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

Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

by Vince Verhei

The 2012 season in a nutshell: Calvin Johnson broke Jerry Rice's record. Adrian Peterson threatened Eric Dickerson's. The league was overtaken by a rookie class likes of which we may never see again. And the best four quarterbacks in football now are the same guys who have been the best four quarterbacks over the last half-decade or so, especially when viewed through Football Outsiders' exclusive statistical lens.

Using our core advanced metrics -- DYAR and DVOA -- we've gone through the full-season totals at each position and identified the best and worst quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends from this past season. There's also a look at which players have had their performance most drastically different from their conventional statistics, as well as those players who have had the biggest improvement or decline in their performance from a year ago.

Our annual disclaimer: Numbers are never perfect. While we certainly believe that our metrics do a better job of analyzing a player's performance than anything else you'll see, there are some things statistics can't account for. We'll point out where the data needs some missing context as warranted. Also, remember that DYAR is a cumulative stat, so players who miss time (like Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, who each played very well for San Francisco) will find it harder to make it to these leaderboards.

(More information on these statistics is available here.)


Top 5

1) Tom Brady, New England Patriots: 2,091 DYAR (2,035 passing DYAR, 56 rushing)
2) Peyton Manning: 1,802 DYAR (1,800 passing DYAR, 2 rushing)
3) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: 1,488 DYAR (1,395 passing DYAR, 94 rushing)
4) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: 1,455 DYAR (1,444 passing DYAR, 11 rushing)
5) Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: 1,271 DYAR (1,216 passing DYAR, 55 rushing)

Analysis: This is only the eighth time since 1991 (the first year in Football Outsiders' database) that a quarterback has exceeded 2,000 combined DYAR. Brees and Rodgers have done it once each, Manning has done it twice, and Brady has done it four times. Brady ends 2012 with his second-highest DYAR total, and the fifth-highest since 1991. Keep in mind that last season we modified our formula so the league average in any given season always comes out to zero. In other words, even accounting for today's record-setting passing environment, Brady, Manning, Rodgers, and Brees stand out from their peers like nobody else over the past 20-plus years. (Brees, by the way, joins Brian Sipe in 1979 and Lynn Dickey in 1983 as the only quarterbacks to lead the NFL in touchdowns and interceptions in the same season.) Ryan, meanwhile, set career highs in completions, yards, and touchdowns, as Atlanta won the most games in the NFC despite the collapse of their ground attack (which we shall discuss shortly).

Bonus Top 5: Rookie Edition

1) Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: 1,014 DYAR (867 passing DYAR, 147 rushing)
2) Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins: 838 DYAR (729 passing DYAR, 109 rushing)
3) Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: 379 DYAR (255 passing DYAR, 124 rushing)
4) Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: 39 DYAR (37 passing DYAR, 2 rushing)
5) Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns: -266 DYAR (-290 passing DYAR, 24 rushing)

Analysis: Wilson surpasses Matt Ryan for the top rookie quarterback season in FO's database, and becomes the first freshman at the position to surpass the 1,000-DYAR barrier. (Ryan actually edged over 1,000 DYAR passing, but negative rushing value dropped him back below the line.) He also tied Peyton Manning's rookie record with 26 touchdown passes, and when you include his four rushing scores, only Cam Newton (21 touchdowns passing, 14 rushing) produced more combined touchdowns in his first year.

Griffin finishes fourth among rookies in DYAR behind Wilson, Ryan, and Ben Roethlisberger, while Luck is 13th. Luck set a rookie record with 4,374 passing yards, but he completed less than 55 percent of his passes with 18 interceptions, more than Griffin (5) and Wilson (10) combined. Tannehill had a pretty typical rookie campaign, but Weeden was a bust in his first season, and given his advanced age (he's a year and a half older than Matt Ryan), he will need to improve radically in his second season to salvage his NFL career.

