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Saturday, December 25, 2004
 
Happy Holidays!

Seasons greetings, welcome to the Winter Solstice, Happy New Year.

Oh, and Merry CHRISTmas!
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Friday, December 24, 2004
 
Ranking The Comeback QBs (Blast from the Past)

Here's something I posted on Usenet about 8 years ago, when Dan Marino and John Elway were still active players and Joe Montana only recently retired. If I get the chance I'll look at Favre, the current comeback king (who also led a comeback win today)

In any game where the Denver Broncos are trailing in the fourth quarter, the announcers will dutifully inform us of the number of late comebacks engineered by John Elway. The perception is that Elway is the premier comeback quarterback of all time (although lately it is often noted that Dan Marino actually has led more fourth quarter reversals).

But the comeback statistic contains a bias that actually works against great quarterbacks. Think about a top QB on a team that just steamrolls its opponents. Isn't it axiomatic that he would have fewer opportunities to lead comeback victories than Trent Dilfer?

Take Joe Montana, for example. During the 49ers' dominant years, he was frequently out of the game for the entire fourth quarter because the game was already won. There was no opportunity to mount a comeback, even if he had remained in the fray. And yet, there is a perception of him as a great comeback quarterback, perhaps even better than Elway.

I decided to research the matter. The NFL's annual Record and Fact Book contains a scoring summary and recap of every game for the previous year. My library contains every book since 1990 with the exception of 1993, so I was able to analyze the games of Montana, Elway and Marino for 1989-91, and 1993-1995.

Elway played all or most of 95 games in that span. Of those, the Broncos led by one point or more during the entire fourth quarter 33 times. There were 10 games in which the Bronco's worst position during the fourth quarter was a tie. The Broncos won 9 of those games, but there is a statistical bias here, in that if the other team
won in the fourth quarter then it would be a game that the Broncos had trailed in the fourth quarter, since the focus was always on the worst position (in points behind) that the Broncos were at any time in the last period. The only fourth quarter ties the Broncos could lose by this definition were overtime games. In 52 of the games the Broncos trailed at some point during the fourth quarter. Elway managed to win 9 of those games, or 17% of his comeback opportunities. If the ties are counted as comebacks (as the NFL does), then Elway converted 18 of 62 chances, or 29%.

Dan Marino played all or most of 82 games during the years in question. The Dolphins led by one point or more in the entire fourth quarter in 32 of those contests. There were five games where the Dolphin's worst position was a tie in the fourth quarter; they won all five. There were 45 games in which the Dolphins trailed at some point; Marino brought them back from the brink 14 times or 31% of the time. Counting ties as comebacks Marino succeeded in 19 of 50 opportunities, or 38%.

Montana missed all of 1991 and almost all of 1992, retired before the 1995 season and was injured several times in 1993 and 1994, so he only appeared in all or most of 47 games during the period covered. Of those, his teams led by a point or more in the entire fourth quarter 25 times. Look at that closely. Elway only managed to salt away eight more games in 48 more opportunities. There were three games where Montana's team's worst position in the fourth quarter was a tie; they won all of them. And there were 19 games where his club trailed at some point in the fourth quarter. Montana led them home in 10 of those games or 53% of his chances. Counting ties as comebacks, Montana succeeded 13 out of 22 times, or almost 60%.

There is still a possibility of bias. Suppose Montana was overcoming, say 3 point deficits, while Elway was leading his team back from 14 point gaps. But when I looked at the average margin overcome, Montana actually reversed an average 6.1 point deficit, while Elway on average climbed out of a 5.0 point hole. Marino took honors, leading his team to comeback wins from an average of 6.3 points down.

Another source of bias is that although the points rallied from in comebacks actually achieved weren't higher for Elway, the other opportunities might be. There is a reasonable case here, but it acts more in favor of Marino than Elway. Montana's teams trailed (at worst) in the fourth quarter by an average of 8.1 points (in games
that they actually trailed). Elway's teams were 9.6 points behind on average. But the Dolphins trailed by an astonishing average of 12.4 points at some point in the fourth quarter.

Montana had the biggest comeback in the study, rallying San Francisco from a fourth quarter, 17-point deficit against the Rams. On the theory that this represents the outside limit of comeback possibilities, I eliminated any game in which the team had a fourth quarter deficit of 18 points or more. Note that this is forgiving the
quarterback for allowing his team to fall that far behind.

