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Round 1 vs. Round 2 vs. Round 3

Fantasy Football has made America a nation of general managers. We love spouting opinions about the NFL Draft, despite having only a fraction of the information actual GMs have. (Then again, knowing less might be a good thing — if, as they say, overanalysis leads to paralysis.)

Anyway, I decided to crunch a bunch of numbers and see where it led, just to get a sense of how much of a crapshoot the draft really is. What I looked at were the first three rounds — or rather, three blocks of picks: 1 through 32, 33 through 64 and 65 through 96 (since rounds weren’t always as long as they are now). This, I figured, would enable me to compare across eras . . . and possibly to come to some conclusions about whether scouting departments have gotten any better at this Inexact Science.

What I zeroed in on were Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers, the guys who — hypothetically, at least — are the biggest difference makers for their teams. Granted, there are more Pro Bowl berths these days (and more alternates who end up playing) so the definition of a “Pro Bowler” has changed over the decades. But it’s still worth looking at this stuff — especially in the offseason, when you’ve got the time to do it.

Let me throw a few numbers at you to get us started:

● There’s a 4.8 percent chance a first-round pick will make it to Canton (122 Hall of Famers in 2,528 first-round — or First 32 — selections). The percentage drops to 1.2 percent for second-rounders (31 of 2,528) and 0.8 percent for third-rounders (21 of 2,528). So you’re four times less likely to find a Hall of Famer in Round 2 and about six times less likely to find one in Round 3.

● There’s a 35.7 percent chance a first-round pick will play (or be voted to) the Pro Bowl (743 Pro Bowlers in 2,080 first-round — or First 32 — selections since 1950, when the first modern Pro Bowl was held.) The percentage drops to 16.8 percent for second-rounders (350 of 2,080) and 11 percent for third-rounders (228 of 2,080). So you’re about two times less likely to find a Pro Bowler in Round 2 and about three times less likely to find one in Round 3.

What does this tell us — or confirm for us? Answer: That for all the mistakes in the first round, those picks are much more likely to yield a difference-maker (and possibly a Hall of Famer) than picks in the next two rounds. And for the same reason, second-round selections are much more valuable than third-rounders.

Blaine Gabbert went one pick ahead of J.J. Watt in 2011.

Blaine Gabbert went one pick ahead of J.J. Watt in 2011.

In other words, clubs — with their various rating systems — are doing a good job of identifying generally which players are going to be NFL stars. (“Everybody above this cutoff point on our scale is a potential Pro Bowler.”) But they continue to have problems identifying specifically which players are going to be stars. That’s why you have J.J. Watt, a defensive end for the ages, being drafted 11th in 2011, behind quarterback busts Jake Locker (eighth) and Blaine Gabbert (10th). It’s also why you had three consecutive running backs fly off the board in the first round in 2008 . . . in the exact opposite order from how they should have been selected. Based on their career rushing totals, the order should have been: Chris Johnson (8,628 yards), Rashard Mendenhall (4,236) and Felix Jones (2,912). Instead, Jones went 22nd, Mendenhall 23rd and Johnson 24th.

Here’s the decade-by-decade breakdown:

(Note: HOFers = Hall of Famers, PBers = Pro Bowlers.)

WHAT THE TOP 3 ROUNDS OF THE DRAFT HAVE YIELDED

Years Picks 1 through 32 Picks 33 through 64 Picks 65 through 96
1936-49 19 HOFers, PBers DNA 3 HOFers, PBers DNA 3 HOFers, PBers DNA
1950-59 20 HOFers, 118 PBers 7 HOFers, 57 PBers 5 HOFers, 35 PBers
1960-69 32 HOFers, 119 PBers 4 HOFers, 58 PBers 6 HOFers, 46 PBers
1970-79 18 HOFers, 101 PBers 7 HOFers, 42 PBers 3 HOFers, 38 PBers
1980-89 23 HOFers, 121 PBers 7 HOFers, 63 PBers 3 HOFers, 37 PBers
1990-99 10 HOFers, 107 PBers 3 HOFers, 53 PBers 1 HOFer, 42 PBers
2000-09 0 HOFers, 132 PBers 0 HOFers, 64 PBers 0 HOFers, 22 PBers
2010-14 0 HOFers, 45 PBers 0 HOFers, 13 PBers 0 HOFers, 8 PBers

Obviously, the jury is out on the last two groups. Many of the players, after all, are still active. As for the earlier decades, those Hall of Fame totals aren’t final, remember; they’ll undoubtedly grow over time, helped by Veterans Committee selections. Still, the data gives us a snapshot — something to go on. And one thing that jumps out at you is that teams aren’t necessarily drafting any better now than they were in the ’50s and ’60s, when the process wasn’t nearly as thorough.

