The freaky Goth chicks of the gridiron
Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 16, 2009
Records are the freaky Goth chicks of the gridiron – sexy statistical misfits that simply don't fit in with the forgettable future Stepford Wives of analysis found on the stat sheet or the high school cheerleading squad.
That's probably why we love records so much: they're not like the other kids, they stand out from the pack and, well, let's face it: Goth chicks are easy. Break out your best black t-shirt and intense pout, crank up a little Cure and mix well with Jagermeister, and Goth chicks are good to go.
Our passion for Goth chicks and their statistical counterparts have stuck with us in our pathetic middle-aged years. So while all the cool kids were out enjoying one of the last summery weekends before football season, we broke out the old Nick Cave albums and huddled around the turntable, digging into our inner angst and the new 2009 NFL Record & Fact Book to uncover all the records under assault this year.
Here's our list.
The New Purple People Eaters
The Vikings in 2009 will attempt to become the first team to lead pro football in run defense for four straight years (based upon yards allowed). The Cowboys led the NFL in run defense four straight years (1966-69), though the AFL's Bills were actually better in one of those years.
The 2006 Vikings, the team that began the streak, were truly awesome: They surrendered just 985 yards on the ground, joining the famous 2000 Ravens (970 yards) as the only NFL teams since 1960 to surrender fewer than 1,000 yards on the ground in a season. The 2006 Vikings also surrendered a meager 2.83 YPA on the ground, among the stingiest marks in pro football history.
Of course, the Vikings are a perfect 24-24 over those three seasons leading the league in run defense – which resolutely refutes the common myth that stopping the run is a key to NFL success.
The 4,000-yard club
In the NFL, 4,000 is the new 3,000 – at least when it comes to passing yards. The return of a healthy Tom Brady, meanwhile, makes it quite likely that we could match the record of 2007, when seven passers topped the 4,000-yard mark for the season. With Brady injured last year, six passers topped 4,000 yards (Brees, Warner, Cutler, Rodgers, Rivers, Manning).
The ease with which teams pass for 4,000 yards these days is evident in the number of relative newcomers on that list last year: Rivers, Cutler and Rodgers were among the youngest starting QBs in football last year.
From the founding of the NFL in 1920 through the dawn of the Live Ball Era and the 16-game schedule in 1978, only one quarterback topped 4,000 passing yards in a season: Joe Namath in 1967.
But since 1979, there has been at least one 4,000-yard passer, and in most years multiple passers, almost every season. But now you know why Broadway Joe was such a big deal back in the 1960s, even though he threw more picks than Moses Malone.
The touchdown leaderboard
Buffalo receiver Terrell Owens and San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson enter the 2009 season tied at No. 4 all time with 141 touchdowns. They need to score five times this year to leap past Marcus Allen (145) into the No. 3 spot.
Emmitt Smith (175) and Jerry Rice (208) top the TD leaderboard. LT, with only eight years under his belt, might have the best shot of chasing down Rice. Owens has already played 13 years – though top receivers seem to be productive later in their careers than ball carriers.
Patriots receiver Randy Moss, meanwhile, is tied with Marshall Faulk at No. 6 on the all-time touchdown list (136). So it's quite likely that, by the end of the 2009, the all-time TD list will look like this:
Edgerrin James is a player without a team right now, twisting in the free agency winds despite his Hall of Fame resume and fairly youthful age (he just turned 31).
When James left the Colts in 2006, he was the most prolific offensive player in the history of the game, averaging 125.7 yards per game from scrimmage – a shade ahead of Jim Brown (125.5).
His production certainly declined in Arizona (career-low 514 rushing yards last year). But if the free agent finally lands with a new team this year, he'll quickly leap past Marcus Allen into the Top 10 on the all-time rushing list. James has hauled the ball for 12,243 yards in his career – just 36 yards behind Allen.
