Friday, July 3, 2015

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #49


Danny White

In the early days of the NFL, it was not uncommon for a team's quarterback to pull double duty as a punter or kicker, but this practice was almost completely phased out by the late 1960's, when player specialization really took hold. The only notable exception in the past 50 years was Danny White, Dallas' quarterback for much of the 1980's, who also handled the team's punting for 8 seasons.

White set 7 NCAA passing records during his career at Arizona State, but was disappointed to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, who had a star quarterback in the prime of his career by the name of Roger Staubach. Dallas wanted to bring him in as a punter, but he felt he belonged at QB, so he joined the USFL for a couple years before the league folded and he decided to take Dallas' offer to play punter and backup quarterback. In that role he was a member of the Super Bowl XII champions, and even got the chance to play quarterback for a series in the fourth quarter. He spent 4 years backing up the legend in Dallas before finally getting his chance at the helm in 1980.

None of the above helped White make this list, because punting statistics were not counted toward greatness at the QB position, and he wasn't a major contributor to the championship, but when he stepped in to replace Staubach, he was almost immediately one of the top quarterbacks in the league. During each of his first three season as the starter, Dallas advanced to the NFC championship game, but fell short each time in its bid to reach the Super Bowl. For this reason, plus the fact that he was being compared to his predecessor, White has never been fully appreciated by football fans.

His best overall season came in 1982, which was shortened to 9 games due to a strike, when he finished with 2079 yards and 16 touchdowns, both #4 in the league during the short season. He again finished among the top 5 in both categories the following season, with 3980 yards and 29 touchdowns for a full season, but his team lost in the wild card round and White lost his starting job to open the next season.

When Gary Hogeboom, his former backup, began struggling midway through the 1984 season, White was reinstated as the starter and nearly got his team back to the playoffs, missing out due to a tiebreaker. The following season he led them back to the playoffs, but the season ended in disappointment again with another first round playoff loss.

In 1986, the Cowboys were in first place midway through the season and White was the top-rated passer in the league when he suffered the only major injury of his career, a broken throwing wrist, which ended his season and, eventually, his playing career, as he was never able to return to his previous form.

In the five seasons in which he was the unquestioned starter, he led Dallas to the playoffs five times, three times advancing to the conference championship game. Although he never led his team to the Super Bowl, he led one of the NFL's best offenses for most of a decade, which is why he is included among the top 50 quarterbacks of all time.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks: #50


Phil Simms

Phil Simms was the first quarterback selected in the 1979 NFL Draft, a draft that included Joe Montana, so he was often looked at as a disappointment, but he was actually a pretty good quarterback when he wasn't injured. He began his career as the Giants' starter, but saw very little success through his first three seasons, He suffered through season-ending injuries in 1981, 1982, and 1983, first a separated shoulder, then a torn knee ligament, and a broken thumb.

While recovering from his thumb injury, Simms committed himself to watching more game film, and the result was a breakout season in 1984, with over 4000 passing yards and his first Pro Bowl appearance, in which he was voted the MVP. It was also the first of three straight playoff appearances for the Giants under Simms.

The biggest reason he is on this list is his performance in Super Bowl XXI, in which the 14-2 Giants faced John Elway and the Denver Broncos, the third trip to the big game for Elway. It was the first time New York had ever played in the Super Bowl, but Simms played the game of his life, connecting on 22 out of 25 passes for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Giants won 39-20. For his efforts, Simms was named Super Bowl MVP, and his 88% completion percentage is still the best ever in a Super Bowl.

A player strike shortened the following season, and Phil and the Giants struggled to get back to Super Bowl form, but in 1990 they were finally back on track, with Phil having a great season, when Simms broke his foot in game 14 and was replaced at QB by Jeff Hostetler, who took the Giants to 5 straight wins and another Super Bowl win.

After the Super Bowl win, the Giants replaced Simms as the starter with Hostetler, and he only played after Hostetler was injured near the end of the 1991 season. He won back his starting job at that point, only to lose it again due to an arm injury early in 1992. He won his starting job back before the 1993 season and had his best season since 1988, but the Giants decided to release him following the season after he required yet another surgery, and he decided to retire rather than looking for a new team at age 38.

