Archive

Tag Archives: Bleacher Report

There were some technical difficulties today, presumably all around the world and definitely in my own laptop. Specifically, said difficulties concerned my ASUS “SmartGesture_Win8_64_VER225” touchpad driver, or whatever. This was not the first time. I was Not in the mood. Technology ultimately prevailed, but has left me exhausted and weak, physically and emotionally, much like yesterday’s NFC Championship game.

So this is not a post, but a repost, indeed a reposting. The following have been the most popular articles on Crossroads:

  1. Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, & 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time (Part 1 of 2)

    Around midnight of December 18th, I sat back with a fairly comprehensive Bleacher Report article (as they go), my laptop, a bottle of whiskey, a recliner chair, a big screen TV, and a YouTube to investigate what makes the “All Time Classic Plays” just so. Eight hours later, I had many thoughts, maybe even answers.

  2. Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, & 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time (Part 2 of 2)

    The results of this positively unscientific and whimsical process couldn’t be clearer: it’s a play’s impact on a game’s outcome, and how unusually the players pull it off, that are most likely to set a play apart.

  3. Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan: I Am Going There! NFC Wildcard EXCLUSIVE Preview-49ers at Packers-with Pictures! (Part 1 of 2)

    “Arctic blast”? What kind of s#$% is that? Most times there’s a winter storm, or even a blizzard. This time there’s going to be an “arctic blast”? Hell no. WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

  4. Early Betting Super Bowl XLVIII: Who Will Win “The Big One”?

    As they were months ago, Seattle and Denver seem to be the heavyweights, but then, so did the 2007 Patriots six years ago.

  5. Home Economics: The Sportsfan’s Cost-Benefit Analysis of Snowshoeing This Chicago Winter

    By assigning probabilities to different outcomes, the expected net benefits of both owning versus renting snowshoes this winter (between January 1st and March 15th) become apparent.

  6. Weighting the Coin: A Theoretical Case for Nomentum

    Forget sports (just for a second, don’t worry) and think about a coin flip. Say it’s a fair coin, and you flip heads two times in a row. Does the coin have momentum? Is the coin more likely to come up heads on the next flip? You’re smart, you know the answer is no.

  7. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly: Winners & Losers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup Draw

    Who got off easy? Argentina, no question. In addition to being in their element in South America (theoretically), they drew a Bosnia-Herzegovina team playing in its first tournament as its own nation (being formerly part of Yugoslavia), ranked 21st, Nigeria, ranked 36th, and Iran, ranked 45th.

  8. Mike Tomlin, Player Fines, and What the NFL Really Cares About

    The average NFL salary is $2.016 million ($2,015,942), with a median of $0.753 million ($753,229). The average fine ($14,543) is 0.72% of the average salary, and 1.93% of the median salary. For half of all players, the average fine is a harsher punishment than Tomlin’s 1.74% loss.

  9. ESPM Presents: The Search for the Best (& Worst) Contract in Football, LBs

    You should not be surprised to see that as quarterbacks are the most expensive players, the most expensive defenders are those whose job it is to get to the quarterback.

  10. NEWS FLASH: Many of the Best NFL Players Are Pro Bowl Snubs

    Flowers and Talib, 85th and 66th respectively among all cornerbacks, both make the cut with impressive negative grades. Anyone want to bet how many times announcers mention their Pro Bowl inclusion tomorrow in a context affirming their, uh, “quality” play this season?

Advertisements

Don’t reseed the NFL playoffs.

Every year people make the case for reseeding the playoffs, and every year they are wrong, and way off base. The NFL playoffs are competitive, entertaining, and reasonably fair; they should not be reseeded or changed.

1. Finding the Best Team in Football

If the playoffs are a true test to find the best team in football, then the league’s owners owe it to their fans and everyone involved with the league to structure the playoffs properly, once and for all.

The playoffs are not a true test to find the best team in football, and never have been. If people wanted such a test, the league might owe a restructuring to the fans–but people don’t.

*NOTE: Recently there have been a number of articles about reseeding the NFL playoffs. Dan Levy wrote a particularly thorough one, “NFL Reality Check: Let’s Say It Again This Year–Playoffs Need to Be Reseeded“, on Bleacher Report. In this post I rebut Levy point-by-point, akin to his format and style. All quotes are Levy’s and from that article, unless otherwise noted. I encourage reading his piece first.

A true test to find the best would be a league-wide double round-robin, with each team playing every other time twice, once at home and once on the road.1 That is unfeasible, and worse, it would be boring. There is a trade-off here, between entertainment and objective rankings, and the league has a fine balance already.

2. NFL Owners Want Easily Acquired Home Playoff Games

Home games in the playoffs are an enormous cash cow, so why would the owners be willing to risk that, even if it gives more deserving teams a better chance to win a title?

Of the 12 teams that make the NFL playoffs each year, eight are division winners; two-thirds of the teams in the postseason qualify by winning their division.

Of course the owners want to give themselves a better chance to get that home game, and guaranteeing at least one home game to each division winner is the best way to do that. It’s not about the fans at all. It’s about the money.

This “analysis” is so bad, it is difficult impossible to read without getting angry. Where to start?

A team does not have a shot at all eight division-winner spots. (Duh.) A team can only win its division. But every team does have a shot at either of the two wildcards in its conference. “…two-thirds of the teams in the postseason qualify by winning their division.” THAT DOESN’T F@#$ING MATTER. Two-thirds of the ways to get into the playoffs for a single team (or owner) involve having a better record than as many teams in the same conference as possible.2

Perhaps what Levy was going for is that three-thirds–100 percent–of all first and second round playoff games are hosted by division winners.3 A team competes against three teams for a division title, but twelve for a wildcard spot.4 But in Week 17 this season, there were only four AFC teams alive for the final wildcard spot (Baltimore, Miami, Pittsburgh, and San Diego) and effectively only three NFC teams alive for the final two wildcard spots.5 The number of competitors for the spots does not make a division title easier to obtain than a wildcard.

There would be no reason for an owner to vote for the teams with the best record to get home games in the playoffs, except, you know, because it would actually reward the best teams in the regular season. That would be for the fans.

