The Daily Lard 12-3-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! I know some of you are probably exhausted by the Tebow/stats talk, but in the comments of yesterday's Lard, reader DavidinLA shared a link to a Mark Kriegel column about those very topics, and I think it's worthy of some discussion. If nothing else, I'd like to share my opinion of stats and writing about them in general.

My first reaction to Kriegel's column is that a red flag goes up for me anytime a sports columnist who rarely or never mention stats in their typical writing decides to suddenly cite them because they happen to support his/her viewpoint. In this case, Kriegel sought out some stats to prove his point, which is the worst mindset from which to turn to stats - when you set out to prove something via stats, you are going to have blinders on, and you're going to get someone to feed you some line of crap, because damnit you've got a deadline to meet and a premise to bolster.

I am a firm believer in being "all-in" on stats - not meaning that one has to place them over other methods of evaluation, but that one has to always at least consider them, whether or not they support one's predisposition. Statistics in sports (or in anything, really) are a vital complement to visual observations, because they help soften or correct misperceptions. Anyone who relies strictly upon either statistics or their own visual observations to evaluate athletes is going to miss a significant portion of the picture. 

As for Sean Lahman, I'd never heard him before, but he certainly appears to have a solid resume when it comes to football stats. For today I'm just going to consider what Kriegel quoted him on - I won't make any general statements about Lahman. The first thing Kriegel does is get Lahman to project Tebow's stats over a full season and then present them in a historical context, with Lahman providing the zinger of, "There has never been anything comparable to that." What does that even mean? It appears to me that Lahman is saying that no QB has ever had a season statistically close across all categories to the projection of Tebow's stats. To which I respond, who cares? The only reason there's never been anything like that, is that the only QB in the past 50 years who's run for more than 600 yards but passed for fewer than 2,300 was Bobby Douglass in 1972. But, we don't want to compare Tebow to Douglass, right?

I'll agree with Lahman that interceptions are extremely costly, and that most folks underestimate their negative impact. However, I think it's way too early to be talking about Tebow as a guy who takes care of the ball really well. Inaccurate passers do not avoid interceptions, as much as folks want to assign Tebow's lack of picks to a specific skill he possesses. Six starts just isn't enough to base such a claim upon, and if you were to add in his first three starts you'd also be adding the three picks he threw last year. And we don't want to do that, right? Of course not - paints the wrong picture.

Just for fun, let's examine the case of Brett Favre, the NFL's king of interceptions. Favre didn't start in his rookie year, but he saw a ton of action in his second season. During his first seven games of 1992, Favre attempted 222 passes and threw just three picks, for an incredible 1.4% interception rate. Of course, he'd go on to throw more picks than anyone in the history of football and post a 3.3% iNT rate over the entirety of his career - and he was an accurate passer - 62% for his career! In no way is this to compare Favre and Tebow, because they practically couldn't be any more dissimilar as quarterbacks. My point is that if someone had written about Brett Favre being highly skilled at not giving the ball to the opposition (essentially) six starts into his NFL career, they'd look like schmucks right now. (I say it's essentially six starts because Favre attempted 39 passes in a game which Don Majkowski had started but threw just two passes before tearing up his ankle.)

If you want to claim that Tebow can continue to be as inaccurate a passer as he is but will continue to avoid interceptions as well as he has, you're pretty far out there on a limb. However, if by some miracle he does so I'll be amazed and will certainly credit him as a freak of nature.

As for Lahman's "Adjusted Yards per Touch" which says "Tebow gains an average of 2.61 yards every time he touches the ball" and is topped only by Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Schaub, I'd sure love to know what Lahman is doing with his numbers. Because 2.61 yards is a bizarre figure to come up with, considering that Tebow's net yardage from scrimmage (passing yards + rushing yards - sack yards) is 1,209 yards on 237 touches, which averages out to 5.10 yards. To get from 5.10 yards to 2.61 yards, I can only guess that Lahman is assigning some astronomical value to interceptions while at the same time giving less credit for touchdowns than blame for interceptions. Really, what it comes down to is we can't say a whole lot about results like this without Lahman explaining his math. In fact, I almost wonder if Kriegel made a mistake and the number isn't really 2.61 but something like 6.61 or 5.61 yards. Who knows?

