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18 Oct 2005

Any Given Sunday: Falcons Survive Saints

by Ned Macey

The cover of Pro Football Prospectus includes a picture of Michael Vick along with the caption: "He's not the reason Atlanta wins." Never was this more true than yesterday.

In a week where the only favored team to lose was Pittsburgh playing without Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward, we divert from our customary look at the week's major upset to look at an extremely close call in San Antonio. Atlanta made just enough plays and got just enough help from the officials to escape New Orleans. The small margin of victory in a game matching a supposed Super Bowl hopeful and a team just waiting for a nightmare to end clearly illustrates how two of football's supposed stars, Vick and Deuce McAllister, are among the most overrated players in football.

The Falcons went into San Antonio coming off a depressing loss to the New England Patriots. With their star quarterback back, even at less than 100%, they seemed ready to roll over a Saints team that lost their supposed best offensive player the week before to a season-ending knee injury. Instead, the teams battled in a tense affair where neither side ever led by more than seven points. The Falcons were in the game thanks to a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and an interception that got them the ball at the Saints 11-yard line. In the end, it looked like they were headed for overtime until a questionable call gave Todd Peterson a second shot at a game-winning field goal which he converted for the win. How did a superior Falcons team get their “best� player back and need an official's flag to beat a Saints team without their “best� player?

To start, we have to look at the deficiency of Mike Vick in the passing game. One week after the unknown Matt Schaub threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns, Vick returned from his injury to go 11-for-23 for 112 yards with one touchdown and one interception. To date, Vick has only completed 55% of his passes for a paltry 6.07 yards per attempt. By our more advanced metrics, which measure each play against the average play in that situation and are further described here, he has a DVOA of -8.6%, good for 25th best in the league. A year ago, Vick had an even worse DVOA of -24.9%, which ranked 36th in the league, right between Ken Dorsey and Eli Manning. None of this suggests that Matt Schaub should be the starter. Outside of Todd Bouman's family, I think people understand that a one game performance by a backup quarterback can tend to be a bit of a fluke. Still, Schaub's showing proves that the Falcons' offense does provide opportunities to make plays in the passing game.

Vick's struggles as he matures are somewhat surprising since when he first took over as the starter, he was as deadly with his arm as he was with his legs. In 2002, his DVOA throwing the ball was 18.5%, good for eighth in the league. Unfortunately, he has not built on this success, and the West Coast system installed by coordinator Greg Knapp has stunted his development. A major part of the problem is that with increased trust from his coaches, Vick has gotten into the habit of holding onto the football, convinced he can make a play with his legs. In 2002, he was sacked 33 times in 454 dropbacks. Last season, he was sacked 46 times in 367 pass attempts. So far this year, Vick's sack rate is heading back towards 2002 levels, so there is some reason for optimism that he can become a valuable passer again.

The obvious response to criticism of Vick's passing is that so much of his value is tied up in his running ability. Such logic has led to criticism that DVOA does not fully appreciate Vick's talents. This critique could not be further from the truth, as Vick's amazing 11-yard scrambles on third-and-9 get full credit in the system. His rushing DVOA is truly impressive, a robust 41.4% so far this season. Since he runs much more than other quarterbacks, it is useful to translate this number into DPAR, which measures points above a replacement player. Vick has contributed a DPAR of 12.3, easily best in the league. Such dominance was apparent a year ago, when he posted a 25.9% DVOA, third in the league, and 29.3 DPAR, more than twice the total registered by the second most prolific scrambler, Daunte Culpepper.

The problem for Vick, however, is that he is asked to pass the ball a lot more than he is asked to run it. DPAR is also calculated for passing, and by that measure, Vick has contributed only 2.1 points above replacement. This total is much improved from a year ago, when he was a below replacement level passer with a DPAR of -18.5. If you combine his rushing and passing DPAR from a season ago, his total value was 10.8. That combined total tied him with Josh McCown for the 25th most productive quarterback in football. If Vick can keep his passing just above replacement level, as he has done to this point, his running prowess will likely keep him within the top 20 quarterbacks. With 32 teams in the league, that makes him an average starting quarterback.

Vick's proponents argue that statistics undersell his true “intangible� abilities, but a quarterback's team success is dependent on the talent around him. Supporters focus on Vick's impressive record as a starter. Following Marc Bulger's loss on Monday Night, Vick now has the third best winning percentage among active quarterbacks with at least 35 starts. If you need proof that winning percentage does not tell the whole story, the seventh best record among active quarterbacks belongs to the immortal Jay Fiedler. The fickle nature of wins is also demonstrated by Bulger, who after starting his career 18-3 has gone 10-11 in his last 21 starts. Did he forget how to play quarterback, or did his defense collapse around him?

Since Vick took over as the full-time starter in 2002, the Falcons are 3-11 in games that Vick has not played. Most of these games, of course, were in 2003, when Doug Johnson was Vick's replacement. What this record proves more than anything is that Mike Vick is a lot better than Doug Johnson (he of the -22.8% DVOA that season and no scrambling ability). I think we can all agree on that.

Last year, the Falcons' offense ranked 24th in the league with a DVOA of -6.2%. Their overall DVOA was 2.9% due to an average defense and exceptional special teams. Their 11-5 record was very much a reflection of their poor level of competition. They played only three teams all season that finished with a winning record. Even in the playoffs, they made it to the NFC Championship game by beating an 8-8 Rams team. In the disastrous 2003 season, not only did they have the Doug Johnson experience, but their defense ranked 26th in the league. Their running backs, leaving aside the threat of Vick, were roughly equivalent to 2004. The duo of T.J. Duckett and Warrick Dunn combined for 27.2 DPAR on 323 runs in 2003, not much behind the 30.3 they amassed in 369 runs a year ago. With a tougher schedule and the return of the 2003 version of the defense, the Falcons will actually have to rely on Vick to make a repeat run at the division crown.

