Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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09 May 2008

Walkthrough: Off the Charts

by Mike Tanier

Can't Touch This

Sportscaster babble is a little like ultra-hip teenage slang. It's used to establish pecking order and differentiate the in-crowd from the followers. You don't want to be caught using last year's clichés unless you want to be labeled a wannabe or copycat. Luckily, I'm here to guide you through this linguistic minefield.

Consider this Breaking News: "off-the-chart intangibles" is the new "swagger."

Mike Mayock and the NFL Network gang coined the new phrase in a stroke of draft day inspiration. "Off-the-chart intangibles" is simultaneously hyperbolic, oxymoronic, and vague. It's almost impossible to break three rules of clear communication with one four-word phrase, but these guys are masters. They knew they had a slam dunk, too, repeating their new coinage as a mantra whenever Matt Ryan was mentioned.

It's easy to poke fun of the phrase's lyrical inanity –- we've measured his immeasurables and found them, shudder, immeasurable –- but there's some ingenious logic pretzel-twisted into "off-the-chart intangibles." Intangibles do exist, though they don't have the all-encompassing impact they're credited for in some circles. And at Football Outsiders, we love to chart everything we can, though we prefer to stick with the tangible. If we can create an Intangibles Chart, we could then determine if some player, like Ryan or Doug Flutie, register intangible levels that leap off it.

First, we need to define "intangibles" a little better. That's easy enough. Character, Leadership, Work Ethic, and Competitiveness/Toughness are the virtues sportswriters usually invoke as intangibles. All we have to do is create a four-point holistic rubric for each parameter (notice how effortlessly I slip from football babble to educationist babble), add the values up, and presto! A completely implausible chart.

So let's create narratives and benchmarks (more educationist gibberish; it's like a second language to me) for each intangible, then see how they stack up:


SCORE POINT 3: The player bathes lepers and volunteers to clean Superfund sites in his spare time.
SCORE POINT 2: The player is a nice guy, but once got a DUI at a checkpoint after his second Applebee's margarita when he failed the Roscoe P. Coltrane sobriety test: counting down from 300 by primes. In Esperanto.
SCORE POINT 1: The player once forced 10 exotic dancers at crossbow point to make a human pyramid, then refused to tip them when they couldn't make a dodecahedron.
SCORE POINT 0: The player once sold weaponized hunta virus to an undercover agent dressed as Kim Il Jong.


SCORE POINT 3: "For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, /This day shall gentle his condition; /And gentlemen in England now-a-bed /Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here, /And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks /That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day!"
SCORE POINT 2: R. Lee Ermey sometimes calls him for advice about motivation.
SCORE POINT 1: The player covers his locker with those office supply store "Excellence" posters, which inspired many a college graduate to the heights of lower-middle management.
SCORE POINT 0: Upon meeting the player, teammates become so unmotivated that they enter a vegetative state.


SCORE POINT 3: The player had a USB port inserted in the base of his neck so he can jack game film directly into his cerebral cortex, Matrix-style.
SCORE POINT 2: The player converted his recreation center into a home gym and his home gym into some kind of super gym. He also sleeps in an oxygenated chamber with a built-in elliptical runner for extra somno-cardio workouts.
SCORE POINT 1: The player has some lazy habits, like repackaging leftover Deadspin gags and using them as a Football Outsiders column.
SCORE POINT 0: Hey, he got a Retro-Fitness membership the day after Thanksgiving and he's going to start using it soon. Cut him some slack.


SCORE POINT 3: The player once completed 36 holes of pitch 'n' putt eight hours after a kidney transplant because he didn't want to give Jimmy Kimmel the satisfaction of beating him.
SCORE POINT 2: The player once played the second half of a game with a ruptured spleen.
SCORE POINT 1: The player was accused of having a soft childhood by Steve Young and of worrying too much about his press clipping by Jon Gruden. (To avoid confusion, Chris Simms gets a 1.5 in this metric).
SCORE POINT 0: The player once missed two games for "emotional exhaustion" after Nate found out about Chuck and Blair's relationship on Gossip Girl.

A worthy addition to the FO arsenal of metrics, don't you think? Ryan might certainly rate a 10 or 11 on this list, but I doubt he earns a perfect 12, and there's no way he's off the charts. Try the Intangibles Chart on your favorite player, world leader, or loved one. It's easy, fun, and deadly accurate.

As for "off-the-chart intangibles," feel free to use it in casual conversation until it cools off sometime in 2010. It's even easy to text message. If a friend writes Y U LIKE GRCIA?, you can just type back: OTCI.

