Tom Brady or Peyton Manning?

January 26, 2011

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[Editor’s note: Brian from BeBetterNow.org (a self improvement web site) follows up his Drew Brees article last week with an article that discusses the relative merits of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.]

In his recent love-fest article praising Drew Brees, Kosmo made this comment – “Manning will go down as the greatest quarterback of this generation (sorry, Brady, but you’re going to come up short in counting stats, such as passing yards and TDs).

While Brady will come up short to Manning in passing yards and TDs, Manning currently comes up short in playoff record and championship rings. In addition you could look at Winning Percentage by Quarterbacks (there’s a handy sortable column there.) Tom Brady has the highest percentage in NFL history in winning 77.6% of his games. He is 3 percent better than the next best which is Staubach, who is 3% than a guy named Montana. Brady is 10% better than Manning. The difference there between the two is vast.

Manning also had a number of seasons passing to pro-bowl, possibly Hall of Fame quality receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. Most of Brady’s work has been with no big names. He had two seasons with Moss and three with Wes Welker who, as an undrafted free agent, wasn’t exactly known as a great talent before playing with Brady. Finally Brady doesn’t get the advantage of playing half his games in a dome like Manning does… Brady plays in New England where the elements make passing more difficult. You don’t have to look too much futher than the Greatest Show on Turf or the Saints success of late to see that playing a dome is a different game.

When we look at quarterback efficiency (QB Rating), Brady and Manning are neck and neck with Brady having a slight edge. In addition, Brady has 2 of the top 5 best seasons. You may argue that QB rating is the best statistic. I would agree with that. For example, the statistic of touchdowns for quarterbacks is suspect. How many times have you seen a quarterback throw a 50 yard bomb to see the player get tackled on the 1. The next few plays are typically running plays to get the score. Should that quarterback be rated lower than the one whose receiver didn’t get tackle at the 1? It doesn’t make sense. However, the compenents of completion percentage, yards per attempt and interceptions make sense. Some may argue that interceptions can be deceptive as there are bad bounces, but those should even out for all quarterbacks. It shouldn’t be surprising that while Manning has great TD numbers, Brady has the far better interception numbers.

It seems you can get into the Hall two ways. You can be a Dan Marino win great stats (61,000 yards and 420 TDs), but be considered a post-season failure. You can be a Troy Aikman with a very mediocre stats (32,945 yards, 165 TDs, and a 81.6 QB rating) with three Super Bowl rings. I would suggest that Tom Brady is a more complete player at this point with the ability to put up the stats of Manning in any given season combined with 3 Super Bowl rings.

Quarterbacks and the Hall of Fame

January 21, 2011

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[Editor’s note:  Today’s article is written by Brian from BeBetterNow.org, a site devoted to self improvement. Today, Brian attempts to help me improve myself for telling me why I’m wrong about Drew Brees being a Hall of Famer in our midst.]

Recently Kosmo asked the question Is Drew Brees a Hall of Famer?. In it he brought up some comparisons to Peyton Manning and made a very good case that Brees belongs in the Hall.

Pass Happy NFL and Trust in your QB

Kosmo brought up a great point:

Is Brees a product of a pass-happy era in the NFL? Sure. But there’s a reason why everyone isn’t racking up 4500 passing yards per year. Most coaches don’t trust their quarerback to throw the ball 650 times per year.

It’s worth looking at the pass-happy era of the NFL. The rules for contact have been changed over the years. You can barely touch the quarterback any more. If you get near a receiver it is pass interference. If you are a defensive player and there’s a likelihood of getting pass interference called on you, you naturally are going to play off the receiver a bit more. This gives the quarterbacks more room to complete passes.

If you look at career passer rating you’ll note that 19 of the top 30 are currently active in the league. Four of the remaining 11 retired last year (Bulger, Garcia, Culpepper, and Warner). Clearly passing is easier in this day and age. Interesting fact, Shaun Hill, who has been a back-up his entire career has a better rating than Elway, Aikman, and the aforementioned Staubach. Clearly it is a game where it is easier to get TDs, avoid interceptions, and complete more passes for a longer average. If it is easier to pass in today’s game, it is hard to compare Brees to players of previous eras.

