Wild Card Quick Reads

Wild Card Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

Here are the playoff statistics for two quarterbacks. Look at them and let us know which of the two you'd want quarterbacking your favorite team.

  Comp Att Comp % Yds Yds/Att TD INT
Player A 395 637 62.0% 4108 6.45 28 15
Player B 290 436 66.5% 3747 8.59 31 13

It's not a particularly hard question. Player B completes passes at a ridiculous rate, and throws for better than two yards per attempt more than Player A. About the only thing Player B has going for him is a slightly better interception rate. Over the course of a full season with 550 attempts each, Player B would throw about three more interceptions than Player A, but he'd complete 25 more passes and throw for just under 1200 more passing yards than Player A.

If we polled 100 fans as to whether they'd rather have Player A or Player B, the only ones choosing Player A would be the ones that thought it was a trick question. In a way, it is; if we told those same 100 fans to pick a playoff quarterback without giving them any statistics and let them choose between Tom Brady (Player A) and Kurt Warner (Player B), Warner would only have the trick question people on his side.

Of course, there's something inflated to Warner's numbers -- he's played almost his entire playoff career in one dome or another, and that does help a lot. Then again, playing in the cold of the Northeast also hurts Brady's opposition, and he's enjoyed a better defense than Warner has: Over their playoff careers, Warner's defense has allowed 23.8 points per game, while Brady's defense has allowed only 19.0. And it's not Brady who raises his game in the playoffs, since his quarterback rating falls from a regular season mark of 93.3 to 85.5; it's Warner, who goes from a regular season quarterback rating of 93.7 to a playoff figure of 104.6.

So then, what's the case for picking Brady? Some would say his playoff record; Brady's 14-4 (.778 winning percentage), while Warner's is 9-3 (.750); that's less than a difference of one win every two seasons. Furthermore, Sunday proved what an absurd proposition basing quarterback value on playoff wins and losses are. Did Joe Flacco really play better than Aaron Rodgers? Had Rodgers hit a wide-open Greg Jennings on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, the Packers would have advanced without Warner getting a chance to respond, and Warner would've had a loss hung on his record. Did Flacco play better than Warner? Absolutely not.

In reality, Brady's reputation as a "clutch" quarterback rests upon his two game-winning Super Bowl drives (both of which, by the way, came under a roof). There's mitigating factors to each; the Rams played for overtime with an absurd prevent defense that gave Brady -- at that point a quarterback with a highly erratic deep ball and an offense built around throwing for short, low-risk completions underneath -- the opportunity to pick up first downs on passes to halfback J.R. Redmond. His second game-winning drive, against the Panthers, came immediately after Panthers kicker John Kasay dumped a kickoff out of bounds, giving the Patriots the ball at the 40-yard line. Brady's drive wasn't exactly "The Drive"; it went for 36 yards before Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal.

Brady still deserves credit for his two game-winning drives, of course, but what about Warner? In Super Bowl XXXIV, his final drive was one play: A 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce, breaking a tie score and giving the Rams a 23-16 lead. It's forgotten now, of course, because of Steve McNair's amazing drive that followed and the game's spectacular ending. Against the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI, Warner's final drive went 51 yards in 20 seconds, ending with a game-tying 28-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl. Brady followed that with his heroics. Finally, in Super Bowl XLIII, with 2:58 left in the game, he completed a 13-point comeback and gave the Cardinals a 23-20 lead by throwing a 64-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. He stood helpless on the sidelines as Ben Roethlisberger drove down the field for a game-winning touchdown, and couldn't do the impossible in picking up the 89 yards needed to win the game with only 35 seconds left.

Warner's biggest crime in Super Bowls, it turns out, has been giving the other team too much time to score after his clutch play. He almost lost on Sunday because his kicker couldn't hit the chip shot Warner had set him up with.

Don't get us wrong: Tom Brady is a great quarterback. He was number one in our DYAR rankings this year, putting up fantastic numbers masked by one of the toughest pass defense schedules a quarterback has faced in years (perhaps the toughest). He's a great quarterback in the playoffs, too.

But Kurt Warner's been the better playoff quarterback over the course of their careers, and it's hard to see how there's a debate that doesn't involve mythology and the media.