The Draft in Quotes: 1983 Edition

It was a simpler time: 25 years ago, the day of the most important draft in NFL history. In 1983, the draft was a marathon that started on Tuesday morning and lasted until 2 a.m. on Wednesday. The league didn't dare break for sleep, because the USFL would gobble up all the undrafted talent in the interim. John Elway was the best player in the draft, and the Colts had the first pick, but Elway refused to play for a down-and-out franchise with a drunken owner. In the days leading up to the draft, teams swapped picks wildly to move up and take one of the elite prospects. The first round was a breakfast roll call of players who were superstars before they turned pro: Elway, Eric Dickerson, Curt Warner, Billy Ray Smith.

If you're bored with this year's post-draft rhetoric, here's the cure. Let's harken back to 1983 with a special edition of the Week in Quotes. All of the quotes below were taken from the days after the 1983 draft except for a few by Dickerson.

Baltimore standoff

"They knew I had a royal flush, and they still called me on it."

-- John Elway, who had an offer on the table from the New York Yankees

"We listened to trade talks right up to the last minute. We never got the compensation we thought the pick deserved."

-- Ernie Accorsi, Colts GM

"I don't want to be a jerk, but I told Mr. Kush 'You've been offered three ones and a quarterback, and now you have nothing.' And then I hung up."

-- Elway. The Raiders reportedly offered 1983, 1984, and 1985 first-round picks plus Marc Wilson for the first pick. In one rumor, Marcus Allen was on the table

"Three times we told [Colts coach Frank] Kush that John wouldn't play with the Colts, and the last time was this morning after he was drafted. They don't seem to understand English."

-- Jack Elway, John's father

"Everybody says this kid was a franchise player and, if he is, then you'd better be prepared to give a franchise for him. Don't try to be cute. If this kid is the best since Joe Namath, you have to give up a whole lot. You need a rare deal. Five No. 1 choices is a rare deal. If it was any other position in the draft, or any other player, no. But five No. 1s is not unrealistic for a John Elway. There were some people who made insulting deals to them. If you're playing hardball, don't step up to the plate with a softball bat. People were trying to take advantage of the situation."

-- Mike Hickey, Jets executive

"The lesson to be learned is that you take the best value you can get for your team and not worry about it."

-- Patriots exec Dick Steinberg

"John, please Shut Up. Play baseball, play football, play the fool. Just pick one, then go out and prove you're worth these kinds of headlines."

-- Randy Galloway, Dallas Morning News

Comrades With Arms

"I really didn't expect to last that long, but I'm happy now that I was, because I'm with a quality football team,"

-- Dan Marino, who slipped to the 27th pick in the draft

"We went into the draft trying to help the run defense but felt if one of the top five quarterbacks was still available, we'd consider him. Well we 'considered' him."

-- Don Shula

"There's always apprehension with anything new you do, but I'm not nervous. It's a good feeling. I'm elated over the opportunity to come to Miami and be part of a great city and a great team with a great tradition."

-- Marino

"Four years ago we [Wake Forest] needed Blackledge more than we need him now. That team was in much worse straits than the Kansas City Chiefs, coming off back-to-back 1-10 seasons. And it was a two-way street back then. They have to want you as much as you want them. Here, you can want a guy and only hope that he's excited about playing with you. I think Todd is."

-- Jon Mackovic, Chiefs coach, on Penn State star Todd Blackledge

"Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge is a little ticked off at the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs made Blackledge their first-round draft pick Tuesday and have yet to call and congratulate him. Todd's agent, Ed Keating, sent word to Carl Peterson yesterday that he'll be in touch"

-- The Philadelphia Daily News. Peterson worked for the USFL Stars in those days, not the Chiefs

"Right now, I'm just leaving my options open. The NFL is a great thing; I've grown up thinking about it. But my mind is open. I would like to play for Buffalo, but if they give me no other alternative, I don't think of the USFL as second to anything."

-- Jim Kelly, two days after the draft. The Chicago Blitz sent running back Mark Rush, Kelly's college roommate, to talk him into playing in the USFL

"OK, who ever heard of Cal-Davis QB Ken O'Brien?"

-- Gary Myers, Dallas Morning News

"O'Brien played at Cal-Davis. What is that, a rock band?

-- Letter to the Ohio Chronicle Telegram

"When the Jets called me this morning, I had just woken up and I was sort of in a state of shock. I'm really thrilled to be going to a contender. It's the best situation that could have happened to me."

-- O'Brien, who was drafted 24th overall, three slots ahead of Marino

The First-Round Reach

"He does stuff that is physically impossible. He'll turn people completely around and then cut across the grain and just flat outrun folks. When he takes the field, people hold their breath, because they know something exciting is going to happen."

-- Fred Bleil, defensive coordinator of Texas A&I, on Darrell Green

"I want to start and go to the Super Bowl. I want to be a starter and a great player, not just a mediocre one."

-- Green

"For a Super Bowl winner, 'Skins need help all over. It doesn't look like they got it. Darrell Green, the No. 1 from Texas A&I, is an excellent returner ... but only 5-8, which might be too small for the corner. Grade: D-Plus."

