NFL Side Stories

Top10Busts Football Index: TFI

Synopsis: Given their propensity to trade future draft picks in the early 1990s, the Dallas Cowboys developed a quantitative tool to help them make better decisions. Commonly referred to as Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Value Chart, the methodology actually came into existence because of team executive Mike McCoy. Specifically, McCoy developed a numerical value for each draft position such that proposed trades could be evaluated quickly and objectively. Still in use today, that chart reflects how teams seemingly value future draft picks. Similarly, I created the T10B Football Index (TFI) as a mechanism to value future picks based on expected production. McCoy showed what teams are willing to do. In comparison, I show what teams should do.


Top10Busts Football Index: TFI

Last year, the L.A. Rams and Philadelphia Eagles traded up to secure the first two picks of the 2016 NFL Draft. Specifically, the Rams took Jared Goff with the 1st pick while the Eagles took Carson Wentz with the 2nd. In need of franchise quarterbacks, both organizations gave up a lot of potential value in the form of future draft picks. Only time will tell if they gave up too much. In the meantime, I developed an index to evaluate trades such as these before the players ever get on the field.

After compiling statistics from every NFL draft since 1977, I created the T10B Football Index (TFI). Specifically, I developed a methodology to determine the value of a pick based on the career production of players taken at a comparable spot in the draft. Instead of trying to reflect what teams have done, the TFI reflects what teams should do. In essence, I’ve tried to add objectivity to what can be a very emotional decision. 

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – THE CALCULATION

In order to calculate TFI, I start with each player’s Weighted Career Approximate Value (as reported by pro-football-reference.com). From there, I add the following totals.

  • 5x Pro Bowl Selections. 
  • 10x 1st Team All-Pro Selections.
  • 5x Super Bowl appearances.
  • 20x Super Bowl victories.

Any of you can fairly challenge the multiplier for the previously listed achievements. To be honest, I came up with them based on a series of “Would you rather . . . ” questions. For instance, would you rather be Jim Kelly or Brad Johnson? Of note, Kelly went 0-4 and Johnson went 1-0 in their Super Bowl appearances. Given that the answer isn’t a “no brainer,” I considered a Super Bowl victory as worth four times more than a Super Bowl appearance (otherwise known as a loss).

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – REASONABLE QUESTIONS

Whereas the first three stats reflect a player’s individual accomplishments, the last two tend to be associated more with his team’s success. For that reason, it could be problematic to give every player the same credit for a team’s appearance and/or victory in the Super Bowl. 

PEYTON MANNING’S 2ND SUPER BOWL
Football Index TFI
If you hoist the trophy, you get credit for the victory.

Does Peyton Manning deserve as much credit for the Broncos’ victory in Super Bowl 50 as for the Colts’ victory in Super Bowl XLI?

No. But who cares? He won the Super Bowl as the starting quarterback so he deserves the spoils. The least of those include 20 extra TFI points.

JEFF HOSTETLER ON HIS WAY TO DISNEY WORLD
Scott Norwood’s failure became Jeff Hostetler’s success.

Does Phil Simms deserve any credit for the Giants victory in Super Bowl XXV even though he got injured and couldn’t play?

Giants QB Phil Simms began the 1990 season with an impressive 11-3 record before suffering a season-ending injury. With backup QB Jeff Hostetler under center, the G-Men closed out the season with five consecutive victories (two in the regular season and three in the playoffs). “Hoff” didn’t earn MVP honors, but he got the coveted “I’m going to Disney World” spot.

 

Numerous QBs with three or fewer losses don’t make the Super Bowl. As such, Simms’ regular-season didn’t guarantee playoff success. For instance, Joe Montana went 14-1 as a starter in the 1990 regular season, but lost to Hostetler in the NFC Championship Game. Simms deserved a Super Bowl ring, but not the glory (or the 20 extra TFI points) from the victory.

Do all positions deserve equal credit?

Football may be the ultimate team sport. As such, each player wins or loses along with the rest of his team.

  • Do the Patriots get their first three Super Bowl victories without the “ice-in-his-veins” kicks of Adam Vinatieri? Perhaps not.
  • Does Trent Dilfer get a Super Bowl ring in 2001 without the oppressive Ravens’ defense? Probably not.
  • Do the Giants win Super Bowl XLII without the helmet catch by David Tyree? Definitely not.

Point being, everyone on the team deserves the same credit (and TFI points) for a win or a loss.

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI) – IMPORTANCE OF SUPER BOWLS

Even though Super Bowl appearances and victories seem to be reasonable stats to track for each player, I couldn’t find the information in a convenient format. Do you hear me pro-football-reference.com? When I didn’t know the actual numbers, I applied a Super Bowl factor that approximated 20% of a player’s total from WCAV, Pro Bowls and All-Pro selections.

As support for this assumption, I offer the following “Would you rather . . .” scenario. Imagine you’re Dan Marino. You’re a first-ballot Hall of Famer who is considered one of the greatest passers in NFL history. Still, how much of that legacy would you trade for a Super Bowl ring?

  • 10%? Probably.
  • 20%? Possibly.
  • 30%? Probably not.

From another persepctive, let’s say you (as Marino) had the ability to trade your career for the career of one of the following 1x Super Bowl winners.

Would you rather have your or Aaron Rodgers’ career?

If you don’t know, the correct answer is Aaron Rodgers. Like Marino, Rodgers will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Due to his time backing up Brett Favre, Rodgers likely will fall 10% short of Marino’s career numbers. Still, the trade-off seems more than reasonable.

Would you rather have your or Steve Young’s career?

Push. With his Super Bowl victory, Young got the proverbial monkey off his back. Even though his career stats trail Marino’s by 20%, the value of that ring brings them much closer together.