The division crown seems unattainable to the Saints, but their season is not ruined by the season-ending injury to McAllister. To be a valuable running back in the NFL, you either need to provide substantial value every time you touch the ball or be able to carry the ball extensively at an average level. The great backs - like LaDainian Tomlinson and Edgerrin James - do both. Deuce McAllister does neither. We use DVOA to measure the first of these skills, since it calculates a player's value on a per play basis. Through the first five games of this year, McAllister came in with a below average -2.6%. That total is sadly better than his -6.2% of a year ago that ranked 36th in the league. To credit the overall value of the volume of McAllister's carries, we use DPAR, by which measure Deuce has a mediocre 4.6 so far this year, again an improvement on last year where he totaled 8.9 in 14 games, good for 33rd in the league.

McAllister has long been a running back that we at Football Outsiders do not really value because of his boom or bust style. We keep track of a running back's success rate (explained in detail here), by which standard McAllister has always been terrible. In 2003, he ranked 45th in this measure out of 53 backs. Last season, it was a not much better 36th out of 52. McAllister has always been a back who routinely gets stuffed at the line of scrimmage, leaving error prone quarterback Aaron Brooks in numerous third-and-long situations. Occasionally, McAllister would break a long run, thus creating some value for his team. Sadly, since his overuse in 2003, those long runs were coming less and less frequently. In 2003, he had a run of at least 20 yards on 4.6% of his runs. Last year, that number was down to 1.9%, and in the early going this year, it was at 1.1%. This development has made a player who was probably overrated even back in 2003 among the least productive every-down backs in football.

The Saints organization clearly does not understand the difference between a good back and a 1000 yard rusher, as they brought in the itinerant Antowain Smith to be McAllister's primary backup. Smith posted a DVOA of -16.3% a year ago in Tennessee, and even in winning Super Bowls with the Patriots, he posted a DVOA of -5.8% in 2003 and -11.7% in 2001.

Even with his limited skills, Smith gained 88 yards on 12 carries against a suspect Atlanta run defense that ranks 30th in the league according to DVOA. Smith's production was matched by the pedestrian Aaron Stecker, who in his first action of the season rushed 18 times for 85 yards. Neither Smith nor Stecker (DVOA of -19.7% a year ago) is a quality back, but even so, the drop-off from McAllister is far from severe. McAllister has averaged only 3.9 yards per rush since the start of the 2004 season, and it seems reasonable to imagine the same sort of production from the tandem of Smith and Stecker. At least with those two, offensive coordinator Mike Sheppard will know he does not have a great running back and will stop pounding the back ineffectively into the line to establish the run. In the five games McAllister played, Sheppard's attempts to establish him in the first quarter produced a total of 71 yards on 26 carries.

At 2-4, the Saints are a long shot to get back into the playoff race, but the problem is not Deuce McAllister's injury. The other 52 members of the team are just not very good. They currently rank 27th in overall DVOA and have a below-average offense and defense. For an added bonus, they have the second worst DVOA on special teams. The offense exploded for the first time all season against Atlanta thanks to the success of Smith and Stecker. Such a performance will not be consistently repeated, but at least Saints fans can hope that the preseason idea to pound a running back into the line for no gain has been shelved. The Saints are in for a long season, but the absence of Deuce McAllister will have very little impact on their final record.

In the rejuvenated NFC (well at least rejuvenated NFC East and South), playoff teams will likely need 10 wins. With a defense that has completely regressed from a year ago, more pressure will fall upon Michael Vick's shoulders to get the Falcons there. He retains the strong support of the running game, but the overall offensive DVOA of -2.9% a year ago will not get it done this year. So far, the offense has delivered with a 19.1% DVOA that ranks 5th in the league. The return of the 2002 Vick would make the Falcons a serious threat in the NFC. If the Vick the Falcons get the rest of the season is Sunday's version, their early offensive success will not be maintained. In that case, Vick's winning percentage -- and his reputation -- will take a hit.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the biggest (near) upset of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these upsets as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 18 Oct 2005

70 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2005, 6:14pm by Jason


by charles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:25pm

I used to be mike vick homer but his performance was atrocious on sunday. That's all

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:35pm

I'm not terribly impressed by this article. It started off by claiming something I already knew (Vick & Deuce are over-rated) and backed it up with stats from the last few years. While those stats are nice, I'd like to know more about what actually happened in the game. When I saw the Falcons play last week, I saw a lot of dropped passes by wide receivers which Atlanta compensated for by passing more to Crumpler and getting a lot of pass interference penaltys from the Patriots Defense. Was this game another case of drops by the wide recievers, or were Vick's passes off target? From what I've seen from Vick, he tends to throw at the receiver's feet. Which is unfortunate, because Atlanta's biggest advantage for the WRs is they're tall.

by Ricky Bond (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:44pm

What a load. Deuce is a great back. Now that he's hurt you step in and say he sucks. Get real with your DVOBA rating or whatever.

by FalconFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 4:45pm

Over at falconsroost.com, the word was that Dez White dropped 5 passes in the NO game. The difference between 11-23 and 16-23 is pretty large. Vick certainly was on target on the last drive as well. Unfortunately, this is hearsay as i didn't get to watch the game either. We'll see more Monday night.

by CoreyG (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:15pm

I'm a huge Michael Vick fan too, but I'm starting to get annoyed at his passing stats. However, I fail to see how this article demonstrated that he's not the reason Atlanta won yesterday. It's perfectly suitable as a demonstration of why he's overrated based on stats and calculations and what not. After all, he didn't give up 25 of those points to St. Louis.

by elhondo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 5:21pm

Re: #3

That's a good start. I recommend typing angrier and working with mittens on, and then trying for the angry, oddly spelled email of the week.

by Vince (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 6:09pm

I made this comment on the Week 6 thread, but I'll repeat it here: I've never seen one team dominate its opponent from start to finish and still lose like the Saints did on Sunday.

