A Few Mostly Original Thoughts on Edgar Martinez and the Hall of Fame

Seahawks Update: Russell Wilson still unsigned; Bobby Wagner still unsigned.  Full stop.

Now that that’s out of way…

Randy Johnson‘s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame last week was significant for Seattle sports fans, because it was the first time somebody who played a substantial portion of his career with the Mariners received such an honor (though I did love me some Rickey Henderson in the 2000 ALDS).  And it begs the question: Who’s next?  But this actually isn’t a very interesting question, because Ken Griffey Jr. is on the ballot next year — maybe he’s not an absolute, bet-your-life-on-it lock, but I think the odds are greatly in favor of him being elected.

So if we assume Junior gets in, then who’s next after him?  This is a slightly more interesting question, but I think there is still an obvious favorite: Ichiro Suzuki.  My prediction is that he retires next year after reaching the 3,000 hit plateau — a remarkable achievement, by the way, given he was 27-years-old when he played his first major league game — and then is voted into Cooperstown on his first ballot in 2021.  I further predict that Ichiro’s 3,000th hit will be in a Mariners uniform, which is a sad prediction, if you think about what it says about the state of the M’s next season.

It’s also a sad prediction because, if accurate, it means Edgar Martinez will not be getting into Cooperstown any time soon.  This is what my baseball head tells me, even if my baseball heart disagrees.  He just hasn’t come close to the 75% vote threshold needed for induction (his high is just 36.5% in 2012).  Is this just?  Probably not.  But even the staunchest ‘Gar supporters, if they are objective, will concede that he’s a fringe candidate.

The argument in favor of Edgar is pretty simple: He was an awesome hitter — better than 99 of 100 major league ballplayers ever.  Among the 3,426 “qualified” players since 1893 (the year the mound was moved to 60′ 6″ from the plate), Edgar is tied for 34th in FanGraphs’ wRC+ stat (a decent catch-all for general era-dependent hitting goodness), with a mark of 147.  This puts him almost exactly in the 99th percentile.  And the players who have the same wRC+ as Edgar are Honus Wagner, Ralph Kiner, and Mike Schmidt, so … yeah.  Hall worthy, if you ask me.

The argument against Edgar is more complex, and it’s generally not a single argument, but multiple arguments.  I’ll give the most prominent of these arguments below, with a rebuttal — a rebuttal not so much about why the argument isn’t validate, but rather why it’s not necessarily a big point against Edgar.  I’m not contending the arguments wrong; I’m contending that they don’t carry the weight the anti-Edgar crowd (there’s an anti-Edgar crowd — right? — even if it’s just Jack McDowell) thinks they do.

1.  Edgar didn’t have the counting stats
For being a great hitter for many years, he didn’t come close to 3,000 hits (2,247) or 500 home runs (309).  But he did hit over 500 doubles and walk over 1,200 times.  And he put up over 68 total WAR and 56 JAWS almost exactly on par with the average Hall-of-Fame third baseman.  So it’s not that he didn’t have good counting stats; it’s that he didn’t have the counting stats traditional voters prefer.

Another thing to consider about Edgar is that, through no fault of his own, he did not get a full-time gig in the majors until 1990 when he was 27-years-old.  He logged nearly 3,000 plate appearances in the minors before finally playing a full season in the big leagues — and it’s not like he was struggling, he had a .944 OPS in four seasons with Triple-A Calgary.

No, the problem wasn’t Edgar, it was the Mariners’ upper management.  They allowed Edgar to be chalk-blocked by a hacker named Jim Presley.  Presley, despite being a below-average ballplayer (he was the type of low-OBP slugger who fooled GMs thirty years ago, but wouldn’t be much more than a bench bat today), was Seattle’s regular third baseman for five-plus years, while Martinez toiled in the minors.  Give Martinez another 2,500 big-league plate appearances in his mid-20s, and his career totals would look much gaudier.  But how does one account for this?  How do we adjust for grievous mishandling by management?  What’s Edgar’s xGMM?

2.  Edgar disappeared in the ALCS
It is true that Edgar hit a measly .156/.239/.234 in the Mariners’ three ALCS appearances (’95, ’00, ’01) — all losses.  The counter to this is that it’s a relatively small sample (71 plate appearances), and in another relatively small sample, the ALDS, Edgar hit equally lopsided, but in the other direction, .375/.481/.781 in 77 plate appearances.  When it comes to poor performances in the ALCS, Edgar was a victim of his own success; if he wasn’t so amazing a round earlier, his career ALCS slash line would have been undef./undef./undef., because the Mariners never would have made it that far.

3.  Edgar was just a DH
This argument is the one I find most unfair, for the simple reason in the American League that somebody has to play DH.  If the Mariners were at their best with Edgar at DH, then why should this be held against him?  Contrary to popular belief, Edgar was not a disaster at third base, when he played.  In fact, the advanced metrics paint him as better than average — he actually had pretty decent range.  It’s possible that Edgar could have played third base (or first base) deeper into his career, but the M’s had better options at the hot corner.

This is also why the position adjustment component of WAR can be tricky (and Edgar’s is very much in the red for his career because he played at DH so frequently).  It compares players to a theoretical “replacement player” at a given position.  But teams don’t have theoretical players.  They have real players and not every situation is the same.  It’s possible a player could be penalized individually for helping his team win.  For example, suppose Edgar insisted on playing third base in 1995, and let’s say, for the sake of argument, he was not great, but not awful — something like -0.4 dWAR, meaning his defense would cost the team about four runs a season more than the average third baseman.  The Mariners, in real life, had Mike Blowers play third base in ’95, and he put up -0.2 dWAR (about two runs a season surrendered more than the average third baseman).  So, in our scenario, he was a little better than Edgar would have been, meaning the team benefited from Edgar DHing and Blowers playing third base as opposed to vice-versa.  But, since Edgar DHed in 1995, his dWAR (because of positional adjustment) was -1.4.  So, individually, Edgar looks worse by a full dWAR by DHing even though his team was better off for it.  Does that make sense?  I dunno.  Like I said it’s tricky.

4.  The HOF voters can only list ten players and Edgar isn’t one of the ten best players on the ballot
This is the best anti-Edgar argument.  It’s one I mostly agree with.  If I had a vote last year, ‘Gar wouldn’t have made my ballot (1. Randy Johnson, 2. Pedro Martinez, 3. John Smoltz, 4. Mike Piazza, 5. Barry Bonds, 6. Roger Clemens, 7. Curt Schilling, 8. Mike Mussina, 9. Alan Trammell, 10. Jeff Bagwell, if you were wondering).  But the thing about this is that it’s not Edgar’s fault.  It says little about his Hall of Fame worthiness.  It’s a result of MLB’s and the Hall of Fame’s failure to account for the PED guys.  Guys like Clemens and Bonds and Mark McGwire are clogging up the ballot, siphoning off votes, without a realistic hope of getting in, because more than 25% of the electorate (as presently constituted) will not vote for any of them under any circumstances.  In the past, players of this caliber wouldn’t be on the ballot at this point, because they would have been shoo-ins years ago.  MLB and the Hall of Fame could address this very easily simply by upping the number of players a voter can select — just going to 15 would do the trick, although I wouldn’t be opposed to removing the cap altogether.

With all this said, if ever there was a time for Edgar to make a Hall push, it’s over the next few years.  In 2016 and 2017, the best first ballot guys are Griffey (yes), Jim Edmonds (no), Ivan Rodriguez (yes), and Vlad Guerrero (probably not).  After that, when guys like Chipper Jones, Jim Thome, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera become eligible, it’s going to get much tougher.  So, who knows, maybe Edgar sneaks in.  I hope he does.  But I think he probably doesn’t.

NFL Franchise Four: NFC West

Seahawks Update, 12:00 p.m. EDT, 7/22/2015: Russell Wilson still unsigned; Bobby Wagner still unsigned.

That’s about it.  So let’s kill some more time.  Last week I selected the Seahawks Franchise Four (à la what Major League Baseball did this year in conjunction with their All-Star Game); this week let’s extended it to the entire NFC West.  Here we go.