The number of Hall of Famers, of course, may say more about the depth of the talent pool than the competence of the drafters. (All decades are not created equal.) It’s fascinating, though, that clubs in the ’60s drafted 32 Hall of Famers in the First 32 but found only 18 in the ’70s and 23 in the ’80s.

The number of Pro Bowlers, though, is fairly consistent from decade to decade – until the 2000s, when all kinds of changes were made that basically opened the floodgates. With the game scheduled before the Super Bowl nowadays, more and more players get to call themselves “Pro Bowlers.”

It’s something to think about as we get ready for draft — which, now that the NFL has its own network, seems to get more self-congratulatory with each passing year. There’s nothing in this data to suggest the GM-geniuses of 2015 (and their support staffs) are any more clairvoyant than the GMs of 50 years ago. If someone wants to go further and look at other ways of evaluating Draft Day performance — such as the number of starters drafted in each round or the number of games those guys played — by all means have at it. Just wanted to get the ball rolling.

More on this subject tomorrow.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

The draft and the Canton Factor

It’s great to have the first pick in the NFL draft — as the Bucs have on five occasions, including this year. But it’s almost as great to have the sixth pick, believe it or not. And you’d be amazed at how much mileage teams have gotten out of the 34th pick.

Walter Jones, the last of the 11 No. 6 picks voted to the Hall.

Walter Jones, the last of the 11 No. 6 picks voted to the Hall.

Let me explain myself. I’m talking about the number of Hall of Famers each pick has yielded — its Canton Factor, if you will. That’s what everybody is trying to do at the top of the draft, right? Hit a home run. Find a player for the ages. And there’s no pick like the first pick for that. An even dozen players taken No. 1 are in the Hall, 12 in 79 drafts (with more, such as Peyton Manning, to come).

This, of course, is hardly surprising. Drafting may be an inexact science, but general managers and scouts aren’t complete dullards. Give them first crack at the available college talent, and they can usually find a guy who can walk and chew gum, sometimes all the way to Canton.

What is surprising is some of the other stuff my research turned up. For instance, the second-best pick for Hall of Famers is the sixth (11). The 34th pick (4), meanwhile, has produced more HOFers than the seventh (1!) and ninth (3)* picks and as many as the 10th. Here are the selections with the highest Canton Factor:

PICKS THAT HAVE YIELDED THE MOST HALL OF FAMERS

● 1st (12) — QB Troy Aikman (Cowboys, 1989), DE Bruce Smith (Bills, ’85), QB John Elway (Broncos, ’83), RB Earl Campbell (Houston Oilers, ’78), DE Lee Roy Selmon (Bucs, ’76), QB Terry Bradshaw (Steelers, ’70), RB O.J. Simpson (Bills, ’69), OT Ron Yary (Vikings, ’68), RB Paul Hornung (Packers, ’57), C-LB Chuck Bednarik (Eagles, ’49), RB Charley Trippi (Cardinals, ’45), RB Bill Dudley (Steelers, ’42).

● 6th (11) — OT Walter Jones (Seahawks, ’97), WR Tim Brown (Raiders, ’88), WR James Lofton (Packers, ’78), RB John Riggins (Jets, ’71), DE Carl Eller (Vikings, ’64), CB Jimmy Johnson (49ers, ’61), RB Jim Brown (Browns, ’57), QB Y.A. Tittle (Lions, ’48), C-LB Alex Wojciechowicz (Lions, ’38), QB Sammy Baugh (Redskins, ’37), T Joe Stydahar (Bears, ’36).

● 2nd (10) — RB Marshall Faulk (Colts, ’94), RB Eric Dickerson (Rams, ’83), LB Lawrence Taylor (Giants, ’81), RB Tony Dorsett (Cowboys, ’77), DT Randy White (Cowboys, ’75), OG Tom Mack (Rams, ’66), OT Bob Brown (Eagles, ’64), LB Les Richter (Dallas Texans, ’52), RB George McAfee (Eagles, ’40), QB Sid Luckman (Bears, ’39).

● 3rd (10) — DT Cortez Kennedy (Seahawks, ’90), RB Barry Sanders (Lions, ’89), OT Anthony Munoz (Bengals, ’80), LB Dick Butkus (Bears, ’65), WR Charley Taylor (Redskins, ’64), DT Merlin Olsen (Rams, ’62), RB Ollie Matson (Cardinals, ’52), RB Doak Walker (N.Y. Bulldogs, ’49), QB Bobby Layne (Bears, ’48), DE Claude Humphrey (Falcons, ’68).