Yeah, yeah, because such persecuted “best teams in the regular season” don’t have owners, they have… wait, no, they do have owners! And driven by the want of a home playoff game, they would fight to change the system, right? Since divisional realignment in 2002, the Patriots have won the AFC East 10 times (of a possible 12), the Colts have won the AFC South eight times, and the Packers have won the NFC North six times. In that same time both San Diego and Seattle won their respective divisions four times in a row. If their opponents were trying to rig the system for home playoff games, how come it wasn’t working?

It’s all nonsense. Home playoff games are zero-sum. If an owner found a way to get his team more, that would mean less for the other owners. If it’s easier for some teams to get a home playoff game, it’s harder for others.

Increasing the number of playoff games, however, would presumably grow profits. Major League Baseball just added a wild card team in each league, and the NFL might do the same for each conference. I do agree with Levy on one point, at least: it’s all about the money. (Although that shouldn’t be news to anyone.)

3. Teams with Better Records Are Punished Unfairly

The 2013 Saints finished 11-5 and must travel to the Philadelphia Eagles to open the playoffs in the NFC. Why? Because the NFL rules ostensibly reward Philadelphia for the existence of the Carolina Panthers.

The 12-4 San Francisco 49ers have to inexplicably travel to the 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers on Sunday for their first home playoff game. Why? Because the Seahawks are really good and played just a little better than the Niners this season.

Despite winning more games than their first-round opponents, New Orleans and San Francisco will get penalized in the playoffs because another team in their respective–read: tougher–divisions had a slightly better record.

One, you can’t have it both ways. Either a team’s record is more important than home field advantage, so the “punishment” of playing on the road is trivial, or home field advantage must be given utmost consideration. Since realignment in 2002, wildcard teams have won three of eleven Super Bowls, suggesting it’s possible to overcome playing on the road.

Two, if the NFL reseeded so that the “best” teams6 always hosted playoff games, why shouldn’t all the best teams get into the playoffs, regardless of which division they play in? How about regardless of which conference they play in?

Now, if we’re already in agreement to reseed the conferences, a case can be made to reseed every team, combining the AFC and NFC teams into one big postseason tournament based on overall record. Even giving a slot to each division winner, the Cardinals would be in as a wild-card team if we did that.

There is, however, great importance to keeping the tradition of AFC versus NFC intact for the Super Bowl, so the Cardinals were justifiably the odd team out in the NFC this season.

But is that really fair? With teams playing an imbalanced schedule, is the way the league picks wild-card teams fair and balanced enough?

So there is some value in continuing tradition! It isn’t just about the best teams (duh). But it is about fairness. It all hinges on what you think is fair enough. Again, a double round-robin would be fair, but no one wants that. Is the current system fair? Within a division, 14 of each team’s 16 games are in-common, although with different home-road splits. Within a conference, there is a one in three chance that teams from different divisions have six of their thirteen opponents in-common. That is fair enough.7

But you, or Levy, think it isn’t, and want the teams reseeded by record, because the 8-7-1 Packers (and other such teams) making the playoffs, and especially hosting a playoff game, isn’t fair, because they’re bad.8 The 49ers shouldn’t have had to go on the road to beat them. It’s an unfair punishment.

Reseeding by record within the conference, this season the 49ers would have played the Arizona Cardinals, who finished… 10-6. Seemingly better than 8-7-1, right? Such a system might actually punish teams in the 49ers position, who get to play an alleged bad team in the first round. I guess the 49ers would have gotten the Cardinals at home, though. Wait, which matters more, playing at home or having a better record? Oh, right, it’s inconsistent. You could find similar scenarios by reseeding the whole league by record, or reseeding but keeping the division winners in regardless, whatever.

And that’s the point: all of these different systems are really similar anyway! A case can always be made for a team playing an opponent they “shouldn’t have to”, in a venue they “shouldn’t have to”. “It isn’t fair.” “It’s all about the money.” “It doesn’t produce the very best team.”

4. Get Over It

Fairness matters, definitely. It’s “the right thing”, and it also produces a higher level of competition in the postseason. No one wants to watch the Houston Texans any more this year than one already had to. Fans want to be entertained by close games and upsets, but they also want a baseline level of fairness.

That’s fine, that’s good… we already have it! The NFL doesn’t draw playoff teams out of a hat.9 A balanced system is already in place. The very best teams (through sixteen games) always make the playoffs in the current system, and usually end up with at least one home game. Good, not elite teams almost always make the playoffs. Rewarding the division winners not only produces some postseason excitement (a la the 2010 Seahawks), it also provides in-season excitement, with most of the 96 intra-division games each season meaning quite a bit.

Leave the NFL playoffs alone. “Deserving” teams can win on the road if they want to win the Super Bowl (as the Saints, Chargers, 49ers, and very nearly the Chiefs did last weekend). The division format is geographically logical, rooted in tradition, reasonably fair, and most importantly, fun! Quit whining.

Though not quite relevant enough to work its way in this piece, I wanted to note that in his article, Levy mentioned that “The NFC West was 42-22 overall this season, while the NFC North was 28-34-2. Looking at just non-division games, the NFC West was 30-10 against other divisions, while the putrid NFC North was 17-23 outside of its division.” This is hilarious! If it’s an intra-division game, the division record can’t net one way or the other; one team’s win is the other’s loss. Note that he subtracted the same number of wins and losses from each division, because a division is guaranteed to go .500 against itself! Thanks for the statistical insight!

