I’ve been curious to try to figure out how to compare Brees’ winning percentage to other quarterbacks, adjusted for the quality (or lack thereof) of his supporting defense.  I’m a Saints fan, but I also try to keep it real.  I fully realize and acknowledge the fact that the Saints defense in recent years has been, well, lacking.  (I’m being generous.)

What do I mean my “defensive support”?  Glad you asked (even if you didn’t).  Defenses can support their quarterback by doing things like stopping the other team from driving up and down the field (total yards allowed), keeping teams out of the end zone (points allowed), and forcing turnovers to get the ball back to the quarterback (defensive takeaways).  But in trying to come up with a single metric or formula to put all of those factors in and have it spit out a single value I realized it was going to be subjective.  For example, how much weight should be given to yards allowed versus turnovers forced versus points allowed?  Should they be given equal weight?  Should points allowed trump all the others?  In the end, I’ve decided to come up with 3 different rankings, show what they are, and let the reader use critical thinking (and provide my own thoughts to the results).

All stats used in this blog entry are courtesy of my go to site for NFL stats, pfref.com.   If you’d like to keep up with my ramblings and musings, be sure to subscribe to this blog here on wordpress, so you can get the posts in your e-mail inbox.  That’s the best way to keep up with it, or you can also follow me on Twitter (@mean__mark — two underscores because somebody else already had the single underscore).

All the data in the following table is for years 2006-2016, which is 11 years worth of stats.  I chose those years because that’s when Brees came to New Orleans.  Not that many quarterbacks playing today were around in 2006.  Brady, (Eli) Manning, and Rivers come to mind, but just about everybody else started playing after that.  Rodgers became the starter in Green Bay in 2008.  This is really Brees compared to the rest of the league as much as anything, although fairly direct comparisons can be made with other long time starters.

First, let’s show all the data sorted by total yards allowed (most to least) over the span of these 11 seasons.

Most Yards Allowed (2006-2016)

Points opponent defensive
Rk Tm W-L% allowed total yards takeaways
1 CLE 0.295 4097 63463 265
2 NOR 0.574 4202 63136 249
3 DET 0.375 4462 62782 270
4 ATL 0.545 3940 62610 285
5 OAK 0.352 4433 61986 253
6 STL / LAR 0.31 4245 61761 268
7 WAS 0.406 4128 61534 243
8 KAN 0.46 3787 61533 283
9 TEN 0.46 4080 61295 270
10 BUF 0.415 4041 61019 286
11 TAM 0.381 4137 60997 300
12 IND 0.636 3937 60969 262
13 NYG 0.545 4034 60863 312
14 JAX 0.347 4226 60685 237
15 MIA 0.438 3867 60517 244
16 CHI 0.494 3948 60270 327
17 DAL 0.574 3937 60054 264
18 NWE 0.784 3307 59953 327
19 PHI 0.537 3946 59905 297
20 GNB 0.651 3756 59833 318
21 ARI 0.52 3976 59785 319
22 SFO 0.48 3765 59284 276
23 MIN 0.491 3860 58538 275
24 SDG 0.551 3820 58527 281
25 CIN 0.526 3652 58480 298
26 DEN 0.585 3982 58425 268
27 CAR 0.514 3814 58211 312
28 HOU 0.5 3889 57705 257
29 SEA 0.56 3435 56717 292
30 NYJ 0.477 3795 55924 263
31 BAL 0.585 3346 54685 295
32 PIT 0.631 3288 53277 269

So, we see the Saints have allowed the most total yards of any team except for the Browns over the past 11 years.  But take note of the Saints’ winning percentage compared to the rest of the teams that have experienced similar defensive woes.  Saints and Falcons are the only 2 teams in the “top 10” with winning records.  Now, let’s do the same thing with points allowed.

