NFL vs. MLB: Pace and Timing

Perhaps the biggest complaint non-baseball fans have about the sport is that it is boring. Often, they point to the pace of the game to make the argument.

In an NFL game in 2010 there were an average (mean) of 126 plays. Baseball doesn’t have plays in a strict sense, and its timing is, obviously, far more dependent on the action on the field, given the lack of a clock. But say you count a pitch as a play: there are almost always at least 200 in a game, and often 250 or 300.

Now consider: A typical NFL game takes three hours. That is on the long side for an MLB game, even though an MLB game will always have more plays than an NFL game, at least based on the above definitions of a play.

One’s perception of time when watching the two sports on television may be where the complaints arise. While every pitch in a baseball game has the potential to create action, most do not realize that potential. The ball gets thrown back to the pitcher and–especially if he works slowly–you wait for the next one, but generally there is not much to review. Meanwhile, after every football play, the next 30 seconds can be used for replays, since football doesn’t have the problem.

But, how often in football is there a commercial, followed by a kickoff, and immediately followed by more commercials?

Anyway, it would seem that it’s not so much that baseball has more inaction than football, just that it’s easier to cover up the inaction in NFL broadcasts than MLB broadcasts.

Degrees of Anger

On twitter, people getting angry at someone (rob neyer) for defending someone (bill james) who defended someone (joe paterno) who defended someone. How far can this go?

NFL Passer Rating Record

Drew Brees just broke Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season, a record which lasted 27 years.

But when Joe Montana achieved a 112.4 passer rating in 1989, it was the best the NFL had seen in 29 years.

Passer rating didn’t go into official use 1972, but in 1960 Milt Plum achieved a 110.4 rating, which was applied retroactively.

That effectively cut his time with the record in half, which, in addition to the obscurity of the formula itself, is probably why Plum’s longtime mark is not so well known.

Nevertheless, in 1960 Plum completed 151 of 250 passes for 2297 yards with 21 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Had the statistic been around in 1960, and were his team and coach concerned with it (no guarantee), Plum’s mark might have been better.

He went into the final game of the season with just one interception, but against the Giants he was 19 of 40 for 296 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Browns nevertheless won, 48-34.

Prior to that game, however, Plum’s 132 completions on 210 attempts for 2001 yards with 17 touchdowns and just one interception would have been a 119.2 rating.

Had that been the mark instead of 110.4, it might not have been broken until 2004, and would still be the third best of all time.

On the flip side, had Plum thrown just one fewer TD pass with the same numbers otherwise, his rating would have been 109.0, in which case Sammy Baugh’s 109.9 rating in 1945 would have stood as the record until 1989.

Evolution of NFL Passer Rating Record (Retroactively until 1972)
(Minimums: 168 attempts, 1920-60; 196 attempts, 1961-77; 224 attempts, 1978-present)

Yr Quarterback Tm Cmp Att Yds TD Int Rtg
1936 Arnie Herber Packers 77 173 1239 11 13 58.9
1940 Sammy Baugh Redskins 111 177 1367 12 10 85.6
1942 Cecil Isbell Packers 146 268 2021 24 14 87.0
1943 Sid Luckman Bears 110 202 2194 28 12 107.5
1945 Sammy Baugh Redskins 128 182 1669 11 4 109.9
1960 Milt Plum Browns 151 250 2297 21 5 110.4
1989 Joe Montana 49ers 271 386 3521 26 8 112.4
1994 Steve Young 49ers 324 461 3969 35 10 112.8
2004 Peyton Manning Colts 336 497 4557 49 10 121.1
2011 Aaron Rodgers Packers 343 502 4643 45 6 122.5
 

Two Attempts at Reviewing Postseason Performance

The tables below should hopefully give an idea of how often a QB does poorly in the postseason, and how his teams do when their QB plays below his standard.

First: “Bad game” defined as less than 6 adjusted yards per attempt. Last column is team W-L record in such games.

Kelly
59%
5-5
Marino
56%
1-9
McNabb
50%
2-6
Hasselbeck
45%
2-3
Roethlisberger
43%
3-3
P. Manning
42%
4-4
Elway
38%
4-4
Brady
36%
6-2
Young
36%
1-4
Rodgers
33%
1-1
Favre
29%
1-6
E. Manning
27%
0-3
Aikman
27%
1-3
Montana
26%
2-4
Warner
8%
1-0
Brees
0%
0-0

Second: “Bad game” defined as one where the QB’s rating was lower than his career regular season rating. Last column is again the team W-L record in such games followed by W-L in the other games.

Kelly
71%
6-6
P. Manning
68%
5-8
Brady
68%
9-6
Marino
61%
2-9
Young
57%
3-5
Roethlisberger
57%
4-4
Favre
50%
2-10
Montana
48%
6-5
Warner
46%
3-3
Hasselbeck
45%
2-3
McNabb
44%
1-6
Elway
41%
4-5
Aikman
40%
2-4
Rodgers
33%
1-1
E. Manning
27%
1-2
Brees
22%
0-2