The Whistleblower No. 3 – Heath Evans and Simple New York Jets’ Math

Looks like The Whistleblower has the first repeat offender after Heath Evans’ latest comments on Monday’s NFL Total Access about the New York Jets’ QB situation.

After three preseason games without a single touchdown, Evans believes the Jets have the wrong QB in Mark Sanchez, and should “salvage the season, which has yet to actually start, by going with Tim Tebow.

According to Evans, “past says Tim Tebow can win football games, the past says Mark Sanchez can not.”

Whoa, Nelly! Time for a simple bit of math here. Forget the fact that Tebow’s lone playoff win, a Wild Card game over a banged up Pittsburgh team, is not better than the two AFC Championship appearances Sanchez has had. Just the regular season alone proves this to be a factually incorrect statement.

Simple math: The past says Mark Sanchez is 31-22 (.585) as a starter, while Tim Tebow is 9-7 (.563).

I know things work in reverse in the Heath Evans’ zone, such as running back carries leading to wins instead of winning leading to carries, but 58.5 percent beats 56.3 percent. At the very least, they have about the same record of winning, and both often need a lot of help to get many of their wins.

The New York Jets may very well be screwed on offense this year, but there is no secret winner on the bench ready to save the day. They need to start with the guy that at least completes over 55 percent of his passes.

After apparently having someone do the stat work for him, Heath just glossed over the actual records, and must have forgot about 2009 and 2010 for Sanchez.

Next time Heath Evans asks someone to do stat work, he can always contact The Whistleblower. I’ll save him the embarrassment of spraying “winner juice” on live TV for the wrong player.

Shout out to @SeanLDurham on Twitter for pointing out the video and comments.

Addendum: as another pet peeve, Evans mentions “QB rating” in the segment. No, not even “quarterback rating.” He said “Q-B.” It’s just passer rating, people. Why is that so hard to understand?

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NFL Week in Review: Andrew Luck Live, Matt Ryan on FOX, and 5th-Year Breakout QBs

A goose, a moose, and the son of Marv Albert walk into a bar…

Watching a live NFL broadcast is good for the creative mind. You can pick up plenty of ammo for The Whistleblower, and every once in a while you might learn something of value.

I watched the Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons preseason game on Thursday night, or at least as much as I could stomach, and I found multiple things worth looking into.

First, the FOX broadcast team of Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Tony Siragusa seemed pretty supportive of Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. There was not much talk about the playoff struggles, but instead they went optimistic for Ryan to really get things going in his fifth season.

In fact, even after one nice play by Ryan in the game the crew said something to the effect of “maybe the 5th year really is the breakout year for a young quarterback!”

Now they were not being scientific of course, and neither am I today. But I decided to dig a little into quarterbacks, with the help of Pro Football Reference’s Play Index, and see if there was any proof for the 5th season being the breakout season.

This would be defined as the QB having his best season in his fifth year, and ignoring any season that came afterwards for the purposes of this study.

The results were surprising, as I actually did find several high-profile cases of a QB having a career-year in season 5. Certainly enough to actually warrant the claims the FOX crew threw out there.

Note: When I say career-high here, I am only looking at the first five seasons unless noted otherwise.

