Last summer, I wrote a post entitled Who was the Best Rookie QB to Start a Playoff Game (Since 1970)? where I compared the rookie seasons of each quarterback to start a playoff game in NFL history. Well, now we have another this season that has joined that group. Matt Sanchez has joined Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, and Joe Flacco as the only QB to win a playoff game his rookie season. He and Flacco are the only two rookie QBs to win two playoff games (I would give Big Ben plenty of credit for helping his team to the top seed in the playoffs, but I’m a Steelers fan). So far in this playoffs, Sanchez has played better than I would have expected him to. Since he has accomplished something that only Flacco did before him, I wanted to see how he matches up with the other rookie QBs that I compared earlier. For the data on those players, please refer to the link above.
Archive for the ‘NFL Analysis’ Category
About this time last year, I thought it was quite possible that Vince Young’s days in Tennessee were numbered. Despite having a winning record as a starter his first two seasons, his passing was poor and appeared to be trending downward. When he was injured in game 1 of the 2008 season, he lost his starting position due to a combination of immature actions/ statements and the fact that the Titans just kept winning with Kerry Collins as the starter. When Tennessee re-signed Collins this offseason with the understanding that he would be the starter, it definitely seemed that Young’s chances in Nashville were slim. Now, following a disastrous 0-6 start, Young regained his starting position and the Titans won 5 straight before losing to the Colts last week. He started this past weekend, and had good numbers but a pulled hamstring in the second quarter sidelined him for the rest of the game. Because of the excellent record that the Titans have had since Young’s return, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at his numbers from his first two years and compare them to what he has done so far this season. I wondered if he really was performing at the high level that his 6-1 record as a starter this year would indicate.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how likely it is that Emmitt Smith’s record for career rushing yards would be broken. Out of my own curiosity more than anything, I decided to see if there are any current players likely to break Jerry Rice’s record for career receiving yardage. In the Smith post, I was curious whether recent trends toward more pass happy offenses combined with the trend toward having two feature backs was making it less likely that a RB would even have the opportunity to break his record. In this one, I will just focus on the players themselves. I think that the continuing rules changes and tweaks to favor the passing game make it very likely that at some point a WR will come along to break Rice’s record. My question in this post was whether any current players were on pace to do so. At this point, Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald appear to be the most likely candidates.
A couple of weeks ago, Jason Lisk wrote this post over at the PFR.com blog on the likelihood of Frank Gore becoming the 49ers all time leading rusher. In that post, he referred to another post from three years ago, which looked at the probability of certain players breaking Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record. Two years ago, I thought that LaDainian Tomlinson had the best shot at breaking Emmitt’s record of anyone currently playing. But, he seems to be slowing down quite a bit recently. With these posts in mind, I started to think that the changes in the NFL game may actually make it less likely for any RB to break Emmitt’s record.
Over the past couple of years, I have analyzed some of the top running backs in NFL history, both on Checking the Numbers (here) and at Behind the Steel Curtain (here and here). In each of these analyses, I have shown that, on a per game basis, Terrell Davis was one of the top RBs in NFL history. In some analyses he showed up as a top 3 player, but in all he was at least top 10. The knock on him has been that he did not play long enough for serious consideration, although for a 4 year stretch, he was every bit as good at Emmitt Smith and very close to Barry Sanders. So, as I did recently for Hines Ward, I am going to look at how Terrell Davis’s playoff numbers compare with other greats in NFL history.
I added a little more information about Hines Ward’s rankings that I thought was interesting.
A little over a week ago, I wrote a post showing how high Hines Ward ranks among NFL WRs in playoff yardage. So far this year, he and Ben Roethlisberger are having historic seasons in terms of passing and receiving yardage. As of the time of this writing, both are leading the league in respective passing and receiving yardage. I wrote in the previous post on Hines that he was on pace to have over 1400 receiving yards. After his game on Sunday against the Browns, he is now on pace to have nearly 1600 receiving yard this season, which would be a career high and a Pittsburgh Steelers record (currently held byYancey Thigpen with 1398 yards in a season). Ben is on pace to have over 5000 passing yards this season, which also would be a Steelers record (currently held by Terry Bradshaw with 3724 yards in a season). With two Steelers on such a historic pace, for this franchise, at least, I wanted to see how they compared with other players’ performances after the first 6 games of the season.
