Our stats are better than sex

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jul 10, 2006



Normal football fans are excited by free beer, cheap sex and the impending arrival of yet another glorious season on the gridiron.
 
Hey, booze, sex and the crack of shoulder pads and broken limbs put a little tingle in our nether regions, too. But what really gets us off in the middle of the summer is the prospect of great new ways to analyze the upcoming season. Suffice it to say, we spend a lot of time alone in the bathroom poring over excel spreadsheets this time of year ... purely in the interest of "work," of course.
 
There are, it turns out, certain "Stats That Matter" in football that nobody ever talks about.
 
These are not the manufactured stats utilized by some other pigskin authorities that you need a physics degree and an astrolabe to comprehend. These instead are real-life, everyday stats that every football fan knows about – but they are only given careful consideration when placed in a certain context. (The Quality Wins Quotient is a prime example of a very easy-to-understand statistic whose simplicity belies its utility).
 
We'll chronicle a whole slew of new Stats That Matter this season, helping make your NFL (and, in some cases, major college football) analysis much easier and helping make you a more knowledgeable and educated football fan.
 
High on the list this year will be defensive passer rating.
 
Seems pretty simple, right? Football fans toss out the word passer rating much the way "enlightened" educators toss out condoms to third graders. But few people ever talk about defensive passer rating. In fact, if you Google "defensive passer rating," you get just nine (9!) results from all of cyberspace – and one of them is from a survey we conducted the other day that you can no longer access. (The survey asked about the most underrated statistic in football: 16 percent of you said defensive passer rating, putting it well behind alcohol by volume, at 32 percent.)
 
Passer rating, meanwhile, yields 198,000 results – almost all about how the stat allows us to measure the performance of individual quarterbacks. (The more awkward "quarterback passer rating" still yields 2,130 results.*)
 
In the ultimate team sport, it's rather remarkable that we focus so much on passer rating as the measure of an individual and not of a team. It's also indicative of the obsession we all have – and the Cold, Hard Football Facts are as guilty as anyone – with offensive statistics, often at the expense of equally important defensive numbers. But that's a story for another day.
 
The truth, we've discovered, is that defensive passer rating is almost always a better indicator of team-wide success than an individual quarterback's passer rating
 
We recently teamed up with Coach T.J. Troup, a champion of the importance of defensive passer rating and one of the nation's great football researchers. Coach Troup's research has helped everyone from Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated to Steve Sabol of NFL Films. In fact, Coach Troup is a member of the "America's Game" committee that helped rate every Super Bowl champion for an NFL Films feature that will air this fall on the NFL Network.
 
We're happy to say that Coach Troup has agreed to provide us with key data and research throughout the 2006 season. We're impressed with his research and passion for the game. You will be impressed, too, especially when you realize that his research will give you a leg up on your buddies (and your neighborhood bookie) when it comes to measuring the strength of individual teams.
 
Defensive passer rating is one of his key pieces of data. In fact, he's the world's leading authority on this and many other NFL statistics. He's chronicled the defensive passer rating of every team in the NFL, dating all the way back to 1940. His primary findings are:
  • NFL powerhouses are far more likely to have a great defensive passer rating than a great quarterback passer rating.
  • The NFL system of ranking pass defenses by yards allowed is tragically flawed.
A simple look at the 2005 season demonstrates the utility of judging defenses by passer rating rather than by total passing yards allowed:
  • Using the NFL system, Green Bay ranked No. 1 in pass defense last year.
  • Using the passer rating system, Green Bay ranked No. 26. (Anyone who watched the Packers play last year knew instinctively that they did not really have the league's No. 1 pass defense.)
  • Using the NFL system, the top four pass defenses were fielded by four of the worst teams in football: Green Bay, N.Y. Jets, New Orleans and Cleveland.
  • Using the passer rating system, the top five pass defenses were fielded by five playoff teams: Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Denver and Cincinnati.
  • Using the NFL system, seven playoff teams were rated in the top half of the league in pass defense; five playoff teams were rated in the bottom half of the league.
  • Using the passer rating system, 10 playoff teams were rated in the top half of the league in pass defense; two playoff teams were rated in the bottom half of the league.
Here is a chart that rates every team in the NFL last year by defensive passer rating.** You can find NFL yardage rankings here.
 
This is just the tip of the defensive passer rating iceberg. We'll have much more on this concept – historically and currently – throughout the 2006 season. But this chart, we think you'll find, is a great start to our upcoming season of easy-to-comprehend statistical analysis.
 
2005 defensive passer ratings (playoff teams in bold italics)
Team
%
Yards
YPP
TDs 
INTs
Rating
Chicago
56.9
3,147
5.72
10
24
61.2
Carolina
57.8
3,351
6.35
15
23
68.0
Washington
54.4
3,318
6.20
15
16
70.1
Denver
56.1
3,833
6.25
  20   
20
72.2
Cincinnati
62.4
3,749
7.22
21
31
72.8
N.Y. Jets
61.3
2,948
6.37
17
21
73.1
Tampa Bay
57.8
3,158
6.63
15
17
73.5
Pittsburgh
57.4
3,480
6.34
15
15
74.0
Dallas
54.7
3,319
6.71
18
15
75.1
Minnesota
59.8
3,539
6.64
23
24
75.2
N.Y. Giants
56.7
3,852
6.64
20
17
76.3
Baltimore
56.3
3,228
6.14
18
12
76.4
Seattle
58.0
3,861
6.76
18
16
77.4
Detroit
60.6
3,305
6.79
19
19
77.6
Jacksonville
59.1
3,223
6.69
22
19
78.0
Cleveland
59.2
3,009
6.39
19
15
78.2
Atlanta
60.8
3,394
6.45
18
16
78.4
Arizona
61.8
3,314
6.78
17
15
80.6
Buffalo
62.4
3,560
7.08
19
17
82.1
Philadelphia
59.0
3,507
6.97
24
17
82.2
Kansas City
58.1
3,862
6.91
25
16
82.3
Miami
58.8
3,682
6.71
23
14
82.4
Indianapolis
67.4
3,469
6.82
17
18
83.0
San Diego
59.6
3,888
6.86
20
10
84.7
New Orleans
57.7
3,014
7.21
20
10
86.2
Green Bay
58.6
2,876
6.69
22
10
87.8
New England
56.2
3,929
7.45
25
10
87.8
St. Louis
61.9
3,619
7.14
26
13
89.8
Oakland
60.9
3,481
7.16
18
5
90.7
San Francisco
64.9
4,620
8.02
28
16
94.2
Houston
64.8
3,727
7.95
24
7
100.0
Tennessee
63.0
3,462
7.37
33
9
100.7

* For the record, the official stat is "passer rating," not "quarterback rating." It's an important distinction, as passer rating merely measures a player's ability to pass – or, in our case here, a team's ability to defend against the pass. It does not measure a player's ability to actually play quarterback. As all Cold, Hard Football Facts readers know (yes, even you there, drinking the glass of bourbon), an ability to pass and an ability to play quarterback are not necessarily one and the same.

** The NFL subtracts sack yardage from a team's total yardage figure when determining overall pass defense rankings. Coach Troup's system does not subtract sack yardage by a defense. Look at it this way: Yardage lost via sack is not counted against a quarterback's passer rating. Couch Troup does not count sack yardage in favor of the defense. You can quibble. But, at the end of the day, teams that get a lot of pressure on the QB are ultimately going to end up with superior defensive passer ratings anyway, whether this yardage is taken into account or not. Deal with it. Another shot of bourbon might help.

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