Two important items of note today:
1. The Old Manning series is finished. I've compiled all the entries into one complete article. Even if you've read parts 1-6 follow the link to see my predictions for the last 6 seasons of Manning's career and final conclusions.
2. I'll be doing a live game blog for tonight's game. Join me back here at 8 PM (Indianapolis Time) to join in. Otherwise, check back later to read the comments and observations.
By the way, if you missed this incredible interview with Bob Lamey from the Daily Links, be sure to check it out. It's a great listen. Perhaps my favorite part is when Bob admits to being a homer and makes no apologies for it. It reminds of me of someone else I know...
See you in a few hours.
(This is the 6th installment in an ongoing series. The series will finish tomorrow)
We've already discussed the issue of whether or not an old QB can lead his team deep into the playoffs, but what are the general prospects for a team lead by one of these greats? We've stated many times that while there is obviously correlation between having a good QB and winning games, it's folly to give too much credit or blame to the QB for any given game. Checking the overall records of teams with an older QB in no way violates that principle. If anything, this particular study can be considered an appendix to the others. It is a general recognition of the relative strength of the teams the QBs started for, as requested by a reader.
The difficulty with this particular category is that many of the QBs missed games as they got older. In this case, a comparative chart would be meaningless because of differing lengths of seasons and games missed. Because the goal is not to measure raw wins, but to find out about the general quality of the team, I offer a QB by QB look at their final years. The win totals are by team, not by QB. Not all the team wins were credited to the QB in question.
Unitas: We've talked about how Johnny U's play tailed of dramatically, but it did so just as the Colts were strong. In his final four years as a principally starting QB, his teams won 9, 11, 8, and 11 games (in a 14 game schedule). Unitas's decline was due to injuries, not general talent level.
Young: Steve Young's 49ers teams were great. Even though he missed some games, his teams won 13, 11, 12, 13, and 12 games. Having an old QB did not hurt them at all.
Montana: The 49ers and Chiefs won 14, 14, 11 and 9 games after Montana turned 33. Again, any decline in Joe's performance was on him, not his team.
Marino: The Dolphins won 10, 9, 8, 9, 10, and 9 games. Marino was actually the QB that spawned the question. As you can see, his Dolphins teams were solid, even as Marino's play declined. Still, with 'old Marino', the Dolphins were always a borderline playoff team.
Favre: The Packers (and Jets) won 12, 10, 10, 4, 8, 13 and 9 games. Other than one difficult season, Favre's teams were in or near the playoffs each year.
Moon: The Oilers won 9, 9, 11, 10, and 12 games. He then jumped to the Vikings who won 10, 8, and 9 games. He finished with two Seahawks teams that both finished .500.
Fouts: The Chargers won 7, 8, 4 and 8 games in his last four years. The Chargers were an average team, even as Fouts was becoming a below average QB.
Elway: The Broncos won 9, 7, 8, 13, 12, and 14 games after Elway turned 33.
Staubach: The Cowboys won 11, 12, 12, and 11 games.
Kelly: The Bills won 12, 7, 10, and 10 games.
- Teams with these older QBs tended to be good or very good. There are only 5 losing seasons out of the 54. Conversely, there are 30 double digit win seasons.
- We've already seen that most of the QBs were experiencing declining play to some degree or another. Still, their teams remained competitive. Without knowing the circumstances of each season, it's probably safe to assume that whatever drop off was felt by the declining play/health of the QB was likely offset by other intangible factors like smarter game management.
- The alternate hypothesis is that in some cases (Fouts? Marino? Unitas?) the old QB was actually holding back what was otherwise a talented club. These men all made the Hall of Fame (except Favre, obviously), and it is possible that in some cases they continued to get credit for 'wins' that were actually generated by the rest of the club more than by their play.
What does this mean for Peyton Manning? It certainly should reassure Colts fans that 'the window' isn't closing. There is no "window" for victory by older QBs. Now, the Colts' window could close because Freeney or Wayne got old, certainly. It will not close because of Manning's age. There is every reason to expect the Colts to continue to be a playoff caliber team as long as Manning is under center.
Tomorrow, I'll compile all the articles into one and reveal my projections for the final seasons of Manning's career.
Don Ohlemeyer takes over as the new go to guy for fans to complain about the Worldwide Leader. Right off the bat, he addresses the Roethlisberger situation. He rightly takes letter from the audience, including one that summarized what most of us felt.
