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Who Is The Greatest Quarterback of All Time?

To answer that question we must consider five aspects of the quarterback position: passing, rushing, quality of supporting personnel, quality of opposition, and luck.

Typically though we evaluate a quarterback's effectiveness by only considering his passing game, using the standard Passer Rating formula:

As you can see, this formula considers pass completions, yards gained, touchdown passes, and interceptions versus pass attempts. It ignores rushing, which is then best expressed as rushing yards per game.

Situational context such as when the pass attempt is on a third down or how much time is remaining is not taken into consideration, nor is what is at stake, the quality of the opposing defense or the ability of the offensive line to protect the QB.

Thus Peyton Manning's touchdown pass when the Broncos were down 36-0 in the third quarter of the 2014 Super Bowl counts for just as much as Eli Manning's 13 yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds to play and the Giants down by 4 in the 2008 Super Bowl. Likewise the devastating toll of Brett Favre throwing for an interception with 19 seconds to play in the 2009 NFC Championship game is counted the same as an intercepted pass in the first quarter of a week 2 game. Also, the QB is charged with an incomplete pass when the wide receiver drops a perfect pass, and he is charged with an interception when the receiver tips the ball and it's then recovered in the air by a corner back.

So using only the passing statistics, who is the greatest quarterback of all time, with at least 750 pass attempts? It's not Peyton Manning, it's not Tom Brady, and it's not Joe Montana. It's Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wislon is second.

Here is a clip of the full ranking, which we can also tweak to give only a certain range of years and minimum number of pass attempts: (mouse over column headers for explanation)

  Rank   Player Name PR PYds/G Cmpl % TD/G Int/G RYds/G
 1  Aaron Rodgers  104.749  259.09  65.84%  2.01  0.55  17.16 
 2  Russell Wilson  100.789  204.62  63.55%  1.57  0.54  32.38 
 3  Peyton Manning  96.458  272.06  65.35%  2.01  0.92  3.45 
 4  Steve Young  95.690  197.03  64.05%  1.36  0.65  26.21 
 5  Drew Brees  95.605  277.26  65.91%  1.96  0.93  3.99 
 6  Philip Rivers  95.304  244.92  64.16%  1.65  0.80  3.58 
 7  Tony Romo  95.260  264.32  64.42%  1.84  0.90  5.38 
 8  Tom Brady  94.690  253.76  63.27%  1.84  0.71  4.29 
 9  Kurt Warner  94.644  264.93  65.60%  1.74  1.04  2.61 
 10  Joe Montana  92.662  231.66  63.17%  1.59  0.80  10.27 
 11  Colin Kaepernick  92.491  173.51  59.43%  1.03  0.43  39.11 
 12  Ben Roethlisberger  91.827  237.29  63.03%  1.52  0.89  8.80 
 13  Robert Griffin III  91.211  223.69  62.44%  1.31  0.62  45.69 
       Full ranking...

Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wislon are so high up because they make so few mistakes, very few interceptions. Intuitively, we'd expect Eli Manning, Brett Favre, and Dan Marino to be in the top 10 of this list while we wouldn't expect Steve Young or Philip Rivers to be so high up. Eli Manning has been Super Bowl MVP twice, yet his numbers leave him at #49 in the ranking. Brett Favre and Dan Marino (#21 and #25, respectively) were very reliable quarterbacks and extremely popular but they made a lot of mistakes.

The younger crop of quarterbacks such as  Russell Wislon, Colin Kaepernick, and Robert Griffin III seem to come with enhanced running ability whereas the current greats seem to be monolithic passers. Peyton Manning rushes for only 3.45 yards per game!

Stay tuned for an enhanced formula that considers rushing and game context.

-- Phil Ploquin, July 24th, 2014     [ Comments ]

There's Hope In Cleveland

Cleveland has not had a championship team since the Indians won the World Series in 1948. If you rank all of the major metropolitan areas by number of seasons played by its major franchises divided by the number of championships won (in the modern era, since 1966), Cleveland is dead last with a score of infinity.

