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Must read..TD's vs. Int's.

Discussion in 'Packer Fan Forum' started by net, May 18, 2006.

  1. net

    net Cheesehead

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    This guy has spent endless hours pouring over numbers confirming what I've been complaining about about the Man Who Will Be Nameless. It is far better to NOT throw an interception than to throw a TD pass.

    Turnovers, via pass or fumble, are perhaps the single worst thing that can happen to your team, even with a good defense. Woody Hayes' comment on why he ran the ball so much: "There's only three things that can happen when you pass, and two of them are bad". Long read, but worth it. Two of our three principal running backs also have what politely could be termed slippery fingers.
    ------
    The winning significance of touchdown passes vs. avoiding interceptions

    February 7, 2006

    Rick Cina


    Watching a quarterback throw a touchdown pass is certainly more exciting than watching a quarterback who carefully avoids interceptions. It’s much easier to overlook many of the interceptions that a quarterback throws if he also slings a substantial number of touchdown passes. After all, when it comes to winning games, it’s more important for a quarterback to throw for touchdowns than it is to keep the ball out of the hands of the opponent. That seems to be the conventional wisdom, anyway.

    But, because I'm curious, I decided to analyze all 256 football games in 2005 to put that conventional wisdom to the test. I wanted to learn more about how important (or unimportant) avoiding interceptions can be to a team’s chances of winning games. Since a touchdown pass is an automatic 7 points, and an interception (or turnover) may or may not eventually lead to points, I have usually assumed that touchdown passes are much more important than avoiding interceptions are in the winning equation. So I was a little surprised by what I found.

    What happened when Brett Favre didn’t throw any interceptions?

    It all started when I decided to examine the record of the Green Bay Packers when Brett Favre didn’t throw any interceptions. I decided to look at 6 years worth of Packers regular season games (2000-05) to obtain a relatively large sample size. Of those 96 games, I was able to find 32 in which Favre finished the game without throwing an interception. The Packers won 28 of those no interception games (28-4). I also identified 35 games in which Favre threw 1 interception. The Packers won 21 of them (21-14). So, since the 2000 season, the Packers had a record of 49-18 (.731) when Favre threw 1 or no interceptions. But then the tables turned when Favre threw multiple interceptions. The Packers only won 8 out of 29 games (8-21, .276) in that 6 year span when Favre threw 2 or more interceptions.

    Now, I had assumed that a similar winning pattern would occur with touchdown passes thrown---the more touchdown passes thrown in a game, the more wins. But while there was a correlation between touchdown passes thrown and wins, it didn’t appear to be nearly as strong as the correlation between avoiding interceptions and wins. For I found that when Favre threw 1 or no touchdown passes in a game, Green Bay’s record was a respectable 24-20 (.545). But in the 52 games in which Favre threw 2 or more touchdown passes, the Packers owned a solid, yet unspectacular 33-19 (.635) record.

    I expected there to be a much higher concentration of wins when Favre threw multiple touchdown passes in a game, and I expected there to be a lower concentration of wins in the games he didn’t throw any or just 1 touchdown pass. Instead, the Green Bay winning percentage wasn’t substantially higher (.635) when Favre threw multiple touchdown passes than when he threw just one or no touchdown passes (.545), especially when comparing those winning percentages to the disparity in winning percentages between the 0 or 1 interception games (.731) and the 2 or more interception games (.276).

    Is this pattern of winning duplicated in the rest of the NFL?

    That’s when I decided to probe further. I wanted to see if a similar pattern of winning existed in the rest of the NFL in terms of the impact of avoiding interceptions versus throwing touchdown passes.

    The problem I ran into, though, was that there were just too many games in which both quarterbacks threw 0 interceptions, for example, or when both threw 2 touchdown passes, and thus I still had to count it as both a loss and a win in those situations in which a tie existed. In other words, each just canceled out the other. That’s exactly what happened in the October 23, 2005, Packers-Vikings game in Minnesota, for example. Both Culpepper and Favre threw 2 touchdown passes and no interceptions that day, which meant that both teams were credited with a loss as well as a win for throwing multiple touchdown passes and no interceptions.