Bottom 5

1) Mark Sanchez, New York Jets: -663 DYAR (-611 passing DYAR, -52 rushing)
2) Ryan Lindley, Arizona Cardinals: -484 DYAR (-482 passing DYAR, -1 rushing)
3) Brady Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs: -446 DYAR (-442 passing DYAR, -4 rushing)
4) John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals: -325 DYAR (-323 passing DYAR, -2 rushing)
5) Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs: -319 DYAR (-354 passing DYAR, 35 rushing)

Analysis: How bad was Sanchez? He was least valuable among quarterbacks in both passing and rushing value. You'd like to see quarterbacks improving in their fourth season, but Sanchez was worse than ever, and this is a passer who has never ranked higher than 20th at his position, and only once made the top 30. As for the others, well, it's the Chiefs and Cardinals, and they are every bit as bad as you've been led to believe. Skelton deserves special mention: He has now made the bottom six among quarterbacks for three seasons in a row. Obviously, Arizona is desperate for a passer, but it's painfully clear at this point that Skelton does not deserve a spot on an NFL roster.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford finished 22nd in passer rating, but 12th in DVOA. (Unlike DYAR, DVOA evaluates players on a per-play basis.) Sometimes these discrepancies can be difficult to explain, but sometimes they're simple: No quarterback faced a more challenging set of pass defenses this season than Stafford, and though passer rating does not account for that, DVOA does. Stafford threw an NFL record 727 passes this season, and 88 of them (more than 12 percent) came against the Chicago Bears, far and away the best defense in the league this year, especially against the pass. He also played the Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams, 49ers, Texans, and Packers (twice), meaning he played more than half his games against teams in the top 10 of Football Outsiders' pass defense ratings.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins
Griffin led the league in yards per pass with a higher completion rate and half as many interceptions as Wilson, which may have you wondering how on earth Wilson finished higher in our rankings. Strength of schedule is part of it. Wilson had to run the brutal gauntlet of NFC West defenses, while Griffin's schedule was somewhat easier than average. Without opponent adjustments, Griffin's DVOA was five points higher than Wilson's; with them, it was three points lower. Also, Griffin's yardage total was skewed by a small number of very big plays. Many of his completions were actually dink-and-dunk plays. All told, 27 percent of his completions failed to gain meaningful yardage towards a new set of downs. Of the 27 quarterbacks with at least 200 completions, only Jay Cutler, Brandon Weeden, and Christian Ponder had a higher share of dumpoffs and checkdowns.

Most improved: Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams
One year ago we listed Bradford in the next section under "biggest decline," but he took many steps forward in his third season. He finished 16th in passing DYAR, after finishing 39th as a rookie and 43rd in 2011. Bradford averaged more yards and touchdowns per pass than he ever had before, and like Wilson, he had to play against the nasty defenses of the NFC West.

Biggest decline: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Rivers ranked in the top 10 in passing DYAR in each of the past four seasons. This year, he was 22nd. He averaged only 6.8 yards per pass, a full yard below his career average, and that's only counting the plays where he was able to pass at all before hitting the turf. Rivers was sacked 49 times in 2012, 11 times more than he had been in any prior season.

All 2012 quarterback numbers here.

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Running Backs

Top 5

1) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings: 454 DYAR (459 rushing DYAR, -5 receiving)
2) Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks: 410 DYAR (361 rushing DYAR, 48 receiving)
3) C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills: 392 DYAR (301 rushing DYAR, 92 receiving)
4) Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers: 317 DYAR (268 rushing DYAR, 49 receiving)
5) Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: 265 DYAR (230 rushing DYAR, 35 receiving)

Analysis: Not many surprises here. Although Peterson's season wasn't quite as impressive as his yardage numbers would indicate (as discussed last week, he is stuffed for a loss far more often than most elite backs), he still had enough rushing value to top the list of all players at his position despite finishing below replacement level as a receiver. With a surge in the final game, Peterson ends up with the 11th-highest rushing DYAR total since 1991, and the highest since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. Lynch set career highs with 1,590 yards rushing and 5.0 yards per carry. Spiller averaged 6.0 yards on 207 carries. He and Peterson (6.0 yard average on 348 carries) are the fifth and sixth players in NFL history to top 6.0 yards per rush on at least 200 carries, joining Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson, Barry Sanders, and Jamaal Charles. Bradshaw's an odd case. He had only six rushing touchdowns on the season, but he led the league in red zone rushing value, as he constantly put his teammates in position to score while rarely crossing the goal-line himself. The two names who just missed the list also warrant mention. Joique Bell of the Detroit Lions finished a few decimal points behind Bradshaw. With 52 catches for 485 yards, he has become one of the league's premier receivers at his position. In seventh place was Washington's rookie sensation Alfred Morris. He finished fifth in rushing value alone, but was below replacement level as a receiver, and he failed to make the top ten rookie seasons since 1991.