Kurt Warner ARI
Oh, one other thing about Warner: He now holds the record for the best game in DYAR history. His 385 DYAR beat out the 347 DYAR Trent Green put up in Week 4 of the 2002 season against the Dolphins. Green had 20 rushing DYAR in that game, so Warner had 58 passing DYAR more than the previous record-holder. He had more touchdown passes than incompletions, something only Carson Palmer and Brady (twice) did this season; it's the 16th time that's been done since 1994, and Warner's responsible for three of them. Warner took the league's sixth-rated pass defense (according to DVOA) and made them look like the Lions, with blown assignments and gaping holes in zones all game.
Tony Romo DAL
It's funny how you can gain or lose a reputation while you're standing on the sidelines. Romo's been the same quarterback he's always been over the past five weeks, same mix of strengths and weaknesses, but it's his defense that's raised their game. From December 1 on, the 2006-2008 Cowboys allowed 25.1 points per game. This year? That's down to 13.7 points per game. The offense has also gotten better, going from 18.4 December/January points per game in 06-08 to 23.3 points per game this year, but the effect isn't nearly as pronounced. And if 244 yards seem kinda puny for second place, remember that Romo also had 52 yards taken away from him by defensive pass interference.
Aaron Rodgers GB
As good as Rodgers was at times on Sunday, it's hard to forget those two passes to a streaking, open Greg Jennings that he missed. The first one would only have made the score 14-7; it was the second one, the one that would've ended overtime after one play from scrimmage, that will be stuck in Rodgers' head all offseason. The turnovers were huge, but he played about as well as a quarterback could considering them; 14 third/fourth downs yielded six first downs and three scores, and he was 18-of-24 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and nine first downs on first down.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
Sure, the Jets kept things simple and allowed Sanchez to stay in comfortable situations, mainly short drops and play-action bootlegs. They've been doing that all year, though, and Sanchez has rarely executed like this. The big plays went to Dustin Keller, but Jerricho Cotchery did a great job extending drives on third down, and Sanchez didn't take a single sack or turn the ball over.
Carson Palmer CIN
Something is very clearly physically wrong with Carson Palmer. Palmer normally has smooth, classic quarterback mechanics, and gets excellent velocity on his passes. On Saturday, he looked like Philip Rivers. Rivers has anything but classic mechanics, with a high, looping ball that makes coaches cringe. Of course, it works well for Rivers; that's not the way Palmer normally throws the ball, and it showed. His biggest play was a 26-yard throw to Chad Ochocinco that resulted in a highly questionable pass interference call on Darrelle Revis; he otherwise did not complete a single pass more than 13 yards downfield, and had only six completions of ten yards or more. Maybe it's just his thumb; Bengals fans should hope so, because from watching him throw the ball against the Jets these past two weeks, it looks like a lot more.
Donovan McNabb PHI
By our count, McNabb left 100 yards and a touchdown on the field with off-target throws. He missed over the middle to Reggie Brown, deep to DeSean Jackson, and had a handful of other throws that could've been receptions or bigger plays with better throws. He ended up converting only two of the 11 third or fourth downs he faced. One possible culprit: The head injury suffered by Brent Celek in the first quarter. Celek came back, but he didn't catch a single pass until the third quarter and by then, the game was out of hand.
Joe Flacco BAL
He looked worse than his numbers, but there's only so much damage you can do in ten passes. The four completions did yield three first downs, too. He should be much better next week, since Flacco's biggest issue is handling blitzers from unexpected locations, which makes the Colts -- who don't frequently blitz -- a good matchup for him.
Tom Brady NE
This was the second-worst game of Brady's career; he had -181 DYAR in Week 1 of the 2003 season, the Lawyer Milloy game. He led only one drive of note all game, turned the ball over four times, and converted only three of the 12 third/fourth downs he faced. Because of the rush, coverage, and a potential injury to Randy Moss, Brady only threw 11 passes more than 10 yards or more downfield. On those plays, he had almost as many completions (three) as interceptions (two).
Five most valuable running backs
Cedric Benson CIN
Benson was just a wrecking ball all day; he had a success rate of 57 percent, with nary a single carry going for negative yardage. His last rush of the game was his 47-yard touchdown run with 11:13 left, which seems strange, since he was averaging eight yards a carry on the ground, while Carson Palmer was at just four yards per pass.
Ray Rice BAL
The Patriots were determined to take away Rice in the passing game, bringing out their old Marshall Faulk/Brian Westbrook playbook and doubling him on most plays. That didn't help in the running game, though, where Rice was fantastic even after his 83-yard touchdown run to start the game. He converted three of the six third downs he faced, and had a 50 percent success rate on first down, even without including the touchdown run. He also owes Brandon Meriweather a crabcake; it's hard to do less on a touchdown run than what Meriweather did with Rice barreling towards him.
Felix Jones DAL
The natural counter to the A-gap blitz that's become vogue around the league is a run away from the blitz, to the outside. The textbook example is Jones's 73-yard touchdown in the third quarter on Saturday. While Jeremiah Trotter sprinted up the A-gap (the space between the center and either guard) on an impeccably-timed blitz, all he could do is admire Jones as he ran down the right side of the field. Had Trotter not blitzed, of course, he would have had a play at Jones for a gain of three or four.
Shonn Greene NYJ
It was surprising to see the Jets use Greene as their featured back and not Thomas Jones, but it's hard to argue with the results. Greene had a 52 percent success rate, including a stretch of seven successful carries in a row to start the second half.
Ryan Grant GB
Grant was mostly an afterthought in the fireworks display that was the Packers' passing attack, but he picked up five first downs on 11 carries and had two nine-yard gains on second-and-10 as a receiver.
Least valuable running back
Thomas Jones NYJ
Jones had the nine-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to cap off a Greene-inspired drive, and also had an eight-yard run in the second quarter. His other 13 carries were considered to be unsuccessful, and they combined for a total of 17 yards.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Steve Breaston ARI
Breaston doesn't catch the short stuff. His shortest completion of the day was 11 yards, and while that pass didn't go for a first down, the other six all went for either a first down or a touchdown. His touchdown pass was a thing of beauty; after driving the Packers crazy with a multitude of crossing and combination routes all day, Breaston went on a crossing route, only to head straight for the endzone two steps in. The Packers left him wide open.
Early Doucet ARI
Meet the new Anquan Boldin. Doucet isn't as talented as Boldin is, nor is he as good of a blocker, but he'll play for a lot less over the next three seasons, and he's got great hands. Much like Breaston, only one of Doucet's completions didn't go for a first down.
Jermichael Finley GB
Finley's quickly become the Packers' biggest matchup problem. How do you cover him? The Cardinals tried with linebackers, and Finley ate their lunch. If you assign him to a safety, Finley can outmuscle them and break their tackles, and that takes a safety away from the running game or -- worse -- away from Greg Jennings' deeper routes. The Packers exploited that when they went to four-wide sets and the Cardinals were forced to put a safety in coverage against Finley; it opened up single coverage for Jennings, in the slot, against the overmatched Ralph Brown. Rodgers missed Jennings when he had the chance, but all the parts are coming back next year, and Rodgers doesn't miss very often.
Dustin Keller NYJ
71 yards after the catch is a great day for a wide receiver on three catches, let alone a tight end. Keller's faster than most tight ends, but he was great at selling the run on play action before sneaking out downfield and picking up huge gains. Chinedum Ndukwe should've held Keller to about a ten yard gain on Keller's 43-yard completion in the fourth quarter, but Ndukwe took an awful angle and couldn't recover; normally, receivers have to juke a defender to make them miss, but Keller just turned 45 degrees or so and Ndukwe was useless.
Miles Austin DAL
Austin gets up to 122 yards with a 40-yard pass interference penalty that gave the Cowboys the ball at the Eagles 1.
Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Sam Aiken NE
Targeted on two different interceptions, Aiken added injury to insult with a fourth-quarter concussion thanks to a Frank Walker hit. Truthfully, he shouldn't be out there as a receiver; Aiken's a great special teams player, but he's stretched as anything but an emergency wideout. It seems strange to say, but with Randy Moss potentially leaving and Wes Welker on the shelf, wide receiver is suddenly a very big weakness for the Patriots moving forward.

(Ed. Note: This article originally appeared Monday on ESPN Insider.)


134 comments, Last at 14 Jan 2010, 12:29pm

1 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"Warner would only have the trick question people on his side."

You mean Brady?

12 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads


Even as a Pats fan I think this race would be much closer, especially after last years playoffs, which really showed (to me) what Warner brings to a team. I couldn't stand him before, but respect him now ... Brady is still extremely shaky, and if you play the right defense against him, you can take him out of the game. Sure, the Ravens are a great defense, but show me any game this season where the Pats really moved the Ball well (well except for: three quarters Colts, one quarter Saints, the latter being almost only rushes, lackluster Titans, Bucs). Honestly, I still think he is not stepping into his throws and if I look at Carson Palmer - much longer removed from a similar injury - I wonder for Brady what is up the horizon there.

21 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In our popular media, the image of Brady is much higher than that of Warner. Brady never lost his job to Eli Manning, for example.

I don't quite understand where Warner disappeared to. But he really wasn't as good for a few years there. When his teams were bad, he was also bad. And that's also part of why his playoff stats are better than his regular season stats. Ordinarily playoff stats are going to be worse, given the higher level of competition, but Warner's regular season stats include some stinker seasons.

121 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I believe it was injury. He broke a finger (on a snap if I recall correctly) and for a few seasons, he wasn't as accurate and started turning the ball over.

I guess it healed.

2 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"Finally, in Super Bowl XLII, with 2:58 left in the game, he completed a 13-point comeback"


16 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Second that.

Although I doubt these HoF voters and guys doing the preselection have even the slightest piece of intelligence left.

Steve Tasker out, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy and Jon Randle in. Can anybody explain that? I am not taking anything away from the other guys, but Tasker was flat out the best at his position, for a decade.

29 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I value OL as the most important position in football, so I would rate Dawson high.

I'd still say Tasker was the best at his position for a decade, while some of the other guys are above average plus lucky with SB rings. So he deserves it more than some above average OL.

But sure it is easier to vote somebody in the HoF if he has great stats plus some rings. This crappy place is filled with "skill position" players. Easier than to have some courage and vote for a guy which changed aspects of the game.

Ah and ask Levy who was the most important player on his teams.

37 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I find it pretty hard to credit any argument for an answer to that question other than "Bruce Smith" or "Jim Kelly", whether coming from Levy or anyone else. Most clearly the best at his position, sure, Tasker has a good case. The argument the other way is that gunners don't have enough value for any gunner to merit enshrinement, and I don't think it's a stupid one.

Left tackles are extremely valuable, but still not as valuable as quarterbacks. No other offensive line position is especially high value - though all are clearly worth far more than kickers, punters, return men and gunners. I think in general the value progression by position goes something like Category A: Quarterbacks; Category B: Left Tackles, Pass Rushers, Wide Receivers, Cornerbacks; Category C: Other offensive and defensive starters; Category D: Special teams players. I didn't see Dawson play, but six straight All Pro selections makes it pretty clear that he was regarded as by far the best centre of his era. That's good enough for me. I'm not sure "by far the best gunner of his era" - if that's even true of Tasker - is.

51 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I can't confirm with research, but my recollection that the special teamer is a recent addition to the Pro-Bowl roster. I believe that this position was added because of Tasker.

Green Bay kept Travis Jervey around for years because of his special teams play. It happens and should be recognized. Just like the best punters should be recognized. Not necessarily Ray Guy though.

30 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Most guys who excel at special teams are good enough to make their way into an offensive or defensive starting lineup within a couple years.

50 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Actually, when Tasker did start due to injuries, he was a very effective receiver, and was hailed as running the best routes of ANY of the Bills' receivers. Had he not been a special teams demon for a stacked team, he could have been Wes Welker's prototype.

I'm in the camp that thinks Tasker (and, actually, Ray Guy) should be in. In Tasker's case, he's got the multiple Pro Bowls that people usually want, and then there's that little rule change thing. Special teams don't get enough credit.