5th-Year Breakout QBs

  • Sid Luckman (1943) – This one is influenced by WWII, but 1943 was the year Luckman threw 28 TD and had a ridiculous 107.5 passer rating.
  • Sonny Jurgensen (1961) – after riding the bench for four years in Philadelphia, Jurgensen got his shot in 1961 and threw for a then NFL record 3,723 yards and 32 TD.
  • Daryle Lamonica (1967) – After four backup years in Buffalo in which he was also a punter, Lamonica exploded with the Raiders, throwing 30 touchdowns and leading the team to Super Bowl II.
  • Bob Griese (1971) – Had a career-high 90.9 passer rating while throwing 19 TD to only a career-low 9 INT.
  • Ken Stabler (1974) – Threw 26 TD  and won the only AP NFL MVP award of his career.
  • Ken Anderson (1975) – Though 1974 was incredible too, Anderson made his first Pro Bowl and a 10-win season in 1975, while throwing for a      career-high 3,169 yards and 21 TD.
  • Danny White (1980) – Backup to Roger Staubach no more, White threw 30 TD and led Dallas to a 12-4 record and the most points scored in the league.
  • Joe Montana (1983) – One could argue 1981, the first Super Bowl win, was a better year, but in 1983, Montana had a career-high in yards (3,910), TD (26), and passer rating (94.6).
  • Dave Krieg (1984) – though he was more efficient in 1983, he only played half the season. In 1984, Krieg threw 32 TD and led Seattle to a 12-4 record.
  • John Elway (1987) – His lone MVP  award of his career came in 1987, which was the best season Elway had in his first 10 seasons actually.
  • Boomer Esiason (1988) – Won league  MVP and led the highest-scoring offense in the league to the Super Bowl in the best year of his entire career.
  • Chris Miller (1991) – Here’s a former Falcon. 13th overall pick in 1987, Miller had his lone Pro Bowl      season in 1991 when he threw 26 TD and led Atlanta to the second round of the playoffs.
  • Brett Favre (1995) – had a career-high in yards, TD and passer rating. Favre won his first MVP award.
  • Scott Mitchell (1995) – Yep, the one-year wonder came alive in 1995 with 4,338 yards and 32 TD for the Detroit Lions.
  • Matt Hasselbeck (2003) – Threw a career-high 26 TD while leading Seattle to 10-6 and the playoffs. He wanted to score too much that year.
  • Tom Brady (2004) – Brady had his best statistical season in year 5 as he led the Patriots to a third Super Bowl in four seasons. It was the first time he had a passer rating over 90.0 in a season, and this was easily the most dominant NE team to win a Super Bowl.
  • Tony Romo (2007) – In his second year as a starter, Romo led Dallas to a 13-3 record, threw for 4,211 yards, 36 TD and had a 97.4 passer      rating.
  • Philip Rivers (2008) – forget the  8-8 record, Rivers was on fire that year with 34 TD and a league-best 105.5 passer rating.
  • Eli Manning (2008) – After the  Super Bowl win, Manning had the best regular season of his career in 2008, leading the Giants to a 12-4 record and setting career highs in comp.  percentage, YPA and passer rating.
  • Aaron Rodgers (2009) – In just his second year as a starter, Rodgers threw 30 TD to only 7 INT, and had a 103.2 passer rating.

I could go on, but 20 rather high-profile cases is good enough to get the point across. Year five has been a breakout year for many of the all-time greats.

But what about the math check? We are talking about five seasons, so there is a 20 percent chance a QB will have his career/breakout year in the fifth year.

Even more inflating is the fact that most of these quarterbacks are not like Matt Ryan: starters from day one. Only Griese and Elway were five-year primary starters. When you sit on the bench for multiple seasons like Rivers or Rodgers, then it is even more likely your 5th season will be your best. Rodgers had a 50 percent chance, because all you could really compare are 2008 and 2009.

Notice players that started as rookies like Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Ben Roethlisberger and Johnny Unitas did not make the list. That’s not to say they were not any good in year five, but it was not their best effort.

Matt Ryan’s best season was 2010. Maybe he will surpass it this year, but it is far from being a lock.

Great QB-Head Coach Pairings

Matt Ryan entering his fifth season also means Mike Smith is entering his fifth season as head coach of the Falcons. They came in together, and as I wrote at Bleacher Report last week, that is one of the great ways to turn a team around.

I looked at 80 cases in the Super Bowl era (but not every single case) of a team getting a new head coach and quarterback in the same year. Nine have been extremely successful (the elites), 20 had moderate success (Ryan/Smith fit in here), 12 were average/one-year wonders, and 34 were complete and utter failures together. That leaves five active/unknowns.

That includes 2012 rookies Chuck Pagano/Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, and Joe Philbin/Ryan Tannehill in Miami. They are the 31st and 32nd examples of a team hiring a rookie head coach and drafting a first-round QB in the same year since 1966.

FOX Gave Me a Concussion

The worst thing from the NFL on FOX, besides Laura Okmin’s interviews in Baltimore on Friday, was the semi-brutal discussion in Atlanta about the new kickoff rule helping to bring concussions down 43 percent on kickoffs. The crew boasted about how great that was, but they were misleading people by only looking at that one number.

