Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

31 Aug 2010

ESPN: Chasing Favre's Records

This ESPN Insider piece adapts Bill James' old "Favorite Toy" method to look at the odds that one of today's players will eventually break Brett Favre's passing records. Favre's constant un-retirements have made it a lot less likely that Peyton Manning will eventually hold his records, but there's one Favre record that will probably go down. It's a record he doesn't hold yet, and the quarterback to pass it won't be Manning.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 31 Aug 2010

13 comments, Last at 01 Sep 2010, 9:46pm by DisplacedPackerFan


by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 11:13am

As a non-Insider, all I know is that the "breakable" record is for total sacks (thank you, informative browser header). I'm going to guess that the projected record-breaker is Roethlisberger.

by Independent George :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 12:50pm

I'm not sure about that. Intuitively, I would expect that the more sacks you take, the less likely you are to take more sacks because due to injury. Roethlisberger takes a lot of sacks, and also misses a lot of games. Leaving aside his personal, he might very well be out of the league in three years.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 1:34pm

Keep in mind that this is a comparatively simple way of estimating a career total in a single category ... it's basically shorthand for "with reasonable progressions for career length and statistic X for this player given his recent performance, what are the chances he will end up with Y in that category?"

So yeah, there are some players like Roethlisberger that have factors that could significantly affect their numbers down the road. I suppose there's also an argument that this is better suited to baseball because injuries seem to have much more of an impact in football, but that's why it's a toy ... and incidentally, it's much easier to set up on your own than some of James' other stuff. You should have seen what it was like to set up career projections in an old-school spreadsheet ...

by tuluse :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 4:11pm

It sounds reasonable, but look at David Carr. He was beat silly for years and still played most games.

Sacks are also just part of the picture. There are many other plays where a QB is hit, I think you'd have to count all those to get a proper picture of abuse received.

by Joseph :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 5:27pm

Great guessing. For you non-insiders, the article says Big Ben has an ~80% chance of breaking it. He averages 48 sacks per year, and should break it in 6-7 years.
Regarding the other records (besides INT's), Manning has only a 20-25% chance of breaking them.

by Nate Dunlevy (not verified) :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 1:54pm

If I read you right, you are projecting Manning to retire in roughly four seasons.

The problem with the Favorite Toy in this instance is that your scenario would have Manning retiring while just on the cusp of all the major career records.

Now, maybe he'd do this, but that seems unlikely.

If Manning was forced to retire without having any idea how close he was, these simulations would have more validity.

As it is, it's hard to take seriously

by JoeHova :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 4:10pm

As it is, it's hard to take seriously

Which is why it's called a toy.

by Anonymous2 (not verified) :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:11pm

The thing to keep in mind in Favre's freakish longevity. I plugged Favre's totals from when he was Manning's age into the toy and the toy though it unlikely (but not impossible) that Favre would throw nearly 500 touchdowns. Quarterbacks do not as a rule play at pro-bowl levels when they're 40 - they generally don't play at all. The toy assumes Manning is unlikely to still be playing when he's 40 and so gives him poor odds of breaking Favre's record.

Also bear in mind it's not entirely up to Manning if he'll play at 39 or 40. Favre had the option because he's still a starting level quarterback. If Manning shows more ordinary longevity, he probably won't be good enough to get a starting position at 39 or 40. That's leaving aside serious injury. If Favre rather than Brady had gotten a season ending injury to start the 2008 season, I doubt Favre would have come back. And bear in mind quarterback is a much bigger position than any in baseball. If an old baseball star who has descended into mediocrity wants to chase a record, a team might let him for publicity. You can't do that with a quarterback, not without sacrificing the team.

Interesting, if I'm using the model right Favre has 1.5 seasons left (yes, I know that's the minimum) and should wind up with 540 or so touchdowns. That kind of fits one more decent season with Minnesota, more drama over whether to retire in 2011, and then a job as a starter in 2011 that lasts half a season until his play declines enough he gets benched and is gone for good.

by Nate Dunlevy (not verified) :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 9:42pm

I'm just saying that Manning is about to sign a huge contract. He has no injury history and is playing at an incredible level for a franchise built around him

Four more seasons seems like a inappropriately low guess, especially given the fact that he'll KNOW how much is ahead of him.

by Led :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 1:39pm

The thing about injuries is that they're awfully random. Manning's pocket presence and perhaps innate durability have a lot to do with his lack of major injuries, but so does luck. It's unlikely that Manning will both retain starting level skills for many more years AND continue to avoid fluky, unlucky hits like Brady suffered in 2008. Unlikely doesn't mean impossible, but I certainly wouldn't bet on it.

by Jon Frum (not verified) :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 4:09pm

But can anyone break that interception record? You have to play a long time, you have to be good enough to be a starter all those years, and you have to compensate for stabbing your own team in the heart over and over again. Who else has that combination? You'd need the heart of George Blanda and the soul of Fran Tarkenton.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 7:13pm

Testaverde made a pretty decent run at it.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 09/01/2010 - 9:46pm

Jay Cutler. He gets a bonus of a few years in a Mike Martz offense too it looks like. Of course I don't buy that he is as good as he has been hyped, but he is good enough to keep getting starting jobs and he can certainly throw Favre like interceptions... He's already 10 ahead of where Favre at the same point in their careers. Favre only through 20+ ints in 93, 98, 00, 03, 05, and 08. If you want "more than 1 int per game" seasons you only add the 17 in 04, and the 18 in 06 to that. Otherwise it was 16 or less.

Cutler has done 5 (in 5 games Favre had 2 in 2 games in his first season with Atlanta), 14, 18, 26 already (and that 26 is more than Favre did in any season other than the whooping 29 in 05). So he is already looking like he'll have more 16+ seasons than Favre. Now again playing as long as Favre is something you can't expect from anyone, but there are some folks out there, that can throw ints at a higher rate and still keep starting jobs for a while. Sure Cutler is long term projection, but you kinda need someone who started in their first or 2nd year. You need those extra seasons for the sheer volume.

That is part of what will hold Rodgers back from some of the cumulative records even if he has a really long career, he "lost" 3 seasons, Favre only 'lost' one.