Rams: Merlin Olsen (1962-1976), Jack Youngblood (1971-1984), Orlando Pace (1997-2008), Marshall Faulk (1999-2005)

When looking at the best players in an NFL team’s history, the only real across-the-board numbers we have as assessment tools are approximate value and total Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections.  Merlin Olsen is the Rams king by all three measures (as well as by the “longest tenure on a TV drama” metric).  He has 159 total AV, five All-Pro selections, and 14 Pro Bowls — all tops among Rams players.  It appears as if Olsen was the best of the “Fearsome Foursome,” although Deacon Jones is a reasonably close second and a tough cut from this list.

The Rams of the ’70s were quite good.  They were like the Eagles of the twenty-aughts, in that they made a bunch of conference title games (five), but just one Super Bowl (a loss).  Their best player was Jack Youngblood a defensive end who made the Pro Bowl each year from 1973 to 1979 and garnered five All-Pro selections.  Just be sure not to confuse him with teammate Jim Youngblood, who, remarkably, was of no relation.

Some good quarterbacks have player for the Rams throughout the years.  I thought about choosing Bob Waterfield or Norm Van Brocklin, but they often played as a “QB platoon,” and thus they “split the vote” with me.  And Kurt Warner just didn’t have enough good years in St. Louis to make an all-time list.  This led me to go with a man who protected quarterbacks, Orlando Pace — the understated lynch pin of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”  In my opinion, he should be a Hall of Famer.

And lastly, it’s Marshall Faulk.  He gets the nod over Eric Dickerson because he played several more years for the Rams.  Plus if you look at yards from scrimmage, Faulk’s best seasons are on par with (or even better than) Dickerson’s.  Basically, I think Faulk was a little better than Dickerson.

49ers: Joe Montana (1979-1992), Ronnie Lott (1981-1990), Jerry Rice (1985-2000), Steve Young (1987-1999)

Joe Montana at the top of the list — shocking!

I wanted to go with at least one defensive player — so who better than the famously four-fingered safety?  Ronnie Lott narrowly beats out Patrick Willis, who was much better than most people think (I think).  Willis matched Lott with five All-Pro selections, and he was a Pro Bowler seven of his eight seasons in the league.  But he didn’t have as a long a career as Lott (14 years total, 10 in San Francisco), and he had no Super Bowl rings to match Lott’s quartet.

Jerry Rice: an easier choice than Montana.  He’s the G.O.A.T. — at wide receiver and arguably at any position.

Steve Young was a starter in San Francisco for eight seasons; Joe Montana for ten.  Yet Young received the exact same number of All-Pro nods (three) and Pro Bowl selections (seven).  He also had more AV, a better adjusted yards per attempt average, a better interception rate, a better touchdown rate, a better QB rating, and he was a far superior runner.  I’m not saying Young was better than Montana.  I am saying it was damn close.

Cardinals: Larry Wilson (1960-1972), Aeneas Williams (1991-2000), Larry Fitzgerald (2004-Present), Patrick Peterson (2011-Present)

The Cardinals do not have an impressive bunch of all-time greats.  Their franchise leader in AV is a quarterback your typical NFL fan as never even heard of (Jim Hart).  But one position they have been exceptionally deep in is defensive back (which is why three of the four players on this list are DBs), and the best of the bunch (so far) was Larry Wilson.  Wilson was a Hall of Fame safety who played mostly in the ’60s.  He was an All-Pro each season from 1966 to 1970 and a Pro Bowler seven times.  His number 8 is one of just five retired by the Cardinals.

From a Hall of Fame safety to a Hall of Fame cornerback.  Aeneas Williams was a bit of a surprise selection when he qualified for Canton in 2014, but a very deserving one.  He was a terrific player on some awful Arizona squads throughout the ’90s.  During Williams’ time in the NFL (1991-2004), only Rod Woodson had more interceptions.

I wanted to choose at least one offensive player — who else was it going to be?  Ron Wolfley?  (Actually Ollie Matson was awesome for the Cardinals back in the ’50s, but only for six seasons, and it was when they were in Chicago, so I leaned against picking him.)  Larry Fitzgerald is easily the best receiver in franchise history, and he almost single-handedly provided the franchise with their most exciting moment — the near victory over the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

And back to the defensive backs.  There are actually a few other DB choices here.  ’70s cornerback Roger Wehrli is a Hall of Famer; Night Train Lane played most his years as a Cardinal; Adrian Wilson is a Canton sleeper; and Roy Green, a two-time All-Pro at wide receiver, began his career primarily as a DB.  But I go with Patrick Peterson.  It’s early, but if he’s been something truly special so far.  If he keeps it up, he will be among the best of the best at his position.

OK.  That’s it.  I hope to do another division next week.  That is, unless some really news breaks.

MLB Franchise Four and Who is the Fourth Greatest Seahawk Ever?

Major League Baseball revealed the results of its “Franchise Four” voting yesterday in conjunction with its All-Star Game.  The Franchise Four is simply the four best players from each franchise as determined by the public through popular vote.  Each franchise’s ballot consisted of eight candidates determined by some pretty smart baseball people (see link), so there were no truly outrageous selections.  You couldn’t vote Joey Cora for the Mariners, for example, but there were still some obviously wrong choices.  People tend to overrate things with which they are more familiar, and since all voters had to be alive in 2015, modern-day players are overly represented in the Franchise Four — sometimes egregiously so.  Here are the five worst old-timey snubs in my opinion:

  1. Lefty Grove, Athletics.  He’s arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history and the voters took Dennis Eckersley over him, a relief pitcher who really only had six good years with the A’s — an indisputably wrong choice.
  2. Christy Mathewson and Mel Ott, Giants.  The two greatest New York Giants ever, left off the list for Buster Posey, who would have to replicate his best season for the next decade just to get in the conversation.  I mean, in three years, there is a non-trivial chance Posey is a league-average first baseman (see: Mauer, Joe).
  3. Nap Lajoie, Indians.  That Omar Vizquel — Omar Freakin’ Vizquel! — was selected over one of the five best players ever at his position and the single greatest player in franchise history — a man so good, they literally named the team after him — needs no further comment.
  4. Cy Young, Red Sox.  David Ortiz over Cy Young?  C’mon, man.  Papi was (still is?) a very good hitter, but there are literally a half dozen better selections than him.  Cy Young and Roger Clemens (curiously not even on the ballot) are at the top of the list.  But Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, and Bobby Doerr would have been better picks than Ortiz as well.
  5. Eddie Collins, White Sox.  No Eddie Collins nor Luke Appling, but both Paul Korenko and Harold Baines made it?  See what I mean about overrating the familiar?  Decent designated hitters from the last 30 years are apparently better than all-time great middle infielders from days of yore.

One thing that I will say is that they nailed the Mariners top four: Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Ichiro Suzuki, and Felix Hernandez.  That is absolutely the correct quartet.

Anyway …

All of this begs the question: If we did this for the NFL, what would the results look like?  Or rather what should the results look like?  I don’t have the time to answer this for the entire NFL at the moment (maybe in a future post), but we can do it for the Seahawks.  Who are Seattle’s Franchise Four?

The top three, I think are quite obvious — Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy, and Walter Jones.  I don’t see how any of these Hall of Famers can be omitted.  So the question now becomes: Who is the fourth greatest Seahawk ever?  And the answer depends on how you define the terms.

If we only consider feats accomplished before 2015, if we pretend the Seahawks folded after Super Bowl XLIX (a pretty lousy way to go out, huh?), if that’s the case, then I would select Jacob Green as the fourth best Seahawk ever.  He was a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, the franchise’s all-time sack leader by a comfortable margin, and an integral part of the team’s success in the mid-’80s.  He’s my pick, but I think you could go with at least a half dozen other players and not be “wrong.”

Green’s longtime line-mate Joe Nash would be a fine selection, as would cornerback Dave Brown and safety Kenny Easley from those same defenses.  (Easley is a particularly compelling candidate — a three time All-Pro, but in a very short career.)  Sticking on defense, Eugene Robinson would be a sneakily decent choice.  On offense, I wouldn’t balk at Matt Hasselbeck — he was a three-time Pro Bowler, and he led the Seahawks to their first ever Super Bowl after all — nor Shaun Alexander.  Let’s not let our most recent memories of Alexander — running three yards and falling down upon the slightest bit of contact — obscure his outstanding half-decade stretch from 2001-2005.

