The New York Jets and Multiple Four-Interception Passers
NFL Week 10 – After a quarter and a half of savior tabloid headlines, Mike White looked like, well, a fifth-round pick on a bad football team. While White doesn’t end up as the leading Loser of the week thanks to pure volume, he did end up throwing four picks against a Bills defense that has made a habit of making even really good quarterbacks flounder. It really isn’t a surprise that White became the fourth quarterback to have a four-interception day in 2021.
More interesting, perhaps, is that one of those other quarterbacks with a four-interception day was Zach Wilson, back in Week 2 against the Patriots. In his second career start, Wilson struggled mightily against one of the best defensive minds in NFL history. Again, no real surprise there. But two quarterbacks, both with four-interception days for the same team in the same season? Why, that has to be unusual … right?
Let’s take you a little behind the curtain of writing a stats-based article. There are plenty of times where you might see something interesting and go “wow, that must be rare!” only to find out that it has happened roughly 936 times—you just don’t notice it on a regular basis because it’s not done with the sane panache, or it wasn’t highlighted by a national broadcast. Or you find that it has only been done one time, by someone named Red or Swede or Cy from something like the 1934 St. Louis Gunners. Or the 1987 replacement player games botch your numbers, or the 1960 AFL “we’re really a major league, we swear” stats throw a wrench into things. Football has taken many different shapes over the years, and what might be interesting today was just a fact of life in Ye Olden Days. So the questions you always have to ask yourself as a writer are “is this interesting?” and “what are the odds I can get an article out of this if I dive in to do the research?” Nothing worse than spending three or four hours digging into numbers only to find there’s no “there” there.
So, try to guesstimate how many teams have had multiple four-interception quarterbacks since … let’s say 1950 when free substitution became a thing, as we walk down the path of trying to figure this out. Less than 10? More than 100? One a year? One every five years? How rare is what the Jets have done?
First thing’s first: to have two players with at least four interceptions, you must have at least two games with at least four interceptions, yeah? Well, no. In September of 1973, the Baltimore Colts lost 34-10 to the Jets, in game where both starter Bert Jones and replacement Marty Domres managed to throw four picks apiece. Now, that’s a rare outcome, and the 1973 Loser League column (available as a badly mimeographed zine from your local dingy sports bar) would have been all over that, mocking the rookie Ruston Rifle for his early career woes years before he became MVP, and shaking its head at the idea that former first-round pick Domres would somehow be a long-term solution as the Colts groped around trying to replace Johnny Unitas.
But weird, 1970s football is kind of the key here, even if there aren’t any other games where two guys managed four picks apiece. Interception rates used to be much, much higher. Whereas four-interception days seem noteworthy in 2021, not so much in the era when defensive backs were allowed to clobber receivers anywhere on the field. Note that the fact that the Colts threw eight interceptions was barely even mentioned in that highlight above! George Blanda managed seven four-interception days for the 1962 Houston Oilers—half his starts. And that’s for a future Hall of Famer in the middle of his (very, very long) career. We have had four four-interception days in 2021. In 1977, the last year under the old passing rules, we had 18, and that’s about an average total for that era. Or, to put it another way, there have been 367 teams since 1950 to have multiple four-plus-INT games. 234 of those teams, or 64%, came before the 1978 rules changes. “Aha!” you then say. “In that case, the majority of teams who pulled off what the Jets have done this year come before 1978, and there’ll only be a scattered number of teams in the modern era.” Well, not so fast.