Bottom 5

1) Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders: -234 DYAR (-155 rushing DYAR, -79 receiving)
2) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons: -112 DYAR (-78 rushing DYAR, -34 receiving)
3) Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville Jaguars: -108 DYAR (-97 rushing DYAR, -11 receiving)
4) LaRod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals: -103 DYAR (-63 rushing DYAR, -40 receiving)
5) Ryan Williams, Arizona Cardinals: -85 DYAR (-85 rushing DYAR, 0 receiving)

Analysis: Honestly, it's hard to tell which of these backs was worst. Jennings and Williams both averaged 2.8 yards per carry. Williams didn't run very often, but he was so unhelpful as a receiver (57 percent catch rate, next to last among backs with at least 25 targets) that he still makes this list. Stephens-Howling was stuffed on more than one-third of his runs. McFadden's Success Rate was only 36 percent. Turner was probably the best of the bunch, but since he was still below replacement level and ran 222 times, he nearly made it to the very bottom.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots
Woodhead made the top 10 among running backs in total DYAR, despite ranking 33rd at his position in yards from scrimmage. His 4.0-yard average is nothing to right home about, but he was the model of consistency. His Success Rate (55 percent) and Stuff Rate (13 percent) were both much better than league averages (47 percent and 20 percent, respectively).

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: McFadden
The Raiders runner gained nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage, but it took him so many bad plays to get there that it was hardly worth it. He was stuffed 22 percent of the time and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. And he gained 259 yards receiving, but only 4.0 yards per target. The average for running backs was 5.8.

Most improved: Gore
One year ago, Gore failed to make the top 40 in DYAR, DVOA, or Success Rate. This year, he was top five in DYAR, top 10 in DVOA, and top 20 in Success Rate.

Biggest decline: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles
McCoy was a top-five running back in total DYAR last year, but he had only 87 total DYAR in 2012. That's partly because he missed four games, but he also had four fumbles and was stuffed 28 percent of the time.

All 2012 running back numbers here.

Wide Receivers

Top 5

1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: 470 DYAR
2) Andre Johnson, Houston Texans: 413 DYAR
3) Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers: 393 DYAR (295 receiving DYAR, 98 rushing)
4) Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos: 393 DYAR
5) Eric Decker, Denver Broncos: 389 DYAR

Analysis: Calvin Johnson leads the league in this category for the second year in a row. Although he broke Jerry Rice's record for receiving yards in a season, his DYAR actually plunged sharply due to a decline in yards per catch and touchdowns. This season just barely makes our top 20 all-time and is much lower than the 570 DYAR Johnson had a year ago. Andre Johnson makes the top 10 for the fourth time in six seasons. Cobb sort of took over Jordy Nelson's role of "Green Bay wideout who excels as the fourth option on most plays" this season. We'll have more to say about Thomas and Decker shortly under "Most Improved."

Bottom 5

1) Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals: -129 DYAR
2) Louis Murphy, Carolina Panthers: -118 DYAR
3) Mike Thomas, Jacksonville Jaguars: -97 DYAR (-135 receiving DYAR, 38 rushing)
4) Early Doucet, Arizona Cardinals: -95 DYAR (-96 receiving DYAR, 1 rushing)
5) Kevin Elliott, Jacksonville Jaguars: -94 DYAR

Analysis: Dear Larry Fitzgerald: It's not your fault. We know it. Everyone knows it. Individual receiving numbers often tell us as much about quarterbacks as they do about receivers. Really, it's probably not Mike Thomas' or Early Doucet's fault either. Kevin Elliott? Yeah, it's probably his fault. He had only 10 receptions (plus a couple of DPIs) in 33 targets before being waived in December. And Louis Murphy had only 25 receptions and one touchdown in 62 targets while playing with Cam Newton.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers
Alexander was 73rd among wideouts with 38 catches, but 16th in DYAR. He averaged 17.8 yards per catch with seven touchdowns, and he caught 60 percent of the passes thrown his way, slightly above average for wide receivers.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis Colts
Wayne was fifth at his position with 111 catches, but 42nd in DYAR. He had a 55 percent catch rate, and led the league with 92 incomplete targets,

Most improved: Thomas and Decker
Thomas ranked 37th among wide receivers in DYAR in 2011. Decker was 71st (not a typo). My goodness, what on Earth could have happened in Denver that might have boosted both men into the top five? What personnel move could possibly explain the additional catches, the yards, the touchdowns? Perhaps Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is a literal miracle worker who can make blind men see and uncoordinated men catch. Yes. That's the only rational explanation.

