I’ve Mastered Social Distancing for a Decade, So Why Does 2020 Feel So Different?

I haven’t left the house in two months.

While I may have been ahead of the curve on taking the coronavirus seriously, there’s a pretty good chance I would have still been this vitamin D deprived even if the virus didn’t exist.

When I did a Twitter poll a few weeks ago on my personal record for not leaving the house, 68% of you were generous in choosing only 3 or 6 months.

The correct answer is actually 9 months. I can still remember breaking the streak on Thanksgiving 2011, noting to my mom after she got the car out that “this is the first time I’ve left the house since February.” Her face turned to shock with a hint of disgust as she told me “you better never tell anyone that.” Whoops. That streak may also be broken this year.

Staying home and keeping my distance from human beings is just how I prefer to live. My grandma used to call me a hermit, but if I can take one positive away from COVID-19, it’s rebranding hermit into “social distancing.”

Suddenly, my lifestyle has gone globally mainstream as social distancing is the way we’re going to slow the spread of this virus. At least, that’s how countries with functioning leadership will handle it, but we can talk about how ratfucked America is later.

(Warning: this piece was written in three sittings and it has mood swings)

Asking me to stay home is akin to asking me to continue breathing oxygen. I am almost as selective in choosing when to leave the house as Daniel Day-Lewis was at choosing film roles. In a world of more than seven billion people, I have to be in the running — comatose patients excluded — for having the least amount of change to my life from the coronavirus pandemic.

However, I can’t say there hasn’t been a mental change already. I’m more pessimistic than usual and I find it hard to get excited about anything. Despite a decade of unrivaled experienced with social distancing, I find myself having to daily stem off a panic attack. I figured if I’m having a difficult time with this quarantine, then it must be a real shock to the system of the people who are so used to going out the door daily. Throw that change on top of the anxiety and uncertainty over what’s going to happen to your health and wealth. It’s a lot to handle right now.

I can’t promise this will be the most helpful of stories to read — maybe you’ll get a few laughs at least in a time we need comedy. I just knew I had to sit down and share my thoughts to feel the catharsis I only get from writing. While I may go on to regret sharing so many personal feelings about my life, there is a sinking feeling that something could happen this year where I never get another chance for people to understand why I lived the way I did.

So carpe fucking diem; this one’s for the misunderstood social hermits.

Why I Love Social Distancing

This has quickly gotten pretty dark, so let’s dial it back to the fun times of social distancing in a world before someone ate a bat at a wet market or whatever the hell happened in China to start this chaos.

What started me on social distancing? Well, if you’ve been around people before, you know that it’s not always the most pleasant experience.

You probably want to know what goes into the psyche of a person who would voluntarily not leave the house for nine months as I once did. Some of you might not even fathom why I’d do it for nine days for that matter. By the way, I know many people are struggling right now since 52.3% of you on Twitter said you’d rather do two weeks in prison than 12 months of house arrest.

I don’t think my lifestyle choice is better than anyone’s, but I can’t help but get the feeling that a lot of people would say there’s something wrong with mine. So I admittedly find myself writing this from a defensive position after seeing so many people on social media struggle and complain just a single-digit number of days into a self-quarantine. When you see people equate your lifestyle with the end of the world, it makes you question if you’re really okay.

But I do feel more than content with my way of doing things. We’re just cut from a different cloth. However, I would strongly deny being an anti-social person. In fact, I used to call myself the most social hermit you’ll ever meet because of how much I enjoy conversation with anyone. I’ll start up conversations with people at elevators, or with waitresses, doctor’s assistants, and any random Twitter user where I have over 22,000 followers. I simply enjoy talking, I’m very approachable, and people are comfortable at opening up to me. That’s why I probably should have been a psychologist so I could sit my ass at home and have people come to see me. I’d also be making way more money than I have.

Oh yes, work. If you’re new here that might be your main area of interest. How do you achieve a decade of social distancing with work? The answer is to be a freelance writer. Even when you don’t have any gigs, you can just say you’re working on a book or a screenplay, which are two things I have done already. I started covering the NFL full time in 2011 and worked on research projects for a few years before that. I can honestly say I have never once had to leave the house for a single task related to my coverage of football. Everything has always been done remotely and handled by emails, attachments and some phone calls. Some people are likely just discovering how amazing working from home can be, but that’s what I have always done. Sadly, I may not be able to continue doing this, which would really put a damper on my lifestyle. Hard to find a sportswriting job as it is, but even harder when sports are suspended. But enough for now about my depressing future.

Extreme social distancing was not always my lifestyle, but I have certainly taken on more social distancing post-college than I did as a teenager and college student. I graduated from college in December 2008, so 2009 was the first full year where I wasn’t constrained by the need to go to classes. Had I known how infrequently I was going to leave the house over the next decade, I probably would have kept track of every instance since I am a data nerd with OCD for such things. If you named a year since 2009, I could probably list a few of the events that drew me out the door. For example, 2010 got at least five trips out of me for jury duty and kidney stones, so definitely not my favorite year.

If I had to ballpark it, I’d say I probably average about 2.5 trips out of the house a month. For example, I left the house three times in January this year: once to a meal on New Year’s Day, one doctor’s appointment (stopped for a flu shot too, fortunately), and my last time out was on January 25 (two months ago today) to my best friend’s house. I didn’t go out once in February, and March (and probably April+) will be the same way of course.

A year ago, I left the house five times in March, but it was one of the worst months of my life. It started with a terrible case of the flu, which led to two ER trips. In between those I broke my MedExpress cherry, but it was short-lived as they denied me service because of my new health insurance. So we picked up Arby’s on the way home, because I’d rather die by roast beef than that flu. Another trip would have been to see my grandma after I finally got over the flu, but she passed away on the Sunday morning of St. Patrick’s Day. Later that week I had to purchase a suit jacket at a store before attending her funeral and wake two days later. So that’s five trips that I would gladly exchange for just one last time to see her for a proper goodbye.

You get the sense now that I’ve always worked from home, and I mostly just leave for medical reasons and family events. The next logical question is what do I do for fun? You know, living. The things people are freaking out from not having access to right now as the world has stopped. Well, this is where I feel I’m very consistent in my habits of what I like and enjoy:

  • I’d rather eat at home (with food brought to me) than go to a restaurant
  • I’d rather watch a movie on my HDTV than go to a theater
  • I’d rather listen to music on headphones than go to a concert
  • I’d rather watch sports on my HDTV than go to a game

Movies/TV, music and sports are my big hobbies in a nutshell. In each case here I prefer the option that is more efficient in terms of time and cost, and I choose private/small gatherings over being in public and in large crowds. That’s just how I am.

The only real inconsistency I have is that I do prefer seeing a friend in person over just texting or talking to them on the phone. Unfortunately, my inner circle these days is almost exclusively people from different states, so there’s nothing I can do about that. I’m still on brand in that I would prefer a friend to come over than to go to a party. In a party setting, I’m absolutely the person who latches on to a friend and just talks their ear off without circulating the room.

How do I manage online dating? By being a good texter (read: not a creep or fuckboy), I actually get most women to meet me at my house for the first date. And since I’ve been straight edge since I was 17, bars/clubs are not places I ever frequent or take interest in. Don’t need to go to the liquor store or to buy a pack of smokes. Never have the urge to go looking for the Dope Man.

But wait, there’s a lot more…

  • I don’t drive and being in a car long can make me physically ill (need the window cracked for air no matter how cold it is)
  • I never liked flying and haven’t been on an airplane since a couple months before 9/11
  • So asking me to fly to a conference or to the NFL Combine (my least favorite event) is a no go
  • I’m agnostic and haven’t been to church since I was a teenager
  • The only water I want to be in is a shower, so no thanks on going to the pool, beach or water park
  • Amusement parks/zoos are fun as a kid or if you have kids, so 33-year-old childless me isn’t so amused anymore
  • If a 33-year-old man is chilling at a park alone, he’s probably a pedo or a serial killer, so that’s not for me
  • People like to walk their dogs, but I’m 100% a cat person, and like me, they stay indoors
  • I’ve never had any interest in hunting, fishing, or camping
  • Dancing or hiking? Me not liking
  • Going for a run or to the gym? Nope, but I’d love to have a stationary bike I could sit on and exercise while I stream media…at home
  • Gun range to practice shooting? Nope, not into guns (not even paintball)
  • Bowling? Tried it once at a birthday party (that was enough)
  • Strip club? Waste of money (PornHub is free)
  • Unlike Robert Kraft, I’ve never taken a spa day or been to a massage parlor
  • Wrestling shows? Been to a ton, but stopped following in 2001
  • Casinos? I’ve been there twice, but I’d rather lose money betting on sports from home
  • Plays, museums and art galleries? Not my bags
  • My mom knows how to cut my hair so I stopped seeing my barber
  • My uncle is the flea market/garage sale type; not me
  • Haven’t been inside a library since college
  • I guess I’m a bad person for admitting I have no interest in going to a homeless shelter/soup kitchen, but I do donate many items to Vietnam Veterans
  • Circus? I’ve gone twice as a kid; threw up on a woman the first time and got a bad splinter the second
  • BINGO? I actually liked those as a kid, but I’m not that or a senior citizen now
  • I hate fireworks and saw more than enough of them as a kid

I think 25 bullets are enough to get the point. I’ve experienced many of these things in my life, had my fill, and the fact is I’d rather just stay home than do those activities. If that makes me weird then so be it, but I know what makes me happy. I also must acknowledge that my age and lack of a family has a lot to do with this. It’d be really hard to stay home all the time if you had a kid to take to school or a spouse that wanted to go out from time to time. I’m also an only child, so no siblings to do anything with.

I’d also be remiss not to mention the technology from this past decade that fuels my lifestyle. I wouldn’t have been able to do this in any other decade. Being able to stream movies/TV and music so easily has changed a lot. I used to actually go to the video store to rent a VHS or DVD or video game, which often meant a second trip out to return it or get more. I used to actually go to Best Buy on Tuesdays to buy new CDs, but mp3s and Spotify killed those days. Now we can also have food, groceries and medication delivered right to our homes. Then in terms of getting anything delivered, Amazon Prime and free two-day shipping has of course dominated shopping. I get almost all of my clothes from online orders. Those days of going to a shopping mall and trying stuff on are long gone for me. As many Americans know, malls in general are relics of our past. Future generations won’t know what you’re talking about if you mention a joke gift you once bought at Spencer’s or that some high school fraud only knew bands with merch at Hot Topic.

I’m of the age where I grew up in a pre-social media, pre-internet world where we actually had childhoods, birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese’s, and vacations to Disney were affordable. Now I’m older, streaming has taken over, and I’d shamelessly rather just stay home.

If I’m happy, then who cares? I’m going to continue enjoying social distancing, but not so much in this current situation.

Why 2020 Is Freaking Me Out

I saw a girl I follow on multiple social media platforms complaining that she has to stay in and can’t go to the bars and clubs. I felt like saying “Sis, you’re almost 30, you can’t keep a man, and it’s time to grow up. There will be plenty of chances for you to post your cute outfit on Instagram, post the random dude you’re grinding on for Snapchat, and then tweet a day later that all men are trash.”

These aren’t the end times. Those days aren’t over for her, but they need to be put on hold for at least several weeks if we’re all going to get through this together. Not enough people are taking this seriously. People like her would be among the first out the door should we ignore the social distancing guidelines before Easter (April 12) and act like there’s nothing wrong.

I’m probably preaching to the choir, but the concerns go far beyond the death rate that is fortunately not very high for COVID-19. Still, 2% of the population is no joke as anyone who has watched The Leftovers knows. The concern is that you can pass it to someone who will have a serious illness/death from it, as well as overwhelming the capacity of our hospitals. Just wait for the crow-eating tweets from people who called it a hoax and that it’s just the common cold when they’re stuck in the ER for eight hours with chest pains and can’t get a doctor because they’re overloaded. It’s coming. Also, people comparing it to the flu need to shut the fuck up already. It’s not the flu. It’s not any type of flu. It’s at least 10 times worse than the flu.

I don’t want to make this too political (follow my Twitter where I’ll lash out about that in real time), but the fact is I fear that America will be the worst-hit country from the coronavirus because of how incompetent our leadership is. We’ve managed to turn a global pandemic into more petty, partisan bullshit. You cannot half-ass a response to this virus where many people are staying at home, but too many are still gathering at parks or horrifically playing basketball on a public court. Guess what? All those people are still using the same grocery stores and pharmacies, which have to remain open of course. We’re not doing enough and certainly not doing the type of lockdowns that China and Italy strictly enforced.

You need a legit lockdown (plus high-volume, efficient testing) for at least three weeks to really slow this thing down. When a massive country like India can start that, then what is our problem? Oh that’s right, this is America, a country where people would rather boast about their patriotism and freedom than do anything logical or with empathy for others.

It starts at the top with Donald Trump, who then has his ghouls in the senate and media follow his lead, poisoning the minds of millions of his Kool-Aid drinkers. Yeah, I guess it would be ‘beautiful’ to see things return to normal for a holiday like Easter. You know what else would be beautiful? The NCAA March Madness tournament. WrestleMania with an audience. Rage Against the Machine name-checking Trump at Coachella. The NBA/NHL playoffs. The 2020 Summer Olympics. You know, the things that have been cancelled or postponed for logical reasons because of this virus.  People would love to enjoy those events too, but tough shit. These are unusual times and we have to take unusual actions to overcome it.

A decision to let people roam freely too soon could trigger the trifecta that would lock up Trump’s legacy as the worst president we’ve ever had: the worst coronavirus outbreak and most deaths from it in the world, record-setting lows for the economy, and record-setting unemployment. If this happens, it should signal the death of the Republican party after choosing greed over humanity. It’s really the legacy Trump and his party deserves, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that grim of a reality.

Our reality now is that many people are scared and we don’t see any reason to trust our leader. The total lack of common sense and empathy that many are showing just adds to our fears, because we’re not in full control of our health. I’m doing my part to stay home of course, but what happens if some asshole with a cough goes to the store, spreads his unknowingly infected germs on an item he puts back, and then my mom goes on to purchase that item and brings it home? A CDC study found the coronavirus lived on surfaces in the Diamond Princess cruise ship for as long as 17 days. There is a lot to be concerned about here.

You should have known there would be problems with this when people laughed off “it only affects the old and those with underlying conditions,” which has morphed into “let the old die to save the stock market.” The fact is we all know people who fall into the high-risk categories. They still matter and we can’t put a value on their lives.

I’m a high-risk person. I have sleep apnea and I’ve had pneumonia twice and a pulmonary embolism in 2016, so my lungs are anything but pristine. Furthermore, my immune system is not in good shape because I was taking Humira, an immunosuppressant drug. It’s the same drug I was taking a year ago when the flu kicked my ass for over two weeks. Now imagine how I might fare against a virus 10 times worse than the flu. I stopped taking Humira in late February for this reason, but I am absolutely scared about the prospects of catching the coronavirus in my condition.

My mom is also high risk for her age and she’s had a bad cough for two months now. Chronic bronchitis is an issue for her. You can tell I lean on her a lot as really the only family member I have left. If something happens to her, I don’t know what I’ll do. Chances are if she gets it, I’ll get it too. My little family tree could be all out of leaves if we’re not careful enough, and again, our health is not entirely in our control.

Am I willing to go 18 months without leaving the house until there’s a vaccine? That would be twice my personal record, and I already had a bit of a headstart at two months in. I think I could do it, but I sure as hell hope it doesn’t come to that. My thought process is if we get it, I hope it’s months down the road when there are more ventilators, the hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, and maybe they’ll have a good idea of which medicines to treat people with by then.

My only real hope in this situation is that we have the best minds in the world working hard on this virus, looking for effective treatments and ultimately a vaccine. I’m confident we’re going to get there eventually, but for now, these are scary, unfathomable times. It’s okay to be scared, because even though I am uniquely qualified to get through a long lockdown, I’m scared too.

If you’re looking for some media to consume to pass the time, just know I’m always offering recommendations as this is my zone. It’s never been my intention to implore the world to live life the way I do, but the longer you can stay home and grind it out, my family would appreciate that as we continue to flatten the curve and hope for the best.

Much like binging on a series, we just have to take this pandemic one episode at a time, and hopefully we’ll make it to the next season together.

NFL Top 100 Players of All Time

Back in August I spent a little time breaking players down by position to create my list of the 100 greatest players in NFL history. My plan was to post this before the 2019 season started to celebrate 100 years of the league, but then I ran into a familiar problem of not being sure how to rank one player over another when they play different positions.

For example, I knew I would have more quarterbacks (15) than any other position. However, just because I favor Roger Staubach over John Elway, does that mean I like both over Jack Lambert, my No. 4 linebacker, or does Lambert belong somewhere between the two? Also, thought was given to extending the list to 101 players and starting it with Patrick Mahomes just because of how absurd the start to his career was coming into 2019. I’m not doing that, but he is off the charts so far.

So as a late Christmas gift, you are getting my list today. After seeing the way the NFL has rolled out its controversial top 100, I decided to just rank the players by position instead of a 1-100 ranking. I’ve already made my share of comments on here and Twitter about the NFL Network’s list, and some of those will be repeated here. I expect about 66 of my players to match the 100 on here:

nfl100

My Approach

As far as how I arrived at my 100 players, I did not purposely neglect the early decades. I absolutely did place an emphasis on players who were truly dominant and stood out despite having so many worthy peers to compete with for honors and statistics. I can honestly say I’m not too interested in what a two-way lineman from the 1920s did, but I feel like I still included enough pioneers of the game who deserve honor in 2019. I also wasn’t going to neglect this past decade and the players who have already carved an incredible legacy.

I am not a ring counter, but I respect a player’s contribution towards winning. There’s no fancy formula or system I use to rank players, but I try to take everything I’ve learned from research into consideration from stats, eye test, peak performances, longevity, durability, awards, rings, how quickly they made the Hall of Fame, and how the player was perceived during his career. When we’re only picking 100, we should be focusing on first-ballot HOF types.

The choice to keep comments open may be one I regret, but let’s do this. Scroll to the bottom (or click here) if you want to see my full list of the top 100 players in NFL history.

Quarterbacks (15)

  1. Peyton Manning
  2. Joe Montana
  3. Johnny Unitas
  4. Drew Brees
  5. Tom Brady
  6. Dan Marino
  7. Steve Young
  8. Roger Staubach
  9. Brett Favre
  10. Aaron Rodgers
  11. Sammy Baugh
  12. Fran Tarkenton
  13. Ben Roethlisberger
  14. John Elway
  15. Otto Graham

My last real post about the top quarterbacks in NFL history is over four years old and a Part II was never made. You can read that if you want, but the fact is my thoughts have changed a lot since September 2015. Sure, my top 15 quarterbacks are the same group of players, and my top three hasn’t changed. However, nearly five full seasons have been played since and even just fundamentally I am seeing things a bit differently now.

I may be even more down on rings for quarterbacks than I was in 2015. This comes after watching Zombie Manning win his second, the Falcons handing Brady another after he turned a game-ending pick into a 23-yard catch by Julian Edelman, Nick Foles Super Bowl MVP, and Brady again cementing his legacy as the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl by scoring 13 offensive points (for the second time). When 2016 Matt Ryan and 2018 Patrick Mahomes turn in two of the greatest QB seasons ever and don’t even get the ball in overtime in championship game losses, what are we really accomplishing by putting everything on rings?

Sustained peak play is also something I value more now, so that will definitely come up when we get into the middle of the list here.

1-3: No Changes (Manning-Montana-Unitas)

I still have Peyton Manning, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas as my top three quarterbacks of all time, which has been the case for quite a while now.

3. Johnny Unitas

Unitas always deserves respect for being the game’s first true field general. He called the shots and is regarded as having created the two-minute drill. His championship game performances against the Giants are the stuff of legends. He led the league in touchdown passes four years in a row. He threw 32 touchdowns in a 12-game season in 1959. He was as good as anyone when it came to throwing game-winning touchdown passes. He was a five-time All-Pro and three-time MVP winner. He succeeded with multiple coaches. The only real knock on him would be that his career was in the gutter after Year 12 and his playoff games after 1959 were rough, but what a run it was before that. He would have loved to play in this era with more passing, more shotgun, better kickers, wild cards, etc. In his last great season (All Pro in 1967), Unitas led the Colts to an 11-1-2 record that wasn’t good enough for the playoffs. Imagine that now. Unitas would have routinely been in the playoffs in a league with expansion.

2. Joe Montana

Montana was a great fit for Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense, displaying elite accuracy, decision making and underrated mobility for years in San Francisco. He put up great numbers and won two Super Bowls even before the team drafted Jerry Rice in 1985. Montana proved he could win big without Walsh as he did in 1989, his most dominant season and first MVP. Montana also showed later in Kansas City after major injuries that he could still lead a team to success, getting the cursed Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game immediately in 1993. Like Unitas, Montana was great at throwing game-winning touchdowns in the clutch. His playoff runs over the 1988-1993 seasons were incredible. Durability was a knock as Montana did miss roughly 55 games to injury in his career. So he never threw for 4,000 yards and only hit 30 touchdown passes once, but he was the most efficient passer of his era.

1. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning played the position at a higher level more consistently for a longer period of time than any quarterback in NFL history. He was the most individually-honored QB of all time with seven first-team All-Pro seasons and five MVP awards. He could have easily had eight of each (see 2005, 2006 and 2012). He struggled the first six games of his career before improving and setting numerous rookie records in 1998 at a time when rookies rarely did anything in the NFL. He didn’t struggle consistently like that again until 2015 when he was 39 and his body was failing him. He still led the Broncos to five late wins in the fourth quarter that year to help win a second Super Bowl before retiring.