61 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The other Bills receivers were James Lofton and Andre Reed. The former's in the hall, the latter a finalist. That's a tough starting lineup to crack. Five-time first-team All Pro. 7 Pro Bowls in a position that was added because of him. The NFL changed rules because of him. etc.

Go here for a longer argument on Tasker's merits or lack thereof.

As for Warner, it would be much easier if he would just win another Super Bowl already.

(I also like the Eagles)

5 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Still confused about that first paragraph. "About the only thing Player B would have going for him..." But you already listed another thing that he has going for him (2 yards more per attempt.).

Warner's numbers are more efficient, but why list counting stats (yards) rather than averages (yards per game) if you want to make the efficiency argument? And doesn't it mean anything that someone has more yards (experience? or that they are relied on more?) is it the same number of games?

72 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

That should read "About the only thing Player A would have going for him..." Player A's interception percentage is indeed better.

6 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"Over the course of a full season with 550 attempts each, Player B would throw about three more interceptions than Player A, but he'd complete 25 more passes and throw for just under 1200 more passing yards than Player A."

Why do I read this as implying that B is averaging almost 50 yards per completion? Talk about a high-flying offense!

10 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Math is not exactly your strength, is it?

The 1200 does not apply to the 25, but to all his attempts/completions. Donut.

13 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Do not yards accumulate only when a completion is made? So if a guy has 25 more completions, out of 550 total passes, and 1200 more yards, what is being implied?

Insults aside, it isn't cleat to me what is meant by this.

19 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

To be more precise, I understand that the extra 1200 is spread out over all the completions, but the 1200 extra yards, with only 25 more completions, seems out of whack, since even 14 yards per completion is quite high.

28 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Well, Brady was shaky for a lot of games this year. And worse, it is not like he started the season with shaky games (owing to his injury) and finished strong. He had shaky games scattered throughout the season, and it never looked like he was "confident" or "stepping into his throws".

One reason is the OL, which was banged up the whole year. But I'll give to you that he wasn't sacked much.

When I look at Carson Palmer, much longer removed from a similar injury, I wonder whether any of these guys will get back to his prior performance.

Maybe people's expectations for Brady are simply too high due to this 2007 video game season.

I still wonder why they don't go back to the five-wide short dink-and-dunk passing game which has won them a lot of games and SBs, but maybe it's Brady's or coachs' egos in the way.

84 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

A couple of things about Brady.

First, he was never going to replicate 2007. Peyton hasn't replicated 2004, and Brady's 2007 was crazier.

Second, Brady has always had issues with consistency. The strange thing about 2007 was not how high the highs were; Randy Moss makes that happen everywhere he goes (except Oakland). The strange thing was that there were no 16/36, 156, 0 TD 4 INT games... like this one ... scattered through the season. Brady is a good quarterback, but 2007 was a bigger outlier for him than 2004 was for Manning, or 1999 for Warner (or maybe even 2004 for Culpepper).

Third, they -have- gone back to the dink and dunk. It's just that Wes Welker turns a lot of dinks and dunks into gains, because he's the second best possession receiver in the NFL (Larry Fitzgerald is the best, but also does everything else better than everyone).

It's almost too bad Brady had 2007; he's going to spend the rest of his career "not coming back from injury" when in fact he's played great football and will continue to do so. People don't realize just how terrifying Warner's career numbers would be if he had played full seasons in 2000, 2002, etc. He ran up 3500 yards in 2000 in less than eleven games.

68 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Someone below me posted this as well, but here are the actual #s, given equal attempts and maintaining season averages:

Actual Stats:
Player A 395 637 62.0% 4108 6.45 28 15
Player B 290 436 66.5% 3747 8.59 31 13

Player A 341 550 62.0% 3548 6.45
Player B 366 550 66.4% 4725 8.59

Hopefully that clarifies it. 25 more completions and 1200ish more yards.

27 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads


The 1200 additional yards affect the average yards per attempt for ALL his completions. It is not like both guys started the season with exactly the same yards per completion and then the one guy added 25 completions and additional 1200 yards. The final 25 completions yielded much less than that in terms of absolute yardage. Before he made the additional 25 completions, he already had a much higher absolute yardage plus average ypc (at least I suppose:)). So he probably added about 200 yards with the last 25 completions.

64 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The idea is that if each QB had 550 attempts at their historic Post season comp%/ypa rates (empty the chart, except for those columns and calculate the theoretical comp and yardage based on 550 attempts each), that's what the difference would be.

I think that's what most of the responses have been going after... but don't focus on the how/when those yardages accrued, just do the math and leave it

That being said, yes, the extra yardage would have accrued over the course of the season one pass at a time and come as a natural result of a higher comp%/ypa. There wouldn't be any combination of 25 passes that totaled to 1200 yards.

82 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In my wee hour stupor, what threw me off was my intuition that, given two HOF caliber qbs, with equalized attempts, it was very unlikely that there would be a 1200 yard difference in yardage. I therefore numbly reacted that the numbers were off.

What this illustrates is that a two yard difference in yards per attempt is huge, and a 4.5% higher completion percentage, combined with a two yard higher yards per attempt average, is really huge. Yes, this sample size is a specialized subset of a much larger sample size, but given it came against playoff caliber teams, and we still are talking about several hundred attempts, it is pretty remarkable. Then again, if some of Warner's less terrific teams had made the playoffs, giving him a couple hundred more attempts, there likely would have been significant regression.

7 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"Romo's been the same quarterback he's always been over the past five weeks, same mix of strengths and weaknesses"

This comment is a real head-scratcher. Looking at some full-season numbers over Romo's time as a starter (2006-2009):
INT%: 3.9, 3.7, 3.1, 1.6
Fumbles: 9 (in 10+ games), 10, 13, 6

And here are his total INT+Fumbles per game after December 1 the last 3 years: 2.6, 3.0, 0.4.

Clearly something is different this year and this December - he's not just the same old guy he's always been. It seems absurd to claim otherwise, given the extreme change in his turnover numbers.

11 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Well, his pass protection this year isn't the train wreck it has been with some frequency in the past. This is partly due to better performance by offensive linemen, and partly due to better scheme, I think. Romo's mobility and innovation skill masked real pass protection issues in the past, although it did show up in his turnover numbers somewhat. The first thing I noticed when I saw the Cowboys this year was that there weren't as many jailbreaks, with Romo coming under pressure fast.

15 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Here are Romo's sack % numbers the last 3 years: 4.4, 4.3, 5.8. I don't post this to dispute you about his protection being better this year - I think you're right about that. I post it to further point out that he has changed. The price he's paying for protecting the ball is that he gets sacked more (a good trade, IMHO, but a trade nonetheless).

17 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

That would make sense as well. I wonder if better protection results in more patience from Romo, which results in him being less reckless.

24 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Not having to catch up to leads which your defense handed out to the opposition will also do wonders to your Interception ratios.

115 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

His protection is slightly better than it was last year, but it is still below average. Really, the major difference that I see is in scheme. For example, over the last few years, the starting flanker and RB have been below average catching screen passes (Barber and Williams were both below average last year--esp. Williams, who almost always lost yardage on those plays). This year, Austin, Felix Jones, and Ogletree have killed defenses in the screen game. Good screens are high percentage plays that do a good job of dissuading the blitz and helping the QB avoid riskier passes. That's not the only schematic change that helps Romo, but it's a perfect example of how the offense has become more "Romo friendly."

8 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The only game remotely close to the Az-GB game that I can remember was the Chiefs-Colts game where neither team punted

9 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Sorry, but even with Moss and Welker out, and Brady still recovering, the passing game must be better.

This was Bill O'Brien's first season calling the shots ... McDaniels, now a renowned genius (really?) wasn't a genius in his first season responsible for the offense I think.

I just don't get why the Pats don't go back to this five wide short dink and dunk passing game which won them Super Bowls. Don't get it. Does it hurt Brady's ego if they did that?

23 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

And here I thought they won the Super Bowls behind Corey Dillon's rushing prowess.

The five wideout thing they did in 2007 got them to the Super Bowl. But they didn't win it.