(This is the 5th part of an ongoing look at what Peyton Manning might do in his final 5 seasons)
Today we are going to look at how the 10 HoF QBs did in terms of passer rating as their careers wound down. First a caveat: Manning is in a class apart from most of these QBs when it comes to passer rating. Manning's career rating of 94.7 is so good that Dan Marino and Brett Favre only had three seasons each that high. Jim Kelly did it twice. Warren Moon only did it once. Dan Fouts, Roger Staubach and John Elway?
Never did it at all.
So when we talk about Manning and passer rating, understand that he is in a class that very few of the greats ever made.
The QBs divide into two groups:
- Advancers: These guys got better or stayed the same as they aged.
Elway, Staubach, Young, Favre, Kelly
It's not exactly a homogeneous group. We've discussed Staubach and Elway ad nauseum. Remember, however, that both got better because neither one started out with a very good rating to begin with. Young, the career leader in passer rating, was incredible to the end. After turning 33, he had a rating of 92 or better every year (until his last injury shortened season). He beat 97 four times! Favre was his typical all over the board self, alternating between amazing and awful (thus a flatter curve). Kelly was never very good as he aged, but kept his rating steady until the end. The good news is that this group combined for 10 seasons over 90 after the age of 33.
- Decliners: These guys trailed off
Unitas, Moon, Fouts, Marino, Montana
No surpirse to see Unitas here. Marino start alright, hovering between 87 and 91 for three years before injuries knocked him down. Moon had a career best at the age of 34, but trailed off quickly. Montana had an amazing year at 33, but trailed off to a still respectable rating in the 80s. Fouts lost it fast. This group combined for four seasons over 90 past age 33.
- The two QBs on this list with the highest career ratings (Young and Montana) both offer hope. Both posted (then) record seasons at age 33. Young never trailed off like Montana, but even Joe Cool kept his rating respectable. Both QBs battled injuries, but their ability to pass for a good rating stayed with them. That's a good sign for 18
- Marino kept his rating steady until his knees went. Manning should be able to hold the line as long as his legs hold up.
- When it comes to passer rating, Manning is so far above most of the Hall of Fame QBs, that in some ways there is no way to make an accurate comparison. Young and Montana played in a completely different system than Manning and both were more mobile QBs. That makes it difficult to draw any firm conclusions, but it's a good bet that Manning will have several more years over 90 and even one or two over 100 before he retires. Toward the very end, he'll likely settle into seasons in the high 80s. Of all the categories, this should remain Manning's strongest until the end.
(this article will be compiled upon completion of the series and placed in the Articles Sidebar)
Here's a great read that merits front page status. Cold Hard Football Facts talks about records under assault this year. There are a lot of Colts related items to cover.
- The first relates to our old friend Edge James who is still looking for work. With even minimal production, he'll vault to 7th on the all time rushing list. Everyone is still hoping he gets a job.
- Then they note that Manning is #2 on the all time passer rating list (still a two great seasons behind Steve Young).
What's interesting is the Post Season Passer rating list. They give the top 10. It ends with Favre at 85.2. Peyton isn't on it. His passer rating in the post season? 85.0. In other words, Manning is not only one good game from busting into the top 10, but standing at #6 all time is Troy Aikman at 88.3 and Brady at #7 with an 88.0.
Wait. What? Tom Brady's career playoff rating is 88.0 and Manning's is 85.0?
That's right, for all the bluster about Manning being a post season choker, his career passer rating is only 3 measly points below Tom Brady's. Manning needs only a good game or two to not only pass Brady, but rank among the best postseason passers ever.
- In other news: Keading could pass Vandy for the most accurate kicker of all time spot. I'm no Chargers fan, but I hope that happens.
- Manning needs one 400 yard game to go to second all time
- Finally, Manning should make the top 3 in almost every major career passing statistic by the end of the year.
I'm back, and the net is burning with Colts articles. Instead of posting a bunch in the "Daily Links" sidebar, I'll catch them all up right here. By the way, if you don't read the daily links, you should. We often (though not always) offer commentary to go along with the link, so even if you know you've already read the article just by reading the 'headline', give it a click anyway to see what we think about it.
