How Should We Judge Quarterbacks in the Postseason?
by Scott Kacsmar
Name an NFL quarterback with a lot of playoff losses and I'll show you one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.
You can't fall off the top of the mountain if you never made the climb, yet we live in a media-driven world where only winning gets glorified this time of year. For what are supposed to be the most important games of the season, the post-game analysis practically gets simplified into a caveman-like "winner clutch, loser choked" mantra where no one on the losing team could have possibly played well.
I have always refused to buy into that. My earliest game-charting work was for playoff games, scrutinizing every drive to find out what actually won and lost the game. I have collected a large volume of postseason data over the years and will be sharing some in this series of articles that will run through the Super Bowl. Next week we'll run playoff drive stats; the week after the Super Bowl, we'll have DVOA and DYAR playoff quarterback stats back to 1989. Today, we'll start with some general concepts about measuring playoff success.
Over the next two weeks we will hear much about Peyton Manning's legacy in the build-up for Super Bowl XLVIII. If he wins, he'll be 12-11 in the playoffs and will forever be known as the first quarterback to lead two teams to a Super Bowl win. He'll also be the first season leader in passing yards to win a Super Bowl. But if Manning loses, he'll fall back under .500 and own the record for most playoff losses (12) by a quarterback.
Manning is just trying to tie his younger brother Eli in Super Bowl rings, but it's the latter's 8-3 playoff record that many point to in saying little brother is the best big-game Manning. That's rubbish. When I see an 8-3 playoff record from a 10-year veteran, my first thought is "why doesn't he have more playoff losses?" No one's going to win the Super Bowl every year, but a truly great quarterback in this era can keep giving his team chances. The Giants have missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons and Eli leads the league with 97 interceptions in that span. That playoff record will remain pristine when your team can't even get into the tournament. When the Giants haven't gone on their incredible Super Bowl runs, they are 0-3 in the playoffs under Eli and coach Tom Coughlin.
If a quarterback can only make the playoffs when his team's really good and can only win a playoff game when his team's playing great, then why should anyone think 8-3 reflects well on that one player? Similar to game-winning drive opportunities, a quarterback can make his record look better by playing worse and never getting to that situation.
Critics point to Peyton's interception in overtime against Baltimore last postseason as proof of choking, but at least he had his team in that position (and we know his safety is the one who put Denver in that overtime situation). This year, Eli threw so many game-crushing interceptions in September and October that he ensured there would be no opportunity to do so in January. Super Bowl winners Drew Brees (2007 and 2012 especially) and Ben Roethlisberger (2006 and 2012-13) have similarly had bad runs that doomed their team's chances of making the playoffs. It makes no sense when a player gets vilified for making a big mistake at the end of a close playoff game while the guy who couldn't even get to that point stays out of the crosshairs.
Colin Kaepernick had a miserable fourth quarter in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, but the 49ers are never that close without his brilliant runs and incredible touchdown throw in the third quarter. His Super Bowl counterpart from last year, the highly paid Joe Flacco, had a shot to make the tournament at 8-6. He finished the year with two losses, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions in the process.
But hey, at least Flacco didn't go one-and-done in January, right?
Seattle's Russell Wilson is the other quarterback under the spotlight and could become the fourth sophomore to win the Super Bowl, joining Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Oddly enough, of Wilson's four playoff starts, his most impressive was the only one he lost when he led a 20-point comeback in the fourth quarter in Atlanta before the defense allowed a game-winning field goal. On the road, he had to perform well above his usual output to overcome his team's worst defensive performance. That speaks volumes, but I know that leaves me in the minority because it was ultimately a loss.
Wilson's situation also speaks to another aggravating side of postseason judgment: he can get a very long pass for future failures if he wins a ring right now. If we run Tom Brady's career in reverse, he ends up looking like John Elway. For years he would have been castigated as a playoff fraud who put up huge numbers in the regular season but lost games in the playoffs where his team was heavily favored... until he finally ended his career with three rings on teams that were built more and more around defense and less around his arm.
Past playoff success is no guarantee of future playoff success, but many are quick to believe otherwise. Take the case of a certain Dallas quarterback with a 1-3 playoff record, who threw two touchdowns and eight interceptions in those pressure games. The Cowboys will never win big with Tony Romo, or can they? That quarterback I just described was not even Romo. That's what Troy Aikman did in the playoffs after he won his third Super Bowl. He made three trips to the playoffs in his last five seasons and was dreadful when his team was no longer the most talented in the league.
In this era, a quarterback winning early in his career is common, and it helps when he's on a cheap contract -- Manning makes more per week than Wilson has for all of 2013 -- and can have a more complete team in place around him. Still, that should not automatically absolve future failures, especially when that player gets better individually.
A great quarterback should be consistent enough to give his team a shot to win every week and every season. I will take that any day over someone who might have a one-month hot streak every five years, yet it's an unbelievable grind to convince certain people what's actually better when the postseason is involved.
What's the first sign of a great playoff quarterback? Just getting there often should be one prerequisite. This table shows that 59 quarterbacks have started at least one playoff game -- using the term "starting quarterback" very lightly for the pre-modern guys like Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman -- in at least four different postseasons:
|Quarterbacks with 4+ Postseason Appearances|
|Peyton Manning||13||22||Dave Krieg||6||9||Sid Luckman*||5||6|
|Brett Favre||12||24||Randall Cunningham||6||9||Jim Plunkett||4||10|
|Tom Brady||11||26||Otto Graham||6||7||Neil O'Donnell||4||7|
|Joe Montana||11||23||Jack Kemp||6||6||Kerry Collins||4||7|
|Dan Marino||10||18||Kurt Warner||5||13||Doug Williams||4||7|
|John Elway||9||21||Joe Flacco||5||13||Brad Johnson||4||7|
|Terry Bradshaw||9||19||Eli Manning||5||11||Dan Fouts||4||7|
|Roger Staubach||8||17||Fran Tarkenton||5||11||Bernie Kosar||4||7|
|Jim Kelly||8||17||Steve McNair||5||10||Ken Anderson||4||6|
|Donovan McNabb||7||16||Danny White||5||10||Jim McMahon||4||6|
|Troy Aikman||7||15||Phil Simms||5||10||Jeff Garcia||4||6|
|Steve Young||7||14||Mark Brunell||5||10||Jake Plummer||4||6|
|Bob Griese||7||11||Aaron Rodgers||5||9||Chad Pennington||4||6|
|Warren Moon||7||10||Philip Rivers||5||9||Matt Ryan||4||5|
|Ben Roethlisberger||6||14||Daryle Lamonica||5||9||Y.A. Tittle||4||4|
|Ken Stabler||6||12||Ron Jaworski||5||8||Norm Van Brocklin||4||4|
|Matt Hasselbeck||6||11||Len Dawson||5||8||Ed Danowski*||4||4|
|Drew Brees||6||11||Johnny Unitas||5||8||Bob Waterfield||4||4|
|Craig Morton||6||10||Billy Kilmer||5||7||Arnie Herber*||4||4|
|Bart Starr||6||10||Sammy Baugh*||5||6||*Leading passer in two-way player era|
A Hall of Fame snub like Ken Anderson has some pretty stats in the playoffs, some collected via garbage time, but it's hard for me to consider anyone on the right column that's retired to be an all-time playoff performer when they just did not get there enough. The playoff system has changed and the field has expanded, but a handful of appearances are still relatively small.