36 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

You're absolutely right. The Patriots won the Superbowl in the 2003 season thanks entirely to Dillon rushing for 541 yards on the season. For the Bengals. Oh, wait, you were talking about 2001? Yeah, Dillon was an impact player that season, with 1300 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. For the Bengals.

Those 2001-2004 Patriots teams had very good defenses. This one doesn't, and I don't see much sign that it's about to develop one either. That's a big problem.

14 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Tom Brady had all of 99 passing yards before the final drive began against the Rams in 2002, and Redmond caught three dump-offs on the drive. He was a terrible choice for Super Bowl MVP that year.

Nonetheless, his playoff record, overtime record, general body of work, it's hard to deny that he's a clutch performer, a stud. But then again, so is Kurt Warner. Let's hope Peter King sees the light on Warner some day; Warner should be a HOF lock right now but the King of Caffeine doesn't seem to understand that. And so it goes.

34 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In reply to by lester bangs (not verified)

Is there anything Mr. King understands (other than his thinking that Tasker should get a shot at the HoF)? That column he writes is a joke.

18 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The way Tony Romo is playing, why shouldn't his rep go up? Look at the last seven games:

Romo, from Week 12 on: 172-of-255, 2103 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INT (and no fumbles), 8.247 YPA, 67.45 completions, 106.38 rating. And most of the opponents have been legit, four of seven playoff teams (plus the Giants before they quit). Come on, I'm no Dallas fan, but Romo has been fantastic lately.

25 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"A 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce... It's forgotten now, of course, because of Steve McNair's amazing drive that followed"

Not here. Bruce ran a streak along the right sideline "...and goes deep to Isaac Bruce!" (Al Micheals) where he catches it, stops to juke a defender and cuts inside to streak into the endzone. In my mind, that play defined that super bowl, not the last drive 'n tackle.

26 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"In reality, Brady's reputation as a "clutch" quarterback rests upon his two game-winning Super Bowl drives(both of which, by the way, came under a roof)"

You really should add the drives to end the Tuck rule game (regulation and OT). Or, actually that whole 4rd quarter. While I haven't followed Warner's career as closely as Brady's, that drive really puts a damper on that sentence. (Of course you can completely disregard this comment on the basis that that drive was helped by the call, but, hey, officiating errors are part of the game).

35 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

That's true, certainly the Tuck Rule game is partly why Tom is considered "clutch". What I find more interesting is that Tom Brady's clutch moments all ended with him needing a game winning field goal, not a touchdown. The drives that you mentioned all have something else in common: Adam Vinatieri, who earned his reputation for being clutch right alongside Brady. I wonder at the difference in difficulty between needing a FG versus a TD. Had Brady needed to score four or more points at the end of those games would he have come through? It hasn't ended well for him recently when that's been the case.

Adam Vinatieri's actually the perfect exhibit for why the term "clutch" is so misleading. When asked to name the best kicker of the past decade, most fans and sportswriters would and do name Adam Vinatieri. The truth of the matter though is that Adam is above average for an NFL kicker, but not significantly better than his peers, with a weaker leg than some. His name has cache because he's been placed in such incredibly high leverage situations. In all three Patriots Super Bowls, and the Tuck Rule game, it was Vinatieri who scored the final and ultimately deciding Patriots points. I wonder just how much of Tom Brady's reputation is also the result of the situations in which he finds himself.

47 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I think non-Pats fans have been singing this song for a while. It is undeniable that going 35 yards to set up a 40+ yard FG is a world of difference than driving for 6. There is also a difference between trailing in a game vs. being tied when you start the final drive. I'm not denying Brady being a top premier QB in the NFL, it's just that going 40 yards to set up a kicker from 40+ yards out is not the same as Elway or Montana going 80+ for 6.

128 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

You can actually answer that question (FG or TD for Brady) on the Tuck Rule game (That's kind of tongue in cheek, obviously you can't answer with a sample size of one game). The pats were down 10 entering the 4qtr, and, while the final drive of the game is more famous, I would count the TD one as clutch, 4qtr, 7 minutes left, down ten, that's certainly game on the line situation, even if they had another drive stall in between.

31 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Can we say that Kurt Warner's Super Bowl trophy is in the bag?

57 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In reply to by Michael LaRocca (not verified)

No. Winning in New Orleans isn't in the bag. Winning in Minnesota or Dallas isn't in the bag. Beating Indy or San Diego (or Baltimore or even the Jets, any are scary if they make it that far) isn't in the bag.

But Warner is crazy good.

33 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In retrospect, I'd have preferred Neil Rackers to have made the field goal. Because he didn't, the storylines of the game are all about Rodgers' fumble and the pass he missed to Jennings. They should be about two extraordinary offensive showings, two exposed defenses, and the best passing performance of all time, by a 38 year-old in probably his last home game. Fifty-eight more passing DYAR than the previous best! That's insane.

39 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Funny nobody mentions that Kurt lost his last 2 Super Bowl games because he threw a Pick 6 in both of them. Both of those pick 6's lost the game. That's a fact, not an opinion. The pick 6 against the Steelers changed the entire game. The same for the pick 6 he threw to Ty Law (I believe), since the Pats offense couldn't score at all that game.

So the numbers are one thing, Kurt put up alot of yards, but don't forget he made the 1 BIG mistake in both of those games. Kurt could easily be 3-0 in Super Bowls, but he could easily be 0-3 as well.

44 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I would love to imagine a world where Kurt Warner was 3-0 in the Super Bowl, and Brady was 2-2, with Big Ben at 1-1.

110 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

No. No. No. Just no.

You don't get to decide that all the blame for any loss goes on one player for one mistake. That's not a fact, that's a crappy opinion. If the Cardinal defense makes a play and forces a turnover or gets a stop on the Steelers' final drive, it would mean the Cardinals win, but it wouldn't absolve Warner of the mistake on the Harrison INT. Unfortunately for you, the converse is also true, and the fact that Roethlisberger pulled off a great final drive doesn't rub out the fact that Warner played a good game overall that night.

Blaming a loss on one player is just plain immature analysis.

40 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I find it sadly amusing that here at FO - a site with the mantras "it matters who you play" and "X playing in the B system with teammates C and D doing E and F" - would push conventional stats that ignore context.

Where are Brady's and Warner's playoff DYAR and DVOA, for goodness sake? And where is the rest of the context, say, the receivers they played with? Come on, guys! We come to FO for statistical insight, not mouthbreathing claptrap.

Warner is good, and I suspect he has been more effective on average (even adjusting for opponents) in the playoffs than Brady. But we want to see the DVOAs.

43 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Exactly. For a site that always places emphasis on looking past the surface, this sure is a fanboy article that jumps to alot of conclusions on the basis of basic numbers (which are really close), after the fact Brady had his worst playoff game ever and Warner had his best one ever (knee jerk anyone)? Plus, the fact I brought up before that Warner's Pick 6's lost both SB games.

53 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

This always happens now and then. As a way to (over)compensate for the (unwarranted, mind you!) claims that FO is in the tank for the Patriots we get the occasional "gem" like this. Just like Schatz enjoys taking Massarottian (or would that be Felgerian or Borgian?) shots at Patriots fans.

71 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Sure, the pick-6's were large parts of losing those games. But the "6" part of them really isn't Warner's fault (at least not the one against the Steelers). I think all you can ding Warner for there is an interception deep in the opponents end. The return is largely luck or a fluke.

58 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

This article was originally written for ESPN; considering that audience, I can understand why conventional stats were used when they work well for Bill's point. That said, I agree that it would've been nice to see DVOA and DYAR added to the comparisons for the FO version. (Not that those do any more to control for the quality of receivers, etc.)

Also, how much of the difference is due to Warner's shining masterpiece from Sunday? If you removed each QB's best game, does it change their comparison much? What about worst game?

I wish writers didn't feel compelled to make bold statements to garner attention. In this case, I think a very strong argument is made that Warner's playoff performance has been elite, but there needs to be a bit more analysis to convince me that Warner's been clearly and consistently better. (Not that I'm convinced that Brady's been better ... just that I think including the above would help Warner's case quite a bit.)