    Still, when I examined each of the 256 games this way, I did manage to find a modestly similar pattern to the one I found with Brett Favre and the Packers. For instance, teams that had quarterbacks who threw 0 interceptions had a 131-68 record (.658), and teams had a 22-61 record (.265) when their quarterback threw 2 interceptions in a game. On the other hand, teams that didn’t get any touchdown passes from their quarterbacks had a 53-83 record (.390), while teams that had quarterbacks who threw 2 touchdown passes had a 74-53 record (.583). So, once again, the correlation didn’t seem to be as strong between throwing multiple touchdown passes and winning as it was between avoiding interceptions and winning. But I still wasn’t satisfied with the informative quality those numbers, as I thought that the significant number of ties might undermine what I was trying to gauge.

    Winning percentages with more touchdown passes vs. fewer interceptions

    So I went through all 256 games in the 2005 season yet again to compare how well throwing touchdown passes might predict wins compared to how well avoiding interceptions might predict wins, but this time I excluded the ties, only counting games in which one team had more interceptions or touchdown passes than the other. What I found was a little unexpected.

    Considering there were more passing touchdowns (644) than both rushing touchdowns (431) and return (punt, kickoff, interception, fumble) touchdowns (97) combined in 2005, I would have expected that the team with more passing touchdowns than the other team would have almost always won the game. While they did win most of the time, I expected a higher winning percentage than I found.

    In my analysis there were 173 games (out of 256) in which one team had more touchdown passes than the other team (the rest were ties). And in those games, the team with more touchdown passes had a 121-52 record, a .699 winning percentage. That translates to 11.2 wins per 16 game season. Not bad at all.

    But then I looked at the record of teams that threw fewer interceptions than the other team. Out of 171 such games, the record for the fewer interception team was 133-38, a .778 winning percentage. That translates to about 12.5 wins per 16 game season, which is an even better winning rate than the more touchdown pass games.

    What these statistics seem to indicate, then, is that throwing fewer interceptions was a better predictor of wins in 2005 than throwing more touchdown passes was. Now, it might be overly ambitious to say that avoiding interceptions is actually more important in the winning equation than throwing touchdown passes. But such a conclusion might be reasonable nonetheless.

    And, by the way, avoiding turnovers in general (fumbles lost also) can also be considered a very important ingredient in the winning equation. There were a straight 200 games in which one team had more or fewer turnovers than the other. Teams that had fewer turnovers had a 160-40 record, an .800 winning percentage. That’s about a 13-3 regular season record. Of those 40 relatively rare instances in which the winning team actually lost more turnovers than the losing team, 26 had just one more turnover than the other team. So, out of 256 games in 205, there were only 14 instances in which the winning team had either 2 (11) or 3 (3) more turnovers than the losing team.

    But interceptions occur because a quarterback has to play from behind, right?

    One of the probable responses to the suggestion that avoiding interceptions might be just as, or possibly more important to winning than throwing touchdown passes is that the losing team usually has a quarterback who has to play from behind for a longer portion of the game than the winning team’s quarterback does, and, as we all know, playing from behind means that a quarterback usually has to throw quite a few more passes and thus risk more interceptions. Therefore, throwing more interceptions can largely be a consequence of playing while behind.

    While that explanation seems very reasonable on the surface, I decided to test it out by comparing the interception rates of quarterbacks when playing from behind to interception rates when they’re ahead. And I found that, with a few exceptions, most quarterbacks avoided interceptions rather well when their team was trailing, and there really weren’t substantial differences between their interception rates while ahead compared to when their team was trailing.

    I first decided to examine the passing statistics for the primary starting quarterbacks from the 17 teams that finished the season with a winning record. Later I compared them to starting quarterbacks on the 15 non-winning (the Falcons finished 8-8) teams in 2005.