● 4th (9) — OT Jonathan Ogden (Ravens, ’96), LB Derrick Thomas (Chiefs, ’89), DE Chris Doleman (Vikings, ’85), DE Dan Hampton (Bears, ’79), RB Walter Payton (Bears, ’75), OG John Hannah (Patriots ’73), DT Joe Greene (Steelers, ’69), RB Gale Sayers (Bears, ’65), QB Otto Graham (Lions, ’44).

● 5th (8) — LB Junior Seau (Chargers, ’90), CB Deion Sanders (Falcons, ’89), CB Mike Haynes (Patriots, ’76), TE Mike Ditka (Bears, ’61), QB Len Dawson (Steelers, ’57), T George Connor (Giants, ’46), WR Elroy Hirsch (Rams, ’45), RB Steve Van Buren (Eagles, ’44).

● 8th (6) — OT Willie Roaf (Saints, ’93), OG Mike Munchak (Oilers, ’82), DB Ronnie Lott (49ers, ’81), RB Larry Csonka (Dolphins, ’68), WR Lance Alworth (49ers, ’62), OL Jim Parker (Colts, ’57).

● 11th (5) — WR Michael Irvin (Cowboys, ’88), WR Paul Warfield (Browns, ’64), DE Doug Atkins (Browns, ’53), RB Frank Gifford (Giants, ’52), DT Leo Nomellini (49ers, ’50).

● 18th (5) — WR Art Monk (Redskins, ’80), FS Paul Krause (Redskins, ’64), RB John Henry Johnson (Steelers, ’53), T Bruiser Kinard (Brooklyn Dodgers, ’38), RB Tuffy Leemans (Giants, ’36).

● 10th (4) — DB Rod Woodson (Steelers, ’87), RB Marcus Allen (Raiders, ’82), OT Ron Mix (Colts, ’60), RB Jerome Bettis (Rams, ’93).

Jack Ham: One of four 34th picks who are in Canton.

Jack Ham: One of four 34th picks who are in Canton.

● 34th (4) — LB Jack Ham (Steelers, ’71), CB Lem Barney (Lions, ’67), DB Yale Lary (Lions, ’52), OT Mike McCormack (New York Yanks, ’51).

*The only Hall of Famer drafted seventh is C Bulldog Turner (Bears, ’40). The only HOFers who went ninth are OG Bruce Matthews (Oilers, ’83), RB Lenny Moore (Colts, ’56) and RB Hugh McElhenny (49ers, ’52).

Some other discoveries:

● The 24th and 25th picks haven’t given us any Canton-quality players — yet. In the case of the 24th, that figures to change whenever Ed Reed (Ravens, 2002) and Aaron Rodgers (Packers, 2005) come up for consideration, but nobody taken at 25 seems very Hall-worthy . . . or is even likely to get endorsed by the Veterans Committee. In fact, 25 has been a virtual black hole. The best selections at that spot: NT Ted Washington (49ers, ’91) and WRs Stanley Morgan (Patriots, ’76) and Boyd Dowler (Packers, ’59).

● Second-round picks might be good values salary-cap-wise, but they don’t produce nearly as many Hall of Famers as first-round picks. The breakdown:

HOFers drafted from 1 through 32: 121

HOFers drafted from 33 through 64: 32

● That said, the 48th pick yielded a Hall of Famer two years in a row in the 1980s: C Dwight Stephenson (Dolphins, ’80) and DE Howie Long (Raiders, ’81). The second round of that ’81 draft, by the way, had three players who wound up in Canton: LB Mike Singletary (38th, Bears), Long and LB Rickey Jackson (51st, Saints). By that measure, it’s the best second round ever.

● I love this: The third pick in the ’48 draft was QB Bobby Layne (by the Bears). The third pick in ’49 was RB Doak Walker (by the New York Bulldogs, though he ended up with the Lions). Both are in Canton, but even better, they were high school teammates at Highland Park in Dallas. (Another high selection who played at Highland Park: Lions QB Matt Stafford, who went No. 1 in 2009.)

FYI: The Jets are sitting with the sixth pick (good karma), the Bears with the seventh (bad karma, though they did get Turner there), the Panthers with the 25th (really bad karma) and the Bucs with the 34th (really good karma, especially since it’s a second-rounder).

Yup, Tampa Bay has the first selection and the 34th. Pretty sweet.

Now we just have to wait for Roger Goodell to say, “Gentlemen, start your draft boards.”

Ndamukong Suh’s next 5 years

The Dolphins just handed Ndamukong Suh the key to their safe-deposit box: a 6-year, $114 million deal ($60 million guaranteed) that dwarfs his original 5-year, $60 million contract ($40 million guaranteed) with the Lions. (And let’s not forget: His rookie contract, under the old CBA, enabled him to earn a lot more than the second pick in the draft can now.)