  1. And if you really wanted a true test, the ranking criteria wouldn’t be on the resulting win-loss-tie records, but a metric more indicative of talent and less subject to randomness, such as Pythagorean win-loss-tie record, or DVOA. Is finding the best team still your number one priority? 
  2. If you’re still having trouble: the 49ers can make the playoffs by winning the NFC West division (1), having the best non-division-winner record (2), or having the second-best non-division-winner record (3). Routes two and three to the playoffs have nothing to do with the 49ers winning their division. 
  3. This is not true in the conference championship round if both wildcards win their first two playoff games, in which case the five seed would host the six seed. A precursory search indicates that this has never happened. 
  4. 16 teams in each conference, minus the four division winners equals twelve teams potentially chasing the wildcard. 
  5. Two of the following–Arizona, Carolina, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Seattle–could have ended up with a wildcard. But two of them were guaranteed to win their division (either Carolina/New Orleans and San Francisco/Seattle), effectively leaving three teams fighting for two wildcards. 
  6. Teams with better records are not always better. There is an element of luck involved in wins and losses. 
  7. See? I can say it too! Notice, I provided at least a little bit of non-anecdotal evidence before doing so. Go me! 
  8. The whole Aaron Rodgers thing makes this a little weird, because obviously with him they are way better than 8-7-1. Just assume the Packers are bad or imagine an actually bad 8-7-1 team making the playoffs, or remember the 7-9 NFC West champion 2010 Seahawks, or whatever. 
  9. Yeah, that’s the other end of the excitement-fairness spectrum, the opposite of a double round-robin, and surprise surprise, no one wants that either. 

Hi there! This is Part Two of a Two-Part Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan feature: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, and 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time. (Click here for Part One.) Around midnight of December 18th, I sat back with a fairly comprehensive Bleacher Report article (as they go), my laptop, a bottle of whiskey, a recliner chair, a big screen TV, and a YouTube to investigate what makes the “All Time Classic Plays” just so. Eight hours later, I had many thoughts, maybe even answers!1 In Part Two I continue analyzing the remaining 25 most amazing plays in that article, before tallying up the results to determine which factors are most likely to make a play one we’ll remember forever.

#25: Best Ping Pong Rally of All Time
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

… Alrighty then, moving on.

#24: Brian Kownacki Makes Superman Leap
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 7
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: You bet your #%# I have.

This is freakin’ awesome. A great play, also I’m totally kindred spirits with whoever is calling this game, whatever it is. Apparently a college affair between, at-best, middling teams. But listen to the announcer go! All the important details, including what a miraculous comeback this is completing. Oh yeah. Adding the quality of the play-by-play call to the list of factors I should have included.

#23: Antonio Freeman
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (Oh yes. Live I think. The ball on the helmet/neck area brings it all back.)

I totally remember seeing this. Very nostalgic. I was in the fourth grade, and I definitely talked about it at school that week with a new girl in our class, who loved football and Brett Favre, and had moved to my town from Kansas. Super nostalgic. Also pretty crazy even as crazy catches go.

#22: David Tyree Catch
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Game Significance: 10
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Oh my goodness, this is only good for #22? I still don’t know what’s more amazing, that Tyree caught it or that Manning didn’t get sacked. Also against Brady and quite possibly the best football team in history? IN THE SUPER BOWL? Kind of a bummer it was in Phoenix. Also I didn’t actually see this one live; with the Pats leading in the second half, I went with my host family in Mascota, Jalisco, Mexico out on the town. I heard they lost a couple of hours later. The thing is, normally I re-watch most 49er games, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to see the 2011 (season) NFC Championship game or last year’s Super Bowl since they happened. I can’t even imagine how agonizing this play is for Pats fans. I’m guessing like at least 10-50 times as bad as Kyle Williams fumbling those punts.

#21: Jim Edmonds Leaping Catch
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 3
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

I can only assume The Catch (in baseball, though oddly sort of almost San Francisco, coming in one of the final years of the Polo Grounds) from Willie Mays is coming up? Because it’s pretty similar, AND he had to hop back up and make a throw to the plate?

#20: Mikael Nilsson Curls It Around the Wall
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 5
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

It took me a couple takes to figure out what’s wrong with this video. At first I kept thinking what made it so unusual is that Nilsson puts the ball to the wrong side of the wall, the side where the goalkeeper already is. For instance, if you go back and watch Roberto Carlos’ free kick (which, to be fair, is the perfect free kick), you’ll notice the goalkeeper is to Carlos’ left of the wall, and he puts the ball around (his) right side. But it’s not Nilsson’s fault; the wall isn’t lined up on the near post, or any post, it’s just in the middle of the goal. That’s super dumb and inexcusable. The whole point of the wall is to make the goal smaller, not to split the goal into pieces far away from each other that the keeper must still protect. Dunno what PSV was doing.

#19: Music City Miracle
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 7
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 7
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Another factor I maybe should have mentioned: controversy. The announcers pick up on the forward lateral, live, up in the booth. They didn’t even need a replay. And while I may have missed one or two, I think this is only the fourth play on the list so far to have a true name, after the Bluegrass Miracle, Miracle at the New Meadowlands, and the 0.4 Shot, which curiously all ranked next to each other at 49-47, respectively.2 Hm.

#18: Full Court Miracle (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 6
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

WOW!!! Wow wow wow wow wow. Wow. Definitely worth a watch. The ole’ chuck-it-towards-the-hoop-there’s-no-time-left maneuver is hardly original, but from underneath your own basket, off a rebound, with 0.6 (!!!) seconds left? No way. Just no. Unbelievable. Someone tell me this YouTube video is a hoax. Oh, also apparently that was in overtime. The whole Guilford college thing is all that’s bringing this down. Oh also his name is Jim Snipes. Classic.

#17: Buehrle’s No-Look
  • Atmosphere: 4 (Opening day!)
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Only a nine for originality because come on Buehrle, you’re just copying Federer! Move on, dude.

#16: Earl Campbell Runs over the Rams
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 5
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Can you imagine if we had the Internet, and memes, and hashtags in the 1970s (Thinking…) DON’T. Can you imagine if Earl Campbell was 25 years old and ripped off that play today? Crazy. The best part is how nonchalantly he jogs off the field to get a new jersey (and comes back in one play later). What a B0$$.

#15: Willie Mays the Catch
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Game Significance: 10
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 5
  • I’ve seen this before: Uh, yeah, my dad might have made me watch it twenty or a hundred times or so (quite justifiably).

There it is! Say Hey! Remember when I said “The Catch” (baseball edition) is everything and more than that silly Jim Edmonds’ wimp-#^@ diving catch is? See how right I was? Running back, looking over his head for several yards. Game One of the WORLD SERIES. Leaping back up afterwards to throw home and keep those base runners from scoring. WILLIE MAYS. Magical.3

#14: Flutie Hail Mary
  • Atmosphere: 5
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Pretty much nowhere close to as miraculous as the Bluegrass Miracle… except Doug Flutie! Look at him go! What a guy.