As I wrote last week with data from Edgeworth Economics, concussions may have went down 43 percent on kickoffs, but it is because the number of kicks actually returned went down to 53.5 percent. In previous seasons, returnable kicks were in the lower 80’s in percentage.

Kickoffs are not safer. They just are less frequent. Going from 35 to 20 concussions on kickoffs sounds nice, but not so much when the overall concussion number only goes from 270 down to 266. That means concussions on other types of plays increased in 2011.

Also, we are talking about a one-year sample size, which was unusual because of the lockout. Let’s see what happens with the injury data this year before declaring the kickoff rule change a success.

Maybe we need five years of data for it to be clear. Just throwing it out there, much like Fox did in their effort to talk up Matt Ryan during a meaningless preseason game.

At least they were not blatantly wrong…this time.

Andrew Luck…Live and In Person

Finally, I went to the Colts/Steelers game last night, which means I did not get to hear any of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. They are not a duo I have a beef with, and you kind of miss hearing some type of analysis offered other than the loudest people sitting in your section.

With the stadium Wi-Fi almost nonexistent and a lack of stats on the scoreboard, I was pretty much forced to use the eyeball test to follow the game. This is exactly why I never go to regular season Sunday games (I have actually never been to a regular season or playoff game period), because I cannot be away from all the action going on around the league. I need details.

Not to mention I still favor my couch and computer chair. Even if the seat was pretty damn nice.

Ben Roethlisberger threw maybe the worst interception I have ever seen him throw, and I have seen them all. The Steelers showed very little on offense outside of Antonio Brown’s incredible run-after-catch on the touchdown. I have not seen a Pittsburgh WR do that since Santonio Holmes did it to the Baltimore Ravens in the 2008 AFC Championship.

I don’t know if Antonio Brown can replace Mike Wallace, but he has been a great replacement for Holmes.

Just before the game I learned via Twitter the NFL Network showed my tweet about predicting a 9/16 for 84-yard performance by Luck against Pittsburgh’s defense. I missed it. Again.

Andrew Luck started off with a weird Bruce Arians screen that saw Reggie Wayne go in motion, and Luck threw at his teammate’s ass (it appeared that way to me at least). I actually saw Wayne in motion and line up on the right, which is far different from his usual “I only line up on the left” role in Indy’s offense.

Luck threw a good pass to Collie, who must have dropped it on the way to the ground after taking yet another hit that saw him walk slowly to the bench. I don’t feel very good about the long-term career of this kid, which is a shame because he is a talented receiver.

That 19-yard reversal seemed to take forever, as did most of the challenge/reviews with the replacement refs. At least they knew which teams were playing tonight.

Luck’s pick six by Ike Taylor was a poorly thrown pass, and you know things are going bad when stone-hands Ike Taylor is taking your pass to the house. At this point, Luck was 2/8 for 16 yards and the INT.

But like he did last year at Stanford, he came right back from a mistake and led his offense to a touchdown. This is a great article from ESPN on Luck’s career at Stanford, and one of the facts I remembered was Luck bouncing back from interceptions last season.

After 10 interceptions in 2011, Luck led Stanford to 7 touchdowns on the ensuing drives. He was 28/34 for 288 yards, 3 TD and no turnovers on those drives. He knows how to immediately make up for a mistake.

After starting the next drive with a sack, Luck could have easily folded down 14-0 on the road, but he came back with four straight completions on a touchdown drive. He did have a second interception, but that was all on T.Y. Hilton throwing the big gain up into the air for a turnover.

Though he was 8/16 for 79 yards and two picks to start the game, numbers pretty close to my 16-attempt prediction, I was still far off on how Luck would finish the night. He was 16/25 for 175 yards, a TD run, and the two INT.

He had a spike to set up a last-second field goal. He had at least two drops that would have been another 40 yards in the half. Luck was pretty impressive in my book.

The game does not count for anything, and is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

But for one night, I experienced football from an angle without any commentary, statistics, while watching two teams I respect, and with players I may never see in person again in my life.