Biggest decline: Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers
Since entering the league in 2009, Wallace has ranked 16th, first, and fifth in DYAR. This year, he was 80th. He averaged 13.1 yards per catch, 3 yards less than his prior career low, and also had a career-worst 54 percent catch rate. Wallace began the year by holding out of training camp in hopes of getting a new contract. The Steelers refused to make an offer, a decision that looks brilliant with the benefit of hindsight. Wallace ended the season on IR with a hip injury. Wallace will be a free agent after the season unless the Steelers slap him with the franchise tag. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

All 2012 wide receiver numbers here.

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Tight Ends

Top 5

1) Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: 268 DYAR
2) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons: 235 DYAR
3) Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers: 193 DYAR
4) Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: 183 DYAR
5) Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers: 136 DYAR

Analysis: What we have here is the best tight end in the game today, the best tight end of all time, a record-setter, and two solid veterans who had unusually productive years. Gronkowski leads all tight ends in DYAR despite missing five games. In his rookie season of 2010 he was second, and his 2011 season was the best of any tight end in our database. This season ends up 12th. For Gonzalez, it's his 12th season in the top five, and his ninth season in the top two. All Witten did this year was set a tight end record with 110 catches (albeit with a career-worst 9.4 yards per reception). In his eighth season, Miller had career highs in yardage (816) and touchdowns (eight) and was voted team MVP. Olsen also set career highs with 69 catches and 843 yards.

Bottom 5

1) Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions: -128 DYAR
2) Alex Smith, Cleveland Browns: -80 DYAR
3) Clay Harbor, Philadelphia Eagles: -78 DYAR
4) Kellen Davis, Chicago Bears: -53 DYAR
5) Evan Moore, Seattle Seahawks/Philadelphia Eagles: -53 DYAR

Analysis: Pettigrew had 59 catches for 567 yards, but a catch rate of just 58 percent (average for tight ends was 64 percent) and he fumbled four times. No other tight end fumbled more than twice. Smith's catch rate was an impressive 72 percent, but only two of his catches gained first downs, and his other 11 catches totaled – totaled – 20 yards. Harbor averaged 7.4 yards per catch, worst of any tight end with at least 25 receptions. He went on injured reserve in December, and his replacement was much, much worse. Davis' catch rate was only 43 percent. And finally there's Moore. The Seahawks threw him seven passes. He produced one completion, one DPI, five incompletes, and 6 total yards. He was waived in December, and Philadelphia signed him to replace Harbor, which sounds like some kind of sick prank on, well, everyone. They threw him two passes; both were incomplete.

Better than his standard statistics made him look: Gronkowski.
No one else comes close. There were 49 tight ends this year with at least 25 targets. Among that group, Gronk ranked 13th in catches, but seventh in yards, fourth in first downs, third in yards per catch and yards per target, and first in touchdowns. Meanwhile, he was 25th in incomplete targets.

Worse than his standard statistics made him look: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans
Pettigrew and Witten would also be solid choices here, but since we already discussed them, let's get to Graham. He was third among tight ends in catches, but eighth in DYAR. He was second behind Witten in targets, and led all players at this position with 50 incomplete targets. Graham was a very good tight end this year, just not as good as his reception total would indicate.

Most improved: Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year, Lewis was the least valuable tight end in the entire league. He was one of the few men in Jacksonville who actually improved in 2012. His catch rate of 68 percent was good for his position, and his yards per catch and yards per target were almost exactly average. And he did it catching passes (well, trying to, anyway) from Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.

Biggest decline: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers
Gates was hardly a bad player in 2012. He ranked 19th in DYAR, a perfectly fine starting tight end. But he had set the bar awfully high. Since coming into the league in 2003, he had never ranked outside the top 10, had been top three seven times and first overall four times. This year, he caught only 61 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Gates will be 33 when next season begins, and his best days are almost certainly behind him.

All 2012 tight end numbers here.


150 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2013, 8:10pm

3 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Somebody needs to make a sports movie about the 2013 Arizona Cardinals, so we can see Larry Fitzgerald and his new starting quarterback re-enacting the Matt Damon-Robin Williams "It's not your fault" scene from Good Will Hunting. Watching Fitz weep as he remembers the pain of the post-Kurt Warner era would make compelling cinema.