It seems to me (anecdotal, I haven't charted it or anything) that most of Vick's incompletes are too high. The interception to White was high. It was borderline dropped ball/overthrow.

White did drop a pass that would have set up first and goal in the first quarter. He sucks, and I have no idea why Brian Finneran isn't starting.

In the rejuvenated NFC (well at least rejuvenated NFC East and South), playoff teams will likely need 10 wins.

Well, Atlanta has 4 wins right now, and still has games against the Saints, Jets, Dolphins, Bears, Lions and Packers. So even thought their defense looked AWFUL on Sunday, I still think the most likely scenario for Atlanta is to make the playoffs and maybe win a game before losing to a superior Seattle/NFC East team.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:09pm


It's just that a number of people on this site got riled up at being owned on an argument about McAllister a few months back. Now that he suffers a freak injury, the gloating is full force, which shows you just how thin skin can be.

by Drew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 7:37pm

Seriously Ned, how can you player-hate on poor Deuce like this? Just because you've constructed a logical point and backed it up with evidence doesn't make it right. You're just jealous for some reason that I can't quite articulate.

by CrazyOlCasey (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 9:33pm

Honestly I think that is the most idiotic story i have ever read. If overated means always giving your team a chance to win then I guess that is what vick is. Seriously though, football is judged off of wins and lossed and I could give to flips about his stats. I am A true fan and want the lombardi trophy for the falcons. I think you need to take a look around the league. Vick is the best threat in the NFL. And I guaruntee the patriots were thanking the heavens when they saw him in street clothes. But I am a patient person, so we can finish this conversation in february.

by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 9:51pm

Yes we were thanking the heavens...I mean, it's not like WE have a QB that can win...or that WE dont' have to deal withthe 'intangibles' argument all the time....hehe :)

Seriously though, I probably would've rather liked Vick there...our linebackers are bad, but our secondary right now is horrible. I can't believe Starks is still starting.

by Ryan H (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:06pm

These comment threads were a lot more fun to lurk on pre-foxsports.

by james (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:21pm

Vick is seriously underrated. He's a third running back. Grading him as a quarterback is an exercise in futility. Falcons are the league's number 1 rushing team because of Vick. Thats why they win games. He changes game plans and they run the ball very well. If he could become a great qb as well that would be awesome. However, that's not in his job description.

As a GM I would take 200 yards rushing and 120 yards passing a game any day as long as Vick could limit picks to 1.

by FizzMan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:23pm

Re: #12
So far, I have to disagree. I laughed so hard at #6 and #9 that my wife made me read them (and the precipitating comments #3 and #8) to her aloud. Not a bad addition to the evening's entertainment. And I've been impressed that most of the more sincere new repeat-posters get it that a certain level of decency and respect are the norm for this site (props to Redskins fan James, for instance - not sure I ever understood his argument from last week completely, but he clearly worked at actually responding to criticism constructively, not just repeating himself with MORE CAPITAL LETTERS 'CUZ THAT MAKES ME RIGHTER!)
Keep on keepin' on, Outsiders.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:24pm

Yes, Vick is a third running back. Which is why he's also graded as one.

12.3 DPAR running.
2.1 DPAR passing.

Total DPAR: 14.4

Puts him between Trent Green and Byron Leftwich.

by james (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:38pm

Hey Pat,
Hmmm you could add them..never occured to me.

I am really that dumb hope it doesn't come off as sarcasm.


by james (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 10:40pm


thanks for the props..HOPE I AM NOT EATING ALL OF MY WORDS LATER!!!!!!$$$$$$$$$

by Ryan Carney (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:13pm

A few observations
1)#10 Do you think that the Pats were thanking their lucky stars as backup Matt Schaub was throwing all over them, and putting up 29 points? not his fault they lost that game.
2)#13, how can throwing the ball/being a quarterback not be in Mike Vick (the quarterback's) job description...that's kinda asinine.
3) re: #7, can we not call Seattle a superior team just yet? or even not until the playoffs...This is a team that with their horribly weak schedule will cost to a 10-6 season, and that's if they blow one or two. I am not willing to put a team with wins againt St. Louis, Houston, Arizona, and a squeaker against Atlanta at home that they really tried to give away, with losses to Jacksonville and Washington, as a superior team. Seattle is beating the hell out of bad teams just like they do every year, nothing new.
4) In regards to the pre foxsports comments, I'm sure thats just a transition phase and the guys are really busy right now...cut them some slack, this is the opportunity they've been waiting for

by Ryan carney (not verified) :: Tue, 10/18/2005 - 11:15pm

P.S...the only sports talk that will be going on in Atlanta in February is how bAd the Thrashers and Hawks are, but at least they'll still be playing.

by Scott (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:42am

It is true that Vick is overrated. His singular reliance on Crumpler suggests to me that he cant make timing throws to WRs streaking in and out of their routes. (Or that his WRs simply suck.)

But like some on this board, I also think it simply is not possible to quantify all that he brings to the table. His running ability is Barry Sanders-esque- meaning he can take it to the House on any play. (And, like Vick, Sanders was another player who brought a lot of bad with the good.)

