I feel the need to say a few things before I dive into this. Someone mentioned in the OTA's that there wasn't enough "stuff" on the blog. While I am not an excellent writer, I do have a passion for the Patriots and I absolutely love this community. This community has given me so much. It is about time I return the favor and write a couple posts about some information I have always been fascinated with. This will be the first post of its sorts from me. Hopefully you all learn something new from it like I did when I researched it.
In Marima's daily Daily Links (see what I did there?) there was an inclusion of this piece written by Christopher Price titled "WHY BREAKING IN NEW RECEIVERS IS OLD HAT FOR TOM BRADY." He states that Brady has "completed at least 250 passes in the regular season to four different pass catchers over the course of his 12-year career as a starting quarterback." He does not attempt to conclude anything from the arbitrary choice of 250 completions to a receiver, but the way he starts the article is the basis for my piece. So, for the premise of this fanpost, read everything through this lens:
By the time his career is done, no Hall of Fame quarterback of the modern era will have gone through more personnel changes in the passing game than Tom Brady.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame there are 23 "Modern Era Quarterbacks" currently in the Hall of Fame. This "Modern Era" reaches all the way back to Bob Waterfield whose career started in 1945 and ended in 1952. For Christopher Price to make such a bold claim required me to do far more research on the matter than simply accepting completing 250 passes to different receivers. Bob Waterfield only completed 814 passes in his career. To put that in perspective, in Price's article he mentions that Peyton Manning completed 779 passes to Reggie Wayne in his career. There had to be a better way to measure a quarterback's ability to spread the ball around.
So I decided to start with a list of quarterbacks to use for this measurement. I chose the 23 quarterbacks currently in the Hall of Fame that classified as "Modern Era Quarterbacks" and a list of current quarterbacks that will most likely end up in the Hall of Fame. The list of potential Hall of Famers includes Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, and, of course, Tom Brady. If you're wondering why I included Eli and Big Ben, I will tell you. Jim Plunkett is the only quarterback in NFL History to win multiple Super Bowl titles and not be in the Hall of Fame. They have as good a chance as anyone else. The other reason I chose them is because they make the list an even 30 players.
Using Pro-Football-Reference.com I organized all 30 quarterbacks into a list of how many touchdowns they threw in their career (Touchdowns Thrown) and how many different receivers caught at least 1 touchdown from that quarterback (Number of Different Players). The total touchdowns is then divided by how many different players caught a touchdown from that quarterback to come up with an average receiver (Average Touchdown Per Player).
|Player||Touchdowns Thrown||Number of Different Players||Average Touchdown Per Player|
|Norm Van Brocklin||171||29||5.897|
|Y. A. Tittle||244||39||6.256|
The "Average Touchdown Per Player" was supposed to help reflect the type of personnel changes that a player endured in their career to give me a working frame. Instead it left me with the knowledge that the data didn't really reflect personnel changes. It did however point me in the right direction for developing the two main sources of classifying which quarterback underwent the most personnel decisions. The first source was determining the amount of personnel change a quarterback underwent on a year-to-year basis based on average touchdowns per season by different players. The second source will be brought up later.
So what exactly do I mean with the first source? Well, the formula to determine which quarterback spread the ball around best was this: divide the number of players that caught at least one touchdown from a given quarterback by the number of seasons that quarterback was in the NFL. It needs to be understood that when I say "number of seasons they were in the NFL" I mean every season they played, even in the smallest capacity. That means Tom Brady has 2000 and 2008 count in the grand total, just like the other 29 quarterbacks have their entirety measured. The following list is ranked highest to lowest. The quarterback with the highest score spread the ball around better than a quarterback with a lower score.
|Player||Number of Different Players||Seasons Played||# of Different Players Per Seasons Played|
|Norm Van Brocklin||29||12||2.417|
|Y. A. Tittle||39||17||2.294|
So what does this "# of Different Players Per Season" number represent? It represents that on an average season, that quarterback would throw a touchdown pass to roughly that many new people. The higher the number, the more turnover that quarterback went through on a yearly basis to get to those numbers.
Is it a perfect system? No, not even close. But the biggest argument against such a list would be that it gets skewed by a quarterback throwing a touchdown to a guy that wasn't a main contributor to the team. To be honest, the fact that Tom Brady has thrown three touchdowns or less to 26 of his 46 total receivers would lead many to believe that the list does not accurately reflect the true personnel the quarterback was working with. Don't worry, I took care of that a little. That issue leads me to the second source: the Top 6 TD Catchers.