Manning’s career path is most enviable, if not logical. He was at his worst as an infant and an elder, and still came away with records and a ring in those two seasons. For the 15 seasons in between, he was the most valuable player in NFL history. We’ll likely never see another quarterback take four different head coaches (from two franchises) to a Super Bowl like Manning did. He was the system, and it fell apart any time he was taken out of the game for playoff rest or when he missed the 2011 season for the 2-14 Colts. He couldn’t even leave a game for one play with a broken jaw without the offense fumbling in the fourth quarter to lead to a game-losing touchdown. No player took on a heavier burden and won as often as Manning did. He was also 89-0 when his team allowed fewer than 17 points in a game he finished. No one was better at making sure a strong defensive effort resulted in a win.

We’ll likely never see another quarterback break the passing touchdown record twice like Manning did, including 2013 when he threw 55 scores and the most yards ever in a season with marginal arm strength at best. The way he tailored his game in Denver to throw with even more anticipation was amazing.

In his physical prime in Indianapolis, Manning led the Colts to at least 12 wins in every season from 2003 to 2009. They were almost never out of any game then, including that 21-point comeback in the final four minutes in Tampa Bay in 2003 or the 18-point comeback win over the Patriots in the 2006 AFC Championship Game. With most quarterbacks you can turn the game off with a big deficit in the fourth quarter, but Manning was the best at making those games uncomfortable for the opponent.

Aside from maybe Dan Marino, Manning was the toughest quarterback to pressure and sack, always making life easier for any offensive line put in front of him. He called his own shots like Unitas in an era that’s increasingly gone towards radio communication telling the QB what to run. The Colts took the no-huddle offense to new heights in the 2000s. Manning was so uniquely talented that he even made the end zone fade — one of football’s worst play calls — a useful weapon thanks to the work he put in with Marvin Harrison before games. Manning’s work ethic, accuracy and consistency helped make millionaires and household names out of numerous coaches and teammates. When a putz like Adam Gase brags about being rich, he can thank Manning for their time in Denver.

The bugaboo for Manning will always be the 14-13 playoff record and the nine one-and-done postseasons, but the fact is he was one of the best playoff quarterbacks in NFL history too with numerous records there. As I solved before Super Bowl 50, the record number of playoff losses (13) are a combo of making the playoffs more often than anyone with teams that sometimes had no business being there, and losing several of the most highly-contested opening-round games to good teams. Most players aren’t opening their playoffs against the 99 Titans, 05 Steelers, 07 Chargers, or 12 Ravens. Other quarterbacks would have their close calls in the later rounds of the playoffs, but Manning saw five of his record six blown fourth-quarter leads in the playoffs happen in opening games. Only one other QB in NFL history (Warren Moon, 3) had more than two such games. In years where Manning got past the first game, his teams were 13-4 in the playoffs and 2-2 in the Super Bowl.

The detractors have to stick with poor box-score scouting of playoff games and remembering things like Tracy Porter and Ty Law (but forgetting the picks the 2003 Colts didn’t make that day) because that’s all they have left. Year after year Manning erased the arguments against him:

  • They said Manning was only good because of RB Edgerrin James (see record in 1998 and 2001 without him), so Manning immediately won his first Super Bowl after Edge left in 2006.
  • They said Manning was only good because he had a left tackle like Tarik Glenn, so after Glenn retired he kept things going and even won an MVP with noted bust Tony Ugoh as his left tackle in 2008. He also improved his pocket movement after the 2005 Pittsburgh loss.
  • They said Manning would miss the calming presence of Tony Dungy and his all-time leading receiver Marvin Harrison after retirement in 2009. He only started that season 14-0 with the corpse of Jim Caldwell on the sideline and by integrating Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie seamlessly into the offense.
  • They said Manning’s QB whisperer Tom Moore was the key to his success in Indianapolis, but Manning set up shot without Moore in Denver and immediately got the desired results for a franchise that tried to run a 1930s offense with Tim Tebow in 2011.
  • They said Manning had great stats because he played in a dome in Indianapolis, so after diminished arm strength following four neck surgeries, he led one of the most dominant passing offenses in NFL history for three years in Denver outdoors. Several of his worst games in that uniform came indoors as a visitor.

The only thing Manning didn’t prove is that he can still play at a high level thru age 39 and beyond like Favre, Brady and Brees have. Then again, they’re the only three on my list to do that, so it’s not a deal-breaker.

Manning is the easiest quarterback to defend because his success isn’t dependent on one constant coach, team, owner or any factor but his own hard work and skill. He wasn’t the most durable, but he was more durable and harder to replace than Montana. He wasn’t washed after Year 12 like Unitas nor did he peak in his first five years like Marino. His peak was far longer than the eight years of relevance Young gave us. He didn’t need four years to break out like Brees did and 7-9 seasons were beneath him. There were some throws he’d like to have back, but that’s true for all of these guys, and there were fewer regrets than Favre had. He also didn’t have Bill Belichick holding his hand for two decades like Brady. We didn’t have years of “What’s wrong with Peyton?” articles like we’ve had with Aaron Rodgers since 2015, because the decline was so rapid.

Manning ascended to the top of the game quickly, stayed there for a long time, and then fell off the cliff in a hurry. Maybe another quarterback with the initials P.M. will wipe Manning out of the record books in the next 15-20 years. But for the first 100 years of NFL history, the only clear GOAT to me is Peyton Manning. Period.

4-6: I Want to Watch the World Burn (Brees-Brady-Marino)

Good news for Brady fans: this is the first time you’ve seen me rank Brady ahead of Dan Marino. Bad news for Brady fans: I put Drew Brees ahead of them both, which you might have expected was coming from my recent look at Brees as the Hypothetical GOAT. You can read that for more context on the crazy amount of records Brees owns so I don’t need to repeat them here.

My very recent epiphany on this was that Brees is having the career we wish Marino had. Don’t get me wrong when it comes to Marino’s greatness. If Marino played now he would be battling Brees for the most 5,000-yard passing seasons and would still be incredibly hard to sack with his quick release. But why do we seemingly only do this “if he played now” thing with Marino and never with Unitas or Montana or even 1983 classmate Elway? It’s always the hypothetical for Marino, the best to never win a Super Bowl, or something Brees actually has done and could still do again.

My justification for putting Marino ahead of Brady all these years was that he was a better passer surrounded by far worse teams, especially on defense. If it was a close playoff game, Marino always did his job. He just wasn’t always close or in the playoffs often enough because he didn’t have enough help around him.

This argument actually works better for Brees, who has seen more great seasons and games go to waste than any QB in NFL history. Sean Payton has just never done much to coach up the defense in New Orleans. Brees won three passing titles in a row in 2014-16 for teams that never won more than seven games in any of those seasons. Brees has been saddled five times with a defense that ranked 31st or 32nd in points per drive allowed. As I already explained a few weeks ago, Brees has the most fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history, but not the most comeback wins.

In the playoffs, Brees actually has better efficiency stats than Brady and Marino. Brees is one of 12 quarterbacks to appear in at least eight different postseasons (he’ll make his ninth this year). He’s the only QB out of those 12 who can say he’s never had a bad postseason. The closest was 2013, but in two road games he still pulled out one late win in Philadelphia before struggling with Seattle’s vaunted defense. The guy just doesn’t have duds in January, and I’m sure I’m jinxing myself here but it’s a fact so far.

Brees has been on the losing end of many heartbreakers in the playoffs. Brees lost his first playoff game (2004 NYJ) after his kicker missed a game-winning field goal in overtime. He threw for over 400 yards and scored 36 points in Seattle, but it wasn’t enough because of the Beastquake. He is the only quarterback to lose a playoff game after throwing two go-ahead touchdown passes in the fourth quarter because of what Alex Smith did to his defense in the final two minutes. Then we have the last couple of years with the Minnesota Miracle (only walk-off TD in 4Q in playoff history) and the sham of no DPI on the Rams that would have enabled the Saints to kick a last-second field goal and get to another Super Bowl.

While Brees continues to excel at 40, Marino peaked very early with that 1984 sophomore season and never got back to the Super Bowl. His first five years are significantly better than the rest of his career. He struggled at 38 and retired. One of the most nonsensical things is when people say “Marino would throw for 6,000 yards and 60 TD if he played today.” No, he wouldn’t. Even though passing stats continued to get better throughout Marino’s career, his own numbers did not. Maybe that was from a decline of the talent around him a la Rodgers in Green Bay right now (see below), but he never really found that resurgence outside of his 1994 season when he came back from the Achilles injury. Why would Marino throw for more than Brees and Peyton ever did when he was barely ahead of the pace of Moon and Kelly in the 90s?

Meanwhile, Brees was the best QB not named Mahomes in 2018 and should have been back to the Super Bowl. He was injured this year, but is back to being a top passer again. Even if he was fully healthy he’d probably still be denied MVP because of what Lamar Jackson did, which is just the kind of luck Brees has had in his career.

Brees’ continued excellence and success that would be even greater if he had better teammates gives him my Marino argument, except his case is even better. So that’s really why I swapped him into Marino’s spot at No. 4 ahead of Brady. The biggest knock on Brees is really the length of time it took him to get to a high level of play.

Brees didn’t do himself any favors in that he played one game as a rookie, was middling at best in 2002, then played poorly and was benched in 2003. He finally broke out in 2004 and has played at a high level for the 16 seasons since. Meanwhile, Marino had that incredible start, but as I said, he never really had elite years down the stretch of his career. Brady also started off better than Brees, only hitting his low point this year at the age of 42. So early impressions have put Brees behind the eight ball here, but he’s continued to play at such a high level that he owns the all-time passing records and may never have to give them up to Brady if he puts it far enough out of reach.

The concept of Brady chasing Brees is wild given how it’s really always been the other way around due to how their careers started. Perception is a hell of a drug in the NFL. By the time Brees finally showed us he was good (2004), Brady had already won two Super Bowls. After Brees’ first year in New Orleans, big things were expected, but 2007 actually proved to be his worst season as a Saint with a poor 0-4 start. Meanwhile, Brady exploded that year with by far his best season with 50 touchdown passes. Then after Brees was Super Bowl MVP in 2009, big things were again expected with him set to join the ranks of Manning and Brady at the top. However, 2010 proved to be Brees’ second-weakest season as a Saint while Brady had a hot eight-game finish to claim his second MVP award. Brees exploded in 2011 again, but Aaron Rodgers was just a hair better, so Brees again was second fiddle. Then a lot of those seven-win seasons started for the Saints and it wasn’t until 2017 that they started consistently winning again. Meanwhile the Patriots are in at least the AFC Championship Game every year since 2011.

Over the last three years Brees’ passer rating is 15 points higher than Brady’s (111.1 to 96.1). If we continue working backwards from 2019, Brees has a higher rating than Brady for every single year back to 2001. However, we experienced their careers in the normal order where Brady was higher every year from 2002 through 2017. Brees didn’t surpass him until 2018.

DBTB-PR

Now how could I put Brees ahead of Brady when the MVP count is 3-0? Even with Marino it’s 1-0. That one’s simple. I think their top seasons match up very well, and Brees’ lack of MVPs is a case of bad luck. Several of his best years coincided with someone else having a career year like Mahomes in 2018 or Rodgers in 2011. Then he’s also been bitten by Peyton a couple of times. Meanwhile, I think Brady was a default MVP in 2010 and 2017 since no other candidate stayed healthy or was worthy enough that year. In the end, I think Brady (2007) and Marino (1984) have the best individual seasons (2007) between the three, but seasons from Brees like 2009, 2011 and 2018 are all better years than Brady’s MVP years of 2010 and 2017. Marino’s only other MVP argument would have been 1986, but he missed the playoffs at 8-8. So I don’t think the MVP argument is a valid one for Brees vs. Brady/Marino like it would be for Brees vs. Peyton/Unitas/Montana.

Sadly, it looks more and more likely that Brees will be left off the NFL’s top 100 as I have been saying for weeks. It’s a tough list to crack and people have stronger biases than usual when it comes to quarterbacks. Brees has had the misfortune of trying to shine in an era with three other all-time greats, but I just don’t know how anyone could look at the body of work and how he’s played and not be super impressed. Most accurate quarterback of all time and most prolific passer of all time are worth celebrating.

Some quarterbacks simply receive more help and have better luck than others. These things do not just even out, even over two decades in the league. It’s true that I don’t think I can use my method of changing one play (usually one that has nothing to do with the QB too) to change enough outcomes to get any other QB in nine Super Bowls like Brady. But I know I just have to change the Tuck Rule/Vinatieri’s kick (2001), Lee Evans in the end zone (2011), and Dee Ford offsides (2018) and I already have Brady down to a 4-2 Super Bowl record. Don’t even get me started on the 2014 Seahawks and 2016 Falcons not committing to the run when they should have, or Drew Bennett in 2003 (Titans) or #MylesJackWasntDown in 2017. The list just goes on and on for what I call the Coin Flip Dynasty in New England. Meanwhile, I could find a few more title games and possible Super Bowls for Manning and Brees quite easily.

That’s how I don’t get caught up in counting Super Bowls for this list. I can look at how the QB performed individually and asses how much help they had to win or lose the game. We know Brady isn’t blowing away his peers in any statistic except for the one that says New England wins the most in practically every situation.

The one stat the QB has the least control over should not be the centerpiece for his greatness. That’s been my argument for Marino over Brady, but it’s better applied to Brees now.

7-10: The Curious Case of Aaron Rodgers

Here’s an interesting one. Roger Staubach and Steve Young are similar in that they were the most efficient passer of their decade while also being really good at scrambling. Both had shorter-lived runs as starters for various reasons, but they rarely left you disappointed. The Green Bay quarterbacks, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, also showed some dominance with multiple MVP awards and a flair for extending plays. They however couldn’t be any more different when it comes to interception avoidance. Maybe Rodgers learned from watching Favre slump through a bad 2005 season as a rookie, but we know he’s very protective of the ball and will throw it away or take sacks at a higher level than he should. Favre was the ultimate gunslinger, but he paid for that a lot too. You had more exciting comebacks with Favre, but also some really tough losses after bad interceptions.

With Staubach, we basically had eight relevant seasons with only one of those (1974) seeing him have subpar stats and missing the playoffs. With Young, his peak in San Francisco was also eight years (1991-98) and it’s one of the best eight-year runs you’ll ever see. I think only 2003-2010 Manning exceeds it. Young, Favre and Rodgers are three of the best ever one-ring QBs. Favre’s Packers (and Aikman’s Cowboys) actually had a lot to do with Young only starting one Super Bowl. It’s one of the biggest disappointments this decade that the Packers haven’t been back to the Super Bowl with Rodgers.

Favre obviously has the ironman streak and longevity in his favor. The thought was that Rodgers could provide 15 years of standout play despite having to wait until his fourth season to start a game thanks to Favre. However, it has been a strange path. Most all-time great quarterbacks don’t have to wait as long to start as Rodgers did. Most never come close to the peak run Rodgers had in 2009-2014, which I have dubbed as Peak Aaron Rodgers. Then we have the last five years that have taken place since I last ranked quarterbacks. Ever since that 6-0 start in 2015 without Jordy Nelson, Rodgers has seen his stats take a major nosedive from his lofty standards. In his last 64 regular season games, starting with that embarrassing night in Denver (2015), his YPA is just 7.05. Rodgers has had the lowest TD% of his career in the last two seasons.

Blame has made its rounds everywhere. Former head coach Mike McCarthy took the brunt of it, but under new coach Matt LaFleur, Rodgers is having a very familiar 2019 season that looks a lot like last year. The difference is the defense has been much better and the schedule more favorable. We have metrics to show the offensive line is pretty good. Aaron Jones has been an impressive running back as the running game has been blamed for this decline even though Rodgers rarely had one in his peak years.

I think there is something to be said for having the best and deepest receiving corps in the NFL when Peak Aaron Rodgers played, compared to now just having Davante Adams and some guys. That obviously doesn’t reflect greatly on Rodgers for not developing the receivers better, but he is clearly working with less than he had before. He’s also never been a huge fan of tight ends for some reason so Jimmy Graham hasn’t been much help there. I think this hurts him a bit in an era where Manning and Brees could seemingly plug anyone in and get production. Rodgers loves to extend plays and go off script, but the rewards just haven’t been there like they used to, and he misses having a threat like Jordy Nelson. Health concerns have also been present for Rodgers in some of these seasons.

I used to knock Rodgers for the lack of 4QC/GWDs. He’s improved there for sure, but some of it has come at the expense of his usual early-game dominance. Simply put, the Packers trail by bigger margins and more often now than they used to. So while it helps Rodgers get more big comeback opportunities like the ones he led last year against the Bears and Jets, it’s overall hurting the team that he’s just not as efficient as he used to be.

So it’s unusual to see such a great QB with these struggles in his ages 32-36 seasons. If Rodgers had a 15-year career that looked like his play for 2015-19, I’m not sure he’d be a HOFer. He might be short of the mark like Philip Rivers actually. I’ve been saying that the ways to get Peak Aaron Rodgers back come in only three forms. One is to change teams, which seems unlikely right now. Another was to change coaches, but again, that hasn’t done the trick yet. The third is for Green Bay to land a generational talent at receiver that can transform the offense. Unfortunately, players like this rarely come along (think Rob Gronkowski or Randy Moss). That might be the only hope.

Peak Aaron Rodgers is one of the best QBs we’ve ever seen, but this guy of the last five years is not. I’m keeping Favre ahead of him for now because not only did he have an MVP reign and great run in the 90s himself, but he rebounded later with a great season at 38 in 2007 and nearly had the Vikings in the Super Bowl when he was 40.

Rodgers will turn 37 next season. Does he have that kind of resurgence in him? Time will tell, but he still has an opportunity right now to turn in an impressive postseason no one really expected from Green Bay and get to another Super Bowl in February. Perhaps denying Brees a second trip would be a big win for Rodgers’ legacy.

11-15: Roethlisberger over Elway

Wrapping things up for quarterbacks, I’ve kept my order of Baugh > Tarkenton > Graham from 2015, but Elway has moved down from eighth and Roethlisberger has gone from 15th to 13th. I have known for years that I wanted to move Elway down more, but this did not prove to be perfect timing for the Roethlisberger push only because he suffered the first long-term injury of his career this year and missed all but 1.5 games.

Let’s not ignore the facts though. Roethlisberger and Elway have each played 16 seasons in the NFL. Roethlisberger expects to play at least a 17th too, so there’s no longevity dispute here. Elway has only appeared in 16 more regular-season games than Ben, but Ben already has more passing yards, more passing touchdowns, and he is only four wins behind Elway as a starter. They have the same number of comeback wins (34) and game-winning drives (46). Roethlisberger has one more lost comeback (9) than Elway (8), or games where the QB put his team ahead late but still lost.

Roethlisberger kills Elway in rate stats and top 5/10 finishes among his peers. Top 5 seasons in passing DVOA? Roethlisberger has five to Elway’s two. Top 10 seasons in passing DVOA? Roethlisberger has 10 to Elway’s seven. Roethlisberger has finished 11th or better in passing DYAR (total value) in 14 of his 16 seasons, only missing in 2008 (23rd) and 2019 (IR). We don’t have any QBR data on Elway’s career, but chances are he wouldn’t finish that well in most years. Elway had more rushing production which could help, but he also fumbled 38 more times.

Beyond that, Roethlisberger didn’t need 11 seasons to start putting up efficient passing numbers like Elway, who had 158 touchdowns and 157 interceptions from 1983-1992. Look at this split for each quarterback’s first 10 seasons versus their 11th-16th seasons and how they ranked among their peers at that time (minimum 1,000 attempts for rate stats).

JE-BR

(Keep in mind Roethlisberger has had stiffer competition too with Brady, Brees and Rodgers in each split. Someone like Manning is replaced by Mahomes in the 2014-2019 split. Meanwhile, Chris Chandler and Mark Brunell were two of the better quarterbacks in that 1993-1998 split for Elway, a bit of a down period for offenses league-wide.)

Roethlisberger immediately had great efficiency stats and was Offensive Rookie of the Year before later having the volume stats as well. He’s always had top 10 statistics while Elway was often poor for a decade among his peers before turning it on later when the Broncos eventually supplied him with a HOF tight end (Shannon Sharpe), HOF RB (Terrell Davis), HOF left tackle (Gary Zimmerman), HOF-caliber wideout (Rod Smith), and other good assets. Roethlisberger’s boost starting in 2014 was Le’Veon Bell becoming a capable receiver at running back, which he never had before in his career. The improved line and his personal change to get rid of the ball faster has resulted in far fewer sacks taken. The Steelers also had better skill weapons in recent years before Bell and Antonio Brown mentally imploded, but Roethlisberger has always helped his receivers excel. Santonio Holmes, Antwaan Randle El, Mike Wallace and Martavis Bryant disappointed greatly after leaving Pittsburgh, and almost every draft prospect (mostly mid-round picks) has panned out thanks in part to Roethlisberger’s consistency. The only wideout who broke out somewhere else was Emmanuel Sanders in Denver (with Manning of course).

Roethlisberger didn’t need 15 seasons to win his first Super Bowl either. He needed two and then added a second in his fifth year with the greatest game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. If you want to say Roethlisberger sucked in his Super Bowl win against Seattle, that’s fine. Just admit the same for Elway against the 1997 Packers. The helicopter spin was cool, but it’s not a better play than the tackle Roethlisberger made to save Jerome Bettis’ legacy and his team’s ring in the playoffs in Indianapolis in 2005. While “The Drive” is an iconic moment for Elway, it didn’t directly win the game for Denver like Roethlisberger’s march and throw against Arizona.