As for trusting your quarterback to pass 650 times. I don’t buy it. When Peyton Manning had his best season in 2004 (121 QB Rating – the best ever), he only threw the ball 497 times. In Tom Brady’s best year (117.2 rating – highest scoring offense ever), he only threw the ball 578 times. Brady only topped 600 attempts one time – in 2002 when the team was 9-7 and some wondered if Brady was really talented at all. Peyton Manning never had 600 attempts in his career. Brees has thrown 630+ passes in 3 of the last 4 season… the exception being the champion season where he threw only 514 passes. I don’t think anyone could claim that Manning and Brady aren’t trusted to throw the ball.

Why does Drew Brees throw so much? I think it is because the games have been close or they have been playing catch-up. When the Saints flirted with going undefeated they could build up a quick lead and run the clock out. This year they’ve had to come from behind and endured many, many injuries to their running backs.

When looking at the number of passes, we should look at another player, Drew Bledsoe. His career ended early with his last full year at age 33. However, he did put up 44,000 yards and 251 TDs in that time in a less pass happy NFL. He did this mostly by passing a lot. Some make an argument for him to be in the Hall of Fame because he ranks in the top ten in a number of areas and beats out a number of current Hall of Famers. However, I think this article correctly points out that high volume doesn’t mean high efficiency.

It appears that Drew Brees is a combination of volume and efficiency, but I would caution against using numbers such as yards and TDs that tend to skew towards volume.

Is Brees a Hall of Famer?

Let’s get back to Kosmo’s original question. I think it might be closer than he thinks. Let’s review the numbers that Kosmo has for Brees, which I believe are fair, and compare them to others in his class:

Player Age Yards TDs QB Rating Proj. Yards Proj. TDs
Drew Brees 32 35,000 235 91.7 55,266 360
Philip Rivers 29 19,961 136 97.2 52,641 360
Aaron Rodgers 27 12,723 87 98.4 53,723 367
Ben Roethlisberger 28 22,502 144 92.5 46,502 288

Notes on the projected stats:

  • Philip Rivers – He is three years younger than Brees. Since we added 5 years to Brees, I added 8 for Rivers. Rivers has averaged 27.2 TDs for every 16 games he’s played, but in the last three years (when he stepped up his game) he’s averaged 30.6. I projected 28 on average for the next 8 years to account for some drop-off. Similarly Rivers averages 3930 yards per full season in his career, but over the last three years he has been averaging 4324 yards a season. I calculated a 4100 as his 8 year average.
  • Aaron Rodgers – It is extremely hard to project him because he only has a few seasons due to waiting out the Favre fiasco. However, I felt it would be short-sighted to leave him off the list. At age 27, he projects to play 10 more years to get to the age of 37 that we are predicting for all quarterbacks. With at least 28 TD in every season, I continued that for 10 years. With an average of 4131 yards over his full seasons, I added in 10 years of 4000 to account for some drop off – though he could get better before he gets worse.
  • Ben Roethlisberger – While he is age 28, he won’t be adding until his counting stats until he’s 29. Thus I’m going to pretend he’s 29 and treat him like Drew Brees – 8 years until age 37. Due to some injury problems and off-field issues, he’s averaged fewer games than some of the above players. He’s still averaging 3214 a season and 20 TDs. I conservatively estimated the next 8 years to average 3000 yards and 18 TDs.

Big Ben may look out of place, but because he wins games, I don’t think we can discount him as a potential Hall of Fame candidate. He already has 2 rings and could add a third before he turns 29. I think it is worth focusing on Rivers and Rodgers who are often mentioned with Brees in the next tier after Brady/Manning debate. Though we have to project Rivers and Rodgers more than Brees (and hence have less accuracy in our predictions), it should be noted that they might have very similar careers.

If you put one of them in the Hall, you may have to put them all. Are voters likely to say that we have 5-6 Hall of Fame quarterback in the league right now? Has Brees separated himself from the rest of the pack? I’m not sure.

If we see Brees in the Hall of Fame in a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised. If he puts up the numbers that Kosmo suggests and doesn’t make it, I wouldn’t call it a travesty either.

Is Drew Brees a Hall of Famer?

January 19, 2011

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“Some people are going to be really surprised when Drew Brees stands up in Canton to give his acceptance speech.”

I’ve made comments similar to this a few times in the past year.  Even when speaking to knowledgeable fans, it’s often met with skepticism.  After all, Drew Brees is a nice guy, but he’s no Peyton Manning.  One friend even commented that he’s basically Dan Fouts, and that Fouts wasn’t good enough for the Hall of Fame.  I countered this by showing that Brees is better than Fouts was … and that Fouts is indeed enshrined in Canton.