In fact, a number of big names are in his sights. If James returns to football and matches last year's low production on the ground, he'll also surpass Marshall Faulk (12,279 yards), Jim Brown (12,312) and Tony Dorsett (12,739) and stand at No. 7 on the all-time rushing list.
Here are the 10 ballcarriers standing ahead of James entering the 2009 season:
Emmitt Smith - 18,355 rushing yards
Walter Payton - 16,726
Barry Sanders - 15,269
Curtis Martin - 14,101
Jerome Bettis - 13,662
Eric Dickerson - 13,259
Tony Dorsett - 12,739
Jim Brown - 12,312
Marshall Faulk - 12,279
Marcus Allen - 12,243
The attack on Steve Young
Look for a massive shake-up of the all-time passer rating leaderboard here in 2009. The Cold, Hard Football Facts will certainly be watching closely
As you know, we put quite a bit of stock in the unwieldy passer rating indicator. Few people know how it's calculated (though we do, and you can calculate player and team passer ratings very easily right here on CHFF). However, despite this unwieldiness, it's been our experience that there is a very high correlation between passer rating and team success – both on offense and on defense.
So it will be interesting to see the list shake out here in 2009.
Steve Young is No. 1 all time in passer rating (96.8), while his former teammate Joe Montana is No. 5 (92.3). The rest of the top 10 is comprised of active quarterbacks:
- Steve Young – 96.8
- Peyton Manning – 94.7
- Kurt Warner – 93.8
- Tom Brady – 92.9
- Joe Montana – 92.3
- Chad Pennington – 90.6
- Big Ben – 89.43
- Drew Brees – 89.39
- Daunte Culpepper – 89.0
- Carson Palmer – 88.9
But that's not even the whole story. Players need a minimum of 1,500 pass attempts to qualify for official NFL records. And two highly productive passers will blow past that milestone here in 2009:
Philip Rivers is currently tied with Brady with a 92.9 passer rating – he needs just 72 pass attempts to officially etch his name on the passer-rating leaderboard.
Tony Romo, meanwhile, boasts a 94.7 passer rating, which puts him in a statistical dead heat with Peyton Manning. The Cowboys quarterback needs to pass the ball 193 times this year to officially enter the NFL record books. However, as we noted earlier, he made find the big numbers tougher to come by without Terrell Owens in his arsenal here in 2009.
Great postseason passers
Three of the most effective passers in postseason history are active here in 2009: Kurt Warner, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Here's the top 10 based upon postseason passer rating:
Bart Starr – 104.8
Kurt Warner – 98.9
Joe Montana – 95.6
Ken Anderson – 93.5
Joe Theismann – 91.4
Troy Aikman – 88.3
Tom Brady – 88.0
Ben Roethlisberger – 87.2
Steve Young – 85.8
Brett Favre – 85.2
There are only three quarterbacks active this year who have appeared in multiple Super Bowls. It's absolutely no coincidence, folks, that those very same three quarterbacks stand as three of the most effective postseason passers in NFL history.
However, it's interesting to note that so many of the best postseason passers played in the past. The discrepancy between the regular-season passer-rating list (eight active players) and the postseason passer-rating list (three active players) would seem to support the contention made here and elsewhere that the quality of quarterbacking in the NFL is not necessarily better than it was in the past, even though the production in the passing game today is so much greater.
Wide-receiving warrior Hines Ward
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is one of the great cult figures in the NFL today, with an intensely loyal following among Steelers fans for his clutch catches and gritty style of play – especially by the prima donna standards of the position.
The MVP of Super Bowl XL is also one of the most prolific playoff pass-catchers in NFL history.
Ward has caught 76 passes in the postseason, which puts him in a tie for No. 4 with Thurman Thomas on the all-time list.
With a likely return to the playoffs by Ward and the Steelers this year, the No. 3 spot (Andree Reed, 85 catches) and No. 2 spot (Michael Irvin, 87 catches) are well within reach.