In situations like this, the Albert Haynesworth Effect — a player getting buried in free-agent dollars and suddenly losing his enthusiasm for his job — is always a concern. There probably isn’t a team in the NFL that doesn’t have a horror story like that.

But an equally pertinent question is: What’s the likelihood Suh’s next five years will be as good as his first five? Because by paying Suh franchise-quarterback money, the Dolphins are saying, unequivocally: We think this player is still ascending. We think he’ll be worth more — substantially more — from 2015 to 2019 (and even 2020, if it comes to that) than he was from 2010 to 2014.

Here’s the thing, though: If you look at the top defensive tackles in recent years, you’ll see that’s rarely the case — in terms of sacks, at least. Granted, there are many ways to evaluate a player at Suh’s position, but certainly pass pressure is a big part of it. In today’s game, especially, a DT had darn well better get to the quarterback (if he wants to have much value of the free-agent market, that is).

Anyway, check out these well-known defensive tackles — and the sack totals they posted in their First 5 Years vs. their Second 5:

SACKS IN THEIR FIRST 5 YEARS VS. THEIR SECOND 5 YEARS (DT DIVISION)

Years Defensive tackle Teams(s) 1st 5 2nd 5 Diff.
1985-93 Keith Millard Vikings/3 others 51.0   7.0  -44.0
1990-99 John Randle Vikings 48.0 58.0 +10.0
1983-92 Bill Pickel Raiders/Jets 43.5 12.5  -31.0
1997-06 Trevor Price Broncos/Ravens 42.5 34.5    -8.0
1995-04 Warren Sapp Bucs/Raiders 42.0 37.5    -4.5
1996-05 La’Roi Glover Saints/2 others 42.0 29.5  -12.5
1988-97 Michael Dean Perry Browns/Broncos 41.5 19.5  -22.0
1992-03 Dana Stubblefield 49ers/Redskins 39.5 14.0  -25.5
1993-04 Bryant Young 49ers 37.0 29.5    -7.5
1992-01 Chester McGlockton Raiders/2 others 35.0 12.5  -22.5
2003-12 Kevin Williams Vikings 34.0 22.5  -11.5
1987-96 Henry Thomas Vikings/Lions 34.0 38.5   +4.5
1994-03 Dan Wilkinson 49ers/2 others 32.5 17.5  -15.0
1990-99 Cortez Kennedy Seahawks 32.0 25.0    -7.0

Suh has 36 sacks through his fifth season, so I limited the list to guys who were in that neighborhood at that point in their career. I also didn’t include erstwhile Eagle Andy Harmon (38.5 sacks) — because he didn’t last much more than 5 years. At any rate, we’ve got two gainers (Randle, Thomas) and 12 decliners (ranging from -4.5 to -44) — not the most encouraging odds for the Dolphins.

Of course, every player is different, particularly in the Internal Wiring Department. Maybe Suh will prove to be one of the exceptions. But chances are better Miami will be glad that “only” $60 million is guaranteed.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

The Dolphins are betting $114 million that  Ndamukong Suh will keep doing this to quarterbacks.

The Dolphins are betting $114 million that Ndamukong Suh will keep doing this to quarterbacks.

Second acts by 10,000-yard backs

Frank Gore, who rushed for 11,073 in his decade with the 49ers, will join the Eagles tomorrow when the 2015 business year opens. Which made me wonder: How much gas do guys like Gore usually have left in the tank?

Gore is the 10th back who has racked up 10,000 rushing yards with a team — his original team, that is — and then switched jerseys. As you can see in the following chart, the other nine haven’t exactly run wild in their new surroundings. So if Frank has a productive couple of years in Philadelphia, he’ll shoot to the top of this list:

Years Rnning back 1st Team Yards 2nd Team Yards
2004-14 Steven Jackson Rams 10,138 Falcons 1,250
2001-11 LaDainian Tomlinson Chargers 12,490 Jets 1,194
1990-04 Emmitt Smith Cowboys 17,162 Cardinals 1,193
1969-79 O.J. Simpson Bills 10,183 49ers 1,053
1977-88 Tony Dorsett Cowboys 12,036 Broncos    703
1996-04 Eddie George Titans 10,009 Cowboys    432
1998-10 Fred Taylor Jaguars 11,271 Patriots    424
1972-84 Franco Harris Steelers 11,950 Seahawks    170
1988-00 Thurman Thomas Bills 11,938 Dolphins    136
2005-14 Frank Gore 49ers 11,073 Eagles   TBD

Jackson, of course, was cut last month by the Falcons. If he can find another job though, he could push his total higher. He’ll be 32 next season — the same age as Gore.