-- Gary Myers, Dallas Morning News. The Redskins also drafted Charles Mann that year

"You really stole one with Green. You can ship Nelms out tomorrow"

-- Oilers coach Bum Philips to Redskins exec Bobby Beatheard. Return man Mike Nelms soon demanded a trade

The hop-scotch kid

"Denver wanted too much. If we accepted the deal they wanted it would have been good for Denver and not too good for us. There is a limit of how many draft choices you can give up."

-- Tom Landry. The Cowboys tried to move up to the fourth pick so they could take linebacker Billy Ray Smith. They offered the Broncos Butch Johnson, Glenn Carano, and Jay Saldi

"The word is that when you trade with Dallas, you get screwed. And it's a reputation that the Cowboys seem to think they have to live up to."

-- Anonymous source quoted by Randy Galloway

"This pick is not a gamble. We feel very good about picking Jeffcoat."

-- Landry on top pick Jim Jeffcoat, whose career was far longer than Smith's

"I've always followed the Cowboys. I feel like I can give Dallas a good pass rush -- that's my strength"

-- Jeffcoat

"He enjoys playing the flute when he's not sleeping or fishing. He gets a kick out of watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. His favorite home-cooked dish is pig's knuckles and his favorite pastime, he says, is playing that most All-America of games and the preference of football players the continent over, hop-scotch."

-- Jim Lassiter, Daily Oklahoman, reading from Jeffcoat's press questionnaire

Necks on the Limb

"I just hope Houston makes a deal. I just hope I don't end up in Houston or Baltimore."

-- Eric Dickerson

"Hollywood. You might see me in a movie or two"

-- Dickerson, after the Rams traded with the Oilers to move up in the draft

"There's not much you can say when a team sticks its neck out on a limb"

-- Curt Warner after the Seahawks traded second- and third-round picks to move up to take him

Leagues at War

"To be honest, we didn't even consider it. It was an honest mistake. We obviously weren't aware Tom had signed with the Blitz when we drafted him."

-- Bears GM Jim Finks after learning that fourth-round pick Tom Thayer had already signed with the USFL

"I'm happier than hell. I don't care what the NFL thinks about what I did. They've done everything in their power to destroy our league. If I could find another player like Tom Thayer, I'd do the same thing all over again."

-- Blitz general manager George Allen

"I think the NFL is starting to get it through its head that it's not the only game in town anymore."

-- Philadelphia Stars lineman Irv Eatman

"They're gambling. They have been all year. They gambled on this league not being able to pull in big players and lost. And I think they're going to lose on this gamble, too."

-- Eatman

Some things never change

"It is a tribute to the NFL's superb publicity machine and the public's football mania that the annual offseason beef auction called the college draft commands headlines for weeks and a full day's live coverage (8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a review at 10:30 no less) on ESPN ... I watched ESPN for the first two rounds, all six hours plus, until my eyes glazed over and my ears rang. Anyone who stayed the course should be given a rubber football and locked up. In my lifetime in front of the tube Tuesday, I learned the 40-yard-dash time of everyone in the Western Hemisphere."

-- Rob Rubin, Miami Herald

I-95 is the Road You're On, Not the Speed Limit Sign

Something's crabby in Baltimore. First, the Ravens hired former Eagles special teams coordinator John Harbaugh as head coach. Then, they drafted South Jersey native Joe Flacco. After Flacco, they selected Ray Rice from Rutgers. Connect the dots, and you can only reach one conclusion: The Ravens are trying to entice disgruntled New Jersey-area Eagles fans to switch loyalties and root for the Ravens.

Crazy, you say? Probably. But to find out, I called in an expert on Ravens fan relations. Tony Lombardi is the founder of ProFootball24X7.com and a radio personality at ESPN Radio 1300 AM in Baltimore. He agreed, reluctantly, to humor me in this week's Five Questions segment.

1) What do you think of my theory? Am I a crank, a crackpot, a nutcase, or a misunderstood genius?

TL: Actually I think you are nothing more than a cranky-but-misunderstood nutcase. But I really think you are on to something. Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti is pinned in geographically in Baltimore and would love nothing more than to lure neighboring fans from the north (Eagles), south (Redskins) and west (Steelers) and turn them into fans who bleed purple. Clearly the New Jersey Eagles' fan base is far more vulnerable than that of the Redskins and Steelers.

And there's more to support your conspiracy theory. I've heard from a reliable source that the Ravens are close to bringing in Harold Carmichael to help develop a couple of their taller receivers with the idea of improving red zone efficiency. Moreover, Sal Paolantonio also seems to be involved, spending more and more time at Ravens' headquarters. And don't forget about Wilbert Montgomery, who replaced Tony Nathan as the Ravens running backs coach.

2) How are you preparing your Web site for the influx of disgruntled Eagles fans?

