Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Surprising Consistency

Gonzo over at Daily Norseman wrote an interesting post on the Vikings' consistency that was both enlightening and left me with some questions as well. As he points out, the Vikings' are tied for the fifth most winning seasons and the fifth most wins since the merger.

I have to admit--I was surprised to find that the Vikings were that successful. Of course, I missed the glory years under Bud Grant, but I've still seen some good teams, and I still wouldn't have guessed the Vikings were that good.

The reason, I think, is that we underestimate how hard it is to be really good in the NFL. As the chart shows, the Vikings have spent most of their time right around .500, finishing better than two games above .500 12 times in their history, the same number of times they've finished below .500.

That's what makes the consistency so striking--they've finished .500 or better almost 75% of the time and been "very good" (more than 2 games above .500) more than 25% of the time. Only four teams (the Steelers, 49ers, Cowboys and Dolphins) have been "very good" more often than the Vikings since the Purple entered the league (the Cowboys have been "very good" a whopping 21 times in the last 47 years).

So why was I so surprised to see the Vikings' that high up since the merger? I think there are three reasons--the first being that almost all of the seasons that the Vikings' were "very good" happened before I turned ten. The second is that I underestimated how hard it is to be average and above average consistently. Finishing one game above .500 isn't all that impressive during the year, but doing it as many times as the Vikings have in their history is. The same is true of finishing .500. And the final reason? They haven't won a Super Bowl. That's something every other franchise with a winning record has done, except the Browns and Jaguars (the Jags and Eagles are the only other teams with winning records since the merger that haven't won a Super Bowl). And there's the rub--the Vikings have been one of the best franchises in the NFL since their inception, but their resume is still missing a championship, and until they get one, they'll never be thought of as one of the best.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Killing Time: The Sober Guy and NFC North Notes

ESPN the Magazine has a feature article on the Vikings' newest acquisition, one Jared Allen, and on the drinking scene that is the NFL It's an interesting read and one that will hopefully assuage any lingering fears you might still have about Allen's ability to stay out of trouble.

  • The Packers are still attempting to acquire Jason Taylor from the Dolphins, but if they're going to get him, they're going to have to be creative. I'm not a big fan of seeing Taylor in the Green & Gold, but I'm not too worried about it, since the Packers already have two very good defensive ends (and KGB will be back in time for Week 1). Adding a third is almost overkill and would probably cost the Packers more than Taylor adds.
  • Daunte Culpepper turned down a contract offer from the Packers to be Aaron Rodgers' backup because he wants to start somewhere. Maybe not the best decision for Culpepper's career, but definitely the best move for my sanity.
  • Since they're a publicly owned company, the Packers' books are open and they show that the owners' concerns about the rising cost of players is a legitimate one. The teams are still making a big profit, but when your profit drops thirty some percent because your personnal costs increased by twenty some percent, well, that's something that likely needs to be addressed.
  • 25 year old defensive tackle Tommie Harris signed a four year extension with da Bears, a contract that should prevent Chicago's defense from getting too bad, even as Brian Urlacher and company get older. The contract also prevents da Bears from having to deal with another messy "Lance Briggs" style renogiation, which I'm sure people in Chicago are thankful about.
  • Da Bears will be starting a rookie running back, an announcement that wasn't too surprising after Cedric Benson was released. It says something about your running game that a complete unknown like Matt Forte is considered an upgrade before he's even put NFL pads on.
  • Matt Millon remains in charge of the Lions, and the Lions continue to remain irrelevant.

Friday, June 20, 2008

It Was a Nice Thought--SI Dooms Vikings to Miss Playoffs

That's right, in a manner eerily reminiscent of Peter King's prediction for the 2005 season, Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z himself, has picked the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl this year. Color me unexcited.

You may remember what happened after King's prediction set the land of Purple abuzz with dreams of the Super Bowl--the Vikings started out 2-5 and Daunte Culpepper began ruining his legacy as the second best Vikings' quarterback ever by throwing interception after interception and then got hurt and burned every bridge he could on his way out of town. Also, Mike Tice ended up getting fired at the end of the year even after the Purple finished 7-2. And there was that whole "Love Boat" thing. So yeah, sorry if I'm not excited about Dr. Z picking the Vikings to make the Super Bowl.

Of course, Peter King's choice came after what was probably the worst offseason in the Vikings' history. The Vikings traded Randy Moss for the 7th overall choice and Napolean Harris, used their first round choices on Troy Williamson and Erasmus James, along with a whole host of other players that also failed to last more than three years in Purple and signed Fred Smoot. That's a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, the Vikings did make one move that didn't hurt the team, signing Darren Sharper, who may have single handily prevented the 2005 offseason from being the worst ever.