4 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Ok, obviously Ken Whisenhunt is Minni Driver, I'm guessing Kurt Warner would be Robin Williams if he grew a magnificent beard. But who's Ben Afleck? Is it Adrian Wilson, every season he shows up to the Cardinals training facility hoping Larry just isn't there?

7 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Whisenhunt as Minni Driver is okay, I guess, but I can't believe you missed the obvious Kurt Warner-as-Ben Affleck dynamic. I mean, Fitzgerald said he would think about Warner while lying in bed with his wife! If that's not bromance, I don't know what is. Also, Rod Graves would be Matt Damon's abusive father...instead of "burning him with cigarettes", he "failed to acquire a competent quarterback to throw him footballs".

5 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I am sure I can look it up, but can someone give a quick synopsis of why FO went from ranking by DVOA (per-play stat) to DYAR (accumulation stat)?

15 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Yes it does, I guess the better question is in which way was DVOA used, since the introduction says "Using our core advanced metrics -- DYAR and DVOA -- we've gone through the full-season totals at each position and identified the best and worst quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends from this past season.". It seems like it wasn't used at all (which is fine, but the introduction should be changed).

19 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Technically, if you use DYAR, you're using DVOA. One is built from the other.

DYAR is the right stat for judging total value. Check the "our stats explained" link if you're curious.

But I agree that looking at DVOA fleshes out the picture. Peterson wasn't the top RB by being the most efficient. He did it by being an incredible workhorse while keeping near the top in DVOA. Brady may have led the league in both DVOA and DYAR, but his lead is larger in value than in efficiency. In his case, it wasn't that he hogged the spotlight by calling a ton of passes. Instead, he led the offense at a jaw-dropping pace. That's his 2012 story. DVOA could be part of many of the stories.

They did mention DVOA in the parts about over or under-rated players. But they could have done it better, and to greater total effect.

37 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Then again,I think it's harder to include DVOA in discussions about top receivers. Is Calvin Johnson really an average #1 receiver who gets thrown the ball a ton? Or does his skill have something to do with how often the ball comes his way? Personally, I'd guess the latter. His DVOA gets depressed because, when everybody's covered, "throw it to Megatron" is a reasonable strategy.

How about Gronkowski? His DVOA is only slightly ahead of Seattle's McCoy. Is Gronkowski just a McCoy with a lot of targets? Probably not.

Our best bet is to stick with DYAR for who is the most valuable. Look to DVOA and a host of other stats for how and why they were valuable.

6 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Biggest surprise for me is the gap between Griffin and Luck. Certainly that's not something the network sportscasters have recognized.

Brady ought to get more MVP consideration, but he probably lost any hope there with his two picks on national TV against the 49ers. If the Pats had held on to win after the epic comeback, maybe. Still, it would be nicer if the media at least said something to admit that his season was least as good as Peyton Manning's.

9 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

This. A hundred times this.

I know I'm a blatant fan girl, but I'm fairly certain that for all Bradys accolades, he's actually a bit underrated. It's getting to the level of how Manning was underrated in 2000-2006 compared to Brady. Recency bias maybe? Could we stop pretending that Rodgers/Brees have been at Brady (or even Manning)-levels "over the last half decade or so"? For the last two seasons, sure, especially Rodgers.

But here's the DYAR total for each QBs last 5 full seasons*:
Brady: 10,773
Manning: 8,234
Brees: 8,207
Rodgers: 7,019

Then, looking at DVOA, here are their rankings in their last 5 seasons:

Brady: 1st, 3rd, 1st, 2nd, 1st
Manning: 2nd, 5th, 6th, 2nd, 2nd
Rodgers: 4th, 1st, 4th, 9th, 14th
Brees: 5th, 2nd, 10th, 3rd, 3rd

I'm not having a hard time looking at those numbers and picking a QB "of the last half-decade or so". Over that span, Rodgers is actually closer to Philip Rivers, though that's obviously not how he's performing now.

* yeah, I know. If we just look at last 5 years and take out 1 season of Manning and Brady, 4 seasons of Brady still produced almost as much DYAR as 5 seasons of Brees, while 4 seasons of Manning produced close to 5 seasons of Rodgers.

