Sorry, I’ve been away for a while, but finally made bail.
We’re once again bringing another episode of one of GSEZ’s most popular game-show formats, “How In The ****??”
So let’s get started.
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Pooh-yah, Claude, how in the **** did the Saints not get a bye in the playoffs at 13-3?
Since 1978, when the NFL went to a 16-game schedule, in the 41 full seasons of NFL football (omitting the strike year of 1982, but including the 15-game season in 1987) since, exactly 50 teams have gone 13-3 (adding a win to the 13-2 49ers and the 12-3 Saints in 1987), and four of those 50 teams have not gotten a bye for the first week of the playoffs.
Three of those teams are the Saints.
1987, with BTW the second-best record in the NFL that year. 2011. And now 2019.
In case you were wondering, the other team was the 1999 Titans, who ended up losing the Super Bowl to the Rams by three yards.
I mean, what are the chances, of being one of a weighted average of 30 teams over the years since 1978, having five of 50 three-loss teams (’87, ’09, ’11, ’18, ’19), with three of them being one of four of those 50 without a bye?
Over 41 seasons, average of about 30 teams a year given expansion over that period, gives us 1,230 ‘team-seasons’ over that span. Fifty of those 1,230 teams lost only three games, that’s about a 4.1% chance of being 13-3.
Now, of the 50 of those teams, since four didn’t get a bye, you had an 8.0% chance of being one of those teams. But to be one of those teams three of the four times, that’s a 0.0512% chance, or about one in 2,000.
But remember, you only had a 4.1% chance of being 13-3 in the first place. So the overall risk that we could be where we are right now is, multiplying these together, and cutting open a chicken by the light of the full moo–, well, I am starting to get a little lost, so….
We asked a friend of GSEZ who is a math professor at major public university, and who gets serious coin to consult with very large businesses on predictive analytics, to figure it out professionally, and he told us that the odds of this happening to the Saints are……. 1.366 x 10(-7), or 1 in 7,352,941. I kid, as the saying goes, you not.
And trust me, if you went back just one level and did this with the 12-4 teams as well, things get even worse, in a way; of the 79 teams since 1978 that went 12-4, 21 of those teams did not get a bye, and the Saints have only gone 12-4 once, and you can fill in the rest of that story yourself.
To be fair, neither Roger Goodell nor the butthurt snowflake refs union had anything to do with this, this is just absurdly bad luck, and further proof that God hates us. Not more than He hates all 17 Falcons fans, but still.
All I know is, if you had ever known this in advance, you could have made a fortune playing powerball with the numbers 87, 09, 11, 18, 19, 666, and for your powerball number you used fuck all. So I don’t want any crap about Saints fans being complainers. As a group, we make Job look like Wendy ******* Whiner.
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Pooh-yah, Claude, how in the **** was Drew Brees not one of the top 10 QBs of all time in the NFL Top 100 list?
Narrative, my man, narrative. It’s the sports equivalent of “it’s who you know” in business. You fit the narrative, you’re in. You don’t, you’re Winthorp with his nose pressed up against the window and a smoked salmon in his Santa suit, out in the rain.
Drew doesn’t fit the narrative, and those are The Rules.
As we all know by now, Brees, who is simply the record book default for any positive passing characteristic in the game that isn’t somehow a product of pre-1970’s rules, was omitted in favor of 10 other QBs in the NFL’s best 100 players list. Some folks were asking if winning a second Super Bowl this season would change that, and the answer is “HAHAHAHAHAHA…..no.”
There’s just a narrative legend around each of the 10 guys chosen, and those narrative legends will never change, no matter what (except for an OJ-type situation), and neither will Brees’s: overachiever, precisionist, played indoors, “average” arm, nice guy, small-town hero, Katrina guy, etc. He just doesn’t clearly fit (in the minds of observers who refuse to look at analytics, anyway) any of the three “hero categories” of “great” quarterbacks.
The narrative is too deeply entrenched in the mindset of any of the people who make any of these lists. The ten chosen are grouped below by their respective narrative categories, with un-chosen finalists (like Brees) in parentheses:
Paradigm changers: Baugh, Unitas, Manning (Fouts, Young, Tarkenton). These guys redefined the position in their era, Manning’s contribution being the absolute control of the offense the moment the previous play was dead.
“Winners”: Graham, Montana, Brady (Aikman, Bradshaw, Luckman, Starr). Mind you, this is the most complicated multiplayer team sport in human history not involving actual killing, so we put “Winner” in parentheses, but I get it.
Gun-slinging heroes: Marino, Elway, Favre, Staubach (Layne, Namath, Rodgers, Van Brocklin). I don’t think I need to explain this. (Unfortunately, legend and lore carried both Staubach and Favre at lot further than they deserved here.)
Staubach is really half-Winner (lost a bunch of conference championship games and SBs), half Gun-Slinger (played behind great OLs in a precision offense), but you can’t imagine the NFL omitting a military hero who played for the Cowboys. Marino was also a Paradigm Changer to an extent, but I think he’s known more for the Lone Ranger persona like those other guys, and at best a Unitas reboot as a paradigm changer. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where you stick Tarkenton and Fouts, two guys who racked up a ton of stats in new ways (ball control passing for Tarkenton, Air Coryell for Fouts), but they never won anything and they sure don’t seem like gun-slingers.