Brees is definitely a nice guy.  He’s always involved in charity work and never in trouble – despite being the king of the party town of New Orleans.  In an article in Sports Illustrated, a Saints teammate pondered the question of how much trouble Ben Roethlisberger could get himself into in the Big Easy.  I do think, though, that Brees’ good-guy reputation may be preventing his greatness on the field from getting the recognition he deserves.

First of all, let’s stop with the comparisons to Peyton Manning.  Manning will go down as the greatest quarterback of this generation (sorry, Brady, but you’re going to come up shorting in counting stats, such as passing yards and TDs).  By the end of the 2014 season, Manning (who will be 38 at the time) will be the all time leader in passing yards and touchdowns (assuming that Brett Favre stays retired).

The presence of Manning, though, shouldn’t detract from the greatness of Brees, any more than the presence of Babe Ruth should detract from the greatness of Lou Gehrig.  Brees (who is nearly three years younger than Manning) has 35,266 passing yards and 235 touchdowns to his credit.  Let’s extrapolate a bit, assuming that Brees plays five more seasons.  (Yes, yes, we should be very careful when predicting future performance).

Brees has thrown at least 33 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons … but he’ll be getting older, so let’s assume a bit of decline.  Brees has seven straight seasons of at least 24 touchdowns – so let’s put him down for 25 more TDs in each of the next five seasons.  That’s 125 touchdowns to add to his current total of 235 – bringing the extrapolated total to 360.  In his five years as leader of the high powered Saints offense, Brees has averaged 4583.6 passing yards per year.  Again, let’s trim this down a bit, assuming for a bit of decline.  We’ll assume a still powerful Saints offense, but a “mere” 4000 passing yards per season.  That would add 20,000 passing yards to his total of 35,266 – bringing his extrapolated career total to 55,266.

How do those numbers stack up?  360 touchdowns would likely place him 4th or 5th all time (depending on how Tom Brady does during the same span) and 55,266 passing yards would likely rank 4th all time (Brees is currently behind Kerry Collins and Donovan McNabb, but I would expect him to be ahead of them at the end of the five years).

Bear in mind that my numbers are based on his retirement at age 36.  If he decides to play until he is 40, then 70,000 yards and 500 touchdowns might come into play.

Being top five in passing yards and TD would certainly punch Brees’ ticket to Canton.  Only three quarterbacks with more than 275 touchdowns are not in the Hall of Fame.  Two of theme aren’t eligible yet (Favre and Manning) but are locks to be enshrined – and the third is Vinny Testaverde, who took 21 seasons to toss 275 TDs.  Is Brees a product of a pass-happy era in the NFL.  Sure.  But there’s a reason why everyone isn’t racking up 4500 passing yards per year.  Most coaches don’t trust their quarerback to throw the ball 650 times per year.

Still, Brees must have some young gunslingers coming up in his rear view mirror, right?  Not really.  If we look at players younger than Brees, the leaders in touchdowns is Eli Manning with 156 and passing yards is Carson Palmer with 22,694.  That’s 75 fewer touchdowns and 12,572 fewer passing yards than Brees.

No matter how you slice it, Brees is one of the elite QBs in the game today.

Kosmo’s Sports Wrap

February 2, 2010

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With Johnny Goodman still on leave for medical reasons, Kosmo is jumping in with another sports column.  We miss your articles, Johnny – get well sooon.

A Strong Brees

We’re on the cusp of another Super Bowl.  On one side of the field, we’ll have the Indianapolis Colts, led by Peyton Manning.  Manning is the son of Pro Bowl quarterback, the brother of another Pro Bowl quarterback, and he himself is a Pro Bowl quarterback, Super Bowl Champion, NFL MVP, and #1 overall pick in the NFL draft.  From day one, he has been the unquestioned leader of the Colts.

On the other hand, we have Drew Brees of the Saints.  The Saints themselves are a feel-good story – some good fortune for a city that was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005.  When Brees was drafted, the San Diego Chargers actually had the #1 pick that would have allowed them to pick up Michael Vick.  They traded that pick to Atlanta for the #5 overall pick (which they used to draft LaDainian Tomlinson) and a third round pick.  Having not gotten Vick at #1, they nabbed Brees in the second round.

Unlike Manning, Brees wasn’t given the keys to the kingdom.  His first few years in the league were up and down (eh, OK, so mostly he sucked), and the Chargers felt the need to draft his replacement in 2004.  They wanted Eli Manning, but he didn’t want to sign with them.  So they drafted Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers (who had been picked #4 overall) on draft day.  Rivers would have been been giving a strong chance to unsteat Brees for the starter’s job – except that he held out nearly all of training camp.