At any rate, no club should have very high expectations when it acquires a back like this. The best rushing season any of them has had with in his Second Life is 937 yards (Smith, Cardinals, 2004).

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Frank Gore hitting the hole hard, as he usually does.

Frank Gore hitting the hole hard, as he usually does.

Marvin Lewis and the perils of January

The Bengals have made the playoffs in six of Marvin Lewis 12 seasons. You’d think congratulations would be in order — first for surviving a dozen years in any coaching job, and second for steering his team to the postseason so often. But Lewis’ 0-6 record in the playoffs has folks wondering, rightfully, whether he’ll be working in Cincinnati much longer. This is, after all, the Not For Long League. It’s not enough to just win, baby. You have to keep on winning, baby, into January and beyond.

Not that he’ll take any comfort in this, but Lewis is hardly the first coach to trip over that final hurdle. Heck, there are guys in the Hall of Fame who tripped over that final hurdle — and several others who rank high on the all-time victories list. Indeed, if there were a Misery Index for coaches, it might look something like this:

100-WIN COACHES WHO HAD A LOSING RECORD IN THE PLAYOFFS

Span Coach (Titles) Teams Regular Season Playoffs
1986-01 Jim Mora Saints, Colts 125-106-0, .541 0-6, .000
2003-14 Marvin Lewis Bengals 100-90-2, .526 0-6, .000
1955-74 Sid Gillman (1) Rams, Chargers, Oilers 122-99-7, .550 1-5, .167
1931-53 Steve Owen (2) Giants 151-100-17, .595 2-8, .200
1966-77 George Allen Rams, Redskins 116-47-5, .705 2-7, .222
1984-06 Marty Schottenheimer Browns, Chiefs, 2 others 200-116-1, .613 5-13, .278
1973-86 Don Coryell Cardinals, Chargers 111-83-1, .572 3-6, .333
1992-06 Dennis Green Vikings, Cardinals 113-94-0, .546 4-8, .333
1973-94 Chuck Knox Rams, Bills, Seahawks 186-147-1, 558 7-11, .389
1967-85 Bud Grant Vikings 158-96-5, .620 10-12, .455
1994-14 Jeff Fisher Oilers/Titans, Rams 162-147-1, 524 5-6, .455
1996-08 Tony Dungy (1) Bucs, Colts 139-69-0, .688 10-12, .455

(Note: If you want to be technical about it, Grant won the NFL championship in 1969, then lost the Super Bowl to the AFL’s Chiefs. Also: Schottenheimer’s other teams were the Redskins and Chargers.)

That’s 12 coaches with 100 regular-season victories who have lost more playoff games than they’ve won. Four are in Canton (Gillman, Owen, Allen and Grant) and another has been a finalist (Coryell) and may eventually get elected. Clearly, then, a poor postseason record doesn’t have to be a reputation-killer for a coach. (And yes, Gillman’s and Owen’s situations are much different from the others’. All but one of their playoff games was a title game — back when that was the extent of pro football’s postseason.)

The biggest problem for Lewis, obviously, is the goose egg. Aside from Mora, everybody else in the group had at least one notable postseason. Owen, Gillman (AFL) and Dungy won titles; Grant, Allen and Fisher reached the Super Bowl; and Schottenheimer (three times), Coryell (twice), Green (twice) and Knox (four) all made multiple trips to the conference championship game.

As for Lewis and Mora, well, Jim probably said it best:

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Unanimous AP all-pro

The words wash by you as you wade into the story about this year’s selections: “Watt, Gronk unanimous AP all-pros.” What exactly does it mean, this Unanimous Thing? How often has it been achieved — and by whom?

Answer: For starters, it’s pretty rare, which makes sense when you stop and think about it. After all, how often can you get 50 media folk to agree on anything? In 2007, for instance, the Patriots’ Tom Brady had one of the greatest quarterbacking seasons ever: 50 touchdown passes, 8 interceptions, a 117.2 passer rating and, oh yeah, a 16-0 record. But some yo-yo still felt obliged to split his vote between Brady and the Packers’ Brett Favre, who threw about half as many TD passes (28), about twice as many picks (15) and had a 95.7 rating. (He/she must have had Favre on his/her fantasy team or something.)

By my count, 15 players have been unanimous AP all-pros in the 2000s, three of them twice (Watt, Peyton Manning and LaDainian Tomlinson). So it’s happened 18 times in 15 years — roughly once a year. As you scan down the list, you’ll realize that just about every one of these guys is either in the Hall of Fame, a lock for the Hall of Fame or beginning to move strongly in that direction.