If we open up the competition a bit more to included current players, and we extrapolate their careers with the Seahawks (very conservatively — no assuming Russell Wilson quarterbacks the team to five more Super Bowl victories), then I think things get much more interesting.  And I see it as a three-man race for that fourth spot between Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Russell Wilson.  You could maybe throw in Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, and/or Michael Bennett, but it’s tough to see any of these guys overtaking the TSW triumvirate.  History tells us Beast Mode is likely to fade soon (if he doesn’t retire first), and Wagner and Bennett aren’t quite at the Sherman-Thomas level on defense, and they suddenly have questionable futures with the team to boot.

And after some deep contemplation, I go with Richard Sherman.  I think the Seahawks defense has been more integral to its success than the offense, and I think Sherman and Thomas are both among the top two players at their respective positions, Wilson clearly isn’t at this level, so I eliminate Wilson based on these two contentions.  Between Sherman and Thomas, it’s essentially a coin flip, but I land on Sherman.  He ranks higher by Approximate Value, and my gut, informed by watching every Seahawks game for the past five years, tells me Sherman is a skosh more valuable than Thomas.  Plus, Sherman made the most iconic play in franchise history.  That’s not a good reason to pick him in and of itself, but it is a decent enough tie-breaker.

So there you have it: The fourth greatest Seahawk ever is Jacob Green … unless it’s Richard Sherman.

Seahawks 2005-2013: Fastest Super Bowl Roster Turnover

The Seahawks, as you probably remember, qualified for the Super Bowl in the 2005 season and in the 2013 season.  In fact, they won the latter, and then they made it back the next season for a third time, but neither of those details is relevant to this post.  I just want to look at the 2005 and 2013 teams — specifically the fact that they had mutually exclusive personnel.  No player was on both teams.  The roster had completely turned over from 2005 to 2013.  Heck,only two players on the ’13 squad were even in the league in 2005 (Chris Clemons and Heath Farwell), let alone on the Seahawks.  The closest man to being on both teams was Brandon Mebane who joined the ‘Hawks in 2007 as a rookie and still plays with them today.

This got me thinking: Is there a franchise that has had two unique conference champions over a shorter time frame than the Seahawks’ span of eight years?  The answer (somewhat) interestingly is no.  When it comes to complete Super Bowl roster turnover, no franchise did it faster than the Seahawks from 2005 to 2013.

In fact, no other franchise did it in under a decade.  The next fastest is Washington from 1972 to 1982.  In ’72, head coach George Allen took the ‘Skins to their first Super Bowl.  In ’82, Joe Gibbs led a completely different roster to the franchise’s first championship; the longest tenured ‘Skin on the team, place kicker and league MVP Mark Moseley (seriously) had been in Washington “only” since 1974.  The New England Patriots also turned over Super Bowl rosters relatively quickly — 11 years, 1985 to 1996.  The closest man to bridging the gap was left tackle Bruce Armstrong who joined the team as a rookie in 1987 and retired as a Patriot in 2000.

The franchise that made the Super Bowl twice in a span of fewer than eight years and had the most turnover is the New York Giants from 2001 to 2007.  Just six seasons after getting crushed by the Ravens in Super Bowl XXV, the G-Men had a completely new roster for their upset in Super Bowl XLII, save three men: Hall of Famer Michael Strahan, Hall of Very Good-er Amani Toomer, and Hall of Decent Enough-er Rich Seubert.

None of this information is particular deep; it’s for “entertainment” purposes only.  But it does help illustrate two things about the Seahawks franchise:

  1. Mike Holmgren did a very good job turning a perennially mediocre franchise into one of the best teams in the NFC for the better part of a decade.  But for a few things completely outside his control (namely missed field goals and lopsided officiating), he likely would have delivered Seattle its first Lombardi Trophy.
  2. John Schneider and Pete Carroll have done some amazing, unprecedented things when it comes to quickly building a winning NFL franchise from scratch.  Yes, the way last season ended was a karate kick to the groin, but let’s not allow that to spoil the entire gallon of mile.  (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?)  Seahawks fans are quite lucky right now.  Let’s just hope it continues in 2015.

Peak Numbers, Career Numbers, and the Eyeball Test: The Top 25 Running Backs of the Super Bowl Era (Part II)

Last entry I ranked 60 running backs of the Super Bowl Era according to a system I devised that utilizes three main criteria: 1) peak numbers, 2) career numbers, and 3) the eyeball test.  This week I’m going to go through each player in the top 25.

25.  Steven Jackson
Jackson narrowly edges Clinton Portis for the 25th spot, and I wish it was the other way.  I think Portis was the superior back.  Jackson was remarkably durable, putting up eight straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2005-2012, but he only had one truly special season — 2006 when he ran for over 1,500 yards and added over 800 more through the air on a whopping 90 receptions.

24.  William Andrews
A powerful dual-threat for the Atlanta Falcons for four seasons in the early ’80s.  He wrecked his knee after the 1983 season, and subsequently played just one more season, as an H-back in 1986.

23.  Roger Craig
I would put Roger Craig in the Hall of Fame.  I think he’s underrated because so much of his production came through the air.  For some reason people like the “pure runner” more than the receiving running back.  But if you put Craig’s overall production up against the “weaker” Hall of Famers, he rates very well.  I’m not saying he’s a Canton shoo-in — just that I lean “yes.”  Plus, he’s the greatest running back in NFL history who has the same name as a baseball manager who was managing a team to the World Series in the same city in which he was playing and in the same year as his team went to the Super Bowl.

22.  Chuck Foreman
If Roger Craig is underrated, then I don’t know what to call Chuck Foreman – quantum-rated?  beneath-rated?  I guess we will just have to go with way underrated.  Foreman didn’t get a single vote point in the G.O.A.T. running back crowd-sourcing ballots, meaning he wasn’t in any voter’s top 20.  This is utterly absurd being that he was the most productive back in the NFC during a half-decade stretch in the mid-’70s (1973-1977).

21. Priest Holmes
You might think he didn’t do it long enough to make the top 25, and you might be right, but probably not.  Holmes only had three big seasons (2001-2003), but one of those was terrific (2001), and the other two were beyond terrific — among the greatest seasons of all time.  And he put up half of a fourth great season in 2004 before getting hurt and essentially ending his career.  Also, people sometimes forget that Holmes wasn’t a chump before he came to Kansas City.  He had a 1,000-yard season with Baltimore as an undrafted rookie in 1998, and he was a solid contributor on the ’99 team and the Super Bowl-winning ’00 squad.

20.  Ottis Anderson
Like Steven Jackson, this is a guy I would kick out of this list, if I was ranking backs just by my “wits.”  (I’d go with Herschel Walker over him.)  But he was Super Bowl MVP with the ’90 Giants, and he had some legitimately tremendous years with the St. Louis Cardinals in the early ’80s.  So, OK, it’s not an egregious offense that he’s on the list at number 20.

19.  Lydell Mitchell
More so than Roger Craig, more so than Chuck Foreman, Lydell Mitchell has not gotten his just due from football fans.  In the mid-’70s, he was Marshall Faulk without the glamour.  From 1975 to 1977, Mitchell racked up over 1,000 rushing and 500 yards receiving (he led the NFL in receptions twice), and yet not a single voter ranked him in his or her top 20.  Mitchell’s career was relatively short, but his peak was higher than most players’ on this list.

18.  Ricky Watters
He really got dogged by the whole “For who? For what?” quote, but the truth is the Eagles really missed him when he was gone.  He provided the Seahawks with some excellent production (three straight seasons of more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage) before Shaun Alexander took over.  And then of course there was his terrific early years in San Francisco with the Steve Young-Era 49ers.

17.  Terrell Davis
Davis only had four productive seasons in the NFL, but three of them were All-Pro efforts.  Throw in his two Super Bowl victories, his 2,000 yard season, and the fact that he was arguably the best offensive player (not just running back) in the league in 1997 and 1998, and, yeah, I’m fine with him being ranked 17th.  Davis was a big crowd favorite, and it’s easy to see why.

16.  Tiki Barber
Barber is the player whose numbers most outweigh his reputation.  Very few people ranked Tiki high on their ballots, but his yardage totals, both during his prime and over the course of his career, are outstanding.  In 2004 and 2005, he led the NFL in yards from scrimmage, and in 2006, his final season, he finished fifth and went over the 2,000 mark for the third straight season.  Tiki Barber was really, really good.  Why doesn’t he get more love?

