Quick Reads
The best and worst players of the week according to Football Outsiders stats.

Week 15 Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

Jerome Harrison, take a bow. For one week, you managed to overshadow every other NFL player, even the future Hall of Fame quarterback that threw for 500 yards.

How can an anonymous halfback run for 286 yards and three touchdowns? The idea just doesn't apply to other single-game records in sports. No spot starter strikes out 18 guys in a game. Reserve shooting guards don't go off for 83 points.

The answer is that Jerome Harrison simply shouldn't be an anonymous halfback. The fact that he was one until Sunday owes much more to the myopia that envelops football organizations than the weaknesses in his game.

A fifth-round pick out of Washington State in the 2006 NFL Draft, Harrison was selected by the Browns as a potential change-of-pace back to then-starter Reuben Droughns, who would be replaced in 2007 by the similar stylings of Jamal Lewis.

With Lewis came offensive linemen Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach, and while the former Ravens star accrued what baseball fans might call "counting numbers" by carrying the ball over and over again, it's hard to find a back that's done more with less than Harrison. His 57 carries over those two years yielded 388 rushing yards, nearly 6.8 yards per carry. While one big run can adulterate those numbers, a rushing DVOA of 40.4% in 2007 and 52.7% in 2008 shows that he was producing on a per-carry basis. Lewis ran the ball far more frequently, but Harrison was so effective on his 57 touches that he had 160 DYAR, more than half of Lewis' 284 DYAR over 630 touches. His fantastic numbers in limited time earned him the sixth spot on Football Outsiders' Top 25 Prospects list for both 2008 and 2009.

The easy knock on a player like Harrison is that he's too small (5-foot-9, 205 pounds) to carry the full-time workload for an NFL team, and that teams need a back like Lewis to carry the heavy load while Harrison serves as a change of pace. That logic doesn't hold up to the light of day; fellow 5-foot-9 backs include Warrick Dunn (180 pounds), Frank Gore (215), Priest Holmes (213), Steve Slaton (197), and yes, even Emmitt Smith (210). Instead of giving Harrison a chance to play his way out of a job, the Romeo Crennel-era Browns chose to hand the ball off to the plodding Lewis for his ability to "push the pile". Lewis was so successful at doing so that the Browns ranked 15th and then 27th in power situations (runs with two yards or less to go on third or fourth down and/or within two yards of the end zone), and he had all of two carries for 30 yards or more during his Browns career.

Even the arrival of new head coach Eric Mangini didn't offer Harrison a chance to pick up consistent playing time. With Lewis injured in September -- probably because he wasn't big enough to carry the load -- Harrison came in and ran for 173 yards on 43 carries against the Ravens and the Bengals, while chipping in with ten catches for 64 yards. Lewis returned a week later, consigning Harrison to the bench once more. He ran for 117 yards, but it took him 31 carries and came against one of the league's worst run defenses, the Bills. Cleveland scored six points.

When Lewis went on IR after Week 12, Harrison got another chance, this time against the Chargers. He only ran for 35 yards on 10 carries, but caught seven passes for 62 yards, scoring twice. A week later, he got a total of nine touches against the Steelers, while rookie Chris Jennings got 20 carries. That led into Sunday, and Harrison's coming-out party.

The announcers gushed on Sunday about Harrison's rare combination of speed and size, how he still looked fresh in the fourth quarter after 30 carries. Some of that is context, of course; Harrison was playing the Chiefs. Then again, 15 other running backs start games against the Chiefs each year, and they don't run for 286 yards.

Harrison's the same back he always was, just given an opportunity to carry the ball more than ever before with the right matchup in front of him. Even if he doesn't end up being a full-time back at this level because of his pass blocking or because there's something about his size that doesn't affect those other starting-caliber halfbacks, it's pretty clear he deserved something better than one touch for every 11 that Jamal Lewis got over 2007-08. He deserved a bigger share of the pie and wasn't given any because of his size.