We'll get started with Phil B's rewatch of the game. It's always my favorite thing he does. We've said it before, but if you want to take a serious jump in your football IQ, just rewatch the game. It's a simple way to get a second look at key plays. The broadcast tape doesn't show all, but it shows more than just the clips you'd catch on ESPN. I swear if they ever offer some kind of special deal where you can pay crazy money for the coach's tapes, I'll do it. I'd pay $350 for the coaches tapes over the same money for the Sunday Ticket in a heart beat.
Kuharsky says don't get too high about McAfee or too low about the line. Good advice. In other words, it's just one preseason game.
Oehser has the piece of the day. He says not to give up on Ugoh. This is a great read and dead on. It's a shame Hillard was such a mess Friday night, because it was tough to get any feel for Ugoh's play. I thought he looked ok, but Manning was running for his life half the time so it's not like there was ample time to see how the pocket formed.
Kuharksy gives wonderful insights into the Colts camp with his Camp Confidential.
King interviews Manning and asks him about sunscreen? So very very weird. I'm not making this up:
Me: "Jim Johnson died of melanoma. You're pretty fair-skinned. You take precautions against skin cancer?''
Manning: "I do. My dad always worried about it
He also has a nice graph showing the Colts beef-up on the line.
Jason David was cut. Thanks for helping us win that ring, JD. NO never knew what to do with you. David is now most famous in Colts country for getting abused by Manning in the season opener in '07, which served to mock everyone who thought he was irreplaceable. Still, we should be generous and remember him for starting on the defense that brought us a ring. I hope he finds another job.
Finally, Simmons is one lucky bastard. If you love the idea of sport, you have to love his column about his trip to Mexico to see USA Mexico in the World Cup Qualifier.
Thanks for letting me cheat today, folks. I'm still getting caught up from being gone all weekend. Old Manning will return tomorrow with a look at QB rating. On Wednesday, we'll cover wins, and on Thursday, I'll compile the whole thing and offer up my projections and thoughts.
This will probably be your last 18to88 entry until Monday. Demond's wife had a death in the family, and I have a conference for work and will be unplugged for a couple of days. I've seen bits and pieces of the game last night, and will briefly share my thoughts:
1. Addai and Brown looked great (no surprise)
2. I watched the first series on D. I'm pleased with what I saw. They forced two fourth downs without the starting secondary, so that's a plus.
3. Whatever that was starting at RT will not be making the final cut. Yikes. It was hard to get a gauge on Ugoh because the RT was failing so miserably.
4. I hate preseason football.
So other than posting a few wrap ups in the links, I'll leave you all with this letter from Brett D:
Thanks for that Brett. Be back on Monday, folks.
1.) Great to hear Don "Fish" Fischer calling a game for a football team who doesn't suck.
2.) My parents call to report that the view from our seats "looks better" this year. I'm not in attendence for personal reasons. Hope no one tries to bring me a beer.
3.) Oh Sage Rosenfels... how I've missed you.
4.) They're hitting early... I love you football! I love you so much.
5.) Touchdown Vikings. Lots of flukey conversions on that drive. Looked very familiar.
6.) Ugoh is... at Left Tackle. Johnson is out. Hmmm.
7.) Stretch play. Addai is cash money.
8.) Another sack.
9.) The line looks horrible.
10.) A drop by Garcon on third down. Barf. I think Peyton's day is over and done. Thank God. Lots of problems by the line in that drive, most of them from the new guys. That O-line sequence will be worth replaying after the game. CJ would have made a big difference... on the right side.
11.) Chester Taylor for big yards.
12.) What a play by Tim Jennings to break up the pass. Beauty.
13.) Rosenfels looks comfortable in the middle of the field. Vikings fans are loving it... all the while forgetting that it is Sage Rosenfels.
14.) We've entered the portion of the game where we will learn very little about the 2009 Colts.
15.) The D gets a stop on a drop by Rice. They'll take it. The Colts D seems to never change. Lots of long drives, but they seem to get better as the game goes on. It's preseason so I'll stop pontificating.
16.) Hey. I learned something: Donald Brown is quick as hell. And suddenly the night looks a lot better.
17.) Donald FLIPPING Brown. Sure it's the second stringers, but the kid has it.
18.) I hate Purdue. Painter shows us... absolutely nothing. But, again, I hate Purdue.