16 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I'm thinking part of it is simply that Peyton has the better story this year: a 36 year old (God, I feel old; I vividly remember him playing in college!), coming off four neck surgeries and adapting far more quickly than expected to a whole new team. That shouldn't factor in to the MVP voting so heavily, but it does. I root for Peyton, I think he's one of the greatest ever, and I hope he gets another ring before he rides off into the sunset. But I will readily agree with you guys that I think Brady is more deserving of this year's MVP. (And probably even a better overall QB, but since they're both such phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime QBs who we're lucky to see play, I try to get into the Brady vs Peyton debate as little as possible; it always seems to involve arguing that one isn't all that great, which...no. They both ARE that great!)

24 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

There's no doubt that Manning is getting more attention because of he's on a new team and has the comeback story. If he was still with the Colts and there had never been an injury, there would be the same "same old, same old" response that we're getting for Tom Brady's season.

31 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Turns out when you replace a running back at QB with a Hall of Famer, the difference is a better story than a Hall of Famer producing another Hall of Fame calibre season.

40 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Keeping in mind that DVOA hates volume rushers with the heat of a 1000 suns, did Adrian Peterson recently die?

Minnesota went 10-6 with an offense that consists of a marginally good college team in the 10 players not named Adrian Peterson. Their #1 WR spent the year hurt, and their #1 QB couldn't have gotten the ball to him anyway.

20 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Next season will be a better barometer for measuring Brady vs. Manning, because Peyton will no longer have the fallback of "adapting to a new team" and "recovering from four neck surgeries." After a full season and two offseasons, Peyton should be fully integrated into the Broncos system with a clean bill of health in 2013.

Barring injury, I have a feeling both of these HOFers will play until they're 40, so we still have a few years left to enjoy them. And given their playing styles, I don't see any reason to think they'll decline very much, if at all, over the next couple years.

FWIW, if they both retired today, I would say Manning has had the slightly better career, if only because he carried the Colts on his back for all those years, while Brady has had the benefit of Belichick and The Patriot Way his entire career.

But anyway, in response to your post, I totally agree that Tom Brady has been the best QB in the league since 2007, and there really isn't any debate.

29 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

It makes sense to note that 2007 coincided with the Pats going to a more pass-heavy offense and acquiring Randy Moss and Wes Welker. That started a run of Brady having the better weapons and understandably, better stats. Just like when Manning had Marvin in his prime, a decent o-line, and Brady was working with Deion Branch, Manning's stats were better.

2007 was the year Marvin Harrison got hurt. The Colts had no real #3 WR since then. Even in 2009, he was working with a 4th round rookie (Austin Collie), and a 2nd year 6th round pick (Garcon), along with Wayne and Clark.

BTW, I'm not trying to defend Manning for having an inferior DVOA and DYAR since 2007, because I would accept the same rationale for why Brady had inferior ones earlier on.

What I don't like is then mixing that argument with "well, Brady won Super Bowls" when Brady had a defense that was, for the most part, drastically better in those early years where defenses had larger impact on games.

140 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Underrated, I'd probably say not. Considering most people consider Brady to be in the top 3 of current performing QBs no matter what metric or comparison is used. I would say most people use "who would I want on my team" as the metric and certainly it's a non-measurable value that Peyton, Brady and Rodgers bring to that.

One thing that I would find interesting in analysis is to look at how the Patriots and Packers offense plays into the DVOA value. Keep in mind with guys like Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and Randall Cobb (also Jennings now, Driver in the past, quick slant) all play into this idea of a "successful play" as defined by DVOA. What ends up happening in these situations is small sets of successful plays are built up in succession then perhaps one or two plays come back as average, then perhaps a failing play. Overall the drive ends on a positive note. In other offenses, there is a larger possibility of 2 or three unsuccessful plays (3 yard run on first down) with one successful play, leading to an overall lower successful play total. I know that there is supposed to be situation-adjusted factors that play a role but too many variables effectively play a role in what the "situation" is.

All stats have a bit of flaw. One flaw that may or may not be able to be solved is how offensive systems play into individual DVOA rankings.

I also have one question: For a team that runs more plays than another team, how does (or does it even) account for the possibility that there will be a higher total of successful or unsuccessful plays for these teams? For example, team A has 31 successful plays, and 30 unsuccessful plays (net of 1) in a game. Excluding value add bonuses, you would expect DVOA to be near 1.64%. Team B has 33 successful plays, and 32 unsuccessful plays (net of 1). Team B had the opportunity to be successful or unsuccessful 4 more times than Team A, yet has a less DVOA (1/65) 1.5% than team A because the net of 1 successful play is divided among 65 plays versus 61.