Their Major League Baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, came very close in 1997 when they lost the World Series in 7 games to the upstart Florida Marlins (after being ahead in the 9th inning!), and before that in 1995 when they lost to the Atlanta Braves in 6 games. The Indians made the playoffs (if you consider the wild-card game as the playoffs) for only the second time in 14 years in 2013, and it's not looking good for 2014.

The Cleveland Browns have never been to the Super Bowl, the closest they've ever come is making it to the 1986-1987 and 1987-1988 AFC Conference championship games. In fact they've been so bad that they haven't reached the playoffs at all since the 2002-2003 season. They didn't even exist from 1996 to 1999 as the team moved to Baltimore at the end of the 1995-1996 season (where they became the very successful Ravens franchise), but were reincarnated for the 1999-2000 season. If you rank all the NFL franchises starting from the Super Bowl era - 1966 to 2013-2014 - the Browns are 22nd out of 32, they made the playoffs 31.11% of the time. However if you look at their performance since 1990 - they are dead last with a playoffs percentage of 9.52%.

The people of Cleveland will not find solace in Hockey as they do not have a NHL team, which leaves them with only the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers to root for. The Cavs were largely inept until Lebron James arrived, with only a short blip in the early 90's when they posed a legitimate challenge to Michael Jordan's dynastic Chicago Bulls, but that was followed by 8 years of despair.  Then, the Lebron James led-Cavs made it to the NBA Finals in the 2006-2007 season (where they were unceremoniously crushed by the San Antonio Spurs), but after James left in 2011 they haven't come anywhere close to the playoffs.

But now, an experienced Lebron James is returning to Cleveland to lead a team of talented young players and they have a real shot to bring Cleveland a championship at last. Good luck, Cleveland!

-- Phil Ploquin, July 16th, 2014     [ Comments ]

Two Legendary Captains

Philip Lahm, the captain of the Die Nationalmannschaft that just won the World Cup, has decided to retire from international play. So too has Steven Gerrard, the captain of The Thee Lions. These two players have been at the core of their respective national teams for eight years, through the past three World Cups and everything in between.

Lahm was an instrumental part of a German squad that won the World Cup in 2014, made it to the semi-finals in 2010 and 2006, reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and the final of Euro 2008. Meanwhile, Gerrard's England squad has been good but hasn't won anything, a case of hard luck and missed chances. They played well enough in Brazil where they could reasonably have expected to earn a point against Italy and a point against Uruguay, but alas they did not and were eliminated before even playing their third match. They lost out to Italy in the quarter-finals at Euro 2012 - on the lottery of penalties (just as prior England teams had lost on penalties before Gerrard's time in the semi-finals against Germany at the 1990 World Cup and again in in 1998 against Argentina, as well as against Germany at home for Euro 1996.) The 2010 World Cup saw Gerrard's England lose to Lahm's Germany in the round-of-16 by the lopsided score of 4-1, though the game could have ended very differently had the referee correctly awarded England Frank Lampard's game-tying goal before halftime. They didn't qualify for Euro 2008, lost in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup to Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal - on penalties, and after a controversial incident that deprived them of Wayne Rooney for half the match. Portugal had also beaten England on penalties in the quarter-finals of Euro 2004. You could therefore rightly say that Steven Gerrard's squads didn't so much lose, but failed to win this entire past decade.

Numbers-wise, Lahm has logged more minutes played for his country in competitive matches than any other German player, by far - by over 1200 minutes! This includes the dirty work of the qualifiers, where he played every match from the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Meanwhile Gerrard is second only to Ashley Cole for most minutes played with England's national team. In the all-time ranking of minutes played for European players in competitive matches Lahm is 14th and Gerrard is 46th.  A tough list to get on to, considering first place is occupied by Iker Casillas and 9 out of the top 21 players are goalkeepers.