In comparison, Dr. Z's pick comes after what looks like a good offseason for the Purple. Jared Allen is no Fred Smoot (hopefully) and was a much better player than Smoot was with his first team. Bernard Berrian is much more likely to upgrade the receiving corps than Troy Williamson was, and while Madieu Williams may not quite have the same track record as Darren Sharper, he should still be as big an upgrade over Dwight Smith as Sharper was over Brian Russell. Oh, and the Vikings didn't trade away the most talented wide receiver in the league.

That being said, the only reason King was wrong was because he evaluated the Vikings' offseason moves incorrectly. His three other reasons for choosing the Vikings-- that the Eagles (a better team) couldn't keep winning, because they had an easier route to home field than his two other favorites (the Eagles and Panthers) and because the NFC Champion had been in the middle of the pack the previous year--all applied to the eventual NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks.

So while I don't think Dr. Z is wrong about the Vikings' offseason moves, or about Tarvaris Jackson's ability to step up and be a decent quarterback, his pick still scares me, because I didn't think King's reasoning was all that flawed at the time. If Dr. Z is wrong about the Purple's offseason? Well, let's just say that this next offseason will likely be as tumultuous as the 2006 offseason was.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Killing Time-KG's Title, WhatIf Sports and Tiger

The first words out of KG's mouth last night? “This is for everyone in ‘Sota!”. So yeah, I think wwtb? has the right idea on how to react to the Celtics' title.

KFan has their early 53 man roster projections up and there's no real surprises. For the first time in awhile, the Purple are pretty much set at every position going into camp. Really, the only question marks are the last two or three roster spots and who's going to return punts and kicks. I can't say I disagree with KFAN's predictions, though I'd like to see Jaymar Johnson make the team as the sixth receiver/punt returner and though they didn't make any predictions about who'll be the returners, I'm going to mad if anyone besides Aundrae Allison fields the open kickoff at Lambeau Field.

WhatIf Sports has a preview up for the NFC North, and it's one we can all enjoy. The Vikings in first with an 11-5 record (and a possibility of 14-2)? Yeah, I can take that. Bernard Berrian with 71 receptions, 1,160 yards and 8 touchdowns? Yeah, I'll take that too. Tarvaris Jackson throwing for more yards and more touchdowns that Brett Farve II? Yeah, I'll definitely take that.

There's a new Vikings blog, Defensive Indifference (that's been added to my pathetically uncomprehensive links on the sidebar) and it's a good one. His thoughts on where Adrian Peterson stands historically are well worth a read, as is post comparing Tarvaris to other second year quarterbacks.

If you click on one link in this post, make it this one, which goes to Joe Posnanski's post on Tiger Woods and his victory in the U.S. Open. I'm a big Tiger fan for two reasons-the first goes back to a nickname I picked up in college, the second because I want to see greatness, and Tiger is, unquestionably, great. As someone who didn't get into basketball until the KG era (meaning after the Jordan era) I have never really been able to say "I saw the greatest when he was at his best" without throwing out some caveat (steroids for Barry Bonds, Randy Moss' refusal to always give 100%, etc. ). That's not true of Tiger. He is, quite simply, the greatest golfer ever. And I want him to blow by Jack Nicklaus' 18 Majors and Sam Snead's 72 tournament wins, so that I can know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I got to watch the greatest golfer that ever played the game and that I got to enjoy watching his entire career. That's the real reason I'm pulling for Tiger. And for once, the guy/team I'm pulling for is coming through, which is a nice feeling.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Maybe McKinnie's Suspension Won't Hurt That Bad?

Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders wrote an interesting article for about the retirement of Jonathan Ogden that might provide some comfort for Vikings' fans worried about the almost inevitable suspension of Bryant McKinnie. In the article, he argues that the loss of a Hall of Fame caliber lineman doesn't hurt a team as much as would be expected by comparing the statistics from 45 teams from before and after losing a top linemen.

Those 45 teams barely experienced a drop in their adjusted line yards and their adjusted sack rate, the stats that should be most effected by the loss of a top lineman. Now, the Vikings won't be losing a Hall of Fame lineman, but they will be losing a good one, though it won't be permanent, like the lineman lost by the teams looked at in the article.

One of the reasons for teams ability to weather losses that was advanced in the comment section is that teams were able to plan to replace lineman lost to free agency or retirement (like what the Vikings are doing this year at the center position). While that idea has some validity (which doesn't bode well for the Purple, as they haven't really done anything extra to prepare for McKinnie sitting out), those numbers include unexpected losses, such as Seahawks losing Steve Hutchinson to free agency, or the Vikings' losing Korey Stringer after he passed away in training camp, which would seem to dispel that theory (and bodes well for the Vikings).