15.  Franco Harris
More than a little overrated because he played for a great team that won a bunch of Super Bowls, and because he made one of the most famous catches in NFL history, but Franco was still quite good.  Number 15 feels too high to me, but I think he belongs on this list somewhere.  I mean, he did have eight 1,000-yard seasons in a 13-year career with the Steelers … and the Seahawks.  Don’t forget the Seahawks.

14.  Edgerrin James
Detractors of Edge will point out that he played in Peyton Manning‘s high-powered offense his entire prime.  Supporters will point to every other running back Manning has ever had.  I mean, Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, and Knowshon Moreno were/are all perfectly cromulent backs, but they never came close to James’ production with or without Manning.   You don’t put up 4,442 yards from scrimmage in your first two seasons, just because you have a great quarterback.  You have to be damn good yourself too.

13.  Marcus Allen
Four outstanding seasons to start his career, then a decade of good-but-not-great play.  For most his career, Marcus Allen was not the dominant  back people remember.  But what separates him from a typical overvalued compiler (say, Jerome Bettis) is that he did have a few seasons in which he was arguably the best back in his conference (e.g.,1983).  Oh, and he also had that one run in the Super Bowl.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Yeah, that one.

12.  Curtis Martin
If you judge a player by how good he was in his worst seasons, then Curtis Martin was among the best of the best.  In an 11-year career, his only below average season was his last one, and he got hurt part way through it, with an injury Wikipedia uses the adjective “bone on bone” to describe.  (And he was an All-Pro for the only time in his career the season before that.)  Martin never threatened to be the best back in the game, but he was better than many of the other “longevity guys,” like Ottis Anderson and Steven Jackson, because for him longevity did not equal mediocrity.  His lean years were still pretty fat.

11.  Tony Dorsett
Dorsett helped the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory as a rookie in 1977, and then he was one of the top halfbacks in the league for the better half of the next decade.  He also once scored a 99-yard touchdown on a play in which his team only had ten guys on the field.

10.  Thurman Thomas
He’s ranked a few spots too low, in my opinion.  People don’t realize how good a dual-threat Thurman Thomas really was (both in real life and on Tecmo Super Bowl).  From 1989 to 1992, he led the league in yards from scrimmage each season.  If you toss in his ’93 season, which was also pretty good, that’s a five-year stretch in which he legitimately challenged Emmitt and Barry for the running back championship belt.  Thomas was right with the elite of the elite for a solid half decade.  After that his play quickly deteriorated, which is way he’s “just” a Hall of Famer and not a top-five guy on this list.

9.  Earl Campbell
The most overrated running back on the list, in my opinion.  He had a relatively short career, and his prime years were not on par with the other “big peak only backs” ranked behind him — Andrews, Holmes, and Davis.  He rates this highly almost completely because of the crowd-sourcing votes.  I think people see the fact that he led the NFL in rushing yards his first three seasons, and they watch the highlights of him bowling over people (namely Isiah Robertson), and they get excited and don’t look at his downside — he provided almost no value as a pass receiver (he average about 90 receiving yards a season) and that his bruising style meant he was washed up before he turned 30.  By no means am I denying that Earl Campbell was a fantastic player; I’m just saying that among the greats, I think he should be dropped down ten to 15 spots.

8.  Adrian Peterson
If his career was over, I’d say he was also ranked too high, but it’s not, and if we project out just a little bit, number eight seems just about right for A.P.  He’s the only active player on this list other than Steven Jackson, and with Jackson you really have to stretch the definition of “active.”  He’s still in the league, but active is a very generous description of him these days.

7.  O.J. Simpson
O.J. is comfortably ahead of A.P., both in terms of gridiron production and off-field transgressions.  (Sorry, I had to.)  An interesting thing about O.J.’s career is that if you graphed it, his peak would actually look like a mountain peak.  He wasn’t great immediately out of college, he had three “warm up” seasons, and then he had three seasons at the end of his career in which he was clearly washed up (remember O.J. the 49er?).  But for the five years in between, he was phenomenal — a four-time rushing champion, a five-time All-Pro, and a single-season record setter in rushing yards (2,003 in 1973) and yards from scrimmage (2,243 yards in 1975), both of which still stand today, prorated for a 16-game season.  Simpson was the man.  If only he stayed out of the news after football.  No, wait — if only he stayed out of the news after The Naked Gun.  As a kid, I thought he was hilarious in that movie.

6.  Eric Dickerson
His first two seasons were legendary.  In 1983, he set a rookie record by running for 1,808 yards, and then the next season he set the NFL record with 2,105 rushing yards.  (Both records stand today.)  And there was much more Rec Specs-wearing excellence to come.  After a down year in ’85 — in which he missed two games due to a contract dispute — Dickerson came back with another 1,800-yard season in 1986.  His status with the Rams then became untenable, and he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts with whom he led the NFL in rushing for a fourth time, before eventually fading into running back oblivion.  Although people tend to remember his fall from grace in Indy, they often forget that he was quite good for nearly three full seasons with the Colts before that happened.  (He also played a season with the Raiders and one with the Falcons, but at that point he really was completely washed up.)  He doesn’t quite crack the top 5, but when he was on his game — slicing through defenses with his straight-up running style — he gave you the impression nobody could possibly be better.

5.  Marshall Faulk
You could basically flip a coin between Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson — both were amazing dual-purpose threats.  Faulk began his career in Indianapolis, where he was just your garden-variety superstar, but then he was traded to the Rams, with whom he turned into the ball carrier in the “normal play” on John Elway’s Quarterback.  From 1999 to 2001, Faulk ran for at least 1,300 yards and added at least 700 more through the air.  He also accomplished just the second 1,000/1,000 season in NFL history and won an MVP Award.  I don’t think it’s hyperbole to call this the greatest three-year stretch of any running back of the Super Bowl Era.

4.  LaDainian Tomlinson
Speaking of greatest things from running backs of the Super Bowl Era, it’s tough to beat LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2006 campaign — 1,815 yards rushing, 508 yards receiving, 31 touchdowns, 26 AV — when it comes to single-season dominance.  And the amazing thing is that it wasn’t that much better than any of his other top-five seasons.  He narrowly edges out his NFL Network compatriot for the number four spot and is narrowly edged out by the NFL’s all-time leading rusher for a place on the medal podium.

3.  Emmitt Smith
The popular perception of Emitt Smith seems to be that his success in his prime years of the early ’90s was owed mostly to his outstanding Cowboys teammates, and then he was just a good-but-not-great compiler after that.  I think this is all wrong.  Although it’s difficult to prove definitively, my feeling is that he was actually the foundation of those great Dallas offenses, supporting everybody else.  (The Derrick Lassic experience certainly adds some credence to this notion.)  And while it’s true that the rushing record was largely a product of his ability to hang on and get regular carries late in his career when he was a replacement-level back, that shouldn’t negate his remarkable peak.  Emmitt is often put side-by-side with Barry Sanders, and I think up until 1996, Emmitt was actually winning the race.

2.  Barry Sanders
But Barry caught him, surpassed him, and then abruptly retired.  In a ten-year career, Sanders had ten 1,000-yard rushing seasons, ten Pro Bowl appearances, and six All-Pro selections.  Yes, I know he had that one playoff game in Green Bay, where he ran for negative one yard, but the season before that he went for 169 against the same team, and the Lions still lost, so … yeah.  Anyway you slice it, it’s tough to beat Barry.

1.  Walter Payton
Which is why only one man does — the one they called “Sweetness.”  Walter Payton was like Tim Duncan in that his peak was outstanding and then his later years were nearly just as good.  His two best seasons (1977 and 1985) came eight years apart.  In 1977, he led the NFL in rushing (1,852) and total yards (2,121), and in 1985 he was nearly the entire offense of one of the greatest teams in NFL history — again racking up over 2,000 total yards (2,034) and leading the Bears in both rushing yards (1,551) and receptions (49).  It’s true that he didn’t get a touchdown in the Bears’ Super Bowl blowout victory of the Patriots, but he did a ring, and if you ask Irving Fryar which one he would rather have, I think you know what the answer will be.  Super Bowl score or otherwise, you can sum up Walter Payton’s career quite simply: He was the best.

Peak Numbers, Career Numbers, and the Eyeball Test: The Top 25 Running Backs of the Super Bowl Era (Part I)

Running backs have been on my mind lately.  In part this is because Dave Dameshek listed his top-25 running backs of the Super Bowl Era on his football program a few episodes ago, and in part it’s because I read this interesting article at Football Perspective, in which running backs are ranked according to their career “yards from scrimmage over ‘worst starter’ baseline” (described in a bit more detail below).  Being as such, I decided to make my own top-25 running backs list.  It’s given below.  But before we get to it, let’s go through the criteria.  (Or you can just scroll down to the list if you like;  honestly, I’m powerless to stop you.)

