Favre Follow-Up

The "Brett Favre is Overrated" article has garnered a lot of attention over the past couple weeks. I enjoy reading the comments from the various message boards on which it has been linked. I'm always surprised by how many people don't trust statistics, which is probably a healthy thing. So for the few remaining doubters out there that don't buy my argument that Favre's resurgent 2007 season was primarily due an exceptionally elusive receiver corps and their copious YAC, here are some hard numbers.

In the past 2 years, the NFL gamebooks have listed the location of where each pass was thrown in six sectors--deep right, left, and middle; plus short right, left, and middle. You've probably seen the graphic during broadcasts that lists how many passes a QB has completed to various locations.

Here are Favre's completion percentages over the last two regular seasons compared to the NFL average.













Pass Location NFL %
Favre %
Deep left4235
Deep middle5655
Deep right4235
Short left6768
Short middle6969
Short right6766
Total6363


Despite a very average overall completion rate, Favre's rates for deep right and deep left passes are well below average. That means in order to have an overall average completion rate, he must be gorging on the dink and dunk stuff.

I'm not the only guy with access to stats like these. Do you know who else might have them? Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson.

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30 Responses to “Favre Follow-Up”

  1. Brian Burke says:

    PS "Deep" is defined as 15 yds or more.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Finally I figured out why Favre is being given the Shaft in GB. Its because of Stat weenies like you. I am from Mn. and a huge Vike fan. Let me give you just a little bit of info on stats. The Vikes are the number #1 rated rush deff in the league for the last few years because there good at it, and also because teams refuse to continue with it, and
    the stats grow from it. Pass deffense is horrible.

    Teams also tend to position themselves in order to stop Favre and they do drop his completion %, but they dont stop him from still throwing for 4,000+ yards, and opening up his running game.

    Weenies like your remind me of Wade Phillips in Buffalo going with Rob Johnson. 6'4" 220lb
    guy who doesnt throw interceptions. He doesnt win for you either. Flutie? I am sure you can come up with reasons why he sucked too.

    Weenie hater

  3. Brian Burke says:

    For a stat hater, you're awfully comfortable throwing a few around, like 4000+ yards. Tell me, how is it that you know the Vikings are so good at run defense? Because of your keen eye for block-shedding techniques and form-tackling? Or is it their 3.1 yds per carry stat?

    How do you know Favre opened up the Packers' running game? Mind-reading opposing defenses?

    We're all stat weenies, buddy.

  4. Matt says:

    Typical attack on stat geeks - attack the author rather than focus on the actual statistics. I am fairly new to the world of advanced stats for football but I have been following baseball and basketball this way for a while now.

    It's pretty much the same thing - guys who "know the game" and watch the "gritty", grey-bearded (he's so GRIZZLED!!) Favre and just can't fathom that he's not really that good anymore. They have seen his underhanded shovel passes. They have seen him "play the game the right way" with "childlike enthusiasm". No. #4 is a gamer. He can't be overrated... his team went to the NFC Championship.

    Mr. Anonymous - I don't understand what point you are trying to make. The Vikes did have a statistically good rushing defense. What does this have to do with Favre's YAC and deep left/right completion rate?

  5. JTapp says:

    One of the best parts of my day is reading this blog. The data say that Favre is over the hill.

  6. Michael says:

    First off, AMAZING work at this blog. Great writing Brian, great depth of thought, and I wish you great success with what you are doing.

    Anyway, one thing I that I think would be good would be to do a comparison of Favre to quarterbacks from around the league last year in this specific category. With as often as Tom Brady and Randy Moss connected last year, I would imagine he would fare considerably better with his deep completion percentages than Favre. However, that then begats more questions; is it a situational issue (as in firing deep on third-and-long is a pass that is less likely to be completed than the same pass thrown on second-and-short), or perhaps the receivers that are good at racking up YAC are just simply, on a comparitive basis, not very good vertical receivers, etc.?

    Again, great job with what you are doing here!

  7. Anonymous says:

    How can Favre have the same average, but be worse in every single category except Short Left where he has a 1 point edge?

    The numbers look strange.

  8. Brian Burke says:

    It's mostly because he throws so many more short passes than longer ones. So his weighted overall average is dominated by his short pass completion rate. Plus, the rounding favors Favre's total average. I should have gone to at least one decimal point. Favre might be at 62.5% overall compared to the NFL at 63.4%. But I'd have to verify that.

  9. Brian Burke says:

    Michael-You're right. Situational considerations may be important. These numbers are from over 2 full seasons, so the assumption was that situations would tend to even out.