66 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Yes, the original audience is ESPN, but in an article that otherwise touts FO-style stats. It would have been simple - and would have lost not a single reader - to back up or contradict the argument with career playoff DVOAs.

Everyone here wants to know. And anyone with a brain would have wondered about the omission on ESPN. After all, if DYAR is such a good stat, why didn't they use it (or DVOA) to compare two playoff careers?

Hmmm.... maybe FO isn't very confident in DVOA after all. Gosh, should we trust it if they don't?

77 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I don't have the individual stat workbooks run yet for playoffs before 2003. I know, it's a gap in our data, but that's a reason we can't do career playoff DYAR/DVOA.

80 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

So we're stuck with conventional stats for comparing playoff performance before 2003? That's a shame.

Can we compare Warner and Brady 2003 to present? It's not ideal, but it gets almost half of Warner's playoff career and almost all of Brady's. DVOA would be the thing to look at.

67 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I find it sadly amusing that you're so upset by this.

Especially considering that it's pretty clear that they recognize that they're putting up a subjective analysis of raw stats. Yes, it's an advanced stat driven site, but that also doesn't mean that traditional stats have no value. Stats, traditional or otherwise never tell the whole story anyway so any debate about who's better in the playoffs would become a subjective discussion anyway.

Nevermind the fact that it's just a quick intro opener to the quick reads chart which is what the article is actually about in the first place. I don't think it's fair to expect and DVOA analysis in a segment designed as a simple intro to dress a chart for publication.

78 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I'm hardly upset, just "sadly amused".

Every other line of stats in the article shows an FO-style stat. It's very odd that this one - the intro to a series of FO-style stats - somehow forgot how to use DVOA or DYAR to compare two players. Doing it this way undermines the rest of the site by hinting that FO doesn't really trust DVOA/DYAR for comparing players, while failing to enlighten the audience beyond what we could get on conventional sites.

It's trolling for fake controversy, a device we're seeing more and more from FO. That makes me "sad".

It's transparent. That makes me "amused".

91 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

DVOA and DYAR don't adjust for the quality of the receivers or other players on their teams. And given that all of the teams were playoff teams, so it's not like either of them played against a lot of awful defences. Having a 66.5% completion percentage AND an 8.59 YPA over 436 attempts is insane, especially compared to Brady's numbers, as a qb who is (rightly) considered a certain HoFer, in large part because of his playoff performances. I would like to see the DVOAs as well, but the point is still valid.

95 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Right you are, which is why I asked for DVOA and additional context.

I don't think you can safely just assume they played against equivalent defenses. It may be true, or it may not be true. In 1999, Warner played againt two teams ranked 23rd and 26th in pass defense DVOA. Then again, he also played the best pass defense of the year (TB) - but did badly (rating: 56.2). It's very hard to judge his defense-adjusted accomplishments by eye with wild variations in defense quality and results like that.

As for receiver quality, Brady had a great corps for three playoff games out of eighteen, 'Gimpy Moss and the Unprovens' one game, and 'Some guys what play football' for fourteen games. Warner never went to the playoffs with anything less than a great receiving corps.

Warner's numbers are crazy-good. I'm with people who like him for the HOF despite his rollercoaster career. But to compare Brady and Warner in the playoffs without considering context is bogus.

49 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I don't think Rodgers has fumblitis. Considering how often he gets pressured and hit, his ball security is pretty good. According to FO stats, he had 8 fumbles on 600 passes and 43 rushes during the regular season. That compares favorably with the likes of Brees (8 fumbles on 538 passes) or Eli (13 fumbles on 551 plays), even though their adjusted sack rates are light years better than Rodgers'.

DVOA did hate Rodgers' fumble, though; you're right about that.

45 More Toucdown Passes than Incompletions

The article states:

He had more touchdown passes than incompletions, something only Carson Palmer and Brady (twice) did this season

Brett Favre in week 11 vs Seattle was 22 of 25 with 4 touchdowns.

46 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Thank you, thank you, thank you for mentioning that Warner has been involved in game tying or go ahead scores inside the last 5 minutes of all three Superbowls he has played in, and that they were all touchdowns, not FG's.

There are a lot of could ofs and would ofs in sports, and their value is questionable, but with a couple different play results, Warner could be 3-0 with 3 Superbowl MVPs and an 11-1 record in the playoffs. Such is the difference between, 'He's a pretty good but inconsistent QB' and 'He's up there with the best of the best all time'.

Just sayin',

81 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In reply to by Parker (The Fi… (not verified)

Such is the difference between, 'He's a pretty good but inconsistent QB' and 'He's up there with the best of the best all time'.

Even with the losses he's up there with the best of all time, unless you're someone who judges quarterbacks soley on rangzzzz. Look at the playoff numbers for any quarterback you want. The only 2 passers that have been comparable in the playoffs are Bart Starr and Joe Montana.

If you project Warner's playoff averages over 16 games it would be a top 5 statisical passing season in league history and that's only playing good teams.

83 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In reply to by Anonymous Coward (not verified)

I agree he is one of the best, but I think that opinion is not widely shared, or at least if it is, many people are late to the party. I seem to recall a 'Is Warner a HOFer' thread here before this season, and believe that the general opinion was, 'probably not'. Though I could be wrong and didn't go back to look.

85 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Football Outsiders Audibles at the Line on this subject (pre-2008 postseason):

updated in post-Super Bowl discussion:

111 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Note that that discussion took place not just before this season, but in October of 2008, before he'd gone to a third Super Bowl.

48 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

That Brady/Warner comparison is ridiculous without context. First let's look at pre-2007. Warner's stats were huge because he was in a dome with stud WR's and a stud RB. What did Brady have? Troy Brown, Terry Glenn, Deion Branch, Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon. In the cold. Yeah. Also he's had a LOT of playoff games with that 'cream of the crop'.

If you asked me who I wanted today, it would be Warner. However, it's not because of the stats, but because of Brady's knee injury. He is absolutely not the same as pre-injury. Also Brady's playing style has changed since he's gotten his new toys. He may be putting up huge stats, but between that and the knee, he's now overly reliant on them - something he's gotta fix for the future.

52 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

It'll be interesting to see if we ever get the full story of Brady's injuries this year.

Certainly whatever injuries he's had don't for a second excuse some of the godawful decisions he's made this year (like the INT to the middle of the field where only three Ravens were, or the just as bad one in the NO game).

On the other hand, he was very bad on his long ball ranging all year long (must've left at least 7 or 8 TDs on the table by way, way overthrowing wide, wide open receivers on bombs). And then in the Ravens game pretty much any pass that required touch was a big-time wobbler, whether or not he was under pressure, though he was able to throw tight spirals when it was a pass where he had to zip the ball.

54 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Can't we rule out Palmer's injured thumb as the problem with his throws? It's on his non-throwing hand.

104 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I would agree. I wonder whether he has reinjured his elbow from last year or if maybe he never actually healed (since he elected rest rather than surgery last year.)

55 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Not to take anything away from Warner, he's a fantastic QB, but I can't believe the article makes no mention of the exceptional receivers he's played with for much of his career. I dare say it's had a much bigger impact on his results than the fact that he's played so many home games in a dome. Brady, on the other hand, has one post season (2007) with an excellent WR corp.

First lets consider Fitzgerald and Boldin. Few would debate their status of the best 1-2 WR pair in the NFL. Moss-Welker had a single year where they were probably better. Since about 2005, Fitz/Boldin, the best 1-2 in 3 of 4 seasons. Moreso, the Cards have a much better #3 receiver in Steve Breaston than anyone else in the league. 4-5 in Doucet and Urban are the best too.

Warner's first era featured two hall of famers in Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, easily the best 1-2 for about 4 years. Marshall Faulk was a wee bit of a threat too.

Yeah, Kurt Warner has not only played with much better offensive talent than Tom Brady for most of their respective careers, he's been around longer. The one year that Brady had comparable talent, he set the TD record and came within a helmet of a perfect season. And lets see what calibre of football, if any, Brady is playing at when he's 38. He could be in decline now or about to unleash some of the best football of his career.

