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A Thought About the New York Giants: Eli Manning's League Leading Interceptions

I’m going to try to go through each of the 32 teams over the next few weeks and write something about a player, coach, characteristic of the team or quite frankly anything else that comes to mind. I’m forcing myself to do this so teams that slip through the cracks like the Jets get some coverage here. Today, I’ll start with the New York Giants, focusing on the fact that Eli Manning led the league in interceptions with 25 last year, and what that means for 2011.

If you want to have a fun bet with your buddy at the bar, bet him that you’ll take Eli Manning, and he can pick three other starting quarterbacks, anyone he wants, who he predicts will have a better interception percentage than Eli in 2011. All three must beat Eli for him to win. It’s not a fair bet, because of the randomness of interceptions, but I suspect he’ll jump at the chance to go with Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan against your mistake-prone choice.

Sure, he might time the market right and correctly foresee the right quarterbacks, but if he had picked the three best from the previous year at avoiding interceptions, he would have lost the bet every year for the last decade.  Heck, he would have lost if he only had to pick two and took the top two at avoiding interceptions the year before. Interceptions from year to year are really random.

Chase Stuart wrote about it here, when he said:

Believe it or not, there was zero relationship between interception rate in one year and interception rate the following year. . . . Knowing the INT rate and the league INT rate for a QB will get you about 10% of the way towards predicting that QB’s INT rate the following year.

Chase also looked at the bottom 20 and top 20 in interception rate. The conclusion was basically, the same. But people don’t pay attention to interception rates. They tend to look at totals. And woe is the person who leads the league in interceptions. In 2010, that person was Eli Manning, and now, everyone will analyze why he forced things and made mistakes.

So how did the other guys that led the league in interceptions do the following year since 1990? There have been some ties, and three guys didn’t throw enough passes (Kitna and Palmer went on IR after 4 games each; Bobby Hebert retired), but of the 21 passers to lead the league in interceptions and then throw the qualifying number of passes the next year, 16 of them were at or better than the league average the following season at avoiding interceptions.

That’s right, the mistake prone guys who led the league in interceptions, and had to listen to talk over-analyzing something that is often quite fluky with tipped balls and quality of defense and game situations that aren’t repeated, turned out to be better than average a year later.

If we take Eli’s pass attempt total last year, and use the average interception rate in the following year for the other league leaders in interceptions over the last two decades, we should project 14 interceptions for Eli Manning on 527 throws in 2011, the same rate as Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford, and Peyton Manning in 2010. So go ahead and name your three guys. 

[photo via Getty]

 

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