There’s also a lot of self-fulfilling prophecy here, like with Manning’s MVPs; even though he got more than he deserved, that number is now etched in stone and we’ve all moved on. As Bill James does in his analysis of all-time greats, it’s not the MVP awards or season statistical category leaders, it’s how many times you were in the top five of the category, but I assure you these guys are too lazy. As stockbrokers say, why fight the tape?
So, where does Brees fit in?
If anything, Brees was a Paradigm Changer – it’s no longer novel to pass for 5,000 yards in a season, or to have a completion percentage above 70%, and both pretty much at the same time, while remaining largely agnostic as to who one’s eligible receivers were on any given play/series/game/season. The problem – Manning started just a couple of years earlier, and seemed to be getting participation MVPs every year (you think we are cheesed, imagine how Brady’s fans feel), even though at the end of the day it’s now pretty obvious that Brees is/was better at being Peyton Manning than Peyton Manning himself ever was. (Same with Favre’s MVP awards, BTW, but more on that below.)
Drew’s nerdy “aw shucks” persona isn’t “country” enough, and he’s too obvious of a family man, so that takes him out of Gunslinger category (even though he is in reality far better at it than Favre or Staubach), and the Saints defenses will eternally keep him out of the “Winner” category.
Instead, I think most folks think of him as they do Fouts and Tarkenton: a decent fellow who played in an unimportant media market, maximized his talent, played with some really good offenses , racked up some amazing numbers without winning a bunch of titles or selling a lot sexy aftershave, and packed up quietly and went home. Which is a crime.
As far as the Gunslingers, donnez-moi une break. Here, it’s really all about the narrative.
First, for reasons I cannot understand, Marino has always gotten a complete historical free pass for getting to only one Super Bowl, in which his team got thumped. He played for a lot of tremendous teams, led by the all-time great head coach Don Shula, and only got to one Super Bowl? If you look not at “Marino v. Brees” but “Marino vs. peers” and “Brees vs. peers” statistics, Brees has lead the league in major single-season statistical passing categories (while dealing with Manning and Brady as competitors) so many more times that Marino, it’s not even funny.
And Elway? Far worse. Here’s where “print the legend” comes in. How many times did John Elway lead the NFL for a season in passing yards, passing TDs, or passer rating? Not a trick question: once, in 1993, he led in NFL in passing yards. That’s it. As far as winning, he was 7-7 in the playoffs (with two brutal Super Bowl losses) until the final two years of 1997-98, when the defense-and-Terrell-Davis Broncos won back to back Lombardis, with Elway throwing the second fewest passes of his career in 1998.
WHY IS ELWAY ON THIS LIST?
Basically, he’s living off two playoff drives (remember, this is a team sport) in seasons that ended in Super Bowl losses. But he was the first pick in a draft, had great hair and teeth, threw the football really really hard, and played in a manly state like Colorado with games in the snow (and, at 5,000 feet, a much more meaningful home field advantage than sea-level stadia like the SuperDome), so he’s one of the top 10 QBs of all time. Print the fucking legend.
Let’s do a little career passer rating comparison of Elway’s era peers who started in the early- to mid-80s, in order, shall we?
Dan Marino (1983-99) – 86.4
Neil Lomax (1981-88) – 82.7
Bernie Kosar (1985-96) – 81.8
Randall Cunningham (1985-01) – 81.5
Warren Moon (1984-00) – 80.9
Jeff Hostetler (1985-97) – 80.5
John Elway (1983-98) – 79.9
Tony Eason (1983-90) – 79.7
Jim McMahon (1982-96) – 78.2
Bobby Hebert (1985-96) – 78.0
Jim Harbaugh (1987-00) – 77.6
Quick, quick, pick the by-far best QB of that era!! Once you get past Marino and maybe Warren Moon (not even a finalist), John ****** Elway blends into that group of forgotten solid pros like E.T. in that kid’s stuffed-animal closet, and he’s a top 10 QB of all time? If they wanted to cover the 80’s-90’s, they already had Montana and Marino. Finally, with some irony, both Warren Moon (84.9) and Bernie Kosar (!) (83.5) had a higher career passer playoff rating than John Elway (79.7) and Dan Marino (77.0). So print the legend, as they say. And fuck salt.
The other real crimes are Favre and Staubach in front of Brees on this list, and particularly Favre, who’s there by the bloviations of John Madden, because good ol’ Brett “was just havin’ fun out there.” But nobody on that list blew more big games in their career with a late pick more than Favre, and I goddamn guarantee you that there’s not a GM, dead or alive, who’d take five years of peak Brett Favre (or, for that matter, Staubach) in front of five years of peak Drew Brees if their GM job was on the line. Not one. But here we are. Print the legend, as they say.
In the final analysis, Drew was a victim of small-market invisibility, a bunch of bad defenses that not only kept us out of some playoff appearances but also ganked up last-second playoff wins that should have been defining Brees playoff moments and improved his playoff win-loss record, and his own Brees-ness.
In baseball, never-ever-winner Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived, is still known as the greatest hitter who ever lived.
In football, Drew Brees, the greatest passer who ever lived and a deserving Super Bowl MVP, gets a pat on the head.
If I told you that there wasn’t a small (OK, very large) part of me that desperately wants Brees to get up for his Hall of Fame induction speech with yet another small new earmuffed Brees child on his hip, walk to the podium, wordlessly give everybody the finger, and walk off the stage, I’d be lying.
I leave you with this one statistic, and we’ll move on.
Career post-season passer rating:
Brees – 100.0
Brady – 90.5
Manning — 87.4
Favre – 86.3
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We’re on to Minnesota.