69 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"First lets consider Fitzgerald and Boldin. Few would debate their status of the best 1-2 WR pair in the NFL. Moss-Welker had a single year where they were probably better. Since about 2005, Fitz/Boldin, the best 1-2 in 3 of 4 seasons. Moreso, the Cards have a much better #3 receiver in Steve Breaston than anyone else in the league. 4-5 in Doucet and Urban are the best too."

Is there data for this, or is it just your opinion? If it's true, it's amazing. I would have thought that Mr. Wayne and Mr. Clark and Mr. Collie and Mr. Garcon would have been in there somewhere.

87 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

There is quite alot of conventional data to support my assertion: between them, Boldin and Fitzgerald have been in the league for 13 years combined. 9 of those years featured 1000+ yards receiving. 6 of them featured more than 1200. They have over 100 touchdowns combined. 6 Probowls, despite playing for arguably the most futile franchise in all of pro-sports (before 2008). They're both still in their 20s, Fitzgerald is only 26. Also, they have both put up great numbers for bad quarterbacks. Warner has only been the main QB for the Cards for 4 of the 7 years since Boldin was drafted. The other QBs are Jeff George, Luke McCown and Matt Leinart. In 2008, Steve Breaston also had 1000+ yards receiving, so in that year the Cardinals had 3 receivers with 1000 or more yards receiving. An NFL first I believe.

I'm willing to concede that Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne were certainly one of the great tandems, with some overlap with Fitz/Boldin. But I'd like to see what Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon can do with a mere mortal QB, and over more than a single season, before I put them in a coversation with Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

Got any data that says I'm wrong?

89 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

In 1978, Rick Humphrey, the quarterback of my three-man street football team (the Steel-Boys) once threw for 975 yards to a single receiver in a single game! A record that has yet to be broken on any field.
The receiver in question was his brother, Eddie. I was the youngest on the team and couldn't run as fast, so I played center/guard/tackle/tight end.

Beat that with a stick!

The signature play of the Steel-Boys was a screen pass/pick play involving Mr. Johnson's Buick. It flummoxed all opponents that season until we accidentally bent the radio antenna on it and got grounded.

79 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Arizona doesn't look particularly explosive with Leinart. If anybody could do it with these guys, this would've been the third straight season Arizona was in the playoffs. Warner split time with Leinart despite being demonstrably superior in 2007 (they split time in 2006 and were about even), and the Cards would've been in the playoffs if they'd handed him the job earlier. Without Warner, Fitz would be Megatron. I'd argue that Boldin isn't really a great receiver, he's just a decent receiver in a great situation. Arizona's front office apparently agrees.
I'd concede St Louis was an all-time stacked offense

86 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Torry Holt isn't a clear Hall of Famer. Not with receiver stats the way they are these days. He'll be a Cris Carter maybe-maybe-not. Beyond saying that though I won't comment on the Rams teams Warner played for. They were great, although I'd cite Orlando Pace as the single most important facet (other than Warner).

These days, Arizona has a good receiver group but hardly the "obvious best in the league", especially with Boldin out of the lineup. Boldin, by the way, is criminally underrated by commenters on these boards. The short list of teams with receivers as talented as the Cardinals:

Patriots(Moss/Welker/Galloway - yes he was cut but only because he was criminally misused); Saints (not as high at the top end but deeper); San Diego (Same comment as New Orleans); Green Bay (Again, same comment as New Orleans). Sure, Boldin and Fitzgerald are hot, but Ben Patrick is no Antonio Gates, and Breaston and Doucet are great because of Warner, not the other way around. Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson would run rings around them.

I say this not to knock Brady, but just to point out how deep some of the receiving staffs around the league are. NO, in particular, is just silly. They have seven or eight receivers as good as anyone employed by Miami or the Giants.

130 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I wouldn't call Carter maybe-maybe not, He was penciled as a first ballot, but that obviously didn't happen. But I'm pretty sure he'll eventually make it.

113 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Looked at the other way, Bruce and Holt became the undisputed top receiving tandem in the league... when they had Warner throwing to them. Holt's YPR were fantastic, and dropped off dramatically after Warner had his injuries and/or was no longer there. Bruce's YPR shot up with Warner, and dropped back to earth afterwards. Marshall Faulk was regarded as a very good back, but shot to best player alive status when he had Warner in the backfield with him. All three were good afterward, but not as good. The Rams #3, #4 and #5 receivers were highly regarded as well, with the media drooling over the depth with Az Hakim and Ricky Proehl behind Bruce and Holt.

Then it happens all over again on another team, right down to everyone drooling over the ridiculous depth the Cardinals have at receiver, and we're supposed to say, "Oh, he's just surrounded by great talent. Again. Funny how that keeps happening."

122 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Also worth noting is that the rest of the Cardinals' supporting talent on offense is nothing to write home about. Their line is decidedly below average and last season especially their running back group was terrible.

63 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Remember that in 2007 the Pats had Welker, a healthy & motivated Moss, Dontae Stallworth, Kelley Washington, and Jabar Gaffney as the WRs. And an OC who would call passes to RBs and TEs, too.

In 2009 the Pats had Welker, a possibly-injured and definitely at least somewhat tuned-out Moss, and a backup slotman (Edelman). That's it. Belichick screwed up big-time with the offense this year. Letting Gaffney go, picking up Galloway, etc. Not to mention having Bill O'Brien and his hideous playcalling as the (untitled) OC.

92 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Counting just passes thrown to RBs, WRs, and TEs (attempts or targets, not receptions):

NE 2007 - RB 14%; WR 74%; TE 12%
NE 2009 - RB 18%; WR 71%; TE 10% (incl rounding error)

NE threw MORE to its TE and RB this year than in 2007 (I did not look at success rates, just attempts)

One big difference: in 2007, 72% of the RB targets went to Faulk; in 2009 it was 50%. Some of that was due to Faulk missing a game, but Morris was more involved in the passing game this year than 2007 (26% of RB targets vs. 10%).

Second big difference: as you pointed out, the WR3/4/5. In 2007, Stallworth (17%) and Gaffney (12%) got a decent share of the WR targets - while no other WR saw a regular season target. This year, Edelman saw 13% of the WR targets but only because Welker missed (essentially) 3 games. Without those games, Edelman saw about 6% of the WR targets, and Aiken (9%) and Galloway (5%) - a total of 21% of the targets spread over 3 wrs vs. 29% over 2.

But in terms of the rb-wr-te distribution of passes, the changes weren't huge and the backs were more involved than you think.

70 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I think FO is biased in their opinion of any team or player that is different from my opinion.

88 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

My personal rebuttal of Warner's HOF credentials would remain that he was only ever a top QB when surrounded by great players at the receiver position. My opinion on him is coming around though and at this point I do think he deserves to go in. In fact I would probably put him in ahead of Brady as I think that giving one player credit for Superbowl wins is pretty ridiculous.

90 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Regarding the Warner/Brady comparison, it's well beyond apples to oranges. The circumstances were SO different that anything beyond "both have been great" is dicey in my view.

The author and others have listed potential extenuating circumstances (home field scoring conditions...quality of receiving corp). I'd add in:

*Brady went 9-0 in his age 24-26-27 seasons, before the general peak for QB's. He had only started 14 career games before that age 24 season. He was being asked to "manage" the game to use that term many hate, rather than "carry" the team the way Warner was. The leash was loosened as he got older of course. But, half (9 of his 18 playoff games) came pre-peak when he was in a much more conservative gameplan than Warner was. Of course he's going to have less yardage per whatever. Warner didn't get any playoff games in ages 24-26-27, and was never in a "manage" the team environment. Warner's playoff years have been in age 28-30-37, and now 38 counting the GB game. He was always the gunslinger who threw a lot too.

*Brady played on a bad wheel in his age 30 season (2007), and apparently with broken ribs in his age 32 season (2009). I don't recall Warner playing with injuries that would effect his production to that degree. Everybody gets hurt in football...and I'm not suggesting Warner never dealt with anything. The New England "juggernaut" became much mortal in 2007 after Brady got hurt in the first playoff game. If you're comparing the stats of the guys, that's an influence.