Elway has his moments of lore, but so does Roethlisberger to anyone paying attention to the last 15 years of the NFL. This is the problem of playing in the same era as the big four of Manning, Brady, Brees and Rodgers. Yet Roethlisberger is the only QB in NFL history with three 500-yard passing games, which were all wins against winning teams, including the last-play touchdown to Mike Wallace against the 2009 Packers. He also has the most 450-yard games (7). He’s the only QB to ever throw six touchdown passes in back-to-back games, which was also done against playoff teams. He is tied with Brady for the third-most games of five touchdown passes (seven) in NFL history, and five of those games were nationally televised. He is tied with Peyton for the most 158.3 perfect passer rating games with four. He had a great game as a rookie to end New England’s historic 21-game winning streak. He led a memorable comeback to win the AFC North on Christmas in 2016, connecting with Antonio Brown in the final seconds. There was the slug-out win in Baltimore in 2008 with a Santonio Holmes touchdown breaking the plane late. He’s broken the hearts of Bengals and Ravens fans with nine game-winning drives against each.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t surprise me that Roethlisberger wasn’t even one of the 22 nominated names for this list by the NFL. He’s always been the Rodney Dangerfield of quarterbacks — no respect. But what factors other than nostalgia would make one choose Elway? Are an extra two Super Bowl losses the deciding factor? It’s not for me when I know that’s the result of Elway playing in a far weaker AFC where he took advantage of cursed Marty Schottenheimer teams like so many others would. Imagine if Elway had to deal with the Patriots and Manning-led teams like Roethlisberger has. Elway did nothing to break up Buffalo’s four-year run of winning the AFC. Elway wasn’t the only one who saw his defense implode in playoff games either, most notably those three Super Bowl losses. Roethlisberger is 13-1 in the playoffs when the Steelers allow no more than 24 points, but 0-7 when they allow 29-plus.

It’s hard to say how Roethlisberger, going on 38, will recover after surgery. The Steelers could also be in for some lean years with the Ravens running wild now and the Bengals probably drafting QB Joe Burrow with the top pick. The Super Bowl window may be closed for Ben, but he’s long since matched Elway in that “precious” ring category people care about.

It has been a pleasure watching Roethlisberger the last 15 years. It has been painful watching the Steelers try to operate an offense without him this season. That should earn him more respect, but we know that never seems to be the case despite all the evidence.

Running Backs (7)

  1. Barry Sanders
  2. Jim Brown
  3. Walter Payton
  4. Emmitt Smith
  5. Eric Dickerson
  6. LaDainian Tomlinson
  7. Marshall Faulk

My top three have been set in stone for quite a number of years now thanks to their pure domination and consistency. When it comes to No. 4 Emmitt Smith, I hear the arguments about the offensive line, but his longevity and durability were special. There’s no other way you get to be the all-time leading rusher without that. He was also the dominant, featured player in his offense at a time when his Cowboys were the most successful team in the NFL. The 90s were a peak time for workhorses and he won four rushing titles despite battling with the human highlight reel that was Barry Sanders. Eric Dickerson rounds out my top five, and he may be No. 1 if we just focused on his first six or seven seasons when he was so prolific and didn’t have much help from his passing game. His record of 2,105 rushing yards in 1984 still holds up and may never be broken (at least not in a 16-game season).

While the NFL included 12 backs, I only felt it was necessary to pick seven as I am a firm believer in the ease of replacement at the position. I also picked LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshall Faulk to round out my list, which explains why I was so shocked to see neither make the NFL’s list. Both were league MVPs who set the single-season touchdown record and were prolific receivers as well. Faulk had that dominant 1,000-yard rushing, 1,000-yard receiving season in 1999 that led to a Super Bowl win for his Rams. Tomlinson was insanely productive through seven seasons back at a time when the league was still filled with the workhorse back, a dying breed ever since.

You have to wonder if there was a personal vendetta against Faulk at the NFL Network to not honor him on this show due to his involvement in a sexual harassment case years ago. That would be a bit hypocritical for a show that had no problem bringing Jim Brown, Ray Lewis, and Lawrence Taylor on the studio and also talked about the inclusion of O.J. Simpson. Not to get on a moral high horse, but allegations of murder and physical/sexual assault against women are a serious matter.

Either way, I have no problem putting players who finished third and seventh in career touchdowns on my list. Tomlinson and Faulk were massive snubs by the NFL. I did not pick a back older than Brown, but I respect the NFL’s decision to include Steve Van Buren. I think that’s the right pre-1950 pick and I also like Lenny Moore a lot too as a big-play threat. I can even respect O.J. Simpson’s inclusion as he was a monster (on and off the field).

But again, I just do not love the position enough to include more than seven as I wanted to get more quarterbacks on my top 100.

Wide Receivers (10)

  1. Jerry Rice
  2. Randy Moss
  3. Don Hutson
  4. Terrell Owens
  5. Lance Alworth
  6. Calvin Johnson
  7. Larry Fitzgerald
  8. Julio Jones
  9. Marvin Harrison
  10. Cris Carter

For the record, if I was ranking all players 1-100, Jerry Rice would be my No. 1 overall player, the GOAT. You could kill a lot of time digging into his records and being amazed at how incredible his peak was and how he was the best Old Man WR in history too. One of the first football articles I ever did was about how unbreakable Rice’s records were. Even in this era of pass-happy offenses, it’s hard to see anyone playing now breaking his records. It would have to be someone who comes in later when the seasons are 18 games long. Hopefully that change never happens and someone beats him on merit instead of increased opportunities. If one record falls it would have to be receptions, but good luck to anyone on the yards and touchdowns. Not to mention all the playoff records.

I saw more of Randy Moss than I ever did Rice, but he’s my No. 2 because I think he had a tendency to take plays off. He basically quit on the 2006 Raiders, which maybe I can’t blame him for given his QB was Andrew Walter and his coach was Stuck in the 1990s Art Shell. But Moss was such a dangerous deep threat and I loved seeing him raise his hand almost instantly out of his break to get his QB’s attention to throw it. He might have sniffed Rice’s touchdown record if his career didn’t go haywire at age 33 (played for three teams in 2010), but that’s just another reason Rice is the GOAT.

Now that I hit on my two favorites, let’s circle back to the NFL’s very controversial list, which I had a somewhat viral tweet about in mocking the addition of Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch.

In my opinion, my top five players should be locks for a top 10. The NFL didn’t go with Terrell Owens for probably some of the same reasons he had to wait years for the HOF. Perceived “bad teammate” stuff. As an on-field talent, the guy was amazing and excelled with several quarterbacks and franchises, and his teams generally won. His performance in the Super Bowl loss after a serious leg injury was also awe inspiring. T.O. can be in my top five for sure.

When it comes to 6-10, I think many players have a good argument. Wide receiver is a very difficult position to evaluate because their success is so dependent on the quarterback in a way that just isn’t true for RB/OL/TE (see my rant here). We have to consider the team’s pass-run ratio, the quality of the quarterback and other receivers, and did the receiver create a lot of YAC, score a lot of touchdowns, or did he just load up on short completions from the slot? There’s a lot more to evaluate here so it’s not surprising that the HOF has a difficult time with the position and so did this list.

For one, I think having five of the top 10 wide receivers of all time as white players is a head scratcher (unless that was the Bill Belichick Special given he’d include “Julian Welkendola” as a player if he could combine the three). Don Hutson and Lance Alworth were locks that I included in my top five. Hutson is basically the George Washington of the position, the first true great receiver. Alworth was an incredible deep threat and the best from the AFL era. I did not include Raymond Berry or Steve Largent on my list, but I at least see cases for them making the NFL’s list.

The one that bugged me was Crazy Legs Hirsch. He indisputably had one of the all-time great receiving seasons in 1951 with 1,495 yards and 17 TD in 12 games. But that was on a stacked, historically prolific passing team with two HOF passers. The competition also leaves something to be desired from that year. The Rams opened the season with the New York Yanks, a team that finished 1-9-2 and was defunct the following year. That’s the game where Norm Van Brocklin set the single-game record with 554 passing yards, and Hirsch had 173 yards and four touchdowns that day. Hirsch never came close to his 1951 numbers again and only had a couple other really strong seasons.

I get that they were trying to highlight different eras, but why so much focus on that time between Hutson and the pass-happy AFL that Alworth helped bring along? I would have ignored Hirsch’s era for sure, just like how they ignored the last dozen years when Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones were so outstanding, living up to the draft hype with their freakish talent. Calvin came the closest to a 2,000-yard season of anyone so far and retired early much like Detroit’s other great skill player (Barry Sanders). Julio doesn’t score touchdowns like you’d like to see, but it’s hard to argue with his NFL record average of 96.4 receiving yards per game. He is looking to finish in the top three in yards for the sixth time this year. That’s big when you consider Larry Fitzgerald has only finished in the top three one time in his career (he has been fourth a total of three times). This gets back to how voters don’t seem to properly understand how to evaluate a player relative to his peers in this era.

Fitzgerald made my list too even though he’s less dominant than most of the other guys. His hands are amazing, he’s been very durable, and his playoff performances were nothing short of historic. Cris Carter also made my list for his ability to score a ton of touchdowns with various quarterbacks. I’ve always had him ranked ahead of the likes of Tim Brown and Michael Irvin. Sterling Sharpe would get more respect if injury didn’t stop him early, but he should be in Canton.

Then there’s Marvin Harrison. I’ve said that the best WR in NFL history, statistically, would be Peyton Manning’s No. 1 WR. Harrison was fortunate to get the biggest chunk of those seasons as he lit up the record books with Manning in Indy. Harrison’s playoff struggles are hard to explain, but it’s hard to argue with his 1999-2006 peak when he averaged 105 catches, 1,425 yards and 13 TD per 16 games.

Tight Ends (6)

  1. Rob Gronkowski
  2. Tony Gonzalez
  3. Antonio Gates
  4. John Mackey
  5. Kellen Winslow
  6. Mike Ditka

This was probably the least disagreeable position on the NFL Top 100. They only selected five players, but I had the same five plus Antonio Gates, who played college basketball in case you forgot. Shannon Sharpe would also be an honorable mention, but I like this list.

Gronk was the GOAT and the numbers would be even more stunning if he wasn’t injured so often. But when playing he was the best. Think of Tony Gonzalez as Arnold’s T-800 model of Terminator. Iconic and durable. Got the job done. But Gronk was the T-1000, except he’d rather melt into a puddle of goo off the field than continue risking his body after yet another Super Bowl win. Man, it sure is funny how the two most stat-inflating receivers of the last two decades (Moss and Gronk) played at their peak with the quarterback who “never has any weapons” in New England.

John Mackey has one of the best highlight reels of any player in NFL history. He was an OG like Mike Ditka, and Kellen Winslow took things to another level in Air Coryell’s offense as a receiving tight end. A relatively newer position than the others, it wasn’t hard to come up with the tight ends.

OFFENSIVE LINE (19)

Before we get into the OL positions, I want to acknowledge that it’s still the unit we have the least data for, especially for past decades. At least we have new game charting metrics for blown blocks and rates of snaps won in pass blocking, but we’re still pretty much in the dark on most decades of NFL history. So excellence at these positions have largely been defined by draft status, games started/longevity, and Pro Bow/All Pro honors. We know that can be very dubious, such as Maurkice Pouncey making eight Pro Bowls largely on the fact that the Steelers drafted him in the first round in 2010 rather than his actual play. So when I’m picking an offensive lineman, I try to pick someone who contributed to successful offenses while also garnering a lot of individual honors, but again I think a lot of us are simply guessing when it comes to these positions.

Offensive Tackle (7)

  1. Anthony Munoz
  2. Orlando Pace
  3. Jonathan Ogden
  4. Willie Roaf
  5. Joe Thomas
  6. Forrest Gregg
  7. Jim Parker

The NFL list had seven tackles too, though we only agreed on three of them. Sort of. Jim Parker made my list here, but the NFL list put him at guard where he also played. He was Johnny Unitas’ left tackle during the title years in Baltimore. Point is he’s on this top 100 list. My top pick was Anthony Munoz who seems to be the consensus for the best tackle ever.

It was surprising not to see Orlando Pace on the NFL’s list. He was the No. 1 overall pick in 1997 and really highlighted that great run on tackles in the late 90s with Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Tony Boselli, etc. I have no problem including someone from the Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

Joe Thomas did not make the NFL’s list, which is another slap in the face to modern players since he was retired at the time they voted. Thomas went to 10 Pro Bowls and 6 first-team All-Pros for the freakin’ Browns, their best player by far since returning to the league in 1999. He never missed a snap until 2017. He’s a first-ballot HOF lock and in an era where a lot of tackles struggle and high draft picks miss, it’s worth highlighting the best of the last two decades in Thomas. It’s just too bad he retired right before the Browns got a quarterback worth protecting (at least we hope that’s the case with Baker Mayfield).

Offensive Guard (7)

  1. John Hannah
  2. Bruce Matthews
  3. Gene Upshaw
  4. Larry Allen
  5. Randall McDaniel
  6. Jerry Kramer
  7. Steve Hutchinson

John Hannah was the GOAT for the Patriots before people ruined that label. Bruce Matthews could excel at any position on the line, so you know he would make the list high somewhere. I did not choose Art Shell for my tackles, but I did go with Gene Upshaw from those Oakland lines for the guards. Larry Allen was a monster who could also play multiple positions. Randall McDaniel was a 12-time Pro Bowler who was also All-Pro when the 1998 Vikings set the scoring record.

The NFL also chose seven guards, including my tackle pick of Jim Parker. They didn’t pick Steve Hutchinson and Jerry Kramer like I did. Kramer finally got into the HOF as a key member of the Packers, the most successful dynasty in NFL history. Hutchinson was my pick for representing the last 20 years of football. He should get into the HOF soon too, and he was an anchor for those strong Seattle offenses and also blocked for a young Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.

Center (5)

  1. Jim Otto
  2. Dwight Stephenson
  3. Mike Webster
  4. Dermontti Dawson
  5. Mel Hein

Hard to say if there’s any consensus on the #1 center like there is for tackle (Munoz) or guard (Hannah), but Jim Otto was a 10-time first-team All-Pro. Sure, it helped that most of that came in the AFL when there weren’t many teams, but the Raiders were a highly successful offense in that era. Dwight Stephenson might have gone down as the best if he played longer (just 114 games), especially since he was with Dan Marino in Miami.

I mentioned Pouncey earlier, but you can see why center is such a big deal in Pittsburgh. Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson were two of the best to ever do it. Finally, Mel Hein made my list as the best from his era (1931-1945).

The NFL had the same list, except Dawson didn’t make it there. So there’s probably more groupthink with OL than any position, but my 19 picks being somewhat close to the NFL’s list makes me feel good.

Defensive End (9)

  1. Reggie White
  2. Bruce Smith
  3. Deacon Jones
  4. J.J. Watt
  5. Carl Eller
  6. Michael Strahan
  7. Jack Youngblood
  8. Julius Peppers
  9. Gino Marchetti

You might be able to argue with the order, but I think White/Smith/Jones make up a pretty consensus top three. This is such a crucial position, so I was surprised to see the NFL only chose seven players. More baffling was how they included Doug Atkins and Lee Roy Selmon, but not J.J. Watt or Michael Strahan.

The Watt snub especially bugged me because it showed that they’re not acknowledging how great an active player has already been in his career. Watt played six full seasons and was first-team All-Pro in five of them and won three Defensive Player of the Year awards. Most guys can play 15-20 years and never sniff those achievements. Watt’s only played nine fewer games than Selmon, who started out on those horrible Tampa Bay teams and only had one All-Pro season and DPOY award. Watt is as big of a snub as any by the NFL.

I also like to represent Minnesota’s Purple People Eaters line, so I included Eller on my list. Strahan was a surprise snub too. Not only does he still hold the record for sacks in a season (22.5), but he still ranks sixth all time (141.5) and led the Giants defense on that great Super Bowl run in 2007, shutting down the undefeated Patriots. Julius Peppers also made my list as a modern player with his freak athleticism and having the fourth-most sacks ever. He should be an easy HOF choice in 2024.

Defensive Tackle (9)

  1. Joe Greene
  2. Merlin Olsen
  3. Bob Lilly
  4. Randy White
  5. Warren Sapp
  6. John Randle
  7. Alan Page
  8. Cortez Kennedy
  9. Aaron Donald

Much like with the Watt selection, I think Aaron Donald has already done enough this decade to belong on the list. We are fortunate to have stats for pressures and QB hits now, even if they aren’t as objective as a sack. But Donald is so dominant in those categories despite playing inside and seeing a lot of double teams. Donald and Watt will be the first two incredible defenders in the game charting era where we have more data to quantify just how much better they were than their peers. I’m not surprised the NFL snubbed him, but I won’t.

Like with Marshall Faulk, I wouldn’t be surprised if Warren Sapp was purposely left off as he’s also run afoul off the field in recent years. But he was another great pass-rusher at a position where it’s just harder to break through to the quarterback than playing on the edge.

The NFL chose seven players, of which I agreed with six of them (not Buck Buchanan from the Chiefs). It’s pretty obvious to agree with the gold standards of the position like Greene, Olsen and Lilly. I just think Sapp, Donald and also the late Cortez Kennedy deserved it too.

Linebackers (12)

  1. Lawrence Taylor
  2. Ray Lewis
  3. Derrick Brooks
  4. Jack Lambert
  5. Junior Seau
  6. Mike Singletary
  7. Dick Butkus
  8. Derrick Thomas
  9. Chuck Bednarik
  10. Joe Schmidt
  11. Bobby Bell
  12. Jack Ham

Here is an old-school position where teams start three or four players, so it’s not that hard to come up with a list of legends. I picked 12 just like the NFL did, but we had two big disagreements. I went with Derrick Thomas and Mike Singletary while they chose Willie Lanier and Ted Hendricks. Sure, Hendricks is a fine selection and nearly made my list too. Lanier is overkill for me since he played with Bobby Bell on the Chiefs, who also made the list. Singletary was a dominant force in Chicago and is second to only Ray Lewis in Pro Football Reference’s new HOF monitor for inside linebackers.

Derrick Thomas was the snub that stood out most to me the night the NFL revealed their list, because I assumed Singletary was on there too. But for Thomas, he was a great pass-rusher with monster games (games of 7 and 6 sacks) and production (41 forced fumbles) for a winning Chiefs team in the 90s. He sadly passed away at 33 after a car accident, but I have to have him on my list.

This was a position where I didn’t think any active player was really deserving of inclusion. Ray Lewis was the most recent player, retiring after 2012. Luke Kuechly is building up a great resume in Carolina, but I wouldn’t put him ahead of Brian Urlacher yet, let alone in the top 12.

Cornerback (9)

  1. Rod Woodson
  2. Deion Sanders
  3. Mel Blount
  4. Champ Bailey
  5. Darrelle Revis
  6. Night Train Lane
  7. Willie Brown
  8. Charles Woodson
  9. Herb Adderley

This was another controversial position from the beginning when Patrick Peterson was included on the finalist list over Richard Sherman. What bugged me about the NFL’s list of seven cornerbacks is that Mike Haynes was reportedly a unanimous choice, but Rod Woodson and Deion Sanders were not. How in the world can any of the 26 voters not all have Woodson and Sanders on their ballot? That’s absurd. I put them in my top two along with Mel Blount, who changed the game so much for Pittsburgh that they had to create illegal contact.

I also made sure to give credit to shutdown corners in this era where the pass is so heavily utilized. So that’s why I have Champ Bailey and Darrelle Revis so high when neither made the NFL’s list. Charles Woodson also made the cut for me with one of the best resumes a football player has ever put together.

Night Train Lane is someone I joke about getting 15-yard penalty after 15-yard penalty if he played today with his rough style, but he was the stud corner in his era. I also gave respect to Willie Brown and Herb Adderley with the latter being a snub in my eyes from the NFL list. Given what we know about NFL media and the things they value, you would think a six-time champion with five picks in the playoffs and four All-Pro seasons would be more highly regarded.

I left out Darrell Green on my list, but the NFL didn’t. I said on Twitter that he was most notable for his speed and insane longevity (played thru his age-42 season). In 20 seasons he was an All-Pro just once and he never had more than five interceptions in any season. While interceptions may not be the end-all, be-all stat for a player, just keep in mind that roughly 600 players can claim to having a season with six interceptions at least once. It’s not asking for much. So I’d much rather have Revis and Bailey than Green and Mike Haynes.

Safety (4)

  1. Ed Reed
  2. Ronnie Lott
  3. Emlen Tunnell
  4. Larry Wilson

This was a position I cut short a bit at the end to not go over 100 players. The NFL list had six, including all four of my players. Ed Reed was an easy choice as the GOAT for me and the only one needed from his era (over Troy Polamalu and Brian Dawkins). Ronnie Lott was crucial and a punisher for the 49ers’ success so he’s up there, but I love the way Reed could outsmart the Manning’s and Brady’s in a way no other safety could. When Reed got the ball in his hands (64 INT!) he was electric to watch too. You didn’t know if he’d make a 100-yard return or lateral to a teammate. Here’s one of my favorite stats ever:

Emlen Tunnell was before my time, but the four-time All-Pro still ranks second in interceptions (79) and probably will never be passed unless someone changes teams weekly to play against Jameis Winston for years to come. Paul Krause still holds the record with 81 interceptions and may have been my fifth safety if I had room, but I felt like he was more of a compiler in that statistic than anything. So my last pick went to Larry Wilson, an innovator of the safety blitz.

Others

I did not select a punter, let alone two like the NFL did, but Ray Guy is the obvious choice there. For kicker, I’ll go with Adam Vinatieri for his longevity and reliability in clutch situations and inclement weather. He also really started finding the touch on 50-plus yard kicks in the back half of his career. Justin Tucker is on his way though, but this is still too much kicker talk. Devin Hester would be my pick for the return specialist, and finally, you can see my top 10 coaches here:

Here is the final breakdown of my top 100 players in NFL history:

Top100NFL

 

Wide Receivers: Fun Toys If You’re a Good Boy (Or QB)

I’ll post my Week 16 predictions a day earlier with the NFL having a good triple-header on Saturday. First, I wanted to rant about wide receiver value in relation to the Cowboys-Eagles showdown on Sunday. As the week wore on, I realized it can apply to so much more than that game.

You can tell the playoffs are close because people are spouting crazy quarterback legacy takes again. We still are several weeks away from a potential Chiefs-Ravens AFC title game where the outcome could set the course of the narratives for Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson for the rest of their careers (a la you know who in 2003). Let’s set that depressing thought aside today and focus on the damage done to the last 20 years of quarterback analysis.