TL: We will be offering one-of-a-kind Ravens practice jerseys with the names Flacco and Rice. Why are they one of a kind? Depending upon how light hits them (sunlight or stadium lighting) the jerseys morph from Ravens' purple to Eagles' green. Our analysts have concluded that these unique jerseys will help ease the transition for fans formerly known as diehard Eagles fans.

We will also be hosting an Eagles' jersey barbecue prior to the Eagles-Ravens game on November 23. All Eagles fans who burn their Eagles jerseys in tailgate Lot H at M&T Bank Stadium will receive a fresh turkey that was born, bred, and raised in Maryland. Those who burn Terrell Owens jerseys will also receive an added bonus: a can of cranberry sauce and an authentic signed photo of John Harbaugh and Brian Dawkins arm-in-arm.

3) I am jumping on the Ravens bandwagon. All I own that's purple is an old Elvis Grbac jersey. Should I go shopping, and for what?

You should definitely get your credit card ready. Ravens fans are known to get their purple warpaint out and complement that with Ravens camouflage pants, ProFootball24x7 Ravens tattoos, high top purple Converse sneakers, etc., etc. Bottom line: Wearing purple has been known to not only make fans genuinely happier, it has been medically proven to offset the side affects of excessive alcohol consumption and extend healthier and more vibrant living. So yes, go get your shopping shoes on!

4) What's the fan-on-the street take on the QB situation right now?

TL: Prior to the arrival of Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterbacks never wore red during practice. A high ranking Ravens front office exec once told me the reason: "All of our quarterbacks stink so we really don't care if they get hurt."

That has changed. Flacco is now wearing a very attractive red jersey adorned with his name and initials (on sleeve) along with his custom-embroidered signature just above the bottom front hem. Meanwhile Kyle Boller and Troy Smith wear purple jerseys that feature a bullseye around their numbers on both the front and back. That should tell you all you need to know.

5) Crab cakes or cheesesteaks, and why? You can only choose one.

TL: Crab cakes baby! Can you eat a cheesesteak without bread? Can you make dip from a cheesesteak? Can you top a Grade A filet mignon with a cheese steak? How about a fresh piece of grilled Florida Grouper?

Look, if something needs loads of onions, peppers and Cheez Whiz to be edible, then fuggedaboutit. However, I will admit that after a long evening of libations, most under the influence will choose a cheese steak. So the moral of this answer is: Crabcakes for the lucid, cheesesteaks for those in altered states of mind."

I am pretty sure Tony was kidding for most of this. And you can make a dip out of cheesesteaks. But while we are on the subject of Ravens quarterbacks …

The All-Time McNair

Steve McNair was a very good quarterback, maybe a great one. When he retired, sportswriters tried to put his career into context, but Brett Favre's recent retirement threw context all out of whack. The Sporting News tried to summarize McNair's career neatly with a statistical factoid: The only three quarterbacks to throw for 30,000 yards and rush for 3,500 yards in NFL history were McNair, Steve Young, and Fran Tarkenton.

Do you see a fishy figure in there? Where did "3,500" come from? Is that some new standard of excellence? Bill James used to joke about this brand of data mining in the old Baseball Abstract. Media guides are great at finding the only player in NFL history with 6,000 rushing, 2,500 receiving, 1,500 punt return, and 3,750 kick return yards. The 3,500 was so suspicious that I hit Pro Football Reference looking for players who were purposely omitted by using 3,500 instead of a rounder number like 3,000.

I was shocked to discover dropping the rushing requirement to 3,000 yards only added one player: John Elway. If the Sporting News editor replaced the suspicious 3,500 with a less fishy number, the McNair comparison list gets even stronger! The only player threatening to join the list anytime soon is Donovan McNabb, who is probably two years away with 25,404 passing yards and 2,962 rushing yards. I though the Sporting News list was custom-jiggled to exclude Mark Brunell, whose presence would spoil the McNair-among-greats impact the editors were looking for. But Brunell only rushed for 2,433 yards.

The 30,000-passing yard benchmark is somewhat convenient; Randall Cunningham retired with 29,979 yards, and his inclusion on a list of all-time greats would be controversial. Passing for 30,000 yards is impressive, but many not-so-greats of recent history have done it: Brunell, Steve DeBerg, Jim Everett, Kerry Collins. Rushing for 3,500 yards is much more of a rare feat, and McNair's total reminds us that he was a great runner early in his career.

As it turns out, the Sporting News factoid wasn't a media guide contraption. McNair's accomplishments really were unique. I just wish they used the 3,000-yard rushing benchmark and included Elway in the comparison. McNair didn't scramble acrobatically like Tarkenton and Young. He ran like Elway: straight ahead, breaking tackles, only when there were no other options. McNair's clearly the fourth-best quarterback on that list, but it is a heck of a list to be the fourth best quarterback on.