#13: Roberto Carlos vs. Tenerife
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 5
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 0
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

More ridiculous than the free kick I suppose, what with it being a live ball and everything, but also… stupider. Not bad though. (I mean, I probably couldn’t do that.)

#12: Jeter Flip
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 7
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 3
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (My father and I completely lost it when this happened. What was he doing? How did he know?)

I broke my rules and looked up some things about this play. Apparently Jeter had been practicing it all season long at the suggestion of Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer, after a throw got away in a similar fashion in spring training. You know, because he’s Derek Jeter and he needs to be ready FOR EVERYTHING. Just in case. Good call, Derek. Good freakin’ call.

#11: Boise State Miracle (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 11
  • Play Significance: 11
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. Live, and many, many times after.

Okay, so Bleacher Report’s Austin Schindel cheated by putting two plays in one, but it doesn’t matter in the slightest because both plays would receive the same score independent of one another because they are both ludicrous and probably tie for the second best play in college football ever, and I love them more than my family. (Well, almost as much.) And if you even try to refute that Boise State turned it up to 11 on those plays, I will punch you in the solar plexus. 4th&18? Fine. A magical play that scores a touchdown? Sure. OFF A HOOK AND LADDER? You bet. ON NATIONAL TV AGAINST A NATIONAL POWERHOUSE NO ONE THOUGHT YOU DESERVED TO PLAY IN THE FIRST PLACE? Why not? That’s play one. Then, maybe ten minutes later in overtime, ANOTHER absurd trick play, even more ridiculous than the last? Okay… ON A 2 PT CONVERSION ATTEMPT when the conventional wisdom says you kick the extra point and keep playing? Every college football game I have watched since then, I’ve only watched on account of my hope that something even half as fantastic will happen again. Oh yeah, also the on-field marriage proposal right at the end… well done Ian Johnson. And well done Boise State. Frickin’ A.

#10: Immaculate Reception
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 9
  • Vegas Panic: 7
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

An alleged conversation the refs had with the Pittsburgh Police Department before actually ruling the play a touchdown (it took them some time):

Ref:

How many police can you get here to escort me out after the game?

Pittsburgh Police Department:

I dunno, maybe six?

Ref:

SIX?!? Well in that case, SIX FOR PITTSBURGH!

#9: Vince Carter Dunks over Weis
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Game Significance: 3
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Ehh, isn’t Nate Washington stuffing Yao Ming cooler?

#8: Rooney Bicycle Kick (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 6
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 9
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Yeah… a bicycle kick is incredible. Scoring one, more so. Off a high-speed cross, more so. To win the game in the final minutes, more so. Against your team’s big rival, more so. In the English Premiere League… I could go on.

#7: Jerome Simpson Flip
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 3
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Certainly makes those guys who settled for merely hurdling the defense look like a bunch of chumps, right?

#6: Marshawn Lynch Beast Mode (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 9
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 10
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (Live, of course.)

As a lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers, and a friend of a Saints fan with whom I was watching the game, I must say that this is a positively glorious run by Marshawn Lynch. We remember how we laughed our #%#es off that the 7-9 Seahawks were in the playoffs at all, let alone hosting the defending Super Bowl champion Saints in the first round. After playing well the whole way, the Seahawks saw the Saints get within a touchdown. They had to answer. And Lynch did, about seven or eight times, throwing a defender down to the ground in the process. And I know Seahawks fans are down on me after I seemingly took a big crap on their stadium yesterday, but I love how the noise builds over the course of the 67 yards. The Marshawn Lynch train is coming through town and it’s not stopping for nobody, no matter how many Saints march into that number. I just watched it like three times, it’s so great. I listened to it with my eyes closed. The announcers point out right at the beginning that the stadium has grown quiet. It’s perfect.

#5: Blake Griffin: Monster
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 2
  • Play Significance: 2
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Certainly one of the more powerful dunks in history, but other than that…

#4: Jose Guillen Has a Cannon
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 4
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

It’s all in the improvisation. He goes for the up-against-the-wall catch, and upon failing immediately finds the ball and trebuchets that %#^$er in there to third from the track in right, without a hop. Ichiro’s may have been more impressive in that he nailed a speedier runner, but still, a pretty darn good throw.

#3: Ovechkin Goal
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 6
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Once again, how come more people don’t like hockey? (But also seriously why did we put an NHL team in Phoenix? We know their NBA team is “the Suns”, right? Not so good for the hockey.)

#2: Amazing Catch by Alabama Receiver
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 4
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 3
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Helluva’ catch, helluva’ catch. Obviously this list predates the Alabama catastrophe that was the 2013 Iron Bowl, which should surely find itself among such lists in the future.

We’ve nearly reached the end of Bleacher Report’s 50 Most Amazing Plays of All Time (published back in February, 2012), down to the number one play. Of the 49 so far, I’ve taken a sip of whiskey for the 30 I had not seen before. I’m feeling in touch with the list, and my sportsfan self, and I’m betting a shot that the number one play is The Play, the Cal-Stanford “THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD!” Play. If I’m right, I win by saving whiskey for later; if I’m wrong, I win by taking a shot of whiskey and going to bed. And here we go!