I used three main criteria in judging the Super Bowl Era running backs: peak numbers, career numbers, and the eyeball test.  Here’s what I did for each one of these criteria.

1. Peak Numbers
For this I used the “yards from scrimmage over ‘worst starter’ baseline” given in the link above.  This stat is calculated as follows: each year a player’s yards from scrimmage is subtracted from the “worst starter’s” total, and the difference is his yards from scrimmage over ‘worst starter’ for the year.  (It’s zero if his yards from scrimmage is below the worst starter baseline.)  Add up a player’s yearly tallies, and you have his career total.

I like this stat because: a) it uses yards from scrimmage instead of just rushing yards (I don’t see much difference in a player catching a pitch and running it 50 yards and a player catching a screen pass and running it 50 yards); b) although it’s a career total stat, it is heavily weighted in favor of players with big peaks and against players who compiled yards by playing a bunch of years when they were nothing special.  For example, if you look at the table in the linked article, you will see Priest Holmes rates much higher than Jerome Bettis by this stat, because, although Holmes’ prime only lasted three years, each season in his prime was much more productive than any season Bettis ever had in his 13-year career.

2. Eyeball Test
I watch as much football as anybody, but there is no way I could closely watch every good running back of the Super Bowl Era, especially considering many of them played most their careers before I even knew was football was.  As I result, I’m using the eyeballs of many football fans.  A few months ago, Football Perspective did a crowd-sourcing article on the G.O.A.T. running backs.  I used their results for my “eyeball test.”  It’s really more of a vote, but I think it works well enough.

3. Career Numbers
For this I just used the old stand-by: Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value (AV).

Combination of All Three
I first made a list of 60 eligible running backs, and looked at how each one performed relative to the others in each of the three categories.  I considered each category as a “stat pie” and calculated how much a player contributes to each pie.  I then weighted the categories: 60% Peak Numbers, 30% Eye Ball Test, 10% Career Numbers.  (Admittedly these are subjective weights on my part, but they seem reasonably in line with what people usually think of when they hear the phrase “great running back.”)

For example, in the table below Walter Payton is ranked as the greatest running back of the Super Bowl Era (spoiler alert!).  He played from 1975 to 1984; he had 8,914 yards from scrimmage over the “worst starter” baseline (Criterion 1); he received 742 vote points from the crowd (Criterion 2); and his approximate value is 168 (Criterion 3).  At the bottom of the table you see the totals across all 60 running backs for Criteria 1-3: (1) 199,064; (2) 7,107; (3) 5,961.  Hence, Payton contributes 4.47% (8914 / 199064) to Pie 1; 10.44% (742 / 7107) to Pie 2; and 2.81% (168 / 5961) to Pie 3.  His final percentage, using my weights, is thus 6.10% (4.47 * 0.6 + 10.44 * 0.3 + 2.81 * 0.1).  So, in a sense, Walter Payton’s greatness accounts for a little over 6% of the total greatness of the 60 candidates, which is pretty damn good, being that if everybody was equal this number would only be 1.67%.

Name Start Yr. End Yr. Yscrm* Vote Pts. AV Final %
1 Walter Payton 1975 1987 8914 742 168 6.10
2 Barry Sanders 1989 1998 7351 748 150 5.62
3 Emmitt Smith 1990 2004 5829 604 170 4.59
4 LaDainian Tomlinson 2001 2011 6312 544 157 4.46
5 Marshall Faulk 1994 2005 5842 528 166 4.27
6 Eric Dickerson 1983 1993 5260 561 110 4.14
7 O.J. Simpson 1969 1979 5139 551 116 4.07
8 Adrian Peterson 2007 2014 3789 388 89 2.93
9 Earl Campbell 1978 1985 2947 447 78 2.91
10 Thurman Thomas 1988 2000 4961 272 138 2.87
11 Tony Dorsett 1977 1988 4947 269 138 2.86
12 Curtis Martin 1995 2005 4768 240 128 2.66
13 Marcus Allen 1982 1997 3675 260 142 2.44
14 Edgerrin James 1999 2009 4411 115 136 2.04
15 Franco Harris 1972 1984 3516 126 134 1.82
16 Tiki Barber 1997 2006 4999 19 118 1.78
17 Terrell Davis 1995 2001 3019 148 79 1.67
18 Ricky Watters 1992 2001 4328 6 125 1.54
19 Lydell Mitchell 1972 1980 4027 0 101 1.38
20 Ottis Anderson 1979 1992 3617 5 98 1.28
21 Priest Holmes 1997 2007 3140 40 94 1.27
22 Chuck Foreman 1973 1980 3602 0 92 1.24
23 Roger Craig 1983 1993 3296 11 115 1.23
24 William Andrews 1979 1986 3659 0 75 1.23
25 Steven Jackson 2004 2014 3357 9 91 1.20
26 Clinton Portis 2002 2010 3362 11 82 1.20
27 Matt Forte 2008 2014 3441 0 80 1.17
28 Fred Taylor 1998 2010 2726 31 125 1.16
29 Herschel Walker 1986 1997 3183 9 98 1.16
30 Shaun Alexander 2000 2008 2934 21 79 1.11
31 Ahman Green 1998 2009 3172 0 93 1.11
32 Jerome Bettis 1993 2005 2285 51 102 1.08
33 Frank Gore 2005 2014 2846 11 95 1.06
34 Chris Johnson 2008 2014 3055 3 75 1.06
35 Lawrence McCutcheon 1972 1981 2998 0 85 1.05
36 John Riggins 1971 1985 2014 55 121 1.04
37 Eddie George 1996 2004 2774 7 91 1.02
38 Marshawn Lynch 2007 2014 2187 51 76 1.00
39 Ray Rice 2008 2013 2915 0 70 1.00
40 Leroy Kelly 1964 1973 2448 19 102 0.99
41 Jamaal Charles 2008 2014 2707 16 66 0.99
42 Wilbert Montgomery 1977 1985 2755 0 81 0.97
43 Corey Dillon 1997 2006 2292 25 91 0.95
44 Larry Brown 1969 1976 2582 0 91 0.93
45 Arian Foster 2009 2014 2764 0 59 0.93
46 Jamal Lewis 2000 2009 2452 11 83 0.92
47 Ricky Williams 1999 2011 2451 5 90 0.91
48 Billy Sims 1980 1984 2522 0 63 0.87
49 Maurice Jones-Drew 2006 2014 2384 0 84 0.86
50 LeSean McCoy 2009 2014 2421 0 62 0.83
51 Brian Westbrook 2002 2010 2248 0 80 0.81
52 Greg Pruitt 1973 1984 2104 0 81 0.77
53 Gerald Riggs 1982 1991 2079 0 65 0.74
54 Warrick Dunn 1997 2008 1648 6 122 0.73
55 Charlie Garner 1994 2004 1953 0 84 0.73
56 James Brooks 1981 1992 1798 0 103 0.71
57 Bo Jackson 1987 1990 500 120 24 0.70
58 Larry Johnson 2003 2011 1937 0 56 0.68
59 Earnest Byner 1984 1997 1636 0 106 0.67
60 Larry Csonka 1968 1979 786 22 88 0.48
Total 199064 7107 5961 100

As you can see, the top-25 runs from Payton to Steven Jackson.  I think this method nailed the top five (going by my gut, those are the five I would choose in order), but there are definitely some things I’m surprised by.  I’ll get into these in detail in Part II next week.

A Brief Post on the Seahawks Quarterback Situation

The Russell Wilson contract talks continue to play a prominent role in Seahawks-related media only because there isn’t much else to talk about.  Football fans today want to discuss NFL matters all year, not just during the football season, and the thing about that is that you quickly run out of new things to say (which is one reason I like to put up posts about Seahawks history on this site during the off-season — there is always something new going on in the past).  So speculating on the future contract of the greatest quarterback in franchise history and one of the brightest young stars in the game is just as good a topic as anything else.  (If you want to read other articles on this front, click here or here.)