In the next Walkthrough: Can the move to Toronto save the Bills? A leading economist explains how the move can save both the team and the region.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 09 May 2008

62 comments, Last at 14 May 2008, 1:08pm by Max


by Dean (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 3:49pm

As great as the quotes are, it's just not the same without Emmitt getting debacled.

by RoyFlip (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:16pm

For all the math teachers who told us we would be using math later in life: "then refused to tip them when they couldn’t make a dodecahedron." Hot coffee came out my nose.....very good mathword use.

by MJK (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:35pm

Nice Henry V reference. I thought you were a Math teacher, not an English teacher...

Regarding McNair, I never liked total numbers lists. It's far more insightful, to me, to list average numbers per year over a minimum of an N year period, and then give bonus credit if a player had a really long career. That way you both filter out one- or two-year wonders, and mediocre guys that played forever (Vinny Tesdaverde, anyone?)

by Kiril Savino (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:44pm

Um... it's either Kim Jung Il, or Kim Il Sung, but definitely not Kim Il Jung.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:45pm




#1 so true
#2 try to convince my 7 year-old that what I just drew was a tetrahedron and not a pyramid, as his teacher said it was. I had to resort to making foamcore models. (Perhaps too anal for breakfast table banter before school, but they might as well learn right the first time.)

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:46pm

#4 also it'a hanta virus with an "a" but I'll let it slide. I think your first iteration was correct, BTW.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 4:59pm

and it's "it's" with an "s" and not the "a" I included above. D'oh!

by gmc (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:00pm

Actually, Jong Il. With an 'o'. But who's counting. Everybody knows which poofy haired nutball he was talking about impersonating.

McNair is hobbled by the fact that he was never actually a really great passer, but played on good teams and was effective at winning football games. Closest comparables I can think of: Ben Roethlisberger and Daunte Culpepper. Of course, Culpepper was briefly a LOT better at everything than McNair, but McNair kept it up longer.

by Russ (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:12pm

Awesome article from the dodecahedron down to the Henry V right down to showing me once again when my irrational hatred for John Elway started. I don't care what you say, the guy was a punk then and is a punk now.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:20pm

To be fair to Steve Young he definitely broke his fair share of tackles. His legendary TD run against Minnesota couldn't have happened otherwise as he broke at least half a dozen tackles on that run alone.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:24pm


I would argue that McNair was always better than Culpepper but that Culpepper had both Carter and Moss to throw to. The best McNair ever had was Mason, who was an excellent player but isn't close to Moss' class.

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:28pm

This diehard Eagles fan will NEVER switch to the Ravens! NEVER!

Of course, anyone from South Jersey is automatically suspicious to those of us on the other side of the Delaware. ;-)

by Tom D (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 6:54pm

I always thought "once more in the breach, dear friends" was the more inspirational speech, but it's a little long to put in this article.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 7:02pm


Yeah, but when you need some fun in the sun, where do you go? To the land of scrapple, or to the land where you are not allowed to pump your own gas? (having lived the first 20 years of my life there and having just returned for a funeral last weekend, that still mystifies me)

by Gerry (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 7:07pm

But Harris might-- the purple is pleasingly reminiscent of certain types of jams and jellies.

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 7:12pm

Mr. Tanier, I do believe I enjoy your writing more than ever. The highlights from this one are too many to list, but I especially enjoyed the Simms paradox.

Oh, and Bobman -- right on, brother! Teach them well!

by Adam (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 9:07pm

Remember when Steve McNair's hometown got obliterated by Katrina, but it was overshadowed in the media by Brett Favre's childhood home getting knocked over? McNair just can't win.

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 9:38pm

Re 14 - okay, you have a point. I went on vacation last summer to OC, NJ. PA doesn't have any good beaches, so we're forced to cross the river to get to either NJ or DE, but keep in mind it's under protest. I don't mind pumping my own gas, but this is one Philly girl who doesn't eat scrapple (urgh!).

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 9:42pm

Oh, and my 7-year old was asking questions about the theory of evolution at the breakfast table yesterday. That's a bit heavy for me until I've had my first caffeine hit of the day.

by Harris (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 11:04pm

Hmm, Elway and Tarkenton are Hall of Famers. McNair and McNabb are probably not. What could be the difference between these players? What do Elway and Tarkenton share that McNair and McNabb don't? Hmmm. Nope, can't think of nuthin.

#15 I'll be cold and dead before I root for the Ravens (which kills me not to use all the Poe I learned getting an English degree) but considering this team's track record at developing WRs I won't cry too much if Carmichael heads south.

And scrapple is just terrifying.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 05/09/2008 - 11:12pm

I was hoping you'd note what the Colts eventually got in trade for Elway. I looked on wikipedia, and here's what they say:

"Additionally, Elway had publicly stated that he refused to join the Colts organization, feeling the team could not allow him to be successful. If they did not trade him he said he was going to play baseball. Eventually, Colts owner Robert Irsay gave in. The Colts traded him to the Denver Broncos for QB Mark Herrmann, rights to OL Chris Hinton and a first-round pick (OG Ron Solt) in the 1983 NFL Draft on May 2, 1983."

by Tom D (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 6:19am

Re 20:

They have about 75 more games started than McNair does. Depending on how the rest of McNabb's career goes, he could definitely be in the hall.

by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 7:29am

The Intangibles could use some work. No "Swagger" measurement? All the OTCI legends have swagger!