You need two things in place to have multiple quarterbacks with four-interception days, even if your team is producing them at a high level. First of all, you need to have your quarterbacks finish a four-interception day and not get pulled for someone else. This is harder than it seems! The 1953 Packers had five four-interception games as a team, but didn’t even have a single game where a solitary quarterback managed to do it. They rotated Babe Parilli and Tobin Rote, with each passer taking a different quarter, so neither played enough to have a four-INT day. While I wouldn’t say this was a super-common strategy, rotating quarterbacks wasn’t unheard of in the days before passing became the predominant force for offense. When we hit 1982 DVOA this offseason, you can read all about WoodStrock—how the Miami Dolphins rotated David Woodley and Don Strock, a pairing that led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl … and got them to take Dan Marino in next year’s draft. And even for teams that weren’t rotating passers, there was a tendency for quicker hooks—the 1970 Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance, had six four-INT games, but only two where Terry Bradshaw managed to get to four all by himself, being pulled frequently for Terry Hanratty, who would throw a pick or two of his own to get the Steelers over the four-interception bar. All in all, the 1970s only had nine seasons where a team had two different four-INT passers, and two of them were in 1978, the year after the rules change. That’s far less than the 1960s, when the massive expansion of pro teams with the AFL coming into play meant there weren’t enough quality passers to go around; or the 1980s, as the passing game became more and more the focal point of an offense.
You also have to take into consideration how likely it was for a passer to lose their starting job after a four-interception day. In 2021, even a couple of picks will cause some rumblings about a quarterbacks’ performance, and once you start getting up to three or four picks, you start having articles written about how bad you’re doing (hi there!). Joe Namath had 15 four-interception days, often within a week or two of one another, and no one would have suggested at the time that the Jets would have been better off with Broadway Joe on the sidelines. Your all-time leaders in four-interception days sees three Hall of Famers—Blanda, Namath, and Ken Stabler—topping the heap. Bradshaw is tied for fourth place with long-time solid starters from the 1960s and 1970s John Hadl, Babe Parilli, and Norm Snead. They weren’t the Mike Whites or Zach Wilsons of their day; they were more on the Kirk Cousins tier. Teams didn’t mind high interception totals, because that was just how passing worked back then, so these kinds of players were less likely to get pulled for someone else who could then pull off the second four-INT day. And if they were pulled, that was probably a sign to lean heavily on your rushing game rather than even giving your backup a chance to throw four interceptions.
So, put all that into the blender—the changing interception rates, the passing rules changes, the rotating quarterbacks, the shorter in-game leash, and everything. Do you have your guess for how often we have seen a White/Wilson pairing?
The answer is 62. We have seen 62 teams with multiple passers who threw four interceptions in a game in the same season. The Broncos hold the record with five such seasons, followed by the Dolphins, Bills, and 49ers with four apiece. Since 1950, this happens just under once a season; it’s not all that rare, historically.
We don’t live in history, however; we live now. So we can parcel this out some. 14 of those 62 seasons come from teams in the old AFL, as the addition of a whole extra league required teams to search under every rock available to find warm bodies and live arms to stick into a lineup. Four of the five Broncos seasons come between 1961 and 1966 as the Frank Tripuckas of the world were more or less overwhelmed by even the backup-quality defenses in the early AFL. Six more seasons come from the NFL of the 1960s, especially in the later half, as the AFL’s player poaching began to affect the NFL’s player pool as well, and expansion further watered down the league’s talent level. So if we only look after the merger, we have 41 teams in 52 seasons, or about one team every 1.25 years. We’re approaching interest levels, there.
The 1980s are another gold mine for finding these multiple four-INT teams. 1981 alone saw the Dolphins (Strock and Woodley), Packers (Rich Campbell and Lynn Dickey), and Patriots (Steve Grogan and Matt Cavanaugh) join our list. Three more teams did it in 1987, and only one involved a replacement player from the strike games (Tony Adams, replacing Wade Wilson for the Vikings). In fact, between 1977 and 1991, there were only three seasons where no team pulled off the multiple four-interception feat, and one of those was the shortened 1982 season. This is probably why Wilson and White’s feat stood out to me more than it would have stood out to some of our, ahem, more esteemed writers on staff. This was just a thing that happened for pass-happy (and, generally, bad pass-happy) teams for years—your Hipples and Danielsons in Detroit, your Mathisons and Ferragamos in Buffalo, your Tupas and Hogebooms in Phoenix. As teams experimented with things like the run ‘n’ shoot and the spread and the West Coast Offense But Only The Highlights We Saw On TV, passing rates rose faster than interception rates could fall, and it was the golden era for four-INT teams.