Perhaps this is too in depth, or perhaps this already makes perfect sense, but to me having additional opportunity or less opportunity to net 1 successful play should play a role in how teams are valued.

10 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

G** D*** Fudge Packers... The Bears deserve that playoff spot.

50 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Here is how Chicago deserved the playoff spot:
The Bears were 2-6 against playoff teams. They lost AT HOME to Seattle, Green Bay, and Houston.
The Vikings were 4-5 against playoff teams.

The Bears earned the 7 seed fair and square.

I wonder if Lovie would have kept his job if the Bears made the playoffs and lost in the first round.

69 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I'm a Vikings fan, and I was disgusted by Cutler's play in the last game against the Vikings, at a critical juncture of the season. When your qb, and your highest paid player, goes to the hounds like that, you don't "deserve" anything.

79 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

It gets to the problem entailed in the cliche "Having the will to win", when the proper term woud be "Having the will to prepare to win". What I saw from Cutler that day was an undisciplined guy who hadn't prepared to win, and thus failed his teammates due to bad decisionmaking and bad mechanics. If you are going to be that guy, and the highest paid guy, at a critical juncture, it darned better well be balanced out by long stretches of absolute brilliance, like Stubbleface. Cutler's play disgusted me that day because I was under the impression that he had accepted the responsibility that comes with his situation, and it sure appears to me now that my impression was wrong.

81 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Maybe he's too distracted by being the star of the "Smoking Jay Cutler" meme.

I have to admit that I've never seen/heard of a fan of a team actually be offended by the poor play of the opposing quarterback (in the rare cases where that happens against my team, I usually just thankfully accept the easy win, while pointing and laughing at his ineptitude). You're like a samurai who is angry/offended when his opponent doesn't fight hard enough to provide a worthy challenge.

83 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I think you're reading way too much into a handful of bad throws. I saw nothing from Cutler all year that made me think he was preparing any less than any other QB.

Reading into a QB's mental state based on a bad game is how we get all the "Tony Romo's a choker" and "Cam Newton needs to smile more" nonsense. I know you're better than that, Will.

87 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Since when is an observation that a guy is throwing with the mechanics of a damned drunk in a flag football league akin to an empty choker accusation, or a comment about facial expression? Could his performance been an anamoly? Sure. I just expected more from him this year, I guess, and that performance really topped it off.

91 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

You said Cutler was lacking "the will to prepare to win" and hadn't "accepted the responsibility that comes with his situation". Maybe you meant something different, but to me, it really sounds like you're questioning his work ethic and mental outlook. Unless you were at Bears practices that week, you really have no idea how Cutler prepared for the Vikings game.

I expected more from Cutler, too, but we know that he has several flaws, one of which is sloppy mechanics. He shares this flaw with many other quarterbacks I see on Sundays. I don't get what makes Cutler's play "disgusting", unless you find roughly half the QB play in the NFL to be "disgusting".

92 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

The guy is almost 30 years old and still throws with crappy mechanics with some frequency. This leaves us with some alternatives. 1) He's athletically lacking by NFL qb standards. 2) He's stupid. 3)He hasn't worked hard enough to reduce the frequency with which he throws in a mechanically poor way. Of these 3 alternatives, I believe the third to be, by far, the most likely.

Now, if this tendency to throw in a mechanically poor way was counterbalanced by mulitiple seasons of statistical excellence (forget Stubbleface; even Romo has accomplished that), I probably would not react to what I saw as strongly as I did. That's the point; Cutler needs to accept the responsibility that he has not produced in such statistical fashion, and endeavor to eliminate those obstaces to his doing so, which means being more disciplined in how he throws the ball.

As to being disgusted, if if makes you feel better, it is a sentiment I've expressed before with players who didn't endeavor to eliminate obvious weaknesses in their game, while being one of the most highly paid players on their teams. Like Adrian Peterson and horrid pass blocking (he's improved somewhat), or John Randle and playing the run. It seems to me that one of the respnsibilities of being a very highly paid guy, relative to one's teammates, is above avarage effort in a eliminating those drawbacks that harm a team's chances of winning to a significant degree, and that failure to do so, when it results in a team losing an important game, can reasonably result in disgust.