The source of this week’s frustration was after Drew Brees broke more NFL records on Monday night. Patriots fans suddenly wanted to count playoff passing touchdowns with the regular season. Mike Florio and Chris Simms managed to post two horrible top 10 lists for quarterbacks:

Their blatant disrespect for Johnny Unitas aside, I couldn’t get over the appearance of John Elway twice in the top three. So I fired back with this to make sure my Tuesday would go to waste fighting off the same arguments I’ve battled for two decades now:

After reading the usual weak arguments in defense of Brady and Elway, I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized that the quarterbacks I tend to defend have a long history of success with throwing to wide receivers. This would be the likes of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Dan Marino, Andrew Luck, etc. Meanwhile, the quarterbacks I’ve call overrated tend to always get the “he doesn’t have good receivers or enough help!” excuse:

  • “Manning’s always had better receivers than Brady, who would throw deep more if he had those guys instead of slots and receiving backs!”
  • “Elway would have all the records if he played with the receivers Montana and Marino had! One-man show before Shannon Sharpe!”
  • “Switch Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott and Wentz would be 12-2 right now with those wide receivers!”
  • “Cam Newton’s only had Greg Olsen and recently CMC.15-1 with Ted Ginn!”
  • “Look what Donovan McNabb did as soon as he got Terrell Owens instead of Stinkston and Trash!”

You can probably throw Joe Flacco and Alex Smith in there as other past whipping boys of mine, but you get the point.

But when you get down to it, it’s the wide receivers that people are really complaining about when it comes to the lack of help. Let’s just take the trio of Manning, Brady and Brees for example:

  • Brady (Bill Belichick) and Brees (Sean Payton) have clearly had better coaching than Manning, who was the closest thing to an on-field coach in his era.
  • Brady (Rob Gronkowski) and Brees (Antonio Gates/Jimmy Graham) played with superior, game-changing tight ends than Manning (Dallas Clark) ever did.
  • Brady (Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, James White) and Brees (LaDainian Tomlinson, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas, Alvin Kamara) played with better, specialized receiving backs than Manning (one year of Marshall Faulk and 38 games of pre-ACL Edgerrin James) ever did.
  • Brady and Brees had better high-end offensive line play and superior results in run blocking led to better rushing production than Manning had in his career.

Then you get to wide receivers and it’s a different tune. Brady had Randy Moss for two full years as his best weapon. Both had deep threat Brandin Cooks briefly. Brees’ best WR may be Michael Thomas, who is in his fourth year. Meanwhile, Manning had Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne for a long time in Indy, then Demaryius Thomas and some other talented players (Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders) in his Denver stint. So it’s not a debate that Manning had the better group of wide receivers.

There’s just one big problem with using this against a quarterback.

Wide receivers have the least independent value to a quarterback among his offensive teammates.

It’s 2019 so we’re just going to ignore the fullback position like most of the league has, but think about this before dismissing it as a controversial take. It should be common sense.

Offensive linemen have a lot of value because they have to block (run or pass) on every play. In the rare event a quarterback throws a block for a teammate, it’s usually a half-assed effort to not get hurt. The linemen’s blocking is especially crucial to the team’s ground game and screen game having success. While the quarterback does control his sack rate more than his line, they still play a vital role in his pass protection. A quarterback can make his line look better by getting rid of the ball quickly (and worse by holding it too long), but they still have to limit quick blown blocks or the offense will have a hard time doing anything.

I’ll say “Running Backs Don’t Matter” but don’t misconstrue a comment on replacement value for one on responsibility. Whichever back is in the game, they do matter. Unless you’re Lamar Jackson, most quarterbacks don’t have a huge role in the team’s rushing offense, so it’s on the back to have good vision for lanes, follow his blockers, and create missed tackles. Backs can also be crucial in blitz pickups, throwing a key block to save the QB’s bacon. Backs also provide value in the passing game where they catch the highest rate of passes of any position and gain the most YAC because of how short the throws are on average. Whether it’s a screen, a pass to the flat, or a checkdown over the middle, RB passes are easy plays for quarterbacks to make.

Tight ends do a little bit of everything. They might be a key part of your run blocking, pass blocking, chip an edge rusher before going out to catch a pass, or they could be major receiving threats themselves, dominating matchups with smaller linebackers and safeties. They too catch a high rate of passes due to the distances and they can be deadly in the red zone especially.

Wide receivers, by and large, play at the mercy of their quarterbacks. Their success is more dependent on the quarterback than any other position. Good runs are always valuable. Good blocks are always valuable. A good route? It doesn’t mean a thing if the quarterback never looks in that receiver’s direction. The quarterback has to decide to throw to the receiver first. A good route and a target? Still might not mean a thing if the throw is so bad there’s no hope it ever gets completed. Some routes could open up the route for another player, but that’s just part of the play design. If as many as five eligible receivers are hoping to get the ball, the QB has to identify and deliver to them. It starts with the QB.

Only a small number of wideouts will ever get praise for their run blocking, but that’s not a significant part of their game now. They need to run good routes, get open, catch the ball and create YAC (or win contested catches). When we’re talking about outside receivers, those are the lowest-percentage throws because of the distance involved (wider and deeper than RB/TE/slot throws). In addition to the tougher throws, the top wideouts are more likely to draw double teams or the best cornerback matchup on a weekly basis too.

It’s never made sense to me how people penalize a QB for producing with the position he should be able to claim the most success for utilizing. Accuracy definitely comes into play here, and it’s no surprise to me that Elway, Newton, Wentz and McNabb are four quarterbacks with undisputable accuracy issues in their careers. Brady’s reputation is dink-and-dunk, so it’s the throws over 15 yards that you question there even in his prime.

The thought that adding a top-flight receiver is the only thing those quarterbacks needed doesn’t fly with me. Take McNabb for example. Sure, he had his best season ever in 2004 when they brought in Terrell Owens. His completion percentage shot up to a career-high 64.0%, but notice that he was down to 59.1% in 2005, a season where Owens’ antics helped bring the team down quickly. For the rest of his career McNabb was just a 59.6% passer. This is a case study in outliers and identifying cause and effect. McNabb didn’t suddenly shoot up to 64% because he was throwing to TO. Owens caught 61.1% of McNabb’s targets. That’s solid, but the big change was RB Brian Westbrook getting utilized more and catching 83.9% of his 87 targets from McNabb. That success didn’t continue as Westbrook only caught 73.8% of his targets in Philadelphia from 2005-09. McNabb didn’t sustain or repeat his level of 2004 play because that’s not the type of quarterback he usually was.

This isn’t to say a great wide receiver can’t have a huge impact on an offense. It’s just that very few players in the league qualify as a game-changing talent. Tyreek Hill is one of those players in Kansas City because of his unique speed. That’s not to say Patrick Mahomes still didn’t do great things without him earlier this year, but that’s because Mahomes is a unique talent himself.

Look at the Colts for a different example. T.Y. Hilton was quite a receiver when Andrew Luck was his quarterback, but if all we knew of him were his years without Luck (2017 and 2019) he would look like a marginal No. 1. So how does one justify holding it against Andrew Luck for having a 1,000-yard WR in Hilton when Hilton wouldn’t be a 1,000-yard WR if Jacoby Brissett was his QB? This is why the WEAPONZ arguments are always so bad when people talk about quarterbacks.

A great statistical season for a quarterback almost certainly means he was able to get production from multiple receivers. A great statistical season for a wide receiver means he played great, but chances are his teammates, including the QB sometimes, did not fare so well. What do you think is more helpful for scoring points and winning games in this league? It sounds nice in theory to get an increase in production for your best receiver, but success in the NFL comes easiest when your best player is actually the quarterback and he’s finding the right matchups all over the field instead of keying in on one guy.

In this era we think of 4,000 yards as a bare minimum for a prolific passing season, efficiency aside. No receiver has ever had a 2,000-yard receiving season, so it’s not like we see one player responsible for over 50 percent of the production in the passing game in this league. Among the 46 players with 1,500 yards in a season, Lance Alworth was the closest with 47.4% of San Diego’s yards in 1965. His team lost 23-0 in the AFL Championship Game.

Super Bowl winners certainly haven’t needed prolific receiving numbers from one player. Steve Smith’s incredible year for the 2005 Panthers where he accounted for 44.8% of the team’s gross passing yardage led to two playoff wins. Out of the 40 seasons where the 1,500-yard receiver had at least a third of his team’s passing yardage, only Smith and 1995 Michael Irvin (Cowboys) played for teams with multiple playoff wins. Antonio Brown (2015) is the only receiver this century to win a playoff game after a 1,600-yard regular season. Jerry Rice, the GOAT, set the single-season record with 1,848 yards in 1995 and it was 38.7% of the 49ers’ total. When Calvin Johnson set the current record with 1,964 yards in 2012, the Lions finished 4-12 and 17th in scoring. No other Detroit player had 600 receiving yards even though Matthew Stafford set a record with 727 attempts (No. 2 all time is 691, Drew Bledsoe).

You’ll hear a lot now about Michael Thomas set to break Marvin Harrison’s record of 143 receptions. When Harrison did that with Peyton Manning in 2002, it led to 41 percent of the Colts’ passing yardage, but that was also the second-worst scoring offense (ranked 15th in points per drive) of Manning’s career. Only two guys playing pitch-and-catch while RB Edgerrin James had a slow return from an ACL injury apparently does not lead to a great offense. Brandon Marshall had arguably his best year ever when he reunited with Jay Cutler on the 2012 Bears, but the offense finished 22nd in scoring. Julio Jones had 1,871 yards in 2015, which ranks second in NFL history. It’s also the second-worst scoring offense (ranked 16th) in Matt Ryan’s career. Josh Gordon (2013 Browns), Isaac Bruce (1995 Rams), Rob Moore (1997 Cardinals), and David Boston (2001 Cardinals) are four more examples of career-peak seasons for offenses that still didn’t rank higher than 22nd in points per drive.

Too much from a great player can actually be problematic when it creates an imbalance on the offense and the ability to create plays from multiple options.

Nothing I’ve said here — I want to make it clear this was a late-night rant more than a deep dive — disputes the idea that an offense with two (or three) really good wide receivers would be very beneficial to a quarterback. That way he wouldn’t have to lean on one player and they could attack from different angles. Look at the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history and it’s no coincidence that their best statistical seasons likely came with their strongest supporting casts.

However, I think people tend to overlook the importance of consistent accuracy, and they love to exaggerate just how good (or bad) one quarterback’s supporting cast really is. It’s not like Kirk Cousins’ season fell apart when Adam Thielen was injured this year. It’s not like Stafford’s efficiency numbers haven’t shot up since Calvin Johnson retired and he’s changed his playing style to accommodate. (It’s a shame we didn’t get a full season from Stafford in 2019 as he was playing arguably his best football.) Even Derek Carr is setting career highs in 2019 without Amari Cooper (or Antonio Brown). Baker Mayfield did better as a rookie without Odell Beckham Jr. on his team. Jameis Winston just stacked historic games of 450 yards and 4 TD with Mike Evans only having a 61-yard TD catch in those games.

There’s some random NFL for you. But what’s not random is a great quarterback finding a way to complete passes with the players he has around him. Maybe that’s a three tight end approach like these historic Ravens, or it’s dominating with your wideouts in 11 personnel like Manning’s Colts used to. There is no one right way to build an offense, because you have to shape it around the skillset of your quarterback.

So when I see Eagles fans wish for Wentz to get his own Amari Cooper for Christmas to make all the difference in the NFC East, I just laugh. If he’s not fumbling in the pocket after four seconds, then it’s still a matter of hitting the mark too.

ACSeye

Fake Outrage, Real Consequences and Taking Your Life Back

This year has taught me that time does not heal everything. I experienced the two worst moments of my life in a span of seven weeks: I lost my writing job and I lost my grandmother. Prior to this year I had never been fired and I had never been to a funeral. Time does help with the loss of a loved one, especially when you feel like that person was lost years ago due to the way Parkinson’s and dementia destroy their body and mind. However, I think the only way to get over losing a job is to get another one. Sounds simple enough, but as any freelancer writer knows, finding a full-time job is difficult.

Worse, what happens when you were “cancelled” by an angry Twitter mob that was out for blood? That’s the goal for the worst people who engage in this toxic cancel culture that has swept through social media in recent years. The mob identifies a person as problematic, digs up things from their past, drums up outrage, pressures the person’s employer to fire them, and then celebrates the demise. Apologies aren’t even wanted, let alone accepted anymore. Forgiveness is a thing of the past.

They basically want you to cease to exist.

This is not hyperbole as I can prove. For the small-but-angry mob of Boston sports fans that took me down, they love to tell people to die. They tweeted I was a “confirmed kill” after I got fired and they’ve given me the “RIP” nod on their bio. Honestly, it’s hard to say I’ve been living since this happened, which is why I added a Radiohead lyric (“I’m not living, I’m just killing time”) to my Twitter bio in that time.

No matter how much these people prefer that I kill myself, I refuse to let them win. So this is proof that I still know how to research and write, because it’s been five months since I’ve done the things I built my career around. I don’t feel I can confidently move on until I tell the real story. Some people might criticize me for playing the role of a victim here, but the facts show that that’s exactly what I was, and people need to recognize that it can happen to you someday too. I also already held myself accountable for my past actions the day I was fired. It’s time I expose the other side. Any sensible person in my position would want to call this out for what it was: a coordinated character assassination.

I want my story to serve as a warning about the many dangers of social media and the destructive path we seem to be setting ourselves on.

Part I: Recap

My hopes are that this reaches many people who are unfamiliar with me, so allow me to provide some background info. It’s been almost ten years since I wrote my first internet article about football statistics. Writing about the NFL has been a full-time career for me, a Pittsburgh-based analyst, since the summer of 2011. My work has been featured in many places, including NFL Network, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, USA Today, and ESPN. I do not specialize in clickbait, top 10 ranking pieces, or slideshows with a couple of sentences. My preference is for heavily researched, fact-based analysis, and sometimes that riles people up when the data doesn’t agree with their fandom.

Debate has always been something I’ve embraced, but I have noticed more vitriol on social media in recent years. My resistance to blocking people used to be strong, but that really started to change in 2016 when personal attacks and threats started intensifying. Most of the accounts I block are NFL fans that make things personal, and I also block a large volume of MAGA regardless if they have ever interacted with me. Consider it a preemptive measure as I have been very anti-Trump since the beginning. Anyone who tries to lump me in with that lot is sorely mistaken.

2011 was also when I joined Twitter where I have since made nearly 140,000 tweets. I’ve always run a personal account, meaning I am known to tweet much more than stats and links to my work. I admit to being brutally honest, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I have a dark sense of humor, so a risqué joke is not out of character. No one would have to follow me for long to understand that, and as I’ve gotten older — I’m 33 now — and attracted a larger following, I’ve done a better job of knowing what’s appropriate for the masses. There’s a reason so many of my tweets used against me by the mob were from 2013 or older when I was a freelancer making peanuts.

Speaking of those tweets… I was fired on the Thursday (1/31/2019) before the Super Bowl after about 20 past tweets were collected and displayed on Twitter on Wednesday in a thread that claimed I have a problem with race. I want to reiterate that none of these tweets included racial or homophobic slurs, hate speech, or threats of violence. The only swear word in any of the tweets was a singular use of “bullshit.” The closest thing to a tweet coming in an argument was with another (white) writer as we were debating, quite civilly, about the Redskins changing the team name and if it was as offensive as the n-word. A couple of tweets about my disdain for illegal fireworks were highlighted, but I still believe that if you associate the words “ghetto” or “section 8” with a specific race, that says more about your prejudice problems than anything about me.

Some of the tweets were taken so badly out of context that I refuse to ever apologize for those ones, such as a 2014 Oscars joke tweet referencing big winners Gravity and 12 Years a Slave, or clarifying the use of Africa in an article about where NFL talent comes from. Some of the tweets made no direct or even indirect mention of race, such as when I called ESPN’s First Take (with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith) “loud, dumb garbage” because all they literally did was scream bad arguments at each other. Other tweets they used ignored the tweets in the same thread that better explain what I was actually saying. For example, it’s supposed to look racist that I called NBA player Rajon Rondo a thug, yet the full thread actually shows that I didn’t respect him or view him as a role model because I heard him call players on the court the n-word several times. Rondo’s history before and since that 2013 tweet proves I was not out of line in criticizing his character.

Frankly, the passage of time has only frustrated me more that so many of these tweets were included and their meanings were manipulated to paint a false picture of me. That’s not to say there weren’t any past transgressions that I wanted to apologize for (and did), but this was clearly a smear job. I think insensitive would be the best way to describe the collection of my tweets. When you look at the type of posts that have gotten people fired on social media before, it’s usually something really nasty. If you want to see truly offensive tweets, scroll down to Part II.

Getting fired is not an experience you can really understand until you go through it. I couldn’t eat or sleep for a few days after this started. I did my best to write about it immediately on here. I wanted to hold myself accountable for my past and acknowledge where I had shortcomings in the language I used, where I’ve improved, where I was being railroaded by this angry mob, and where I still needed to improve. I was never going to sweep these tweets under a rug and move on quickly. I also made sure to defend my character and speak out against the absurd allegations that I’m a racist and have problems with diversity. Everything from my personal relationships to cultural interests shows otherwise.

In the heat of the moment on January 31, I did not spend much time writing about the group of Patriots/Boston sports fans that collected and posted my tweets. I learned quickly that they were crude people with a history of taunting and harassing me because I was critical of their team and quarterback. I knew they faked outrage over these tweets and pushed my employers to fire me, and it worked.

However, by the Saturday night before the Super Bowl, I had dug up so many tweets from these people that showed just how obsessed they were with ending me and how coordinated their plan was. Those discoveries made me feel worse than I did on the day I was actually fired.

Part II: Know Your Enemy

If you work in sports media, you are bound to develop enemies over time as sports fans are a passionate bunch. If you cover all 32 teams in this country’s most popular league (NFL), then that opens you up to venom from tens of millions of people.

Many Twitter users prefer to use the Mute function instead of a block just to let the person wear themselves out by screaming into the void at you. I used to be one of those people, but my story might make you reconsider which one is usually the right move. I’ve heard it from Patriots fans on the internet for many years, but I’ve never dealt with a group this demented before. I’ll also point out that I have worked for two bosses who are from the Boston area and are Patriots fans, but they always respected my work and the validity of my analysis. It’s fine for fans to disagree, but it’s shocking how petty some would be to get this personal over someone while their team was making a third-straight Super Bowl appearance. I had most of the mob muted when this blew up in January, so I was previously aware that these people were awful. I just didn’t fully realize the extent to which they were harassing me for well over a year until after I lost my job.

No one gets to vote for morality police, but imagine having your reputation in regards to race and diversity dictated by a group of white guys who love Boston. Lucky me. This mob is a tight-knit group of Boston sports fans who call themselves BJBSJ. In their own words: “BJBSJ is a news gathering association of concerned citizens designed to combat hottakes, specifically as it pertains to Boston sports.” At the end of January, I called them out for not having a website, so they have since created one where they just further prove they’re terrible people who hide behind internet anonymity where they can trash people with no consequences. Would any legitimate news site have their posts done by people who hide behind screennames instead of an actual byline?

BJBSJ has continuously harassed me since 2017 on Twitter. I don’t care about the petty digs they would send me after a Patriots win or Steelers loss, but their intentions got much darker in late 2018. Not once prior to January 30 did this mob accuse me of racism as their tweet history with me clearly shows they were sour over things I’ve said about the Patriots and especially their idol Tom Brady. You could easily argue that the origins of this entire beef trace back to a bunch of white, Boston sports fans who are upset that I will always say that Peyton Manning is a better quarterback than Tom Brady. It’s that petty. By having so many of these people muted for so long, I wasn’t even egging them on in arguments to deepen their hatred for me. They are just naturally hateful people as you will see.

This mob largely operates in the open, and they had no problem naming their cohorts on January 30 after they finished posting my old tweets. BJBSJ people like to refer to me as “Cocksmear” or “Kochsmear” to make fun of my last name (Kacsmar). All that does is make my researching efforts easier to find their old tweets, and I’m sure they’ll go on a deleting spree once they read this.

Imagine trying to write an apology for old tweets when you know the only “offended” people are faking their outrage and are actively harassing you while you’re doing it. That was the position I was in on January 30 when this started as you can see from those tweets from their “lead writer” Craig Bernard (@defnotGG).

But this didn’t start the week of the Super Bowl. As another mob member (@mrags316) points out, it was “Sal” who started this crusade against me.

The “Sal” here is referring to @sofascout1, who has since been suspended by Twitter. I didn’t even get the honor of reporting him, but his tweets from November 8, 2018 show what kind of sick people I was dealing with here:

Nice to know I was the head of the operation’s odds-on favorite to commit suicide after losing my job over the Patriots. Of course, it wasn’t anything football related that did me in. It was these people getting to rewrite the narrative of my thoughts on race and diversity. The same people who love to tweet to others that they should die or kill themselves.

@Ironhead334

The next person I want to focus on is @Ironhead334, because he was by far the most dedicated member of the BJBSJ mob to pressure my employers on Twitter to take action against me. He also has a larger following (over 3,000 people) than the others.

IH-P3

While he puts up a good act here, some simple digging into him showed that he’s just as rotten as the rest of them. If Ironhead wants to talk about my questionable pattern of behavior regarding race and diversity, let’s talk about his pattern of tweeting like a future spree shooter.

This is the kind of hate-fueled threat that often goes unnoticed on social media since the people who follow a guy like this are frequently similar-minded individuals. We already see the pattern with this mob is that they want people to die, and this tweet was hardly a one-off on a bad day. His combination of media + idiots to get “mediots” is what this group is all about: harassing and threatening media members they disagree with.

It’s disturbing and unnerving that people like this can ruin your reputation, yet nothing happens to them when they tweet things far worse than anything you did. Here’s a small collection of tweets from the BJBSJ mob, flaunting their brand of harassment to defend their sports team. Notice how they turn from their usual offensive selves to masking as concerned citizens when tweeting at my employers to pressure them into firing me.

