Inventing “records”

The World of Statistics — or is it Statsland? — has no rules. At least, it seems that way at times. Like today, when ESPN Stats & Info tweeted this out:

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 3.34.02 PM

Maybe we should blame it on Twitter and its hard cap of 140 characters. Because what the numbers gnomes at ESPN neglected to add was “(minimum: 30 attempts).”

On second thought, scratch that. I just added “(minimum: 30 attempts)” myself and still had 25 characters to spare.

Look, McCoy had a very nice game in the Redskins’ 20-17 upset win, hitting 25 of 30 passes (17 of them, as you can see in the graphic, within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage). This isn’t about him. It’s about the mindless need to create “records” where none really exist — all, of course, at the expense of the past (even the recent past).

I say this because there have been three Redskins quarterbacks in the 2000s alone — and a couple of others before that — who started a game, went the distance and completed a higher percentage of their passes than McCoy did. But their performances have been conveniently “disappeared” because they didn’t throw 30 passes. The specifics:


Date Quarterback Opponent Att Comp Pct Yds TD Int Rating Result
11-18-12 Robert Griffin III Eagles 15 14 93.3 200 4 0 158.3 W, 31-6
9-24-06 Mark Brunell Texans 27 24 88.9 261 1 0 119.3 W, 31-15
12-5-04 Patrick Ramsey Giants 22 19 86.4 174 3 0 139.2 W, 31-7
10-24-65 Sonny Jurgensen Cardinals 14 12 85.7 195 3 0 158.3 W, 24-20
10-7-84 Joe Theismann Colts 20 17 85.0 267 4 1 137.5 W, 35-7
10-27-14 Colt McCoy Cowboys 30 25 83.3 299 0 1 94.3 W, 20-17

Actually, Theismann yielded in the late going to Jim Hart, but he essentially went the route. Anyway, looking at these figures, can you think of any reason why we should be genuflecting in front of McCoy’s 83.3 percent? Griffin and Jurgensen, for instance, both posted ratings of 158.3. That’s as high as the scale goes. And Brunell set a real NFL record that day by completing 22 passes in a row (most of them shorties like Colt’s).

These quarterbacks just happened to be in games where they didn’t need to put the ball in the air 30 times. Besides, it might be harder to hit a high percentage when you only throw 14 or 15 or 20 times, as some of them did, than when you throw 30. It’s just harder to stay in rhythm.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But riddle me this: When did it stop being acceptable simply to say, “Colt McCoy had a fine game, one of the best in Redskins history in terms of passing accuracy”?

As my foster uncle, Howard Beale, might say . . .