95 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I don't think much of Martz as an OC, but I don't find it likely that he neglected to mention the importance of mechanics to Cutler, or did not communicate what good mechanics entailed. We know Cutler received sound instruction regarding mechanics in Denver. At some point a guy has to be responsible for his career.

Look, I'm not unsympathetic to arguments about a guy not being in a situation which is conducive to success, but when I see a guy at age 29, without a huge track record of success, getting paid the most, indulging in bad habits he should have abandoned years ago, and those bad habits are costing his teammates critical games, I get, well, disgusted.

101 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Well how can you defend Tony Romo who at times demonstrates some really slap dash mechanics? (Specifically I recall a dropped pick 6 where he threw an out to the right sideline with his feet pointing north of the strong safety, it was a late game but I can't remember who more than that)

I'd also suggest that Cutler's mechanics did improve quite a lot at the start of his time under Martz but then regressed through the year as he was beaten senseless. That isn't to excuse the regression, it's when you are under duress that you need to be able to rely on sound mechanics but he had improved and he just didn't seem to have the help this year. I would agree with you that it's probably past the time to keep waiting for Cutler to become the quarterback his potential suggested he could be, he should be much tighter by now.

103 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

I can defend Romo with the observation that he has never finished lower than an 11 rank in DVOA, despite those mechanics, and despite frequently being subjected to awful pass prorection as well. Are there qbs who perform well despite poor mechanics, or at least mechanics that are poor with more frequency than one would desire in a guy who occupies a very high payroll slot? Yes, of course. Unfortunately, there isn't much evidence that Cutler has performmed well. When the measurables say you are not getting it done in a manner consistent with how you are geting paid, it is incumbent on you to eliminate those negative factors which you control, which can result in you getting it done in said manner. It certainly appears that Cutler doesn't see it that way.

105 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Will, I understand your sentiments, but I think you are underselling how much coaching can affect qb performance. Think of Alex Smith between Singletary vs Harbaugh. Think about what Cutler looked like with Shannahan and now with Tice. We can go further, think about Drew Brees with Sean Payton or even Tom Brady who has many times credit BB and his coaches for really helping him learn how to prepare work on things. Even stubbleface was much better when holmgren was on his ass. I think Cutler's perceived attitude problem is maddening, but honestly, I still think the talent around him is terrible and his offensive coaches aren't great. Is he great? No, but if you could get him a coach who was on his ass, things might be different.

111 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Well, I never said that better coaching would not have made a big difference. The guy, however, has, as his highest DVOA rank while in Chicago, at 21, and that is his best rank by a huge margin. With a mostly terrific defense that has despertely needed him to minimize his deficiencies. He simply appears to have refused, or at least been reluctant, to do so, while being the highest paid guy.

113 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Judging qbs is hard. I've always had a soft spot for Cutler because while his mechanics border on terrible many times, I still feel like his upside on a good team is much higher than say Matt Schaub's is. The issues you have become magnified when he's asked to carry a team. We can debate whether he's being paid like a carry your team type of qb, but I just feel saying isn't getting it done is taking far too narrow a look at things.

Again, we really need to define exactly which qbs you feel can flat out carry a team through all sorts of problems. We learned that Tony Romo is good, but not good enough to do that. Ditto for Rivers. But which qbs frankly are? It is definitive that Eli can consistently do that? What about Ben? What about Matt Ryan? The truth is, even the very best qbs, we can only speculate. Only years after his retirement can we say Warner did.

141 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

As a Packer fan (and meaningless owner) I have been absolutely using this as the reason why we lost the Minnesota game to justify why the Packers should destroy Minnesota on Saturday. There is no Bears team to knock out for Saturday's game.

14 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

"Perhaps Broncos wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert is a literal miracle
worker who can make blind me see and uncoordinated men catch. Yes.
That's the only rational explanation."

Of course. It takes a *lot* of coaching to get a receiver to the point
to handle the randomly placed passes of Ol' Noodle Arm...

17 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

Seriously FO? You don't get why AP gets stuffed more often than other elite backs? I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with Mistian Fonder.

106 Re: Quick Reads: 2012 in Review

This makes me laugh. Peterson was stuffed a lot in 2009 too, despite the QB-who-shall-not-be-named having a career year. In fact, Peterson has had a rushing success rate in tbe bottom of the league every year since he arrived. He gets stuffed a lot because that's what he does, regardless who's under center or whether the team is winning or losing.