“Patches” AKA @BankruptWebGoof AKA @36_Chambers_ (Jeff)

BJMISC2

Alex Basalyga

Basal-PRES

@14Grogan

@bron_y_aurstmp

Bri3

Bri-PRES

I archived all the tweets that were sent to or mentioned my employers and boss on 1/30-1/31. There wasn’t a high volume of them and most were from BJBSJ people. Again, these are not people with large followings, so this thing never blew up the way one might expect. As expected, a couple of the people to comment were Patriots fans who follow BJBSJ people and have their own history of hating me. I want to highlight one of those fans: @PatriotsSBLII. He did his part to help get me fired:

LII-P

Of course, he would be perfect BJBSJ material with his past tweets. Again, notice how I wasn’t even engaging him, but I was missing out on his attacks because I had him muted when he should have been blocked.

LII-2

Finally, I want to mention the person who posted my tweets and started the false narrative that I’m racist: @designatedkyle. He thinks he’s smarter than the others by changing his username (@dontaboomhauer below), blocking me, and deleting some old tweets of his own, but I have what I need on him. I even got some help from a Twitter user who provoked him the day the Robert Kraft prostitution story broke, and Kyle here showed his true BJBSJ colors before deleting the tweet:

Kyle

If throwing stones in a glass house was an Olympic sport, the BJBSJ crew would win every gold medal possible.

I have never claimed to be a perfect angel on Twitter. I’m not Fred Rogers; I don’t get along with everybody. I may be many things, but I am not racist, I don’t have a problem with diversity, and I don’t get off by tweeting about how so and so should die. The fact is you could dig through my tweets and come up with a dozen prefaced with “Does Scott Kacsmar have a problem with white people?” It would be another ludicrous conclusion to reach, but it could be done when you get to spin the narrative you want.

I have always judged people by character, not their color. The BJBSJ mob’s character is all about defending Boston sports by means of telling everyone who disagrees with them to die. I feel like I was ratted out for jaywalking by a group of bank robbers who just pulled off an armed robbery, and I’m the only one facing any consequences. I also discovered that they’re still trying to get people in trouble while having zero accountability for their own hateful words.

This has to stop. My preference is an agreement to eternally hate one another in silence. But if they’re going to continue trying to prevent me from having a livelihood, then I will pursue legal action. They can delete the tweets I exposed, but I (and my attorney) have the screenshots and links. I will carry this out further if I have to, but I really just want to get better and move on with my life.

Part III: My Anxiety, My Motivation

Some may be wondering why it took me this long to write this. February was a really difficult month as I had to figure out how to survive my new circumstances. I felt like a leper on Twitter and largely avoided it in February and March. Commenting on football (or anything really) felt pointless to me. It kind of helped that the Super Bowl was a horrible game and the offseason drama, particularly involving my hometown Steelers, was horrendous (thanks, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown). I hadn’t taken a break from covering football since 2011, so some away time was needed to be honest.

March brought a case of the flu that destroyed me for a couple of weeks. By the time I had finally gotten over that, my beloved grandmother passed away on St. Patrick’s Day after a long battle with Parkinson’s-dementia. Even going back to elementary school I always had this feeling that the first funeral I would attend would be for her, and that’s exactly what happened. I can honestly say the two worst moments of my life happened not even 50 days apart. I’m thankful to have my mom and a few close friends — special mention to the trio of incredible people I text with daily (you know who you are) — help me get through this year. Depression was only natural at that point, but I never let it get the best of me. That would be letting the mob win.

I wanted to let the NFL draft play out in April as I figured sites would be busy focusing on that. I also had to learn about defamation, libel and character assassination as several people told me I need to look into pursuing legal action. In May, I again had a multi-week illness with a sinus infection. Of course that had to happen right after I bragged about outgrowing those sinus problems. I also inquired about a job with a large company, but was ghosted when an answer would have taken a minute at most from the person. That certainly got me worried. Did this person Google me and not like what they read, or are they just lazy at their job? I don’t know.

Then we hit June. I felt healthier and happier. I want to find a job, but the fear of rejection is real. I have a couple of opportunities I think would be great for me, but I don’t want to burn those bridges right away as I feel like I have to get some experience at explaining what happened first. I still receive the occasional question about an article I would have done for my former employer. It’s awkward and embarrassing to tell the truth that I no longer work for that company. After I reply, anxiety usually amps up as I assume the person flocks to Google to find out what happened from the limited resources available.

Will they view me as a racist? Will they want nothing to do with me going forward? Those are the same two questions I have for essentially everyone that I tell about how I lost my job. Five months later, I live with this feeling that a lot of people still really don’t know what happened, and the uncertainty with how they will react to it is what keeps me nervous.

There’s also the case of Jon Ledyard that really influenced my decision to write this. Jon is another NFL writer from Pittsburgh, though I should clarify that we really don’t know each other at all. I do know that he made some offensive tweets years ago and he apologized for them. They resurfaced this year — one was actually tweeted by the company account in an odd event (hacked?) — and he was suspended before moving on from that company. The thought of getting punished twice for the same offense should be frightening to anyone. These aren’t criminal cases so it’s not like double jeopardy applies, but after seeing that, I knew I had to write something definitive so this same angry mob doesn’t try to ruin me at the next job.

Part IV/Conclusion: Everyone’s Cancelled

Who needs nuclear war or sentient robots to end humanity? We’re doing just fine destroying each other on social media.

The night before Super Bowl LIII is when I first thought that social media was going to be our path to destruction. I felt this after I found myself digging for old, offensive tweets — not only from people I don’t like, but writers and colleagues I respect to see if they had anything out there. Some of you did too, so if you’ve learned anything from my story, clean up your old messes first, especially if you’re going to criticize someone else for an old tweet.

The youthful creators of social media likely underestimated just how dangerous this world can get when you make instant interaction with a wide audience so easy. Smartphones have only added to the excess and addiction while giving everyone a voice, a camera, and a platform to turn every waking moment into potential news.

One thing the creators should have better foreseen was that if you give humans this platform, many are going to use it with bad intentions. From election interference to cyber bullying to providing communities for terrorists/incels/hate groups to flourish, there are many negative outcomes associated with these platforms. We also see that companies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have struggled in handling problematic users. Hatred is always trending and has been quite profitable, and it’s only gotten worse as people actively find ways to ruin others on social media.

We all have to think about being better people on social media. A problem I recognized I had is feeling the need to pass time with commercials during live sports events with edgy jokes. A good chunk of my insensitive tweets were made in that exact situation, so that’s something I have to continue being mindful of for sure. More often than not, the best thing you can do is just not tweet. Go back to saying nothing like you did for years before you had that damn phone in your hand.

Followers are really not friends. When you have a thought to share that could be deemed controversial, there’s a reason that only used to be told in person to close friends or family. These people knew you well, had your back and understood when you were being serious or not. This worked well enough for humanity for centuries. Today, some people just can’t help themselves from tweeting the first offensive thing that comes to mind. Even The Onion has slipped up before. Even an inside joke with a long-time follower can be tricky to do outside of private messages these days. You just never know who is going to find it and claim outrage (fake or not).

Not only are followers usually not friends, but the weird twist that social media adds is that they include your enemies. People absolutely will follow someone they hate. That’s why I’ve said using block is better than mute in the long run. Some of these people are just waiting for you to slip up so they can get together with like-minded individuals and ruin you. We used to have privacy from our enemies, but that’s simply not how social media works.

In the past, mostly celebrities dealt with being cancelled by angry mobs. Actor Mel Gibson went on a racist tirade in 2010, but he still had money to survive on until 2016 when he garnered respect again for his direction of Hacksaw Ridge. Now random, everyday people are the target of these mobs. These people don’t have Mel Gibson money. They can’t just follow the celebrity solution and go away for years. If someone commits an actual crime then it should be dealt with by law, but usually it’s just something that results in a hanging in the court of public opinion.

Unfortunately, laws are not up to snuff yet for social media either. People can hide behind the first amendment and call someone a racist without any proof and there’s no consequence for that person. Meanwhile, it can obviously have huge consequences for the accused. As my story shows, you can harass someone online, manipulate the meaning of their tweets, pressure their employer to fire them and get away with it all. This will happen to more people unless something is done there.

When I lost my job, I received a lot of encouraging direct messages from people who still wanted to support me. One of the best messages that really put things in perspective for me came from an African-American follower. He said “that anyone can weaponize racial grievances. As a black man, it especially hurts because I don’t think this will be the last example of a privileged group using the legitimate issues of racial grievances for their own petty gain, with no thought as to the real world consequences of everyday racism people of color go through.”

He’s absolutely right. True social activists did not take me down. Butt-hurt Boston sports fans did because they realized in 2019 that making someone look racist is the easiest way to cancel them. The fake outrage undermines the real racial injustices that go on in this country every day. People are still being denied employment opportunities and fair treatment from law enforcement because of the color of their skin. I once tweeted a picture of WWE wrestler Akeem the African Dream and said “Definition of jive.” It’s insulting to equate that with actual racism.

The week I was fired was a particularly wild one with so much racial tension that it only added to my fear of finding future employment. The Jussie Smollett case started the day before my tweets were posted. The day after I was fired, Virginia governor Ralph Northam’s yearbook picture controversy started with blackface. At least people weren’t buying the professor who claimed Mary Poppins is a racist movie because of the soot/chimney scene that qualifies as blackface. The week finally ended with actor Liam Neeson’s confession of wanting to commit a hate crime decades ago. Throw in the Super Bowl and I was a footnote at best that week. However, the initial reaction to the Smollett case shows how impactful it can be to weaponize racism. They allegedly faked a hate crime because they knew nothing would grab headlines and rile this country up more than a gay black man being assaulted by Trump supporters. A hoax like that gives terrible people such as Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson all the proof they need to claim future, real crimes are also hoaxes.

Speaking of hoaxes, let’s remember another fake outrage campaign from a group of terrible people that only wanted to smear someone because of his opinion on an unrelated topic. Director James Gunn lost his job (temporarily) with Disney after his old tweets about pedophilia and rape jokes were dug up by alt-right people with ties to Pizzagate. These people did not target Gunn because they were offended by his tweets. They did it because he was publicly anti-Trump. Tribalism might be the biggest problem in this country today, and sports and politics are two of the worst factions for that. People are trying to end careers every day because of disagreements in those areas. Fortunately, some common sense prevailed and Gunn, who had cleaned up his act over the years, returned at Disney to direct the next Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.

It’s also problematic that people do not think change is possible. Actor Kevin Hart did not host the Oscars this year after old homophobic tweets resurfaced from 2011 and earlier when Hart was in his early thirties. Now almost 40, is it not reasonable that Hart’s viewpoint on his son’s sexuality could have changed after years of fatherhood? Speaking as a millennial myself, many of us used to say “that’s gay” in reference to something being stupid or dumb. I got older, realized it wasn’t the right word to use in that situation, and I haven’t used the phrase in years. I don’t really hear others use it like that anymore either. I can say my stance on the death penalty has changed from where it was five years ago or so. I am more in favor of life sentences now. I also don’t feel the same way about the Redskins debate that was the subject of a couple of my 2014 insensitive tweets. I would support changing the name now as “keeping with tradition” is a shoddy argument to use for keeping it. Nostalgia and tradition are part of the reason we still have Confederate statues when we shouldn’t. People should always strive to be better, learn more, and new knowledge can certainly lead to change.

I linked to this blog post earlier, but I want to highlight again what I wrote after Trump won the 2016 election. Anyone who reads that should see that my thoughts on race and diversity are not problematic. I wish I would have remembered that piece five months ago and used that in lieu of rushing out an apology under absurd circumstances. The fact that my insensitive tweets weren’t recent should hopefully show people that I have changed, but all I can do to further prove that is being better moving forward.

We seem to be headed down a very dangerous path where people don’t want anyone to get a second chance in life. Mess up one time and you are done according to the Twitterverse. Life after prison for convicted felons is already bad enough in this country, but what’s going to happen when average people are cancelled for non-crimes and they can’t find any other work? If we continue holding people to a ridiculous one-and-done standard, many lives are just going to go to waste. We’ll have purgatory on Earth.

You’re even running out of time to tell me to go flip burgers, because the robots will eventually take over those jobs from humans. Technology is rapidly changing our world, and we are struggling with how to handle social media so far. I want to make it clear that I think social media has many positives too. Getting a reply from an entertainer you’ve been a fan of since high school will always be exciting. Finding out you have readers in Denmark and various other places in the world is always humbling. My last job likely wouldn’t have come to fruition without growing a readership largely through Twitter. It’s just undeniable that there are serious consequences that can come from using social media too, and it may only get worse with deepfake videos and our gravitation towards tribalism. We need to spend more time communicating with people we actually like.

My future is almost as uncertain as it was five months ago. I have received an interesting offer despite the fact that I haven’t put myself out there on the job market yet. That’s the next step after finally getting this off my chest.

I’m not living

I’m just killing time

Now it’s July. I want to get back to living, and hopefully, in time, there will be healing too.

NFL Week 12 Predictions: “Soft Division” Edition

There are five games on Sunday with a double-digit point spread, and no spread is larger than the Patriots (-17) at home against Miami, the team I called the worst 4-2 team ever. The Dolphins haven’t won since, but the Patriots are 2-5 against the spread under Bill Belichick when favored by 17+ points.

I’d say this Miami team is no doubt going to trail by 17+ at one point on Sunday, but may do enough damage in garbage time to cover. Last season, Adam Gase’s Dolphins trailed 31-3 in New England, but still pulled to within 31-24 and actually had a 4QC opportunity at the end.

This is the beginning of a six-game slate where the Patriots play five division games and Pittsburgh, so basically five bye weeks and a game that likely determines home-field advantage in the AFC.

Oh, you thought the AFC East was going to be more competitive this year? Sorry. While the Jets started better than anyone imagined, things are back to where we expected them, especially with Buffalo doing its annual tease and denial act. The Patriots should have this thing locked up again very soon.

On Friday, I tweeted a table (with no comment) about how many wins were needed for the top five quarterbacks of this era to win their division in the period of realignment (2002-2016). I removed seasons where the QB missed the majority of time, so no 2011 Colts for Peyton Manning or 2008 Patriots for Tom Brady. The methodology was to look at what these teams needed as a minimum number of wins to win the division free of tie-breakers each year. I didn’t want to run into situations where you’re saying “well they could have finished 9-7 and still won the division thanks to a season sweep of the 2nd place 9-7 team, or by the third tie-breaker.” I also didn’t want to use ties, since who the hell ever wants to predict ties? Sure, technically an 8-7-1 record can win a division when the next-best record is 8-8, but let’s just be reasonable and use whole wins, so 9-7 it is.

So for the 2016 NFC North, you had GB (10-6), DET (9-7), MIN (8-8), and CHI (3-13). Since Detroit had the next-best record at 9-7, Aaron Rodgers’ minimum was 10 wins, or exactly what he got. For the 2015 NFC South, it was CAR (15-1), ATL (8-8), NO (7-9), and TB (6-10). So if we were doing this from Cam Newton’s perspective, the minimum number was 9 wins. But from Drew Brees’ perspective (and Matt Ryan’s), his minimum was 16 to topple Carolina’s 15-1 record. Granted, if he went 16-0, then Carolina at best could go 14-2, so I can see an argument for this outlier that the number should be 15 rather than 16. In fact, since Carolina’s lone loss was to Atlanta, I did change this one number to 15 for Brees, dropping his average from 12.1 wins to 12.0 wins, so still the highest average.

avgdiv

I also included a second column to show what happens with 11+ wins, and that even if the Saints won 11, 12, or probably even 13 games in 2015, they still wouldn’t have been able to win the division over Carolina. 11 is a great breaking point since (post-merger) only the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots (go figure, the one year the AFC East got competitive by adding Brett Favre and a healthy Chad Pennington in Miami) have missed the playoffs with 11+ wins.

Naturally, my mentions, which I left alone for the night, were flooded with angry Patriots fans. I read a lot of it, and I didn’t see any good arguments to refute this table. In fact, I’d like to know how posting a stat table without comment is a “take,” but I guess that’s the world we live in now.

Anyways, there was one repeated argument that has merit in that it’s logical: the Patriots crush their division annually so the wins needed in their division are lower in part because of their success.

That’s a totally sound argument…except the same is true for everyone who dominates their division, and there is no data to support this reality that the Patriots are far ahead of the curve here.

From 2002 to 2016, Brady was 65-17 (.793) against his division in the regular season. That’s great, but did you know Peyton Manning was 62-14 (.816) in his division games in that span? It’s not as obvious since he played for two different teams, but that is the case, as is Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger hovering around 75% division wins despite actually playing some really strong teams like the 2006 Ravens and 2009 Vikings. Those two teams are better than anything the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills have put on the field in the 21st century.

What’s happening here is that Patriots fans love to aggregate division records, but ignore things like Brees and Manning switching teams, or the injuries to Roethlisberger and Rodgers. Sure, the division records don’t look as good when you do a quick search that ignores that the Steelers are 1-7 against Baltimore since 2004 when Roethlisberger didn’t start the game.

One of Brady’s greatest accomplishments that you never hear about is his durability. Aside from one Bernard Pollard hit in Week 1 2008, he’s been an ironman that only a few can compare to in that regard in NFL history. Yet instead of praising him for his steady availability even through old age, they resort to this myth that his play is just so much stronger than any other QB’s when that’s not the case. That’s what I look to point out.

The other problem with aggregating division stats is it hides the distribution of wins. Which division is easier to win? One with three 6-10 teams, or one with teams that are 12-4, 4-12-, and 2-14? Both add up to 18-30, but you have to win at least 12 games in the latter just to have a shot at a division title (13-3 without relying on tie-breakers). If you’re a double-digit win team and a legit Super Bowl contender, there’s not much difference in playing against a 4-12 team versus a 6-10 team. You’re expected to win those games almost every time. But a team that’s capable of going 12-4, or the type of team that the AFC East never presents to NE, is not likely to get swept. We’ve seen Baltimore and Pittsburgh split many times in years where both made the playoffs, for example.

The best thing you can say about MIA/NYJ/BUF is that none of the three have been a consistent bottom-feeder like the Browns (any year but 2002 and 2007) or Raiders (2003-2015) or recent Jaguars (2011-2016) teams. That’s the only reason the aggregate records aren’t so bad for the AFC East in this era. Oh, there have been some major duds like the 1-15 Miami team in 2007, but teams like the Bills and Dolphins have specialized in going 6-10/7-9 without ever being a real threat to anyone. Some of the worst 10-6 teams by DVOA (going back to 1986) are AFC East teams (2006 NYJ, 2015 NYJ, 2016 MIA). The Patriots also allowed two division rivals (2005 MIA and 2014 BUF) to get to 9-7 with Week 17 wins in rare “playoff rest” games for Brady.

Let’s finish with a few more stats that will hopefully slow people from tweeting me that only the Patriots with Brady can beat up on their division.

Average score for a division game, 2002-2016

  • Brady: 27.6-17.0
  • Manning: 27.4-18.7
  • Rodgers: 27.2-18.6
  • Brees: 25.0-22.2
  • Roethlisberger: 23.1-16.1

This is based on the final score, so it’s not adjusted for return scores or anything. Brady, Manning, and Rodgers are all very close with just over 27 points per game, but the Patriots have allowed 17.0 PPG, second to only the Steelers (16.1), who love to feast on the Browns twice a year and play plenty of low-scoring games with Baltimore and Cincinnati. But maybe the biggest number here is the 22.2 points per game allowed by Brees’ teams, which can easily explain why he is only 49-36 (.576) in division games. He started 4-6 with subpar stats in 2002-03 when he wasn’t a good player yet in San Diego, but obviously the defenses in New Orleans (perhaps until 2017) have given him less help than any of the other four quarterbacks. Teams that allow 22.2 PPG in the regular season only win about 48% of their games since 2002, so Brees doesn’t look too bad at 57.6% here.

I already showed that these other quarterbacks (minus Brees) were able to win 75-80% of their division games just like Brady. Now let’s add some passing stats to that as well as an important split that really puts things into perspective. I split up the division games by ones against teams with fewer than 11 wins and games against teams with 11+ wins.

QBDIV.JPG

So Brady, Rodgers, Manning, and Roethlisberger all won at least 80% of their division games against teams with fewer than 11 wins. Imagine that. Brady has the lowest completion percentage and YPA in those games, but they’re all pretty similar statistically.

But when you look at the 11+ win teams on the bottom, Brady’s only faced one since 2002: the pesky 2010 Jets, who split the regular season with Brady, and pulled off that shocking playoff upset a month after the 45-3 demolition. This means that Brady helped create his only 11-5 division foe, and they destroyed one of his best shots at another Super Bowl ring.

So when you try to say that these other QBs have created so many 11+ win teams in their division by losing to them, that’s not really accurate. Brees missed the first game against the 15-1 Panthers in 2015, and played very well against them in the loss that produced a Cam-led 4QC. The 2006 Ravens (13-3) are still 11-5 if the sweep went to Ben’s Steelers. The 2008 Titans are still 12-4 if Manning would have came back to beat them on MNF. Also, Peyton was still a very impressive 10-4 in these games, which includes a loss in the worst game of his career (2015 Chiefs) that almost ended his career. He was 4-0 against those Jacksonville teams that went 12-4 in 2005 and 11-5 in 2007. He probably would have preferred to face those Jaguars again in the playoffs like Brady did instead of the 2005 Steelers and 2007 Chargers (with Philip Rivers’ ACL intact for three quarters). Manning also led sweeps of the 2003 Titans (12-4) and 2013 Chiefs (11-5), who still both won at least 11 games regardless of Manning’s teams.

Sure, you can argue that Roethlisberger should have swept the 2005 Bengals (11-5) or Rodgers should have swept the 2009 Vikings (12-4) to put them both at 10-6, but it’s a shitty argument. Their teams allowed 30-plus points in those losses, and let’s just respect the fact that the Bengals had a breakout year with Carson Palmer and the Vikings were a great team with Favre at 40.