Now that it’s over, my anticipation for the real thing is much greater.

Coming up this week: expect articles on regression for elite offenses, potential myth-busting, and a PSA on bad stat usage. I will also give the podcast world a try for the first time.

(If you were looking for the punchline to the joke at the beginning, think “something, something…sodomy and glory holes”)

The Whistleblower No. 2 – Heath Evans and Buffalo Bills’ Run Defense

Just as I’m ready to get through some brutal preseason action, I hear Heath Evans on the NFL Network talking about RG3’s first drive against the Buffalo Bills. According to Evans, the Redskins gave the rookie no chances to succeed on the drive, which featured two vanilla runs and a third-down pass caught of bounds.

But The Whistleblower’s ears lit up when Evans exclaimed that the Buffalo Bills have “always been good at stopping the run.”

Which Buffalo Bills would that be? Now I’m not an avid Bills watcher, but even I know this team has been lousy against the run for years. In fact, they have been one of the very worst in the league at stopping the run.

Always good at stopping the run? Since 2009, no team has allowed more rushing yards or rushing touchdowns than Buffalo. Only Tampa Bay has allowed a higher YPC.

Come on Heath, even YOU ran for 56 yards on 10 carries against Buffalo in 2007 with the Patriots. That’s the third highest rushing game in your career.

Heath Evans, you used to be pretty good at being bald too. What gives with the hair?

Seattle Seahawks and Terrell Owens: Age More than a Number

While I’m excited to see young receivers like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown take the field this year, those old diva receivers have been hogging up the headlines again. If Randy Moss in San Francisco and Chad Johnson in Miami weren’t enough, Terrell Owens signed with the Seattle Seahawks.

Good move? Of course not. While Pete Carroll is juggling a three-man QB circus, I guess he wanted a ringmaster to steal the show. If signings of Braylon Edwards and Antonio Bryant (was Joey Galloway not interested?) weren’t enough to show that Pete’s not sure what he’s building for a pass offense, they bring big mouth back to the NFC West.

Owens didn’t play in the NFL in 2011, and he is 38 years old. He turns 39 on December 7.

While T.O. is an athletic freak, reportedly running under 4.5 in the 40, the fact is he has been declining ever since 2008. He will put up numbers, but only if you force enough balls to him.

He will no longer break many big plays after the catch, and he is down to catching just over half of his targets.

Just making the team at his age and year off would be impressive, so putting any real expectations on him would be silly. Very few receivers dominate this age. You basically have to be Jerry Rice.

Someone on Twitter predicted over 600 yards. As receivers age, that type of production just gets more rare to the point where you’re left with Rice’s old-man dominance, a few Charlie Joiner seasons, and yes, Owens’ had good years at ages 36 (2009) and 37 (2010).

With Pro-Football-Reference’s play index, we can find these stats quickly. At age 38+, only 17 players in NFL history even have one reception, and that includes five quarterbacks and two kickers on trick or broken plays.

That leaves just 8 WRs and two RBs as the only 10 skill players with a reception at age 38+.

Move it to age 39, which Owens will be, and you’re talking about 268 catches by Rice, 34 by Joiner, 12 by Galloway, 5 by FB Tony Richardson, and that’s it for skill guys.

Terrell Owens may have a Rice/Joiner season left in him, though it’s going to come at the sacrifice of a lot of attempts, a lot of incompletions, and probably some headaches and tantrums.

Why bother?

My 3-Year Story of NFL Comebacks: Crusade Over Conspiracy

In light of the three-year anniversary of my first ever article, I have decided to share the ride’s ups and downs in my attempt to rewrite NFL history by blowing open a statistical conspiracy on the Denver Broncos and the use of fourth quarter comebacks.

Thursday’s article was basically the 8th chapter in the story (first seven are notably linked throughout here), but today is a perfect time to summarize the last three years, while also providing even more new evidence of a Denver comeback clusterfudge.

Documenting this process has been very important to me, and I hope it has been an entertaining and eye-opening look into the dark side of record-keeping and history.

The irony is I never had any intentions of being a journalist or anything of the sort, but this story has basically been my form of investigative reporting, and my angle to breaking into the business.