The article itself does not advance a theory as to why teams are able to weather the loss of an elite lineman, expert for some vague mention of continuity being important. If that's true, that's probably good, since Artis Hicks, his presumed replacement, has been on the team for two years, and should have a decent comfort level with Steve Hutchinson and the rest of the linemen. Will he be as good as McKinnie? Probably not. Will he be able to step in and provide a decent replacement for the 2/4/8 games that McKinnie has to set out? I really hope so.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Purple Jesus' Chances at 2000

About a month ago, Adrian Peterson, the Purple Jesus himself, said that he wanted to rush for 2000 yards. My first reaction? He's not going to do it. And, after doing some research, I think my first reaction was the right one.

Now, I don't doubt that Peterson has the ability--I mean, after last year, could you really argue that he doesn't have the rushing talent of Barry Sanders, O.J. Simpson, Jamal Lewis , Eric Dickerson and Terrell Davis? I don't think you can do that. Even if you discount the fact that Peterson has had injury issues throughout his career (including missing the majority of three games last year), the odds are against him setting the record (it's only been done 5 times, remember), and even more so because of his teammate, Chester Taylor.

Last year, the Vikings ran the ball 494 times. Peterson lead the team with 238 carries, 81 more than Taylor's 157 attempts. Neither of those statistics bode well for Peterson's chances to crack the 2000 yard mark. Of the five backs to rush for 2000 yards, only O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders did so with less than 350 carries (332 and 335 respectively). That means that Peterson's going to have to carry the ball at least 100 more times next year to have a shot at 2000 yards, and even more than that unless he increases his yards per carry average (at last seasons total of 5.6 YPC, he would have needed 357 carries to get to 2000 yards). That's a lot of carries nowadays, even for a team as reliant on the run as the Vikings are (to put that number into context, Clinton Portis lead the NFL in carries last year, with 325). And that's a lot of carries for a team with a second back as good as Taylor. And in order to get those carries, Peterson would have to get the ball on an even higher percent of the running plays than it looks like on the surface, because Tarvaris Jackson had 54 carries, meaning the Vikings really only called a running play about 450 times.

And make no mistake about it--if Peterson's going to get to 2000 yards, he's only going to do so by taking Taylor's carries. There have been 23 running backs to rush for at least 1750 yards. Only O.J. Simpson in 1975 (1817 yards) had a teammate that had more than 150 carries (Though, to be fair, in 1973, Simpson had a teammate with 98 carries and one with 148 carries, and he rushed for 2003 yards. That team also ran the ball 605 times, something I highly doubt the Vikings will do next season).

Aside from those two Bills teams that featured O.J. Simpson, only three other running backs rushed for 1750 yards and had a teammate with more than 100 carries, and all three had less than 1900 yards. (Eric Dickerson had 1821 yards in 1986, Larry Johnson had 1750 yards in 2005 and Walter Payton had 1852 yards in 1977).

So, unless Peterson adds more than 100 carries next year (mostly by taking Taylor's carries) and maintains his yards per carry average, he's not going to be able to reach 2000 yards next year. And that's probably for the best, since Peterson would likely feel the effects of all those carries the next year, and possibly the rest of his career. All five backs that cracked 1000 yards rushed for 500-1000 yards less the next year, and Terrell Davis never played more than 8 games in a season after he topped the 2000 yard mark.

2000 yards is a good goal for Peterson to have. It's not, however, a good goal for the team to have for him, unless they want to alienate Chester Taylor and shorten Peterson's career. I think the Vikings are smarter than that. I hope they are, at least.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Killing Time--Quickly

Working on a few things (both at work and for new posts), but here are few things that I've had turn up.

First, Adrian Peterson's going to be on the cover of ESPN the Magazine for their fantasy football issue. There's a video, if you're interested (thanks to Ben for the tip). Now let's all go get some rum, cigars and fried chicken and offer it to Jobu to keep any magazine cover curses from hurting the Purple Jesus (who, by the way, can probably hit a curve ball).

Secondly, Pro Football Talk is reporting that LaCharles Bentley may be coming to Minnesota to compete with Matt Birk for the starting center job. Personally, I'm with Gonzo of the Daily Norseman here--that makes little sense for the Vikings and it makes no sense for Bentley, unless the Purple promise him they'll cut Birk, something I just can't see happening, since his injury history makes him a big question mark. I assume Bentley would rather go to some team that he'd be able to win the starting job (and there's really no way he'd beat out Birk on the field).