It's not strictly a running back thing, either -- both the league's top quarterback (Drew Brees) and most active wideout (Wes Welker) are far smaller than the prototypical player at their position. Bad organizations, like the Browns, find what's wrong with their players and use that as a reason to avoid giving them an opportunity. Good organizations look for a player's strengths and find a way to use them effectively. Based on what Harrison did against the Chiefs on Sunday, it's hard to make any argument against placing the Browns in the former category.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
29/46
503
3
0
287
287
-1
Roethlisberger's brilliant day came against DVOA's previously second-ranked pass defense, Green Bay. The Packers helped by taking awful angles to receivers after the catch; they also failed to read and react quickly in zone coverage. While he becomes the tenth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in one game, his 287 total DYAR is the 11th-best in the DVOA Era (1994-2009). It's the third-best performance of the 2009 season, trailing behind only Drew Brees's and Tom Brady's days in Week 6.
MNF.
Eli Manning NYG
19/26
268
3
0
168
168
0
2.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/48
383
3
0
161
149
12
His opposite number wasn't half bad, either. Rodgers started the game 2-for-10, albeit with one of the completions going for an 83-yard touchdown. He got better, particularly on third down; after that beginning stretch of ugliness ended, Rodgers converted seven of the nine third downs he faced, including a third-and-16 and a third-and-14, while averaging 19 yards per completion.
3.
Tony Romo DAL
22/34
312
1
0
149
142
7
Who leads the league in passing DYAR this December? You better believe it -- Romo's 498 narrowly holds the top spot over Philip Rivers' 478. If the original idea of Romo somehow being cursed in December wasn't absurd enough, he put that notion to bed on Saturday night. Next time: Romo takes a team-approved vacation without filling umpteen column inches in the process.
4.
Peyton Manning IND
23/30
308
4
1
140
140
0
Does he leap ahead of Drew Brees in the MVP race because his team is still undefeated? Is a perfect season enough to overcome the AP's tendency to avoid repeat winners? And will he play in Week 17 -- or even Week 16 -- to secure that perfect season? If he was playing the Jacksonville pass rush every week, it would be an easy decision. Manning dropped back against the Jaguars 69 times this year, and was sacked exactly once.
5.
Philip Rivers SD
24/37
308
3
2
123
129
-7
Rivers did his best work on second down. Of his ten completions for 15 yards or more, seven of them came on second down. They weren't short-yardage situations where the defense overcommitted against the run, either; Rivers picked up second-and-9 once, second-and-10 three times, and second-and-11 once.
6.
Matt Schaub HOU
28/39
367
1
0
119
142
-24
Although Schaub converted a third-and-1, his fumble on a subsequent third-and-1 is responsible for the majority of his -24 rushing DYAR. If Schaub was a halfback, Gary Kubiak would've benched him.
7.
Donovan McNabb PHI
21/35
306
1
2
119
106
12
Although Michael Vick has carved out a role as the Eagles' short-yardage quarterback, McNabb showed he can still get into the end zone with an eight-yard run for a score. He's also historically great on sneaks, which might come in handy if the Eagles are brave enough to go for it on fourth-and-short again anytime soon. Nearly half of McNabb's passes -- 17 of his 35 attempts -- were thrown to the right side of the field and within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. Historically, McNabb struggles most throwing over the middle, where he often has issues with crossing patterns and fitting balls inbetween the linebackers and safeties.
8.
Joe Flacco BAL
21/29
234
4
0
115
122
-8
Flacco had a streak of eight consecutive completions on first down at one point in this game, yielding three first downs, two touchdowns, and 91 yards. Backup Troy Smith came in for mopup work in the fourth and picked up -39 DYAR, thanks mostly to an interception on his final pass.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
9.
Matt Moore CAR
21/33
301
3
0
101
106
-5
Moore had issues with snaps and fumbled on a Jared Allen sack, or else his numbers would rank even higher. Give credit to the Panthers' offensive line, ravaged by injury, for keeping the pass rush mostly off of Moore and providing time for Steve Smith to get downfield. Moore threw only four passes to wide receivers not named Steve Smith. Moore's touchdown pass to Smith came on a third-and-26 play; in 2008, with third and between 24 and 28 to go, teams converted on exactly one of their 43 chances. This year, they're 3-of-42.
10.
Matt Ryan ATL
16/34
152
1
0
97
97
0
Ryan's raw numbers aren't particularly impressive, but he gets a huge boost from playing the Jets and their league-best pass defense. Anecdotally, it was a good showing for a quarterback playing the day after a snowstorm with a turf toe injury, but that's not included in the numbers. The bigger question is why Ryan was playing in the first place; turf toe injuries are famously difficult to get rid of, and the Falcons were eliminated from playoff contention by the Cowboys' win on Saturday night. Even if the odds of Ryan exacerbating his injury are slim, the best thing for the organization, long-term, is to sit Ryan down and let him start resting his toe now.
11.
Matt Cassel KC
23/39
331
2
0
88
84
4
Cassel's numbers would look even better if his receivers hadn't dropped a half-dozen passes. That's especially true of third down, where Cassel was 3-of-10 and only picked up two first downs. That very well may have ended up being the difference in the game.
12.
Josh Freeman TB
16/26
205
2
1
74
81
-7
Freeman started off the game with a pick over the middle, but he converted for a first down or a touchdown on six of his 12 third down attempts. Both of his touchdowns were on throws to his running backs, the only two throws the backs got all day. It seems like it might make sense to give them a couple more chances.
13.
David Garrard JAC
23/40
223
3
1
73
71
3
14.
Tom Brady NE
11/23
115
1
1
65
74
-9
Nearly 36 percent of Brady's real yardage -- 64 yards -- came on two pass interference penalties. That's three extra fantasy points that Brady owners didn't get, and it might end up costing them their shot at fantasy gold. When the Bills weren't interfering with Brady's receivers, they did a good job of keeping the play in front of them and wrapping up on tackles. And while tight end Benjamin Watson caught two late touchdown passes in Week 1, after middle linebacker Paul Posluszny broke his forearm, Posluszny helped kept Watson out of the box score altogether this week.
15.
Vince Young TEN
14/27
236
3
1
63
52
12
Young was 8-of-10 on third down, but his final three completions were all short of the sticks: A four-yard completion on third-and-5, a six-yard completion on third-and-9, and a seven-yard completion on third-and-7. That's not something Young does very often, though. On average, about 15.9 percent of third down plays end in a completion that's short of the first down marker; Young's at 13.2 percent, towards the bottom of the list. Among passers with 50 attempts on third down, the best at completing a meaningless pass is Trent Edwards, who completed a pass while still coming off the field a whopping 30.1 percent of the time. Alex Smith and Shaun Hill are 2-3 at 27.3 percent and 23.5 percent, respectively, with Jason Campbell and Ryan Fitzpatrick behind them. The quarterback who'd rather not give in? Philip Rivers, who only completed a pass that was short of the sticks 7.6 percent of the time. Also under 10 percent are Kyle Boller and Derek Anderson (each 9.7 percent), while Ben Roethlisberger's at 10.1 percent.