Believe it or not, but the success of one team doesn’t dictate that the other three must be failures for 16+ years.

I started this whole thing not out of interest of the Patriots in the AFC East, but as part of my research on Drew Brees that I hope to use for an article this year. I ran out of time in August to do one on him, but the Saints are doing so well that I’m sure the opportunity will present itself again. His numbers not being overly great here surprised me, but when the time comes for that article, I’ll be fair and acknowledge that along with some interesting breakdowns for context. For example, there were 19 division games for these quarterbacks where their teams allowed 34+ points. Brees has 12 of those games (2-10 record) compared to just one for Brady (a 34-31 loss to Buffalo in 2011 in which he threw a pick-six in the 4Q).

There’s a lot of nuance that 240 characters will never be adequate for, which is why I chose to not argue the point about this original chart on Twitter, but to wait for this post. I hope this clears up what I was looking into, but it’s not like I don’t expect to still get tweets that read “Brews, rogers, payton just not winners like [GOAT emoji].”

What, you think I’m exaggerating? I don’t do fake news.

Game of the Week: Saints at Rams

We do have one standout game in Week 12. It’s another chance for the Rams to show us something against a contender. The tests against Seattle and Minnesota didn’t go well, but this is another home game against a New Orleans team that showed some cracks last week, but still won with a crazy 15-point comeback. Robert Woods is out for the Rams, but that’s more than offset by rookie CB Marshon Lattimore being out for the Saints. I could see a deep-ball success for Sammy Watkins in this game, but it could very well be a lower-scoring game than expected weeks ago. I could also see Brees facing some interior pressure from Aaron Donald, but the running game has been fantastic for New Orleans with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. As much as I’m not used to picking the Saints in road games like this one, I just really like the way they have been playing since Week 3 and think they find a way to grind this one out. I’m not fully sold on the Rams as a legit contender this year until they show more in a game like this, but it’s definitely the one to watch tomorrow.

2017 Week 12 Predictions

So I had my Thanksgiving picks not go too well after nailing the Vikings-Lions game. I really want to pick the Colts for some reason, but just can’t go through with it.

Wk12

Note: my SEA-ATL pick last week went from SEA at -3 to SEA at +1, so I gave myself the spread win, SU loss for that game. 

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Season: 97-63 (Spread: 14-13-1)

Rant About Tom Brady and YPA

It must be July, because here we go again.

I knew immediately that the events on the evening of February 5th would make this a long offseason, but I haven’t really felt the need to go on a long rant about that game or the Patriots in general in the last five-and-a-half months. In fact, this might be the least writing I have done from February to mid-July in any of the last six years.

Personally, I had a string of bad luck — you know, things out of my control — and heartbreak that started around late January (Donald Trump’s inauguration day to be exact) and continued through late March before things eased up. I don’t want to go into details, but I suffered losses (family and pet) and had another health scare that required another CT scan (result: clear). I’ve been working hard on FOA 2017 (available soon) since May or so. In doing six teams (AFC West plus Miami and Detroit), and pushing most of the essays well past 4,000 words, this is probably the most work I have ever done for one of the books. I hope people appreciate it, even the Raiders and Dolphins fans.

But now that work on that is practically complete, I have more free time to think about random things as we wait for training camps to start. So Super Bowl LI has been back on my mind, ranging anywhere from Atlanta’s horrible game management to the history of big comebacks to that Tedy Bruschi style of “heart and leadership” that only Tom Brady can will his teammates to believe in.

I was going to write something in detail about that last part, but maybe we can save that for later this week if I’m still feeling the need to be cathartic. Today is about YPA, because I feel like I need to explain a tweet better from Monday where I admittedly spent way too many hours tweeting.

I often forget that some things that have become obvious to me are completely lost on others. The calculation of YPA and how it works should not be one of those things, but Twitter never ceases to amaze me.

I can only hope that a lot of those favorites are for comical reasons. There were other similar remarks, including the thought that 6.7 YPA is Bill Belichick playing to his team’s strengths, as if any offense would actually plan to have an inefficient attack. I was also told that 6.7 YPA means Brady is dominating. You know who has 6.7 YPA as his career average? Ryan Fitzpatrick. So dominant.

This was all a response to a tweet I made last night that didn’t go over so well once Peter King replied to it. Telling someone like me to “watch the games” is madness, but when typing 140 characters at a time, you can’t always explain nuance.

The “obvious” here was actually not so obvious, especially without turning it into a thread with follow-up points. What I meant was that Brady fans tend to think that he has winning records even in suboptimal situations (6.7 YPA is below average) because he is just that good or “clutch.” In the particular case of the 5-2 Super Bowl record, I see it as a quarterback fortunate to have that team record based on his play. It was the other non-Brady elements of the games that helped produce the record. Things like a Ty Law pick-6 helping the Patriots win a game in which Brady only led the offense to 13 points and failed to convert a third down. The Malcolm Butler interception at the 1-yard line. The absurdity of Seattle and Atlanta not running the ball in the fourth quarter in key spots. Every game was very close (decided by 3-6 points), so going 5-2 is quite fortunate in that regard.

YPA is a stat that has always correlated well with winning. In 2016, the team who won the YPA battle won over 70% of all NFL games. That’s not bad for a stat that does not care about rushing, sacks, turnovers, penalties, special teams, etc. Even in Super Bowl LI, Brady’s YPA was just 6.28 when the Patriots fell behind 28-3. It was 8.61, a league-leading type of number, the rest of the way during the comeback.

YPA correlates well with scoring points, which correlates well with winning games. This has been the case for decades in the NFL regardless of how the Patriots perform. And isn’t that really the point: how the Patriots, not just Brady, perform? His performance alone was rarely good enough to be the difference maker in these games. While Brady fans want to believe their guy has some special skill to win with a low YPA, I am saying he has no secret sauce that makes YPA invalid. The Patriots have just won a lot of close playoff games since 2001 for a variety of reasons.

Since 2001, the Patriots are 9-7 (.563) in the playoffs when Brady averages less than 7.0 YPA (min. 30 attempts). The rest of the NFL is 28-85 (.248) in that time.

The Patriots’ averaging scoring margin in those 16 games was +2.5. The rest of the NFL was -8.2. There were 14 wins by 1-4 points, and Brady’s Patriots had five of them.

Tell someone this, and it will likely get framed as “Brady won 56.3% of the time where other QBs only won 24.8% of the time. UberClutch! GOAT!”

We probably shouldn’t lambaste someone for wanting to think this way, but just so it’s clear, I will never agree with them or see things that way. When I look at the 16 games for Brady, and especially the nine wins, this is what comes to mind:

TBPOgames

(Yes, how fitting is it that of the last two times a quarterback threw a fourth-quarter, fourth-down interception that was fumbled back to his team, it benefited Tom Brady and “hurt” Peyton Manning. At least the Broncos were still up big at the time, but man, you can’t make this stuff up.)

I’m not saying the Patriots should have gone 0-16 in these games, but clearly there were a lot of favorable circumstances to aid Brady in the nine wins, and not many positives to speak of for him in the seven losses. While he still met his demise in 2006 and 2011, those were trips that could have easily been cut shorter if Marlon McCree and Lee Evans didn’t act the fool with the ball in their hands. Or without the greatness of kicker Adam Vinatieri on the types of 40-plus yard field goals that Mike Vanderjagt, Nate Kaeding, Pete Stoyanovich, and Scott Norwood choked on for other quarterbacks, Brady is doomed to start his playoff career 0-2 at home, averaging 12 points per game.

So many fans go wild when you suggest that their player has been the beneficiary of luck, but I think that’s mostly just a semantics issue. Anyone who understands the basic concepts of football can see that this is a team game where many pivotal plays are out of the quarterback’s control. When most games are close, especially in the playoffs, and a lot of improbable events have happened to swing those games, a lot of outcomes are not determined directly by the quarterback’s actions. So many good quarterbacks can repeatedly lead their team to a winning position, but it typically requires much more from the rest of the team to get to a large number of Super Bowls, for example. Luck is even defined as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” There’s a lot of skill involved in what the Patriots did in those wins (the field goals, the takeaways), but the common bond is that they weren’t the actions of Brady, but he still benefited with a win on days where he wasn’t at his best.

This isn’t me picking on Brady. This is what tends to happen when inefficient quarterback play is lifted by the slimmest of margins in the playoffs, and I can’t help it that Brady has been in that spot more than anyone in history. I said there were 14 wins by 1-4 points by quarterbacks under 7.0 YPA. Brady had five of them, but I can say similar things about the other games and quarterbacks.

For instance, Matt Hasselbeck needed Terry Glenn to fumble and for Tony Romo to botch the extra point hold in that infamous 21-20 win in 2006.

Donovan McNabb needed a 4th-and-26 conversion against the Packers in 2003, and a Brett Favre arm punt in overtime to get the 17-14 win.

Ben Roethlisberger should have lost his first playoff game against the 2004 Jets, but Doug Brien, after a Ben pick, missed his second field goal in the final two minutes. The Steelers won in overtime.

Mark Sanchez used a long kick return by Antonio Cromartie, and a terrible Jim Caldwell timeout, to down the Colts 17-16 in Peyton Manning’s final game with the team.

Eli Manning’s two NFC-CG wins are on the list. He didn’t play that poorly, but certainly used the field position boost from Brett Favre’s INT (2007) and two Kyle Williams special teams turnovers (2011). Eli did not complete a pass on either GWD in those games, because opponent mistakes did not require any of him.

A Favre interception also helped get Drew Brees to overtime in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, an overlooked “subpar” game for Brees that day. The Vikings had five turnovers in all, and Tracy Porter is the biggest reason Sean Payton isn’t just another Don Coryell at best.

Winning may be the only thing that matters to a team, and it is perfectly fine if a fan wants to feel that way too. However, the source of conflict is when those fans refuse to accept the fact that not everyone’s contribution to the win is equal. Sometimes a team wins in spite of its best player. I feel like we can always debate why a team won or lost a game, and which players were the most responsible for that result. It’s not always going to be agreeable or easy, but I know damn well there’s more to it than “YPA doesn’t matter because they won.” If that’s your logic, then scoring doesn’t matter either if you win. 3-0 win? Hail to the quarterback, I guess. Turnovers don’t matter if you win. Quarterback threw five picks in a 3-0 win? Hail to the quarterback, I guess.

I know this sounds crazy to some, but just check my Twitter mentions sometimes. These people really do exist, and I guess I’ve taken them on as my sworn enemy. Some fanbases are more rabid than others.

It will always be a losing battle when the opponent just wants to count rings, recheck the scoreboard, and deduce that 6.7 YPA is a dominant, never-punt strategy. I know this, but I continue to fight on, because I don’t know any other way to get through this job year after year. So I’ll continue to watch games, add old ones to my always-growing collection, take notes, crunch stats, and just call it like I see it.

Dating back to a snowy night in January 2002, I have simply never once watched Tom Brady play a game and thought I was watching the greatest quarterback ever. Unless he plays deep into his 40s at a level we’ve never seen before, I can’t imagine that I ever will feel that way about him. This ticks some people off, but I really don’t care about that, because I know what I’ve seen and I know I can back it up.

The effort just doesn’t always come across as clearly 140 characters at a time. Maybe I’ll just have to write that book one day, putting 16 years of knowledge to use.

 

 

 

NFL Week 10 Predictions: Make the NFL Great Again Edition

“It’s the heart of nuclear winter and I’m scared as hell.” – Glassjaw

Before we get into the preview, I’d like to get personal in what has been a trying week. Some events are too important to just remain silent. So skip down if you must, or if you need a sports-only rant, I ripped Tom Brady’s top games pretty good here.

This week, I’ve had the livelihood of my career threatened due to some behind-the-scenes issues with the rights of NFL data that you guys don’t need to know the details of (we’re working through it). I’ve felt a lack of safety in my own home this week after the threat of a gas leak that has thankfully been fixed on my street. On Friday, my community faced the threat of a crazy man who stabbed six people in a nearby mental facility (SWAT team took him down). That actually used to be a hospital years ago, and I remember going there one time as a kid after a late-night accident that required stitches and has left a little scar on my chin.

Yet I don’t think anything that happened this week is a bigger threat to scar this nation than the absurd election of Donald Trump as president. What more can be said about this scumbag that hasn’t already been said? Well, apparently we needed more, since we just elected him despite his long history of hatred, racism, misogyny, allegations of sexual assault (including child rape), that he has a total lack of experience, thinks climate change is a Chinese hoax, wants to build a wall (that Mexico won’t pay for), and the fact that he only cares about himself. “Make America Great Again” is nothing more than code for “I want wealthy white men to rule this country, and believe me, they will all know that I am the greatest supreme ruler, daddy-o.”

Charlie Chaplin made one of his finest films, The Great Dictator, back in 1940 as a satire on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. His speech at the end of that film is one of the finest ever written, and it still resonates as much today as it did during World War II. Please take a few minutes of your time to watch this if you have never had the pleasure before.

People uniting to help each other — what a novel concept. That’s why I never cared about the Republican vs. Democrat aspect of this election. It never should have been about that as long as Trump was involved.

This was supposed to be an election for the lesser of two evils, but evil won.

What does it say when the KKK is so openly happy about Trump’s win? It’s one thing for a hillbilly in a white coat to be brazen in their racism, but Trump has empowered hatred throughout this country. Now as a straight white male, I’m not a target of the Trump movement, but what about the black community that I live in? What about my best friend who is half-black, half-Spanish, or my Jewish boss, or my Mexican relatives? How much more bullshit will they have to put up with now? You’ve already seen the stories from state after state this week of what Trump supporters are doing to innocent people. I’ve never seen the phrase “Go Back to Africa!” as much as I have this week. These feelings of hatred are deeply rooted, but it’s downright scary that the election of Trump has given so many a reason to act out, and it will likely only get worse. I thought we were going to hit a racial boiling point after the police shootings in Dallas this summer, but I really do fear what’s to come. As I said, as a white male, I’m not going to be personally affected too much by a Trump presidency, though the fear of nuclear war certainly endangers us all. But from a more realistic standpoint of what Trump will be allowed to do, I have real concerns with health care. If it wasn’t for Obamacare, I might not be here right now. After I lost my health insurance after college, I was denied coverage for a pre-exiting condition: hemorrhoids. Yes, a minor case of hemorrhoids over nine years ago denied me health care coverage. My doctor apologized before laughing about that, because he had never heard that one before. Now that I have had some serious health problems (a pulmonary embolism and sleep apnea this year), I worry about losing coverage again. While Obamacare has its issues — and those price hikes likely led to some Trump votes — it at least has helped people get covered.

Was this election the litmus test for drawing a line between stupidity and common sense? I already kind of figured that I generally don’t like many (most?) human beings, but I just want to thank the 60,265,858 Trump voters for helping me to put a number on it. I would love to know what percentage of that number actually voted for Trump because they support him as a person vs. how many were just voting for the Republican party. The two-party system is a joke in this day and age. It’s like a fan who roots for his team no matter what player is wearing the jersey. Sometimes, you need to read the name on the back too, and think about what kind of person you are supporting. If Trump ran as an independent without the backing of a major party, would he have ever gotten this far? Highly doubtful.

Did I vote this week? No, I’ve voted one time in my life, and that was 2004 (Kerry over Bush) when I turned 18. Hillary won my county, but perhaps she would have won Pennsylvania if people like me weren’t so apathetic towards this particular election. And I’m sorry, but if you voted for Gary Johnson, or anyone not named Clinton or Trump, then you wasted your vote. Voting for someone who you know has ZERO chance of winning is a fvcking waste of time.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that Hillary was a terrible choice for the Democrats. I just thought it was painfully obvious that she’d make a better president than Trump, as would the dildo thrown on the field in Buffalo, but the votes still went the other way. I listened to a relative slam Trump over and over on Friday afternoon, and yet she still voted for him. Figure that shit out. She voted for Obama in 2012 too, and usually votes Democrat. We underestimated the amount of people who took a “they both suck, but I don’t want another Obama in there for four years” vote. And while change can certainly be a good thing, just remember that you are voting for a Giant Douche.

I look for a good week of NFL action (read: not Browns-Ravens) to take my mind off of the problems ahead, but as long as Trump is going to be president, there will be constant reminders of just how divided we are as a nation. And you can’t even really root for Trump to fail miserably, because a failed POTUS is bad for all of us. It might be funny to joke that he’s a puppet for Putin, but that is actually a terrifying thought. So thanks to Trump, we can’t even get schadenfreude out of this. I don’t think Trump will make it to 2020, one way or another, but I just hope the rest of us do.

Sometimes I like to end on a quote, so here’s that ending to the Chaplin speech from The Great Dictator.

“You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy, let us use that power.

Let us all unite.

Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill their promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!

Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance!

Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.

Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

We can still learn more from The Tramp than we ever will with Trump.

NFL Week 10

We are now just past the halfway point of the 2016 NFL season. Week 10 has some really interesting games, but I already wrote a full preview of Seahawks-Patriots at FO, so be sure to check that out.

Broncos at Saints

At what point does a unit sustain too many injuries to be considered a different unit from the team’s norm? I’m not saying the absence of Aqib Talib and Derek Wolfe makes it impossible for the Broncos to play well in New Orleans, but it certainly makes things a little easier on Drew Brees and the offense. This is not the usual Denver defense at its best. If the Saints were without Drew Brees, we wouldn’t consider that the usual Saints offense, while we probably would if Brees was playing without his LT and a starting wide receiver. That’s just the importance of the quarterback position. For a defense, no one player has that type of impact, as even the Houston defense is still functioning about as expected without J.J. Watt. Again, this is more of a philosophical point than something specific to this particular game, but I am interested to see how the Broncos fare on the road against a team capable of scoring. Trevor Siemian will have to be much sharper, and while the Saints defense has the reputation it does, it hasn’t been scorched earth like last year. I feel iffy about picking New Orleans here, especially when I can see a good rushing performance coming from Denver, but I think I like Brees at home here against that depleted Denver D. He has rarely been pressured this season, and that’s how Denver thrives with Von Miller & Co.

Falcons at Eagles

Yes, we have the Eagles still first in DVOA, even though they’re the worst team to ever be No. 1 at this point of the season. Realistically, the Eagles are about a 5-3 team trapped in a 4-4 team’s record, with some really dominant wins and a few close losses. If it’s a close game, give me Matt Ryan any day over Carson Wentz, who has yet to prove he can win a game late or win a high-scoring affair (sound familiar?). However, I think the Eagles rebound in this one at home and play very well on defense to get the win. Ryan has historically seen a big dip in his production on the road, and I think the Eagles can contain the run and Julio Jones enough to keep the score down. Also, every team but Denver has scored at least 26 points on Atlanta’s defense, which could be susceptible to all the short passes in a YAC-based passing game like the Eagles have. Maybe I’m banking on DVOA too much here, but I just think the Eagles have a good game in them this week, and that the Atlanta D is still a major hurdle for the Falcons to do damage in the playoffs.

Cowboys at Steelers

I don’t know what kind of odds I could get on that, but I’d probably drop $50 on it happening without any concern. I just think this is a bounce-back week for the Steelers at home. The Dallas defense has been kind of smoke and mirrors, not allowing more than 23 points in any game this season, but I expect a 34-27 type of game where Pittsburgh exposes them with its talented offense. Remember, Morris Claiborne and Barry Church are out, so that’s two big injuries in the secondary. Don’t forget about Sammie Coates and his weekly 40-yard reception when he was healthy. The good news from last week’s game was that Ben Roethlisberger looked fine physically by the end of it. The struggles were more about rust/lack of practice time, a bad game plan, and too much familiarity against a good Baltimore defense. The Cowboys are an unfamiliar opponent, and for whatever reason, the Steelers home/road splits are massive in recent years. You saw how they destroyed the Chiefs on SNF a few weeks ago. I don’t think they can do that again just because of how efficient the Dallas offense is, but I see a shootout here with Ben having one of those special games. Think 2009 Packers or 2013 Lions or 2006 Saints. Yes, I ended up picking all NFC home games there. Roethlisberger is 18-4 at home against NFC opponents. The Cowboys are about due for a defensive letdown, and what better offense on the schedule to do that to them than Pittsburgh?

Besides, this will just set things up perfectly for the Steelers to take this huge win into Cleveland next week and lose to the 0-10 Browns.

2016 Week 10 Predictions

I had the Ravens on TNF, and I fell asleep on the game, but apparently they did win big.

Winners in bold:

  • Chiefs at Panthers
  • Bears at Buccaneers
  • Vikings at Redskins
  • Falcons at Eagles
  • Rams at Jets
  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Packers at Titans
  • Broncos at Saints
  • Dolphins at Chargers
  • Cowboys at Steelers
  • 49ers at Cardinals
  • Seahawks at Patriots
  • Bengals at Giants

Alright, no ties last week. That’s good.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Season: 77-56

NFL Week 4 Predictions: Pump the Brakes Edition

I’m going to fire off a rant here, so if you don’t know the backstory, let me quickly catch you up: Shocking, but after three games, I don’t think Carson Wentz is the greatest rookie QB to ever live. I pointed out that Wentz has thrown the third-shortest passes through three weeks, and naturally, this turned the Eagles fan base into an angry mob. I was even getting criticized for pointing out an argument in my mentions between a Cowboys fan and Eagles fan. This was all fueled even more by one of the most cherry-picked articles you’ll ever see by one of their writers. Apparently picking out 12% of specific plays beats a statistical analysis of all 100% these days. Straw men were created at record rates, including things I never said such as Wentz is bad, Wentz never throws deep because he can’t, that I hate Wentz, and insert any other thing you want that’s unfounded. I never said if Wentz’s play has been good, bad or indifferent. I just did what I’ve always done for six years: told people to pump the brakes on unjustified hype, but when you try to knock a player down a few pegs, people automatically assume you hate that player. Welcome to the 2010s, I guess, where being rational isn’t as good as calling a guy “pre-snap Peyton, post-snap Rodgers” after three games.