    The 17 primary quarterbacks from winning teams ranged from Kyle Orton and Gus Frerotte of the Bears and Dolphins to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady of the Colts and Patriots. After adding their passing numbers together, I was able to determine that all 17 winning quarterbacks had a combined 2.8 interception percentage (about 1 interception every 36 passes) while passing from behind, and a 2.4 interception percentage (about 1 every 42 passes) for these winning quarterbacks when passing while ahead. A 2.8 interception percentage for quarterbacks who are trailing is quite good. For the sake of comparison, Joe Montana and Steve Young had career interception percentages around 2.6 (1 interception every 38 passes). And the overall NFL average for interception percentage in 2005 was 3.1 (about 1 every 32).

    There were 15 teams that had non-winning records in 2005, but because Buffalo had two quarterbacks (Losman and Holcomb) who started 8 games each and attempted almost exactly the same number of passes (228 vs. 230), I decided to include both of them. So I had 16 quarterbacks from non-winning teams to examine. And I found that they all combined for a 3.1 interception percentage (1 every 32) while ahead, but a 3.6 interception percentage (1 every 28) while behind.

    It should be noted, however, that these combined interception percentages for non-winning quarterbacks were quite skewed by one man, Brett Favre. Because the Packers played with a lead only about 25% of the time in 2005, Favre amassed 401 pass attempts while behind, the most in the NFL. Only Kerry Collins of Oakland came close, with 376 pass attempts while behind. But while Collins threw 7 interceptions when passing while behind, Favre threw 23, a 5.7 interception percentage (1 every 17 or 18 passes). If we were able to remove Favre’s aberrational ahead-behind statistics from the non-winning quarterback group altogether, we find that those other 15 quarterbacks still combined for a 3.1 interception percentage when passing while ahead, but they now had a 3.1 interception percentage when passing while behind too. In other words, except for Favre, quarterbacks from non-winning teams were largely able to avoid interceptions at the same rate when they were ahead as when they were behind.

    The explanation that quarterbacks who trail in games almost inevitably throw more interceptions than quarterbacks who don’t seems to imply that expectations should be lowered for quarterbacks who are "stuck" throwing passes when their team is trailing. I would think that avoiding mistakes and coming through when the team needs him most would be an appropriate way to evaluate the performance of a quarterback. Although it may be more difficult, it certainly isn’t impossible for a quarterback to avoid throwing a lot of interceptions when his team is trailing. The 2005 passing statistics for each team’s top quarterback seem to support that.

    Theoretically, turnovers result in a 4 to 5 point swing

    But back to interceptions and their role in the winning equation. Why is it that interceptions seem to have such an impact on which team wins and which team loses? After all, most interceptions aren’t returned. There were 507 interceptions thrown in 2005, with 47 of them (9.3%) returned for touchdowns. So only a small number of them might be said to have had an immediate impact.

    I think it’s important, though, to look at the bigger picture of what happens when a turnover occurs. We shouldn’t just think of a turnover as a better chance to score points with the better field position that can often ensue. Instead, a turnover could also be counted as a time when the offense was prevented from scoring points. And, when compounded with the increased chances of scoring points off the turnovers, a turnover can have a significant impact on the final score.

    I decided to look into this statistically. I found that the average scoring differential every time a turnover occurred in 2005 was 4 to 5 points. What I mean is that (1) when a team turns the ball over, it first loses nearly 2 points on average by missing out on a scoring opportunity on that drive, and (2) the team that collects the turnover scores nearly 3 points off each turnover on average. So, as a hypothetical example, if Team A turns the ball over 1 time, and Team B turns the ball over 3 times, the point differential averages out to about a 9 point advantage for Team A because that team had 2 fewer turnovers.

    I determined this theoretical 4 to 5 point differential by using the average points scored per game per team (20.6) and dividing that by the number of offensive drives each team averaged per game (11.8) to find a points scored per offensive drive average of 1.75. In other words, on each drive foiled by a turnover, that’s an average of 1.75 points left off the scoreboard. I then counted up the total number of lost fumbles (388) and interceptions (507) in 2005 (895), and the number of points scored off of both interceptions and lost fumbles (2,550) either via return or on the subsequent offensive drive, to ultimately find a points scored off turnovers average of 2.85. Those two averages were added together to determine a 4.6 points scoring differential each time a team turns the ball over.