"TL: Prior to the arrival of Joe Flacco, Ravens quarterbacks never wore red during practice. A high ranking Ravens front office exec once told me the reason: “All of our quarterbacks stink so we really don’t care if they get hurt.”"

That is a magnificent, laugh-out-loud quote. Great column.

by James G (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 7:51am

21 - Chris Hinton, who became a Pro Bowl tackle and then got traded, along with Andre Rison, for Jeff George in 1990.

by James (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 9:00am

20: Elway and Tarkenton aren't kilt-wearing, haggis-eating, bagpipe-playing Scots?

by Dales (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 10:12am

"What do Elway and Tarkenton share that McNair and McNabb don’t?"


by masocc (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 11:01am

“What do Elway and Tarkenton share that McNair and McNabb don’t?”

Small weimaraners?

by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 1:22pm

#22, 26 That McNair has put up comparable stats as Elway and Tarkenton in about five fewer seasons is an argument in his favor.

#27 I will thank you, sir or madam, to take such aspersions elsewhere. We here at Football Outsiders would never discuss the size of a man's dog.

by TomC (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 1:37pm

The Chart: Please make it stop, my stomach hurts!

(du cent naudek tri,
du cent okdek tri,
du cent okdek unu, ...)

by The Hypno-Toad (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 2:02pm

20 - well... For the sake of what brevity I can muster on this, I'm just going to deal with McNair for now, as McNabb is still an active player, and if he can be relatively healthy for the rest of his career and keep up a comparable level of production, he'll almost certainly be in the hall.
Steve McNair:
Passing yards: 31304
Passing TDs: 174
Interceptions: 119
Comp %: 60
Wins (I couldn't find this number anywhere, so if my adding is off by a little, I apologize): 89
Rush Yards: 3590
Rushing TD's: 37
Super Bowl Appearances/Wins: 1/0

PaYd: 33098
PaTD: 342
Comp%: 56
INT: 266
Wins: 125
RuYd: 3674
RuTD: 32
Super Bowls: 3/0

John Elway
PaYd: 51456
PaTD: 300
Comp %: 56.9
INT: 226
Wins: 148
RuYd: 3407
RuTD: 33
Super Bowl: 5/2
(By and large, these stats, other than McNair's total wins, are from wikipedia)
So let's look at this... McNair has very, very good numbers. He played fewer years than either Tark or Elway, which speaks well of his rate of production. And he definitely made the teams around him better. And he's much more accurate than either Elway or Tark and had far fewer INTs. But Tark played in a completely different era, when passing numbers were generally much lower than they have been the last 20 years or so, and his number are overall much, much better than McNair's, paricularly the passing TD's. And Elway's stats simply blow McNair's away. Add those items to the fact that McNair only made it to one Super Bowl, which the Titans lost (not his fault, and in heartbreaking fashion, but still, that factors with hall voters). Tarkenton also never won a Super Bowl, but he did go to three, and then there's Elway, who played in 5 Super Bowls and won two of them. All of this adds up to an excellent career which is probably not quite worthy of the Hall of Fame. Or maybe your sneering implication that if he doesn't make the Hall it's simply because the Hall is inherently racist is right. Yeah, that's probably it.

by The Hypno-Toad (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 2:13pm

Sorry, I walked away in the middle of that post and got confused, I didn't mean to say that Tark's stats were much, much better than McNair's. I meant to say just that they were better (particularly TD's and other than INTs)
In case you're curious:
McNair's stats prorated to an 18 year career, like Tark's (no adjustment for declining skills, just a straight multiplication by 1.38)
PaYd: 43200
PaTd: 240
INT: 164
Wins: 122
RuYd: 4952
RuTD: 51
Here's a 16 year career like Elway (1.23 multiplier)
PaYd: 38503
INT: 146
Wins: 110
RuTD: 46

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 3:25pm

PA doesn’t have any good beaches

There's another thing Jersey and PA have in common.


by Independent George (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 4:42pm

#25 - Bloody Scots - they've ruined Scotland.

by Mark (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 5:10pm

Well, to be fair, Tarkenton retired as the league leader in touchdowns and yards, and went to three Super Bowls, I believe. Elway has a couple Super Bowl wins. McNabb and McNair both went to one Super Bowl. There's enough quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame as it is. McNabb and McNair belong in the Hall of Very Good.

by James, London (not verified) :: Sat, 05/10/2008 - 8:07pm


The bloody Scots are ruining England. Bastards.

by masocc (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 2:27am

Simply put, if you don't put Randall Cunningham into the HOF, there is NO way you can even think about putting in McNair. And probably not McNabb.