However, it's unlikely that Ward will approach Jerry Rice's amazing record of 151 postseason receptions.
The Golden Age of Punting
Pat yourself on the back, punting aficionados: you live in the Golden Age of this underappreciated craft.
For a good half century, the Da Vinci of the Gridiron, Sammy Baugh, stood alone has the greatest punter in the history of the game: nobody had challenged his career average of 45.1 yards per pooch.
But that mark has been surpassed twice in recent years, and seems to be under assault from all directions.
Current Oakland punter Shane Lechler is No. 1 on the all-time list, with an average of 46.8 yards per punt. St. Louis punter Donnie Jones, meanwhile, edged past Baugh into the No. 2 spot last year (45.2), thanks to a tremendous season, averaging 50.0 yards trying to boot the pathetic Rams offense out of trouble.
Australia native Mat McBriar, meanwhile, who punts for Dallas, is just a shade behind Baugh with a 45.0 average in his career.
The 2008 season, meanwhile, may have been the greatest in punting history.
Jones's average of 50.0 YPP is the second-best single-season mark in NFL history, behind only Baugh's 1940 season (51.4).
More impressive, though, was the way Jones and Lechler worked with their punt coverage in 2008.
- Lechler's 2008 Raiders netted 41.18 yards per punt, the greatest net punting average in NFL history.
- Jones's 2008 Rams netted 41.10 yards per punt, the second greatest net punting average in NFL history.
Seems like practice makes perfect: Lechler and Jones have played for two of the worst offenses in football in recent years. So they and their punt units certainly get plenty of opportunities to hone their crafts.
The Jeff Feagles watch
While we're on the topic of punting, Giants punter Jeff Feagles easily holds the NFL record for consecutive games played (336) – though it's a little ridiculous to compare Feagles to an actual football player, such as the No. 2 player on the consecutive-games list, former Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall (282).
The 43-year-old Feagles needs to play three full seasons to surpass place-kicking great Morten Andersen's record for total games played (382). However, Feagles will move past George Blanda (340) into No. 3 on the total-games list this year, and is 17 games behind Gary Anderson for the No. 2 spot.
Philly's big-game defender
The Eagles dished out big dollars for defensive back Asante Samuel last year, and here's why: He has hauled in seven postseason interceptions in his career, including two last year. He returned one of those INTs for a score back in January to set an NFL postseason record with four INT returns for TDs.
With two more playoff picks, Samuel will join Ronnie Lott, Bill Simpson and Charlie Waters atop the all-time list(nine). Obviously, with three more playoff picks, Samuel will hold the record himself.
Buffalo's Old Faithful
Rian Lindell of the Bills is the only placekicker in history who's never missed an extra point (min. 200 attempts). Lindell has successfully converted all 282 extra-point attempts since joining the league with the Seahawks in 2000.
Two other contemporary kickers must be kicking themselves. They've each flubbed just a single extra point in their careers, and stand No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the all-time extra point list.
San Diego's Nate Kaeding has converted 253 of 254 extra points in his career (99.61%).
St. Louis's Josh Brown has made 242 of 243 attempts (99.59%).
The Kaeding-Vanderjagt connection
Former Colts and Cowboys place kicker Mike Vanderjagt is one of the most curious stories in NFL history: He's the most accurate field-goal kicker the game has ever seen, converting 230 of 266 attempts in his career (86.47%).
Yet Vanderjagt is best known for the big mouth and the big misses that caused both of his employers to drum him out of town and, ultimately, out of the NFL.
Kaeding is something of a Vanderjagt Lite: he's not the screaming loudmouth that Vanderjagt was known as. But Kaeding is also extraordinarily accurate – converting 118 of 137 attempts (86.13%) – second behind only Vanderjagt in NFL history.
Kaeding is also best known not for all is successes, but for his misses: he missed a 40-yarder in overtime at home against the Jets in the 2004 playoffs. The Jets won.