    If we think about giving up a turnover as a potential 4 to 5 point swing in favor of the other team, avoiding turnovers can seem like a more critical component in the winning equation. Teams that turn the ball over a lot may be able to compensate if they have an excellent defense or a quick-strike offense, but most of the time a turnover will prove costly, especially when the game is otherwise close.

    Touchdown passes, interceptions, winning, and quarterbacks

    Conventional wisdom says that throwing touchdown passes is more important than avoiding interceptions in the winning equation. After all, a touchdown pass means an automatic 7 points. And of the 644 touchdown passes thrown in 2005, 435 of them (68.2%) went for 8 yards or more, which means that touchdown passes can often be big-time plays that can have a big-time impact.

    On the other hand, an interception may or may not lead to points. An interception can sometimes function as a punt, especially if it’s 3rd-and-long and the pass attempted is long enough. Or, an interception can be harmless and even worth the risk if it occurs at the end of the half or at the end of the game on a so-called "Hail Mary" pass into the end zone.

    And yet despite the readily apparent significance of throwing touchdown passes, or the sometimes inconsequential nature of throwing interceptions, it may be the case that avoiding interceptions may be just as, and possibly more important to winning than throwing touchdown passes. That’s what the passing statistics from the 2005 season seem to indicate.

    So while quarterbacks who throw for a lot of touchdown passes can be considered quite valuable, quarterbacks who take care of the ball and avoid interceptions may be just as, or maybe more valuable. And quarterbacks who both throw a lot of touchdown passes and avoid interceptions may be the most valuable of all.
     
  2. Zero2Cool

    Zero2Cool I own a website

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    Looks interesting. When I get an extra free 3 hours I'll have to read it! :p
     
  3. 4packgirl

    4packgirl Cheesehead

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    uh, can somebody give me the cliff's notes version?!?...anyone?? :D
     
  4. Hammer

    Hammer Cheesehead

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    1 or no INTs, win 3 of 4, 2 or more INTs, win 1 of 4.
    Hammer
     
  5. 4thand26

    4thand26 Cheesehead

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    Cliff notes version:

    2005 -Favre throws 6 ints vs Bears. Bears win both games.
    2004 -Urlacher exploits fact that Green carries the ball with the wrong arm, causes fumble at 1 yard line. Bears win.

    Turning the ball over bad.
    Forcing turnovers good.
     
  6. Hammer

    Hammer Cheesehead

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    Yup, overanalyzed piece on a basic tenet of football. Don't turn the damn ball over.
    Hammer
     
  7. net

    net Cheesehead

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    It's worth the read...put the latte down for awhile...deep breath...relax...open your eyes and spend a few minutes in one spot reading. It really is quite informative.
     
  8. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    that guy must work for the Census Bureau or something. interesting statistics but by the time i got to the.... ZZZZZZZZZZZZ
     
  9. P@ck66

    P@ck66 Banned Banned

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    Cliff's notes version:

    "Just another bullshit attempt by net to take a cheapasswipe shot at Favre....."

    What it fails to mention net (which you so conveniently left out) is skill level (or talent) at receiver, good play calling (or non-predictability), pass protection, and a running game....NONE of which FAVRE had the luxury of last year.....

    Don't bother reading it...it's a waste of time...

    "There are three types of lies...Lies...damn lies...and STATISTICS.."
    Mark Twain.
     
  10. GakkofNorway

    GakkofNorway Cheesehead

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    excuse me, what is your problem? First of all your post is way off and second net didn't post anything like that.
     
  11. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    Pack obviously has a man crush on Brett and can not stand any type of criticism or negative comment.

    He also has a vendetta against TT, MS and anyone else who he perceives as not doing right by his man.