Who cares if Matt Schaub throws for a higher percentage?! With Vick, I believe that a Super Bowl run is possible for the Falcons, albeit not likely. With Schaub or some other middling QB at the helm, I dont think its even possible. Unless your name is Peyton Manning, McNabb or, perhaps, Brady, i'll take my chances with Vick .

by BigManChili (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 1:46am

Referring to #4,

11-23 = 47.8%, 112yds, 1 TD, 1 INT

But, if Dez White doesn't have 5 drops...

16-23 = 69.56%, 175-200yds, 2 TD, 0 INT

(One drop hit Dez in the chest with a clear road to the endzone and the INT was cause Dez played Volleyball with the safety, Josh Bullocks).

I know it is unrealistic to assume a receiver would make EVERY catch in a game, it's just a "what if..." scenario.

by Ken (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 6:04am

To the guy who was complaining about Dez White dropping lots of catches... the Outsiders have never tried to pretend that their statistics aren't dependent on certain amounts of teamwork. If a QB doesn't have great wideouts, there's going to be a bigger problem, whatever method of ranking you use. But, at the same time, the pattern of Vick's statistics over the last few years do seem to show pretty much the same thing over and over again - that, as far as a QB goes, he's overrated. As an RB lining up in a different position, he's very useful.

by Flux (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 7:58am

I hate when I can't tell the trolls from the sarcastic. #9 is clearly the latter, and #3 and #10 are clearly the former... but what about #8? I'm leaning troll, but perhaps it's just such a light and flaky pastry of satire that I can't quite believe it's real.

As for this article, I have to agree that it's not very good. There are a lot of facts, most of them related, but they never really build a case, other than arguing that both Deuce and Vick are overrated. Where's the actual game commentary, though? Why did either team win or loose? I saw that Atl got lucky with a FG block and return, but where's the rest of the analysis? Were Vick's passes uncatchable? Was he running and not seeing open receivers? Why were the Saints able to score 28 when they put up 3 last week against an inept GB defense? And so on...

by Lafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 8:19am

re #22
So Texans' problem is neither QB nor WR, it's offensive line. I agree.

Vick's problem isn't accuracy, it's supporting cast. I disagree.

Nevertheless, how does the DPAR take account of that (I mean an horrible o-line/rb play/wrs)? Is there a team-adjustment as a schedule-adjustment ?

Oh, and I can't wait to read this article in two years when the Falcons meet the San Antonio Saddles and their new QB : Ken Panama !

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:08am


Yah, but how do you know it's White's fault he dropped the balls? I agree it looked like it was his fault - and he does suck - but that makes you wonder:

1) why was Vick throwing to him, then?
2) isn't Vick partly to blame for not attempting to compensate for his receiver's inability?

After all, it's not like they just threw White in there on game day. Vick's worked with him for what, three years now? He should know how to throw a catchable ball to him.

If the guy is unreliable, then, well, Vick still can choose not to throw to him. McNabb, for instance, actively avoided throwing to utterly crappy receivers quite often.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:39am


They'll be talking about Tech basketball here in Atlanta in Feb. Oh, and Bulldog football recruiting.

Regarding preFox vs. postFox, yeah, I'm certain that everyone knew this would happen. The typical, knuckledragging sports message board fan has once again reared his ugly head. Fortunately, the blood will start to stick up their keyboards and they'll stop.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 12:04pm

Re Prefox vs Postfox: Surely we haven't forgotten last year's Steelers EPC thread already?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 5:54pm

Hey, FalconFan, you may want to learn how to count. Per the AJC and Jim Mora, Dez White dropped two passes, not five.

Silly birdbrains. :)

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 6:04pm

Only two dropped passes? I think that qualifies as a good day for Dez White.

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 7:29pm

re: "These comment threads were a lot more fun to lurk on pre-foxsports."

Couldn't even make it through most of these comments. It's even worse than sports talk radio. Why offer any support for an argument when you can just shout louder, or in this case, type angrier.

by cjm (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 8:01pm

re #20 - this is getting a bit OT, but I am very curious what Barry Sanders would look like in DVOA/DPAR. Like Vick he clearly had amazing physical talent, but how much did he help his team win, overall? Did he break it long often enough to make up for the -3 yd stuffs?

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 8:20pm

re.14, as long as I don't get named in the divorce proceedings, that's cool. Alternatively you could try to find other ways to show a gal an evening's entertainment, reading statistical football analysis sites aloud to her for comedy value probably ranks below rearranging your sock drawer together.

However I do agree that the post-Fox FO comments lines have been much more entertaining, albeit as much for the misplaced elitism of a lot of people whom I suspect are not as intelligent as they would like to think they are. But then I guess the correlation coefficient of the snotty-IQ-of-only-120-but-nerd-clique and the headbutting-keyboard-brigade is very high,

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/19/2005 - 11:12pm

"Hmmm you could add them..never occured to me."

Another thing you can do is divide them by number of passes or runs or passes+runs in the case of adding passing and rushing DPAR.

Aaron Brooks has a higher DPAR per rushing attempt for instance. So does Bledsoe but with 8 rushing attempts I think we can agree he couldn't maintain that rate.

by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 12:11am

re: #32 - An IQ of 120 is roughly 90th percentile... I dunno if that rates an "only." Which is not to say that your hypothetical commenter doesn't *over-rate* their own intelligence...

by Bruce Dickinson (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:31am

i agree with the fox sports comments. sometimes i wonder: is it so hard to just NOT BE A FAN OF YOUR OWN TEAM for a few minutes and try to look at the situation with dose of reality? i think the fancy 'statistical analysis' is an easy out for these illiterates to dismiss what might be said about THEIR TEAM or THEIR PLAYER.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 10:25am

Re #31: Barry Sanders would look awesome in DPAR. He might not get as high a DPAR ranking as Emmit Smith, but that's because he didn't have the offensive line that Smith had nor the passing game to keep the safteies deep that Smith had.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:15am


I'm pretty sure DPAR/rushing attempt is just DVOA on a different scale.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:19am

I don't understand why ATL dones't experiment with Vick and Scaub linging up together. Could create all kinds of matchup issues (although I guess they wouldn't want Vick blocking for Schaub). Schaub is clearly a better QB (above average to Vick's decidedly average) and Vick is an amazing if fragile runner. Of course thats just my opinion I could be wrong.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:53am

You know, I think #32 just insulted me, which is wierd, because I don't recall losing the Deuce argument as much as I recall giving up when some "Idiot" kept posting the same rehased argument over and over (Deuce is a good back, he gets 1200 yard seasons).