Finally, Paul DePodesta, the assistant GM of the San Diego Padres (and whom you may remember from the book Moneyball) has his own blog and he has a very good post on the MLB draft that is applicable to almost all walks of life, including the NFL (which is why Football Outsiders linked to it). In it, he discusses the difference between Good/Bad Processes and Good/Bad Outcomes. I think the Vikings have been put together is, generally, a "Good Process", which means that they'll be able to be successful for more than just a year or two. Of course, in football, where luck can play a much larger factor than baseball, a "Good Process" doesn't guarantee a "Good Outcome"--hopefully, it'll be enough for one this year though.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Killing Time: Current Vikings on the All Time Leaderboard

As you may have noticed, I've been playing around on Pro Football Reference lately, mainly checking out quarterbacks, but I also took a look at where the Vikings' current roster ranks among the Vikings' leaders all time. Surprisingly (since it seems most of the players haven't been in Purple that long), they are quite a few near the top of the charts.

For instance, Adrian Peterson is currently 21st all time in rushing yards, but, if he's able to match his rookie total each year, it'll only take him about 4 seasons to pass Robert Smith for the franchise record. He should be in the top 20 within a game or so (he only needs 168 yards to pass Rick Fenney) and in the top ten by the end of the season--he needs 1208 yards to pass Fran Tarkenton. And what does it say about the longevity of your franchise's running backs when your tenth and eleventh all time rushers are quarterbacks? I mean, Chester Taylor should crack the top ten this year as well (he only needs 489 yards to pass Tark), and that'll be after three seasons, only one as a full time running back. No wonder the Vikings' thought trading for Herschel Walker was a good idea.

Some more rankings:

Peterson and Taylor are 18th and 16th in rushing touchdowns, and each could crack the top ten with 10 touchdowns.

Jim Kleinsasser has the most receiving yards as a Viking on the team, with 1374 yards but he's still in 28th place all time. He would need 482 yards to pass Qadry Ismail and crack the top twenty and he would need 1848 yards to crack the top ten. Bobby Wade is second to him on the team, but he's in 59th place, with 647 yards. Sidney Rice is 78th all time. And unlike with rushing yards, one good season won't get you into the top twenty--you need 1009 receiving yards just to crack the top 50.

If you thought running back was a weak position for the Vikings, don't look at the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson could crack the top ten in all time passing yards as a Viking even if he throws for fewer yards this year than he did last year. He needs less than a thousand yards. It'll be a little harder for him to crack the top ten in passing touchdowns though, since he needs twelve, but not appreciably. Seriously, all you need to know about the all time quarterbacks for the Vikings is that Jeff George is 10th all time in passing touchdowns for the Purple, and 12th all time in passing yards. He only played in 12 games for the Vikings, and only started 10.

After Week 13, the Vikings had both the franchise leader in kickoffs returned for a touchdown (Aundrae Allison, with 1) and punts returned for a touchdown (Mewelde Moore, with 2). Of course, Allison is tied with ten other players for the lead, and Moore was tied with David Palmer. Yeah...the Vikings aren't so great at scoring on returns. Thankfully, they signed Maurice Hicks (zero return touchdowns) to return kicks!

Tackles are a weird stat, in that they haven't been recorded consistently, but E.J. Henderson and Antoine Winfield are 10th and 11th all time for the Vikings. That should be taken with a grain of salt though, since the site doesn't have a player listed on the tackles leader board from before 1983, and I have a feeling some of the players from the Bud Grant era had more tackles in Purple than Henderson and Winfield.

You should use the same grain of salt with these tidbits (sacks weren't recorded until 1982), but Kevin Williams has the seventh most sacks of any Viking. Jared Allen only needs double digits to crack the top 25, and, if Ray Edwards sets the record for most sacks in a year this season, he'll be seventh all time.

Darren Sharper only needs two interceptions to crack the top ten players with the most picks as a Viking. And yes, that was a great decision by the Packers to let him walk because of his age, though still not as bad as the Redskins decision to trade Paul Krause after four seasons for Marlin McKeever (yeah, I didn't know who he was either) and a 7th round pick. If Sharper does get those two interceptions, I'd be willing to bet that he's the only player to be in the top ten for interceptions on two different teams (he's fifth all time on the Packers' list).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lessons from the Bad Super Bowl Quarterbacks

I don't know how I managed to write a post about the worst seasons by Super Bowl quarterbacks in the modern era without writing about how they fared in the playoffs. I mean, I even mentioned Eli Manning transforming into Joe Montana after the worst regular season of any quarterback to lead their team to the Super Bowl.

It was an egregious error (Not really, but I like the word "egregious" and I like the alliteration there), and now I'm going to rectify it, and see if there's anything the Vikings can learn from it.