    Back on subject, it has been proven pretty convincingly that turnovers are bad and takeaways are good. However, when you are playing from behind, have little or no running game, have marginal to average receivers, and a defense that cannot get the other team off the field without scoring - you are forced to take more chances and try to make things happen than you would if the above are not true. I do not think that all turnovers are created equal. That being said, if we can get the other issues resolved and Brett still is among the league leaders in turnovers then I will have a real issue with his play.
     
  12. P@ck66

    P@ck66 Banned Banned

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    Talk about nonsense....

    Basically..Spardo...

    You're admitting that the Packers sucked last year...(the whole team, mind you..sucked..even the coaches), yet I have a "man crush" on Brett because I insist on looking at things "rationally"....

    It couldn't be that some posters here might have an irrational hatred of Favre and an axe to grind, or are overly critical towards him about things that are not all his fault--even though he's given everything he has for this organization, brought them championships, and will end up in the NFL HOF as a Packer QB now could it?

    ..it couldn't be that some posters here are hypocritical, ingrates when it comes to their assessment of Favre...now could it?

    ..and maybe this is because Favre has passed all of the Packer records that were set by another GB QB that the original poster might have a "man crush" on...??

    ..no..it couldn't be that..could it..?

    We wouldn't want to let a little thing like the FACTS get in the way...now would we..?
     
  13. DePack

    DePack Cheesehead

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    P@ck66 is right. I love this "mancrush" **** you guys love to throw around. The fact that every one of us is posting on a damn football message board is kind of gay anyway. Think about it. Everyone here has a "mancrush" on one or more of the Packers. Christ, I think half you guys have already picked out china with Ted Thompson!

    On the original post.......It's next on my reading list.....right after "War and Peace". net....for every anti-Favre article you can find I can find 100 pro-Favre articles.
     
  14. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    what's wrong with having a man-crush? i have several of them. that doesn't mean i want to stick it in their butt. Brett is my sports hero, plain and simple, and if that means i have a crush on him, i'm fine if people want to lable it as such. I think if you're a guy and you think it's 'gay' to have at least one other guy that you REALLY look up to, your parents really screwed you up.
     
  15. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    Uh.......i for one knew that interceptions were bad BEFORE this thread. If you don't have a killer defense, then common sense tells you that int's will kill you. Don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out.

    Now, with Favre last season, he was playing with mostly second tier players, and trying to get something out of nothing. He made some bad throws, and some great ones. With him behind center, they were in almost every game. I'd rather have a guy that will try to win, then sit back for FEAR of throwing an INT! Otherwise you are doomed to lose anyway.
     
  16. net

    net Cheesehead

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    No, you're not doomed to lose. You can RUN THE BALL. One of the truly bad things about the WCO is there's a generation of fans who think the only way to win is to throw it all over all the time. It is nearly a guarantee that you will LOSE if you throw more than 50 times a game.
     
  17. net

    net Cheesehead

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    If you recall, Pack66...I was the one that brought that quote to the old News-Chronicle board.

    Not a swipe at Favre, your boyhood hero, as much as a reality check on why it ISN'T OK TO THROW INTERCEPTIONS NO MATTER WHO IS THROWING THEM.

    Regarding your nasty personal swipes you constantly throw my way because I want Brett Favre judged on an even playing field like any other player, please keep them to yourself. You only make yourself wrong one more time.

    Thank you and have a nice day.
     
  18. cheesey

    cheesey Cheesehead

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    Thats IF you have a healthy running back at the time.........GB went through plenty of RB's last year, and none of them remained healthy enough, and the O line wasn't strong enough to produce a good running attack. At least not consistantly. I don't think the Packers threw over 50 times a game last year. Maybe i'm wrong on that, but i don't think they did. A good running game is great, if you have one available at the time. Maybe this year they can afford to do that, now that everyone is healthy. I LIKE a strong running attack. It opens up the passing game alot more if they have to fear the RB's. I'm hoping that happens this coming season.
     
  19. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    another one bites the dust. that's one more thread turned into a pissing contest. this is getting ridiculous you guys. can't you have a discussion on your differences without one of you getting his panties in a twist? net, it's like you flipped out because 66 simply posted in YOUR thread. and enough with all these passive aggressive comments.
     