#1: Tiger Woods on the 16th Hole

AAAAUUUGGGHHH OF COURSE! The cover picture was Tiger! No golf the whole way through, and then this! ALSO HOW DOES THE CAL-STANFORD PLAY NOT GET ON THIS LIST? THE SAINTS’ LATERAL PLAY GETS ON THE LIST FOR A MISSED EXTRA POINT, BUT THE CAL-STANFORD PLAY, COMPLETE WITH PERCUSSION AND WIND SECTIONS, DOESN’T CUT IT? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME BLEACHER REPORT??? … I really did not see that coming… like any most amazing sports play? Well, muck it.4

#1: Tiger Woods on the 16th Hole
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 9
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Alright, I will concede that this is an amazing shot, and probably one of the most difficult feats of any of the plays. And the drama is incredible! Obviously it’s going in if it’s number one, but it slowed down so much I did wonder for a few fleeting moments. Well, that’s my score of the 50 plays. Which brings us to…

The Results

Overall Scoring Breakdown

  • 1. Play Significance: 301, average 6.02, standard deviation 3.3
  • 2. Originality: 295, AVG 5.9, SD 2.6
  • 3. Atmosphere: 207, 4.14, 2.89
  • 4. Star Factor: 206, 4.12, 3.16
  • 5. Game Significance: 167, 3.34, 2.92
  • 6. Vegas Panic: 127, 2.54, 2.58

The results of this positively unscientific and whimsical process couldn’t be clearer: it’s a play’s impact on a game’s outcome, and how unusually the players pull it off, that are most likely to set a play apart.5 The atmosphere of the game and the presence of any stars in the sport are significant, but lesser contributions to a play’s ultimate “amazingness”, with the significance of the game itself being lesser still. The Vegas Panic stat that I completely ad-libbed was generally irrelevant, although I’m confident it had its moments (like the first Pats-Giants Super Bowl).

In terms of straight-up plays that are most likely to be remembered, I’d bet that game significance would become, uh, more significant. For instance, The Catch (football, not to mention The Catch II and The Catch III) isn’t as technically difficult as many of the (football) catches Schindel selected, but it’s probably more widely remembered than all of them combined, because we now know that the play launched the 49ers into the first of their four Super Bowl Championships in the 80s, cementing them as the team of the decade. (Also Vin Scully’s call is fantastic.)

My Top 10

After adding up scores for all 50 plays (not bringing in other plays even if I thought they were worthy), here are the ones I graded the highest (sum score of all six factors in parentheses):

If I had added other plays in? Off the top of my head, there are some baseball home runs missing (Bobby ThomsonCarlton FiskKirk Gibson), a few basketball game winners (JordanJordan…), a few soccer goals (MaradonnaMaradona again in the same match…), Olympic craziness (Jason Lezak, Phelps’ Touch-Out), and I already mentioned how all the women are missing. Oh, and The Play, duh. I know there are some others I can’t think of at the moment, so drop me a line in the comments or on Twitter (@candid_colin) if you know of something I need to see. I already can’t wait to do this again. Until next time.


  1. And of course a great deal of questions as well. Why are people so awesome and put together all these YouTube videos? How could Bleacher Report do this to me? Is it light outside? 
  2. I guess you could throw in “The Helmet Catch” for David Tyree, and many people dub Carlos’ free kick “The Ultimate Masterpiece”. 
  3. Check out what Wikipedia says about The Catch! Many of the same questions I myself have grappled with in this feature. 
  4. I took the shot in two parts. I think that’s fair, as this post is two parts. Also looking at the comments on the article, author Austin Schindel replies to a list of not-featured plays, including “THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD!”, as such: “All great plays and a bunch of those were in the last 5 out. It’s hard to find the most amazing plays accross (sic) the board but I appreciate the comment.” You’ve got like a half-dozen plays of college football, yo. You’re saying you remembered the band and decided it really wasn’t one of the most amazing plays? (shakes head sadly) 
  5.  At least for the 50 plays Schindel chose. As usual, more research is needed. I demand more research. And I’ll be supplying it too. Stay tuned. 

Hi there! This is Part One of a Two-Part Confessions of an Economic Sportsfan feature: I Just Spent 8 Hours, 1/4 of a Bottle of Whiskey, and 5,000 Words On the Greatest Sports Plays of All Time. Around midnight of December 18th, I sat back with a fairly comprehensive Bleacher Report article (as they go), my laptop, a bottle of whiskey, a recliner chair, a big screen TV, and a YouTube to investigate what makes the “All Time Classic Plays” just so. Eight hours later, I had many thoughts, maybe even answers!1 Here’s Part One:

Turns out a couple of weeks ago my good friend Victor Gutwein, renowned corporate strategist at Claire’s, as well as a long-time avid reader and email subscriber of Crossroads, dropped me a line for a column suggestion:

Hey Colin- I love your blog and always learn something new. I was thinking about some of those great “Miracle Plays” you referenced in one of your recent articles, and it made me think of a few questions you might be able to answer.

I’ve seen some amazing football plays, but only some have been immortalized and given names (like “The River City Relay” “The Music City Miracle” or even some so definitive to just be called “The Catch”). Why do only some amazing plays becomes legends, whereas other (seemingly just as amazing) plays aren’t remembered? Is it the crowd, importance of the game, importance of the play, etc? Also- when I went back to watch some of these plays, I hardly recognized any of the receivers/runningbacks that made them happen- it was almost as if they were a “one-hit wonder” (e.g. the “helmet catch” with David Tyree). The guys that make these plays don’t seem to be all-star players (obviously they are good if they are in the NFL, but they aren’t rewriting record books). Does this “little guy” effect help create the legend and immortalize the play?

Even if I’m completely wrong about my assumptions, can you just talk about the impact of immortalized plays?

Thanks Colin- you are amazing!

-Victor

Sorry it took me so long to get back to you buddy, it’s just that even though I created it I have no idea how my own website works I’ve been busy. But here I sit, up late on this brisk Chicago night (soon to be Wednesday morning), no work tomorrow, and there’s nothing good on TV. Conditions are perfect to answer Victor’s question: why do some plays become legends? Building upon his query, I propose the following factors for consideration: atmosphere, game significance, originality, play significance, star factor, and Vegas panic. A quick rundown:

Atmosphere

Victor said the crowd; I’m thinking the complete environment of the game. Red Sox vs Yankees? Celtic vs Rangers? Ohio vs Michigan? The season opener or just a humdrum afternoon? A basketball court, or Madison Square Garden? Once a player on my high school soccer team shot and scored from midfield one touch after the kickoff with fewer than five minutes left to make it a 4-3 game; but maybe twenty or thirty people were in attendance.2 We lacked atmosphere, and goal scorer John Lee did not become a legend outside our own small circles. (Well, not yet.)