UNANIMOUS AP ALL-PROS IN THE 2000S

● 2014 (2) — Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski, Texans DE/DT J.J. Watt. Gronkowski, now fully recovered from a blown-out knee, had a typical Gronk year: 82 catches for 1,124 yards and 12 TDs in 15 games. (Bill Belichick held him out of the last one.) Watt had an even better season: 20.5 sacks, two defensive TDs, a safety and three TD catches on offense.

● 2013 (1) — Broncos QB Peyton Manning. At 37, Manning had a career year, breaking NFL season passing records with 55 TDs and 5,477 yards as Denver went 13-3, best in the AFC.

J.J. Watt makes another impression on a QB.

J.J. Watt makes another impression on a quarterback.

● 2012 (2) — Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Watt. Peterson: 2,097 rushing yards (8 off Eric Dickerson’s mark of 2,105, which has stood since 1984). Watt: 20.5 sacks, 16 passes defended (more than many starting DBs).

● 2011 — Nobody.

● 2010 (1) — Patriots QB Tom Brady. There are all kinds of numbers I could throw at you, but the best one is: Brady didn’t throw an interception in the Patriots’ last 11 games (a record streak of 319 attempts that was stretched to 335 the next season).

● 2009 (1) — Titans RB Chris Johnson. Rushed for 2,006 yards, topped 100 rushing yards in the final 11 games and set a mark – which may not be broken anytime soon – with 2,509 yards from scrimmage.

● 2008 (1) — Ravens FS Ed Reed. League-leading nine interceptions and three defensive TDs, including a 107-yard INT return, the longest in NFL history.

● 2007 (2) — Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Patriots WR Randy Moss. LT wasn’t quite as sensational as he’d been the year before, but he still rushed for an NFL-high 1,474 yards, scored 18 TDs and threw for another TD. Moss, in his first season with Brady, caught a record 23 TD passes, one more than Jerry Rice totaled in 1987 (in 12 games).

● 2006 (3) — Tomlinson, Dolphins DE Jason Taylor, Broncos CB Champ Bailey. This was LT’s ridiculous 31-TD year. Enough said. Taylor: 13.5 sacks, two interception returns for scores. Bailey: 10 INTs (nobody has had more since 1981), 21 passes defended.

Antonio Gates in the open field.

Antonio Gates in the open field.

● 2005 (1) — Chargers TE Antonio Gates. The first 1,000-yard season of Gates’ great career (89 catches, 1,101 yards, 10 TDs).

● 2004 (1) — Manning, Colts. Even though he blew off the last game except for a few snaps, Peyton set season passing marks with 49 TDs and a 121.1 rating (both of which have since been broken).

● 2003 — Nobody.

● 2002 (1) — Colts WR Marvin Harrison. His 143 catches (for a league-leading 1,722 yards) is still the NFL record . . . by 14.

● 2001 (2) – Rams RB Marshall Faulk, Giants DE Michael Strahan. Faulk: 1,382 rushing yards, 2,147 yards from scrimmage, 21 TDs. Strahan: A record (with the help of Favre) 22.5 sacks.

● 2000 – Nobody.

To recap, Faulk and Strahan are already in the Hall, and the rest — with the exception, probably, of Johnson — could well be headed there. (Peterson, of course, will be an interesting case, depending on where his career goes from here.)

Conclusion: Being a unanimous AP all-pro says a lot about a player, a lot more than just: he had a really, really good year. We’re talking about the best of the best here.

A world without Gatorade

Gatorade, Stokely-Van Camp’s answer to salt pills, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Indeed, the company jumped the gun in late December with an ad we’re sure to get sick of before it runs its course, just as we’ve tired of Gatorade dunks like this one:

That, by the way, is supposedly the first Gatorade dunk in sports history — the Giants’ Jim Burt showering coach Bill Parcells near the end of a 37-13 wipeout of the Redskins on Oct. 28, 1984. (It just dawned on me. I covered that game.) But, really, who can say for sure? Maybe it’s just the first televised Gatorade dunk in sports history.

Gatorade has become so ubiquitous that it’s hard to remember the world without it. So I thought I’d amuse you with this ad, which ran in newspapers in 1928, for the Super Sports Drink of the Red Grange Era. Postum, it was called (for reasons that have been lost to the ages).

Postum ad in 11-21-28 Post-Crescent

Chick Meehan, the football coach at NYU, supplied this testimonial: “For 15 years Postum has held an important place in the training diet of my teams. And not merely because it is my favorite mealtime drink. Steady nerves are a first requirement in football, and Postum is one hot drink that does not irritate the nerves. It never interferes with sound sleep, either.”