This is all a long way of saying that I didn't learn anything new from Kriegel's column, and it's certainly not as bad as Kerry Byrne's debacle from earlier in the week. But I definitely hate this paragraph at the end:

Lahman’s numbers don’t lie. They’re more complete than the quarterback ratings. They’re not intuitively flawed like the eyeball test. (“You see him? I threw better than Tebow in junior high.”) And they don’t depend on my specialties, to wit: hyperbole and sentiment.

There was hyperbole in "There has never been anything comparable to that," and we don't know whether Lahman's numbers lie or whether they're "intuitively flawed" or not, because we honestly have no clue how he arrived at them.

Again, there is obviously plenty of value in Tebow's running ability. It must be measured, but not in a way that counts every rush as a pass completion and then double-credits it via passer rating, and presumably not in a way that says Tim Tebow gains just 2.61 adjusted yards per touch. We'll get there one of these days...


Chris Benson previews the game for PFF, and he appropriately points to the injury status of Von Miller and Adrian Peterson as looming large on the matchup.

Notes from Andrew Mason and Mike Klis: Miller will be a game-time decision, but expect Mario Haggan to see more action even if Miller plays. Eddie Royal may play, but either way Quan Cosby is expected to dress. Plus, the Broncos/Pats game on Dec 18 is likely to be flexed to SNF if the Broncos win tomorrow.

Jeff Legwold examines the combination of speed, power and agility that makes Von such an explosive pass rusher.

Legwold considers the rarity of Denver being a road favorite, and he explains why Rahim Moore and Haggan haven't seen the field much in recent weeks.

Eli Kaberon lauds the contribution of Marcus Thomas to Denver's recent run.

Jack Dickey of Deadspin points to Kriegel's column and FO's DVOA column as proof of Tebow's effectiveness.

NFL Films and NFLN's Playbook crew preview the game, plus video of John Fox speaking after practice, from which Chris Hall reports for BTV. Finally, the NFL Total Access guys discuss how to stop Tebow defensively.

Over at the official site, Max Henson recaps practice with photos, Max Henson profiles rookie CB Chris Harris, and the Broncos won their fourth Never Say Never award of the year.


Minnesota claimed QB Sage Rosenfels off waivers from Miami.

Dan Wiederer on trying to get by without ADP, plus getting Percy Harvin more involved in the offense.

Kent Youngblood looks at how the Vikings will have to adjust their defense to face Tebow.


Kevin Acee says the egomaniacal A.J. Smith is likely to join Norv Turner on the firing line, and he's hearing that Smith could land with the Raiders or Rams.

In typical Raiders news, Rolando McClain's arrest photo shows him to be an outright clown, while JaMarcus the Hutt may be joining the Professional Indoor Football League.

Surprisingly (to me, at least), the suspension of Ndamukong Suh will remain at two games after his appeal.

The Bears agreed to a four-year extension with WR Earl Bennett.

Nobody wants Donovan McNabb (or at least not for $1.5M), and Seahawks T Russell Okung was placed on IR.

Chase Stuart, who knows how to use and interpret statistics fairly, compares the rookie campaigns of Cam Newton and Christian Ponder.

Bill Barnwell explains what went wrong in Philly this season.

Mike Tanier considers the greatness of Aaron Rodgers' season, while Joshua Brustein ponders the haplessness of the Browns, who have yet to win a coin toss this year.

Clark Judge and Peter King preview the week's games; Mike Mayock tells PK, "[The Broncos running game is] forcing coordinators to put tape on and learn from the mistakes of the other teams that have already played Denver. It's forcing coordinators to completely rip up gameplans and change the way they look at things in today's NFL. I love it."


J.J. Cooper's latest pressure data shows that a good deal of Tebow and Christian Ponder's sacks are a result of holding the ball too long.

Here's what Brian Burke's been reading of late.

CHFF's weekly pile of interesting stats and facts, plus the week's best quotes via Rivers McCown of FO.

Unsilent Majority is taking Minnesota and laying a point, Bill Simmons is taking the Broncos and the 1.5 points, while Mark Wald is leaning towards the Broncos and he applauds the job John Fox has done.

Rob Rang focuses on some underrated prospects, plus what Wes Buntin will be watching for today.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

The Lard