Would you rather have your or Joe Flacco’s career?

Definitely Marino’s. After Flacco’s magical playoff run that culminated in a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, this question would have been harder to answer. Based on Flacco’s 20-22 record since then and a projected career falling 30% short of Marino’s, the answer is much clearer now.

Marino retired with almost every NFL major career passing record. Since then, all of them have been broken. Unlike records, Super Bowl Championships cannot be taken away.

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI): RECENT QUARTERBACKS

Now for the defining moment. Does my TFI meet your expectations? I’ll let you decide based on the following ranking of the best quarterbacks since 2000.

[Updated after 2017 Season]

    Draft Super Bowl All- Pro   Actual Proj.
Rank Player Year Pick Wins Games Pro Bowls WCAV TFI TFI
#1 Tom Brady 2000 199 5 8 4 14 171 421 443
#2 Peyton Manning 1998 1 2 4 7 14 177 377 377
#3 Aaron Rodgers 2005 24 1 1 3 7 128 218 273
#4 Drew Brees 2001 32 1 1 1 11 159 249 262
#5 Ben Roethlisberger 2004 11 2 3 0 6 120 205 228
#6 Matt Ryan 2008 3 0 1 2 4 120 165 220
#7 Russell Wilson 2012 75 1 2 0 4 88 138 212
#8 Eli Manning 2004 1 2 2 0 4 112 182 202
#9 Philip Rivers 2004 4 0 0 0 7 134 169 199
#10 Cam Newton 2011 1 0 1 1 3 95 125 192
#11 Donovan McNabb 1999 2 0 1 0 6 107 142 142
#12 Joe Flacco 2008 18 1 1 0 0 86 111 139
#13 Alex Smith 2005 1 0 0 0 3 93 108 135
#14 Carson Palmer 2003 1 0 0 0 3 108 123 123
#15 Tony Romo 2003 UD 0 0 0 4 95 115 115

UD-Undrafted

[The ranking in the table is based on projected vs. actual TFI. As a result, Eli Manning’s ranking may be lower than you’d think. Of note, his career is coming to a close whereas Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson still have significant upside.]

SUPER BOWL LI

Given the upcoming match-up between the Patriots and Falcons in Super Bowl LI, either Tom Brady or Matt Ryan will add another 20 points to his TFI. Brady can’t improve his ranking. However, he can confirm his G.O.A.T. status by becoming the first quarterback with five rings. On the other hand, a Falcons’ victory will help solidify Ryan’s ranking among the upper echelon of his peers.

Prior to the Falcons’ victory in the NFC Championship Game last week, I thought Aaron Rodgers couldn’t be stopped. After seeing the game, I realize that I underestimated Atlanta. Despite Brady’s track record and the Patriots’ top-ranked defense, I’m going with Ryan and the Falcons’ top-ranked offense next week. I’m not willing to bet against Brady. However, let’s call it a hunch.

[So much for a hunch. When the Falcons went up 28-3 halfway through the 3rd quarter of Super Bowl LI, I thought about this prediction. Good thing I didn’t bet against Brady. 

By engineering an overtime victory in that game, the Pats’ decorated QB eliminated any lingering doubts (including my own) that he deserves the title of the NFL G.O.A.T. At a minimum, he has earned that recognition for the post-Super Bowl era.]

T10B FOOTBALL INDEX (TFI): THE CHART
  Round
Pick 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th
1 100.0 50.0 35.0 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
2-3 95.0 50.0 32.5 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
4 85.0 50.0 32.5 27.5 20.0 15.0 12.5
5-10 75.0 47.5 32.5 25.0 20.0 15.0 12.5
11-13 70.0 45.0 30.0 25.0 17.5 15.0 12.5
14-16 65.0 42.5 30.0 25.0 17.5 15.0 12.5
17-19 60.0 42.5 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5
20-24 55.0 40.0 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5
25-32 50.0 40.0 27.5 22.5 17.5 15.0 12.5

In order to maintain objectivity, I refrained from looking up Jimmy Johnson’s Trade Value Chart until I finished. Now that I’ve looked, I can understand why so many teams make mistakes when trading up in the draft. 

JIMMY’S CHART

Football Index

From my perspective, the table shows that desperate teams act irrationally. Specifically, they seem to drastically overvalue picks at the top of the draft. Based on the table, the value of the 1st overall pick (3,000) exceeds the total value from the 4th overall pick (1,800) plus the first pick in every subsequent round (1,153). Said differently, a team presumably would need to offer its entire draft simply to move from #4 to #1 in the first round. For as ridiculous as that statement sounds, it basically happened.

In one of my first posts, I analyzed the Saints’ blockbuster boneheaded trade that resulted in their selection of Ricky Williams with the 1999 #5 overall pick. Specifically, New Orleans gave up all of their picks in the 1999 Draft plus a 1st and 3rd rounder in the 2000 Draft in order to take former Heisman-winning running back. Based on WCAV, I argued that Williams needed to match to career of Peyton Manning in order for the trade to prove worthwhile. I assume I don’t have to tell you that he fell short of those expectations.

Since then, I have used TFI to evaluate trades involving draft picks, such as the previously mentioned trades by the Rams and Eagles for Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. In a separate post, I commented that Goff needs to match the career of Eli Manning and Wentz needs to match the career of Philip Rivers for those trades to make sense. Unlike the Williams’ trade, these still have the potential to pan out.

Based on Jimmy Johnson’s Chart, the trades for Goff and Wentz didn’t result in a significant value disparity. Yet, I believe both teams gave up too much. As a capitalist, I appreciate that free markets determine value. At the same time, I know that markets can be inefficient. I hope that my creation of TFI can establish a better determinant of value. Realistically, it won’t because desperate people do desperate things.

Top10Busts Football Index: TFI

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