Game Significance

What’s at stake? A playoff spot? Staving off elimination? Winning the championship? Or is it just a regular game, or even a preseason game? This is NOT the same as atmosphere. A Red Sox-Yankee game can still have atmosphere, even if one or both teams have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Originality

It’s easier to type than “OH MY WORD WHAT JUST HAPPENED???”, but that’s what I’m going for. A catch? A jumping catch? A one-handed catch where the receiver impossibly got two feet in bounds? And sticks the ball against his helmet? The more original, the more likely a play finds its way into our memories, I suspect.

Play Significance

Does the play significantly affect the outcome of the game? Successful Hail Marys certainly do; long touchdown passes in the third quarter of a four touchdown game usually don’t.

Star Factor

Who pulls off this play, and who do they pull it off against? Gordan Banks, former goalkeeper of the England national soccer team, is commonly credited with the greatest save of all time. Banks was certainly good, but it’s the man whose header he stopped (this Brazilian named Pelé, maybe you’ve heard of him) that cemented his save in history.

Vegas Panic

Something along the lines of an upset factor, but more comprehensive. It’s not only an upset, it could just be something really unexpected and unusual. For example, it’s pretty common to see a losing NBA team hurl a desperation shot at the final buzzer, even if they’re down by more than three points. Sometimes those shots are made, and sometimes they swing the gambling outcome of the game if the losing team subsequently covers the spread. Of course, long-shot underdogs pulling through is probably how Vegas hysteria usually reaches us.

Which of these factors is the most important? To answer, I’m going to go through each of the 50 plays in the Bleacher Report article “The 50 Most Amazing Plays of All Time”.3 This was published on February 2, 2012, but that’s alright, it’s still a sample of 50 quite amazing plays, that must have been documented and remembered on some scale if some dude (Austin Schindel) at Bleacher Report can track them all down. I’ll rank each of the plays on each of the factors from 1-10, completely arbitrarily, without looking anything up for technical analysis (with the possible exception of getting some numbers for a Vegas Panic Index, but nah, I’ll just go with what feels right), and in no way following anything that resembles a scientific method of any sort. At the end I’ll tally up the scores and see which factors were most important. As an added bonus, I will be taking a sip4 of whiskey for every play that I have never seen before. Best get to it!5

#50: Nicks Catch Against WVU
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 8
  • Play Significance: 2
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

That is a really, really ridiculous catch, AND it’s Hakeem Nicks, and we know he went on to become a big star in the actual NFL. But everything else looks like some UNC football game, because that’s all it is.

#49: Bluegrass Miracle
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Well that was probably the most depressing play I’ve ever seen. Also I’m already getting confused by my factors. Is there “Atmosphere” if the play goes completely against the crowd? (Remembering the Stanford Band…) Yes, yes there is. And is there Vegas Panic if the play ends up (at least partially) restoring what everyone thought before hand was the extremely likely outcome? Yeah, a little bit, why not? Also I’m curious to see if Play Significance is dominant on this list; I don’t see how that can’t be a ten as it completely changed the outcome of the game. Also an originality of four because that Hail Mary was from the LSU 25! It’s pretty normal for it to bounce off like 20 dudes and the receiver to somehow walk scarcely touched into the end zone, but 75 yards? Damn.

#48: DeSean Jackson Punt Return
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

The Miracle at the New Meadowlands! Note that DeSean actually fumbles the punt first, and then in classic DeSean fashion runs the width of the field at the one yard line and is almost tackled (well, sorta) before actually scoring. Pretty original for a punt returned for a touchdown.

#47: Derek Fisher 0.4 Shot
  • Atmosphere: 8
  • Game Significance: 6
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

The Western Conference Semi-Finals, on the road against the defending champion Spurs in a packed house… the turnaround jumper is fairly solid as well. Goodness.

#46: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Ehhh, Maradonna did it against more dudes on a better team, in the World Cup quarterfinals. Just sayin’.

#45: High School Hurdle
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 0 (Forget the 1-10 scale!)
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Okay, the football hurdle has been around. Vernon Davis did it twice in one game a couple of weeks ago. But, Sam gets bonus points for going over a kid who was pretty much standing up at the time, way before he got close to tackling Sam.

#44: Malik’s Penalty Shot
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

This guy is a straight B0$$! I think he’s what they used to keep the rink from melting, ’cause he’s so cool. Definitely one of the one’s where not being a star helped his claim to fame. Because, damn. Those moves from someone who hadn’t scored a goal all season. Also only an eight for play significance, as though it won the game, missing it didn’t mean they would have lost.

#43: Joe Washington (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

WOW! I lost my mind like 12 seconds in, or whenever he decides the best way to proceed is BY GOING BACK UP THE SIDELINE, and not cutting across the field as I was expecting. Goodness gracious. The very best part: he actually lost three yards on this return. I just… love it so much. He gets it at the 48, and goes back to his own 18 (!!!), and makes it all the way back to his 45, without going more than a few yards laterally. I think this is one of the most amazing plays in the history of football. Wow.

#42: Bobby Ryan (The Bleacher Report link is dead, something lame about copyright infringement.)
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 2
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

When you do the same move on the same guy in two seconds, it’s pretty damn impressive, even if that guy lost his stick on the first move. (Hey, that’s his fault!) Also hockey playoffs! And a go-ahead goal in the third period! (Why don’t more people watch hockey? The puck isn’t that hard to follow these days. It’s really fun!)

#41: Kevin Mitchell Bare-Handed Catch
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 2
  • Play Significance: 2
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Okay that seriously wasn’t that impressive. Like, yes, it’s a bare handed catch in the outfield of a MLB game, but… come on. I have seen that before, and I’m no baseball announcer.

#40: Bird Scores on Own Miss
  • Atmosphere: 4
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 2
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Definitely a star factor play. I think if some Joe does this, even in the NBA, it’s forgotten, even by the Internet.

#39: Rene Higuita Saves Ball with His Feet (I replaced another dead link.)
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 4
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Ahh yes. Ahhhh yes. The Scorpion Kick… save! I think it’s a pretty significant play in the game because if he f&%$s that up, England gets a goal! Dude had some serious cojones.

#38: Amazing Japanese Baseball Player Catch (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 3
  • Vegas Panic: 0 (I’m still going with the 1-10 scale but Japanese baseball?)
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

WOW!!! Wow. I hold back from a perfect ten in originality because technically, we’ve seen guys climb the wall before, but… wow. Also it’s at this point that I’ve added a (MUST WATCH!) next to plays that I just completely lose my *#%@ over.

