January 4, 2010

Final NFL statistics: Diversity

Let's take a look at the final 2009 NFL statistics. As you'll recall, there was a huge hub-bub in the media in the 1990s and 2000s about the need for more black quarterbacks.

And yet, in the long run, it has turned out to be that black quarterbacks are represented in the NFL at about their share of the American population, not close to their share of the NFL population, as sportswriters insisted was only logical.

Now, you might think that this evidence that blacks and whites appear to be fairly equal on a per capita basis in talent for the top job in American sports would be celebrated by the press as a triumph for diversity and equality, but nobody seems to be paying any attention to it. Hmmhmmhmm, it also might make you suspect that when people say they are for "equality" and "diversity" they aren't being sincere.

There are a lot of different ways to rate quarterbacks. The official "passer rating" includes yards per attempt, completion percentage, touchdown percentage, and interception percentage (but not yards gained rushing, yards lost being sacked, and fumbles). The average passer rating has been slowly going up over time. In 2009 it was 81.3 versus 75.1 in 1999, 73.3 in 1989, and 67.8 in 1979. (After a strong start in 2009, it faded as bad weather set in and wound up marginally lower than 2008's 81.5. But there were more outstanding quarterbacks this year, with five over 100 versus only one last year.)

Among the 32 NFL quarterbacks who averaged at least 14 pass attempts per game in 2009, the highest passer rating belonged to Drew Brees of New Orleans, followed by 40-year-old Brett Favre of Minnesota, who looked like he was going to give us another late season flurry of interceptions, but then righted ship and finished with an impressive 33 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions.

Six black quarterbacks were among the 32 busiest. Donovan McNabb of Philadelphia once again proved the best, finishing 12th in the league in passer rating. Three black quarterbacks wound up around the median -- Jason Campbell of Washington at 15th, veteran David Garrard of Jacksonville at 17th, and, revitalizing his career, Vince Young of Tennessee at 18th. Considering the amount of competition for the job, you've got to be pretty good to be about the average NFL starting quarterback.

Josh Freeman, a 21-year-old in Tampa Bay, had a predictably dire rookie season at 30. And third-year man JaMarcus Russell was last at 32. (A white quarterback named Derek Anderson of Cleveland was significantly worse than Russell -- including getting to start the next three games after going 2 for 17 on October 11 -- but Anderson didn't quite have enough pass attempts to make the cutoff.)

So, there was one somewhat above-average black starting quarterback in McNabb, three average ones, and two well below average ones.

Obviously, a quarterback's statistics are heavily dependent upon his supporting cast, but 2009 was hardly anomalous. In 2008, for instance, black quarterbacks ranked 13th, 14th, 19th, 20th, and 26th.

The peak year for black quarterbacks was 2003, the year of the Rush Limbaugh brouhaha, when black quarterbacks ranked 1st, 3rd, 7th, 16th, 21st, 24th, 26th, and 32nd. But that now appears to have been a bit of a fluke. Black quarterback talent seems to be proportional to black representation in the overall population, not to the black representation in the NFL as was widely assumed by pundits denouncing Limbaugh.

What about that 2009 New York Times Idea of the Year that "Black Quarterbacks Are Underpaid" because nobody recognizes their enormous rushing contributions? Well, David Garrard did lead quarterbacks in rushing in 2009, but only with 323 yards.

And black quarterbacks tended to get sacked a lot, with Campbell, McNabb, and Garrard in the top 10 in Sacked Yards Lost. Only Vince Young seemed to combine rushing offense with ability to avoid being sacked. And Garrard, Campbell, McNabb, and Freeman were in the top 10 in most fumbles.

The Era of the Black Rushing Quarterback (a.k.a., the Quarterback of the Future) seems to be more or less over. That doesn't bode well for the NFL career of U. of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, a white running quarterback who might have had the greatest college career ever. The NFL just grinds up running backs -- here's LaDainian Tomlinson's yards per carry average from age 27 through 30: 5.2, 4.7, 3.8, 3.3. So, combining the two roles of quarterback and running back mostly seems to physically beat down athletes before they are old enough to learn how to play quarterback effectively in the NFL.

On the rushing side, Chris Johnson of Tennessee dominated, with 2006 yards. In terms of Diversity!, there is almost zero diversity when it comes to running with the ball in the NFL, not that the media care in the slightest. As far as I can tell, the white guy with the most rushing yards was Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 63rd place with 316 yards.