Worst Super Bowl Quarterbacks by QB Rating+ Since 1998

1. Eli Manning, 2007--91 QB Rating+
Eli had a QB Rating of 73.9 in the regular season. In the post season, his rating was 95.7. It helps when you go from a 23:20 TD to INT ratio to a 6:1 TD to INT ratio. The crazy thing? His QB Rating would have been higher if he hadn't had a 72.0 rating for the game at Lambeau, when it was freezing cold, which obviously effected the passing games.

2.Rex Grossman, 2006--94 QB Rating+
Grossman didn't play any better in the postseason than he did in the regular season--his 73.2 QB rating in the postseason was only .7 points lower than his regular season mark of 73.9. His yards per game were about the same, and his TD:INT ratio was only a little lower. I'm pretty sure that anybody could have quarterbacked that Bears team to the Super Bowl, and I'd bet that Lovie Smith would agree with me.

3. Trent Dilfer, 2000--100 QB Rating+
Dilfer was better in the playoffs, but not by a whole lot. He had an 83.9 QB Rating in the playoffs, and a 76.6 rating in the regular season, but that had a lot more to do with the fact that he only threw one interception and three touchdowns. And if you thought Grossman was a non factor in da Bears run, you need to look at Dilfer's stats--he only had about 18 passing attempts a game in the playoffs, only completed 48% of them, and averaged under 150 yards passing a game. If you're looking for proof that any quarterback can win the Super Bowl, here he is.

4. Steve McNair, 1999--104 QB Rating+
McNair's the only Super Bowl quarterback with a QB Rating+ under 110 that was significantly worse in the playoffs--he had an abysmal QB Rating of 65.7 in the Titans four playoff games, way down from his slightly above average rating of 78.6 in the regular season. That 65.7 included a rating of 43.1 in the Music City Miracle game (a big reason why they needed the Miracle). To put that into a context we can all understand, that's worse than the 44.2 QB rating Tarvaris Jackson had against Dallas last year. Also, I have no idea how the Titans made the Super Bowl that year (aside from riding the momentum of the Music City Miracle). Their offense was good, but not great (7th in the NFL in points), but their quarterback was awful in the playoffs. Their running game was below average (17th in the NFL in yards per attempt) and their defense was league average (15th in the NFL in points allowed). And yet, they came within a yard of going to overtime against a very, very, very good Rams team in the Super Bowl. Just goes to show that anyone can win the Super Bowl, if they can get in the playoffs.

5. Jake Delholmme, 2003--105 QB Rating+

Delholmme's the best example of a quarterback stepping his game up in the playoffs and leading his team to the Super Bowl. He had a 25+ point increase in his QB rating from the regular season to the post season (80.6 to 106.1), increased his yards per game by almost 50 yards, and had a 6:1 TD to INT ratio when it counted, a huge increase from his 19:16 TD to INT ratio in the regular season. Basically, Delholmme was Eli before Eli was, only his team didn't quite pull out the Super Bowl.

So what did we learn? Well, Dilfer and Grossman show us that a great defense, running game and special teams can carry a team to the Super Bowl, even if they have a mediocre quarterback (this is a good thing). Delholmme and Eli show us that a quarterback can get hot when it matters (Honestly, if Delholmme and Eli can do it, why can't Tarvaris?). And Steve McNair and the 1999 Titans show us that if you pull of a crazy fluke win, it can propel you within a few feet of the trophy, even if your quarterback plays like crap and you aren't really good at any one thing.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What Jared Allen's Expectation Means for Tarvaris

I like it. I like that Jared Allen expects to go to the Super Bowl. I like the confidence, I like the fact that he has high goals, and I like the fact that he's willing to go on the record with them. I know his comments likely gave Childress a mild heart attack, but still -- I like the way he thinks.

I also like the fact that Tarvaris is having more success at mini camp than he did last year. As I've been saying all offseason, the biggest factor in whether the Vikings reach their goals is Tarvaris Jackson (I know, I know-I'm not the only one who is saying that). Last year's performance wasn't good enough, even if the Purple did go 8-4 when he started. That fact becomes painfully obvious when you look at his QB Rating+, which was a dismal 87, 13 percent worse than league average.

When the NFL as a whole has a QB Rating of 80.9, the highest ever, a rating of 70.8 won't cut it. Tarvaris has to improve, but the question is, how much? What's the worst he could play in the regular season and still "lead" the Vikings to their fifth Super Bowl?