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:00pm

Re. 39, were you the razor-sharp debater who said McAllister was good for 2,000 combined yards a season, and that was "pretty good"?

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:03pm

Of course, had you read the part of my post where I mentioned Deuce's inability to convert 3rd and short and habit of getting stuffed about 60% of the time, you might understand why I don't value his 2000 total yards very highly.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:06pm

Ah I just went back and checked. "McAllister is good for about 2,000 yds running and receiving a season, thats pretty good but his drop ratio is high so he's a very mediocre player". Quality stuff. What a shame the post-sports FO comments lines have been so dumbed down by woolly arguments and thinking, huh?

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:09pm

His "habit of getting stuffed" was disproved by an actual stat dragged out by the other guy about conversions on third and fourth down. Too bad no actual evidence beyond "success rate" was ever used by you or anyone else, to suggest the contrary.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:30pm

That would be this quote:
"On another board a guy posted that in 2002-3 (not counting 2004 due to the injury skewing his effectiveness) he was 3rd in the league in number of conversions on 3rd or 4th and less than 3 situations. Priest converted 38 of 51, James 36 of 56, and Deuce 32 of 46."
Convient how we ignore Deuce's worst year. Also convient how our source is some guy on an internet message board quotiing some other guy on a different board. Sadly I have no way of verifying if this is in fact true, what the game situations where, what kind of defenses Deuce was facing in these situations, etc. Now, since you insist that Deuce is a good back, I challenge you to find a reputable source that can demonstrate he's good in 3rd and short situations. All I can find is in 2004-2005, he averages about 2.8 YPC on 3rd downs. That would be great on 3rd and 1, not so hot on 3rd and 3.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 3:48pm

Its clearly explained why 2004 has not been included. You think a player's effectiveness should be gauged from when he has been injured? Your final stat of 2.8 yds per carry applies to that year. What were the numbers for 2002 and 2003, and what do other RBs tend to average in similar situations? That stat is completely, totally, utterly, out of context.

What the game situations were, what sort of defenses he was facing? Gosh, a lot of variables are suddenly being included to rubbish that stat, aren't they, as it happens to contradict your belief? Just out of interest, if you don't know those variables in those situations for Deuce, how can you possibly make such bold statements as you did earlier about his effectiveness on third down? You were able to assess his effectiveness before, but not now. Another razor-sharp argument huh? You accuse me of not reading your arguments - I suspect you need to keep reading them yourself, dear boy.

You challenge me to name a source? Sorry I can't be bothered to find one, and the fact you think a source named completely out of context is key to such an argument proves how tenuous your argument is. I see no reason whatsoever to dispute that statistic already posted, as much as you'd clearly like to pretend it doesn't exist. And just by the way, I have never argued that Deuce is a good back, I've never ventured an opinion on him at all, I simply argued that the people arguing he was won the argument over the people who were arguing he wasn't.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:02pm

Let's see if I can follow this. You're arguing that I lost the argument based on an unverified, out of context stat that somebody posted on the internet?

by bill (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:06pm

Vick's problem as a QB is woeful inaccuracy in the passing game; his strength is his ability to run the football. With Duckett on the shelf, it's time to turn Vick into a running back to alternate with Dunn, (he throw 2-3 times a game on option type plays), and have Schaub start at QB. Tell me that wouldn't make the Falcons a better team. I'm only half kidding.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:10pm

Bill, it certainly would be more exciting, but I'd worry that it would put Vick in increased risk of injury. Still, I think that using Vick as a running back would give the Falcons their best chance to succeed. Especially against a team like the Jets that struggles against the run.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:19pm

You haven't answered a question posed - you made bold comments about Deuce's effectiveness in short yardage situations earlier. When a stat to suggest the contrary is mentioned, you say there are too many unknown variables about the game situation affecting those short yardage situations for you to assess it. Bit of a hole in your argument, but try to address it.

No, it doesn't seem like you are following, sadly. That argument was won/lost based on a large number of factors, including but not exclusively limited to your contributions to it, and the short yardage argument. As for the stat, it rings true to me and I personally find it more credible than anything else used in the argument about Deuce/short yardage, although there is of course the possibility that it is out-of-context/false/biased/invented/incorrect. Which could be equally applied to your stat just posted or success rate, if not more so.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:36pm

My opinions on Deuce are based on what I have observed watching im play. I see impressive big runs for lots of yardage, combined with lots of stuffs for little or no yardage. Of course my memory is far from perfect, but I've talked with Saints fans on this site, and most agree with me, that he'll get a bunch of exciting big runs that make highlight reels, but he's inconstient and nearly impossible to rely on in short yardage/goal line situations. This doesn't mesh with the stat on his supposed 3rd down dominance, which is why I want somebody to verify that stat for me. You don't seem to be the person, but the data must exist somewhere.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 4:45pm

(Sorry about the double post)
My stat: 2.8 YPC on third downs, was taken from ESPN.com & NFL.com's situational stats on his player page. Sadly they only include 2004 (when he was injured) and 2005 (very little sample size). I would agree that that praticular stat is highly flawed, which is why I like the success rate. That one I can verify all the way back to 2002 (For some reason there's no rushing data for him in 2001, I know he was Ricky's backup, perhaps he didn't get enough carries to meet the minimum requirements), and he's always been around 45%. Of course you don't beleive in the success rate stat, so I won't use it to back up my arguments.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:04pm

Based on watching him play? That's heresy on this site, I thought.