Please pass this link along and help spread the truth.

2009: The Rookie

August 6, 2009. Three years ago today, I crossed over from the world of internet forum/Excel-worshipping stat nerd to writer. I posted my first ever article.

Actually Doug Drinen of Pro-Football-Reference posted it, but it was my writing, and it was called “Guest Post: Quarterbacks and fourth quarter comebacks, Part 1.” (Chapter 1)

I thank PFR for giving me that first platform to turn my researched data into words, and I can only wish I would have written a better two-part article (Chapter 2) than I did. But that was my first time, and after hundreds of thousands of words later, I think I have a much better grip on this writing thing.

On that same day three years ago, Mike Tanier gave me a boost into the sports writing world by infusing my piece into his great Walkthrough column at FootballOutsiders. That helped spread the word and was phase one of my crusade. Thanks again, Mike.

I have said before I am not the first person to reject or disprove Elway’s mythical “record” of 47 fourth quarter comebacks, but I am the first to create a standardized system of fourth quarter/overtime wins so that we can track the real all-time leaders.

Though in my first articles you can see I was still caught up on trying to bunch all of these wins together, I soon after realized the best method is to make them two stats, and say “QB X has Y fourth quarter comebacks and Z game-winning drives in his career.” This continues to catch on, which I greatly appreciate.

Not long after those first two articles, I sold my database to Pro-Football-Reference and we put the comeback tables on every quarterback’s page for all to use. I added a part three (Chapter 3) to the series during the playoffs to explain the nuances of the data on the site. The data started showing up in writers’ coverage of the NFL.

I talked to Pittsburgh’s best sports writer, Ed Bouchette, for a story after game one of the 2009 season, and it made the front of the Sports’ section in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which had me excited as a local guy. Later that season I contributed data to articles which appeared on Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.

2010: The Plot Thickens

For a newcomer, things were going pretty well, though not once had I heard anything from the Denver Broncos. E-mails to the head of PR went unanswered, as did any phone call attempt. I can’t even get Woody Paige or any Denver-related media person for that matter to slay the dragon. Are they afraid they’ll lose their job or something?

I was also ill-prepared in the instance that Peyton Manning, who pulled to 35 comebacks, one shy of Dan Marino’s record 36, broke the record. I never could get into contact with the Colts on this matter either, despite the fact Manning and Johnny Unitas are two of the most prolific QB’s ever in this area. I will be over-prepared this season in the event that Manning finally ties and then surpasses Marino.

In the summer of 2010 I contacted NFL spokesman Greg Aiello after reading a 1996 article in which he stated the league would look into making comebacks a standard stat. I figured I have already done so much of the necessary work, so why not push him on it?

He eventually got me into contact with another NFL employee, and from there it was passed to the Elias Sports Bureau, who handles the league’s statistics. I must admit I was poorly prepared in adding a professional proposal, and basically just went off the three articles I had written at that point. Had I sent them something along the lines of what I have to work with today, things may have been much different.

Instead, the response was basically that teams are going to keep doing what they want in their media guides and press releases, and Elias, who only uses game-winning drives and never comebacks, was not changing anything.

The one time I tried to call Elias myself, a Spanish woman answered, creating a Consuela from Family Guy-esque moment, and I just hung up out of frustration. If you’re not familiar with the ESB’s website, it is basically an ad for buying a baseball book. It would be easier to reach the CIA for information or discussion.

I recently found this great article by Michael Weinreb, which talks about researcher John Turney’s similar plight with career sack totals. The NFL only made them official in 1982, but obviously sacks occurred for decades prior to that. With NFL Films having every game, why not go back and create the historical record of sacks? I of course fully support Turney’s position.

Weinreb’s characterization of dealing with Elias was classic:

So I called the Elias Sports Bureau, which keeps all the official statistics for all the major sports leagues in this country. I spoke to a man whose name I cannot use because he never gave it to me, and whom I cannot quote because he declined to be quoted, and who didn’t want to be forced to repudiate my premise. At times, I felt like I was engaging in a semantic discussion with the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons.”