  10. Ken says:

    I don't see why "gorging on dink and dunk" is inherently a bad thing. The important thing is first downs and yards right, not first downs and yards in a manly way (down field).

  11. Ken says:

    Also, as far as wondering how they end up the same even though favre appears in adequate, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simpson%27s_paradox, it is almost a situation called Simpson's pardadox (click on link).

  12. Phil says:

    Mind if I ask where did you get those stats?

    is there a free source for that information or did you pay stats.inc for stats that aren't publicly available?

    Not to take away from the Farve frenzy, but I've wondered about those stats for a while

  13. Brian Burke says:

    Ken-agreed. It's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a matter of where the credit lies for all those yards last year.

    Also, thanks for the link on Simpson's paradox. Very interesting.

  14. Brian Burke says:

    Phil-The stats came from NFL gamebooks. You can find any game's summary at NFL.com/scores. I had some help get a handle on all of them.

  15. Brian Burke says:

    One other quick note on Favre vs. Pennington--

    Adjusted net passing yards per attempt is passing yards - sack yards - 45 yds for each interception per drop back. Brett Favre's career Adj Net Yds Per Attempt is 5.5. Chad Pennington's is...also 5.5.

    There are other considerations, but it's not a huge upgrade for the Jets by any stretch. They are not "instant" contenders, at least just because of Favre. But they are likely to be better than last year, for many other reasons, if only because it's really hard to do worse than 4-12. Brett will get the credit though.

  16. Phil says:

    Yeah, I have almost no idea how you got from that site to those stats

    I guess I'll have to play with it more when I'm not at work sneaking non-work related sites for a minute or two at a time

  17. Brian Burke says:

    Sorry. You're right, that wasn't very helpful. Here is an example:

    http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/playbyplay?game_id=29848&displayPage=tab_play_by_play&season=2008&week=PRE0

    After each game is played, there are also links to the gamebook in .pdf form and other game summary info like drive stats, etc.

  18. Phil says:

    So did you use some sort of calculator or program that summed all the short lefts for farve and the rest of the league

    I'm going to assume that wasn't done by hand

  19. Brian Burke says:

    I used a pivot table in Excel.

  20. Phil says:

    "29-J.Addai right tackle to IND 15 for -4 yards (24-S.Springs). "

    indicates the play was over the right tackle?

    that'd be interesting, if pretty imperfect, to see rushing stats based on the lineman they were over

  21. Phil says:

    hmm, thanks for the insight,

    still seems like a pretty considerable ammount of work

  22. matt says:

    Phil you could set up a spreadsheet that would do it fairly easily.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I know you aren't a big fan of football outsiders from some of your comments but their projections only move NYJ from 7.2 wins to 7.6 wins with the addition of Favre and that doesn't take into account that he won't have a lot of time to learn the offense. I have to agree with both of you that Favre is clearly overrated at this poinit in his career, maybe for most all of his career. But im hoping he goes out and proves us all wrong

  24. ch says:

    "Deep" is defined as a pass caught 16 or more yards from the line of scrimmage.

  25. Anonymous says:

    A breakdown of Favre's play from last season.

    Green Bay's opponents had just over 9 short left passes per game thrown at them over the season.Favre threw on average 7.4 short left passes against those same opponents.He was good at throwing those passes.GB's opponents allowed 5.8 yards per attempt on short left passes,Favre averaged 7.2 ypa.Overall his below average attempts and above average yardage produced average yardage per game on short left passes.

    Short middle the numbers were,opponents faced 7.7 passes per game allowing 6.8 ypp,Favre threw 10.7 passes per game gaining 8.0 ypp.Overall producing well above average yardage per game on short middle passes.

    Short right.Opponents faced 11.2 passes per game at 5.8 ypp.Favre threw 12.2 passes per game at 5.2 ypp.Overall producing average yardage per game.

    Deep left.Opponents faced 2 passes per game at 10.7 ypp.Favre threw 1.7 passes per game at 12.4 ypp.Overall producing average yardage per game.

    Deep middle.Opponents faced 1.8 passes per game at 13.6 ypp.Favre threw 1.7 passes per game at 14.3 ypp.Overall producing average yardage per game.

    Deep right.Opponents faced 2.2 passes per game at 10.6 ypp.Favre threw 1.7 passes per game at 16.7 ypp.Overall producing above average yardage per game.