————————————————————————————————————————————————–

I had an exciting idea for a post today, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the timing was not right. While I’ll almost inevitably want to write it within the month, I’m going to take the high road today, or at least a medium road.

Sure, it was easy in 2012 to absolutely shred a random internet dude after he questioned the effort of my work online. But that’s because I was mostly just a random internet dude myself at the time. There are more eyes on what I do now, including current (and perhaps future) employers. When there aren’t that many full-time jobs in this business, a thought I try to repress 24/7, I cannot afford to blow mine by eviscerating someone that’s completely not worth the time. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I very rarely block people, and probably put up with more crap than the average user does. I’m not afraid to use the Mute button, but I haven’t thrown many Block parties in my 5-plus years.

This week, I had an epiphany, and I guess you could say it took the rabid Eagles fanbase to help me get there. I’ve written negative things about the Eagles before, and was proven right by the way (Michael Vick contract was a joke and the good starts in 2012-14 were fool’s gold), but I think people have gotten extra sensitive in recent years. Then with a 3-0 start for a team that, let’s be honest, has been barely relevant for the better part of a decade, I suppose optimism is really high right now. You have a young generation of Eagles fans that don’t really know what it’s like to experience disappointment after expectations.

So when one of their leading voices defends the flag, that awful Twitter herd mentality takes over and you get mobbed by a bunch of people united with the same beliefs. Homerism at its finest (and worst). That’s the difference with what I do. I can raise the flag or burn it down for all 32 teams any time I want, so I don’t really unite any one fanbase behind me. I can at least gather an intelligent following to laugh at some of the ridiculous mentions I get, but I’m realizing I probably give those people more time than they deserve.

My epiphany was quite simple. You don’t block someone just because of what they said; you block them so you don’t have to see what they say next. I’m not going to keep the line of communication open if I know what type of slop is coming out the other end. If you can’t engage in a civilized way, or you’re clearly just another sheep in the herd, I shouldn’t respond, and I should just take a course of action that guarantees we won’t butt heads any time down the road as well.

So I started blocking these people — 71 in all this week. A few may actually have been at a quasi-professional level, or more than just a rabid fan, but if they’re just going to subtweet and create straw man arguments with the best of them, then I don’t have time for them either. If you want to say something, @ me.

Twitter is not always the greatest place for debate due to the 140-character limit, but some people could do much better. Thinking purely as a fan, I would have no problem in tweeting at writers I disagree with, but my motivation would be to actually show where they were wrong or what my disagreement was. I wouldn’t just resort to a petty insult or ride the coattails of what another writer tried to say about them.

I’ve found this is how most people expose themselves as being worthy of a block. When someone who has likely just stumbled upon you for the first time starts with this “you don’t watch the games” crap, just block that person. First of all, would it really be that hard to fathom that a full-time NFL writer would watch Week 2 Monday Night Football, or that someone from Pittsburgh would watch the Week 3 Steelers-Eagles game? Is that really that hard to believe? Are they only showing Eagles games on limited edition VHS tapes these days? Are they that obscure now? Never mind the fact that I have countless tweets in my history from live-tweeting those two Eagles games. Never mind the fact that I do a weekly column that recaps games, albeit the Eagles have yet to appear in it yet this season. Never mind the fact that I’m always ripping NFL Game Pass so much that I just got an email on Friday to speak to members of that product to talk about how it can be improved. What do you think I use Game Pass for, to masturbate to Cris Collinsworth’s face? I watch games every week, I watch them in the offseason, and I have a collection of over 1,200 on DVD. If you knew anything about my work, you wouldn’t bring up such nonsense.

Then there’s the typical “numbers are for nerds” crap. Block those people too. Numbers aren’t just for nerds. You need to understand numbers to some degree just to get through life as an adult. I was shocked at how many people failed to understand the concept of air yards this week. They kept confusing them with yards per attempt or yards per completion. You don’t know how many times I had to hear about some dropped passes in September by the Eagles this week. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard about any drops more than these. And if common sense prevailed, they would understand that whether or not a pass is caught has nothing to do with how far it was actually thrown. Now I understand why there are so many concerns about education in this country.

The people who try to connect my Wentz tweets to a Pittsburgh loss or some pre-draft evaluation are beyond clueless. Do you know how many times I’ve read “well he must not like Tom Brady’s style of dink and dunk either.” Uhh, yeah, I’ve been downgrading him for that since I was in high school. Again, if you knew anything about my work, you would know I’m just being consistent in my analysis of the game, highlighting the things I find to be important and applying them to what’s gone on so far this season. As for “Draft Twitter”, I’m not a part of that. I don’t study the college players like those people do. I made many tweets about Wentz in the offseason leading up to the draft, but I was pointing out things about his role that might be a red flag for the NFL. Why in the world should I go back on a tweet where I said he’d need to have great insulation to succeed? We’re three weeks into the season, and this kid has the No. 1 defense, the best starting field position, the third-shortest throws, the third-most YAC, the second-lowest pressure rate, and has played virtually with the lead almost all season long against very suspect defensive competition. Go ahead, try naming a DB in Chicago. On what planet would I not be calling these things out for another QB? That’s heavy insulation. He’s played better than I expected, but he’s had a great situation, and they haven’t had to ask him to carry the team yet. That doesn’t mean he can’t, or that he won’t when given the chance, but it hasn’t happened yet. So why would I go back on something that, through three weeks, has been proven right? Why would I completely change my mind on how I’ve always viewed short-passing games? Go figure that Wentz is dead last in ALEX (-2.2) for all downs this year, but allegedly that just shows my bias too. Sure, a stat I created in 2015 when no one outside of North Dakota knew who Wentz was has him dead last among QBs at attacking the sticks through three games in 2016. I must have hated this dude before he was even born too, right?

I’ll give Wentz more credit when I believe he’s earned it, just as I would for any player. My knowledge of NFL history and use of statistics prevent me from making foolish claims that he’s the best ever after three games. Sorry, that’s just how I do things. You can always find another source to tell you things are better than they are. If you can’t see my future opinions because you’ve been blocked, then maybe you’ll reevaluate how you approach someone for the first time about their work.

/ENDRANT

Week 4’s Key Games

We do actually have some good games this week, so here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Carolina at Atlanta

I think this is the most interesting game of the week, and also a very important one in the NFC. Are the Panthers still a contender, and are the Falcons one this year after they should have did better in 2015? After Monday night, I realized I couldn’t wait to see these teams match up, and was very pleased to see it was happening this Sunday. For as good as Atlanta’s offense has been, we have to keep in mind the opponents have been the Bucs, Raiders and Saints, or three lousy defenses. The Panthers still bring it on that side of the ball, so this is a great chance for Atlanta to show if year two of the Kyle Shanahan offense is really this legit with the bigger emphasis on the running game. On the other side of the ball, some shaky starts by the Panthers this year even with Kelvin Benjamin back. The lack of production for him and Devin Funchess last week was pretty alarming against the Vikings. Atlanta has some good corners and just shut Brandin Cooks down on Monday night. Again, an all-around huge opportunity for Atlanta to take a nice lead in the NFC South at 3-1 while dropping the Panthers to 1-3. I know it just feels wrong to pick that, and a strong front seven against Matt Ryan combined with a less than 100% Julio Jones and Atlanta’s weak run defense feels like a Carolina win, but I think I’ll go with the home team here.

Seattle at NY Jets

Much like the Rams game in Week 2, this feels like another road game with a hobbled Russell Wilson against a strong defensive line where I should be picking Seattle to lose. Not to mention it’s a long trip and early start time. But then I think of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 6-pick game last week, and the suspect health of his top receivers, and I think it’s going to be an all-around struggle. I still like Seattle to win, though if the 91-game no blowout streak was ever in jeopardy, it could be this game that does it in should Wilson turn it over a few times.

NY Giants at Minnesota

This was a rout last year in a game Odell Beckham was suspended for. I’d like to see a closer game this time, and that shouldn’t be hard to pull off. The main thing is can Minnesota score points on offense? They’re at 15.5 PPG in the two Sam Bradford starts. You can’t rely on D/ST scores every week, though they’ve come through twice now for Minnesota. That secondary should get a great test against NY’s 3-WR attack, but I still like the Vikings to force some Eli mistakes in this one.

Buffalo at New England

It’s almost impossible to lure the Patriots into a trap game, especially after 10 days’ rest, but I have a weird feeling about this one. Yeah, Buffalo always loses to NE, Rex has stunk against Bill since 2011, they lost Sammy Watkins, and everything sounds pretty bad, but don’t things almost sound too rosy for the Patriots? “Oh, they can win with any QB.” Well, what if it’s an injured QB, and which one is it going to be? That seems like a pretty big deal to me. I think a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo makes this a no-brainer, but if he’s still injured or if it’s Jacoby Brissett, then I could see Tyrod Taylor outdueling them in this one with a refocused running game led by LeSean McCoy. I’m still obviously picking New England, but keep this one as an upset alert.

Kansas City at Pittsburgh

Great game on paper, and another important one in the AFC. The main thing to watch is if the Chiefs try to exploit a lot of the horizontal passing the Eagles, a very similar offense, succeeded with a week ago against the Steelers in one of the worst games I’ve ever seen this team play. Granted, a lot of injuries to the middle of the defense during the game didn’t help, but Ryan Shazier is out while the Chiefs get Jamaal Charles back. I doubt Charles is up to his usual effectiveness, but that should be a lift of some sorts for the team. I don’t think Roethlisberger will fear any Marcus Peters-Antonio Brown matchup, but Peters does have incredible ball skills. Le’Veon Bell’s return is another huge story, but it’s not going to be that good if the offensive line doesn’t open up more room than it has in the last two games. But more than anything, can the Steelers get some sacks? They have one in three games, and it was after Andy Dalton held the ball for 7 seconds and tried to scramble for a 0-yard loss. That’s pretty pathetic, but we know Alex Smith is open to taking sacks, so I think the Steelers will collect several at home in this one and score enough for the win.

2016 Week 4 Predictions

I had the Bengals on TNF, but didn’t it look like the Dolphins were ready to show something after that TD bomb to open the game? Then…nothing. It’s as if Joe Philbin has never stopped coaching that team.

 Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Jaguars
  • Browns at Redskins
  • Lions at Bears
  • Bills at Patriots
  • Titans at Texans
  • Panthers at Falcons
  • Seahawks at Jets
  • Raiders at Ravens
  • Broncos at Buccaneers
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Saints at Chargers
  • Cowboys at 49ers
  • Chiefs at Steelers
  • Giants at Vikings

Yes, I picked the Broncos to lose in Tampa Bay. I’ve also shown I have no clue what I’m doing at picking Buccaneer games since 2015.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Season: 25-23

NFL Conference Championship Predictions: “Manning Is Better than Brady, But So What?” Edition

Part of me is happy the AFC game is on first Sunday, but I also feel like I’m going to miss some of the NFC game afterwards for reasons still in my control, but I just can’t help myself. The endless Peyton Manning-Tom Brady debate grabbed me again on Saturday and I really didn’t even plan to write much about it this weekend.

There’s a good chance the best quarterback on Sunday won’t win, but the better quarterback should at least prevail in one of the games. I actually think it’s more important in the NFC game where two similar teams built around the model of physical defense and running game will meet for the third time. I don’t think it will be a blowout like San Francisco’s last two trips there. Jim Harbaugh won in Seattle in 2011, but the offense’s struggles to get the play called in on time does worry me with the 12th man’s noise.

Still, I think the game is decided by which quarterback makes more plays and fewer mistakes. Colin Kaepernick has been playing better and has more weapons, but Russell Wilson has home-field and the better overall defense. While the Seattle offense (passing game) does concern me, I have to side with the home team here to pull out a close one thanks to that defense.

Final prediction: 49ers 17, Seahawks 20

See, I barely gave the game any attention with a week to prepare, so who knows what Sunday will bring. If you want to read a detailed preview of the NFC Championship, read Aaron Schatz’s preview, which I did contribute to for one part.

Manning vs. Brady: Just the Facts

So after Tom Curran accidentally sent the latest Patriot brigade my way on Twitter on Saturday, I did not bother trying to fight them off one-by-one. I instead stood back and lobbed my own Twitter grenade with this line:

Tom Brady is the most overrated playoff QB in NFL history. Period.

Now some wanted me to prove that statement, which I think I can eloquently do without even making a 100% effort. Simply put, for the people who fawn over Brady as the best playoff quarterback ever or one of the top two or even just “wayyyyy better” than Peyton Manning, what I’m about to go through should show just how silly that notion is.

In fact, I do think Manning is a better playoff quarterback than Brady. Factors out of his control just tend to work against his teams more than Brady’s, but more on that later.

Let’s begin with some help from a fictional (but realistic) character that I’m going to call BRADYGUY.

BRADYGUY: Scott, this is asinine. EVERYONE knows Tom Brady raises his game this time of year and Manning falls off from his high regular-season perch.

Oh yeah? Then explain this comparison of performance in the regular season against playoff teams (teams who made the playoffs that season) compared to actual postseason performance:

pmtbdapr

Note: I haven’t fully explained DAPR yet, but it’s a simple calculation of passing stats that adjusts for opposing defense. The higher the DAPR the better.

We could start with the obvious that Manning’s playoff stats are more than respectable, if not outright better than Brady’s. But there’s something more interesting than that here.

Somehow Manning remains within one tenth of his winning percentage, completion percentage, YPA and passer rating against playoff teams from the reg. season to the postseason. One tenth. His DAPR gets even better as he’s played tough defenses in January and February. Meanwhile Brady is the one who suffers the bigger declines in his performance, including half a yard per pass attempt.

Overall, Brady’s 6.74 YPA in the playoffs ranks 39th all time (min. 150 attempts). One of the best statistical indicators of success, YPA does not suddenly become irrelevant in the playoffs.

Brady’s DAPR also dips well below normal levels. Now in the bottom half of the table where games from non-playoff seasons are excluded (as are the games Manning rests in Weeks 16-17 and usually watches his team lose), Manning does experience decline. That’s natural when you’re not playing the 4-12 Raiders or Bills in January.

Still, Brady’s decline is steeper with a 7-point drop in passer rating and going down even more in the other categories compared to the top half. So no, there’s zero evidence Brady elevates his game in the playoffs, and Manning certainly does not decline more.

BRADYGUY: Come on, Scott. Brady’s been to seven AFC Championships and five Super Bowls! He’s playing better competition in the playoffs than Mr. Eight Times One-and-Done Manning.

Are you sure? I can’t see Manning losing to Eli’s 9-7/10-6 squads, nor do I believe playing the Jaguars at home (2005 and 2007) was harder than starting with the 2005 Steelers and 2007 Chargers. Hell, what would have happened last year if Manning got a slumping Houston team and Brady had to start with the champion Ravens that often make him struggle? But we have objective measures for team quality like DVOA to look at.

For quarterbacks with at least 5 playoff starts since 1989, here are the averages for their playoff opponents in Team DVOA, Defensive DVOA and Pass Defense DVOA (average season ranks also included as well as rank [Rk] on the list):

posos

There are actually 41 quarterbacks compared here, but I’m showing 30 so it’s easier to read (click to enlarge).

Manning’s played teams with an average DVOA of 20.1% (8th), -6.6% Defense DVOA (20th) and -6.5% Pass Defense DVOA (14th). Brady’s ranks are 26th, 31st and 22nd, respectively.

So yes, Manning has played better overall teams, better defenses and better pass defenses. He’s also played two-thirds (14/21) of his playoff games on a home/neutral field compared to 80% (20/25) for Brady, which does matter this time of year.

BRADYGUY: Fine, Scott. Teams who make the playoffs are usually pretty good. But you can’t overlook the biggest part: Tom Brady is 18-7, Peyton Manning is 10-11. THAT’S HUGE. How can you justify Manning only being 10-11?

What I can do is ask the proper question. Why is Manning 10-11 and Brady 18-7 when their level of play is not that different in the playoffs?

BRADYGUY: Heh, but IT IS MUCH DIFFERENT. Brady puts up more points to help his team win.

Brady averages 2.13 points per drive in the playoffs; Manning averages 2.10 points per drive.

This meager difference comes despite Brady starting his average drive nearly four yards closer to the end zone than Manning. It also comes despite other factors out of the QB’s control like missed FGs (7 for Manning, 6 for Brady) or fumbles on completions (6 for Manning, 3 for Brady). It also includes two one-play touchdown drives from last week where LeGarrette Blount just took the handoff from Brady for a touchdown.

Speaking of missed field goals, Manning is the only QB in NFL history to twice watch his last possession in a playoff game end with a missed FG (2000 Dolphins in OT, 2005 Steelers at end of regulation down 21-18). That was Mike Vanderjagt and those kicks were as wide right as they come.

BRADYGUY: Brady got his kickers closer.

No, Adam Vinatieri had to kick a 45-yard field goal in the snow after the Tuck Rule just to get to OT against Oakland. In the Superdome in Super Bowl 36, he kicked a 48-yard field goal on the last play of the game. In 2003 against the Titans on a -10 wind chill night, Brady completed one pass on a drive in a 14-14 tie, forcing Vinatieri to nail a 46-yard field goal for the game-winner. He did.

Meanwhile, Vanderjagt missed a 49-yard attempt in Miami — one he told the coach he could make and had made a 50-yard kick moments earlier in the game — and a 45-yard attempt in the RCA Dome against Pittsburgh.

Switch those kickers and ask Vanderjagt to make those kicks in Foxboro. Might be looking at an 0-2 start in the playoffs for Brady (both losses at home).

BRADYGUY: Manning knows best about losing at home in the playoffs. He’s done it five times (NFL record). How can you defend that?

Yes, Manning has five home playoff losses…by a combined 14 points — the smallest margin for the 30 quarterbacks with multiple home playoff losses.

HPOL

“See, the luck I’ve had can make a good man turn bad”

Brady lost by 15 points at home to the Ravens in last year’s AFC Championship and by 19 points to the Ravens in 2009. He played very poorly in those games as well. Notice how Manning had some of the very best statistics in those home playoff losses.

That’s the common theme. Manning can play well, but still lose. Brady can do anything and still seemingly get a win.

BRADYGUY: Brady puts his teams in better position to win because he makes fewer mistakes than Manning in the playoffs.

Both quarterbacks have 22 interceptions in the playoffs. Brady has 115 more attempts, but studying all 44 plays show some key differences.

Brady has 18 bad throws and 4 tipped balls. On the tips, one was tipped at the line, one hit Donte Stallworth in one hand, one hit Sam Aiken high in one hand and another practically got Ben Watson killed in 2009. Two picks were thrown desperately in the fourth quarter with the Patriots trailing 27-13 (2005 Denver) and 28-13 (2012 Ravens). That’s still not garbage time yet as one score sets up an onside kick opportunity in a one-score game either way. Brady was at the Baltimore 22 on last year’s pick.

Manning has 15 bad throws, two QB/WR miscommunications with Marvin Harrison (both vs. Ty Law/2006 Chiefs) and five tipped balls. On the tips, one hit Marcus Pollard’s hand too high, one hit Reggie Wayne in the hands high, one deflected right off Kenton Keith’s hands deep in the red zone, one hit Eric Decker and the refs missed the defensive pass interference and one last week hit Decker in the chest and was deflected and caught in the end zone by San Diego. Three of Manning’s picks were in obvious garbage time: down 34-0 vs. Jets (4Q), down 41-0 vs. Jets (4q), down 20-3 vs. 2004 Patriots (12 seconds left). Against the 2006 Ravens, he threw a bomb on 3rd-and-17 with a 12-6 lead that was intercepted by Ed Reed. That served as a punt.

Each quarterback has had one interception fumbled back to them. Manning’s came in 2009 (BAL) with a 17-3 lead in the 3rd quarter. Brady’s came in 2006 (SD) with the Patriots down 21-13 and 6:16 left in the 4th quarter.

Luck Advantage: Brady

Each quarterback has had a turnover on the field reversed to an incomplete pass. Brady’s was the fumble that introduced us to the Tuck Rule against the Raiders in 2001. Without the call, the game would have been over with Rich Gannon taking knees. Manning’s was in 2005 against Pittsburgh on a Troy Polamalu interception overturned to an incompletion. Manning still trailed 21-10 with 5:26 left. Manning also lost a fumble last season against the Ravens on a very similar play to the Tuck Rule, but did not get that call in the last possible case it could have been used before the NFL removed it this offseason.

Luck Advantage: Brady.

Brady turned the ball over three times at home in the first quarter alone in an ugly 2009 loss to the Ravens. Manning threw three interceptions at home against the 2006 Chiefs, but still completed 30-of-38 passes (including a spike and one drop) in a 23-8 win.

Oh, and which quarterback threw four interceptions in the 2003 AFC Championship? When watching the game, felt like both, but only one defense took advantage.

Brady has four red-zone interceptions. All four were bad/forced throws. Manning has five red-zone interceptions. The last three all deflected off his receiver and the very first came when he trailed 41-0 in 2002 (Jets) and had the ball at the 19.

Manning has thrown three pick-sixes in the playoffs, including last year’s botched no-call. Brady has none, because Ben Watson tracked down Champ Bailey to the 1-yard line and prevented a 100-yard return in 2005.

Brady has 10 fumbles (3 lost) in the playoffs. Manning has 5 fumbles (2 lost). Fumble Luck Advantage: Brady

Manning’s first lost fumble was a handoff on a running play to Joseph Addai in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears recovered. Brady is credited with a botched handoff fumble in the 2006 AFC Championship in Indy. The Patriots recovered it for a touchdown. Fumble Luck Advantage: Brady.

Brady only had 3 INTs when he started 10-0 in the playoffs, but clearly that part of his game has changed and he’s always been as or more likely to have a bad turnover in a close game or in the red zone than Manning in the playoffs.

BRADYGUY: Scott, maybe you didn’t hear me. 18-7 vs. 10-11…

No, I heard you. I’ve just yet to find anything compelling that shows why there’s such a difference in record based on what the quarterbacks and not their teammates and coaches have done.