One thing you notice looking at pictures is that NFL runnings are black not just in the sense of sociological self-identification but in terms of skin tone (e.g., I checked out Frank Gore's picture because that's not clearly a black name like, say, LaDainian Tomlinson). When you get down to 44th ranked Justin Fargas of Oakland, you finally come upon an African-American who is probably at least half white. (His Caribbean dad, Antonio Fargas, played "Huggy Bear," the pimp-informant on Starsky and Hutch, and I believe his mother is white. Fargas went to my old high school. I showed up for my 20th reunion Homecoming game at halftime, but he was already done for the night with four touchdowns -- Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be NFL running backs.)

Among receivers, overall, there was more diversity than among running backs. Whites and Hispanics are fairly well represented at tight end (e.g., Dallas Clark of Indianapolis caught 100 passes for 1106 yards and Tony Gonzales of Atlanta had his 11th straight season with at least 750 yards), but few other teams are following New England's lead in giving non-black non-tight end receivers a lot of playing time. Yet, Wes Welker, a New England receiver who is listed as a wide receiver although the term slot receiver would be more accurate, had an outstanding year despite missing 2.5 games. He led the league in receptions with 123, and was second in total yardage (1348) and in first downs (71).

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


DCThrowback said...

When Welker got hurt yesterday in the loss to the Texans, NE WR finished with 9 catches and 95 yards in Welker's place.

Welker is extremely talented, no doubt. But he is also part of a system designed to get him the ball a lot.

Hunsdon said...

Brett Favre, of Green Bay?

Peter A said...

Welker plays slot receiver - a very different position from wide receiver. Playing slot correctly requires more intelligence than speed - you need to identify holes in the enemy defense and exploit them - you're not running footraces against cornerbacks. It's probably not a coincidence that Welker's back up is Julian Edelman.

1816 said...

Jews are 2% of the population, right? What is the percentage of Jewish ownership in the NFL? And how come there isn't much brouhaha about how NFL teams should be owned by blacks?

Anonymous said...


Very similar things have been said about
Tom Brady and Randy Moss as well. There is
a sense the the "system" is the thing. But generally, Welker's accomplishmnet is that he is day in and day out producer of consistent numbers, so it's possible that the sub could produce similarly, but generally subs try to make the most of opportunities in the NFL, so we just don't know.

Welker has quick and creative route running which doesn't allow guys memorize his every trick.

AmericanGoy said...

Hey-yooooo Steeeeee-vooooooo!

Take a look at this:


This deals with the biggest, most popular and really, the only sport in the world, football.

Also a case of a black kid being railroaded into jail - fun read.

Give it a whirl.


Radio Free Mississippi said...

How many Samoans in the NFL?

Anonymous said...

When you watch Jason Campbell try and read a defense you can often see the steam coming out of his ears.

Anonymous said...

As of Super Bowl XLII:
Arizona Cardinals - Bill Bidwill
Atlanta Falcons - Arthur Blank
Baltimore Ravens - Steve Bisciotti
Buffalo Bills - Ralph Wilson
Carolina Panthers - Jerry Richardson
Chicago Bears - Virginia Halas McCaskey
Cincinnati Bengals - Mike Brown
Cleveland Browns - Randy Lerner
Dallas Cowboys - Jerry Jones
Denver Broncos - Pat Bowlen
Detroit Lions - William Clay Ford, Sr.
Green Bay Packers - Green Bay Packers, Inc.
Houston Texans - Robert C. McNair
Indianapolis Colts - Jim Irsay
Jacksonville Jaguars - Wayne Weaver
Kansas City Chiefs - Clark Hunt
Miami Dolphins - Wayne Huizenga
Minnesota Vikings - Zygi Wilf
New England Patriots - Robert Kraft
New Orleans Saints - Tom Benson
New York Giants - John Mara and Steve Tisch
New York Jets - Robert Wood Johnson IV
Oakland Raiders - Al Davis
Philadelphia Eagles - Jeffrey Lurie
Pittsburgh Steelers - Dan Rooney
San Diego Chargers - Alex Spanos
San Francisco 49ers - Denise DeBartolo York and John York
Seattle Seahawks - Paul Allen
St. Louis Rams - Stan Kroenke
Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Malcolm Glazer
Tennessee Titans - Bud Adams
Washington Redskins - Dan Snyder

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Jews are 2% of the population, right? What is the percentage of Jewish ownership in the NFL?

I wonder what percentage of players have Jewish agents.

albertosaurus said...

