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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics – Part 5

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow completed two of eight passes, all game, in a 17-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos led by 10 points until the final moments of the game. The Broncos win was decisive.

Such passing statistics in a convincing victory defy logic. How can the quarterback complete just two passes, albeit one for a touchdown, and be winning by multiple scores in the fourth quarter. The Broncos' defense and running game was all that was needed and the Broncos did not need to take unnecessary risks by passing with their developing, second year quarterback.

Today's Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics presents some similar statistical anomalies. Whether you are a stat geek or throw the numbers out and stick with the eye test, here are some stats that you probably would not have guessed were true before today. Enjoy!

A devout Christian QB going 2 for 8 and winning an NFL game is great publicity for the power of prayer. 1

Billy Volek completed the 7th most passes ever in a single game (40). Also has a 39 completion performance.

Anyone can have one shining moment in a single game. But I did a double-take when I saw that fewer than 10 men ever completed more passes in a game than Billy Volek did in 2004 against the Oakland Raiders. Five of the other six men ahead of Volek are all former Pro Bowlers, Hall of Fame nominees, a Hall of Famer, and a former MVP & All-Pro; Drew Bledsoe, Rich Gannon, Vinny Testeverde, Richard Todd, Tony Romo, and Warren Moon are the only players in the history of the NFL to complete more passes in a game than Volek, a career jouneyman and backup QB, did on that day in 2004. Volek also had a 39 completion performance earlier in the 2004 season for the usually balanced-to-conservative Titans offense against the Chargers.

Volek, now Philip Rivers' backup with the San Diego Chargers, hasn't had a special career, but had a pair of special days in 2004 against the Raiders and (ironically) the Chargers. I guess the Bolts liked what they saw. 2

Ben Roethlisberger is the active all-time career leader in yards per completion with 12.8. It ranks 77th all time.

That Roesthlisberger, a two time Super Bowl champion, is the active leader, should come as no surprise. That Roethlisberger is tied for 77th all time was shocking to me. Looking at the people ahead of him, however, I observed that the years in which the quarterbacks played seemed to get earlier and earlier as I got closer to the top.

The record is 16.7 yards per completion held by Hall of Fame passer Arnie Herber, whose career ended at the beginning of the Baby Boom. My only theory is that the forward pass was used less before the modern era (Herber, for example, never completed 100 passes in a season) and when it was used, successfully, it was to make a difference making, game breaking play downfield. Take that theory with a grain of salt.

The all-time yards per completion leaders played in an era in which the Steelers' uniforms looked more like this. 3

Former Cincinnati Bengal Ken Riley is fifth in NFL history for career interceptions, with 65, yet never made the Pro Bowl.

Statistics never tell the whole story but some statistics are so overwhelming that you can be certain of what was not the story. The last year of Riley’s career was the first year I really understood what I was watching. So I never really watched Riley play.

However, sixty-five career interceptions (including four from his 1969 rookie year in the AFL), when picking off more than 5 passes in a season should place a player in or near the top 10 in the league for that season, tells me that Ken Riley was a defensive enforcer and if a quarterback tempted fate by throwing in his direction too often, said QB would encounter a negative result. How he is not in the Hall of Fame, let alone never made a Pro Bowl (Riley was First Team AP All-Pro in 1983, the final year of his career) is mind blowing to me.

Riley had seven seasons with five or more interceptions, including leading the AFC with nine in 1976, five in 1982 (only nine games played due to a player’s strike), and eight in 1983. Only one other retired player, Dave Brown, among the NFL’s top ten all-time interception leaders (Darren Sharper, an active free agent, is sixth, all time with 63 interceptions) is not in the Hall of Fame. Only Hall of Fame players Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson, and Dick “Night Train” Lane have more career picks. Riley’s exclusion from the Hall, in light of this information, is a travesty in my opinion.

How is this man not in the Hall of Fame??? 4

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