Most Points Allowed (2006-2016)

Points opponent defensive
Rk Tm W-L% allowed total yards takeaways
1 DET 0.375 4462 62782 270
2 OAK 0.352 4433 61986 253
3 STL / LAR 0.31 4245 61761 268
4 JAX 0.347 4226 60685 237
5 NOR 0.574 4202 63136 249
6 TAM 0.381 4137 60997 300
7 WAS 0.406 4128 61534 243
8 CLE 0.295 4097 63463 265
9 TEN 0.46 4080 61295 270
10 BUF 0.415 4041 61019 286
11 NYG 0.545 4034 60863 312
12 DEN 0.585 3982 58425 268
13 ARI 0.52 3976 59785 319
14 CHI 0.494 3948 60270 327
15 PHI 0.537 3946 59905 297
16 ATL 0.545 3940 62610 285
17 IND 0.636 3937 60969 262
18 DAL 0.574 3937 60054 264
19 HOU 0.5 3889 57705 257
20 MIA 0.438 3867 60517 244
21 MIN 0.491 3860 58538 275
22 SDG 0.551 3820 58527 281
23 CAR 0.514 3814 58211 312
24 NYJ 0.477 3795 55924 263
25 KAN 0.46 3787 61533 283
26 SFO 0.48 3765 59284 276
27 GNB 0.651 3756 59833 318
28 CIN 0.526 3652 58480 298
29 SEA 0.56 3435 56717 292
30 BAL 0.585 3346 54685 295
31 NWE 0.784 3307 59953 327
32 PIT 0.631 3288 53277 269

The above table shows the Saints have allowed the 5th most points of any team over the last 11 seasons.  Yet, again, which other team in that “top 10” has a winning record?  None.  Up next: defensive takeaways.

Fewest Defensive Takeaways (2006-2016)

Rk Tm W-L% allowed total yards takeaways
Points opponent defensive
1 JAX 0.347 4226 60685 237
2 WAS 0.406 4128 61534 243
3 MIA 0.438 3867 60517 244
4 NOR 0.574 4202 63136 249
5 OAK 0.352 4433 61986 253
6 HOU 0.5 3889 57705 257
7 IND 0.636 3937 60969 262
8 NYJ 0.477 3795 55924 263
9 DAL 0.574 3937 60054 264
10 CLE 0.295 4097 63463 265
11 STL / LAR 0.31 4245 61761 268
12 DEN 0.585 3982 58425 268
13 PIT 0.631 3288 53277 269
14 DET 0.375 4462 62782 270
15 TEN 0.46 4080 61295 270
16 MIN 0.491 3860 58538 275
17 SFO 0.48 3765 59284 276
18 SDG 0.551 3820 58527 281
19 KAN 0.46 3787 61533 283
20 ATL 0.545 3940 62610 285
21 BUF 0.415 4041 61019 286
22 SEA 0.56 3435 56717 292
23 BAL 0.585 3346 54685 295
24 PHI 0.537 3946 59905 297
25 CIN 0.526 3652 58480 298
26 TAM 0.381 4137 60997 300
27 NYG 0.545 4034 60863 312
28 CAR 0.514 3814 58211 312
29 GNB 0.651 3756 59833 318
30 ARI 0.52 3976 59785 319
31 CHI 0.494 3948 60270 327
32 NWE 0.784 3307 59953 327

The above table is sorted by defensive takeaways, from least to most, so the “top 10” is really the “bottom 10”, just as is the case in the all the above tables (hence the quotation marks).  We see, yet again, the Saints defense coming up short.  They have the 4th fewest takeaways of any team in the league over the last 11 years (and this is with the amazing turnover-forcing takeaway-machine of a defense they had in 2009).  Only, this time there are 3 teams (Dallas, Indy, and New Orleans) with winning records in that “top 10”.  Not surprisingly, all 3 teams have had good quarterback play with Manning/Luck, Romo/Prescott, and Brees.

Conclusion

I think it’s safe to say there’s a strong case to be made for Brees’ effectiveness as a winner of games despite not getting much help out of his defense.   The Saints have allowed the 2nd most yards, but still managed a winning record (something only 2 of the teams with the 10 most yards allowed were able to do).  And when you look at points allowed, the Saints were the *only* team among the 10 worst defenses to have a winning record.  That speaks volumes for how this offense has been carrying this team.  And in the final stat, defensive takeaways, we see more of the same.  Saints have 4th fewest takeaways, and are the only team in that bottom 5 of that category with a winning record (and 1 of only 3 teams in that bottom 10 with a winning record).  This is doing more with less personified, in my humble (biased) opinion.

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