#37: Travis Pastrana Double Back Flip (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 10
  • Game Significance: 7
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 0 (Yeah, yeah…)
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes.

Mini-confession: I have always been high on the X Games since being bored and having cable TV (well, Dish Network) as a kid. That is truly amazing, Travis Pastrana was an enormous icon in the sport even before that (if you didn’t know), and f&$% you if you don’t think that atmosphere is a 10. “I’m just having fun.” AAUUGGHH!

#36: Roger Federer Through the Legs (MUST WATCH!)
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Game Significance: 9
  • Originality: 9
  • Play Significance: 9
  • Star Factor: 10
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Okay, relax because I only designated eight (MUST WATCH!)s in the whole bunch, but AAAAUUUUGGGHHHH!!! IN THE US OPEN SEMIFINALS? Against a fierce rival and one of the best players in the world? Trying to put him away in the third set? That was profound. Look at Djokovic’s face! Absurd.

#35: Oklahoma State Interception
  • Atmosphere: 7
  • Game Significance: 8
  • Originality: 7
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Great rivalry, great teams. Just a great play. To quote John Madden:

When you have great players, playing great, well that’s great football.

#34: Brad Johnson TD Pass to Himself
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 4
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Decidedly meh. What’s next?

#33: Bears Decoy
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 4
  • Originality: 10
  • Play Significance: 6
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 3
  • I’ve seen this before: No. (Incredibly.)

I’m just angry. This is an incredible, brilliant play, fabulously executed by Hester and Knox, and terribly executed by the scumbag who decided to hold. HOW DO YOU HOLD ON THIS PLAY? Devastating. The Eagles ran a somewhat similar play on a kickoff return last year, with an across the field pass, only ruined it as the pass went forward by maybe a half yard. But this, the Hester decoy, taking advantage of that unique skill set he brings and completely fooling the other team, all ruined… I really am devastated. A sure-fire (MUST WATCH!) but for the stupid holding penalty… grrr.

UPDATE: Upon seeing this, I emailed the link to a Bears fan friend of mine. All I said in the subject was “Surely you know this happened???!?!?!!”. His response? “I knew what this was going to be before I even clicked.” I am so proud of my friends.

#32: Michael Vick Lights It Up
  • Atmosphere: 6
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 7
  • Star Factor: 7
  • Vegas Panic: 5
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Some pretty serious bonus points for getting two defenders to run into each other… head first.

#31: Stefan Misses Empty Net
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 2
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Oh my. HOW DO MORE PEOPLE NOT LIKE HOCKEY??? I couldn’t help but look this one up, and yeah, the Stars came back to win the game in a shootout. Please, anybody, explain to me momentum in sports again?

#30: Orton Throws Game-Winning TD
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 2
  • Play Significance: 9
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 5
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Ehh, exciting, but… ehh.

#29: Devin Harris Buzzer Beater
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 4
  • Play Significance: 10
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

It’s the double clutch that does it. A desperation heave, fine… but it’s rejected, so he throws up another one on the fly? Preposterous.

#28: Roberto Carlos Free Kick
  • Atmosphere: 2
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 5
  • Star Factor: 5
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: Yes. (So many times.)

First off, even as far as weird individually produced YouTube sports clip videos go, that was pretty weird/hilarious. Second off, it’s the perfect free kick. I guess that should probably be another category, something to do with execution/preparation of the play as opposed to just dumb luck. Oh well.

#27: Saints Lateral
  • Atmosphere: 3
  • Game Significance: 2
  • Originality: 3
  • Play Significance: 8
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 4
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Wow, now I’m just really, really sad. Oh jeez.

#26: Chris Moore
  • Atmosphere: 1
  • Game Significance: 1
  • Originality: 5
  • Play Significance: 1
  • Star Factor: 1
  • Vegas Panic: 1
  • I’ve seen this before: No.

Gotta’ hand it to the man, pulling off the double between-the-legs crossover, a slick move to get you into the paint, previously unappreciated on the football field.

Well that’s it for Part One! Check back tomorrow to see how the rest of my night (/morning) went as I finished up the plays and tallied the results.


  1. And of course a great deal of questions as well. Why are people so awesome and put together all these YouTube videos? How could Bleacher Report do this to me? Is it light outside? 
  2. My Midland Oaks actually ended up tying those Laguna Blanca scumbags 4-4 that day, way back in my senior year of high school, I believe in late 2008 but possibly early 2009. Yes, I’m still angry we let them back in the game. (Twice.) 
  3. Note: The cover picture for this article is of Tiger Woods. I’m not usually inclined to rank a golf shot high on any of the factors I’ve identified (unless the shot in question is from Happy Gilmore), but I’ll try to keep an open mind. If something from NASCAR gets in there, well… we’ll see. (Curling and other ridiculous Olympic sports? Definitely okay with that.) 
  4. A sip shall constitute between roughly one-tenth and one-half of a shot, depending upon how many of these plays it turns out I actually haven’t seen, how bad@$$ a play makes me feel just watching it for the first time, and my general mood. 
  5. Disclaimer: I didn’t realize there wouldn’t be a single female sporting occurrence on the list until after I was done. I think that’s pretty dumb. Surely the US Women’s National Soccer Team alone is good for a couple, plus Olympic sports (Dara Torres much?), college (basketball in particular), great stuff in women’s hockey, actual women’s professional leagues like the former WUSA and the current WNBA… I dunno why it’s a men only list, but it’s what I worked with initially. Next time I’ll do better. 

Last year the Kansas City Chiefs finished 2-14, tied with Jacksonville for worst in the league. The league office officially declared them the worst when granting them the first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, using the strength of schedule tiebreaker. Back in Week 2 of this season, plenty of “The Chiefs have already matched their win total” talk was going around. While a great many people expected the Chiefs to play a great deal better, before the season I don’t think many had the Chiefs losing their first game in Week 11, on the road, against Peyton Manning, to fall to 9-1. And like Jim Harbaugh’s takeover of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, most of the players remained on the team. Despite losing all those games, and despite that the Pro Bowl is a so-so indicator of talent, the 2012 Chiefs still fielded 6 Pro Bowlers, as many or more than 27 of the league’s 32 teams.1 The story was they were an okay team, hindered by terrible coaching and quarterbacking, with bad luck and tragedy thrown in. And like the 2011 49ers, the solution was a competent coach guiding Alex Smith’s check-downs, a solid running back, and a terrific defense to one of the best records in football. So what’s more impressive? The 2012 Chiefs going 2-14, or the 2013 Chiefs starting 9-1?