Personally, if RC doesn't get in, I will consider it one of the biggest HOF snubs ever. If anyone cares, I can expound. But then, I think Art Monk, Derrick Thomas, Damon Allen (when eligible), and Stanley Morgan should all be in too (though I honestly can't make much of a case for Morgan).

by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 2:58am

Some things don't change. Randy Galloway is still a dolt and still has a vendetta against Dallas.

by Jesse (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 6:26am

*leaves lurker mode*
I had to comment on the Croce quote: Thank you for letting me know I'm not his only surviving fan.
*returns to lurking*

by john (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 8:18am

Oh, I don't know. I think the "Once more" bit is short enough to make the point:

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more;/
Or close the wall up with our English dead!"

Makes me want to line up at right tackle on 4th and goal from the one yard line. Though I'd want longbowmen behind me when I did it.

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 8:48am

Re 36 - While I love RC and always enjoyed watching him play (he was like a human Gumby!), I think you'd have to admit that McNabb is technically the better QB, with better stats. He's definitely been the beneficiary of better coaching, at the very least. I don't think anyone would seriously consider RC (or McNabb, for that matter) for the HOF because of the lack of a Super Bowl ring.

Who knows, maybe McNabb will finally lead the Eagles to a SB victory this year while he looks over his shoulder at Kevin Kolb.

by Travis (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 9:11am

Re: 30

Tarkenton had 47,003 career passing yards, not 33,098 (his Vikings total).

by The Hypno-Toad (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 12:06pm

41 - Thanks. I knew my inattention to detail (and the murderous hangover I was working with yesterday) would lead me to make a fool out of myself by making that post, somehow. I'm just hopeful that's the only glaring error I made. In any case, hooray, the argument that McNair was very good but not as good as Elway or Takenton is now stronger.

by The Hypno-Toad (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 5:18pm

I had no idea that replacing "flat-out" with simply "flat" was a tradition that stretched all the way back to 83. I thought that was a fairly recent development, like being out with a body part. Thank you, Fred Bliel, for showing me the error of my thinking.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 6:50pm

Hey, Regarding NJ beaches, Long Beach Island dredged in about a million CY of sand from offshore last year to fortify the beaches. They are no longer as fine as off-white sugar, and there's the random unexploded WW I ordinance that crops up thanks to the process every now and then since, but the beaches are still pretty glorious and three times the size they were in my childhood. (but you still need badges)

And for the record, it's the only place I ever saw scrapple on a menu, evidence of the influence of the PA crowd heading east. I was there last weekend--nothing like the beach in the off-season, when the lights blink yellow instead of act like normal stoplights. Of course, living in Seattle, it's no longer a weekend hop for me. Sometimes I long for the warm bathub of Barnegat Bay. Wait a minute, was this conversation about football?

Okay, Randall Cunningham was a freakin'deity, but I don't know if he ever produced enough to make the HOF. Few things were more impressive to me than his MNF TD throw after Cark Banks (I think) nearly leveled him at the 10 YL. RC bounced back, kept his feet, and threw a TD dart when everyone thought he was finished. Who here (who is old enough to have seen it in 89 or 90) does not remember that vividly? I'm not even an Eagle fan yet it is etched in my mental dictionary next to the word greatness.

by B (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 8:55pm

Where does "everybody says they have to work a lot harder when I'm around" go on the leadership scale. I figure it's at least a 3, maybe off the charts.

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 10:33pm

Re 44 - I am old enough to remember that. I was in college at the time in Pittsburgh and I just remember being blown away. Like I said, the human Gumby!

by John (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 11:31pm

The chart is fatally flawed because a perfect score is a mere 12. If you say to someone, "Tom Brady has off the charts intangibles," and they challenge you to prove it, saying "Well, he's a 14!"...

Isn't exactly confidence inspiring. 137 sounds a lot more impressive than 14.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Sun, 05/11/2008 - 11:55pm

#47 - You see, other charts, they go up to nine, and when they want to give it a little more, what can they do? Nothing! But these charts go up to twelve - and that's three higher!

Or something.

by starzero (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 8:40am

so, basically, for a colts fan the '83 draft was a nightmare. sure, i remember thrilling to the names hinton and solt (i remember them making plays, which is more than most colts did at the time). we traded away elway, and later traded one of the guys we got for jeff "crybaby" george! i'm surprised that sort of childhood trauma didn't turn me off to football for life.

by Nigel (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 9:39am

The intangibles chart may go up to 12, but Robo-Punter hasn't spontaneously combusted or choked on his own oil.

by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 10:02am

I loved the article. When I read the intangibles it made me think of Tim Tebow. As a Gator fan I do appreciate him and think "Timmy" is a good guy who has kept his head on straight. He does missionary work during the off-season. I suspect, like the Mannings, he will stay for his senior year, even if he might be a first round draft pick after his junior year (Peyton Manning was predicted to be the first pick either year, but he wanted to stay for the college experience and worked on his Master's).