Have you ever looked at Jeff Hostetler's playoff stats? One more big run and he would have qualified for rate stats (minimum is 150 attempts) and be the all-time leader in postseason passer rating. Similar things can be said of Tony Eason and believe it or not, Alex Smith has nine touchdowns and zero interceptions on 114 pass attempts in the playoffs. Before that big blown lead in Indianapolis you could already infer from the NBC announcers how Smith was "raising his game from the regular season."
Jake Delhomme showed us why we can't trust those small sample sizes of playoff brilliance. His first six playoff games could not have been much better; he nearly beat the 2003 Patriots in the Super Bowl, then brought the 2005 Panthers to the NFC Championship game. But Delhomme crashed back to Earth harder than any quarterback has in the postseason with horrific losses in Seattle (2005 NFC Championship) and at home against the 2008 Cardinals (six turnovers). Even though Delhomme was very good for 75 percent of his postseason performances, without the ring, only the last brutal 25 percent becomes his legacy.
Why Wait for the Playoffs to Play Your Best?
The whole concept of a quarterback "raising his game" in the playoffs is a flawed one and the crux of today's feature. Doesn't this imply the quarterback did not play as best as he could have in the regular season? This isn't the NBA or baseball. All 16 games matter and we have seen many teams miss the playoffs after failing to execute in some close games.
Then we have the maddening criticism of "[Quarterback X] does not play as well in the playoffs as he does in the regular season." Over a large enough sample size, no quarterback should be able to outperform their regular-season level of play in the playoffs. The competition is too superior. There aren't any 4-12 Jacksonville squads in the playoffs and usually the worst defenses never make it that far. Numbers should go down naturally and in the cases where you're comparing 180 games to 10, well that's just asking for trouble.
So in an attempt to make it more apples-to-apples, I compared prolific playoff quarterbacks to how they did in regular-season games against teams who made the playoffs that year. Sure, those games do not always carry the same intensity and sometimes you have no idea when that 3-5 team is going to peak later and make the playoffs, but it's better than comparing games against known bottom-dwellers.
For my sample, I used the 21 quarterbacks in NFL history with at least 11 playoff starts. The question is how would I compare them? We are currently a bit limited in advanced stats with ESPN's QBR going back to 2006 and DVOA/DYAR back to 1989. Ken Stabler, Steve Young and Joe Flacco all have a similar playoff passer rating, yet each played in different eras, making any straight-up comparisons irrelevant.
Defense-Adjusted Passer Rating (DAPR)
About four years ago I created a quick and cheap system I call Defense-Adjusted Passer Rating (DAPR). I have sprinkled it into a few of my articles over the years, but never actually explained how I calculate it. Let's go through it now.
First, it's a plus/minus adjustment for passer rating, which I know has flaws and a lot of people hate, but with DAPR we can compare fairly across eras by adjusting directly for the opponent. Just like passer rating, sacks are not included. It's also not using the iterative method that adjusts for the quarterbacks each defense played too, which would make it better, but a simple calculation to adjust for opponent was always my goal. This will never replace DVOA or ESPN's QBR, but it's a quick tool without any black-box equation, so anyone can use it. Also, it doesn't require play-by-play, so we can compute it for seasons prior to 1989. Just be careful to use gross passing yards and not net passing yards (sacks included).
Basically, for the regular season we're going game-by-game and subtracting out the quarterback's passing stats from the opponent's season passing stats and finding what impact his game had on the opponent's defensive passer rating.
Here's a sample calculation for Drew Brees against the Seahawks in Week 13:
Brees was 23-of-38 passing for 147 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions. For the season, Seattle allowed 309-of-524 passes for 3,050 yards, 16 touchdowns and 28 interceptions for a 63.4 passer rating. Subtract all of Brees' single-game passing stats from those Seattle stats and the new passer rating is 62.3. That means Brees actually raised the Seahawks' passer rating. Subtract the new rating (62.3) from the final (63.4) and Brees gets a +1.10 for the game. So for as bad as Brees seemingly played, given how good Seattle was, he gets a solid adjustment for the night. A 0.0 would mean he played completely average relative to the opponent. A negative would be below average. You then do the same calculation for each game and can add them together for a season or take a per-game average.
Now if Brees had that exact same stat line against a more porous Seattle defense like the 2010 Seahawks (89.7 DPR), then his DAPR would be -0.85, so this definitely acknowledges the opponent's statistical strengths. Throwing a few touchdowns against a defense that allows very few touchdown passes would give a quarterback a higher DAPR than someone who has a similar passer rating, but maybe got it done by having a very high completion percentage and just one touchdown.
The feature I really like about DAPR is it rewards a quarterback for performing well over a larger volume. Consider this example:
- Two quarterbacks played the same opponent.
- Quarterback A: 10/20 for 150 yards, TD, 0 INT, 91.7 PR
- Quarterback B: 20/40 for 300 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 91.7 PR
Traditionally, this would be recognized as the same level of passing efficiency given the equality in completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage and interception percentage. But we know Quarterback B sustained this play over double the workload. DAPR will give Quarterback B at least twice as much credit for this game.