Since 1998 (when the Vikings helped turn the NFL into a passing league), no Super Bowl quarterback has had a QB Rating+ lower than 91, and that was by Eli Manning last year. Aside from him, only Rex Grossman was below average the year his team made the Super Bowl and only four other quarterbacks had a QB Rating+ less than 110: Steve McNair in 1999,Trent Dilfer in 2000, Brad Johnson in 2002 and Jake Delholmme in 2003. And if you'll notice, everyone of those teams relied on their defense, special teams and running game to get to the Super Bowl, except for the Titans, who needed a miracle to get out of the first round (Also, the Titans started Neil O'Donnell in 5 games, and his QB Rating+ was 117).

So what does that mean for Tarvaris? Well, if we assume that next year, the NFL has a QB Rating of 79.1 (which is the average of the last five years), he'd have to turn in a QB Rating of at least 72.0 to match Eli's QB Rating+ from last year. If the league has a QB rating of 80.9, which would tie it with 2004 and last year for the highest average ever, then Tarvaris will need to finish the season with a QB rating of at least 73.9, which, again, isn't much of an increase.

Getting to Eli Manning's QB rating from last year probably isn't going to be good enough, to be perfectly honest, unless Tarvaris repeats Manning's performance in the playoffs. I think it's much more likely that Tarvaris will need be at least league average for the Purple to make the Super Bowl. Even a Rex Grossman like QB Rating+ of 94 would likely require him to post a QB Rating of at least 75.0.

Can he do it? I think so. In the eight games the Vikings won with Tarvaris under center last year, he had a QB rating of 82.9, which would have given him a QB Rating+ of 102, better than Trent Dilfer's QB Rating+ of 100 in 2000. When you consider the improvements in his receiving corps, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think that Tarvaris can maintain that level of play for an entire season. If he can't? Well, then those who think that the Vikings are squandering their Super Bowl chances due to their handling of the quarterback position will be right, and Jared Allen will be wrong. I think I speak for everyone when I say that I hope Allen's the one who is right.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Ten Best Passing Seasons in Purple

I told you I'd get back to football, didn't I? Anyway, one of the things I love about the statistical revolution in baseball is how easy it is to compare seasons across eras. With the advent of OPS+ and ERA+, which normalize OPS and ERA by comparing them to the league average that year, it's strikingly easy. Football, like baseball, has changed over the years, making it exceedingly hard to use counting stats to compare individual seasons. Is it fair to penalize a quarterback from the 70s because of how little teams passed then? Or to penalize a quarterback from before the spread of the West Coast offense for his low completion percentage?

Baseball's advantage in coming up with stats to rely on for this purpose is their ability to look at rate stats that can encompass an entire performance, like OPS and ERA. Football doesn't really have a whole lot of those types of stats. In fact, football really only has one stat that's used as a catch all to describe a player's performance--Quarterback Rating (though I think I'll probably end up trying to apply this to teams as well). Of course, the stat has it's flaws (like the fact that it doesn't factor in running ability), but so do most stats, but it still allows us to use the principles behind OPS+ and ERA+ to compare individual seasons across eras. Basically, I found these by taking the QB Rating, dividing it by the league QB rating for that year (found by using the stats for the entire league) and multiplying by 100. Like the baseball stats, these stats are normalized so that a QB Rating+ of 100 is exactly average and an increase/decrease of one point of QB Rating + means it is 1% better/worse than average. For example, a QB Rating+ of 110 is 10% better than average and a QB Rating + of 90 is 10% worse than average. All of these stats are from Pro Football

So without further ado, the ten best QB Rating+ by a Vikings' Quarterback (in reverse order). The asterisks mark seasons in which the Vikings' missed the playoffs, and I apologize in advance for the tables.







LG QB Rating

Viking QB Rating

QB Rating+


Daunte Culpepper 2003*










Daunte Culpepper 2000










Tommy Kramer 1986*









Daunte makes the list three times (as you can probably guess, his 2004 season is further up), while this is Kramer's only appearance. 1986 was the only season Kramer had a QB rating over 77.8, and his 92.6 rating was the best in the league. For that, he was rewarded with his only Pro Bowl appearance and shared the Comeback Player of the Year award with Joe Montana. The Vikings' still didn't make the post season, but unlike in 2003, when a poor defense (23rd overall in points allowed) torpedoed their chances, it was the Vikings' schedule, along with two losses to 5-11 teams that kept them out of the playoffs. The Purple's other five losses were to teams that were 10-6 and better, including the 12-4 Redskins, the 12-4 Browns, the 14-2 Giants and the 14-2 Bears. Kramer did miss three games that year due to injury, including the Vikings loss to the 10-6 Bengals. A 10-6 record still would have been enough to get the Purple in the playoffs, edging the 10-6 Rams for the Wild Card spot, but considering the Vikings' lost to the Lions and the Bucs, both of whom were 5-11, with Kramer playing, it's hard to use Kramer's injury as an excuse for missing the playoffs.







