Chase Stuart of Football Perspective is one of the most respected stats gurus in the industry and he provides some of the more interesting ways to examine and evaluate player production. This morning, he decided to try and show which offensive players have had the greatest winning impact of all time.
When he talks about "impact" (my word, not his), he's talking about how players performed as an individual and relating it to the team's winning percentage.
For instance, we can say that the Patriots won 16 games in 2007 when Brady put up one of the best seasons of all time- and we can give Brady's season a "10". In 2013, the Patriots won 12 games, but Brady's play was clearly not as great as in 2007- we can give Brady's season an "8". We can attribute this value for every season in history.
The next step is to weight the team's winning percentages by Brady's level of play, meaning that of Brady's total career value (let's say he's earned a score of "100"), 10% of his career value (10/100) comes from his 2007 season. Similarly, 8% of his career value comes from his 2013 season. As a result, the "weighted impact on winning" of the 2007 season is 10% (100% winning percentage x 10% career value), while the impact of the 2013 season is 6% (75% winning percentage x 8% career value).
We can then add all these "impact on winning" values to come up with a career winning percentage for every player.
Luckily for us, the website Pro Football Reference has a statistic called "Approximate Value" that gives a player a season score based upon the player's production, accolades, and other factors. This is what Stuart uses to weight each season.
So when a player has an outstanding season and the team does extremely well, then the player will be attributed a higher score. Per Stuart, the hope is to align the player's best seasons with the team's record.
According to his analysis, Patriots center Dan Koppen is the best winner of all time. All he does is win. According to Stuart, Koppen's best season came during the Patriots 2007 season, which bumps up Koppen's score a fair amount- and perhaps shows the importance of a quality center to the Patriots offense.
Coming in second is Patriots left guard Logan Mankins. In fourth is Patriots left tackle Matt Light. In seventh is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In 13th is Wes Welker.
Lots of Patriots at the top. Makes sense. The Patriots have had an incredible run of winning seasons and the players on the line have a lot to do with their performance.
My issue with the methodology is if a player performs poorly for a full season and the team does poorly, the weight of that season has a smaller effect on the player's career score. But perhaps the exercise isn't about attributing misnomers such as "winner" to players.
Maybe it's about showing which players have yielded the fruits of their labor. The Patriots were extremely fortunate to group up such a terrific left side of the offensive line with Light, Mankins, and Koppen in their prime. Plenty of teams have single successful players, but the team wasn't able to convert those into team victories.
Bill Belichick and company arranged a group that could win. That's the feat that should be applauded.