Just as there are 26 guys who have caught 3 touchdowns or less from Tom Brady, there are 6 guys who have caught more touchdowns than anyone else has from him. Actually, it is 7 because Daniel Graham and Ben Watson are tied with 17 a piece, but that is besides the point. Those 6 guys are Randy Moss, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez, and Daniel Graham (or Ben Watson, they are interchangeable for this). Below is a chart that I devised that breaks down the overall impact that these "Top 6" touchdown catchers represent of Tom Brady's career total of 334 touchdowns.
|Wide Receiver||Receiver Touchdowns||Receiver Touchdown %|
|Top 6 Total||170||50.898%|
So what does this mean? If you'll notice that those names are all pretty well known, not only in Patriots land but probably pretty recognizable to most NFL fans. I think it would be safe to say that those guys represent a fairly significant personnel group during Brady's career.. Is it worth noting that nobody on this list was a receiver of Brady's in 2001 when the Patriots won their first of three Super Bowls? Probably not to most, but it sure feels nice whenever I can bring up the Patriots winning Super Bowls. Back to my point.
I went through and discovered the "Top 6 Touchdown %" for all 30 quarterbacks. The below list will be ranked by the lowest percentage to the highest percentage. The belief I have in this is that the smaller the percentage of the "Top 6", the more personnel changes of significance that a quarterback went through. If you would like to cross-reference all my data (I would love for you to do it), all of this information can be found on pro-football-reference.com which I linked earlier in this piece. Just type in the quarterback's name, go down and click on the part in the chart that is labeled "Passing TD's", and then in the first chart on that page in the last column it will show each receiver with how many touchdowns they caught from that quarterback. Here is Brady's. Below is the chart.
|Player||Touchdown Passes||Top 6 TD Total||Top 6 WR - TD %||Seasons Played|
|Y. A. Tittle||226||126||55.752%||17|
|Norm Van Brocklin||171||119||69.591%||12|
I included "Seasons Played" because I wanted everyone to see that the duration of a player's career had little to do with where a player landed on the list in regard to the personnel changes that they faced. Like I said earlier about the other method, this is not perfect. These numbers can be skewed very quickly. For example, Peyton Manning will be playing the 2013-2014 season without any members from his current "Top 6." See below.
|Wide Receiver||Receiver Touchdowns||Receiver Touchdown %|
With the departure of Brandon Stokley and addition of Wes Welker, it is safe to say that the
Colts Donkies Broncos quarterback will not be throwing to any of his "Top 6" receivers until Eric Decker or Demaryius Thomas moves up. Currently, Decker has 13 and Thomas has 10. They could easily move up in the 2013-14 season. However, every touchdown pass that 5-head Manning throws will lower his percentile. The ability of these numbers to be skewed also proves that they are, in fact, mostly subject to personnel changes, at least in the case of receiving touchdowns by a quarterback's receiver.
I want to inform you that this is not the final say on this matter. There is much more that I am going to research to bring to light this idea that Christopher Price raised - forgetting how poorly he defended his claim. Below is the "final" list compiled of the data for this. The sum of the rankings that each player had in both categories was added up and then divided by the number of categories. Thankfully for this study there were only two.
|Player||# of Different Players Per Seasons Played||Rank||Top 6 WR - TD %||Rank||Average of Rank|
|Y. A. Tittle||2.294||18||55.752%||7||12.5|
|Norm Van Brocklin||2.417||14||69.591%||22||18|
I hope that the way that I did the list was not confusing. The higher up the name is on the list, the more personnel changes they went through in their careers. This is not a ranking of quarterbacks. Let me repeat that: THIS IS NOT A RANKING OF QUARTERBACKS. I already acknowledged from the beginning that 23 of them are in the Hall of Fame and that the other 7 are very likely to end up there as well.
So what does a list like this mean to us going forward? For today, at least, Christopher Price (if he ever sees this) can pat himself on the back for being right on one thing - Tom Brady is definitely pushing the limit on personnel changes for a
potential Hall of Fame quarterback. It means that just because a guy like Brady spends his whole career in one place it doesn't necessarily mean he got to spend that whole time with the same players.
Something I found interesting was the bottom 5 of the list. Those bottom 5, considered by the methods of this piece to have undergone the least personnel changes, combined to win 20 Super Bowls and Championships - Terry Bradshaw (4 Super Bowls), Bart Starr (3 NFL Championships, 2 Super Bowls), Joe Namath (1 Super Bowl), Otto Graham (4 AAFC Titles, 3 NFL Championships), and Johnny Unitas (2 NFL Championships, 1 Super Bowl).
I hope you all enjoyed the piece. This was my first time using Microsoft Excel to create spreadsheets so that I could make the information easier for you all to read. If you need any help trying to understand please don't hesitate to ask. I am more than happy to explain the methods to my madness. Please let me know if you would like me to continue. I have a couple different directions I want to go with this and your feedback will help me to know which order to go in to make the process easier.