Simms is a player who may never have lived up to his full potential due to five different season-ending injuries, each to a different body part, but the fact is that he still won a Super Bowl for the Giants, something fewer than 40 quarterbacks can say, and he set them up for another. Maybe he didn't quite measure up to Joe Montana, but I would not go so far as to call his career disappointing, not while he owns a Super Bowl ring and Super Bowl MVP award.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Top 50 NFL Quarterbacks of All Time: Intro

4 years ago, I shared the results of a long-term project I had been working on here on my blog, the top 100 NBA Players of All Time, using statistics, playoff performance, and longevity to determine which basketball players were better than others. I unveiled the rankings one at a time from June 2011 to June 2012, and you can still take a look at them by checking the blog archive on the left side of this screen. (Click on "View web version" at the bottom first if you are viewing this on your phone.)

For the past few years I have been working on a formula for ranking the top NFL Quarterbacks of All Time, and I have spent a lot of time making sure that the players have similar credentials to those that made by Top 100 NBA list. I ran a multiple regression analysis to determine which statistics were most important in determining team success, and used the resulting formula to rank every quarterback in every season since 1932, when the league began tracking passing statistics.

Within each season, I ranked the players by average value per game, using total possible regular season games since a player is not helping his team when he is not playing. I also added in playoff statistics as extra credit, giving players who led their teams to the playoffs and those that won playoff games a little more of a boost. I then found the average value for a starter and awarded each player above that level points for how high they were above that average for the season. Players below the average were not rewarded or penalized. The players totals for each season were then totaled into a career value, which were ranked from 1 to 217. This method allows for players to be recognized for sustained productivity or short periods of excellence, with the players at the top showing sustained excellence.

One of the criteria most often used to determine excellence in quarterbacks is Super Bowl wins, with Super Bowl losses often being viewed as complete failure. While neither of these is completely true, neither is completely false either. Winning the Super Bowl, especially multiple times, is often a good sign of a great player, but some who have won the biggest game were no more than placeholders for teams that won mostly by running the ball or using suffocating defense. For this reason, there are several Super Bowl champs that did not make this list, including two-time winner Bob Griese, who was not a great passer, but ran a team with bruising running backs.

The evolution of the position has caused modern players to show up more often on this list than many of the early greats, with no player in the top ten playing before 1979, and 10 active quarterbacks ranked among the top 50 of all time. There are still several older QB's on the list, including a few who played their entire careers before the Super Bowl was even created.

I plan to begin unveiling my rankings tomorrow with #50, and will continue for the next several months. I hope you enjoy following through this process and learning a bit more about some of these players in the process.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

NBA Finals Preview

The NBA Finals start tonight, and the Warriors are making their first appearance in 40 years, led by league MVP Stephen Curry. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, are in the Finals for the first time in 8 years, but LeBron James is making his 5th consecutive appearance in the final series, the first player to do so in 46 years. I've got my odds and pick for the Finals below:

Odds of Winning NBA Finals

Warriors - 79.6%
Cavaliers - 20.4%

Most Likely Finals Outcome

Warriors in 5 - 26.9%

Least Likely Finals Outcome

Cavaliers in 4 - 1.6%

Odds of Team Winning Finals on Home Court

54.7%

Odds of Sweep in Finals

17.3%

Odds of Series Reaching Game 7

25.3%

Best Chance of Cleveland Winning

6 games - 8.1%

My Pick

Golden State in 6

Predictions

Cleveland at Golden State - Warriors by 6

Prediction Results

NBA Playoffs: 1-0 (1.000) 49-26 overall (.653)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Predictions - 27 May

Upset picks are in italics.

NBA Playoffs

Houston at Golden State - Warriors by 10

Prediction Results

NBA Playoffs: 1-0 (1.000) 48-26 overall (.649)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Predictions - 26 May

Upset picks are in italics.

NBA Playoffs

Atlanta at Cleveland - Cavaliers by 5

Prediction Results

NBA Playoffs: 0-1 (.000) 47-26 overall (.644)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Predictions - 25 May

Upset picks are in italics.

NBA Playoffs

Golden State at Houston - Warriors by 7

Prediction Results

NBA Playoffs: 1-0 (1.000) 47-25 overall (.653)