16.
Carson Palmer CIN
27/39
329
2
1
57
59
-2
Palmer's touchdown pass to Chad Ochocinco came with Antonio Cromartie in coverage. While Cromartie was viewed as a budding superstar after intercepting ten passes in 2007, he struggled through an injury-riddled 2008 and has been wildly inconstent in 2009. Four years into his career, it's difficult to tell what Cromartie is -- a ballhawk, an injury risk waiting to happen, a mediocre starting corner, a great athlete -- he's all those things at one time or another. It would be less of a problem if Antoine Cason was developing faster in the nickel, but Cason was expressly targeted on Palmer's second touchdown, a quick out to Laveranues Coles.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
17.
Kyle Orton DEN
19/34
278
1
0
40
52
-12
Orton's biggest play, a 63-yard completion to Brandon Stokley, was a simple seam pattern that saw the Raiders' safeties just forget about covering Stokley altogether. The result was a wild goose chase to the endzone; fortunately, since the Raiders have such fast players, they were able to catch up after Stokley ran for 51 yards after the catch. Now it all makes sense!
18.
Drew Brees NO
29/45
298
1
1
39
33
6
Brees did his best, but the Cowboys' pass rush just dominated left tackle Jermon Bushrod and right tackle Jon Stinchcomb. When Brees doesn't have time to throw, his receivers can't get downfield, he can't get to the spots in the pocket he wants to, and he's hurried into making a throw before he's ready. And that makes every quarterback worse. Brees converted one of the seven third downs he faced; he'd been picking up just under 48 percent of his third down opportunities this year.
19.
JaMarcus Russell OAK
5/11
47
1
0
24
24
0
Maybe J.P. Losman motivated him with UFL stories. Russell also has a 32-yard pass interference penalty that's accounted for in his DYAR but not his raw numbers above.
20.
Brett Favre MIN
17/27
224
0
1
17
17
0
The same people writing the stories about Tony Romo not being able to win in December are moving onto the stories about Brett Favre breaking down in December every year. What's happening here has nothing to do with Favre's arm or the cold weather; all quarterbacks get worse as the season goes along, not just old ones. The cause of the problem is the play of the Vikings' offensive line, which has given Favre less time to throw over the past few weeks. Favre's also thrown more interceptions, which was going to happen; his interception ratio was historically low, let alone low for him, and no one's ever had an 8:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. This is Favre regressing to the mean, not a sign that he's suddenly ill-suited for his position.
21.
Brady Quinn CLE
10/17
66
0
2
0
-14
14
The only reason Quinn made it to 0 passing DYAR is because five of his ten completions went for first downs. That's what happens when you have Jerome Harrison running for eight yards a carry; Quinn faced seven third downs, and five of them were with six yards or less to go.
22.
Charlie Frye OAK
10/17
68
0
1
-4
-16
12
23.
Chad Henne MIA
29/46
349
1
3
-7
-8
2
Henne's biggest pass of the day, a 57-yard completion to Brian Hartline, was a perfect example of the difference between good processes and good outcomes. Henne threw a bomb into double coverage, which dropped right into the hands of Michael Griffin. Before Griffin could establish possession, though, Hartline knocked the pass out of Griffin's hands and into his own, turning a bad throw into Henne's biggest play of the game.
24.
Daunte Culpepper DET
6/12
64
0
1
-12
-13
1
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
25.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
17/25
178
1
1
-21
-21
0
At this point, the Bills are better off giving Brian Brohm the job. Fitzpatrick went 17-of-25, but only three of these completions were further than eight yards away from the line of scrimmage. He only threw one pass further than 17 yards downfield at all, and while the Patriots' defense got some pressure with a no-down linemen set, Fitzpatrick's inability to recognize the blitz and constant checkdowns forced the Bills into the football equivalent of smallball.
26.
Drew Stanton DET
10/19
72
0
1
-38
-41
2
Stanton started off with an interception on his opening series, an ugly throw to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but improved as the game went along. While he plunged in from the one-yard line (and attempted to imitate the Lambeau Leap while failing miserably), he only has two rushing DYAR because he scrambled on third-and-6 and third-and-7 and came up short both times.
27.
Kurt Warner ARI
24/37
233
2
1
-53
-53
0
The fact that Warner only threw one pick is a small miracle; the Lions dropped at least three more intereptions, and could have lucked into a couple more. While Larry Fitzgerald was in the lineup, he very clearly wasn't at 100 percent; it's tempting to blame the problems of Warner on Fitzgerald, but there's no reason Warner should have had trouble throwing to Anquan Boldin or Steve Breaston. In his defense, both Breaston and Ben Patrick got hit with passes in stride before they realized they had been targeted with a pass.
28.
Keith Null STL
18/27
173
1
1
-60
-60
0
At this rate of improvement, Null would be the best quarterback in football by Week 18. If only Roger Goodell had implemented his plans already...
29.
Alex Smith SF
20/37
177
1
3
-70
-74
4
MNF.
Jason Campbell WAS
16/28
192
1
2
-82
-97
15
30.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
27/46
256
1
4
-87
-67
-20
OK, so one of the picks was a Hail Mary. Hasselbeck still threw three legit interceptions against the Buccaneers, one of the league's worst pass defenses. 16 of his completions came with the Seahawks down two scores or more late in the third quarter and throughout the fourth. While no one's pretending that Qwest Field is a fortress for the home team this year (well, outside of when the Sounders play), Seattle fans might want to make sure they get to the stadium for Week 17. It might very well be Hasselbeck's last home game as a member of the team.
31.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
19/31
226
1
3
-94
-89
-5
After an up-and-down season that started with most of the high points and ended with most of the low ones, it's pretty clear that Mark Sanchez wasn't the answer for this Jets team. He might have been a better choice than Kellen Clemens; we'll never know, since the Clemens that showed up against the Buccaneers had little confidence and a game plan designed to keep the ball in Thomas Jones's hands. He might be the right player for this team in the future, too. But the Jets are a veteran team, one that spent a lot of money two years ago to bring in a core of veterans designed to save Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum's jobs and make a trip to the playoffs. They needed a Chris Redman or even -- yes -- a Brett Favre this year, someone to hold the fort while Sanchez got a year of practice reps. Instead, they rested their entire season on the hopes that Sanchez would be ready to play at an NFL level. And he simply wasn't.