That being said, I think he has prototypical numbers (size, strength, history, character, etc.), but he has not worked in a prototypical system. Also, he may take a beating before then and certainly will if he continues to play like he has. His love on contact and physical style of play will earn his fans' loyalty, but is also likely to get him hurt. Personally, I think he would do well to sit on the bench for at least a year (after his Senior year), but I think that for pretty much every QB.

I agree that McNair probably was not what I call the "greats", but he was very, very good and provided excitement and opportunity his team might not have otherwise had. Why not include John Elway in that group? If you are going to pick stats, include Elway and then note how McNair had more rushing yards more than Elway in his career.

by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 10:31am

How does the change from 14 to 16 games shift things?

Wouldn't that increase the importance of the Tarkenton numbers and minimize McNair's?

by MJK (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 11:46am

Our charts go up to 11...

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 1:13pm

"Can you eat a cheesesteak without bread?" Yes, I call it a meat salad, and use barbecue sauce as the dressing.
"Can you make dip from a cheesesteak?" Oh. God. Yes.
"Can you top a Grade A filet mignon with a cheese steak?" Why would I top a beautiful steak with anything? The better question: Can you make a crab cake FROM Grade A steak?
"How about a fresh piece of grilled Florida Grouper?" What do Jets fans have to do with anything?

by Biebs (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 2:05pm

As a Jets fan, the O'Brien thing bothers me to no end. I did some Lexis-Nexis research. Not a single article mentioning him in an NFL context before the draft. The only mock I found had Marino going 24th to the Jets. So I'm sure the consensus was that the Jets were going after a QB.

O'Brien was hurt in the Div II Semifinals, which made have put him under the radar. But he was actually the 8th QB taken by a team in the January USFL draft in the 6th round (pick #64).

One thing I also found amazing about the draft was that after Dan Marino at 27th, no QB was taken until the 5th round. While O'Brien will always be compared to Marino, he wasn't a bad QB, he was certainly better than Blackledge or Eason; in fact O'Brien's numbers probably stand up pretty well to other QBs draft in the 2nd half of the 1st round.

What I want to know, does anyone know the story of why the Jets drafted O'Brien in the 1st round? Seems that no other team was looking at him (though it's tough to say, because I can't find any mock drafts beyond 1 round) and no one had heard of him before he was drafted.
Maybe it was the huge gap of talent between the top 6 and the rest of the QBs in the draft?

by daddymag (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 2:14pm

"OTCI". My work buddies and I have had a joke about this for years. Got a co-worker who's totally inept, does nothing to improve the company's bottom line, yet somehow holds onto his job for seemingly no good reason? "He's good in the room."

by Beef on Weck (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 2:47pm

I, for one, cannot wait for next week's article. For the last two months, I have to tried to convince folks that "regionalization" actually is a viable method to permanently keep the Bills in Buffalo for a long time. The deal the team announced with Rogers in Toronto (8 games (3 PS)) for $75M over the next five years is a gigantically good deal, considering the Bills "only" generate about $3.5M per home game in Buffalo. Buffalo fans are a dynamic sticky lot - they have supported the team through thick and thin (very thin, lately, except for 2004) and "subsidization" from the great people of the city of Toronto makes some great sense for both current and future ownership. The rub with keeping the team in Buffalo is important - television ratings don't count from Canada but DO count from the US...so keeping the 65% of the regions 1.4M folks tuned in is still important. I see a future solution as having 2-3 games a year in Toronto. This will make it a regional team, lower the overall supply of tickets available for Buffalo fans (allowing you to increase prices for season ticket holders and getting more revenue/game in Buffalo) AND keeping the team in the area which has shown it will support it better than in, say, LA.

Make it happen, Mike!

by Nigel Tufnel (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 3:09pm

53 - My amp goes to eleven.

by zenbitz (not verified) :: Mon, 05/12/2008 - 4:58pm

When I was in 7th grade, I wrote a play about Elway and the Colts. I changed the names to protect the guilty.

It was terrible.

by Max (not verified) :: Tue, 05/13/2008 - 10:17am

What are the odds raiderjoe gets a massive stroke after reading that the raiders almost got Elway for three consecutive #1s?

by MilkmanDanimal (not verified) :: Tue, 05/13/2008 - 2:08pm

no way raiders didnt need elway look at those pics 83 Don Mosebar great tackle should be in hof 84 no need for a pcik team great enough already 85 legendary jesse hester better that rice you heard it go raiders

by Max (not verified) :: Wed, 05/14/2008 - 1:08pm

I was actually going to post the question "are all raiders fans drunks"? Then I realized its a pre-requisite! Still, the raider fan vitriol is much worse on the Yahoo! message boards. Good ole raiderjoe has brought us endless hours of merriment.