Take that, Gatorade. (I mean, when has Gatorade ever claimed it “does not irritate the nerves”)?

Dartmouth coach Jess Hawley, meanwhile, said, “Any man who wants to keep in trim will have a better chance if he sticks to Postum.” And Tom Thorp, who officiated NFL games, called Postum “the ideal training drink.” Sounds like a winner to me.

At some point, Postum — which was “made of roasted whole wheat and bran” — fell out of fashion. Somebody probably came up with something that was more effective at helping “Safeguard your nerve power as football stars do theirs!” Just as well, I suppose. It doesn’t seem like a Postum dunk would be too pleasant.

In the late ’60s, before Gatorade became Gatorade, a competitor called Quick Kick surfaced. Wish I could find an ad for it, but the best I could do was a couple of newspaper stories. In 1969, San Antonio Express columnist Karl O’Quinn wrote that Houston Oilers founder Bud Adams “owns a sizable portion of the company that makes the stuff and it is available in sporting goods stores now. It will be marketed in a major grocery chain soon.”

According to O’Quinn, Quick Kick “tastes like Gatorade but isn’t as sweet because of the use of saccharine instead sugar. . . . Quick Kick is spotting Gatorade a big head start in sales and advertising, but it has one advantage over the Florida product. It will come in four flavors — grape, orange, strawberry and lemon-lime [the only flavor Gatorade came in for years].”

Here’s my favorite passage, though: “I tried a big cup of the lemon-lime flavor. It won’t make much of a dent in the cola market, but it’s not bad, and they say if you mix it with alcohol you get what the name implies — a quick kick.”

Adams had the Oilers gulping down the stuff in training camp that year. “A man named Blackie Howell in Baton Rouge” concocted Quick Kick, O’Quinn reported. “The LSU Tigers used it for quite a while before Adams got wind of it and bought into the company. Then it was called Bengal Punch.”

So there you have it: a brief, far-from-complete review of early sports drinks.

What might have been.

Slingin’ Antonio Brown

The Steelers’ Antonio Brown has done something this season that hasn’t been done in a decade — and has been accomplished by only 10 receivers in NFL history. Care to guess what it is?

Answer: He’s racked up 1,000 receiving yards and thrown a touchdown pass in the same year.

Obviously, it’s much more common for a 1,000-yard running back to throw for a TD. For one thing, backs get their hands on the ball more than wideouts do. But with the Jet Sweep so popular these days, we might begin to see more scoring passes tossed by golden-armed receivers. Let’s hope so, anyway.

Here’s the short list of wideouts Brown has joined. Note that a couple of them — Randy Moss and Marty Booker — had two of these seasons.

1,000 RECEIVING YARDS AND A TOUCHDOWN PASS IN THE SAME SEASON

Year Receiver, Team Yds TD Pass Details
2014 Antonio Brown, Steelers 1,498 3 yards to WR Lance Moore vs. Texans
2004 Drew Bennett, Titans 1,247 26 yards to WR Derrick Mason vs. Packers
2002 Randy Moss, Vikings 1,347 13 yards to WR D’Wayne Bates vs. Dolphins
2002 Marty Booker, Bears 1,189 44 yards to WR Marcus Robinson vs. Patriots
2001 Marty Booker, Bears 1,071 34 yards to WR Marcus Robinson vs. Falcons
1999 Randy Moss, Vikings 1,413 27 yards to WR Cris Carter vs. Giants
1996 Curtis Conway, Bears 1,049 33 yards to RB Raymont Harris vs. Cowboys
1995 Jerry Rice, 49ers 1,848* 41 yards to WR J.J. Stokes vs. Falcons
1983 Carlos Carson, Chiefs 1,351 48 yards to WR Henry Marshall vs. Chargers
1974 Drew Pearson, Cowboys 1,087 46 yards to WR Golden Richards vs. Giants
1962 Tommy McDonald, Eagles 1,146 10 yards to RB Timmy Brown vs. Redskins
1960 Bill Groman, Oilers (AFL) 1,473* 3 yards to E Al Wicher vs. Patriots

*led league

(Brown, by the way, leads the league in receiving yards with two games to go.)

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Steelers wideout Antonio Brown gets ready to uncork one against the Texans.

Steelers wideout Antonio Brown gets ready to show off his arm against the Texans.

Le’Veon Bell breaks out

Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers’ second-year running back, was having a nice little career for himself heading into the Titans game three weeks ago. Now, though, such adjectives as “nice” and “little” no longer seem to apply. Three straight games with 200-plus yards from scrimmage will do that for you.