One thing that amused us, though, was the sudden simultaneous realization by Jets fans and the media that Sanchez was from California and would have to play in the awful winds and miserable conditions that often make up the Meadowlands in December. Did no one realize Sanchez was from California in April? Or that it was going to get windy in Jersey?
32.
Jay Cutler CHI
10/27
94
0
3
-188
-196
8
Even beyond the three picks, Cutler had three completions account for 65 yards. That means that he dropped back 26 other times and those plays resulted in seven completions for 29 yards. Just terrifyingly bad, this Bears offense.
Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Jerome Harrison CLE
286
3
12
0
104
108
-4
Harrison's 108 rushing DYAR are the fourth-most in a single game in the DVOA Era, ranking behind only Corey Dillon's 246-yard game against the Titans in 1997 that yielded 122 DYAR, Joseph Addai's four-score, 121 DYAR performance against the Eagles in 2006, and the 109 DYAR Fred Taylor gained against the Steelers in his 234-yard game during the 2000 season. It's the highest total of the season by a wide margin, beating out the 73 rushing DYAR Frank Gore gained when he ran for 207 yards against the Seahawks in Week 2.

Running for 200 yards doesn't automatically mean that you're an elite running back, though. Willie Ellison set a then-NFL record by running for 247 yards in one game in 1971, but that was his only 1,000-yard season, and he needed every one of those yards to even get there. LeShon Johnson ran for 214 yards against the Saints in 1996, but only spread 741 rushing yards over his other 61 career games. Barry Word, Derrick Ward, Charlie Garner, and Frenchy Fuqua each had 200-yard games in their career. None were great, although they all had great days.
MNF.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
61
2
29
0
68
53
15
2.
Maurice Jones-Drew JAC
110
1
30
1
64
40
25
Jones-Drew caught a touchdown pass and picked up a first down on a second-and-11. He also converted three of the four first downs he faced, picking up six yards on third-and-7 on the other one.
3.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
109
1
14
1
53
32
21
DeAngelo Williams spent two years in DeShaun Foster's shadow before finally getting a chance to serve as the lead back, at which point he had a mammoth season. Stewart's currently occupying the same role behind Williams, and when the Panthers let Williams move on for salary cap reasons, Stewart will probably have a breakout year of his own. The difference, of couse, is that Stewart's at least sitting behind an elite back. Williams was sitting behind DeShaun Foster.

Stewart's great numbers come thanks to great blocking of the Williams Wall on the interior, and some badly missed tackles at the second level. The Vikings already miss E.J. Henderson.
4.
Jamaal Charles KC
154
1
16
0
51
51
0
The Jamal Lewis problem, reduxe. Charles got more than 10 carries one time last year; it was 18 carries against Tampa Bay, and he ran for 106 yards. This year, he started getting handed the ball more than ten times a game in Week 10, after nominal starter/famous person Larry Johnson hated his way off the team. Charles is averaging 19 carries and 102 rushing yards per game since then, better than five yards a pop. Johnson was averaging 2.8 yards per carry before departing. Why was Johnson playing over Charles the first seven weeks? Because he made a lot of money. That's a good reason not to give a running back a lot of money.
5.
Michael Bush OAK
133
1
11
0
43
41
3
Bush had been resting comfortably in Tom Cable's doghouse, but five runs of ten yards or more (including a 40-yard dash) and six first downs in 18 carries is a good way to work your way out. Bush only got his chance after Justin Fargas tweaked his knee early on; he might've pushed Fargas permanently to the bench. Then again, it is Oakland.
Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Matt Forte CHI
68
0
0
0
-42
-28
-14
It's hard to run very far when your offensive line doesn't block all that well, but Forte was stuffed on the Ravens 1-yard line and fumbled twice.
Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Andre Johnson HOU
9
10
196
21.8
0
72
The only thing the Rams had that was capable of covering Andre Johnson was the roof, and even then, we think Johnson could've caught a jump ball over it. You'll rarely see a player physically dominate opposing cornerbacks the way that Johnson was on Sunday. Sure, it happens all the time in high school, and even the Michael Crabtree's and Calvin Johnson's of the world pull that stuff off in college, but Johnson was like a men amongst boys against the Rams. And it wasn't even a set of boys who were good at football for their age.
2.
Chris Chambers KC
5
5
114
22.8
1
63
Plenty of Chiefs' receivers dropped passes, but surprisingly, the much-maligned Chambers was not one of them. If this is the receiver he actually was -- three catches for 30 yards or more, and a nine-yard touchdown on a fade -- he'd be really valuable. Usually, though, this sort of production from him requires 13 incompletions or so to be mixed in, and by the time you've gotten him the ball that much, four weeks have passed.
3.
Vincent Jackson SD
5
7
108
21.6
2
62
Was Jackson on a mission to prove Leon Hall isn't actually all that great? Maybe, but he did expose some communication issues in the Bengals' secondary. There were repeated times where Jackson made his way downfield and corners, including Hall, thought they had safety help when they didn't. That would be one thing if they were playing, say, Army or the 1994 Nebraska Cornhuskers, but it's the Chargers! They throw the ball deep a lot! It's not a secret! Cincinnati will need to work on that if they end up playing the Colts or the Chargers in the playoffs.
4.
DeSean Jackson PHI
6
10
140
23.3
1
61
Jackson was the target on two picks, which doesn't affect his numbers beyond simply being recorded as an incompletion, but is still interesting. Jackson's now been the intended target on four picks, which is well behind the league leaders. Some of the guys you might expect are there -- Carolina's Steve Smith has been the target on nine picks, as has Braylon Edwards, while Calvin Johnson's at eight and Andre Johnson's at seven. Number one, though? Reggie Wayne. Peyton Manning's thrown 15 picks, and Wayne's been the target on ten of them. Wow.
5.
Randy Moss NE
5
7
70
14.0
1
58
Factor in the 43-yard defensive pass interference penalty he drew, bringing the Patriots down to the Bills 3-yard line, and he's at 113 yards on six catches. If only we knew what the Panthers' defensive backs thought about all this!
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Deion Branch SEA
4
10
28
7.0
0
-54
Branch was targeted on three interceptions, and while those are just scored for him as incompletions, not a single one of his other four catches went for first downs.

(Ed. Note: Quick Reads appears on ESPN Insider on Monday, then gets republished on FO on Tuesdays, with added ratings for Monday Night Football.)

Comments

180 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2009, 10:53pm

1 remember the jason campbell rules here

When the Redskins look good, Campbell is improving. When the Redskins look bad, Campbell has no help.

2 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

He did a lot with his touches the past 2 years, but this year Harrison hadn't shown much: -20.6% rushing DVOA on 88 carries, worse than either Lewis (-12.2%) or Jennings (-4.6%), and a -16.4% receiving DVOA on 45 passes. And including his rookie season, he was down to about a 0% rushing DVOA for his career (59 DYAR on 165 carries). This one game will bring his career DVOA up to around 13% (which can happen when you get as many carries in the game as you had all of last season).