Brees promptly turned his career around and had his finest season in 2004, throwing 27 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions.  After going to the Saints as a free agent after the 2005 season, Brees had TD totals of 26, 28, 34, and 34.  He has topped 4300 yards all four seasons and cracked the 5000 barrier in 2008.

For his career, Brees now has 202 TDs against 110 interceptions, 30000 career passing yards, and a QB rating of 91.9.  Yes, the QB who was nearly thrown to the curb by the Chargers is now on pace for the Hall of Fame.

No League for Old Men

In a move that wasn’t particularly surprising Cardinals QB Kurt Warner announced his retirement.  Ther ultimate feel good story, Warner arose (like a Phoenix) many times during his career.  First, he clawed his way up from stocking shelves at a Hy Vee grocery store (@ $5.50 per hour) to an NFL job.  Then, after injuries caused him to lose his starting job, he regained a starting job with the Cardinals and led the formerly hapless franchise to its first Super Bowl – and nearly won it. 

All told, Warner went to three Super Bowls – winning one and narrowly losing the other two.  He has the record for most career passing yards Super Bowls (1156) due to the fact that he has the highest, second highest, and third highest passing totals in Super Bowl history.  Consider for a moment how statistically unlikely that is to occur …

Off the field, Warner does everything the right way – from the big things like adopting his children to smaller things like picking up the check for random people every time his family goes out to eat.  You’ll be missed, K-Dub (unless you pull a Favre).  (Read my recent article about Kurt Warner, “High Flying Cardinals”)

When my Minnesota Vikings played Brett Favre’s bizarre waiting game last summer and signed him to be their quarterback, I was fed up.  Not only have I never been a fan of Favre’s, but it seemed to me that Favre delayed his decision simply to avoid summer camp.  There’s a four letter word for that – L-A-Z-Y.

I made the somewhat irrational decision to boycott the Vikings until Favre was n longer with the team.  Lots of people questioned this, especially when the Vikings were perched on the brink of the Super Bowl.  I felt validated when Favre threw away another Super Bowl opportunity with yet another poor decision (flashback to the 2008 NFC Championship game, Brett?).  Hopefully Favre will retire again and stay retired.

Double Standard

Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman recently signed a contract with the Cincinnati Reds (is anyone else struck by the irony of a player fleeing a communist nation and signing with the REDS?  No?  Just me?  OK, thought I’d ask).  The pitcher’s deal will pay him $30.25 million over 6 years.  Although those in the baseball fandom were very much aware of the deal, it didn’t seem to raise the ire of fans like Stephen Strasburg’s 4 year, $15.5 million deal (see articles “Defense of Scott Boras” and “The Righty and the Lefty”).  (Yes, in theory, Strasburg could earn more money over the six year span if he performs well and gets decent arbitration awards for years 5 and 6 – but if they both flop, Chapman could come out $15 million ahead).

Let’s compare the two players.  Strasburg is five months younger than Chapman.  Strasburg is also the more highly ranked prospect.  So, why, then, is it a sign of the apocolyse for him to get $15.5 million while Chapman’s contract didn’t stir such strong emotions.

Chapman wasn’t subject to the draft, and thus had complete control over his future – unlike players in the US and Canada, who are only allowed to negotiate with the team that drafted them.  My good friend Fulton Christoper opined that this is a good reason to implement a worldwide draft.

Hamlin Heating Up the Ice

US luger Erin Hamlin (@ErinHamlin on Twitter), Kosmo’s favorite winter Olympian, racked up the following finishes in the World Cup season (singles events)

  • November 20/21 – Calgary, Canada – 7th
  • November 28/29 – Innsbruck, Austria – 9th
  • December 5/6 – Altenberg, Germany – 5th
  • December 12/13 – Lillehammer, Norway – 3rd
  •  January 2/3 – Königssee, Germany – 5th
  • January 9/10 – Winterberg, Germany – 3rd
  • January 16/17- Oberhof, Germany – 8th
  • January 30/31 – Cesana, Italy – 3rd

That’s good for an overall finish of 4th place in the standings, and Hamlin finished very strong, with  three podium (top 3) finishes in the last 5 events.  You heard it here first – Hamlin is picking up steam and is going to nab the luge gold in Vancouver.  Watch your rear view mirror, Tatjana.

And in an administrative note, we have a new link partner – Aibal.com.  Aibal is another non-niche blog.  Drop by and visit.