To summarize: The Elias Sports Bureau feels as if there is no need to revise the history before 1982 because it would be impossible. They claim it would be impossible because there is no uniformity, because there was no standard definition of a sack before 1982, because then you fall into that statistical booby trap of comparing generations, and therefore, to go back to the play-by-play sheets and videotapes is both time-consuming and useless. In fact, Seymour Siwoff of Elias told Pro Football Weekly a couple of years ago that the only reason sacks were adopted as an official statistic in 1982 is because an increased number of incentive clauses and bonuses were built into contracts. This led to increased complaints and queries about statistics, which essentially, Siwoff said, “forced our hand.

It’s not impossible when people like Turney and me are willing to do the work. We may not be the Elias Sports Bureau, but I dare you to check the research and try and question the validity. It doesn’t take a genius to find mistakes in the “official” record.

In the 1990s, George Halas and Fran Tarkenton each held NFL records for most wins as a head coach and starting quarterback, respectively. But go figure, they each had one more win than they actually earned.

In 1992, Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Joe Horrigan found an error in Halas’ total based on a game he won despite having already left for World War II. Horrigan had the total changed from 325 wins to 324 twenty years ago, and it came at an important time as Don Shula was nearing the NFL record.

Sound familiar to anything? I tried contacting Horrigan recently, but he did not return the call.

When I was researching QB starts, I made note of this 1963 game that Fran Tarkenton could not have possibly started, as evident by his lack of any pass attempts or runs, and the fact that every newspaper archive said it was Ron Vander Kelen making his first career start. So I took it away from Tarkenton, which moved his record down from 125 wins to 124, and I put that total on PFR. I also changed it on Wikipedia, and before long, noticed some teams like the Patriots and Colts changed it in their media guides.

Last year I passed it along to the Minnesota Vikings’ PR and they agreed and made the change. They were very courteous about it, unlike some teams would be. Note: the Denver Broncos still have Tarkenton at 125. Gasp.

We’ll get another look next month when Tom Brady (124) takes the field. Right now he’s tied with Tarkenton, and the next win should surpass him.

But back to comebacks, because 2010 was when some really interesting stuff went down.

I wrote this article about the chronology of the records (Chapter 4), which expressed some of the stunning semantics blunders that went on between Elias, Denver and the Miami Dolphins in the mid-90s. That clued me in that this has been a problem that’s been going on for nearly two decades without a correction.

In late November, I put together an article that shines some of the sweetest irony you’ll ever see in life. Do you know what John Elway really did 47 times in his career? (Chapter 5)

47 is the number of times he had the ball in the fourth quarter, trailing by one score, and did not win the game.

46 losses and a tie. How unbelievable is that? I found similar results for Roger Staubach, who was falsely considered to have 23 comeback wins (real number: 15), yet 23 ended up being the number of losses in his career opportunities.

Speaking of Staubach, I experienced an incredible moment of success followed by disgust in the fall of 2010. The NFL Network aired a great NFL Films series called Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players. During Staubach’s video, the narrator said that Staubach had 15 fourth quarter comebacks in his career.

15, which is my number I put out there in the second article I wrote. Someone had to see it, because you wouldn’t get that number anywhere else. Remember, I was in contact with the NFL that summer, making them aware of the issue. It was a sense of accomplishment. If they use the right number for Staubach, then what was to come for Elway and Marino?

What came next was the first moment I thought there might be a conspiracy that goes beyond the Broncos’ botching the stats for their star quarterback. With Marino aired and no mention, they teased before commercial break about the “king of comebacks” coming up next.

It was Elway, and the first line out of the narrator’s mouth included “a record 47 comebacks.” I could have broken my TV if it wasn’t so expensive. How do you use the factual number for Staubach, ignoring the Cowboys in the process, but then go and use Denver’s falsified number for Elway? It’s absurd.

I contacted NFL Films about it, but nothing came of that either. Could not get in touch with someone that had a clue of what I was talking about.

On the field, Peyton Manning was less than a minute away from that record-tying 36th comeback in the playoffs, but a long kick return by Antonio Cromartie put a damper on the ending with the Jets getting the walk-off field goal win. After seven straight comebacks to get to 35, Manning lost his next six opportunities and hasn’t played a game since that Wild Card loss.