*Brady played playoff games as the NFL was transitioning toward defense because lineman weren't allowed to hold. The rules "interpretation" of a couple of years ago that basically allowed holding in the line except for the offensive takedowns gave Kurt Warner his career back. He couldn't hold a job once the "tipping point" of how long a QB had to make a decision was reached. He was great in 1999 and 2001. Then he had several years as a sack, fumble, concussion machine. The argument against Warner for HOF is that he was literally USELESS for a large hunk of years. I'm not sure what the exact times are...let's say he couldn't get the job done when QB's had 1.2 seconds to decide what to do, but is a star at 1.6 seconds (again, numbers just for the sake of example). When holding became "allowed," he got those 1.6 seconds again. A stat measure from playoff games only counts Warner when he had time, and excludes the years he was useless and couldn't get near the playoffs. Brady played playoff games during the tougher time.

So, we we've got career arc issues...we've got "evolution of the game" issues, we've got injury issues, and we've got "managing the game" vs. "being the gunslinger" issues all in the stat comparison IN ADDITION to home field scoring condition issues and the caliber of the supporting offensive cast.

Both healthy, both have time, both in their peaks...it's probably pretty close. Before holding was allowed, one of the LAST guys you'd want in your playoff lineup in post-peak seasons would be Kurt Warner based on his regular season stats during that era of increased successful blitzing of the mid-aughts. Counting only playoff stats hides that reality in my view.

This is a case I think where the short-sample stat comparison is very polluted...and that most people would be right in taking Brady over Warner across a full spectrum of possibilities. Both would have big games as gunslingers in domes when healthy on quality teams. Warner couldn't keep a job during the years football trended toward more intense and creative blitz attacks...and only got his career back when holding was allowed. A playoff-game stat comparison only includes Warner's numbers when the stars are aligned, but includes young Brady as a game manager for nine games and injured Brady for four.

94 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Yeah, Brady cleary was a game manager in the Super Bowl's against the Panthers and Eagles, right...LMAO

Let's not play revisionist history now.

101 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Brady in 2003 was definitely more attempt heavy in the SB than "game manager early in his career" would suggest. I'll agree with you there.

Brady Super Bowls
16-27-145 vs. St. Louis
32-48-354 vs. Carolina
23-33-236 vs. Philly
29-48-266 vs. NYG

Warner Super Bowls
24-45-414 vs. Tennessee
28-44-365 vs. New England
31-43-377 vs. Pittsburgh

In terms of the spectrum, would you agree Warner was closer to the gunslinger end, and Brady was closer to the game manager end early in his career? Would get kind of cumbersome to run all the playoff games for both. Is there a dispute about how they should be characterized? Isn't it generally excepted that Brady tended toward safer shorter routes, and Warner focused further downfield? Though...Brady could obviously go deep if a guy was open, and Warner could obviously check down to Faulk or hit a guy on a crossing pattern that busted lose. Over the course of a larger sample size...is any of this in dispute? And, isn't that consistent with Warner having trouble finding time to throw downfield during the era when defenses took away decision time...then Warner re-igniting his career when that time was put back into a QB's reaction window?

Sorry for the mis-perception I may have created that Brady was "only" a game manager in his early years. He was more on that end of the spectrum as a general rule in the postseason in my view.

114 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Not really buying the holding enforcement making that huge a difference to Warner when it didn't have a similar effect on other quarterbacks.

How about a simpler explanation... that the offensive lines he played behind in 2004, 2005 and 2006 were really really bad. Shock of shocks! If you put an older pocket passer with lousy mobility behind a terrible line, he'll be terrible, but if you put him behind a good line that gives him time, he picks defenses apart? Say it ain't so!

116 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I think the evidence shows that it did effect QB's...with passing production going down until the rules adjustment caused it to go back up again. Warner tends to throw further downfield than most. I believe he was on the wrong side of the tipping point as the game evolved toward defenses...then back on the right side after the rules change. Reasonable minds can differ.

2002: 3 TD, 11 INT in 6 starts with St. Louis
2003: 1 TD, 1 INT in 1 start with St. Louis
2004: 6 TD, 4 INT in 9 starts with NYG
2005: 11 TD, 9 INT in 10 starts with Arizona
2006: 6 TD, 5 INT in 5 starts with Arizona

He had terrible offensive lines in all five years...in all three places...with a Super Bowl season in St. Louis directly preceding 2002...and a quality year in Arizona directly succeeding 2006?

Can be tough to measure offensive lines exclusive of the QB...and a struggling QB implies a struggling offensive line. Tough to separate it all out during the successful defensive surge of the era. I think we'd all agree that most quality quarterbacks didn't have something like a 27-30 TD/INT ratio during that era, even when they didn't have great offensive lines. And, Warner wasn't particularly old during the early part of that stretch. He was 31 in the 2002 season...meaning he should have still been near a peak in '02 and '03...and possibly later given his late start at a career.

123 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

But 2002 was the hand injury, right? I think it's pretty clear, given the success Bulger had that year, that Warner was the problem, and I think given how out of line with the rest of his career his performance that season is the most reasonable explanation for that is that he was hurt.

I think it's pretty hard to argue, given the offensive explosion of 2004, that the rules at that time favoured defense.

Certainly, though, I agree that Warner's lack of mobility and preference for the deep ball make his performance more sensitive to the quality of his offensive line than most.

127 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Note, I only commented on the lines he had in '04, '05 and '06, not in '02 and '03, when he was with the Rams. That reduces your coincidental crappy lines to three years in two places.

With the Giants, the line was so bad Dr. Z led off a column by holding a stopwatch on Warner's dropbacks, arguing that criticism of him for holding onto the ball was misguided, as the protection was just awful.

The Cardinals line was also terrible, and was massively and successfully revamped following the 2006 season, with Leonard Davis getting dumped at LT (and my goodness, was he ever bad at LT) and replaced by Mike Gandy, Reggie Wells moving from RT where he wasn't good to LG where he was, Al Johnson replacing Nick Leckey at C, Levi Brown entering at RT, where he was at least better than Wells had been, and Deuce Lutui progressing from lost as a rookie to serviceable in his second year. Mostly the same line is in place now, and they are playing very very well. So I don't think it's hard to believe at all that for those three seasons Warner was plagued by horrendous line play, and was not before or after.

'02 I will not attempt to defend Warner's play. He was not good. He also broke his hand twice, IIRC. '03 consisted of one game and he was concussed on the second drive of the first quarter. Those seven bad starts exist, and I'm not saying they don't. But they are just seven starts.

93 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"As good as Rodgers was at times on Sunday, it's hard to forget those two passes to a streaking, open Greg Jennings that he missed. The first one would only have made the score 14-7; it was the second one, the one that would've ended overtime after one play from scrimmage, that will be stuck in Rodgers' head all offseason. The turnovers were huge, but he played about as well as a quarterback could considering them; 14 third/fourth downs yielded six first downs and three scores, and he was 18-of-24 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and nine first downs on first down."

One could very easily argue that Rodgers cost his team 28 points on 4 plays. I fail to see how one can consider that a great performance if that is indeed true.

Rodgers has some wonderful skills. He throws the ball brilliantly but he made 4 bad plays that cost his team a ton of points.

Much like the shortstop who makes a bunch of dazzling plays but makes a bunch of errors on some routine plays...is he really helping your team as much as he seems too?

96 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Since when is considered completing a 40+ yard bomb a "routine play"?

I think that this game was such an outlier that perceptions of individual performances have become hopelessly skewed. In almost any case an incompletion is not a bad play, just an unsuccessful one. It only looks bad in comparison to the ridiculous day that Warner had. Against any standard other than a direct comparison with his counterpart, Rodgers had a phenomenal game that would have resulted in victory if GB had produced an iota of defense.

98 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Well, I,m going to backtrack a bit here, and agree with you a little as well, Arkaein. Warner was great, but there was a ton of crappy tackling by the Packers, and that skews things as well. Really a weird game.

100 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

There were some incredible throws from both QBs, but I've never seen so many receivers so wide open in any game. I don't recall seeing Warner under much pressure for most of the game. I don't know if there is any better QB than Warner in terms of accuracy, which is the most important skill. But he didn't exactly operate under much duress.