And he missed a very difficult 54-yarder at the end of the regulation at home against the Patriots in the 2006 playoffs: a promising 14-2 season for the Chargers ended without a single playoff victory.
It's a pretty unforgiving sport for kickers when you can stand as the most accurate players the game has ever seen, and yet be remembered not for the successes but for the small handful of misses.
Detroit's long-ball expert
Long-time Lions kicker Jason Hanson benefits from playing for one of the most consistently worst offenses in football: He's routinely asked to convert long field goals – and he routinely succeeds.
In fact, after converting a remarkable 8 of 8 field goals from 50 yards and beyond last year for the 0-16 Lions, Hanson has now kicked more 50-yarders (41) than any other player in history. He's attempted 75 kicks from 50-plus (54.7% success rate).
Place-kicking legend Morten Andersen (40) is second on the all-time list, followed by Atlanta's Jason Elam (38), who converted 1 of 2 from 50-plus last year.
Andersen was the only player to connect on eight 50-plus field goals in a single seasoon before Hanson did it last year. Andersen accomplished the feat with the Falcons in 1995.
Michael Vick aims for two rushing records
CHFF readers know that Vick broke a long-standing NFL record in 2006 – his last year in uniform – when he averaged 8.45 yards per rush attempt with the Falcons. He edged out the previous single-season mark of 8.44 YPA set by Beattie Feathers of the Bears back in 1934.
Vick in 20006 also became the first and only quarterback in history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
If Vick runs well for the Eagles here in 2009 and in 2010, he's likely to smash the current record for career average per rush attempt held by Randall Cunningham (6.38 YPA).
Vick has averaged 7.29 YPA in his ball-carrying career (3,859 yards on 529 attempts). However, he needs 221 more attempts to meet the minimum for official NFL records (750 attempts). Right now, if he reaches that minimum, it looks like he could easily surpass Cunningham's mark.
Jim Brown is No. 2 on the all-time list (first among running backs) with 5.22 YPA in his career. Mercury Morris is No. 3 (second) with 5.14 YPA.
Call him the Brees
Drew Brees completed 413 passes last year – the third most in any season in NFL history.
Brees actually owns the record already, completing 440 passes in 2007. Former Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon is second on the list, with 418 completions in his MVP season of 2002.
Brees, of course, passed for 5,069 yards last year, becoming just the second player in history to top the 5,000-yard barrier, while falling just 15 yards shy of the Dan Marino's 1984 standard.
Brees may boast the completions records, but that's partly a function of his high number of attempts.
The three most accurate passers – those passers most likely to connect with their targets – are all active here in 2009.
Chad Pennington, 65.97%
Kurt Warner, 65.42%
Peyton Manning, 64.41%
High standards for Stafford, Sanchez, et. al.
Rookie passers Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco set high standards in 2008 for this year's crop of quarterbacking newbies.
Ryan passed for 3,440 yards with the Falcons. Flacco passed for 2,971 yards with the Ravens. In the entire history of the NFL, only Peyton Manning in 1998 passed for more yards as a rookie (3,739).
Ryan and Flacco, of course, also both reached the playoffs last year.
Marino outpaces Manning
Indy quarterback Peyton Manning is well positioned to overcome record-setters Brett Favre and Dan Marino in many different passing categories by the end of his career.
But there's one area where it looks unlikely at this point that Manning will ever catch Marino.
The former Dolphins quarterback boasted 13 400-yard passing days in his career.
Manning is tied with Joe Montana and Warren Moon at second in history, with seven 400-yard passing days.
So with one 400-yard effort this year, Manning will stand all alone in the No. 2 spot – but that's still a long way to go to catch Marino.
The All-Out Manning Assault
Otherwise, though, Peyton Manning has declared war on the NFL record books and, at the tender age of 33 (shocking, isn't it?), may find himself in the top three in almost every major passing category by the end of the 2009 season.