20 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

Yeah, I'm really not sold on DVOA/DYAR as a way of evaluating running backs in the first place, and when you throw in small sample size it's a recipe for disaster. I'm not saying Harrison shouldn't have got more time than he has been, but there's no reason to think he's actually much good. "Probably better than the washed-up wreckage of Jamal Lewis" is not much of a recommendation.

3 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

Is Ben R. really a "future HoF'er" already? His first ring is of the Dilfer caliber, so I hope that isn't part of the equation.

Good info about good players being used incorrectly.

Dillon's monster game was against the Oilers, though.

9 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

About 2.5 more full seasons will put him past Bradshaw for the Steelers' career passing yards record; I suspect that and the two rings will get him in. He won't be a slam dunk, but someday someone will put him in there. The Hall of Fame is very kind to quarterbacks, and this one won a couple of rings for one of the league's alpha franchises. In 2025 or whatever Polamalu and maybe Ward will be the only 2000s Steelers in the Hall of Fame (at least the only ones who were around for both rings), and people will likely start thinking up excuses to put a couple more in.

I could be wrong, though; Lawrence Taylor is the only 1986-1990 Giant in the Hall of Fame, right?

Plus all that's if Roethlisberger lasts another 2-3 full seasons, which given the punishment he takes and the state of the Steelers' o-line is very much an open question.

Factoid that maybe only I find interesting: Warren Moon's 500/3/0 day in 1990 also came against an elite defense (the Chiefs).

14 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

Lawrence Taylor is the only 1986-1990 Giant in the Hall of Fame, right?

Harry Carson is in the Hall, but he only played for the 1986 Giants. Simms, Bavaro, and Ottis Anderson (and GM George Young) all made the initial list of 133 nominees this year, but none made it to the 25-person semifinal round.

On the coaching side, Parcells and Belichick will be in the Hall soon after they retire.

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I fully expect Roethlisberger to be enshrined, though I don't particularly think he should be, at least based on his career to date. Ward absolutely does not belong in the hall, but the rings, the reputation for toughness and his Superbowl MVP award may get him there. Aaron Smith and Casey Hampton should both get consideration; Hampton won't, but Smith I could just about see getting in. Joey Porter will probably be shortlisted at some point, but I doubt he'll make it. Harrison had a high enough peak, but it looks to have been too short. Farrior was good, but not good enough. Faneca, however, I believe is very likely to make it.

I think there may be a similar issue with the 2001-2004 Patriots. Brady of course will make it and deserve to, though frankly the reason he belongs has pretty much nothing to do with his play from 2001 to 2003. But who else from those teams is really a slam-dunk Hall of Famer? Seymour's probably the closest: he was a dominant player on a very successful team, but his peak wasn't all that long. I guess he'll probably get in, and I guess I'm in favour of it. Law might be the second or third best corner of his generation, but his generation is Champ Bailey and then everyone else. He'll be marginal, and marginal is what he should be. Harrison may get some talk, but he really shouldn't, and he won't get in. Don't even talk to me about freakin' Vinatieri; if he gets in I'm hopping on the next Heathrow-Boston flight to personally shoot Peter King. The Patriots teams since their last Superbowl win have actually featured more elite players than the 2001-2004 sides - they just haven't had the same top-to-bottom roster quality.

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Why not Ward? Because they don't keep statistics for downfield blocks by WRs?

6 thousand-yard seasons, and two more within spitting distance (975)

883 catches. That's more than Lofton, Largent, Joiner, and Irvin, the last of whom is a marginal HOF-er at best.

78 TDs. More than Irvin, Joiner, Lofton, Monk.

He's behind all those guys in total yards, though not by much.

Statistically, he's not much different than Derrick Mason. But he also won 2 Super Bowls, along with one SB MVP, and played his whole career with one team. Unlike some contemporaries with better numbers, he hasn't bounced around from team to team and been repeatedly called out for quitting on plays. Or held a press conference to do sit-ups in his driveway.

(I also like the Eagles)

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"Because they don't keep statistics for downfield blocks by WRs?"

No, they certainly don't, but more relevantly because blocking is a far less important part of a WR's job than catching passes, and Ward was around the tenth best WR of his generation in that department.

"883 catches. That's more than Lofton, Largent, Joiner, and Irvin, the last of whom is a marginal HOF-er at best.

78 TDs. More than Irvin, Joiner, Lofton, Monk.

He's behind all those guys in total yards, though not by much."

He didn't play in the same era as those guys, so it's ridiculous to compare counting stats directly in that way. It's a lot easier for a WR to rack up yards now than it was then. Also, Monk's presence in the Hall is a joke.

"Statistically, he's not much different than Derrick Mason. But he also won 2 Super Bowls, along with one SB MVP, and played his whole career with one team. Unlike some contemporaries with better numbers, he hasn't bounced around from team to team and been repeatedly called out for quitting on plays. Or held a press conference to do sit-ups in his driveway."

Are you seriously suggesting Hines Ward is a better Hall of Fame candidate than Randy Moss or Terrell Owens? Seriously? Because frankly the key statement in your paragraph above is the first: statistically, he's not much different than Derrick Mason. You want to enshrine Derrick Mason?

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I'm an old-fashioned character guy, and that colors my perception of guys like Owens and Moss, numbers be damned. You're really suggesting that the guy who compared Free Agency to slavery and was cut by both the Eagles and Cowboys be enshrined? Moss is probably a lock.

He's certainly no Marvin Harrison, but Ward has numbers that are well above average, plays for a dynastic team that also happens to be one of the league's marquee franchises, and is an extremely marketable bi-racial athlete. He's similar to Michael Irvin (one fewer Pro Bowl, one fewer SB win, one more SB MVP), but without all the guns and the drugs.