Defensive stats are prorated to a 16-game season. I found older quarterbacks were getting too much credit in the shorter seasons, especially the nine-game strike season (1982). For the playoffs, I add the stats to the regular-season numbers instead of subtracting, so naturally it would be harder to get a bigger score since your game is now basically 1/17th of the sample instead of 1/16th.
I would not recommend calculating DAPR until the end of each season, which is a minor drawback to this method.
Here are the 10 best and worst playoff games since 1945, according to DAPR:
|Top 10 Best Playoff Games by DAPR (Since 1945)|
|1||Tobin Rote||DET||NFL-C||12/29/1957||CLE||W 59-14||19||12||63.2||280||4||0||146.4||7.99|
|2||Daryle Lamonica||OAK||AFL-D||12/21/1969||HOU||W 56-7||17||13||76.5||276||6||1||133.0||6.50|
|3||Kurt Warner||ARI||NFC-WC||1/10/2010||GB||W 51-45 OT||33||29||87.9||379||5||0||154.1||6.04|
|4||Peyton Manning||IND||AFC-WC||1/4/2004||DEN||W 41-10||26||22||84.6||377||5||0||158.3||6.03|
|5||Joe Montana||SF||SB||1/28/1990||DEN||W 55-10||29||22||75.9||297||5||0||147.6||5.51|
|6||Daryle Lamonica||OAK||AFL-D||12/22/1968||KC||W 41-6||39||19||48.7||347||5||0||119.3||5.21|
|7||Peyton Manning||IND||AFC-WC||1/9/2005||DEN||W 49-24||33||27||81.8||458||4||1||145.7||4.97|
|8||Peyton Manning||IND||AFC-C||1/24/2010||NYJ||W 30-17||39||26||66.7||377||3||0||123.6||4.67|
|9||Terry Bradshaw||PIT||SB||1/21/1979||DAL||W 35-31||30||17||56.7||318||4||1||119.2||4.57|
|10||Johnny Unitas||CLT||NFL-C||12/27/1959||NYG||W 31-16||29||18||62.1||264||2||0||114.7||4.56|
|Top 10 Worst Playoff Games by DAPR (Since 1945)|
|1||Jay Schroeder||RAI||AFC-C||1/20/1991||at BUF||L 51-3||31||13||41.9||150||0||5||17.6||-5.31|
|2||Jake Delhomme||CAR||NFC-D||1/10/2009||ARI||L 33-13||34||17||50.0||205||1||5||39.1||-4.89|
|3||Bobby Layne||DET||NFL-C||12/26/1954||at CLE||L 56-10||42||18||42.9||177||0||6||15.8||-4.82|
|4||Stan Humphries||SD||AFC-D||1/10/1993||at MIA||L 31-0||44||18||40.9||140||0||4||11.6||-4.81|
|5||Richard Todd||NYJ||AFC-C||1/23/1983||at MIA||L 14-0||37||15||40.5||103||0||5||8.8||-4.53|
|6||Craig Morton||DEN||SB||1/15/1978||DAL||L 27-10||15||4||26.7||39||0||4||0.0||-4.25|
|7||Dan Pastorini||HOU||AFC-C||1/7/1979||at PIT||L 34-5||26||12||46.2||96||0||5||16.3||-4.22|
|8||Kerry Collins||NYG||SB||1/28/2001||BAL||L 34-7||39||15||38.5||112||0||4||7.1||-4.07|
|9||Y.A. Tittle||NYG||NFL-C||12/31/1961||at GB||L 37-0||20||6||30.0||65||0||4||1.0||-3.91|
|10||Todd Marinovich||RAI||AFC-WC||12/28/1991||at KC||L 10-6||23||12||52.2||140||0||4||31.3||-3.86|
So using DAPR per game and only using games the quarterback started, I have my data, which you can see in full here for the 21 quarterbacks. The regular-season games are listed above the playoff games. "PR" is passer rating. "PF" and "PA" are the average points scored and allowed per game. Normally I would adjust those for non-offensive scoring, but did not have time to do that for so many games.
|Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams (Regular Season vs. Postseason)|
Joe Montana was one bad melon farmer. The other so-called "Joe Cool" had that great playoff run, but going back to last year, he's 1-8 in his last nine regular-season games against playoff teams. Prior to that, he had a 9-0 streak. That's a harsh case of regression to the mean -- regression way past the mean, apparently -- but from this table you can see there's nothing wrong about being around .500. In similar fashion to Flacco, Eli Manning is on a 2-9 stretch against the tough teams.
Before the Wild Card was added, there were obviously fewer playoff teams. Through the 1976 season, Ken Stabler actually had only two fewer playoff starts (six) than he had regular-season starts against playoff teams (eight). There's also no quarterback on the list who could match the Snake when it came to playing better against top competition in the playoffs relative to his regular seasons.
This table shows the differences for each quarterback from the regular season to the playoffs. Anything in red is a decline in the postseason:
|Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams: Postseason Decline|
|Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams: Postseason Decline|
As you can tell from the averages, this group actually produced better results in every category in the playoffs. That may not be a surprise though, given the theory that with an increased sample of games against playoff competition, statistics would suffer and be fortunate to hover around average.
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By DAPR, Stabler had the worst passing stats of anyone here in the regular season, yet the best in the postseason. Not even an argument of "the Sea of Hands should have been intercepted and that wasn't roughing the passer on Sugar Bear Hamilton" can make up that huge difference.
Peyton Manning rounds out a group of six quarterbacks above 1.0 DAPR per game in postseason starts. Get used to seeing names like Peyton, Brees and Warner at the top of these postseason lists in the coming weeks. Also get used to some of the more mediocre results from multiple-ring winners like Brady, Elway, Roethlisberger and Eli.
Even if by the slimmest of margins, Jim Kelly is the only quarterback to actually win a higher percentage of games in the regular season than the playoffs. Kelly, Staubach, Brady and Young are among the biggest decliners when it comes to their postseason performances. That doesn't quite fit the narrative.
What if we tried to make it even more apples-to-apples by only including seasons where the quarterback's team made the playoffs? This could help those who started off on really bad teams like Peyton, Aikman and Young. Then again, one could argue this does not penalize those who miss the playoffs too often with solid teams, but here's a look at the regular-season games against playoff teams only in playoff seasons:
|Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams in Regular Season (Playoff Years Only)|
Fran Tarkenton and Bob Griese look far more respectable than their abysmal records above, but both did start on bad teams in the 1960s. Elway and Marino are surprisingly still a few games under .500, even in playoff years. While Montana's stats look so impressive again, that overlooked 49ers defense is also a huge factor, allowing a list-low 16.8 points per game (also the lowest at 18.0 points per game in all regular-season games in this study).
We'll conclude with a look at the DAPR per game postseason leaders (minimum 150 attempts) and also the average defensive passer rating of each opponent a quarterback has faced in the playoffs.
|Postseason DAPR Leaders (Min. 150 Pass Attempts)|
87 comments, Last at 29 Jan 2014, 12:54pm
#85 by tabsports // Jan 29, 2014 - 12:14am
Per usual, Scott, this was an awesome that provides much more insight than the talking head or the average fan will ever provide.
However, I have one beef when it comes to comparing DAPR from regular season to the playoffs with the "decline chart." Roger Staubach has the "worst decline" of the group, but he had the best DAPR in the regular season among these quarterbacks. Even with the largest "decline" of the 21 quarterbacks, he still finished 8th in postseason DAPR. I think that ranking should be included.
On that note, just with my curiosity, what is Staubach's postseason DAPR when you exclude the 1973 NFCCG (19.8 rating v. MIN) and 1976 Divisional (19.0 rating v. LARM)? I curious how much the postseason DAPR changes when you exclude the more notable outliers. (Obviously, with fewer than 30 starts for these guys, the sample size isn't truly reliable, but I'm curious.)
For my final note, I note that with Staubach's final postseaon numbers included, only he and Montana are on that list of 21 and got a +1.00 DAPR or better in both regular season quality games and postseason games.
#86 by tabsports // Jan 29, 2014 - 12:41am
Just in an additional semi-related note: I've tracking regular season "relative passer rating" numbers for some of the top quarterbacks. This compares a quarterback's numbers to the combined numbers of that quarterback's seasons played. (I think I limited it to years in which the quarterback had at least 100 passes. Thus, for example, Tom Brady would count for 2001-07 and 2009-current.)
Montana was at a +19.56 rating. Staubach was at a +20.74 rating. It seems like they would be among the favorites for strongest relative rating in the postseason.
Manning (for 1998-2010 and 2012-13) currently owns a +17.77 rating.
The highest I recorded, though, were Len Dawson (+21.66 between AFL and NFL), Aaron Rogders (+22.35), Steve Young (+22.66), Sammy Baugh (+26.06) and Otto Graham (+25.12 for NFL only and +31.41 for both AAFC/NFL).
#81 by nat // Jan 24, 2014 - 10:24am
If you look at the DAPR/G to Wins correlations, you'll find that it's a reasonable .60 for regular season play, but only a .21 for postseason play. That seems odd. Why would pass offense matter so little in the playoffs? Is DAPR/G somehow broken in the playoffs?
Now we look at the correlation between DAPR/G and Point For, .45 and .37. That's closer, at least. It's odd that it's less correlated than wins. But perhaps QBs use their skills to run out the clock as well as score points. So that seems ok.
Now we look at the correlation between Points For and Points Against. We don't expect much correlation there. And for the regular season that's true: -.02.
But for the postseason, points for and against have a correlation of .48. Wow! What the heck is that?!? Maybe QBs do play defense in the postseason!
Then we remember that teams with northern outdoor stadiums play many of their playoff games in bad conditions, while dome teams or teams from warm locations play very few playoff games in bad conditions. That would inflate the DAPR/G for warm weather or indoor QBs, without inflating their winning percentages or even reflecting better play relative to other QBs. They're just running up their stats in easier conditions.
If you sort the list by regular season DAPR/G, you get a reasonable mixture of warm and cold weather QBs. That's expected, because there's a lot of nice weather outside for most of the season.
If you sort the list by postseason DAPR/G, you get a list that is dominated by warm weather or dome QBs.
Congratulations, you've built the world's most convoluted northern outdoor stadium detector.
#82 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 24, 2014 - 5:55pm
You'd have to actually break the games down by weather to make any relevant weather comparison here.
Instead of correlation, I'd prefer using logistic regression with Win-Loss as the binary variable over the full sample, especially for the playoffs when you're just talking 21 QBs and 339 games here. Obviously that includes a few outliers already where the performance doesn't reflect well in the record.
But any game where one defense is clearly superior to the other is going to probably create a big mismatch in DAPR, which may not tell us anything about why that QB won or lost the game.
#84 by nat // Jan 25, 2014 - 4:55pm
More simply, you could compare each QB's performance against the opposing QB in the same game, since they are playing in the same weather.
You'd probably do better with YAR and VOA for this comparison, as any skew towards defensive personnel is accompanied by an approximately equal skew away from offensive personnel. An offensively skewed team against a defensively skewed team would put the QBs on even footing.
Your DAPR concept isn't wrong. It just isn't suitable for the playoffs.
#80 by intel_chris // Jan 24, 2014 - 3:26am
From personal experience, I can tell you that both a long series of playoff runs, but no SB wins and bursts of SB wins with no playoff appearances after can both be satisfying. I was a fan of the Broncos before they had any hope of being a SB team, in fact little hope of being a playoff team. I remember that I used to be thrilled when Otis Armstrong beat OJ Simpson out in rushing yards, or Rick Upchurch first set punt return yards records. The first visit to the SB with the "Orange Crush" was wonderful despite getting trounced by the Cowboys. The fact that we had beaten both the Raiders and the Steelers, the previous SB champions, both who used to dominate us, made anything fill good. The drought after that not so good, but when Elway signed and there was significant hope again, was great. So, we went on a long run of getting into the playoffs but always falling short. The years we managed to play and beat Montana (and/or Young) the 49ers even in a regular season game, and then played for a playoff victory or two, kept the hope alive. Some of those playoff victories, even though they weren't the SB, were very memorable games. When "Elway finally got his rings", those were as good as anything. I'll admit I couldn't watch a couple of the team years after Elway's retirement because the QB play was so bad--I can't even remember who the bad QBs were. It was great when Plummer became QB and we got to the rock-paper-scissors years. Yes, I was sad that there weren't as many playoff appearances, or wins as I would have liked, but I could root for the victor in that triumvirate as some solace. I reveled in the interception by Champ Bailey where he was chased down by Ben Watson at the other end zone. I will also admit to wishing that the Giants had beaten the Patriots in the regular season rather than the SB--it would have made those Pats emotionally more on par with the 98 Broncos. And, even last year, while it wasn't great as a fan to lose in double overtime to the eventual SB champs, it still felt ok to be the team that gave them the biggest scare in the post season. Will I be happy if Manning misses his 2nd ring, no, but I can live with the team with the best DVOA taking home the crown.
So, which is better, playoff appearances or rings? I have to go with the Ford commercials and say "and" is better, but both are good.
#69 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 23, 2014 - 4:13pm
Reminder: I put this downloadable playoff chart up here http://www.footballoutsiders.com/extra-points/2014/downloadable-nfl-playoff-chart-super-bowl-era
As a fan I've experienced multiple Super Bowl-winning seasons from start to finish since 2005. It is great, but the first one is usually the best and most memorable. Watching the 2006, 2009 and 2012-13 Steelers has probably been more frustrating than how rewarding the 2005, 2008 or 2010 seasons were (for me at least).
With 10 straight playoff appearances, it's hard to imagine that team not being able to win at least one.
Teams with 5+ consecutive playoff appearances in Super Bowl era:
Dolphins (5, 1997-01): No SBs (0-3 AFC-D)
Browns (5, 1985-89): No SBs (0-3 AFC-C)
Vikings (5, 1996-00): No SBs (0-1 NFC-C)
Eagles (5, 2000-04): 0-1 SB
Seahawks (5, 2003-07): 0-1 SB
Patriots (5, 2009-13): 0-1 SB
Dolphins (5, 1981-85): 0-2 SB
Ravens (5, 2008-12): 1-0 SB
Bears (5, 1984-88): 1-0 SB
Packers (5, 2009-13): 1-0 SB
Dolphins (5, 1970-74): 2-1 SB
Patriots (5, 2003-07): 2-1 SB
Chiefs (6, 1990-95): No SBs (0-1 AFC-C)
Bills (6, 1988-93): 0-4 SB
Vikings (6, 1973-78): 0-3 SB
Steelers (6, 1992-97): 0-1 SB
Raiders (6, 1972-77): 1-0 SB
Packers (6, 1993-98): 1-1 SB
Cowboys (6, 1991-96): 3-0 SB
Oilers (7, 1987-93): No SBs (0-3 AFC-D)
49ers (7, 1992-98): 1-0 SB
Rams (8, 1973-80): 0-1 SB
Cowboys (8, 1966-73): 1-1 SB
49ers (8, 1983-90): 3-0 SB
Steelers (8, 1972-79): 4-0 SB
Colts (9, 2002-10): 1-1 SB
Cowboys (9, 1975-83): 1-2 SB
27 runs there and only five never reached the Super Bowl. 14 won at least one Super Bowl.
#71 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 23, 2014 - 4:26pm
So 10 straight playoffs is exceedingly rare. Still we have the Eagles who went 9 for 11 with no rings.
Is being eliminated from the playoffs on week 17 really that bad? Did losing to the Tebow Broncos in the playoffs really feel better? If the Chargers had lost to the Chiefs backups and the Steelers fell bass ackward into the playoffs this year to be steam rolled by the Peyton Broncos, would that really be much better?
#74 by nat // Jan 23, 2014 - 5:16pm
Rank on that list has zero to do with postseason success. Did they win any games when they got there? If not, they did not have any postseason success that year. Regular season, sure, but not postseason.
Teams with 5+ Consecutive Seasons with at least one playoff win in Super Bowl era:
Cowboys (6, 1991-96, SB 3-0)
Eagles (5, 2000-04, SB 0-1)
Packers (5, 1993-97, SB 1-1)
Patriots (5, 2002-07, SB 2-1)
Raiders (5, 1973-77, SB 1-0)
Ravens (5, 2008-12, SB 1-0)
Now that's a list with a lot of postseason success. Apologies if I missed anyone or made any typos.
I'd give the edge to the Cowboys. But they're all pretty nice streaks.
And poor Eagles fans. So close, and so often, and yet so far.
#77 by Tom R (not verified) // Jan 23, 2014 - 10:07pm
I am with you Scott. Getting 10 bites at the apple in a row seems more pleasing as a fan. Maybe rooting for a team that is run by Jerry Jones has clouded my thinking but not having a shot at all really takes a toll once your team has been to the mountain top. Is there a third choice? Taking either one :)
#79 by CJ (not verified) // Jan 24, 2014 - 3:12am
I want to agree with you so much, Scott! Consistent winners are better to watch week in and week out and hope is a powerful thing. If you get to the playoffs 10 times in a row, you think you can win 10 times!
But then I count it up. Of your 27 runs, only 5 of them won at least 2 SBs. That's the standard we are picking against in your question. Your chart does explain how hard it really is to win the SB. Two guaranteed SBs in ten years, man that's hard to do. I think most people would end up picking the guarantee. Going 0 for 10 would feel worse. And in your chart almost half the teams with 5 games runs failed to win any SBs.
I guess the best argument for the 10 straight playoff appearances is the 8 and up streaks you list. The biggest winners tended to have longer streaks (cowboys 3 SBs at 6 in a row too). You know, other than the, "it sucks to watch your team lose all year" argument, which is pretty good too.
From this, if you cut that in half and say:
A)5 strait years in the playoff, one SB and the other 4 are 1 and done
B)5 strait payoff years with good play and no guarantee
I think the A) looks really really strong. But at 10 years in a row, there's a decent chance at more than 2 SBs.
#65 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 23, 2014 - 3:14pm
The table showing the declines says it all for me. Eli's Giants score 2 fewer PPG in the playoffs (largest drop) and allow 10.3 fewer PPG (largest drop). Statistically, Eli has been better in the playoffs, but all of that success is focused on two months in the last 10 years.
If I gave you the following options, which do you take?
Option A: 10 seasons with two guaranteed Super Bowl wins, but no playoff wins in the other eight seasons.
Option B: 10 straight postseason appearances, but no guarantee of what will happen.
For me, I'll take Option B every time as I get 10 chances to go on a run. As a fan, I also want to watch a consistent winner. Sure, there will be heartbreaking playoff losses to get through, but I'd rather experience that season over one where the team's crapped its bed well before Thanksgiving.
#68 by Thomas_beardown // Jan 23, 2014 - 4:12pm
Agreed. Now if you said QB A will play out of his mind good for 6 playoff games in a 10 year period, but worse than his normal level for any other playoff game. QB B will play at a very good level but slightly worse than QB A in every playoff game over a 10 year period. That question is more interesting.
#70 by silm // Jan 23, 2014 - 4:13pm
Considering how many teams have either never made the SB or come up short in brutal losses (Vikings, Bills come to mind) I think most fans would take the 2 rings in a heartbeat.
The consistent winner and PO appearances are nice when they're happening as you don't know when the magic will happen (like 2012 Ravens was for me) but if after 10 years you come out with nothing... well i'm not sure the Bills fans look back on the 90s and see anything but regret.
#64 by RavenPl // Jan 23, 2014 - 3:08pm
Eli Manning's 2011 SB46 campaign was with the 32 nd ranked run game. Mediocre defense. He played incredible on the road. Got battered in San Francisco behind an aging Oline. But sure. Let's just diminish Eli Manning again to fit into this writer's argument. Lame.
#76 by dmstorm22 // Jan 23, 2014 - 7:29pm
That 'mediocre' defense held two offenses that scored 500+ points (including at the time the 2nd most ever) to 20 and 17 points. Both Giants defenses weren't special in the regular season, but put together two of the most impressive stretches of defense ever, routinely holding very good to great offenses to no more than 20 points.
#63 by RavenPL (not verified) // Jan 23, 2014 - 3:02pm
Eli Manning's 2011 SB46 campaign was with the 32 nd ranked run game. Mediocre defense. He played incredible on the road. Got battered in San Francisco behind an aging Oline. But sure. Let's just diminish Eli Manning again. Lame.
#60 by Sisyphus // Jan 23, 2014 - 2:29pm
There is another point that can be made from this. Good quarterbacks win the games they are supposed to win. This is the distinction with the Manning brothers in fact, as just one example. Any given Sunday any team can beat any other but most games are lost not won. Peyton does not lose many games where his team is heavily favored, Eli not so much. Both can play at a high level but Peyton has less variance it seems.
#73 by Marcumzilla // Jan 23, 2014 - 5:01pm
Corey's right. From http://www.footballoutsiders.com/quick-reads/2012/super-bowl-quick-reads
Most Total Postseason DYAR, 1995-2011
Quarterback DYAR Games
Peyton Manning 2,317 19
Tom Brady 1,831 22
Eli Manning 837 11
Ben Roethlisberger 634 14
Should be easy enough to add the more recent.
#51 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2014 - 11:38am
Look, this is a lot of work, and I appreciate your dogged attempt to get something along these lines which can reveal something substantial, but I just don't buy it. Stabler, for, instance has 3.5 times as many starts against playoff teams in the regular season than in the postseason. Does the disparity in DAPR/G really tell us something about Stabler, or something about Stabler's teammates, or something about the Raiders' opponents? Who knows?
#59 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 23, 2014 - 1:49pm
Stabler's a weird one here. Through the 1977 season, he had 13 playoff games (12 starts) and 14 regular-season games against playoff teams (13 starts). Those were his best teams too, so most of his games came later when he wasn't as good and neither were his teams. Still, his actual playoff results were always much better than his regular season ones.
Guess his playoff legacy all depends on what you make of him playing arguably the greatest defense ever (Steel Curtain) five times, the Sea of Hands, Ghost to the Post and if he deserved to beat the 1976 Patriots after that penalty.
#44 by nat // Jan 23, 2014 - 9:24am
What's the first sign of a great playoff quarterback? Just getting there often should be one prerequisite.
Nope. Sorry. Calling a strong regular season a playoff accomplishment doesn't make it one. Appearances and byes are earned in the regular season. They say nothing about how well your team does when it gets to the playoffs.
Of course, since the point of the article is to twist things to make Peyton Manning look better than he is, and his competition look worse, it's not surprising that you want to count strong regular season play as a "playoff" success.
Nevertheless, Eli Manning has been better at getting playoff wins than Peyton, even if you count all seasons as a starter and not just playoff seasons. Peyton picks up wins at a .733 wins/year rate. Eli wins playoff games at a .889 wins/year rate. Even if Peyton wins this Super Bowl, Eli will still have the career edge.
If you just look at playoff winning percentage or net playoff wins, Eli has a large margin. Peyton's just exactly average at winning playoff games once his team's regular season play gets them there. He will be marginally above or below average after the Super Bowl, but as close to average as it is possible for him to be.
The only thing that would help Peyton's case would be to somehow count regular season success as a playoff success. So it's no surprise to see that table lauding playoff appearances as if they were earned in the playoffs.
Transparency, thy name is Kacsmar.
#52 by nat // Jan 23, 2014 - 11:40am
Not at all. Kacsmar spends two paragraphs to use Eli's inconsistent winning in the regular season to label his playoff record rubbish.
I show how, even with that inconsistent regular season record, Eli still managed to amass playoff victories faster than his brother.
If you're going to judge QBs (or teams) by wins in the playoffs, Eli has Peyton beat hands down, even if you average those wins over all years of their respective starting careers, not just over their playoff years or games.
I wasn't responding to the rest of the article. Just the part about how going 8-3 in the playoffs over a period of 9 years was rubbish, because 3 isn't enough losses.
Guess what? It's a heck of a lot better than going 11-11 over 15 years.
#54 by stan (not verified) // Jan 23, 2014 - 11:55am
Indeed. Note also that all these stats fail to account for vast differences in the quality of all the other players. A QB with a bad defense will put up uglier numbers. A QB with a great defense, great running game and great special teams will put up numbers like Bart Starr.
#56 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2014 - 12:34pm
There's a real problem with this...
"Fran Tarkenton and Bob Griese look far more respectable than their abysmal records above, but both did start on bad teams in the 1960s"
...statement as well. By the time he was 25, Griese was being coached by a Hall of Famer, with a great staff, on a roster that made the playoffs, 1 season away from getting to the Super Bowl, and two years away from a perfect season, a large chunk of which was played without Griese. Tarkenton was 32 years old before he was on a team that was competently coached, with a good roster. In what is typically a great qb's prime, say, ages 27-31, Tarkenton was on a team with horrid coaching and a hideous roster. In his first 6 seasons, on an expansion team, he played in 84 games. In 10 of those games, the Vikings played the eventual league champion, and in 3 others, the Vikings played the league runner up.
So Tarkenton started out his first 6 years on a poorly coached expansion team, playing more than 15% of his games against the league champion or league runner up. He then went to a team which was more poorly coached, with a worse roster, for 5 more years. Finally at age 32, past his physical prime, he gets to a team with good coaching and talent. Griese was a great player, but he really isn't comparable to Tarkenton at all.
#58 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 23, 2014 - 1:40pm
Didn't say they spent equal time on bad teams, but undeniable both started on bad teams in the 60s. You already went over Tarkenton, but the Dolphins were not good in 1967-69 (Griese's first three years). In that time, which was before Don Shula, Griese went 0-10-1 against playoff teams, so yes, that start definitely hurt his career record here.
So if your point is Tarkenton is a much better QB overall than Griese, you'll get no argument from me. But if you're just talking about performance against playoff teams when both were on a good team, the gap is much smaller.
#62 by Will Allen // Jan 23, 2014 - 2:46pm
Yeah, I just think being on a good team by the time you are 25, as opposed to waiting until you are 32, will make a huge difference in how your record will look against playoff teams while on a good team. By the time Tarkenton arrived there, a good chunk of sand had already run out of the top half of the bottle.
#47 by The Hypno-Toad // Jan 23, 2014 - 10:22am
"Peyton's just exactly average at winning playoff games once his team's regular season play gets them there."
So just to make sure that I understand the rules, during the regular season, football is a team sport, but during the playoffs the quarterbacks play one-on-one?
#48 by nat // Jan 23, 2014 - 10:53am
Say "Peyton's teams'" instead of "Peyton's" if it floats your boat. Whatever.
Although we are talking about QB Playoff Wins and a team's overall regular season quality of play. So the way I said it is more correct. It's not just Peyton who got his teams to the playoffs. But it is just his name in the left hand column of a QB Playoff Winning Percentage table.
Peyton's QB Winning Percentage in the playoffs is average. (.500)
His team's regular season play is what got him to the playoffs. (This includes his own play, but not exclusively so or even predominately so, since he plays neither defense nor special teams, and does not play by himself on offense.)
#42 by Bobman // Jan 23, 2014 - 2:39am
Man, Scott, all this good work and you missed the obvious Kurt Warner variable? Not sure what letter is appropriate for Jehovah/Yaweh/Almighty/God, but if you don't capitalize it you're in deep trouble. And not with Roger Goodell.
Clearly, God only cares about the playoffs. (And He clearly has the Giants D on his playoff fantasy roster. The more I think about this... you know playing FF against God just isn't a smart idea, especially when money, your heath, or eternal salvation is on the line.)
Glad I could help you with that.
#32 by hscer // Jan 22, 2014 - 9:06pm
About this time last year I undertook a project sort of similar to DAPR, but for playoffs only, not taking it as far, or making it as detailed, or considering as many factors...otherwise, completely the same! But, it does have standard deviations:
#22 by silm // Jan 22, 2014 - 6:01pm
Great work, Scott. And look, I understand your goal is to flesh out the 8-3 Eli Mannings of the world from the Peyton Mannings and that's a noble goal and the stats you demonstrated are all very intriguing. What I want to address is the comparisons your'e drawing between guys like Kap/Wilson and the older QBs.
For instance, I think you are making a false comparison when you compare Kaepernick in 2013 to Flacco in that blurb (and where as expected you ignore the fact his knee was nearly shredded in week 15 against the Lions and was playing hurt.)
The amount of turnover between the 49ers and Ravens was so different you can't in good faith compare the two from 2012 to 2013. I won't even get into detail on it, but basically BAL lost 50% of its starters from day 1. The 49ers lost Goldson, and gained Boldin. THAT'S IT.
Instead though, we heap praise on Kap and Wilson for winning with insanely talented teams while seizing all credit from older QBs who did it too. That bothers me. Your argument that at least Kap had his team in the 2013 title game is totally misleading. Yeah congrats, his incredibly good team did exactly what the 2004 Steelers and 2008 Ravens did, except Kap's not even a rookie. But only one of those QBs gets the credit for that apparently. There's a lot of recency bias going on and it has a lot to do with the fact that Kap/Wilson are flashy runners that obscures some questionable passing performances and flat out bailouts as we saw in Wilson's case this postseason if you ask me.
My main point is that being a really good QB does not mean you have to be Peyton Manning where you carry obviously flawed and mediocre teams deep year after year. It just means that when your team is pretty good overall, you are taking them deep into the postseason more often than not. I hate the argument that a QB deserves no credit just because his team is good or even great. Having a great team is the whole idea. No one can do what Peyton has done. That is why he's the freaking best QB in the history of the NFL, arguably.
#21 by roseberry (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 5:52pm
Given the common rationale for the existence of a difference in post season play, one way to analyze it would be to define a set of games that are even more regular than the average regular season game, and add "must win" and maybe "damn near must win" games to the playoff side. There are a few regular season games, but very few, that are equivalent to "garbage time" and should be thrown out. Might want to throw out Sept. games as well, as they're irregular in their own way. The point would be to compare performance in "must win" vs. "we can make it up next week" situations and illuminate what in academia are termed "underachievers", but in sports are termed "clutch players."
#9 by Joseph // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:22pm
In Drew Brees' numbers in the chart showing the decline (where there are red numbers), note that the defense has given up 1.4 more PPG. It was disappointing to hear so many people harp about his playoff road struggles, when this proves he is even better in the playoffs. Also referencing the same chart, it is interesting to see that Brady gets worse in practically every category. Even though I am not a Brady fan at all, that surprises me.
Another thing that surprises me in general about that chart is that the average passer improved, even when theoretically, the defenses in the playoffs should be better (on average) and cause those stats to go downward.
#12 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:26pm
Maybe the biggest shock from that decline table: the Giants allow 10.3 fewer PPG to playoff teams in the playoffs than they do in the regular season. Talk about going on some incredible runs and doing it against some of the best offenses too (on the road even).
#28 by RoninX (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 6:37pm
And yet I can't count the number of articles that have either explicitly tried to explain the giants success, or put forth playoffs success models that warp themselves to take those giants teams into account. Though admittedly as we start to distance ourselves there has been more of a willingness to treat Eli & Co as outliers.
#29 by Setzer1994 // Jan 22, 2014 - 6:51pm
It's equally just as valid to attempt to determine if statistical models are incomplete/don't tell the whole story, as it is to label those two Giants teams as "outliers".
Rather funny though to mostly see the "stats" folks opt for the later.
#13 by RoninX (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:28pm
Second point is good, but remember in an elimination tournament a QB that plays well (or even more likely, plays well on a good/great team) often has a chance to add another data point with the same successful squad. This might tip things slightly toward a positive correlation between over performance and adding datapoints. Or perhaps it is a sample size issue that would get normalized.
#7 by RoninX (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:14pm
Thanks for the work, looking forward to the coming articles as well.
A couple of things:
First, I'd have loved to see one counting stat in your "Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams: Postseason Decline" table. Be it Pass Attempts or games, or anything to give me a quick reference for the playoff sample size (or better yet the sample sizes for both the playoff and non-playoff components). As it was I kept trying to scroll to other tables to look for that data.
Second, since these articles are being run in prep for the Super Bowl is there any chance you could include Russell Wilson's data (despite only 105 playoff PA so far?) or is that too cumbersome?
#11 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:24pm
I wanted to give you guys that raw data and show the differences in reg. season vs. playoffs, so I thought doing that over two tables was the best way of showing it here. All the data you're looking for in "Quarterbacks vs. Playoff Teams: Postseason Decline" is in the table directly above that one (reg. season games on top, playoffs on bottom).
Russell Wilson will be included in next week's article on drive stats. I thought I had used five starts as a minimum in the past, but apparently the number was four, so Wilson (and Kaepernick) will be new additions.
#6 by jonnyblazin // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:13pm
I'm not sure I agree with this:
"The whole concept of a quarterback "raising his game" in the playoffs is a flawed one and the crux of today's feature. Doesn't this imply the quarterback did not play as best as he could have in the regular season? This isn't the NBA or baseball. All 16 games matter and we have seen many teams miss the playoffs after failing to execute in some close games."
One thing that every coach preaches is that they want their team to improve throughout the course of the season. This improvement can't always be quantified due to injuries and tricky matchups throughout the regular season. But I believe the quality of play is higher in the playoffs than it is in the regular season due to continuity and the reps teams experience during the regular season. Some QB's have a more natural talent than others, and can flourish in playoff environments, and others are more limited and get exposed when required to do more than they are used to.
#26 by roseberry (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 6:21pm
But do the more talented players only "give 100%" in the playoffs, and so appear less talented than they actually are until the playoffs. To me, it seems obvious that play in general improves during the playoffs (and also over the season as you say), or at least it gets more desperate in the playoffs. And likely there is some variability in the change between players. And there could be some variability in an individual player or class of players. Older players might not care as much as they're supposed to and care more about injury and so their play is more workman like, 95% all of the time, while young players are more emotional and prone to boredom with the regular season and excitement postseason.
#34 by kamiyu206 // Jan 22, 2014 - 9:55pm
"One thing that every coach preaches is that they want their team to improve throughout the course of the season. This improvement can't always be quantified due to injuries and tricky matchups throughout the regular season. But I believe the quality of play is higher in the playoffs than it is in the regular season due to continuity and the reps teams experience during the regular season."
With that logic, we can safely assume quality of competition is harder in PO, so that it's natural for quarterbacks to see their performances decline.
Even though continuity and the reps does make quarterback play improve, so does defensive play.
#4 by jacobk // Jan 22, 2014 - 3:56pm
If the complaint is that playoff records can be padded by failing to make the postseason (or unfairly hurt by heroically making the playoffs with a terrible team that loses in round one), why not just add a loss to the QB's postseason record for every year they missed the playoffs? I think Simmons advocated for also adding a win for earning a bye, which makes sense to me.
The whole DAPR thing leaves me a little cold. I don't have any kind of feel for what's a good DAPR, what's a bad DAPR, or whether it's a gimmicky stat that throws up wonky results. I also get a little nervous when you start with a small sample and then slice it smaller and smaller while using a metric that I have no context for to judge performance.
#5 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 22, 2014 - 4:11pm
Adjusted playoff records were planned for this weeks ago, but I just didn't get a chance to do it while working on other stuff. It's a tricky thing when a quarterback gets injured partway through a season. Almost have to make it a "no decision" for that year, but the main goal was to give a loss for missing the playoffs (like Eli/Roethlisberger/Flacco did this year) and to give a win for earning a first-round bye.
Here are some that I finished and this may get done on a larger scale at some point, but likely not this season:
Peyton Manning 17-13
Brett Favre 17-18
Joe Montana 24-9
Tom Brady 26-9
Dan Marino 12-16
Terry Bradshaw 16-9
John Elway 21-14
Roger Staubach 13-8
Jim Kelly 14-11
Warren Moon 4-13
Bob Griese 7-10
Troy Aikman 15-9
Steve Young 13-8
Donovan McNabb 12-10
Jack Kemp 2-7
Dave Krieg 4-13
Randall Cunningham 5-11
Otto Graham 4-3
Craig Morton 6-11
Matt Hasselbeck 6-12
Ben Roethlisberger 13-8
Drew Brees 8-11
Eli Manning 9-8
Aaron Rodgers 6-5
Philip Rivers 6-7
And trust me, I didn't get this from Simmons. Found this from July: https://twitter.com/FO_ScottKacsmar/status/358137782281048064
Guess I like to repeat myself in the future, but Eli's 8-3 specifically irks me. Giants started 5-2 or better every season from 2004-12. Their consistent midseason swoons have cost them a good share of playoff advancement.
#37 by Bob B. (not verified) // Jan 22, 2014 - 11:16pm
Granted...but at least the AAFC partially merged with the NFL.
[Don't ask me about my all time QB list combining NFL, AFL, AAFC, CFL, and USFL stats. Because I'll tell you!! (Although I haven't updated it for 2013. and I'm not sure, off the top of my head, if I got the 70s World League added or not)
#35 by Scott Kacsmar // Jan 22, 2014 - 10:19pm
That was one of the hardest ones I did. I ended up excluding 1985, 1991, 1993 and 2000-01. Backup or severely injured.
You could even argue I should be giving Staubach a win for the 1972 playoff game he came off the bench for and his one of his best comebacks. MLB would give him the win. In fact, surprised I didn't. Really should count in the spirit of what this is trying to do.
But as you can see, it's far more difficult than to say "give a guy a loss for every season he didn't make the playoffs."