Montana only had one game where his team fell that far behind in the fourth, so he led his teams to comebacks in 10 of 18 possible games or 56% of his opportunities. Counting ties, it's 13/21 or 62%. Elway, with six big losses forgiven, moves up to nine comebacks out of 46 chances, or 20%. Including ties, it's 32%. Marino shrugs off 11 maulings and ends up with 14 comebacks in 34 shots or 41%; with ties he's 19 for 39 or 49%.

Problems remaining with the study? Well, there are the missing seasons--it would be nice to fill them in. But the games surveyed make up half of Elway's and Marino's careers, and about 30% of Montana's--and Joe was rather well known as a comeback quarterback before 1989. Many will gripe that I'm giving Montana credit which is due more to the excellence of his teams. There is some validity to this. But isn't that what the announcers are doing when they point to Elway's comeback history?

Based on the evidence, Montana ranks as a significantly better comeback quarterback than Elway. Marino fits in between them, but closer to Joe than John.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
The New Front on the Christmas Wars

I thought about this a little on the plane ride back to New Jersey. By removing all signs of Christmas from governmental buildings, aren't we endorsing the religion of atheism? Traditionally, I'll admit, atheism has been seen as non-religious, or a denial of religion. But these days it strikes me as resembling a separate creed, with true believers as moved by faith in their position as the holiest of rollers.

Think about it for a second. True, the religious cannot prove that there is a god. However, by the same token, the areligious cannot prove He does not exist. Indeed, even in my anti-religious days as a youth, I still thought the deathbed conversion made a lot of sense; no harm if it's just the end, and no fiery furnace if there is indeed a hereafter.
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Hmmmm

James Wolcott wants us all to know that Christmas isn't dead.

This thin-skinned grievance-collecting gives birth to all sorts of urban legends and rumors about big institutions being hostile to Christ's birthday, such as the one that swirled on WOR radio last week about how Macy's employees had been instructed not to say "Merry Christmas!" to shoppers. A fiction that was put to rest when the host hit Macy's website and saw its "Merry Christmas" greeting, and Macy's employees chimed in over the phones to say there was no such policy.

Okay, here's the link to Macy's website. Can you find the "Merry Christmas" greeting? This is the exact same link Wolcott had in his post.
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More Advice The Democrats Won't Take

Okay, so there's a snarky undertone to this article by Nicholas Kristof. But he hits on a few good points:

Members of the Christian right, exemplified by Mr. Brownback, are the new internationalists, increasingly engaged in humanitarian causes abroad - thus creating opportunities for common ground between left and right on issues we all care about.

So Democrats should clamber down from the window ledges, roll up their sleeves and get to work on some of these issues. Because I'm embarrassed to say that Democrats have been so suspicious of Republicans that they haven't contributed much on those human rights issues where the Christian right has already staked out its ground.
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Monday, December 20, 2004
 
Power Ratings after Week 15

Comments: Indy moves into the penthouse on the heels of New England's upset at Miami. The Steelers continue to "just win, baby," but their defense must be considered a little suspect after giving Eli Manning his first good game as an NFL player. Plus they are tempting the football gods with this 12 wins in a row stuff.

Ind 112.5
NE 111.3
Phi 109.8
SD 108.2
NYJ 107.0
Pit 106.9
KC 106.1
Bal 105.7
Buf 105.5
Den 102.5
Jax 102.1
GB 100.7
Atl 100.3
TB 100.1
Car 99.4
Cin 99.0
Min 98.9
Hou 98.7
Was 97.8
Sea 97.0
Det 96.7
Mia 96.6
Ten 96.3
NYG 95.9
Cle 94.9
Oak 94.9
AZ 94.1
Chi 93.7
StL 93.7
Dal 93.5
NO 93.3
SF 86.8
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Steyn on the Move to Abolish Christmas

He's got pretty much the same take as I:

But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicised Christianity in America. By "politicised", I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing Silent Night if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: what's more important? Winning a victory over the kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?

I'm not actually a very religious person myself, which highlights how far liberalism has gone in its efforts to expunge public mentions of Christmas. If they're getting me annoyed at the attempts to install atheism as the official religion of America, just imagine how the devout must feel!
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Political Blog List

Hugh Hewitt pointed me to this political blog list. I was struck by the ability to add one's own blog to the list and yes, I went ahead and added Brainster's. But I had to laugh at this description of Eric Alterman's blog:

Eric would be considered "liberal" by ultra-right wing religious fundamentalists and the Talaban.