It somewhat depends on how many more years he plays, and whether they win another Super Bowl, but when it comes time to start filling the Hall with guys from this decade, I wouldn't be surprised if, from the offensive side of the ball, Bettis/Roethlisberger/Ward end up there, in that order.

(I also like the Eagles)

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But if you're talking about character, aren't there issues with Ward's character as well? He's cited as one of the dirtiest players in the league, and he called out his quarterback in the media over resting with a concussion.

The guy may not be the biggest sinner, but he's no saint either.

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I really don't think anything other than what a player did on the field should come into the discussion, and I'm pretty sure the criteria for enshrinement specifically state that the voters aren't supposed to consider character. OJ Simpson is in the hall, and I'm just fine with that.

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I agree, I'm just saying that when you start bringing "character" into the discussion, it becomes a slippery slope.

Plus, you're relying on how the media portrays an athlete, which may or may not be accurate. One example - I worked out at a gym in Boston where a bunch of professional athletes would work out. I can think of at least two occasions where so called "bad character" guys were extremely pleasant, and a couple where "good character" guys were about as obnoxious and rude as you can get. It just so happened that the local media portrayed them in a certain manner.

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From the Patriots - Yes Vinateri will get in. So should Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinnest, Rodney Harrison, and Richard Seymour.

Steelers - Rothelisberger, Ward, Polamalu, Bettis, Faneca, Porter.

Remember they have to put 5 or 6 people per year in. That's actually quite a few when you think about it. Over the span of years of a team that is good, like the Steelers or Patriots, from 2000 to 2009, nearly 60 people need to be admitted into the Hall. That's plenty of space for all those guys. You could take 5 key guys each from the four best teams of the decade - Steelers, Patriots, Eagles, and Colts from the 2000 to 2009 period, and still leave 2/3 of the slots to the Hall for the rest of the league for guys like Tony Gonzalez or Ronde Barber or Steve Hutchison who were personally spectacular but played for also-rans. Its not like the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, and Oakland Raiders of the 2000's are going to be using up a lot of space in Canton.

The Original Andrew

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Vrabel? Unlikely. McGinest and Seymour seem like longshots to me. Seymour woouldn't be a longshot if he'd kept up his level of play after 2005. Harrison looks reasonably likely. Vinatieri may get in, if the HoF has any interest in rewarding kickers. (The name of the game is _foot_ball after all.)

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I don't even want to talk about Vinatieri. I'd vote for Neil Rackers before Vinatieri.

Vrabel will not get in. Dude was a pro-bowler precisely once in his career. That won't cut it. Joey Porter's a far better candidate, and he won't get in either.

McGinnest made a whole two pro-bowls, and was never an all-pro. He had fewer career sacks than Porter does to date, and had less of an all around game. He's not getting in.

Harrison was a two time all-pro, albeit at a low value position. He was, however, only a two time pro-bowler. He was a very good player for a great team, but he was primarily famous for being dirty and mouthy. He might make it, but he shouldn't.

Polamalu's a no-brainer. I fully understand why Roethlisberger will get in, even though I don't like it. Faneca will deserve his place, Porter won't get in but I wouldn't mind if he did, Ward and Bettis are talking head driven jokes. We should accept that this is the salary cap, free agency era. The best players don't necessarily play for the best teams (just ask Andre Johnson). The best teams don't necessarily have a bunch of great players. Ultimately, I believe Hall of Famers should routinely have opposing fans kecking themselves before games. Plenty of people have thought "Hines Ward is a good player. I hope we can do a good job covering him". Very few have thought "Oh shit, how the hell are we ever going to deal with Hines freakin' Ward?" That's the difference.

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Rackers? What has Rackers given the league besides the "Crown their ass" speech? Vinateri won two Super Bowl's at the buzzer, plus several playoff games. Think that's easy and not worth mention, ask Scott Norwood about it.

The Original Andrew

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Obviously I don't think Rackers should get in, and I don't really think he's got a better case than Vinatieri, though he did have a higher peak - his 2005 season was historically great. My point is that the bar for a kicker to get into the Hall should be really, really high, and Vinatieri, to my mind, is nowhere close to it. I hate the fact that a few high profile kicks might get him in, because there are a lot of far more deserving players who will never make it.

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Agree with Shush

but I think guys benefit from their stereotype/style, and it makes a good story. It's talking points. " Vinateri is clutch!", " Hines Ward plays dirty!". I don't think any team game planed to stop Hines Ward the way they would Andre Johnson, TO, Randy Moss, Chad Johnson, Steve Smith etc.

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Andrew,
No way is 5 annual HOF inductees enough. Maybe when the league had 24 teams, but even then a lot of linemen and non-skill pos guys were shafted. Right now I bet you could name 20 active players who deserve it, but you couldn't even consider them because there are the guys from the past decade who deserve it but are back-logged (and also not yet eligible). Rough guess: 25 worthy guys eligible and backed up just since 1980, and another 25 bubble players, plus a dozen of each who are pending eligibility like Curtis Martin, Emmitt Smith, Steve McNair (bubble).

One could argue there should be a moratorium on skill position guys so the under-represented linemen and D players could get a fairer shake--meaning that you could have in 2020 an incoming HOF class with Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Randy Moss, TO, Derrick Mason, Hines Ward, Tony Gonzales, Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, Witten, Steve Smith, Wes Welker, Ochocinco, Fitzgerald, Boldin, Housh, Holt, (just trying to find potential guys with 5+ years of good production already)... and that's just guys who catch the ball! But that's impossible, of course, because voters would never put in a class of ALL receivers and the classes are limited to five, not the 17 I listed. (Okay, even if only 8 of those guys get in, and I think that's a pretty good bet that 8 will, it can't happen all at once, it would happen over the course of a decade or so, and that's just one position! What happens when the potential HOF-worthy QBs roll their odometers: Manning, Favre, Brady, Ben R, McNabb, Rivers, Brees, Warner, Jamarcus (caught you!).... These guys will mostly be getting in as well. How about the 5-to-1 OL to QB ratio on a team? The HOF has that roughly reversed. I don't know of any voters who would come out and say that QBs are "more worthy" of inclusion than their great linemen. It's just easier to vote for the guys who rack up stats.