You obviously take this football thing seriously. Personally I find football too fey. I prefer mixed martial arts cage matches. That probably reflects something or other about my personality.

So why don't you devise a set of football statistics rather like Sabremetrics. You could start with a better quarterback rating.

Mr Lomez said...

Besides QB, Center is considered the most intellectually demanding NFL position. That's the conventional wisdom, anyway.

Out of 32 Centers, only 4 are black:

Jamaal Jackson
Jonathan Goodwin
Andre Guroda
Jason Brown

2 are Hawaiian/Polynesian

Samson Satele
Kevin Mawae

the rest, 80%, are white.

A cursory glance at most NFL O-lines will show that the black/white/polynesian split very closely reflects the larger population of the NFL. Except Center, which is dominated by whites.

This is as damning/validating (depending on your stance) as the QB issue, no?

Steve Sailer said...

I doubt that football statistical analysis could be improved without watching a huge amount of videotape of games and collecting new statistics. For example, Peyton Manning only gets sacked about 2% of the time he attempts to pass, while Aaron Rodgers gets sacked five times more often. Somebody who watches a huge amount of football could explain why, and quantitative measurements could be devised to measure the components of sack rate, but it would require giant amounts of watching video, which I'm not interested in doing.

In contrast, traditional baseball and basketball box score statistics are pretty good at measuring most things offensive and some things defensive. So, baseball and basketball statistics are better at distilling huge amounts of playing time into something understandable. But one pro team's football games only take up, what 60 hours per year versus close to 500 hours per year in baseball and 200 in basketball, so there's less need for good statistics.

So, football statistics are useful mostly for large-scale issues such as the media's favorite: Why aren't there more black quarterbacks? Well, we have a large enough sample size to say by now that black quarterbacks are getting about as much playing time as they deserve, and that's only about as much as their share of the population.

Steve Sailer said...

Mark Bowden's 2004 Atlantic article on NFL centers describes the intellectual demands of the position:


NFL centers typically audibilize signals for the offensive line, much as the quarterback audibilizes for the whole offensive team.

On the flip side, centers have the least need for speed, being the most hemmed in players on the field.

OhioStater said...

If generic athleticism is strongly associated with blacks, and if blacks are seen as poor, then isn't being unathletic a high status trait?

Most of the white guys I know look at guys like Chris Johnson with awe, but white women have largely moved on to lacrosse, hockey, and other sports with larger numbers of eligible and desirable white guys.

I would think one aspect of being a metrosexual male is overcompensation, being the exact opposite of an athlete which is seen as low class by SWPL people. SWPL might not think they are racists, but they don't want to be associated with anything typically associated with black people.

At some point white guys will say "I like watching Adrian Peterson, and go back into the kitchen and get me a beer", or will move away from traditional American sports since their women have moved away.

Truth said...

"At some point white guys will say "I like watching Adrian Peterson, and go back into the kitchen and get me a beer", or will move away from traditional American sports since their women have moved away."

At some point the sun will burst into a supernova also; the question is "which level of descendants will be alive to see it?"

Mike Hunt said...

Just an FYI...

Yards lost on sacks is a component of passer rating.

This is because yards lost on sacks is included when computing yards per attempt.

Marlo said...

Team coaches and management care less about race than they do about performance, and there simply haven't been a lot of good black quarterbacks over the years.

Warren Moon was a great QB and I think McNabb is okay, but far from one the best in the league.

The NFL doesn't need more white runningbacks either. There are plenty of white fullbacks already. Maybe when the "pass happy" phase of pro football is over and most teams start to realize that they'll never aquire a Manning, a Brees or a Brady, they'll go back to running 50s and 60s style offenses where runningbacks and fullbacks carry the ball at roughly even rates.

"Welker plays slot receiver - a very different position from wide receiver. Playing slot correctly requires more intelligence than speed"

The only difference between slot and outside receivers is that slot receivers run foot races against linebackers, on most plays. It creates an uneven matchup, thats all...and many teams actually place their shortest and speediest receivers in the slot for that very reason. Do you watch football Peter???

Peter A said...

Yes, Marlo. A lot more football than you apparently. And you've never watched the Patriots - there's a big difference between the way the Patriots use their slot and their outside receivers. Next you'll be telling us a tight end is just another WR. The slot in the Patriots offense runs a lot of bubble screens and quick slants over the middle, the outside receiver like Moss need to be bigger fast guys who can get down field in a hurry or come down with high throws on sideline outs. Welker is shifty and quick, but there are dozens of guys faster than him who can't play his position correctly (like Joey Galloway - just couldn't understand the Pats offensive schemes). And someone like Welker would never start at wide out in the NFL in a million years. Maybe the specialization in modern football has passed you by, Marlo.