BRADYGUY: Isn’t it obvious? CLUTCH. Brady’s oozing with IT, and Manning’s just a choker. That’s where you need to look.

Third downs are pretty important situations. In the playoffs, Manning has converted 43.41 percent of his third downs compared to 40.78 percent for Brady. That rate for Brady is about average for prominent active quarterbacks in the playoffs.

BRADYGUY: I bet Brady’s better on tougher situations like third-and-long that are harder to convert.

Not quite…

pmtb3dpo

Manning faces a longer third down on average and converts more often on the medium and long situations. Brady is a hell of a lot better on the quarterback sneak, regular or post. That is one area I will give him over anyone.

BRADYGUY: Meh, that’s just one down. What about the WHOLE game?

Well we have stats like Win Probability Added (WPA) and Expected Points Added (EPA) that can account for how much the quarterback is contributing to his team scoring and winning the game. Credit to Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats for these stats, which I’ve collected for quarterbacks with 5+ playoff starts since 1999:

POWPA

Once again, Manning comes out near the top, ahead of Brady, who looks somewhat pedestrian given his lofty winning record. Manning’s the only player in the top 8 with a losing record. These stats also control for garbage time, so there’s no point in bringing that up. Obviously Manning hasn’t played in many blowout games in the playoffs to compile meaningless stats.

BRADYGUY: Can’t Manning boost his EPA by throwing short touchdown passes like last week, while Brady loses out when his team rushes for six scores against the Colts?

The EPA gained from a short touchdown pass is actually quite minimal since you’re already expected to score a touchdown that close to the goal line.

Besides, if anyone has padded their postseason TD total on short touchdown passes, it’s Brady by a HUGE margin:

POTD

So out of 25 QBs all time with 15+ TD passes in the playoffs, no one throws them shorter than Brady, who has a staggering 29 scores from 1-9 yards out. Oh, and Manning has the deepest active TD pass among the active quarterbacks. Go figure.

These next two facts also fit the “Manning gets screwed, Brady has great luck” idea quite well.

Brady has the most playoff wins ever without a touchdown pass (4). Manning has the most playoff losses without an interception (5).

And no, if you remember from earlier, Manning did not have a fumble in any of those games without an interception. No other quarterback has more than 3 playoff losses without an interception.

This is the kind of stuff I pointed out last Saturday night with this table:

GQB

C and D are especially telling in how impotent Brady has been in half of his playoff wins, while Manning doesn’t look bad at all in comparison for the times he went one-and-done.

BRADYGUY: The difference has to be Brady gets it done when it matters most, and that’s when Manning folds. It’s WHEN they make their mistakes.

Well, for starters, the WPA would already pick up on a lot of that, but sure, let’s get silly.

How about when it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter/overtime in the playoffs? Surely Brady’s going to show his superiority there, right?

1scopo

Oops, that didn’t work. Pro-Football-Reference shows neither guy can feel too good about what they’ve done in those situations, though they do have the most attempts by far. Yet there’s Manning doing better than Brady, who dips under 6.0 YPA again.

I didn’t even point out all the dropped passes yet, but we need to save something for next year’s edition.

BRADYGUY: But Scott, it’s when those mistakes happen that matters. Manning’s BURIED his team against the Saints and Ravens and…teams.

Of course you’d bring those two plays up. They’re the only two times Manning’s done that in crunch time in the playoffs, yet the stigma of him always doing that existed even before Super Bowl XLIV. Brady did it in back-to-back weeks in the 2006 playoffs.

  • Fourth quarter or overtime, down by 0-8 points in the playoffs: Brady and Manning have each thrown TWO interceptions in this situation.
  • Fourth quarter or overtime, down by 0-16 points in the playoffs: Brady has thrown FIVE interceptions compared to THREE for Manning.

So enough with the “Manning throws killer picks” thing. Brady has too and they came on days he played worse overall.

BRADYGUY: Okay, I think I got it. Brady has 7 game-winning drives in the playoffs and Manning is 1-9 at game-winning drive opportunities in the playoffs. I GOT YOU! Checkmate! Why can’t Manning finish in the playoffs like Brady?

He can’t? I think the numbers in the previous table show Manning’s just as adequate (or inadequate) as Brady in crunch time in the playoffs. It’s what happens around those quarterbacks that has created that 7-1 split in playoff GWDs, which I guess would be 8-0 if Brady’s defense came through for him (again).

You tell me how much of this is on Manning in GWD opportunities:

1999 Titans – Down 16-9, Manning threw a perfect pass downfield to Marvin Harrison, who dropped it on 3rd-and-22. Titans added a field goal and Edgerrin James later dropped a fourth-down pass.

2000 Dolphins – In overtime, Manning set up the field goal, but as mentioned, Vanderjagt shanked it badly and Manning never got another chance.

2003 Patriots – Despite his worst playoff game ever (4 INTs), Manning had the ball down 21-14 with 2:01 left. But we didn’t even get to see what he’d do on the drive thanks to some illegal defense from the Patriots that helped lead to reinforcement of illegal contact. The NFL quietly admitted both incomplete passes on third and fourth down should have been penalties on New England.

2005 Steelers – Getting one last chance from a Jerome Bettis fumble, Manning set up Vanderjagt for another classic shank in a 21-18 loss that would have sent the game to OT. Manning trailed 21-3 to start the fourth quarter.

2006 Patriots – Down 34-31, Manning drove the Colts 69 yards in 24 seconds — that’s pretty efficient — to let the running game finish off the game-winning TD drive with a minute left.

2007 Chargers – Manning threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Anthony Gonzalez in the fourth quarter, but the Colts’ No. 1 defense allowed backup QB Billy Volek to drive for the game-winning touchdown. On his last drive, Manning threw good passes to Reggie Wayne (3rd down) and Dallas Clark (4th down), but both were dropped, including an embarrassing flub by Clark to end the game.

2008 Chargers – What GWD opportunity? Manning needed two yards to end the game on a third-and-2, but his rookie tight end forgot the snap count and didn’t get out of his break until it was too late. Manning was sacked and the Chargers tied the game late. Manning never got the ball in OT as the Chargers drove for the winning touchdown.

2009 Saints – Notice the lack of Manning mistakes? Here we go for a change. Manning threw the pick-six to Tracy Porter and that’s mostly on him. I’ll still say Reggie Wayne’s route was poorly run (just watch the feet), but Porter did a good job to jump the route and make the play.

2010 Jets – Manning only had three second-half possessions and ended each with a field goal, including the last one to take a 16-14 lead with 0:53 left. That usually holds up, but one big kick return by Antonio Cromartie crushed that idea and the Jets got the 17-16 win in Manning’s last game with the Colts.

2012 Ravens – Manning led a go-ahead 88-yard TD drive with 7:11 left, but obviously the Rahim Moore disaster stands out there.  In OT, the Broncos dropped Joe Flacco’s picks, but the Ravens made sure to hang onto Manning’s bad throw and bad decision.

So that’s all of them. Still want to say it’s the quarterback?

  • Manning’s lost 6 playoff games after leading in the fourth quarter. No other quarterback has more than 4 (Warren Moon).
  • Manning led in the last 40 seconds of the fourth quarter in four of those losses.
  • Manning’s led a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter of his last three home playoff losses.
  • Manning is the only QB in NFL history with two lost comebacks in the playoffs. Brady has one (SB XLII). These are games where the QB did everything to meet the requirement for a 4QC except win the game.

Brady’s GWDs mostly consist of long field goals just like the ones Vanderjagt missed, a fumbled interception on fourth down in San Diego, missed FGs by the opponent, Drew Bennett not catching a pass in 2003 and other unbelievable failures like the Lee Evans-Sterling Moore play in the 2011 AFC Championship.

Isn’t that the crux of this whole thing? Joe Flacco throws a pass to knock Brady out of the playoffs, yet Sterling Moore defends it away in the end zone and Billy Cundiff chokes on the FG. The next year, Flacco throws a TD pass over Rahim Moore to force OT and Justin Tucker delivers on the 47-yard FG in cold conditions to end Manning’s season and make his INT his last throw of the game. Manning and Brady were helpless in these situations, yet Brady won despite playing an inferior game and Manning lost despite playing very well. Same old story.

Brady’s celebrated for his playoff GWDs, yet when it comes down to one guy stepping up and making that game-deciding play, more often than not we see someone not named Brady do it for New England and someone not named Manning screw it up for Indianapolis/Denver.

So when I say Brady’s the luckiest QB in playoff history and Manning’s the unluckiest, this is exactly what I’m talking about. No quarterbacks have more close wins (Brady) or close losses (Manning) in the playoffs than these two, yet all the stats (advanced or not) and tape show there’s no significant difference in how they played in these situations.

If anything, you’d think Manning would be the one with a 18-7 record and Brady would be under .500.

BRADYGUY: But Scott, isn’t a loss a loss? Manning has tied Favre for the most playoff losses (11) ever.

Well aren’t we talking about being the best? Do you want a guy that’s going to lose by 15-19 points at home and play like crap, or do you want someone who can give his team a chance to win every single playoff game? Sometimes that’s going to lead to some losses with perhaps a late-game turnover. Play long enough and that can happen to anyone. Is that really worse than the guy who shits the bed in the first quarter and never gives his team a chance? Manning also set a record with his 13th playoff berth this year.

Manning has had a fourth-quarter lead in his last 12 playoff games. No one else in NFL history has had a streak longer than 10 games.

Not even Brady.

BRADYGUY: Isn’t Brady just more consistent in the playoffs? Manning has a few huge games, but Brady is more likely to give you a solid performance each week.

No. Brady started his playoff career with five mediocre performances, five very good games to get to 10-0, but since then, he’s a mixed bag that hasn’t put together two good performances in back-to-back playoff games since Super Bowl 39 and January 2006 (Jacksonville).

Meanwhile Manning’s done this:

80pr

Not a passer rating fan? Understandable, but an 80, especially in the playoffs, is usually the indicator of an okay game.

I did see this from ESPN on best cumulative playoff Total QBR since 2006: Colin Kaepernick (85.4), Aaron Rodgers (77.2), Kurt Warner (75.3) and Peyton Manning (72.2).

Familiar names at the top, right? And Brady’s missing again. That doesn’t even factor in defense, like how Manning had a 60.6 QBR in the 2006 playoffs (yes, even with 3 TD and 7 INT). That year, Manning became the only QB in NFL history to beat the top three defenses in the same postseason.

BRADYGUY: …but 18-7 and 10-

I have to cut you off there, BRADYGUY, or else we might keep going until kickoff. I didn’t even crunch the numbers on Brady’s superior running game and defense in the postseason.

So taking this all in, seeing where Brady stacks up relative to Manning and other quarterbacks, there’s really nothing more misleading in the NFL today than 18-7 and 10-11. For that matter, Aaron Rodgers being 5-4 and Drew Brees being 6-5 also makes little sense relative to Brady.

Well, it makes sense to people who can see it’s a team game and no team has played better than the Patriots since 2001, but that doesn’t mean the QB is always deserving of the credit.

People don’t like to hear it, but at some point you have to chalk up the record to better team play and downright good fortune. You know, it’s a team game after all, but for some reason every Marvin Harrison dropped ball or Edgerrin James fumble is overlooked because god forbid Deion Branch or Kevin Faulk could make those plays for Brady. (They did)

They weren’t high draft picks, they can’t possibly be great. Manning lost the playoff game, he can’t possibly have played well.

S.O.S. for a decade-plus now.

Now some will say I put a jinx on Manning today by putting this out there. That’s impossible. The guy’s had a playoff jinx on him his whole career. I’m not adding anything to it. I’m just pointing out the facts instead of dropping to my knees for Brady and Belichick in the playoffs like too many other writers and fans have done.

And I’m still picking the Patriots to win this game.

Oh, About the AFC Championship…

Do I still have the energy to go past 4,000 words? Sure, but I’ll keep this preview relatively short.

When the Patriots won aforementioned game in San Diego in the 2006 playoffs, that was the last straw for me. I said I wouldn’t pick against the Patriots in a big game again. Something ridiculous always seems to happen for them. So I picked them to beat the Colts and they choked away an 18-point lead the following week. They blew a perfect season at 18-0 in 2007. “We’re only going to score 17 points?” No, 14. Despite going 16-0 in the regular season at home in 2008-09, the Patriots went one-and-done in back-to-back years against the Ravens and Jets, teams they beat in the regular season including a 45-3 smacking. They should have lost to the 2011 Ravens and did lose again to the Giants in SB 46, despite being favored. They were the favorites again last year when a Ravens team I thought had a great chance to go in there and win did just that, holding the Pats to 13 points (second-half shutout).

(Note: a lot of this further applies to why Brady is the most overrated playoff QB).

All seven of the playoff losses under Belichick/Brady have been rematches. This game with Denver is a rematch. The last game really doesn’t apply too much in that the venue is different, the weather will be much better, there’s no Rob Gronkowski and Von Miller (among others) and John Fox is back on the sideline.

While you probably think I’m dying to pick Denver (and I am, and I like, but not love, their chances), I’m not going to do it.

Can’t.

A depleted Jack Del Rio defense that has a tendency to leave guys wide open on third and fourth down? Uh-oh. For as much talk as there’s been about NE’s running game, and the run will be huge for both teams, I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out throwing with Brady early and often. This isn’t a “do what we do every week” team. They adjust for each opponent and the weakness in Denver is the pass defense. The run defense has been solid all year with and without Miller, so it would be a surprise to see them gashed there. The pass is the problem without Chris Harris and without Miller, who played great in NE, rushing Brady.

Quentin Jammer and Kayvon Webster may just combine to Rahim Moore another season for Denver. Somehow Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola continue to get open underneath when it’s painfully obvious Brady is going to them with the ball. Do I trust Del Rio to adjust? Of course not. New England’s offense should do fine. Shaun Phillips has to have a huge game against Marcus Cannon in Miller’s absence. That’s a matchup to watch.

On the other side (both sides, but moreso on this matchup), I’ll be curious to see how much contact is allowed in the secondary. That’s NE’s best hope to jam these receivers and throw off the timing routes. Manning needs to work on the 8-15 yard range in this game and not try to bomb it out. Wes Welker will want to have a huge game, but I think this is about Thomas & Thomas again.

I have been getting a lot of Patriot fans talking out of both sides of their mouth this week. On one end, it’s “Manning has the best weapons ever!” On the other, it’s “Talib and Jamie Collins will shut down Thomas & Thomas, Eric Decker is super soft and Julian Edelman could cover Welker AND outplay him at receiver and punt returner!” Okay, so which is it?

I think the Patriots can get some stops in this game, but it’s going to be hard to shut down the passing game that never got going last time due to the crazy start with fumbles. Manning should have a much better game this time, but any 400 yards/4 TD expectations are lunacy. The Patriots rarely give up 30+ points of offense in 13 years under Belichick. I think they have to hold Denver under that to win this one. I still think Demaryius is the key guy that makes this offense go, so he can’t be under 50 yards for Denver to pull this one out.

This is Manning-Brady XV, but remember, these games have never been a shootout. Maybe we’ll get that for an instant classic, but I’d sooner expect Denver to fall behind by 17 points and make a dramatic comeback again. Denver’s constant ball security issues bother me. Last week they had a lot of bad plays with drops, fumbles and stumbles, but maybe that was a little rust and they’ll be sharper this week.

They’ll have to be. The Patriots are not the Chargers. Belichick won’t mail in a conservative gameplan like new job-seeking Whisenhunt did and the Patriots will capitalize on every little mistake. New England hasn’t been impressive on the road, though their best road game was their last (at Baltimore).

At the end of the day, I see a Denver team with a better QB and better receivers, but the Patriots hold the other advantages. Well, except for home-field this time. What do you think historically wins more of these big games?

I’ll call my shot here. In the nature of what I’ve presented above, this game clearly has two possible endings: a game-ending Brady interception or a dropped pass by Wes Welker on fourth down.

Either way, we already know which QB will get more credit for a win and which will get more blame for a loss. I hope to enjoy a potentially historic Sunday and do what I do every week: watch the games, write later what actually decided the outcome and who to hold accountable. Isn’t that the easiest way to do this job? Why do some feel the need to continue a decade-old narrative, facts and new information be damned?

Final score: Patriots 30, Broncos 27

And I am rooting for Denver-Seattle, because I want to see the best offense play the best defense. “So for once in my life, let me get what I want…”

NFL Week 15 Predictions and Rational Manning vs. Brady Facts

Is it worth anyone’s time to do a full rant about the absurdity of Tom Brady, who spent half the season playing his worst football yet, being a top MVP candidate? No, that’s nonsense I expect to take care of itself naturally the next two weeks. Peyton Manning will get 40-plus votes while a few (mostly homer) votes may go to people like Brady, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

A MVP should always be about the current season (all 16 games) and not a lifetime achievement award, but let’s forget about it entirely and go big picture beyond just 2013 since some on social media think I’m purposely putting down Brady’s season. Let’s file this one under “Well Allow Me to Retort.”

Since 2007, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have each lost 23 games they finished.* That includes Thursday night for Manning.

*Finished can be tricky semantics when Brian Hoyer comes in for the last drive, but it really just means games they played into the fourth quarter and didn’t leave early so Jim Sorgi or Curtis Painter could make the game unwinnable (and unwatchable).

I took each QB’s 23 losses and crunched some numbers for points per drive production for their offense and defense and what their Total QBR (credit to ESPN) was.

The results were not surprising. On average, Manning plays a little better when his team loses and his defense plays worse compared to Brady. This is why I write and say what I do about each quarterback.

Here are the 23 losses for each:

PML

TBL

Not drastically different averages, but we do see Manning’s teams almost score and allow about a FG (3 points) more per game than New England. Manning’s led his offense to at least 20 points in all seven losses as a Bronco. Brady’s longest streak of scoring 20+ in a loss is three games.

We’re only going to score 17 points?

Brady’s offense has been held to 17 or fewer points in 11 losses since his famous quote before Super Bowl XLII. Manning: seven times.

2013 results still pending, but it would appear Manning has lost to 4 teams with a losing record and 15 playoff teams. For Brady, it’s 5 losing teams, 14 playoff teams.

A 50.0 QBR is average, and Brady (50.1) is right there while Manning is better at 55.8. Those are straight averages from the 23-game samples as I do not have the ability to get a cumulative QBR number. I would imagine it’d be close to what’s there.

Then I took the 23 games and sorted them from worst to best in terms of offensive points per drive and QBR.

MBPPD

Manning outpaces Brady every step of the way here. Manning’s worst game was 1.17 Pts/Dr, which Brady falls under four times. Manning has 13 losses with at least 2.0 Pts/Dr, including Thursday night’s game (2.22). Brady has six.

Same thing, but with QBR sorted from worst to best:

MBQBR

Here we see a closer race, especially for Games 9-15 where Brady ranks higher twice, then Manning pulls away.

Brady’s two worst games were 4.2 and 8.7 and both were playoff games. Manning’s worst was 19.9 in Atlanta last season when he threw a trio of first-quarter interceptions. His highest was 92.3 against Brady in 2012.

If we expanded this back to 2001-06, we wouldn’t have QBR for 2001-05 for starters. But in terms of point production, there’s a good chance it’d be the same trends (Manning scoring more, getting fewer drives and Brady’s defense being not as bad).

The general stats from 2001-06 in losses sure would seem to support that. Manning had 48 TD, 51 INT, 78.8 PR compared to 29 TD, 43 INT, 66.1 PR for Brady.

So what you’re saying is…

This week was a painful exercise in sports media manipulating the narrative again.

After the Cowboys lost on Monday night, allowing 45 points and getting zero stops, this was the headline I heard on TV on Tuesday morning: “TONY ROMO LOSES IN DECEMBER AGAIN…”

After the Broncos lost on Thursday night to a ball-control San Diego performance, this was the headline I heard on TV on Friday morning: “DID PEYTON BLOW HIS SUPER BOWL CHANCES?”

Yet if Brady has a dud performance in Miami — something as reasonable as the 21-0 dud he laid to a team with Joey Harrington at QB in 2006 — on Sunday, in the biggest game of Week 15 (game with the best records and the No. 1 seed on the line) you know Monday morning is going to instead start with “WHO DEY GONNA BEAT THE BENGALS?! IS ANDY DALTON MAKING A LATE MVP PUSH?”

That’s just the facts.

NFL Week 15 Predictions

I learned the hard way to trust my gut after last week’s big error.

I showed you my picks like I always do, but after noticing I had the home team finishing 15-1, I scrambled to make some changes and posted a second “official” set of picks. Those changes went 0-4 as I was right with my initial gut picks. Now every week will feature games that you can make a great argument for either team winning. Those are the hard ones, but we must trust our gut even when things look silly like picking so many home teams. Sometimes, crazy shit just happens.

Trust the gut. I knew San Diego had a good shot to win with playing ball-control offense, but I went with Denver anyway, so 0-1, and I’m okay with it.

Winners in bold:

  • Bears at Browns
  • Texans at Colts
  • Bills at Jaguars
  • 49ers at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Giants
  • Patriots at Dolphins
  • Redskins at Falcons
  • Eagles at Vikings
  • Chiefs at Raiders
  • Jets at Panthers
  • Cardinals at Titans
  • Saints at Rams
  • Packers at Cowboys
  • Bengals at Steelers
  • Ravens at Lions

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Week 14: 10-6
  • Season: 133-74-1

I really do love the Cowboys this week against GB. The “ebb and flow” pick of the week. After such a bad performance on Monday, I expect a much stronger game on both sides of the ball. It won’t be as bad as Thanksgiving for Green Bay, but I think Dallas wins big.

I also really want to pick Washington to have a good game and win with Kirk Cousins so Mike Shanahan can look smart, but since when do I still think Shanahan’s a good coach? Put him out to pasture already.

And if Cousins does have a good game, no, we don’t have to start putting him in the damn MVP conversation.