But the truth is, the Wilson contract is not really a huge deal, because, as I understand it, the two sides effectively have three years to get it done.  2015 is still a part of Wilson’s rookie deal, and then, if need be, the ‘Hawks can franchise him for two seasons at essentially market price.  (The third year his franchise tag cost would be so exorbitant the ‘Hawks couldn’t afford it — much like the Lions with Ndamukong Suh this season.)  Three years is a pretty good chunk of time.  If your team extends a star player on the brink of free agency for three seasons, you exhale: Yes!  He’s still ours for awhile!  Yet, with Wilson and the Seahawks, the public perception is that the pressure is on to get a deal done now, now, now.  Like I said, this is a June story.

Mostly…  From the perspective of the Seahawks (and their fans), there is some downside — apart from general fear of the unknown — in allowing Wilson to finish out this season without a long-term deal.  It greatly reduces the Seahawks’ flexibility with other negotiations.  If the ‘Hawks are forced to franchise Wilson, they cannot franchise another player.  (Again, as I understand it — NFL contracts are so complex, I always feel the need to tack on that caveat.)  So what happens if Bobby Wagner also doesn’t sign a long-term deal?  And what about Russell Okung, who is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season?  A Wilson contract — signed, sealed, and delivered — would allow the ‘Hawks to plan more effectively, and it would save their franchise chit for another player.  To sum things up: A long-term Wilson deal this year would be a very good thing, but the inverse is not true.  Lack of a long-term deal this year is not a very bad thing; it’s more like a moderately significant hindrance.

In other Seahawks quarterbacking news, word on the street has it that Tarvaris Jackson is coming back.  The terms are not included in the linked story, but, being that he was an unrestricted free agent and nobody really wanted him, I’m guessing it will not be for big money.  This is a good thing.  T-Jax is certainly not a good starting-caliber quarterback, but he is also not a disaster.  Throughout his career he’s been essentially a .500 QB (in fact, his lifetime record is 17-17).  If we discount a bit for age and rust (he’s only thrown 15 passes in the NFL over the last three seasons), then that would put him at the somewhat-below-average level.  That’s hardly a tombstone-worthy epithet (Here lies Tarvaris D. Jackson: Somewhat Below Average NFL Quarterback.  R.I.P.), but it’s good enough to hold down the fort if Russel Wilson gets hurt and has to miss a few games.  With all the other pieces the ‘Hawks have in place, they could still scrap out victories with T-Jax under center.  For a backup, you can’t really ask for much more.  Well, you can ask — you can ask for the next Steve Young or Kurt Warner — but that’s not very realistic.  Tarvaris Jackson is not these players.  He’s more like Charlie Batch – and for now that’s good enough.

Off-Season Olio: Best Quarterbacking Team Ever

Which team has had the greatest collection of quarterbacks in NFL history?

This was the question posed by the eponymous host of The Dave Dameshek Football Program on his Tuesday podcast.  Shek and the gang devoted most of the show to discussing it, and it got the blood in the football portion of my brain flowing.  So I decided to try my hand at answering it in my own way.

Here’s what I did.  I took the top three quarterbacks on each team according to a combination of career approximate value (AV), championships won, and championship appearances, and then I added the sum from each QB to get a grand total for each team.  I multiplied the AV of current quarterbacks by a “currency factor,” so that they could compete on a somewhat even playing field with retired players who had played many more seasons than them.  I made a championship worth 15 AV, and a championship game loss worth 5 AV.  So for example, the top three Seahawks quarterbacks are given in the table below:

Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Krieg 97 0 0 1 97
Hasselbeck 94 0 1 1 99
Wilson 51 1 1 3 173

Dave Krieg had 97 career AV with the Seahawks, no championship wins or losses, and is not a current player, so his currency factor is 1 (i.e., his AV does not get multiplied by anything), for a total of 97 + 0 + 0 = 97.  Matt Hasselbeck had 94 career AV with the Seahawks, no championships, one Super Bowl loss, and a currency factor of 1 (he’s no longer with the Seahawks), for a total of 94 + 0 + 5 = 99.  And Russell Wilson has a career AV of 51, one championship, one Super Bowl loss, and a currency factor of 3 (in a sense, I’m “predicting” he will accumulate three times his current AV total by the time he is done in Seattle), for a total of 3 * 51 + 15 + 5 = 173.  Thus, the Seahawks as a team have a total of 97 + 99 + 173 = 369 “quarterback points” (QP).

Get it?  Good.

The full table of results is given below, but I think it’s most fun to do what Dameshek & Co. did on his podcast and break it down by division and set up a playoff bracket that mirrors real life.  If we do that, here’s what we get.

(Note: Quarterbacks who played mainly before 1960 are not considered because AV is not calculated that far back.  Sorry to all you Otto Graham fans.)

AFC Playoff Seeds
Division Winners
1.  Colts, 533 QP: Peyton Manning (240), Johnny Unitas (161), Andrew Luck (132)
2.  Dolphins, 515 QP: Dan Marino (221), Bob Griese (174), Ryan Tannehill (120)
3.  Steelers, 465 QP: Ben Roethlisberger (203), Terry Bradshaw (197), Kordell Stewart (65)
4.  Chargers, 449 QP: Philip Rivers (174), Dan Fouts (162), John Hadl (113)
Wild Cards
5.  Patriots, 504 QP: Tom Brady (287), Steve Grogan (121), Drew Bledsoe (96)
6.  Bengals, 410 QP: Ken Anderson (171), Andy Dalton (123), Boomer Esiason (116)

Wild Card Round: Steelers beat Bengals, Patriots beat Chargers
Divisional Round: Colts beat Patriots, Dolphins beat Steelers
AFC Championship Game: Colts beat Dolphins

So the Colts come out of the AFC on top — nothing shocking there.  Manning-Unitas-Luck is a daunting threesome.  Tom Brady tops all quarterbacks with 287 QP, but the best the Pats can do is grab a wild card as the Marino-Griese-Tannehill trio take the AFC East for the Dolphins.  The biggest surprise of the bunch is probably the Bengals, who grab the last spot.  You might guess it would be the Broncos or the Raiders or somebody, but Cincy scores better.  It does make some sense, if you think about it, Boomer was good, Ken Anderson was excellent and very underrated — one of the most accurate QBs in NFL history — and Andy Dalton is actually off to a very good start to his NFL career … in the regular season anyway.

NFC Playoff Seeds
Division Winners
1.  Packers, 630: Brett Favre (242), Aaron Rodgers (194), Bart Starr (194)
2.  49ers, 508: Joe Montana (206), Steve Young (173), John Brodie (129)
3.  Cowboys, 478: Roger Staubach (168), Troy Aikman (167), Tony Romo (143)
4.  Saints, 351: Drew Brees (195), Archie Manning (84), Aaron Brooks (72)
Wild Cards
5.  Giants, 403: Eli Manning (180), Phil Simms (143), Fran Tarkenton (75)
6.  Seahawks, 369: Russell Wilson (173), Matt Hasselbeck (99), Dave Krieg (97)

Wild Card Round: Cowboys beat Seahawks, Giants beat Saints
Divisional Round: Packers beat Giants, 49ers beat Cowboys
NFC Championship Game: Packers beat 49ers

Super Bowl: Packers beat Colts

Well, there you have it.  The Packers are the indisputable “Best Quarterbacking Team Ever” — at least they are as judged by top-three quarterbacks.  The Favre-Rodgers-Starr triumvirate just can’t be touched.  Between these three Hall of Famers (yes, I’m putting Favre and Rodgers in already) you’ve got 18 Pro Bowls, six First Team All-Pro selections, six NFL MVP Awards, seven NFL championships, nine NFL championship game appearances, and four Super Bowl MVPs — now those are some accolades.  Nobody comes close to matching Green Bay.  Although, it would be interesting if we extended it to five quarterbacks.  In that case, the 49ers, who could add Colin Kaepernick and Jeff Garcia to their already excellent trio of Montana, Young, and Brodie, might surpass the Pack, as there is a substantial drop-off to Green Bay’s number four (Lynn Dickey) and number five (Don Majkowski) QBs.  Maybe I will tackle the “five-deep problem” another time.

The full tables are listed below with a few random thoughts.

