Research Update 2: A History of the Passing Game in Pro Football

Pre-NFL (1880-1919)

While the roots of American Football can be traced back to the 17th century, the game as we know it today did not really begin to take shape until 1880. While the first game of intercollegiate “American Football” was famously played between Rutgers and Yale in 1869, it hardly resembled today’s game. Beginning in 1880, Walter Camp, the “Father of American Football” added stability to the game at annual intercollegiate rules conferences. He proposed that the number of players on the field at a time be reduced from 15 to 11 from each team. He also added the line of scrimmage and the snap from center to quarterback to add form and order to the game. In 1882 he proposed the first down and distance rules, originally requiring an offense to travel a minimum of five yards in three plays; a failure to do so would be a turnover.

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Research Update 1– The Difference Between a “Good” and “Great” Player


The first goal of my project has been to create a statistical threshold that a player must reach before he will be considered for the Hall of Fame. In this post I will detail the methods and process I used to develop the threshold, which variables I used, and how I plan to use it during the rest of my research project.

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A Statistical Approach to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, located in Canton, Ohio, is the most selective museum of its kind for any North American Sport. It houses the stories of the greatest North American football players of all time. The goal of my project is to use predictive statistics and modeling to create a way to predict whether or not a player will one day be considered for the Hall of Fame. While statistics do not tell the whole story of a player, no one has a chance of making the Hall of Fame without being significantly better than his peers. This summer I want to measure how much “better” than average a player must be in order to be considered for the Hall, as well as which statistics can most accurately predict a player’s success. I want to apply my findings both historically, to learn about stories of players who had the “numbers,” but were overlooked, and predictively, to determine which players are most likely to have Hall of Fame statistics at the end of his career.

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