Today we are going to look at TDs and INTs as volume stats.
When looking at touchdowns thrown by the 10 passers selected, we see four groups emerge:
- The Sharp Decliners: These players lost their skills fast.
Unitas, Fouts and Montana.
Unitas and Montana never threw more than 20 TDs after they turned 34, even though both played more years. Fouts threw more than 20 TDs only once after turning 31 (27 when he was 24).
- The Fine Wines: These players got better with age
Elway and Staubach
Both players saw upward trends in their TDs from age 28 to the end of their careers. Elway threw at least 25 TDs in 6 of his last 7 years in the league. Staubach increased his TD total each of his last four years in the league and retired after throwing a career high 27 TDs at age 37.
- The Soft Landers: These players leveled off but stayed excellent
Marino and Favre
Marino threw at least 23 TDs in 3 of his last 6 years (two more were cut short by injury). Favre never threw fewer than 18 TDs after turning 33, and threw more than 25 four times.
- The Bell Curves: They took time to get up to speed, peaked late, and then fell off.
Young, Kelly, Moon
These players started their careers in other leagues, and joined the NFL late. Young peaked at age 33 and began a steady decline, but stunningly had one more amazing season at age 37 before retiring due to concussions. Moon peaked at age 34 and then gradually fell off, posting a couple of good years late in his career (39, 41). Kelly peaked at 31 and steadily fell off.
There are three ways to group the players by interceptions
- The Wiley Vets: They threw fewer picks as they aged
Montana, Elway, Young
Monatana almost never threw interceptions anyway and as his health declined, he played less, so he threw less. His curve was straight to the floor. Elway threw plenty of plenty of picks when he was younger, but as he aged (and got Shanahan) he became more careful with the ball, never throwing more than 14 picks after the age of 33. Young never threw more than 12 picks in a season after age 33.
- The Hangers On: They managed to keep their picks steady
This is a deceiving group. Staubach stayed in the low to middle teens in picks throughout his career. Kelly consistent threw in the high teens. As they got older, they did what they had always done. Staubach kept throwing a reasonable number of picks; Kelly kept throwing more.
- The Old Gunslingers: They kept firing after the fastball was gone
Favre, Marino, Unitas, Fouts, Moon
Favre was always a pick machine, but as he got older, he grew more indiscriminate with the ball. He topped 20 three times after his 33rd birthday. Marino was more judicious, but still saw his pick totals rise his last several years. Unitas’s playing time decreased, but his pick rate increased. Fouts threw 74 picks after the age of 33, and only played four seasons. Moon threw a lot of picks early in his career but seemed to figure things out in the middle. By the end, he was back to throwing a high number of picks.
It’s safe to assume that by volume, we won’t see much decrease from Peyton Manning in the touchdown department. It’s reasonable to assume that barring injury he’ll still throw between 20-30 TDs a year. He’s similar in many ways to Favre and Marino, so the ‘Soft Landing’ label fits nicely.
Unfortunately, the odds are high that he’ll fall into the trap of the ‘Old Gunslingers’ as well. It is possible that as his arm deteriorates, he’ll change his game and protect the ball better. This list has shown that Elway certainly elevated his game and became a better QB at 35-38 than at 25-28. More likely, his pick rate will rise with time. In fact, if the Colts have a down season, I would expect it to rise dramatically as he’ll have to throw more to keep his team in the game.
The good news for 18 is that because his INT levels are so low now that even a modest increase will keep his numbers at respectable levels. We might see a few more seasons like 2003 (19 ints) late in his career, but are unlikely to see a Favrian number of picks.
A good baseline for “Old Peyton” would be 25 TDs 15 Ints starting around age 35. Plenty of the greats had seasons at least that strong at an advanced age, so there’s no reason to expect Peyton to fall much further in terms of the volume stats.
Tomorrow we’ll look at Yards and YPA
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