  • The worst QB on the list is Sage Rosenfels (12 QP), who — believe it or not — is the third best QB in Texans history.
  • The Texans being the worst quarterbacking team ever is not a huge knock on them, considering they’ve only been a team for about 15 years (and Matt Schaub was legitimately good for a few seasons).  If you want to see real, deep-rooted ineptitude at QB, check out the Bears and the Buccaneers.  Yikes!
  • The Titans/Oilers have the most balanced top-three QBs ever: Warren Moon, Steve McNair, and George Blanda remarkably all score exactly 120 QP.
  • The worst best QB is Doug Williams of Tampa Bay (49 QP).
  • The best worst QB is Tony Romo of Dallas (143 QB).
AFC East Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Marino 216 0 1 1 221
Griese 139 2 1 1 174
Tannehill 40 0 0 3 120
Brady 207 4 2 1.05 287
Grogan 116 0 1 1 121
Bledsoe 91 0 1 1 96
Kelly 132 0 4 1 152
Ferguson 100 0 0 1 100
Kemp 55 0 0 1 55
Namath 112 1 0 1 127
O'Brien 84 0 0 1 84
Todd 65 0 0 1 65
AFC North Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Bradshaw 137 4 0 1 197
Roethlisberger 134 2 1 1.25 203
Stewart 65 0 0 1 65
Anderson 161 0 1 1 171
Esiason 106 0 1 1 116
Dalton 49 0 0 2.5 123
Sipe 88 0 0 1 88
Ryan 80 1 1 1 100
Kosar 75 0 0 1 75
Flacco 83 1 0 1.5 140
Testaverd 25 0 0 1 25
Boller 19 0 0 1 19
AFC South Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Manning 220 1 1 1 240
Unitas 111 3 1 1 161
Luck 44 0 0 3 132
Moon 120 0 0 1 120
McNair 115 0 1 1 120
Blanda 85 2 1 1 120
Brunell 103 0 0 1 103
Garrard 69 0 0 1 69
Leftwhich 32 0 0 1 32
Schaub 74 0 0 1 74
Carr 45 0 0 1 45
Rosenfels 12 0 0 1 12
AFC West Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Fouts 162 0 0 1 162
Rivers 139 0 0 1.25 174
Hadl 113 0 0 1 113
Elway 203 2 3 1 248
Manning 50 0 1 1.1 60
Morton 45 0 1 1 50
Dawson 144 1 1 1 164
Green 89 0 0 1 89
Kenney 59 0 0 1 59
Stabler 93 1 0 1 108
Lamonica 77 0 1 1 82
Gannon 76 0 1 1 81
NFC East Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Starbauch 128 2 2 1 168
Aikman 122 3 0 1 167
Romo 114 0 0 1.25 143
Manning 120 2 0 1.25 180
Simms 118 2 0 1 148
Tarkenton 75 0 0 1 75
McNabb 126 0 1 1 131
Cunningham 102 0 0 1 102
Jaworski 101 0 1 1 106
Theismann 105 1 1 1 125
Jurgensen 103 0 0 1 103
Kilmer 58 0 1 1 63
NFC North  Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Favre 222 1 1 1 242
Rodgers 119 1 0 1.5 194
Starr 114 5 1 1 194
Tarkenton 161 0 3 1 176
Culpepper 89 0 0 1 89
Kramer 85 0 0 1 85
Landry 102 0 0 1 102
Stafford 59 0 0 2 118
Danielson 47 0 0 1 47
Cutler 60 0 0 1.25 75
McMahon 49 1 0 1 64
Harbaugh 48 0 0 1 48
NFC South  Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Brees 144 1 0 1.25 195
Manning 84 0 0 1 84
Brooks 72 0 0 1 72
Ryan 101 0 0 1.5 152
Bartkowski 83 0 0 1 83
Vick 68 0 0 1 68
Newton 63 0 0 2.5 158
Delhomme 62 0 1 1 67
Buerlein 47 0 0 1 47
Williams 49 0 0 1 49
Dilfer 43 0 0 1 43
Testaverde 41 0 0 1 41
NFC West  Arrox. Value Champ. W Champ. L Curr. Fact. Total
Young 158 1 0 1 173
Montana 146 4 0 1 206
Brodie 129 0 0 1 129
Krieg 97 0 0 1 97
Hasselbeck 94 0 1 1 99
Wilson 51 1 1 3 173
Hart 136 0 0 1 136
Lomax 82 0 0 1 82
Johnson 58 0 0 1 58
Gabriel 100 0 0 1 100
Everett 77 0 0 1 77
Warner 57 1 1 1 77

A Brief Example of Something I Hate about the Sports Media

No, I’m not talking about the fact that every week a new rumor comes out about the Seahawks (Michael Bennett is going to Atlanta… Wait, no he’s not, but Bruce Irvin is!), about which fans have no idea what to think, because we’ve been hearing so many rumors for so many years (Marshawn Lynch isn’t coming back next year!), and when anything does actually happen — like Percy Harvin to the Jets or the Jimmy Graham deal – nobody saw it coming, anyway.  I could talk about that — I do hate that — but that’s not what I’m talking about right now.

Instead, I want to talk about the deplorable state of sports highlights — in particular, the “Ultimate Highlightization” of everything.  I haven’t watched SportsCenter in many years.  For one thing, I decided to get rid of my cable permanently when a tree grew and blocked out my DirecTV signal.  For another thing, SportsCenter really sucked when I stopped watching it.  Instead of just showing replays of the key moments of the game and providing some smart and entertaining context and analysis, which is what I wanted, everything was some sort of corporate gimmick — “The Budweiser Hot Seat” of “The Coors Lite Cold Hard Fact” or whatever — and the screen became increasingly cluttered with feeds and crawls about what you had just watched, what you are watching, and what you were about to watch.  Also, there were lots of blinking lights and news alerts and hot takes and other “hip” things.  It was like somebody took the experience of watching sports at a trendy casino and put it into show form.  The worst is the “Ultimate Highlight,” which is like watching a sports clip if the cameraman has cerebral palsy and the producer loves Ed Hardy and is high on LSD.

And unfortunately this type of annoying ADD broadcasting is becoming — or rather, has already become — far too prevalent.  To see what I mean, watch the “2014: Best of Russell Wilson” in this link.  What the hell is that?  There’s no context, no flow, and they literally do not even let a play finish before they move on to the next one.  Sports clips shouldn’t have to come with an epileptic seizure warning.  I mean, I was expecting to see a highlight package of my favorite quarterback, not something out of a brainwashing scene from a ’70s dystopian, sci-fi movie.

Is this what getting older as a sports fan feels like?

A Suitable Brady Punishment … And Yet Another Top-Ten List

From the perspective of a Seahawks fan, what is a suitable punishment for Tom Brady?  Here’s what I proposed: Brady must start studying theoretical physics, particularly Minkowski spacetime.  He must develop a method to travel back in time and take us all to the moments before the Seahawks’ final offensive play of Super Bowl XLIX.  Then he must dispatch one of his ball-deflating lackeys to steal Ricardo Lockette‘s helmet, making him unable to be on the field the final play, thus forcing Pete Carroll to call a play in which the primary receiver is not the eighth best offensive player on team.  Yes, I am aware that this punishment in no way suits Brady’s crime, and I am also aware that it is quite unrealistic from a metaphysical standpoint.  However, it makes about as much sense as a four-game (four games! That’s a quarter of the season!) suspension for doing the football equivalent of scuffing up the baseball a bit.

Anyway … Speaking of traveling back in time, here’s another top-ten list from the annals of Seahawks Past.  It was motivated by my random recent discovery that the Los Angeles Rams star running back of the ’70s Lawrence McCutcheon played a half season with the Seahawks in 1980.  It didn’t go well.  The ‘Hawks went 0-8 in games in which McCutcheon appeared, and his best performance was literally the worst game in franchise history.  But as a matter of trivia, it’s kinda interesting.

Along these lines, here are the top stars you forget, or perhaps never knew, briefly played for the Seahawks.  The two criteria for inclusion on this list is that a player must have played with the ‘Hawks for less than a season (fewer than 16 games), and they must have made a Pro Bowl with a different team.

10.  Bennie Blades, CB, 1997
Every Seahawks fan remembers Brian Blades.  Some might even remember he had a brother who was a Pro Bowl defensive back for the Detroit Lions in the early ’90s.  But how many remember said brother also made a cameo appearance for the Seahawks?  In 1997, Bennie Blades’ last season in the NFL, he was teamed up with his brother in Seattle.  Bennie wasn’t bad — he started nine games and intercepted a couple of passes — but Brian had a tough year, managing just 30 receptions and 319 yards on the season.  Oh, and Brian also had to stand trial for killing his and Bennie’s cousin Charles.