2011: Captain Comeback Begins

Last year I had full intentions of doing a weekly column where I go over all the fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives of the week. This would provide an undisputable account of each week’s games, and with lots of exclusive data.

With PFR moving away from blogging, I joined the new site Football Nation last July and one of my first articles (Chapter 6) was about the news I received from the NFL that their Record and Fact Book for 2011 was going to feature game-winning drives. They only limited it to since 1970 and listed the top five, but it was accurate, had Dan Marino at the top, and it was a step in the right direction.

From Football Nation, I quickly got involved with the Cold, Hard Football Facts brand. That would be the destination of Captain Comeback, which had a very successful first season. By midseason I found a format I love, and will continue to provide this type of analysis each week during the season.

Last summer I refined my database of fourth quarter/overtime wins, which allowed for me to have good information done in a timely manner for my articles. I focused more on writing and building a brand rather than trying to get the Broncos or NFL to change anything.

It was a great season with plenty to write about in this area.

Even with Peyton completely gone in 2011, his brother Eli picked up the slack with a record-tying seven comebacks of his own. Tony Romo’s “clutch vs. choker” persona being questioned was good to write about. There was also the Tim Tebow story, which meant good news for me. Even got to correct Elias again on stats related to Tebow’s game-winning drives. And of course the whole Green Bay Packers/Aaron Rodgers mystery of how they’re such an anti-comeback team (3-18 record) continues to be a key story for me.

Getting the @CaptainComeback name on Twitter and networking/promoting there has been a huge boost as well. Interacted with a lot of cool people the last 12 months.

2012: Big Plans

This offseason I have been hammering away at completing an even bigger database in the hope that I can get the information people have been looking for the last three years: full comeback/GWD opportunities. I have been teasing some of the information here on my blog and in some articles lately, and hope to have results during the season.

I also have thought about writing a book in the future on this topic. A complete guide, from going over this history of how screwed up the semantics and use of comeback stats have been, with full tables of stats on teams and quarterbacks, and numerous case studies that you would expect from analysis of thousands of the close finishes in NFL history. So much great stuff could come from these databases. I’m excited about just the possibilities alone.

Peyton is back this year, so hopefully that will lead to a lot of attention over this Denver story. You can say I haven’t done enough to get it out there, but I always thought on-field action backed with indisputable research would always speak louder than anything I do by myself. But admittedly, I could have done (and do) more to get it out there.

I called ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Saturday to pitch a show idea about this story, and I should probably not stop at that one voice message.

I cannot rely on Peyton alone. I thought him joining Denver would do the trick (Chapter 7) by itself, but  of course the Broncos have gone with a defense that makes it look like Manning’s comebacks never existed by not mentioning them once in 678 pages of their media guide.

And these are the days of searchable PDF files, so they can’t say it’s in there and I just missed it. If they try and add it in now, I have the original copy saved and the revision date of 6/24/12 listed inside.

The use of their media guides against them was fun to compile last week, and I went even deeper over the weekend to look at their material from the Jake Plummer era. It further proves how badly the Broncos are botching comeback records and fabricating Elway’s legacy in the process.

This is from a 2006 press release:

There’s a lot going on here. First, it’s very interesting to see Denver focus on only comebacks, as evident by the 21 and the table. Note: in the 2006 media guide, it even calls them “pure” comebacks. What’s awkward is the table saying since 1995, yet Drew Bledsoe’s total is listed since 1997. Something wrong with the five comebacks he had in 1995-96?

I know that for Bledsoe’s career (since 1993), he had 24 comebacks, but I bet my life they are not the same 24 games Denver had in mind here. Peyton did in fact have 19 comebacks then, which gives me a good idea of what number, if any, they will try and say he has this year. Hint: it will be about a dozen off what they have for Elway.

Plummer’s 21 is a farce. They include this 2002 game against Seattle as a comeback/GWD for Plummer, even though it consisted of Arizona blowing the lead to start the fourth quarter, and MarTay Jenkins returning the ensuing kickoff 95 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

“Pure” comeback, baby. Plummer was so good he got the offense the 4QC/GWD without even taking the field. The masters of comeback deception have outdone themselves here, as I have never seen any team credit their quarterback for a fourth quarter win like this when the return score did all the work.