There are a couple blocking fullbacks right now (don't ask, I forget their names) who are either still playing after a dozen years or just recently retired who have a track record of blocking for a 1,000 yard rusher just about every year of their career. These guys were money and did their job better than anyone else at their position--they did everything asked of them and did it well--so well that their battery-mates went on to the pro bowl, all pro teams, maybe the HOF. These guys, arguably deserve it. I am advocating for them and don't even know their names! (pathetic, or what? Good thing I am not a voter.) Lorenzo Neal is one, maybe Tony Richardson another? Mack Strong? But they deserve a shot they will never get, because there are bigger names ahead of them. I'll compare Neal to Peyton Manning in terms of doing everything he has to do at his position to be the best, to make his teammates the best, to make his team succeed. Yet because his position is arguably less important, prominent, measurable... blah. Maybe call it the HOF for QBs-only?

I have nothing against QBs, or RBs, or WRs. I just want a bigger tent. I think about a guy like Robert Mathis on the Colts, in about his 6th season with about 55 career sacks and 35+ forced fumbles (league leader in FF over the past 5 years--I think a guy who leads the league in INTS over that time has a leg up), one pro bowl (a second is likely this year). Guy LIVES in the opponents' backfield. Say he ends his career in 5 more years with 4 more pro bowls, 100 total sacks, 60 career FF, and uncountable QB pressures/hits (which are extremely valuable and often lead to INTs). I don't think his sack total will come close to getting him in, yet he was a key component of a SB winning D (one so far), and a D that finished top-5 scoring three times so far, and if trends hold, maybe 5-6 times in his career. He wouldprobably be worthy, but because he's overshadowed by Freeney (and Manning), plays in a small market, can fit in your pocket, probably will never lead the league with 15+ sacks, etc, may never even get voted on. And that's a shame.

I think there is a solid arguement that the 5-6 player limit is way too restrictive. Like the change to the Gregorian Calendar from the Julian one, hundreds of years ago when the western world skipped forward two weeks in an instant, I vote for a super-class when about 50 former greats from under-represented positions get in, then we go forward with maybe 8 slots a year....

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It's a noble idea, but I'm not sure even the best modern FBs are worthy of the HOF. Mainly because their own team doesn't usually see them as important enough to keep on the field constantly.

My personal test is: would I have given up a lot of draft picks/value for this guy at the start of his career, knowing in advance how he'd play? The Ricky Williams rule if you like... So lets see, Adam Vinatieri? Pfft. Lorenzo Neal? Wouldn't give up much to get him. Terrell Davis? Now we're getting warmer. That's why I believe it's important that the more valuable positions get more recognition, because I see them as worth more to a team. Sure it's great to have good safety play, but how much would you give up to get a good safety? How about a very good one? Still not real valuable to my way of looking.

But in saying that, that's just my criteria and one of the great things about the HOF is the arguments it raises. "Big Ben is a lock!! Brees is a lock!!" "No they aren't they didn't do 'x' or win 'y'". In many ways it's great that the entry guidelines are kinda vague so that there is something to argue about. Would be a bit boring otherwise.

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Ben R is one of the top 5 QBs in today's game. One of if not the best in late game situations....a clear cut Hall of Famer regardless of what happens the rest of his career. I can't stand the Steelers, but Ben plays like another #7 I used to watch do the same things.

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In reply to by wp4x4 (not verified)

Sorry, man, but this is year 6 and he's a QB. He might technically become eligible after this year, but he's only halfway there given where the bar really is, especially as he has such a great crop of QBs before him and around him to compete with. I think there are about 7 or 8 guys right now that you gotta give major props as having either earned HOF (Brady, Manning, Favre) or being on what would be an HOF track in any other era (Ben, Brees, Rivers).

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You're kidding, right? He's the youngest QB to win 2 Super Bowls, breaking the record set this decade by the guy everyone agrees is a mortal-lock, first-ballot hall-of-famer. Even though we probably agree that what I've just said is meaningless in terms of his actual ability as a QB, that's probably enough for the voters--it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Talent. Was Troy Aikman really that good?

(I also like the Eagles)

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Respectfully disagree.

Eli is not a great QB, didn't deserve the Super Bowl MVP, and would not deserve to be in the Hall if the Giants had a similar run driven by their defense.

Not that I think that's a huge worry.

Roethlisberger is himself not a particularly strong candidate. He's had some great games but has not maintained a high level of play. He's only been to one Pro Bowl so far, and looks unlikely to make one soon, as he's clearly behind Manning, Rivers, Brady, and Schaub right now. And that's only the AFC!

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Yes, Eli Manning is no better than average and never has been and yet is regarded by ESPN as a superstar, and his Super Bowl MVP was the worst choice in the history of the award. And that's exactly why another championship will put him in the Hall of Fame--the media creates the narrative and then bends facts to fit it.

I didn't say he'll deserve it. I said he'll go in, if he wins another ring. And he will.

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Brady's 2001 SB MVP wasn't anything to write home about, either, but that was the first year that fan voting was taken into account, so like it or not, QBs will continue to get more of that particular award than they deserve.

(I also like the Eagles)

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"or being on what would be an HOF track in any other era (Ben, Brees, Rivers)"

Drew Brees is not on any sort of track for being a Hall of Fame QB.

3 playoff appearances in 9 seasons? 1 championship game appaearance? A 55-51 record as a starter? 1-2 in playoff games? Only 4 winning seasons in 9 years? 3 pro-bowls in 9 years?

Are you crowing his ass because he's passed for 18,000 yards the past 4 years?

Its the Hall of Fame. Not the Hall of Stats.

Why don't you compare him to someone you don't even mention - McNabb? 82-45-1 as a starter, 9-6 in playoffs, 7 playoff appearances, 5 NFC championship games, 1 super bowl, 8 winning seasons in 11 years, 5 pro-bowls. All time NFL leader in interception percentage, also holds record for consecutive completed passes. Like I said, you don't even mention McNabb as a candidate, and you hold up someone like Brees as a near shoo-in? WTF?!?!?

