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# Statistical Validity-- psychostats?

December 8 2011 at 8:42 AM
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OK I think I have a way of quantifying the statement Chris Berman made (many years ago):
"...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..."

Psycho, can you possibly identify a singularity or even an uptick in the offensive statistics to justify this in the approximate time frame referenced? Perhaps it will actually refute the statement and Murf will be vindicated to some degree. There may be some other year with a more pronounced spike. You are the man who can answer it.

Up for it?

Mikey is cleverer than you think.

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# Re: Statistical Validity-- psychostats?

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December 8 2011, 7:39 PM
 Hm. If I had all the data on pro-football-reference.com in a personal database, I would just pull out what I wanted, make some quick calculations, and start graphing. Unfortunately I don't and this little exercise would take some time to do. My next thought is that somebody must have already looked at this (or a similar) question and posted the results somewhere. Nothing popped out at me when a ran a quick search, though. I'll keep my eyes open. Berman via TOBB:"...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..." One approach might be to use the much-maligned quarterback rating. It incorporates key data: passing efficiency, passing yards, and passing touchdowns versus interceptions. Kind-of a proxy for overall offensive efficiency. If I had the raw data handy, I'd graph the following: - the average league quarterback rating per year, from, say, 1966 to 2010. - the league's top quarterback rating per year (regardless of which quarterback achieved it) - the aggregate quarterback rating per year of the top five quarterbacks - the aggregate quarterback rating per year of the top 10 quarterbacks One graph with four trend lines. This would illustrate the gradual improvement in quarterback play over the years, including where any surges occurred. The trend line for the best QB rating might be more of an early indicator. The other trend lines might suggest when the rest of the league started to catch up to the... um... "trendsetters". But... if all we really need is to verify Berman's reliability, there's a much easier approach. Let's simply cherry pick some facts that falsify his belief. "...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..." Well, what about the San Diego Chargers of 1981 and 1982? They not only had one of the best offenses of their era, but one of the best offenses of all time. And it didn't just spring up suddenly from the fertile mind of Don Coryell, but had been evolving for years. It was modern and "pass-featured", no? And what about the other team that made it to the 1981 Super Bowl (facing the 49ers)? You might recall that their quarterback won the passing title that year along with the AP MVP award. Yes, the Cincinnati Bengals had the 3rd best offense in the league that year behind San Diego and Atlanta. Offensive Coordinator Lindy Infante was not a disciple of Bill Walsh, by the way. He was more of a Coryell guy. "...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..." Oh shut up, Berman.
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# Re: Statistical Validity-- psychostats?

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December 10 2011, 12:14 AM

I went ahead and made a couple of graphs. It gives me a chance to harp on one of my football pet peeves, namely, that folks get carried away with their praise of Bill Walsh (RIP). The one-time Bungles offensive coordinator was helped -- nay, hugely helped -- by the deep pockets of one Eddie DeBartolo. Jr. in San Francisco. There's no way Walsh wins all those Super Bowls without the most spendthrift owner the league has ever seen.

"...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..."

Here's why Berman should just shut up. Check out the data below. I was able to grab some of what I wanted from pro-football-reference.com. You'll see stats for league-wide aggregations and for the league leaders (top quarterback) year-by-year.

First, let's look at the QB ratings.

The idea behind showing the top quarterback ratings (red line) is that they might foreshadow league-wide trends. No dice. They're too erratic. But we get some nice context as we see that standout quarterback play has been around since forever. The blue line shows the QB ratings as calculated across the data from all the quarterbacks and all the teams. It's represents what the entire league was doing. A key period is highlighted by the gray band. We'll get to that in a moment.

Now let's look at per-game passing yardage.

We've got the same kind of deal going on with the red and blue lines and the gray zone. While the QB rating reflects passing efficiency, the total passing yards reflects a kind-of raw production. If you define "modern" offenses as passing a lot, it might be good to look at passing yards in isolation.

"...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..."

Sorry, Berman. Murf was right about you. The big transition we see on both graphs occurred from 1977 to 1981. Basic logic dictates that the foundation had to be laid before that. Bill Walsh didn't start coaching San Francisco until 1979 and he didn't have a Top-10 offense until 1981. And the best offenses from 1978-81 came from teams like San Diego, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. All had top-flight quarterbacks and strong passing games.

One more thing. When the league emerged from the so-called "dead-ball era" (1966-1977), the passing offenses began to steadily evolve again as they had doing historically before that 12-year dip. As we noted above, that emergence was not driven by the 49ers. In fact, it's logical to conclude that the league would have gone in that direction anyway, Bill Walsh or no Bill Walsh. Look at the trend lines. They don't explode upward after 1981. It's a a steady climb.

"...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1981 with the ascension of the 49ers and the pass-featured offense..."

No I don't. And neither should you.

 This message has been edited by psychostats on Dec 10, 2011 12:27 AM

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TOBB
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# 77

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December 10 2011, 5:10 AM
 So the "Modern" NFL began in 1977 then? Awesome facts. Yay Murf. Thanks for the opine. Mikey is cleverer than you think.
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# Right place, right time

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December 10 2011, 2:53 PM
 I think that you have players coming out into the league around the 1977-1983 time period. Players like Fouts, Montana, Marino, Kelly, and Elway. These guys could all sling the ball real good. I'd say the league was at the right place right time. And then you had the coaches that were very willing to play into these QBs' throwing abilities. The league was just right for it. IMO, Berman was sort of right. But you guys are right too--he can STFU. LOL!!!! "So he got fired? Big deal. It's happened to the best of us. So he got kicked out of his house by his 400 lb'ed wife?!?!? That's probably better for him anyways."-OldSchooler on ChrisMBHater's absence
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# '78 Rule Changes

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December 15 2011, 7:41 PM
 Before leaving this thread for good, we probably should mention the root cause for the systemic league-wide surge in passing productivity. Via Wikipedia, here are two key rule changes made prior to the 1978 season: To open up the passing game, defenders are permitted to make contact with receivers only to a point of five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. This applies only to the time BEFORE the ball is thrown, at which point any contact is pass interference. Previously, contact was allowed anywhere on the field. This is usually referred to as the "Mel Blount Rule" The pass blocking rules were extended to permit extended arms and open hands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1978_NFL_season#Major_rule_changes Here's what Berman should have said: "...if you believe, as I do, that the modern NFL began in 1978 with new rule changes that benefited the pass-featured offense..." Bill Walsh and the 49ers were merely participants, like all the other coaches and teams in the league.
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# Re: '78 Rule Changes

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December 16 2011, 7:01 AM
 It is hard to have a conversation with my dad about football without him mentioning that when he played you could not extend your arms and open your hands when blocking. Remembering when I had to block I can not even imagine how to do it effectively without extending your arms. Try to imagine blocking Dwight Freeney with your hands tight and elbows flared. I think the blocking rules had more to do with the evolution of the pass offense that the rules concerning the secondary.There are 10 types of people in this world, those who undertsand binary, and those who do not.
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# Good argument by Dear Ole Dad

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December 16 2011, 8:01 PM
 Even as far as the late 1980s, I remember our coaches teaching us to run block with our elbows up and in. I remember getting called for a "hold" because my block was "too good". But pass blocking was another story. You didn't fire out. You "stood up" out of your stance and outstretched your arms. Pass blocking was worlds easier than run blocking. Even in the late 80s. Your dad has a valid argument. "So he got fired? Big deal. It's happened to the best of us. So he got kicked out of his house by his 400 lb'ed wife?!?!? That's probably better for him anyways."-OldSchooler on ChrisMBHater's absence
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# Cold Hard Football Spin

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February 2 2012, 6:55 PM
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