    Those numbers seem to imply that Favre was outstanding throwing short middle,good at throwing deep right and average in every other direction.Not too shabby.

    I'd also put the yac into context.In 2007 Favre's YAC accounted for 51% of his total yardage.Of the quarterbacks who threw 100 or more passes around 30 were less reliant on yac,but 21 had yac figures that were greater than 51% of their total yardage.That for me doesn't make Favre stand out as being too yac dependent.

    Also YAC's dependent on a teams style.In 2007 18 teams had at least two QBs who threw 100 or more passes each.14 of those multiple starter teams had QB's who's yac as a percentage of total yardage were within a couple of percent of their team mate.

  26. Brian Burke says:

    Anon-Great breakdown, but I don't think your numbers are quite right. My numbers show Favre was not 22nd in %YAC. In 2007 (regular season) he was tied for 2nd with Testaverde, Greise and Harrington, and behind only Croyle.

    The other pro-bowler's %YAC was Hasselbeck 44%, Romo 41%, Garcia 50%, Brady 42%, Manning 43%, Roethlisberger 34%, and Anderson 38%.

    My source is Stats, Inc. via http://sports.myway.com/nfl/stats/league/ydsaftercatchqbs.html

    But in total, I think your analysis basically supports my point. Favre wasn't really a pro-bowl QB last year, merely average. And he only appeared average because of very large amounts of YAC.

    I also agree with your point that YAC is partially dependent on team style. But team style is also largely dependent on QB ability. That's another reason we shouldn't expect Favre to go to another team (like NYJ) and perform nearly as well as last year.

  27. Mark. says:

    Thanks for the source,Brian I'll add it to my list until I get a play by play database together :-).

    Here's Brady's 2007 passing splits as a comparison.

    Short left.New England's opponents faced on average 9.1 passes per game and allowed 5.7 yards per attempt.Brady threw 11.1 ppg for 6.3 ypa.

    Short middle.NWE's opponents faced 6.5 ppg allowing 6.9 ypa.Brady threw 7.4 ppg for 7.4 ypa.

    Short right.NWE's opponents faced 10.5 ppg allowing 5.6 ypa.Brady threw 12.0 ppg for 7.1 ypa.

    Deep left.NWE's opponents faced 2.1 ppg allowing 10.4 ypa.Brady threw 2.3 ppg for 15.3 ypa.

    Deep middle.NWE's opponents faced 1.8 ppg allowing 12.3 ypa.Brady threw 1.2 ppg for 18.7 ypa.

    Deep right.NWE's opponents faced 2.2 ppg allowing 10.6 ypa.Brady threw 2.3 ppg for 15.8 ypa.

    Mighty impressive.

  28. Mark. says:

    Adding Green Bay's running splits to see the level of help Favre got from the ground game.

    Starting with runs that were described as being in the direction of Left End.GB's opponents on average faced 4 rushing attempts per game and allowed 4.9 ypa.GB ran 3.9 attempts per game for 5.1 ypa.

    Left Tackle.GB's opponents faced 3.8 attempts allowing 4.5 ypa.GB ran 4.5 times for 4.4 ypa.

    Left Guard.GB's opponents faced 2.1 attempts allowing 3.7 ypa.GB ran 1.1 times for 3.5 ypa.

    Middle.GB's opponents faced 6.9 attempts allowing 4.1 ypa. GB ran 3.2 times for 3.3 ypa.

    Right Guard.GB's opponents faced 2.1 attempts allowing 4.1 ypa.GB ran 1.7 times for 8.2 ypa.

    Right Tackle.GB's opponents faced 3.5 attempts allowing 4.0 ypa.GB ran 3.8 times for 4.9 ypa.

    Right End.GB's opponents faced 3.5 attempts allowing 4.8 ypa.GB ran 4.5 times for 3.9 ypa.

    A fairly good showing from the right side of the line and pretty poor up the middle.

  29. Anonymous says:

    The problem is that completion % is only part of the QB job. It does not take into consideration audible, clock management, leadership, football intelligence, etc...

    As an example, when Favre says with 2 minutes remaining and the team down by 3: "Calm down guys, we are going to win this one." it probably has a greater impact on the offense than when Rex Grossman says it.

    I am a firm believer in stats, but QB is not a position were completion % tells the whole story.

  30. Anonymous says:

    How do you factor in actually playing in every game? A QB isnt so efficient if he is standing (or laying) on the sideline. Maybe this doesnt have a large impact on a single season with no injury but over the course of 3-5 years a coach has to factor it in, or not with Favre.

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