I don't disbelieve the success rate stat per se, I just treat it with caution due to its lack of transparency and I also feel such a rate could be explicable by other factors. I've seen him play (please don't burn me) and think he's not noticeably bad in short yardage, and a completely transparent (but unverified) stat exists to corroborate that.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:12pm

Based on watching him play? That’s heresy on this site, I thought.
Apparently you missed the weekly feature called "Every Play Counts." Feel free to do some research on this site as to what the success rate stat tries to accomplish and how it's calculated. You might discover something you like. As for your observations watching him play, well two people can differ on thier observations. I certianly don't have any experteise in breaking down NFL film, so I can't claim that my impressions are beyond repoach.

by vroomfondel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 5:51pm

Looked at success rate, thanks. Explanation is very far from fully transparent, as with DVOA and (particularly) DPAR. Beats me why people with presumably no insight into the calculation of those metrics merrily toss them into arguments as QEDs. By the way, I have a royal Nigerian mate who wants to email you with an offer you can't refuse.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 6:10pm

Look, if you're just going to make your "points" by insulting me, I really have no reason to continue this conversation. If you have some insight as to why Deuce is/was a good back, I'd love to hear it.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 7:29pm

Success rate is very transparent.

It's the percentage of success the running back has had, where success is:

40% of yards on 1st down.
60% of yards on 2nd down.
100% of yards on 3rd or 4th down.

You gain 2 yards on 1st down and 10, that's a failure. You gain 4 yards on 1st and 10, that's a success. You gain 4 yards on 3rd and 6, that's a failure.

How is this not transparent?

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 10:58pm

Pat (#56 ) et al--

I think success rate has a subtle flaw: it counts abject failure the same as partial failure.

In that hypothetical 3rd down and 6, 4 yards is much better than, say, -3 yards. It might even be considered a success under a number of conditions. To name a few::

* marginal field goal range
* end-of-game/half clock management
* coach believes this is four-down territory.
* close defensive games when field position is vital

Which is why it's just one analytical tool in the toolbox, I know. But positive yards short of success, still have value, while success rate views them as "totally worthless."

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:11pm


A) That's what DVOA is for.

B) There are corrections in four-down territory and for clock management stuff (shift of success ranges)

Success rate is a measure of how well a running back is at getting what you ask of them. The vast majority of the time when you've got 3rd and 6 and you run, you'd like the running back to get 6 yards.

Them failing might not be bad, but it's still a failure.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 10/20/2005 - 11:29pm

Also, the Success Rate does lower the bar for success in end of game situations when a team with the lead is trying to run out the clock.

by Falco Sparverius (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 10:08am

Re: 56-59. Starshatterer's points are valid. Interesting contrast, we have Denver Fan getting defensive because DVOA does not rank team as highly and questions whether team is as good as record. Then we have DVOA fan getting defensive because some point out flaws in certain stats, which show category like success rate as a useful tool, but flawed in making certain comparisons.

Success rate does have "flaws" depending on how you use it. Some are pointed out above. One example would be when a team runs a draw or screen on 3rd and 15 because the pass rush has been killing them, and they dont want a sack/fumble/int. Sure, the team would like the rb to pick up the first down in that situation, but this is a different thing from it being more likely than not, or expected. Nevertheless, a 12 yard run would count as a "failure." The running back is actually penalized because the team relied on him in that low percentage situation, rather than go somewhere else. Another example is something from Monday night. Rams were in 2nd and very long, close to midfield. Two straight passes to Holt on routes where he runs defender off, stops, and makes a safe catch and is tackled. The goal of these patterns was to get in field goal range. It worked. Rams took 20-14 lead into half. Nevertheless, they would show 2 failures, so Holt's % is hurt because team leaned on him in this type of situation, rather than someone else. Another example: A lot of teams will pass on first, run on second and 10 if pass is unsuccessful. 2nd and 10 is not a different running situation against the defense, as most would still play the same base defense as on 1st. Yet, a 5 yd run on 2nd, following an incomplete, to make it 3rd and 5, is a failure (I would consider that a "success" and the goal of running that play--manageable 3rd down), while a 1st down run for 5 is a success (which I agree with).

Based on the success rate formula above, running backs who were short yardage specialists (or got majority of carries in shorter yardage situations) should have higher success rates as a group. Running backs who had a higher percentage of their touches on passes on 1st and 2nd down should have a better success rate (see Westbrook) than those who had a high % of runs. Running backs who were taken out of the game in 3rd down passing situations should have a higher success rate, everything else equal, than a "feature back" who was in on all plays unless winded. You would expect 3rd down specialist to have some of the lowest rates.

Over a large enough sample size, you would expect some of the "flaws" as it relates to full-time backs to even out, though it would not if the player was used in a more defined or limited role.