99 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I don't remember the 1st 40 yard missed pass but the OT pass was not a difficult throw because Rodgers didn't have to be incredibly accurate to complete the pass. He had the entire right side of the field available to him and as I recall an excellent pocket to throw from. Hitting the guy in stride for the TD would have been a really good throw but he could have under thrown that ball a fair bit and still completed the pass which gave him a much bigger margin for error.

Once a WR has beaten man coverage cleanly the only really bad throw is a huge overthrow. Most under thrown balls end up as completions or PI because the DB is scrambling at that point.

120 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Rodgers had to move up in the pocket spotted Jennings and let go. At no point in overtime did Rodgers have anything resembling an excellent pocket as the Cardinals d-coordinator resorted to the proverbial kitchen sink to stop GB.

If folks want to criticize then point out that on the fumble play Rodgers is specifically responsible for spotting and coping with that blitzer. That is part of that empty backfield setup. Rodgers has faced that same situation multiple times. He just plain missed it. THAT is the killer of that drive.

97 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I agree with you, jmaron, and given the context of bad tackling and a lot of wide open receivers, I think it is easy to overrate Rodgers performance. Warner was very nearly perfect. Rodgers was well short of that mark, even though he made some nice throws.

I have to say, however, that I find this game and our posts support the contention that the gap between a HOF caliber qb performance, and a below average qb performance, over the course of a season, on an otherwise talented team, can be as much a 4 wins, maybe more. If Matt Leinert starts for the Cardinals, I'd wager that they would have lost by two touchdowns. As much as I dislike at times the way too much focus is put on qb play, the way the rules are designed and enforced now simply makes qb play a huge difference-maker.

102 Tom Brady

I don't buy Brady as one of the great QB's of all time. This is purely opinion on my part but I've never been impressed by Brady when he's under pressure. All QB's look a lot worse when pressured but I've always felt that on the rare occasions over his career when he was pressured heavily that he looked downright awful.

When I watch Peyton Manning - I see a guy who plays better than you would expect in almost every situation. I don't see that in Brady. I see a guy who is amazing when the offensive line is playing at a good to great level, but is less than ordinary when they aren't. I feel the same about Kurt Warner.

103 Re: Tom Brady

In reply to by jmaron

I think you meant to post that here:


(I also like the Eagles)

106 Re: Tom Brady

In reply to by billsfan

nope - it's relevant due to Brady's putrid performance Sunday.

I understand creating a separate thread for such discussions but the notion that any such discussion is irrational is arrogant and condescending.

I enjoy reading FO a great deal but when it comes to individual position assessments I don't think they offer any particularly great insight. In some cases I think they have become to enamored with their statistical work and use it more as a drunk does a lamp post - for support, rather than illumination.

107 Re: Tom Brady

In reply to by jmaron

I certainly agree that Brady's DYAR and DVOA rank are a bit suspect. Quantitative evaluation of individual player performance (for non-kickers) is no trivial feat, especially since there's so much debate on what actually makes a good quarterback. But no matter how much he's credited for team accomplishments when backed by an excellent defense despite not throwing the ball more than 10 yards down the field (the 2007 and 2009 Patriots offense still had a *ton* of stupid little screens), luck (tuck rule and an accurate kicker), etc. the fact remains that he's still a very good quarterback. What always bothered me is that he seems to get an inordinate percentage of his passing yards after the catch (although I certainly haven't taken the time to tabulate this), and his best statistical season consisted largely of sitting behind a max-protect two tight end set and trying to hit Randy Moss behind the safeties.

As for his greatness, he avoided making costly mistakes when the pressure (psychological, not pass rush) was highest. In four Super Bowl appearances, he only threw one interception. People tend to remember stuff like that. Montana didn't throw any. First-ballot Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly stunk it up three consecutive Super Bowls. Roethlisberger wasn't much better in two wins, and Warner's just been discussed to death.

There was an interesting post on the p-f-r blog yesterday about what Vinny Testaverde could have done on a good team, which kind of puts the whole quarterback evaluation process into perspective.

And I prefer Peyton as well, and it was your mention of him, of course, that prompted my remark. If anyone were on the fence about those two prior to this season, those seven fourth-quarter comeback wins should seal the deal, even if that is a meaningless stat to this crowd. He's unstoppable, just like his little brother's solar-powered wristwatch.

(I also like the Eagles)

124 Re: Tom Brady

In reply to by jmaron

Brady and Warner are both more sensitive to the play of their offensive line than Manning, but I don't think either one requires "good to great" play from it. Brady did pretty well with some pretty indifferent line play over the years; Warner was excellent in 2008 behind a mediocre at best OL group. I agree that I wouldn't expect either man to hold up as well as Manning, Favre or Brees if thrown out there behind a line that was getting dominated, but if your line's getting dominated you're unlikely to win the game regardless.

108 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Coming up short next to Peyton Manning really only means you're not in the running for greatest QB ever, not whether you're a top-ten-in-NFL-history guy. (Now that I think about it ... Manning, Unitas, Baugh, Luckman, Marino, Graham, Tarkenton, Montana, Young, Griese ... leaves an awful lot of great QBs on the sidelines, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a bunch of greats from before my time.)

Kurt Warner has a Super Bowl ring and multiple MVP awards, he has remarkable performances against the best of competition when it counted the most, and some of the most prolific games and seasons in history. My opinion is that he would be (at least slightly) above average among the HoF QBs of today, and anyone who increases the average quality of the Hall is someone who belongs.

Tom Brady will be voted into the Hall at his first opportunity (and rightfully so), and he also would increase the quality of the Hall, flamethrowing robotic knee and all.

112 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

"Manning, Unitas, Baugh, Luckman, Marino, Graham, Tarkenton, Montana, Young, Griese"

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong...

Seriously, Griese?

119 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

I'd say that Staubach is the biggest omission, but Elway also deserves to be ahead of Griese. So do Starr and Favre. And possibly Fouts, Namath, and Anderson.

125 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

Hey, Griese had a quarterback rating of 102.9 in the 2000 season. Unitas's career high was 97.4. Clearly Griese was the superior player. If Brian Griese isn't a first ballot Hall of Famer it will be entirely because the biased East Coast media hates the Broncos.

126 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The PFR blog post mentioned above is critical to understanding quarterbacks and the Hall of Fame. I think that Vinny Testeverde, had he been on different teams, could have been Brett Favre, and vice versa. The thing about Warner is that he has made the teams he played for go from terrible to league-pacing on offense. Just by stepping on the field.

The Patriots were a good team with Drew Bledsoe.

The Cardinals were and are not a good team with Matt Leinart. Their offensive line was historically bad in 2007. They still have no running game to speak of, although it has gotten better since 2007. Even with the 2002-2006 period factored in, Kurt Warner's career completion percentage and yards per attempt are higher than Peyton Manning's.

Higher than (I say again) the numbers for the best quarterback in the history of the NFL, despite playing football in the NFL starting at age 30; playing for awful teams (until he arrived), and having substantial injuries that he attempted to play through.

Kurt Warner has taken his team to the Super Bowl in -every year he didn't miss a game-. Comparing him to some of the borderline HOF guys in our discussion is a joke.

129 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

The Patriots were a good team with Drew Bledsoe


5-11 the previous season, and 21st in offensive DVOA.

0-2 in 2001 under Bledsoe (although he did a good job filling in for half of the AFC Championship game)

No, the Patriots were not good under Bledsoe when Brady replaced him. He had his moments years earlier, but it had been a while. You may have a point, but basing your claim on how little the switch to Brady meant to the Patriots weakens your case.

131 Re: Wild Card Quick Reads

During Bledsoe's full time QB years with the Patriots, their record was 58-51. That's a "good" team. They had two losing seasons, out of seven. And this with the pretty awful defenses of the Parcells/Carroll era. I'm not in any way arguing that Bledsoe is an equivalent quarterback to Tom Brady. He's not (although comparisons to Brett Favre might not be insane). I'm just pointing out that New England was a successful franchise without Brady (though not a multi-SB winner). Arizona and St. Louis are historically bad franchises without Warner, and apparently automatic super bowl teams in any year he manages to play every game.

All I was suggesting was that the Patriots were a "good" team before Brady and Belichick.