One could argue Plummer started his career in Arizona, so maybe they were working off bad information. A logical argument, but I have the evidence this isn’t the case.

This is the Denver Broncos’ 2006 media guide claiming in Plummer’s player bio that the Seattle game was Plummer’s 17th comeback. Note the list of games here. That game, listed appropriately in “other games of note” at the bottom, was on 9/15/2002.

If you put the game in chronological order, it would be the 17th game on that page. This is Denver calling all of Plummer’s fourth quarter wins comebacks, even though three of the games (4, 9, 15 on PFR) were just game-winning drives where Arizona never trailed in the fourth quarter. And of course counting the Seattle game is pure lunacy. Plummer never even took the field for the opportunity, let alone do anything to deserve the comeback/GWD.

The Denver bio goes on to say Plummer finished 2002 with 21 comeback victories, even though six of them weren’t actually comebacks for him.

Plummer joined the Broncos in 2003, and his lone comeback/GWD of the season was noted by Denver as being his first for the team and the “22nd of his career.”

In 2004, Plummer had four game-winning drives, but only one of them involved a comeback (Carolina game). This time Denver says that Plummer led “four fourth quarter or overtime game-winning or game-tying drives on the year” to increase his total to 26.

Where they really blow it is when they give Plummer credit for his 19th comeback victory twice in two different seasons (2002 and 2004). Fancy that with both coming against Carolina, but they are two different games set over two years apart.

What does it show? When he was with Arizona, Denver refused to consider the difference between a comeback and a GWD, and just called them all comebacks. When he joined the team, they tried to get cute with “pure” comebacks, but outsmarted themselves when it came time to keep track of the stuff.

The 10/10/2004 game against Carolina was not Plummer’s 19th comeback. It was his 17th. Even if we get dumb about it and count the 2002 Seattle game, then that’s 18, which still comes up one short.

In 2005, Plummer had a comeback (9/18/2005 vs. San Diego) and two game-winning drives, though nothing specifically mentions them.

If the 10/10/2004 Carolina game was the 19th “pure” comeback of Plummer’s career, and he had 21 through 2005, then that means Denver is counting either the 12/12/2004 game against Miami or 11/24/2005 game in Dallas as a “pure” comeback, despite the fact Denver never trailed in the fourth quarter either time.

That would explain the bogus 21 comebacks at the beginning of 2006. However, that means there was another change when Plummer actually did have a comeback in Week 2 over Kansas City, but the number remained at 21 comebacks. Game-winning drives went up to 29.

Sticking with 2006, after a game-winning drive over Baltimore, the Broncos now went with 22 comebacks and 30 game-winning drives.

Even though the graphic clearly states the teams were only tied 3-3 in the fourth quarter, they add one to Plummer’s comeback total. The 0-point “deficit” is a popular thing for the Broncos.

And that is one of the core factors in how they were able to fabricate a record for John Elway, and get away with it all these years. If they can’t even handle a few Jake Plummer games from the digital media era, then it’s no wonder they had such ridiculous numbers for Dan Marino the 1990s.

That is why pure ignorance like the following from the Denver Post in 1996 has been allowed to exist: “Despite what you’ve heard and saw again Monday night, Elway is the NFL’s king of comebacks, not Dan Marino. Elway has 41, Marino has 32.”

Why is this so hard for people? In the words of Denver’s own PR man Jim Saccomano from a 1996 Denver Post article:

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you’re either ahead or behind and you either won or you didn’t.

Nope, it doesn’t take a genius. It takes Captain Comeback. It takes someone willing to put in the effort and call out a team when they are indisputably wrong.

From the confines of my home, I have done my part to rewrite NFL history. My history does not stand for one team winning the semantics battle to falsify a record to make their Hall of Fame quarterback look better.

For once, I feel very optimistic about this 2012 season, and the next chapter in the crusade over comeback conspiracy. The darkest days are behind us. The hardest work has been finished. Now we wait for new history to unfold, and put the past behind us.

Pass the link, and spread the truth my friends.