No, I think ultra-right wing religious fundamentalists would consider him an outright communist, and they wouldn't be too far wrong.
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Sunday, December 19, 2004
 
Simulation Says Jets Are Probably In The Playoffs

I ran a simulation game by game. First I estimated a game score for each game; for example, I estimated that based on prior performance the Patriots should beat the Jets by about 18-17 next week (actually 18.1-17.7). But does that mean the Jets have a 100% chance of losing? No, the predicted margin tells us that the Jets have a decent chance of winning, if not quite 50%. Bill James suggests the Pythagorean formula, which is that the Jets have about a 49% chance of winning (17.7 squared divided by (17.7 squared plus 18.1 squared)).

After setting up every meaningful game that way, I generated random numbers to simulate the games. In 100 runs of the remaining schedule, the Jets got the top wild card seed 86% of the time. They were at least the #2 wild card another 6% of the time, and in 8% of the runs it was murky enough that they might not make it.

Looking at the rest of the teams, Buffalo probably has the best chance of winning their last two games, but they've got problems nevertheless. Both Baltimore and Jacksonville have beaten the Bills, so the only team they can afford to be tied with is Denver. Baltimore appears to be in if they win out, but they have a tough test at Pittsburgh next week.
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Week 15 Notes

The Jets move closer to a playoff spot. A win against New England at home or St. Louis on the road gets them a guaranteed wild card. I don't want to try to figure out the various other scenarios but the Jets are obviously in the driver's seat for a wild card. A win by Indy tonight would help.

How bad is the NFC? The Arizona Cardinals, who have accounted for both of San Francisco's wins, not only have a chance to make the playoffs, they could be NFC West Champions. If they win at Seattle and at home against the Bucs and the Seahawks lose to Atlanta at home, the Cards would slip past the Seahawks. They do need St. Louis to lose both games, which might not be impossible either since the Rams will be playing Philadelphia and the Jets at home.

However, bear in mind that both Philadelphia and Atlanta have nothing to play for in the last two games. Philly, especially, should be expected to substitute liberally in light of the injury to Owens, which certainly looked as though it might be season-ending at the time.

The AFC continues to destroy the NFC, 39-19 on the season.
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Brainster's Rules of Quarterbacks

I read a joke about somebody commenting that the Giants were considering giving Eli Manning some seasoning in NFL Asia. When the response came back that there was no such league, the wag replied that was the point.

This brings us to Brainster's First Rule of Quarterbacks:

1. Pay no attention to what a quarterback does in his first year of play, unless he does well.

Consider this first year line: 47.5% completion rate, 6 yards per attempt, 7 TD passes and 14 interceptions for a passer rating of 54.9. Or how about 53% completions for under 6 years per attempt with 9 TDs and 18 interceptions? A third had 52% completions, 3 TDs and 8 picks. Another guy was oh for five with two interceptions his rookie season for a perfect 0.0 passer rating. Throw them all away, right?

Reading from right to left, those are the rookie seasons of John Elway, Troy Aikman, Steve Young and Brett Favre.

Some quarterbacks do well right out of the chute--Dan Marino, Tom Brady, and Ben Rothlisberger come to mind. Those guys are almost always gold; about the only guy who performed great in his rookie year and didn't turn out to be a long-term star in the NFL was Greg Cook, who suffered a separated shoulder after his spectacular 1969 debut (led the league in passer rating) and was basically through.
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Contact Me: pcurley (at) cdwebs (dot) com

Brainster in the Media

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: May 27, 2005

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March 16, 2005

May 9, 2005

June 3, 2005

Cited for Breaking the Christmas in Cambodia story (at Kerry Haters):

Hugh Hewitt: KerryHaters was on this story a long time ago. How could the elite media not have asked these questions before now?

Ankle-Biting Pundits: Our friends Pat and Kitty at Kerry Haters deserve the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their coverage of Kerry's intricate web of lies regarding Vietnam.

The Weekly Standard

Les Kinsolving

Greatest Hits

What If the Rest of the Fantastic Four Were Peaceniks?

Lefty Bloggers on Gay Witchhunt (linked by 16 blogs including Instapundit)

Kitty Myers Breaks Christmas in Cambodia

Brainster Shows Brinkley Says No Christmas in Cambodia

Explanation of the Blog's Name

Power Ratings Explained



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