Recent history is filled with players who hung on too long, to disastrous effect.  No one dares ask them to step down, they've earned the right to leave whenever they please. There was Fabio Cannavaro, the captain of the Italy side that won the 2006 World Cup. He returned for the 2010 edition as a shadow of the 2006 Fabio Cannavaro, and the tournament was a disaster for the defending champions. There was also Lilian Thuram - France's eternal hero (and mine!) for getting France past Croatia in the 1998 semi-finals. He wasn't up to it at Euro 2008 and asked to be benched for France's third and last game.

So Bravo Philip Lahm and Steven Gerrard, and all the best and continued success with Bayern Munich and Liverpool!

-- Phil Ploquin, July 21st, 2014     [ Comments ]
Games on October 1st by year
All years...

Ranking of Metropolitan Areas by Seasons per Championship (minimum 3 franchises) / # of championships (since 1966)
1New England11.723393
3Los Angeles15.7231113
5New York16.629528
6SF Bay18.366710
11St. Louis27.6041_0
24San Diego000_
Full ranking...

Ranking of American sports franchises by Seasons per Championship (since 1966)
1NHLMontreal Canadiens4.36112
2NBALos Angeles Lakers4.451111
3NBABoston Celtics5.4493
4NHLEdmonton Oilers6.8052
5MLBNew York Yankees6.8674
6NBASan Antonio Spurs7.6051
7NBAChicago Bulls8.0060
8NFLPittsburgh Steelers8.0062
9NBAMiami Heat8.6732
10NFLBaltimore Ravens9.0020
11NFLSan Francisco 49ers9.6051
12NFLDallas Cowboys9.6053
13NHLNew York Islanders10.2520
14MLBMiami Marlins10.5020
15MLBOakland Athletics12.0042
16MLBSt. Louis Cardinals12.0045
17NFLNew York Giants12.0041
18NFLGreen Bay Packers12.0041
19NHLDetroit Red Wings10.2543
20NHLNew Jersey Devils13.0032
21NHLPittsburgh Penguins15.3331
22MLBArizona Diamondbacks16.0010
Full ranking...
Random Pages for the major American sports:Arizona Cardinals Team Seasons · 1948-1949 Semi-Finals - Toronto Maple Leafs vs Boston Bruins · NFL Quarterback - Brian Sipe - Seasons · 1991-1992 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals - Boston Celtics vs Indiana Pacers · 2004-2005 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals - Miami Heat vs New Jersey Nets · 1984-1985 NBA Season Recap · All league results for 1985 · 2012-2013 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals - Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders · 1975-1976 NBA Season Day #51 · 2012-2013 Western Conference Finals - San Antonio Spurs vs Memphis Grizzlies · 2006-2007 NBA Finals - San Antonio Spurs vs Cleveland Cavaliers · 1961 Metropolitan Area Breakdown for all four major American sports · 2006-2007 NFL Season Week #3 · 2002-2003 NFL Week #9 - Chicago Bears vs Philadelphia Eagles · Miami Dolphins 1973-1974 Season - Line Scores · 1999-2000 NFL Season Week #11 · 1985-1986 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals - Philadelphia 76ers vs Washington Bullets · New York Mets Team Seasons · New Orleans Pelicans Team Seasons · 1993-1994 NHL Season Day #68 · 2002-2003 NBA Finals - San Antonio Spurs vs New Jersey Nets · 2001 MLB Season Day #166 : Sat, September 22nd · 2001-2002 Stanley Cup - Detroit Red Wings vs Carolina Hurricanes · 1973-1974 Semi-Finals - Boston Bruins vs Chicago Black Hawks · 1977 MLB Season Day #89 · 2005-2006 NFL Week #16 - Baltimore Ravens vs Minnesota Vikings · 1997 World Series - Florida Marlins vs Cleveland Indians · 1985 MLB Season Day #100 : Fri, July 19th · 1971-1972 NBA Season Recap · 2011-2012 NBA Season Day #82 : Mon, March 19th
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