LG QB Rating

Viking QB Rating

QB Rating+


Wade Wilson 1988










Fran Tarkenton 1964*










Daunte Culpepper 2004









I'll be honest--I was surprised to see Daunte's 2004 season so low here. He set the franchise record for QB Rating, Touchdowns, Completion Percentage and Passing Yards and he blew away the second best in each category. He was penalized by the fact that 2004 was an amazing year for quarterbacks (three other quarterbacks had QB ratings that cracked the top twenty all time, and Peyton Manning set the record), and the only one I've seen so far that had a league average rating that cracked eighty. Daunte was good folks. He was really good. This is an odd group of three, even aside from the fact that Daunte only made it to 5th. Wade Wilson's 1988 season probably doesn't deserve to be on here, since he only started 10 games that year, but he did make the Pro Bowl, so I figured he played enough to make the cut. Finally, the 1964 Vikings didn't make the playoffs, but not because they didn't deserve to--at the time, only the winner of each division made the postseason, and the Vikings finished second, behind the Baltimore Colts, who went on to become the last team to lose to a Cleveland team in a title game.







LG QB Rating

Viking QB Rating

QB Rating+


Randell Cunningham 1998










Fran Tarkenton 1976










Fran Tarkenton 1975









One of the things I've always been fascinated by was Cunningham's transformation from "out of football stone mason" to "star quarterback" in 1997 and 1998. And his 1998 season was special--everyone here knows that, but one of the things that I think the Vikings' offense did there was complete the transformation of the league from one where running orientated offenses ruled to one where teams had to pass to keep up. I'm going to have to look and see when that happened exactly at some point (probably soon, when I've completed my "league average QB Rating" spread sheet), but I really think that Vikings' team is one of the main reasons that the passing game is so important now.







LG QB Rating

Viking QB Rating

QB Rating+


Fran Tarkenton 1973









So now you know--if anyone asks, 1973 was Fran Tarkenton's best year as a passer, a year when he was 51% better than the average quarterback. His QB Rating+ in 1973 was so good, it was better than Peyton Manning's 2004 score and better than Tom Brady's score from last year. It says something for my system that the two best quarterbacks to play for the Purple (Daunte and Tarkenton) appeared the most often on this list, and that the best quarterback to don the Purple and Gold had the best three seasons, two of which ended in the Super Bowl, and one that ended with a whiskey bottle.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Killing Time: MLB Draft-A Look Back at 2001

I know, I know, this is a football blog. But, there's not a whole lot happening in the NFL right now, so I'm going to write about what's interesting to me (which, I promise, will be football again soon), and right now, that's the MLB Draft. Now, I don't know enough about the prospects available this year to have any idea who the Twins should be looking to select with the two first round picks they have. I'm not going to break it down like I did for the NFL Draft (though, if you're looking for mock drafts, you can find one here, here, or here and if you want a organizational breakdown, Seth has a great one at his site). Rather, I thought I'd take a look at the choice the Twins made in 2001, when they took a high school kid from Minnesota #1 overall instead of a stud college pitcher from USC, a choice, which, at the time, I was angry about.

Now, I still think that Mark Prior's career would have turned out differently had he been drafted by the Twins. He had no history of injuries prior to getting hurt in 2004, the season after he averaged, at the young age of 23, 113 pitches a start, and over 120 pitches a start in September and the Postseason. The Twins wouldn't have treated him like that. That being said, if you look at what they've done, not what they could have done, the Twins made the right choice. Using Win Shares to evaluate their careers, Joe Mauer comes out the clear leader, as he has 90 to Prior's 70. He's also playing this year, something Prior is not.

What Mauer is not, however, is the Win Share leader for players drafted in 2001. That title goes to Mark Teixeira, who was picked 5th overall, and who has 120 Win Shares. Mauer's also been passed by David Wright, who has 111 Win Shares and was picked 38th overall. Just because Teixeira has been the best on the field, however, does not mean he would have been the best choice for the Twins with the #1 pick, because the cost of the player has to be factored in.

The honor of best value likely goes to David Wright, although Mauer is a close second. Wright's been paid $7.906 million over the course of his career, including his signing bonus and he recently signed a contract that will keep him in New York through 2013 that's worth an additional $67.5 million. Mauer's been paid $16.175 million (although, to be fair, Wright's signing bonus of $960,000 would have been a lot closer to the $5.15 million signing bonus Mauer received had he been drafted #1 instead of #38) and his contract will keep him in Minnesota through 2010, at a cost of $23 million over the next two years. Those salary totals are only a few million more than the $12.5 million Teixeira is making this year, in a one year contract. Teixeira has made $39.4 million in his career, and unlike Wright and Mauer, he's going to be a free agent next year and will be receiving a huge contract, likely from the Yankees, who need a first baseman.

