game-tying touchdown pass. The offense got the ball twice in overtime, needing one score to get to the Super Bowl, and gained a total of 25 yards on those possessions. Neither team threw an interception. The Falcons fumbled twice and lost them both. The Vikings fumbled three times and lost two, so a slight fumble luck edge goes to Minnesota.

The ample evidence strongly suggests that Atlanta was the better team on offense and defense that day. There is plenty of blame to go around for the loss. It's not all Gary Anderson's fault.

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#82 by commissionerleaf // Feb 05, 2014 - 3:00pm

I am mostly surprised that the 2009 Rams are even still in the top 10, what with Drew Brees throwing 40 touchdowns a year now and Manning/Brady/Rodgers trading off years robbing him of MVP awards. Matt Stafford threw as many touchdowns in 2011 as Warner did in 99! Which is insane. Matt Stafford isn't even good at football.

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#32 by dmstorm22 // Feb 04, 2014 - 4:50pm

Special defense. For all the credit BB and the '01 Pats get for shutting down the GSOT, Dungy's gameplan should be the one in Canton. No one stopped that offense in a big game like that team. Of course, the game-plan would be pretty simple. Guys, play Tampa-2 exceedingly well, and my two HOF guys, play that way!

Didn't realize that Tom Moore was ever potentially in Tampa, also didn't realize Les Steckel was. Steckel's offense wasn't really the issue in the Super Bowl. Nothing Tennessee did was. They just lost by a yard (and the 50% chance of losing in OT).

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#38 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 5:20pm

Moore recruited and coached Dungy when Dungy was a college qb. They were on the same staff together in Pittsburgh, and in Minnesota. They go way back. If Dungy had tried to get Moore on his staff in Tampa, instead of hiring Steckel, and then sticking with him, I'm sure it could have been done. He was fired along with Fontes in Detroit after the 1996 season. If Tampa had been coordinated well on offense, I'm pretty sure there would have been a strong chance of a championship, or more than one, prior to Gruden's arrival. Which means Gruden doesn't get there, maybe the Patriots don't win their first Super Bowl when they do, who knows who is hired to replace Mora in Indy, and who the hell knows what happens.

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#39 by dmstorm22 // Feb 04, 2014 - 5:35pm

The only fallacy in that line of thinking is the Patriots not winning a title, as Gruden was the coach of the 2001 Raiders that lost to the Patriots.

Other than that, it's a pretty good 'What If?' for the NFL.

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#43 by Will Allen // Feb 04, 2014 - 6:24pm

My thinking is that the Rams may not have been the NFC representative in 2001, if Tampa Has a competently coordinated offense, and the Patriots may hve had a tough time scoring enough points to win such a Super Bowl.

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#21 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:07pm

I saw Shaun King on some online video and he's about as big as Warren Sapp now. Like, Oakland Sapp too.

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#24 by Scott Kacsmar // Feb 04, 2014 - 3:12pm

Montana's 1989 postseason racked up 783 DYAR. That alone would rank him 12th on the DYAR list since 1989.

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#34 by Mike B. In Va // Feb 04, 2014 - 5:04pm

I know this is irreverent, but does anyone else chuckle when they see LARD in the charts, or am I the only arrested nine-year-old here?

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#35 by RickD // Feb 04, 2014 - 5:14pm

"The Super Bowl was a big hit for Manning with -0.19 WPA and -15.3 EPA. "

Gave me a double-take. "Big hit" usually means exactly the opposite. As in "The Super Bowl was a big hit for Fox, with over 111 million viewers."

Figured out what you meant, but this is awkward.

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#40 by anotherpatsfan // Feb 04, 2014 - 5:43pm

"Took a big hit" more appropriate. Surprised it was mentioned, as a common thread of these recent pieces is "Manning great in the playoffs, Brady not so much." I think Super Bowl thrashing led to some hurt feelings...

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#55 by Perfundle // Feb 05, 2014 - 1:11am

I've seen more than one comment regarding a performer at the Super Bowl halftime show as having "killed it," which also has diametrically opposite meanings depending on context.

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#46 by ammek // Feb 04, 2014 - 8:11pm

I'm surprised that the Brett Favre six-interception game in St Louis in the 2001 postseason didn't show up in the worst lists. I suspect the adjustment for a very good Rams defense is responsible.

It would be nice to see YAR for the single-game entries, too — I know, I'm greedy — as it's the stat that corresponds to "what our eyes (think they) saw".

I wonder how much better Marino will look when the numbers back to 1983 are compiled. He did win some playoff games, but considering there wasn't much else to the mid-80s Dolphins, I figure he's going to be the truly 'elite' quarterback who comes out worst on this list.

I don't know what I was doing in 1991, but I'd never heard of Mark Vlasic.

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#49 by Paul R // Feb 04, 2014 - 10:21pm

"When Your Dream Becomes a Turd" is from Pirates of Penzance isn't it? Or maybe H.M.S. Pinafore. I always get those two mixed up.

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#51 by Thomas_beardown // Feb 04, 2014 - 10:51pm

Jim MIller has -56 DYAR on only 5 attempts!

He went 3/5 with a pick before getting hurt and being replaced by Shane Mathews.

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#62 by CBPodge // Feb 05, 2014 - 7:07am

The 2000 Ravens D in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl combined allowed (against starting QBs*) 26/60 for 192 yards, 0 TDs, 6 INTs, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 0 TDs and 1 FG, -447 DYAR and a DVOA likely to be somewhere around -105 to -110% (given how many more attempts Collins had than Gannon).

That is insane.

*Bobby Hoying came in for Gannon for a bit.

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#102 by minja // Jan 01, 2015 - 12:34pm

Weighing in nearly 11 months later...

I think the main thing this chart shows is the difficulty of comparing players across eras. Even given small sample size, there's no way I'd say that Sanchez outperformed Montana and Young, or even belonged in the same category.

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