Manning is currently tied with Drew Bledsoe at No. 5 on the career completions list (3,839). He needs 285 completions this year to jump past John Elway (4,123) into the No. 3 spot.
Manning currently stands at No. 7 in passing yards (45,628). He needs 5,848 yards to climb past Elway (51,475) into the No. 3 spot, so that milestone is likely to be reached in 2010.
Manning is currently No. 4 in touchdown passes (333). He needs just 10 TD tosses to climb past Fran Tarkenton (342) into the No. 3 spot.
And, as noted above, Manning is currently No. 2 on the all-time passer rating list (94.7). However, Manning probably needs to piece together not one but two great seasons to surpass Steve Young's record 96.8 career rating.
The Great Caretaker
Donovan McNabb remains the least-intercepted passer in NFL history.
He's been picked off just 90 times in 4,303 attempts – a rate of 2.09 percent.
To put that into perspective, Brett Favre would have thrown 142 INTs in the same number of attempts (career 3.3 INT%).
The explosive Randy Moss & Terrell Owens
The new AFC East foes – Moss plays for the Patriots, Owens joined the Bills this year – each boast nine 1,000-yard receiving seasons in their career.
Only Jerry Rice (14) can claim more 1,000-yard receiving season in an NFL career.
Moss is about as sure a bet as you get to top 1,000 yards, being paired with Tom Brady again.
Owens might not have the same caliber batterymate in Buffalo's Trent Edwards. But he boasts 1,000-yard seasons with a long list of quarterbacks, including Steve Young, Jeff Garcia, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo.
Moss, however, has the best shot to catch Rice's record: Moss is 32 years old and this is his 12th year in the NFL. Owens, with 13 volatile seasons under his belt, turns 36 at the end of this season.
Owens and Moss are also chasing Rice on the all-time TD reception list.
Rice is easily No. 1 (197). Owens is No. 2 (139) and Moss is No. 3 (135).
Chicago's return-man extraordinaire
Devin Hester has returned a remarkable 11 kicks for touchdowns (seven punts, four kicks) in his short career.
He needs just two more touchdowns here in 2009 to tie Brian Mitchell (nine punts, four kicks) for the most return-TDs in history.
Of course, it took the great Mitchell 14 NFL seasons to rack up those 13 return TDs. Hester is entering just his fourth NFL season.
Hester set an NFL record with five return TDs as a rookie in 2006. He broke his own record with six return TDs in 2007. But then he failed to find the end zone even once on a return last year.
Patriots hit the ground running
Tom Brady's Patriots own the two longest "official" (i.e., regular-season only) winning streaks in NFL history.
From 2003-2004, the Patriots won 18 consecutive games, besting the 70-year-old mark of 17 consecutive wins set by the 1933-34 Bears.
The Patriots broke their own record last year, beating the Jets in Week 2 for their 21st consecutive regular-season victory – a streak that began during the 2006 season.
The difference between the 2003-04 Patriots and the 2006-08 Patriots is a big one: the former streak was sandwiched around three postseason victories and a Super Bowl title – so the 2003-04 Patriots actually won 21 consecutive games.
The 2006-08 Patriots lost in both the 2006 and 2007 playoffs. So the "official" record streak of 21 consecutive victories was interrupted by playoff losses.
In fact, from the end of 2006 through the start of 2008, the Patriots went 25-2: the only losses were a crushing defeat to the Colts in the 2006 AFC championship game and an even more crushing defeat to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.
However, Brady and the Patriots hit the ground running here in 2009: the team won four straight games to close out the 2008 season.
Finally, we end with some conversion records that could be broken (if you read this far, you're probably interested):
Baltimore tight end Todd Heap and Pittsburgh pass-catching legend Hines Ward have each scored five 2-point conversions in their careers.
Only Terance Mathis (6) and Marshall Faulk (7) scored more 2-point conversions in an NFL career.
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