Again this year, we have two rookie quarterbacks who started from game 1 of the season. Last year when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco started, they had unprecedented success, at least in a year where there were two rookie QBs starting (not to mention rookie head coaches as well). This year, we have Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford, each starting from game 1 with rookie head coaches as well. I was curious how well Sanchez and Stafford match up against other QBs that started very early in the season. Because of this, I went to Pro-Football-Reference.com‘s Player Game Finder and queried on players’ 1st 5 games of their rookie season, with greater than or equal to 80 attempts and a passer rating of 65 or above (sorted by passer rating). Here are the players that I came up with.
Many Pittsburgh Steelers fans are already convinced that Hines Ward deserves to be inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he retires. Currently, in his 12th season in the NFL, he is ranked 17th in career receptions, 31st in career receiving yards, and tied for 28th in career receiving TDs. Some would, and have, argued that he doesn’t have HOF worthy statistics, and you can’t just say he should be in because he is the greatest blocking receiver in NFL history. If he retired today, and that were the extent of his accomplishments, I would agree. But, he should play another 3 or more years, including this season. Currently, he is on pace for about 100 receptions and over 1400 yards this season. Although he has yet to catch a TD pass this year, based on his productivity in past years, it’s reasonable expect at least 5 receiving TDs this season. Those numbers would put him at 11th in career receptions, 22nd or 23rd in career receiving yards, and 22nd or 23rd in career TD receptions. Just a couple more years of what would be mediocre production for Ward would put him in the top 10 in every receiving category.
I think that those numbers would be enough to get him in when you consider his other accomplishments: 2 Super Bowl rings (more to come?), a SB MVP, and a rule named after him. When the NFL Network announced the most recent round of HOF candidates a couple of weeks ago, they had two HOF voters on the show. One said that she believed that a major consideration for whether a player is HOF worthy is whether you could tell the story of the NFL without them or not. I think it’s clear that you cannot tell the story of the NFL without Hines Ward. His blocking down the field is so physical that they had to change the rules because of the hit he put on Keith Rivers in the 2008 season, breaking his jaw. The hit was legal then. Anyway, that was a long introduction to get to my latest piece of evidence in favor of Hines Ward being HOF worthy.
About a year and a half ago, I was inspired to perform an analysis on the top running backs in NFL history. I did 2 posts on the topic at Behind the Steel Curtain, first on the top 10 backs in overall rushing yards, then a followup including the RBs that were top 10 in yards/game and yards/attempt. In these analyses, I had included the entire careers of each player considered, which may have unfairly favored players who retired at or near their primes. So, I had been considering for a while whether it might be of interest to complete the same type of analysis for all of the players, but in this case, I would only consider the best 4 year period in that player’s career. So, essentially, I am reviewing the career peaks of the best running backs in NFL history.
Why 4 years? In some ways, it’s an arbitrary
choice. But, it is about the average length of most running backs’ careers. I believe the average is below 3.5 years now, but that’s still more than 3, on average. It’s also the number of years that Terrell Davis was productive. Because of that, I was just curious to see how he stacked up against other RBs peak 4 year period.
In this post, I am reviewing the same 20 players as in the last RB analysis. They are listed in the table below, in addition to the following information:
- the years analyzed
- number of games played and started for those years
- total yards from scrimmage during those years
- total touchdowns and fumbles from those years
The way that I determined which four year period to analyze for each player was by determining for which period that player had the most total yards from scrimmage.
|Walter Payton 1||1977-1980||62||62||7746||50||28|
|Walter Payton 2||1983-1986||64||64||7829||41||22|
There are a couple of Items of Note to address before moving forward. First, I included two 4 year periods for Walter Payton because he was the only player to have two distinct peak periods, for which the total yards from scrimmage were within about 80 yards of each other. By distinct periods I mean that there was no overlap in the years for those two periods. Secondly, Spec Sanders’s and Jamal Lewis’s periods are adjusted for special circumstances. Sanders’s analysis is only for 3 years, because he played halfback from 1946 to 1948, did not play in 1949, and returned in 1950 as a safety. So, I thought it made more sense to only include his numbers from the first three years. Lewis’s analysis covers the period from 2000 to 2004, which is 5 years. But, since he was out the entirety of the 2001 season with a knee injury, I decided that this period would be accurate for this analysis.
As with the previous analyses, I ranked each player according yards per game and per touch in both rushing and receiving as well as TDs and fumbles per game. After ranking them in each category, I calculated the average of each player’s rankings in all categories and sorted the running backs from highest average among all categories to lowest. In the following tables, I have included the raw statistics (gathered from Pro-Football-Reference.com) for the players.