Personally, rather than black and white, I would see things as black, metallic silver peat, and white. A 3 yd run on 1st down is closer to a 4 yd run than a run stuffed for -1, in terms of how successful it was. Heck, that may be the difference of a foot or less in real life, depending on the mark and how the official scorer classified it, as they dont have 3.7 yd runs on the play by play sheet. An 8 yd completion/reception on 3rd and 10 has some value (more so than an incompletion), even if it did not result in first down. Simply lumping it as "failure" is a subjective decision that I disagree with.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 11:55am

I think it's important to note that the success rate only looks at running plays, not passes to running backs. That being said, I never liked the draw play on 3rd and long. Even if you do get 10 yards on the play, you're increasing the odds of a successful fieldgoal by around 20% (based on the theory that 1 yard colser makes a field-goal 2% easier). Sure that 20% is nice, but I'd rather try a play that could get that first down, getting you another shot at a touchdown. Of course there are times when a draw play is the best choice, like when your O-line is terrible and you have a QB who's prone to getting sacked and fumbles (Hmmm, sounds like a good description of the Saints). Since we can't seperate Deuce from his teammates, I'm sure his success rate (and any other stat) is being hurt by the rest of the offense. Which brings me back to the other thread where it was pointed out that the money given to Deuce's contract extension might have been better spent upgrading the offensive line, or I don't know, maybe getting a better QB. Not to say you can get a top-rate QB for the money they gave Deuce, but it could have helped.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 12:10pm


Simply lumping it as “failure� is a subjective decision that I disagree with.

But it is a failure! I think you're completely misunderstanding exactly what RB success rate is trying to do.

Read here, and go down to the table on McAllister's 1st & 10 runs.

That's the available stats on McAllister's performance in 1st and 10 situations. There is no "universal stat" which can sum up that table in one number, but you can come up with stats to characterize certain features of that table. RB success rate measures one feature - the percentage of plays on the "team has a higher likelihood of continuing this drive than before" side of that curve. Is it the only stat? No, of course not. DVOA is another - which essentially measures the average of the entire table.

It's exactly like baseball, which is why the stat was originally "running back batting average". Batting average doesn't tell you everything about a batter. It doesn't tell you if he's a home-run hitter, for instance. But it does tell you something.

McAllister is a home run hitter. That's easy to see from the stats. He gets stuffed often, but he occasionally breaks away for long runs.

Whether or not you think this is a good thing is another question. I, for instance, don't think it's a good thing - you don't need an RB to be a home run hitter in the NFL. That's what a QB and WRs are for. RBs are needed to be higher-percentage yard gains.

One thing you could imagine doing, which might make all the Saints fans happy, is to also include a "running back breakaway rate", which is the rate that a running back breaks one at. McAllister would be high there.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 1:54pm

Pat (#62 )--
Simply lumping it as “failure� is a subjective decision that I disagree with.

But it is a failure!

It's considered a failure by this model, but reasonable people can disagree on that designation. 5 yards from second and 10 might be acceptable for a team with a good line and running game, since they could still run on third down (and fourth, if needed). To that coach, it's "success"; to DPAR, it's "failure".

Success rate is a blunt instrument. People will disagree on plays that are close the the success/failure line. When your interloicutor disputes your major premise, logic is no help.

I actually agree with the logic behind it, but it's not (and can't be, unless you get the game plans of every coach for every game) universally applicable.

by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 2:55pm

Well, it's true that it's team-agnostic. It's just a simple metric, after all. It's not adjusted for opponent, for instance, which is why the end-of-season success rates are much more consistent with previous years than middle-of-the-year ones.

But the idea is more robust than that. The "success" points are placed where the team is more likely to convert the 1st down after the play than before. If you wanted to get silly, you could even say that a "success" is a play that makes the team more likely to win than before the play was run. That difference is really only going to matter at the very end of the game, though, so it's a minor correction in terms of number of plays. (*)

I still don't see how it's any less useful than batting average is in baseball. If a runner flies out and drives in an RBI, it still lowers his average. Why? Because he should've gotten a hit. Driving in the run is better than nothing, but you wanted him to get a hit.

by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 10/21/2005 - 4:18pm

I'm absolutely amazed Schaub would be called a middling QB and amazed he's not considered a better quarterback to run this type of offense than Vick. Vick has shown terrible decision-making and accuracy for a very long time. He has all the tools, but hasn't translated most of them to QB skills. I'll spare you Schaub's stats (you can check them out here if you wish http://virginiasports.collegesports.com/sports/m-footbl/archive/va-m-foo...), but he ran this offense in college with tremendous success. In his inconsistent NFL playing time, he's definitely shown an ability to run this type of offense, which is predicated predominantly on quick decisions and accurate throws, effectively. These are two of Vick's worst qualities and two of Schaub's best. Vick is a fragile athlete almost everyone is determined to mold into a quarterback. How much further evidence is necessary before it is deemed futile? Bringing in other aspects such as economics, draw, merchandise and investment, yes I understand why he's the starter. But, if the objective is to win as many games as possible, which it really should be, Schaub should clearly be this team's signal caller.

by vick stinks (not verified) :: Sat, 10/22/2005 - 5:44pm

Vick is the most overrated player of the past decade.
As a quarterback, he stinks!
As a running back, he is wimpy.
Clearly, he should only be used as a kick/punt returner, who can use his elusiveness to an advantage like Dante Hall.
Can you imagine him trying to run between the tackles 25-30 times a game? No!
Can you imagine him throwing for 370 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions against a solid secondary? No!

by Scott (not verified) :: Sat, 10/22/2005 - 9:41pm

I find the suggestion of putting Schaub in at QB for a few plays each game, with Vick at RB or WR an intriguing one. But its a move which would take more courage than I believe Mora has.