Before discussing the Chiefs, an anecdote. While looking for numbers relating to this piece, I came across a hilarious, embarrassing, presumably unnoticed error on Bleacher Report. In his article, Andrew Garda indicated the Chiefs’ strength of schedule this season was a .473 based on the record of their opponents last season, who combined to go 121-135. This was good for 5th easiest schedule in the league. The problem is those numbers of wins and losses. 121 + 135 = 256 games the Chiefs’ opponents played last season. As they each played 16 games (the playoffs are excluded), 256 / 16 = 16 teams the Chiefs play each season. Peachy, right? Wrong. Very very wrong. The Chiefs have 13 opponents every season. They play 16 games, but they play the Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders twice each in intra-division match-ups. The Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders were double counted to reach that 256 game total. In 2012 the Broncos finished 13-3, the Chargers 7-9, and the Raiders 4-12. Removing those numbers from the total, you get 97-111.2 You are still left with the Broncos, Chargers, and Raiders records in this figure, just only counted once. The actual strength of schedule the Chiefs face this season is a .466. Only a .006 difference? Well, the same article had the Raiders with the 4th easiest schedule with a .469, only .004 ahead of the Chiefs. Of course, this double counted their division opponents as well. What a mess. I’m not going to go back and calculate each teams strength of schedule properly, but the message is clear: Beware the Internet!

When outlining each of the Chiefs’ seasons, I used football’s Pythagorean numbers a lot. It’s a way of gauging how many games a team “should” have won using their total points scored and allowed over the course of a season. Bill Barnwell of Grantland explains it, and some other good NFL stats, in this article. I also used this Pythagorean metric to determine strength of schedule. That number represents the percentage of games the Chiefs’ opponents “should” have won, against all competition. On to the Chiefs!

The 2012 Kansas City Chiefs

  • Record: 2-14, .125 (tied for worst in league)
  • Pythagorean Wins: 2.6 (under-performed by 0.6, 12th unluckiest in league)
  • Pythagorean Expected Winning Percentage: 16% (worst in league)
  • Pythagorean Strength of Schedule: .513
  • Record in Games Decided by 7 Points or Fewer: 2-3
  • Turnover Margin: -24 (tied for worst in league)
  • Sum PFF Quarterback Grade: -17.7 (Matt Cassel -4.9, Brady Quinn -12.8)
  • Previous Record of Head Coach: 26-41, .388 (Romeo Crennel)
  • Dead Money: $2,462,176

The 2013 Kansas City Chiefs

  • Record: 9-1, .9 (tied for 2nd best in league)
  • Pythagorean Wins: 7.7 (over-performed by 1.3, 4th luckiest in league)
  • Pythagorean Expected Winning Percentage: 77.4% (3rd in league)
  • Pythagorean Strength of Schedule: .421
  • Record in Games Decided by 7 Points or Fewer: 3-0
  • Turnover Margin: +15 (1st in league)
  • Sum PFF Quarterback Grade: -4.5 (Alex Smith -4.5, Chase Daniel 0.0 on 3 snaps)
  • Previous Record of Head Coach: 130-93-1, .583 (Andy Reid)
  • Dead Money: $16,667,470

The Improvement

  • Record: +7 games/ +.775 and counting
  • Pythagorean Wins: +5.1 wins and counting
  • Pythagorean Expected Winning Percentage: +61.4%
  • Pythagorean Strength of Schedule: -.092
  • Record in Games Decided by 7 Points or Fewer: +2
  • Turnover Margin: +39
  • Sum PFF Quarterback Grade: +13.2
  • Previous Record of Head Coach: +78.5/ +.195
  • Dead Money: +$14,205,294

Yeesh. When the only thing that gets worse from one season to the next is the opposition, a team wins a lot more games. Oh, actually the Chiefs are spending $14 million more on players who don’t play for them than they were last year? Well, ignoring that it’s a close call, but I’m going to go ahead and declare the 2013 Chiefs more impressive at being good than the 2012 Chiefs were impressive at being bad. Congratulations to the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs! Proof of what can happen when you significantly upgrade your quarterback3 and coaching situation.

A few other teams have enjoyed similarly large improvements in the past. The 1999 Rams (13-3), 2004 Steelers (15-1), and 2012 Colts (11-5) all improved by nine wins over the previous season. The 1999 Colts (13-3) and the 2008 Dolphins (11-5) improved by 10, tying for the NFL record. With six games remaining, the Chiefs have already improved by seven wins. The six remaining are home for the Chargers, Broncos, and Colts and at the Redskins, Raiders, and Chargers. I think they’ll at least get to 12-4, tying the record. Hell, I’ll say that they are So Impressive this season that they’ll get to 13-3, and set an NFL record by improving 11 wins from the previous season. Of course, a part of me hopes they lose the rest of their games; the 49ers get their 2nd round pick in the daft.4


  1. And all other teams with 6+ Pro Bowlers made the playoffs, let alone got to .500. 
  2. If you still don’t believe me that this is bad, 97 + 111 = 208. 208 / 16 = 13, the actual number of teams the Chiefs play every season. They play 10 games against opponents they only play once, and 6 against 3 opponents they play twice. When determining their strength of schedule, one team gets one record. You can’t count the Broncos twice because they play them twice. Yes, it does make a difference. 
  3. You may notice, that quarterback improvement is more than a full standard deviation. When I looked at QBs last week, the standard deviation of performance was a 10.4. 
  4. That Alex Smith guy? He got us TWO second rounders, one last year, one this year. And he beat the Saints in a home playoff game. And he still has yet to start two straight seasons with the same offensive coordinator. What a guy. 
%d bloggers like this: