Friday, May 08, 2009

What Did the Packers Owe Favre?

In 1998, Brett Favre was coming off his third consecutive MVP season. His team had gone 13-3 and to its second straight Super Bowl the year before.

Peyton Manning entered his rookie year for the Indianapolis Colts, who had gone 3-13.

From 1998 on, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning remarkably have started every game. Here are the results:
  • Favre made 6 play-off appearences; Manning nine.
  • Favre made 5 Pro Bowls; Manning nine.
  • Favre won zero MVP's; Manning three.
  • Favre won three play-off games; Manning seven.
  • Favre got to and won zero Super Bowls; Manning got to one and won.
  • Favre threw 282 touchdowns; Manning 333
  • Favre threw 215 interceptions; Manning 165
  • Favre went 106-70; Manning went 117-59
  • Favre had a passer rating of 85 or better six times; Manning had a rating of 95 or better six times (Favre just once), and of 85 or better nine times.
If we throw out the first year, 1998, Manning looks even better compared to Favre. And let's not forget Favre was outplayed on the Frozen Tundra in play-off games by Michael Vick and Eli Manning.

Donovan McNabb came into the League in 1999. His worst year for throwing interceptions equals Favre's career best. (Career interception percentage for McNabb: 2.1; Favre: 3.3)

I don't know if McNabb is a Hall of Fame quarterback. Indeed, trade rumors have swirled around him for years. And he's won a heck of a lot more play-off games in his first ten seasons in the league than Favre did in his last ten in Green Bay. Indeed, the oft-benched Kurt Warner has more meaningful accomplishments in the last ten years than Favre, and he's no lock for the Hall either.

Here's what it comes down to with Favre: when he entered the League, it had Young, Aikman, Moon, Kelly, Marino, and Elway. And from 1994-2007 he was playing better than these six Hall of Famers.

But just when he was entering his prime years, his production fell off. He started throwing more interceptions again. This decade, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Warner and McNabb, along with Garcia, Hasselbeck, and Brees. But nowhere near the same breath as Manning and Tom Brady, the only current sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterbacks (although the younger class beginning with Eli Manning, Big Ben, and Rivers may join them).

In Favre's last eleven years, and last ten at Green Bay, he has been good, not great. He hasn't played like a Hall of Famer. And it raises the question: what did the Packers owe Favre?

He resented that he had to go to mini-camp on his daughter's graduation day. That's why you're paid several millions a year.

He was unhappy the Packers didn't sign Randy Moss in 2007. Though you had your best year in the last ten without him, and so did the team.

He retired, then was shocked that by training camp the Packers had made plans to go in a different direction. Even so, they still gave him the opportunity to start. His unfounded bitterness toward the organization forced a trade.

Hey Brett, if you had consistently played closer to the level you had played in your younger years, and if you hadn't retired, the Packers would have been more enthusiastic to bring you back. But the Packers didn't owe you any greater courtesy and deference than the Eagles owe McNabb.

Whatever goes inside your head to now "get revenge" on the Packers is probably the same area of the brain that causes you to throw up bone-headed interceptions.

Get over it.

If you want to continue to play, you shouldn't have retired from the Jets. And if you want to just get back at the Packers, grow up already!

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Super Bowl Thoughts

[Cross-posted at Independent Country]

Apparently, Bruce Springsteen has a new CD. I won't begrudge him playing the first single at the Super Bowl halftime show, whatever it is. But he has two choices after that:

a) be a nostalgia act, playing "Born in the USA" and "Born to Run." Or perhaps "Glory Days" and "Hungry Heart." In other words - and with all due respect to these songs - he could be lame in the sense of giving the crowd what he thinks they want to hear, as opposed to what he wants to perform..
b) be a great rock & roll act and make the halftime show entertaining. In this instance, I'd suggest a medley of "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" transitioning to "Blinded By the Light" (which will wake up a large segment of the audience that doesn't even know it's a Springsteen song.) But if I had to choose, I'd pull out all the stops with a rendition of "Rosalita" that goes on as long as time allows.

As for the game, you can tell who the underdog is by the word "if." A year ago it was, "if the Giants can get to Tom Brady, they have a chance." Which means, the Patriots are presumably the better team, but this one thing may turn the tide for the Giants.

If the Steelers and Cardinals each played their normal game, each doing what they do well, the Steelers look like the favorite. That's because there's no "if's" about them; if they play well, they should win. The "ifs" fall on the Cardinals. If there is more than one "if," the bleaker it looks for the Cards, because it means lots of things have to go right for them. But at the end of the day, I think only one "if' matters: how well Kurt Warner responds to the Steelers' packages of disguised blitzes. If he can make accurate throws, it's a close game. And NOBODY knows whether this will happen or not.

The problem with predictions even less than 72 hours before kickoff is that no one knows what might happen to one of the teams, such as a drug overdose, an arrest, or a disappearance, on the eve of the game. That may be a demoralizing force, and will especially be so if it happens with the Cardinals, the team that's "happy to be here" with "nothing to lose." But there's little reason to believe this will happen. Teams have learned from the Bengals '89, Falcons '99, and Raiders '03.

The wild card is Ben Roethlisberger's nerves. History records him as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, but he played terribly in that game three years ago, where the officiating was sub-par and seemed to work against the Seahawks. If Ben feels pressure to "redeem" himself by putting on an MVP performance, he might fold for that very reason.

I suspect that Warner will play well, that Roethlisberger may not play quite as well, and the Cards will eke out the victory. Or at least cover the seven-point spread.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Exceptional Kurt Warner

By my count, there have been 52 quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl.

17 have started two games. Of these, ten are in the Hall of Fame, and four are active.

10 have started three or more games. Of these, eight are in the Hall of Fame, with the other two active: Tom Brady and Kurt Warner.

Only five have gone to the Super Bowl under two or more coaches. Warner is the only one who has gone with three different head coaches.

Only two have gone with two different teams: Craig Morton and Warner.

Nine years separate Warner's first and last appearance. Only John Elway (12) saw a longer span between his first and last appearance. Eight years separate Joe Montana's first and last.

Most quarterbacks, even Hall of Famers, tend to have their greatest run of success under one head coach and one core nucleus of players.

Indeed, even among head coaches, onlyBill Cowher (10) Bill Parcells (10), Dan Reeves (12) and Don Shula (12) have a greater number of years between their first and last Super Bowls.

Warner certainly has had one of the most unusual careers in NFL history.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

And Then There Were Two

As of this Monday, there will be four living ex-Presidents, but just two active NFL head coaches who have won a Super Bowl.

Cowher and Parcells retired two years ago.

Gibbs re-retired, and Billick was fired, one year ago.

Holmgren and Dungy resigned this year. Gruden and Shanahan were fired.

That leaves Bilichek and Coughlin.

But they will be joined by another in 16 days. And who knows, Shanahan and/or Gruden may have a new job by then.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Schottenheimer Rule

This is my latest at the Partial Observer. Excerpt:
In all, Schottenheimer had 13 play-off appearances and just two losing season in 20 1/2 years as an NFL head coach. He may not have been a conference or league champion, but he was a winner, which couldn't be said of his replacements. . . .

It is rare that making a change, when things are going well, leads to long-term success.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Telling Stats

Telling Stats from

Of the 9 teams that rushed for 2000 yards (125/game), six went to the playoffs, including the top five. (In sixth place was 11-5 New England.)

Of the 11 teams that passed for 3600 yards (225/game), five went to the playoffs.

Of the twelve teams with a passer rating of 85, six went to the playoffs and just one had a losing season; 4 of the top six made the playoffs.

Six of the top seven in total defense made the playoffs.

Seven of the top ten in rushing defense made the playoffs, including the top four.

The top three, and six of the top ten, in passing defense made the playoffs, but five were in the bottom half of the league.

Six of the top 9 in passer rating defense made the playoffs.

The Aikman Efficiency Ratings seem more effective in translating statistics to team success:

All 12 of the playoff teams were in the top 21, including 8 of the top 12

8 of top ten in defense made the playoffs.

In the combined rankings, the top 9 made the playoffs; only Arizone at #20 was out of the top 15.

Green Bay, which went 6-10, lost seven games by 4 points or less, and scored more points than they gave up, finished #13.

The Football Outsiders ranking is here. Green Bay is #16 and only Arizona is out of the top 14 (again, at 20). While the rankings are close to Aikman's Aikman seemed to have a more accurate picture. The Outsiders had 9-6-1 Philly #1 overall, compared to Aikman's 11-5 Ravens.


Friday, December 26, 2008

On Passer Rating

One of my regrets over the past two years is that I should have blogged here. So here goes . . .

I predict that the San Diego Chargers will defeat the Denver Broncos this Sunday and win the 2008 AFC West Title.

The reason? Phillip Rivers.

His passer rating is 104.0
. It is unlikely to dip under 100 for the season.

And in ten previous seasons (1998-2007), all twenty teams who had a qualifying quarterback with a rating of 100 or more made the play-offs. Rivers is the only qb with a 100+ rating this year.

A rating of 100 means the passing game is so efficient that it can overcome other team weaknesses. The worst team with a 100+ passer was the 2004 Vikings, who at 8-8 still made the playoffs. From 98-07, these teams averaged 12 wins.

To buttress my case, over the same period 67 quarterbacks had a rating of 90 or better, and 54 led their teams to the play-offs. Only six had a losing season. This year, entering the last week, 11 qb's have a rating of 89 or better; 8 are going to the playoffs (or at least have ten wins) and only one, Aaron Rogers (91.8) is guaranteed a losing season. (Matt Schaub is at 89.7 and might have a losing season; he also might not reach 90.)

Denver qb Jay Cutler's rating is 87, 17 points behind Rivers.

The trend is the same year in and year out. There may be a few ratings leaders who don't make the playoffs, and some quarterbacks with average ratings lead their team to the playoffs. But for the most part, the ratings leaders are also the playoff qbs, and the higher the rating (like Rivers's), the more likely this is the case.

One last example: When Brett Favre's rating has been under 90, he's gone to the playoffs once in six seasons; when he's over 90, he's gone all eleven times. (This year, he's at 84 and the odds aren't good.)

Whatever the merits of the passer rating as it is currently calculated, there's one thing going for it: it strongly reflects team success. And this, in turn, suggests that a poised, smart, accurate quarterback is the most precious asset in the league.