Putting in Schaub at QB while Vick is healthy essentially is an admission that Schaub is a better pure passing QB than Vick is-- which most observers know he certainly is. But Im sure Vick's ego would be shattered and he would be embarrassed if Mora did this to him. Because Vick is the golden child of the Falcons, there is no way Schaub is going into the game unless Vick is hurt.

by Kiel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 7:25pm

Anyone who thinks shaub should start at QB needs to get examined. Shaub had 300 yards against the patroits because he had like 40 attempts, which is more than vick has probably had in two years. And dont even try to say that he had more throws because he was succesfully moving the chains, because his completion percentage was less than 50% if i can remember correctly.
Mora takes a differant approach when vick isnt in the game, simple as that. when vick is in the game, opposing teams are so worried about vick that they are forced to keep containment on the outside, which allows for so much to open up in the middle for the run game. and Mora knows that and uses it to his advantage. go look at the stats yourself if you dont believe it.
i dont think the west coast offense is the right fit for vick, but it might be eventually. it takes time, and with the horrible reciever situation it doesnt help. finneran is pretty solid, but not a playmaking #1 reciever.
every great quarterback has atleast one great reciever, or a few good ones. think of how much recievers like owens, chad johnson, torry holt & bruce, santana moss, hines ward, jimmy smith, steve smith, boldin & fitzgerald, all have helped their QB's this year. kerry collins this season, 7 TD to 1 int, and i dont even need to mention what happened to culpepper after moss left.

look at what TO did for mcnabb. the season before TO came, mcnabb had 16 TD passes to 11 int at a 57% completion for a 79.6 rating. with TO, last year mcnabb threw for 31 TD to 8 int at 64% for a 104.7 rating. that is what a good reciever will do. Tom brady might be the only QB without a superstar reciever, but he has a great overall core. mcnabb had the same stygma surrounding him that vick does now.
give vick some time (and in my opinion a differant passing scheme where he isnt dead last in the league for pass attempts). you cant throw for 30 TD and 4000 yards with an avg of 20 pass attempts per game. the best "statistical" QB's throw 30-40 per game (except roethlesberger). and last game crumpler turned what should have been two catches (one was a little behind him, but catchable) into two interceptions. vilma grabbed the ball right from crumpler. but crumpler is the man, so its alright. none of the 3 interceptions were because of a bad throw or poor decision. on two of them, crumpler had his hands on the ball before the defender grabbed it, and the other one was because vick got hit will he threw it. he does have a few wild throws sometimes, and needs to learn to put more touch on throws that require it, but alot of times he guns the ball right to a reciever, where noone in the league could have got it there fast enough (except a younger favre), and the reciever drops it. so forget all the critics. he is winning right now, and will continue to develope, and hopefully get a big name reciever or their current young core developes a bit more. Jenkins and roddy might be good eventually, but in the west coast offense, the recievers have to develope with it as well. vick has the potential to be the best ever, just wait. I'd love to hear anyone even attempt to counter my argument. so lets hear it.

by Kiel (not verified) :: Thu, 10/27/2005 - 7:42pm

I just looked and shaub threw 34 times against the patriots. my bad though. just thought i would note that before someone attacked my previous post as having false stats. in the past two years vick hasnt even attempted 30 passes. Mora needs to let him air it out. vicks highest # of completions in the past two years is only 18 because mora doesnt let him throw it. just a side note, that 18 completion game, was against denver last year. IN denver he was 18 for 24 (75%), 252 passing yards with 2 TD's and 0 int, along with 115 yards rushing. both TD's burned champ bailey, arguably the games best CB. that is why he has the potential to be the best ever.

by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/31/2005 - 6:14pm

Vick is 30th out of 31 in QB rating so far this season. Granted it doesn't take into account running (which I believe it should), but do you really think there's any amount of running that makes up for a season rating of 63?

He's had seasons of 63, 82, 69, 78 and working on 63 (29th, 18th, 25th, t-20th, 31st, respectively). (Note, the first season was only half a season and the third was limited to five games due to injury)

Anyway, is that really a valuable QB? Even in his BEST season he was a below average passer. I, for one, am astounded at how many crappy QBs are recycled throughout the league (I can't believe it's so hard to find 32 worthwhile people in this world), so even an average QB does have some value. I won't deny that. But that just means the bar is that low and he still doesn't measure up.

It's easy to take a small sample (like Collins and Culpepper this year or the Vick in Denver example) and try to say "SEE?!?" but I'm looking at a much longer performance history (49 games to be exact and a career 75 rating, 41:32 TD:INT ratio).

In the same vein, I'm not about to take Schaub's one game this year and say he's going to throw for 3 TDs and no INTs every game if given the chance. Instead, I look at a longer performance record and note his success in college. Percentage wise, in that one game, he was below average. Everything else though was great. Game management, spread it around, protect the ball. And this was the Patriots' D. And it was his first start of the season. BTW, if Schaub's 52.9% percentage in that game is so bad, note Vick's CAREER completion percentage is 53.4%.

Time? In games, Vick's played three complete seasons, but still he's had FIVE YEARS in the league to develop!!!

Some other points.

Re: Bailey being burned. I think Bailey is massively overrated, but even if he's not, Vick didn't run those patterns to burn Bailey.

Re: needing a go to receiver. I though Peerless Price was supposed to be that for him.

Re: not attempting enough passes. I could argue Mora not letting him throw as much as most others is proof even his coach doesn't consider him a good passer. However, add in the 7+ rushes per game (mostly sacks or scrambling) and you see the OC routinely calls 30+ pass plays, but Vick pulls it down a lot. Perhaps that's smart because guys aren't open, but I think the consensus is he doesn't make right reads or go through progressions well and then just tries to do everything himself.

And despite his 2 TD runs in the recent MNF game that he "won" Vick's rating was 16. SIXTEEN!!!

He's reckless with decisions. He's reckless with his throws. He's even reckless running.

He's talented up the wazoo, but greatest ever? Hardly.