9.  Jason Babin, DE, 2007, 2008
Jason Babin was a run-of-the-mill pass rusher for three seasons with the Houston Texas before the Seahawks acquired him via trade in 2007.  After just four games, the Seahawks dropped him to make room on the roster for Keary Colbert (seriously).  Babin eventually made his way to Tennessee, where he made the 2010 Pro Bowl roster with a 12.5 sack season.  After signing a new deal with the Eagles, he was even better the next year putting up 18 sacks, again making the Pro Bowl.  Babin currently plays for the Jets, but he’s not that good anymore.  In fact, looking over his career stat sheet those two big seasons look like massive outliers.

8.  Terry McDaniel, CB, 1998
It’s quite possible people don’t remember Terry McDaniel briefly played for the Seahawks because they don’t remember Terry McDaniel at all.  But he was a legit star, a five time Pro Bowler with the Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, and one of the best cornerbacks of the ’90s.  McDaniel was particularly adept at breaking big defensive plays; he racked up the interception return yardage, and he took six INTs and two fumbles to the house in his career.  One of those touchdowns came in his lone season with the Seahawks.  In a 1998 game against the Chargers, McDaniel’s first-quarter pick-six put the ‘Hawks up 14-7; they went on to snag six more interceptions off two Chargers quarterbacks and win handily.  That’s right, seven INTs.  As it turns out, Craig Whelihan was not a very good QB — and this guy was even worse.

7.  Keith Millard, DT, 1992
The Vikings of the mid- to late ’80s were quietly one of the better defenses of the Super Bowl era.  Because they never made it to the Super Bowl (they came up a play short in 1987 after upsetting the 49ers in San Francisco), most fans outside of Minnesota don’t remember them today.  But they had some bad dudes on their D — particularly on their D-line — and for a few seasons, Keith Millard was the baddest of them all.

Drafted by the Vikings in 1985 out of Washington State, Millard was a solid contributor straightaway, but he really hit his stride in 1988, when he was a first team All-Pro selection, anchoring a Minnesota defense that allowed the fewest yards in the NFL.  (The Vikings’ defensive backs coach, incidentally, was a 37-year-old up-and-comer named Pete Carroll.)  Then the following year, he elevated things to an entirely differently realm.  He collected 18 sacks — still a record for a defensive tackle — and won Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Unfortunately for the ex-Cougar, however, he blew out his knee early in the 1990 season and never had another productive year in the NFL.  He made a cameo appearance with the infamous ‘92 Seahawks, recording a single sack in the season opener – 17-point loss to a team that finished the season 5-11.

6.  Merton Hanks, CB, 1999
The All Pro 49ers defensive back with the abnormally long neck: that was Merton Hanks.  Hanks played eight years in San Francisco (1991-1998), making four Pro Bowls (1994-1997) and winning a championship ring in Super Bowl XXIX.  Then at the end of his career, he played 12 games at nickelback for the Seahawks.  He was decent enough in his short stint in Seattle, even scoring a touchdown in a win over the Steelers, in a game in which the ‘Hawks put up 29 points without their offense getting in the end zone once.  I couldn’t find a clip of that play on YouTube, or of any other play made by Hanks as a Seahawk, but I did find a nice one of him pick-sixing a Hall of Fame quarterback and then celebrating with his signature “Chicken Dance.”

5.  Lawrence McCutcheon, RB, 1980
The man who led me down this rabbit hole in the first place — Lawrence McCutcheon.  A five-time Pro Bowler with the Los Angeles Rams (1973-1977), McCutcheon was the franchise’s all-time leading rusher before a record-breaker in Rec-Specs came to town.  Ironically, however, McCutcheon’s most famous play was not a run, but a pass.  In Super Bowl XIV, his 24-yard toss to a seldom used wide out name Ron Smith put the Rams on the precipice of a championship-game upset, but the Steel Curtain, as they usually did, ultimately prevailed.  Later that fall, McCutcheon made his ill-fated move to Seattle.

You can see McCutcheon’s Super Bowl touchdown pass at the 0:25 mark of the clip below.


4.  Harold Jackson, WR, 1983
Harold Jackson’s 579 receptions and 10,372 receiving yards don’t look like much by today’s standards.  But would you believe me if I told you he was the NFL’s all-time leading receiver upon his retirement in 1983?  No?  Well, then you are wise, because he wasn’t.  But he did have more catches and more receiving yards in the decade of the ’70s than any other player, and I doubt many people would have guessed that.

Jackson was an All Pro selection with the Rams in 1973, and he had 1,000 yard seasons with the Eagles (1969 and 1972) and the Patriots (1979), before playing his final year in the NFL with Seahawks in 1983.  He didn’t d anything of note in the gray and blue.  After his playing career Jackson went into coaching and is currently the head coach at his alma mater Jackson State (no relation).  He hasn’t done anything of note there either.  But he’s only been the coach for a year, so let’s give him some time.

3.  Edgerrin James, RB, 2009
It wasn’t even six years ago, and I clearly remember the image of James in a Seahawks uniform, but for some reason I still had to check and recheck the 2009 roster several times to convince myself that this actually happened.

Before the 2009 season began, I remember hearing head coach Jim Mora say, “we’re going to run the ball.”  Bringing in a two-time rushing champion would seemingly be a good way to help achieve that goal — unless said two-time rushing champion is 32 and averaged less than four yards-per-carry in each of his past three seasons.  That was the strange thing about the Edge James acquisition.  He had already had the typical overpaid, over-the-hill superstar stint in Arizona.  The ‘Hawks signed him after this.  It would be like if somebody picks up Steven Jackson this year.  (Wait, what, that’s probably going to happen?!)

Needless to say, things didn’t work out for James or Seattle fans.  In his “best” game with the ‘Hawks, Edge ran for all of 46 and averaged 2.9 yards-per-carry.  The Seahawks cut him three weeks later.  And that was that for one of the greatest running backs of the last 20 years.

2.  Franco Harris, RB, 1984
Franco Harris’ half-year with the Seahawks in 1984 went about as well as did Edgerrin James’ 25 years later.  But at least in the case of Harris, he was coming off a 1,000-yard season with a playoff team (not to mention he shredded Seattle when his Steelers came to town).  On the other hand, he was 34, and even back then, most running backs were bad at that age.  For Harris, the bottom fell out almost immediately.  He average fewer than three yards-per-carry and didn’t score a single touchdown as a ‘Hawk.  As the season progressed, he received fewer and fewer carries — and this was on a team that lost its first-string halfback in Week 1 and finished the season without a single rusher topping 330 yards or averaging more than 4.0 yards-per-attempt (seriously).

If you’re a running back who doesn’t merit carries on a team like the ’84 Seahawks, you probably don’t merit a roster stop on any NFL team at all.  And in fact, Franco only played eight games in Seattle before retiring.  He was within 200 yards of the all-time rushing record when he called it quits. Five years later, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Technically speaking, he was the first ever Seahawk to be enshrined.

1.  Jerry Rice, WR, 2004
Like with Edgerrin James, I clearly remember the image of Jerry Rice in a Seahawks uniform, but I still don’t always believe it happened.  After all, it is rather surreal that the greatest wide receiver — nay, the greatest player — in NFL history caught the last pass of his career on a five-yard out from Matt Hasselbeck in a dull 2004 game between the Seahawks and the Jets.  But the big difference between Rice‘s time in Seattle and James’, is that Rice was still somewhat useful.  He wasn’t great, but he still made plays as a third or fourth receiver.  Rice was the offensive hero in this win over the Dolphins., and he had the last great game of his career — eight catches, 145 yards, and a touchdown — in this absurd loss to the Cowboys.  (After being down 29-14, the ‘Hawks score 25 unanswered points, only to watch Dallas score two touchdowns in last 1:45 to steal the game 43-39.)

The great thing about Jerry Rice is that he would have kept on playing past 2004 if somebody in a position of power of an NFL team would have signed him.  He tried out with the Broncos in 2005, but he didn’t make the team.  For most superstars it’s annoying and sad when they wear out their welcomes, but for Jerry Rice it worked somehow — it was endearing.  I guess when you really are the G.O.A.T. the same rules don’t apply.

This is only clip I could find of Jerry Rice as a Seahawk.  Go to the 0:55 mark and try not to blink.