Anonymous said...

For all of anti-white racists, I believe Welker also led the NFL in YAC (yards after catch). You don't pile up those yards catching 5-yard slants and getting tackled right away. Maybe with Welker and Edelman it's also about what's upstairs; knowing where the safety is and where the cut is supposed to go are a bit more of an intellectual challenge than running 50 yards downfield, a la Moss (when he's in the mood).

The Dolphins didn't want Welker anymore, even after he basically beat the Pats by himself a few years ago, even kicking the xtra point after the kicker went down. Edelman is an undrafted former quarterback. Hey, maybe the Pats organization IS smarter than the dumbasses who draft Jamarcus Russells...

As Steve once pointed out, the most successful teams are those with SMART players. Is it any surprise that the Patriots and Colts are always at or near the top on the Wonderlic charts?

When the Pats do well, it's always about the system and the "genius" coach. But that's simply the envy of the coach whose unapologetic about being an a$$hole and a QB whose successful, has movie idol looks, spends his spare time knocking up actress/models and marrys the highest-paid lingerie model in the world!


albertosaurus said...

You are basically in the business of saying things like "blacks score a standard deviation below whites...". That's how you support your kids and feed your family. I must conclude from your pan handling that this is not an especially lucrative line of work.

This doesn't surprise me. Most Americans have no God's idea what a standard deviation is. Even a trivial knowledge of statistics or math would have sunk the famous Micheal Man (MBH98) "Hockey Stick". The formula for computing Principal Components Analysis is available on Wikipedia. Any fool can see that Mann didn't use the right formula. Yet no one (not even Steve McIntyre) got much traction on this issue until Wegman testified before Congress. After Wegman's testimony the Hockey Stick was never the same.

This incident demonstrates that most Americans and all politicians rely on experts for their statistical opinions. They refuse to think these matters through on their own.

So if you want to have a major impact (and make some money) on HBD issues you need to be perceived first as a statistical expert. If a reader is not going to actually bother to understand the math you are going to be dismissed as a crank because there will always be someone like Gladwell who will denounce your ideas and give comfort to the innumerate.

People will believe a statistical argument if it is presented by an "expert". To actually try to form an opinion based on their own personal understanding of the math is simple too scary.

You must become a recognized expert. You could go back to school I suppose but the fastest way would be to create some analysis of football. Then people would say, "I don't understand all the tricky math stuff but Steve Sailer the famous football analyst says it's true - must be so."

I'm trying to help you become famous and rich and you complain that I have suggested must watch a lot of football on TV. What a sacrifice!

Svigor said...

And how come there isn't much brouhaha about how NFL teams should be owned by blacks?

I get a hard time from certain quarters who don't seem to notice I'm 100% in favor of this kind of "affirmative action." And from some who do; T acted like I was insane when I backed it to the hilt.

I'd like to see Caucasoids forced out of the top (by top I mean top) of the media & entertainment biz, federal government, legal profession, academia, etc., and replaced with blacks. I'd also like to see every intellectual position in media & entertainment filled this way. Might as well throw in sports team ownership too - even though the roles aren't very visible. And I don't mean mulattoes, I mean real blacks.

I'm not sure if people think I'm kidding, because no one ever responds to these posts when I make them, but I'm not.

Basically, I want top-down diversity (I'm using that as a euphemism for blackness, or at least non-whiteness), starting and heavily concentrating in areas where the calls for diversity originate. The black/white quarterback thing is a good analogy because I want an end to this "white quarterback/politician/capitalist/lawyer/writer/professor" surrounded by 'diversity'" thing. No more saving your own skin by throwing everyone else to the wolves; you call for or champion "diversity," you step down immediately, to be replaced by a black. Lets see how long these fat cats continue when they're out in the cold, looking in with their noses pressed to to the glass.

Truth said...

"because no one ever responds to these posts when I make them,"

There just might be something to ponder their Svigor, before you go making the posts again. I mean, White males (like you presumably) still own 97% of everything.

The Bear said...

OT...Steve, you might want to get the Brandon Wegher-for-Heisman-2012 ball rolling now. The kid looked pretty impressive in the Orange Bowl last night.