So while Mauer wasn't the best value of any player chosen in the 2001 Draft, he was the second best value, behind only Wright, and the third best player overall. Considering how much of a crap shoot the MLB Draft is, it's hard to complain about the Twins' decision back in 2001.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Killing Time: Please Pass on Brook Lopez

Pass On Lopez Please
When the T-Wolves ended up with the third pick, after a cursory glance at the mock drafts, I thought that Brook Lopez was the best player available. I was wrong. The Orlando Draft Camp is going on now, and while Lopez isn't playing, he did get measured and ran some drills. It did not go well.

Luckily for Lopez, he's a legit seven feet tall in shoes. (Which is good, because he'll likely be playing in shoes. Then again, when an inch can make a difference in high you're drafted, it makes sense to measure the players without shoes, so you can see who's wreaking their joints by wearing lifts like Kevin Love). Of course, the worst thing that can happen for a seven footer is to be labeled a stiff, a label that Lopez might have earned by turning in the worst time in the lane agility drill and the 3/4 court sprint (what's really sad is that Brian Butch participated in the drills). His vertical wasn't all that great either, at only 30.5 inches. That, combined with the fact that he never shot higher than 50% in a season (which, for a post player, is really, really bad-for comparison Spencer Tollackson shot over 50% his final three years, and Roy Hibbert shot over 59% his final three years) and the fact that he wasn't the best rebounder (his rebounding percentages barely cracked the top 200 last year) says that he's more likely to flop than be a star.

More Basketball
  • Flip Saunders was let go by the Pistons today. He had a reputation, deservedly so, I think, of not knowing how to coach in the playoffs. The thing is, he managed to make the conference finals four times (once with the Wolves, and three times with the Pistons). That's pretty good. And while he never made it to the Finals, he was only favored to once, against the LeBrons last year, and even then, his team didn't have the best player on the court, which, as they found out when LeBron took over the series, makes things a lot harder. Then again, a better coach probably would have figured out a way to defend the Cavs (see Popovich, Greg).
  • The Wolves have a lot more going on this offseason aside from deciding on who to select with the third pick and the folks over at the TWolves Blog discussed what they'd do if they were in charge. And yes, I think they're more qualified than Kevin McHale.

Only Tangentially Related to Football
  • Bryant McKinnie's lawyer is working on getting him into a diversion program so the charges against him are dismissed. Either way, it looks like we'll see Artis Hicks start some games at left tackle.
  • Michael Lombardi of has a blueprint for teams to follow in case 2010 actually ends up being a capless year.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Madden '09 Likes the Vikings

The ratings for the new Madden are out, and EA has high hopes for the Purple. They have the Vikings with an overall rating of 90, 2nd in the NFC North (behind the Packers...obviously, the EA folks can make mistakes), 6th in the NFC and 11th overall.

Of course, that makes sense when you consider how stacked the Vikings are on defense (and how much their offense talent skews toward the running game). The Purple have three defensive starters with ratings of 97 or higher (Jared Allen and the Williams, as you probably guessed) and three other starters with ratings over 90 (Darren Sharper, Antoine Winfield and E.J. Henderson). Six of Eleven starters with 90 or better ratings? That's not bad, especially when you factor in that two other starters in the high 80s (Chad Greenway and Madieu Williams) and the rest all have ratings above 80. Personally, I would have given Ben Leber a better rating than an 81, but that's about the only problem I have (well, that and the fact that Ray Edwards won't have a chance of setting the sack record with a rating of 83--that's Madden for you--always crushing people's dreams).

Then there's the offense, which, unsurprisingly, isn't as stacked with talent as the defense. Steve Hutchinson matches Pat Williams rating of 98, but aside from Bryant McKinnie's 96 (wonder if he'll be suspended for the first four games of the Madden season as well) and Matt Birk and Adrian Peterson's rating of 95, there isn't another player on the offense with a ranking higher than 88. The passing game is full of average players, with Bernard Berrian and Sydney Rice getting ratings of 85 and 83 respectively, and both Visanthe Shiancoe and Tarvaris Jackson fail to crack eighty. Tarvaris' 79 is the second worst rating of any starting quarterback, tied with Joe Flacco (Really? He's going to be as good as Tarvaris in his first year out of 1-AA?), Josh McCown and Trent Edwards. Only the Chiefs' Brodie Croyle is worse, with a 78. So don't expect to be able to air it out 1998 Vikings style this year in Madden. That being said, it still should be better than last year's game, when Rice was the best receiver on the team with a 78, and Tarvaris had a rating of 76.