It’s unusual enough, after all, for a back to have two games in a row like that. Only seven others have done it in the 2000s — and no back has had three in a row since Bears Hall of Famer Walter Payton in 1977. The details:

BACKS IN THE 2000S WITH 200 YARDS FROM SCRIMMAGE IN CONSECUTIVE GAMES

Year Back, Team Opponents (Yards) Total
2014 Le’Veon Bell, Steelers Titans (222), Saints (254), Bengals (235) 711
2012 Doug Martin, Bucs Vikings (214), Raiders (272) 486
2007 Ronnie Brown, Dolphins Jets (211), Raiders (207) 418
2003 Deuce McAlister, Saints Falcons (237), Eagles (232) 469
2002 Ricky Williams, Dolphins Bills (235), Bears (216) 451
2002 Marshall Faulk, Rams Seahawks (235), Cardinals (235) 471
2000 Mike Anderson, Broncos Seahawks (209), Saints (256) 465
2000 Eddie George, Titans Bengals (214), Jaguars (209) 423

Now let’s compare Bell’s run to Payton’s. Le’Veon first:

VS. Rushing Receiving Total
Titans 33-204-1 2-18-0 35-222-1
Saints 21-95-1 8-159-0 29-254-1
Bengals 26-185-2 6-50-1 32-235-3
Totals 80-484-4 16-227-1 96-711-5

And now Walter:

VS. Rushing Receiving Total
Chiefs 33-192-3 1-29-0 34-221-3
Vikings 40-275-1 1-6-0 41-281-1
Lions 20-137-1 4-107-0 24-244-1
Totals 93-604-5 6-142-0 99-746-5

Awful close. Note that Payton set a single-game rushing record (since broken) when he went for 275 against the Vikes. But other than that . . . there isn’t much difference between them volume-

Le'Veon Bell cuts upfield.

Le’Veon Bell cuts upfield.

wise. Walter had three more touches and 35 more yards.

Note, too, that both had a 100-yard receiving game during their streak. If you’re going to pull off something like this, it helps to have some pass-catching ability.

Thanks in large measure to Payton, by the way, the Bears made the playoffs that season for the first time in 14 years (when they won their last title under George Halas). And Bell, of course, has the 8-5 Steelers pointed in the same direction. (He’s also on pace to finish with 2,368 yards from scrimmage, which would be the fifth-highest total of all time.)

At any rate, the word is out about him now — if it wasn’t before. This is one dangerous (and durable) back.

Source: pro-football-reference.com

Ram-bunctious defense

Earlier in the week we were talking about the Rams posting two straight shutouts, a rare feat. Now we’re talking about them going three games without allowing a touchdown, another rare feat. Five teams have done it in the 2000s:

TEAMS IN THE 2000S THAT DIDN’T ALLOW A TD IN 3 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

Year Team (W-L) Opponents (Score) PA
2014 Rams (6-8)* Raiders (52-0), Redskins (24-0), Rams (L, 12-6) 12
2011 Dolphins (6-10)* Chiefs (31-3), Redskins (20-9), Bills (35-8) 20
2008 Dolphins (11-5) Rams (16-12), Bills (16-3), 49ers (14-9) 24
2000 Titans (13-3) Bengals (35-3), Browns (24-0), Cowboys (31-0) 3
2000 Steelers (9-7)* Jets (20-3), Bengals (15-0), Browns (22-0) 3

*missed playoffs

The thing about the Steelers’ streak is that it kept going. They extended it to five games before giving up a touchdown to the Eagles. (Where have you gone, Jeff Thomason? He was the guy who scored it.)

In all, the Steelers allowed six field goals during this stretch. And they didn’t make the playoffs! Their 9-7 record left them in the First Alternate position. In fact, three of the above teams failed to earn a postseason berth (and the two that did were one-and-done). Go figure.

The Rams have a chance to match the Steelers’ run, but it won’t be easy. They have the Giants (home) and Seahawks (away) left on their schedule, and it doesn’t look like Seattle will be in a position to mail-in the last game, not with the division title — and possibly home-field advantage in the NFC — at stake.

Still, it’s been an impressive display of defense, even if the Rams haven’t exactly faced a Murderer’s Row of quarterbacks (Derek Carr, Colt McCoy, Drew Stanton). That’s usually how it is with these streaks — hot defenses squashing less-than-quality competition (and their club being fortunate enough not to give up any return TDs, of course).

One final note: Two of these teams (2014 Rams, 2000 Titans) had Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator. Gotta be more than just a coincidence, don’t you think?

Source: pro-football-reference.com

"That's Gregg with TWO G's."

“That’s Gregg with TWO G’s.”