19.) Now let's take a look back at the Colts first offensive series of the game. Here's how the starting lineup was presented by channel 4: Corey Hilliard at LT, Lilja at LG, Saturday at C, Pollak at RG, Ugoh at RT. In reality though, Ugoh came out at LT and Hilliard at RT.
20.) Peyton's first sack of the game was entirely on Hilliard at Right Tackle. He got juked out of his shoes by the defensive end.
21.) On third down it appears Lilja gets beat, but Peyton manages to convert to Collie.
22.) Peyton's second sack was partially good coverage, but it appears Lilja and Saturday fail to block one tackle between the two of them. Their man ends up making the play.
23.) Peyton's third sack (on the very next play) is caused by Hilliard getting beat badly. Ugoh gets driven backwards, but keeps a strong grip on his man who manages to put a hip into Peyton. Hilliard gets the holding call (declined). Just a terrible sequence.
24.) Overall Ugoh looked like himself. Not brilliant, but competant. Probably a decent LT if the rest of the line is up to snuff. But in 2008 that certainly wasn't the case.
Yards per attempt is perhaps the most important "rate stat" in football. The Ten Greats break down into two categories (right click on chart to view image-note that seasons lost to injury by Montana, Unitas, and Young were omitted)
- Dropped like a Rock: These guys' YPA fell dramatically as they aged.
Montana, Unitas, Marino, Fouts, Moon
Montana, Unitas and Marino battled injuries and it hurt their ability to get the ball downfield. Moon and Fouts had some nice years after the age of 33, but declined quickly.
- Held the Line: These guys may have had dips, but finished strong in YPA
Staubach, Elway, Young, Kelly, Favre
Yesterday, we discussed Staubach and Elway. Once again, it's plain to see how they improved with age. Favre's curve stayed fairly flat, but only because he had several up and down years. Some years, his YPA was very weak, but also posted a few excellent years. The curve splits the difference. Kelly was remarkably consistent in the last four years of his career, and actually finished with a 7.4 YPA, the highest of the last four years of his career. Steve Young was remarkable and other than his partial final season had a YPA over 7.6 four of his last five seasons.
First, the good news: the 10 QBs had 9 4000 yard seasons among them after the age of 33. That might not sound like a lot, but considering that the same 10 QBs combined for only 6 such seasons from ages 28-32, that's really a lot.
Now the bad news, the yards start to fall for almost all great QBs. Simply put, teams typically don't rely on older QBs to chew up yardage. Again, click on the graph to magnify.
With only one true exception, the QBs showed a downward trend. Only the aging wonder Roger Staubach managed to generally increase his yards passing as he got older. That isn't to say that an old man can't have a big year. At 37, Steve Young threw for 4155 yards (which was out of line with general decline). Warren Moon went over 4000 yards four times after turning 33. Still, it's not the norm. Notice Elway's curve. We've seen in recent days that Elway grew more efficient with the ball as he got older, but at the same time, his yards dropped. The Broncos didn't rely on him to throw the ball nearly as often, thus he was more effective when he did throw it. Guys like Marino trailed off quickly. He topped 4400 yards at age 33, but never again hit 3800. Other big armed guys like Fouts and Kelly met similar fates.
- In terms of YPA, Manning has a decent shot at staying productive. Currently, his YPA has taken a nose dive since 2004, dropping every season. With uncertainty surrounding the Colts line this year as well, no one should be surprised to see Manning's YPA dip below 7 (where it stood for a good portion of last season). Having said that, he still should be able to post some strong seasons before he retires. With some peaks and valleys, we can expect Peyton to settle in between 7 and 7.5 YPA. In other words, where he finished last year is likely to be a typical Old Manning season.
- In terms of pure yards, Manning will drop off. It's all but certain. He may have one or two more 4,000 yard seasons in him, but will probably settle in around 3500-3800 yards (similar to Favre). That's higher than most of the other guys on the list, but Manning has had higher yardage totals at every step of his career.
- A best case scenario would be a John Elway set up. Manning gets paired up with a strong run game and a stifling defense and the Colts don't need him to throw as much. In such a selective situation, Manning could see his YPA move back up toward 8 or 8.5, though his overall yardage would still fall, perhaps even lower than the 3500 yard plateau.
Next week: QB rating
(this article will be compiled and placed in the Articles Sidebar upon completion of the series)