The Original Andrew

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3 playoff appearances in 9 seasons? 1 championship game appaearance? A 55-51 record as a starter? 1-2 in playoff games? Only 4 winning seasons in 9 years? 3 pro-bowls in 9 years?

If you're really so opposed to using stats to evaluate HOF candidates, you better throw out those wins and losses, since they're stats too. They're just the wrong kind of stats, since they're used to measure teams, not individual players.

Individual players don't win or lose games by themselves, and thus, judging them on the basis of their team's performance is totally inappropriate. Guys like Barry Sanders and Dick Butkus never won much of anything during their careers. Does that make them unworthy HOFers?

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You're seriously contending that McNabb is a better QB than Brees solely because the Eagles have been better than the Saints?

Football is a team game.

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Regardless of what happens the rest of his career? Poppycock. People probably said the same thing about Terrell Davis circa 1999, and last I heard, he's still considered a borderline candidate.

While Super Bowl wins certainly do add to a HOF resume, the fact is that counting stats do matter. If Large Ben destroys his knee tomorrow, he ends up with very pedestrian numbers for yards and TDs for a QB in the current era. He needs about another 10,000 yards and ~75 TDs. I think he'll get there with 3 more healthy seasons. A few more Pro-Bowls would probably help too. I'm not sure how you can be a Hall of Fame QB only making 1 Pro Bowl in your career. I know it's largely a popularity contest, but so is the HOF.

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Peyton, Brady, Rivers, Brees, Rodgers and Favre are all clearly better than Roethlisberger. I would also rather have Schaub, Warner, Palmer, McNabb and behind a competent line Cutler too. Probably others I currently forget to boot. Roethlisberger is not a top 5 QB.

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"The Hall of Fame is very kind to quarterbacks"

Tell that to Ken Anderson.

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

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Somebody has to be the best QB not in the Hall.

Anderson's problem is that he played for a lot of crappy Bengals team in an era dominated by the Cowboys and Steelers. Also, he only exceeded 3000 yards in a season twice. And this was during the era when Fouts exceeded 4000 yards 3 years in a row.

The love for Anderson is a recent thing. At the time, nobody really thought he was a future Hall of Famer. He was behind Bradshaw, Staubach (the big two), Fouts, Tarkenton, and maybe even Stabler. I don't remember ever thinking "Oh no, Ken Anderson is coming to town!" Whereas, if Fouts was in town...

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Moon is my favorite player all-time. 527 yards in that game, right? The record is Norm Van Brocklin... and Easison has something between the two as a Cardinal.

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In reply to by dedkrikit (not verified)

A shame Moon couldn't win in the playoffs. He never made it to a Conference title game.

10 No Dilfity

In reply to by dedkrikit (not verified)

Ben R.'s first ring really wasn't of Dilfer quality -- though Ben stank it up in the Super Bowl itself, he had an excellent regular season, with 35.1% DVOA -- second in the league behind P. Manning. His DYAR wasn't as high because he threw very few passes, but it was still seventh. T-Dilf, on the other hand, had a -24.6% DVOA in his Super Bowl year, good for 39th in both DVOA and DYAR, which was actually worse than Tony Banks, who he replaced. Which is another difference -- Ben started most of the Steelers' games that season (and boy, did we notice when Tommy Maddox was in for him).

Unless I've got mixed up on the years, which is possible at this hour of the morning.

All that said, I had the same reaction -- "Is Ben R. really a Hall-of-Famer?" But I think Justin is probably right that he has a good chance of getting in; and anyway, he is one of the big names of the NFL right now, so I think Bill was justified in boosting Ben's chances to make the rhetorical point.

51 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

Yes, he's a Hall of Famer. The first ring may have been of Dilfer caliber, but he did quite a bit to earn that second ring. I'm not convinced that Roethlisberger is one of the 5 or so best quarterbacks still playing (Manning, Brady, Brees, Favre, Rivers, and Romo all rate higher in my opinion). But Superbowl wins put QBs in the HOF--and I have no problem with that.

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So if Brad Johnson, in his travels around the league, had landed in Baltimore instead of Washington, prior to getting to Tampa, that makes him a Hall of Famer?

One of the silliest things about the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the emphasis put on team accomplishments, when evaluating individual performance, in the most team-oriented sport. It is less ridiculous when done with quarterbacks, compared to other positions, but only very marginally so.

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Yeah Will. Brad makes it in because the HoF puts emphasis "on team accomplishments, when evaluating individual performance, in the most team-oriented sport." You've answered your own question really well. Remember Hall of Fame, not Hall of Best.

107 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

You're thinking of Hall of Infamy, and Leaf is already a member. I believe theirs is a brown blazer, or orange jumpsuit, which he is currently under review for donning.

95 Re: Week 15 Quick Reads

+1

I'm all about using advanced stats to evaluate who is the best in the game today. However, that's not what the Hall of Fame is about. The HOF is a museum meant to preserve the great memories associated with the game. I want my HOF-ers to have great feats. Great stats are nice, but you can get in with good stats if everybody knows your name (see: Swann, Lynn).

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Yeah, I just don't think getting lucky as to what roster you are drafted or signed to qualifies as a "great feat". If it is, by all means let us induct Preston Pearson, Marv Fleming, Matt Millen, and Mark Schlereth, among others.

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How do any of those four qualify? Only Millen is a household name, and that's for his destruction of the Lions. When I talk about feats, I mean the sort of stuff you tell your kids about. Let me put it to you this way: HOF-ers are the people you'll tell your grandkids about when you are older. Their feats are the memories you want to pass down as part of the history of the game. When I'm older, I'll talk about Big Ben's rookie season, his game-winning drive in the Superbowl, and his 503-yard game, and I'll give those feats context by talking about Ben's very good stats. Conversely, Philip Rivers hasn't done anything yet that I'll want to tell my grandkids about, despite the fact that I think Rivers is a better QB (and despite the fact that I live in SD and the Chargers are my favorite AFC team).