  20. GakkofNorway

    GakkofNorway Cheesehead

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    bozz: did you read the posts 66 made? They are totally off target and immature, he destroys almost every thread he posts in with his lame crap.
     
  21. ravage

    ravage Cheesehead

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    Statistics can be made to show almost anything, I know because I do it. By ignoring some stats and concentrating on others I can make almost any player look better or worse than they are. If stats don't do it you can talk about a new system or surrounding talent.

    Are INTs bad? Duh. Of course they are. Can they lose games for you? Of course they can.

    You also have to other aspects of the game. If you've paid any attention to the Packers since Favre has been on board you know one thing. When the Packers have a good defense Favre takes fewer risks and throws fewer INTs.

    Let's look at this aspect. The Packers have ranked in the top 5 in "Points allowed" by the defense 5 times since Favre has been in Green Bay. '96, '95, '94, '97, and '01.

    In those seasons Favre has thrown the fewest INTs of his career. '96-13, '95-13, '94-14, '97-16, and '01=15. Conincidence? I think not.

    So I could write an article stating the exact opposite using statistics too. You believe you article, I'll believe my post.
     
  22. Packnic

    Packnic Cheesehead

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    ignore the douchebag.... he brings nothing to the table and it gets old. fine to be pessimistic. not cool to have 0 reasoning behind anything you say. KY. back to the topic

    i think brett is held to the same standard as other players.... however he does so many things that are amazing, that the INT's get over looked.

    what im saying is Joey Harrington is a mess but he gives you no reason to think he can change or be better, or even give you moments to enjoy.
    Brett can kill you with his INT's and people all over the media and the fans rake him over the coals about his INTS.... however he kind of slides by because even if he throws 19 ints in one game... you know he still has the ability to bail you out with a couple TDs
     
  23. bozz_2006

    bozz_2006 Cheesehead

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    i agree. when i mentioned one thing that net did, i was certainly not siding with 66. i just wish this crap between 66, depack, trom, and net would end. it's getting to the point where you can't even folow a thread because it turns into an 8 page pissing match between two of those guys
     
  24. Bobby Roberts

    Bobby Roberts Cheesehead

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    This section is key right here and not properly evaluated IMO. It shows that the interception percentage for losing QBs (besides Favre) is the same as that for winning QBs! The winning QBs had a 2.8 INT percentage while the losing QBs had a 3.1 INT percentage. Doesn't look like a difference to me, but of course that obvious point is ignored because it doesn't match the point of the article.

    As said by others, this is a case of playing with stats to prove a point. Yes, when Favre throws a lot of INTs, GB tends to lose. But does that mean that GB would win if he didn't?

    Looking at the stats from the past 6 years is very misleading. During that time, GB's defense has been very weak. The team was carried by the offense. If the offense couldn't put a lot points on the board, then the Packers would most often lose. Just look at the Colts game from a couple years ago. The offense was great and almost won the game, but the defense was so bad that Indy actually won. There's no way GB would have been close if Favre didn't push the offense to score every possession.

    INTs and TOs suck big time! No question about it. But GB has been very successful for a long time with Brett's style, which obviously takes all factors into account rather than just one stat.

    There's no doubt that GB is better off with Favre running the show.
    GO PACK GO!!!
     
  25. spardo62

    spardo62 Cheesehead

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    I just think we, myself included, are sometimes a little to eager in our praise(rose colored glasses) and also too quick to criticize and obviously Brett is the main focus of the team on the field, and the head coach and GM are the two major points of focus off the field. As such, they are subject to more knee jerk, irrational praise/criticism than other members of the organization. My take on your posts is that Brett can do no wrong and TT can do no right, and I do not believe either train of thought is accurate. No one in their right mind can blame Favre for much of what happend last year, but I also find it troubling to place excessive blame on TT at this point in time.

    I certainly do not want to attack anyone on this board and enjoy a civil discussion and if my post was inappropriate i am extremely sorry.
     

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