And then it stopped. Between 1992 and 2001, only two teams managed to pull off the double—the 1996 Jets with Glenn Foley and Frank Reich, and the 1998 Chargers with Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan. This may well be related to something we have actually covered before over in Scramble, how there was a dearth of quality drafted quarterbacks in the mid-1990s that led to veterans hanging on to their jobs for longer. With fewer rookies being trotted out there in the mid- to late-1990s, there were fewer players who would have long enough leashes to rack up big interception numbers and help their teams reach this sort of milestone. In fact, between 1992 and 2001, there were only 10 rookie quarterbacks who had four-interception days; it just stopped becoming a thing as young players were left on the bench to mature behind the rapidly aging passers of the late 1980s.
But, of course, we’re past the era when rookie quarterbacks get seasoning on the bench (unless you’re Kyle Shanahan, apparently), and so we have seen a resurgence of terrible days from passers who have yet to fundamentally prove whether or not they are awful. Since the 2002 realignment, there have now been 10 teams that have had multiple four-interception passers, about one every other year. They are:
- 2002 Dolphins, with Ray Lucas replacing Jay Fielder for a month and a half after Fiedler broke his thumb.
- 2003 Giants, with the bachelor himself, Jesse Palmer, finishing out Kerry Collins‘ final season in New York as he had a sprained ankle, the flu, and a serious case of “we need a new quarterbackitis,” solved with the drafting of Eli Manning the next year.
- 2004 49ers, rotating between Ken Dorsey and Tim Rattay, with their “need a new quarterbackitis” being alleviated by drafting Alex Smith, a much less immediate cure than Manning to the Giants.
- 2005 Saints, after Aaron Brooks was benched for Todd Bouman, with Drew Brees’ arrival in 2006 being an even better cure than Manning or Smith.
- 2006 Browns, with Charlie Frye being benched for Derek Anderson (for the first of at least two times in Cleveland).
- 2010 Bears, with Todd Collins filling in for a concussed Jay Cutler (for the first time, not the postseason game where Cutler “quit” with significant injuries).
- 2011 Eagles, with Vince Young subbing for Michael Vick on the “Dream Team” that wasn’t.
- 2012 Cardinals, with Ryan Lindley and John Skelton being part of a three-quarterback shuffle along with Kevin Kolb; there’s a reason Carson Palmer was brought in the next season.
- 2019 Steelers, with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges replacing the injured Ben Roethlisberger, a missed opportunity for the Loser League if I have ever heard one.
- 2021 Jets, as Mike White’s quarter-and-a-half of savior status has ended and they’ll be going back to Zach Wilson as soon as they are able.
It’s a shoddy list of passers if I have ever seen one, a far cry from the 1950s when you would have Y.A. Tittle and John Brodie trading four-pick days. Well, maybe the Jets are just trying to bring us back to the glory days of 1970s football, 3 yards and a cloud of dust behind Michael Carter and all that. Taking us back to the era where they could compete in and win Super Bowls, and bringing glitz and glamour back to the younger of the two New York franchises.
Or maybe they’re just really bad. You know, either/or.
Week 10’s Biggest Losers
Man, we have a lot to get to this week.
Worst of the Worst
It’s a tie between Colt McCoy and Matt Ryan, each at 1 point apiece. With McCoy leaving early with an injury and Ryan benched in a blowout, the two passers had nearly identical statlines—20 or 21 passes, 107 to 117 passing yards, and a pair of turnovers. That’s not unexpected from a backup like McCoy, regardless of what he did the week before, but for a former MVP like Ryan to lay an egg like that is moderately surprising. Ryan’s arm strength just wasn’t there, and he hasn’t been exactly in top form all year long. The bottom just fell out against Dallas.
ANTHONY BROWN INTERCEPTION!!!
— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 14, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
After we had just two passers last week get single digits, they came back with a vengeance this week. Deep breath…
P.J. Walker (4) played across from McCoy and wasn’t that bad, honestly, but having multiple touchdowns vultured by Cam Newton is going to limit your fantasy scoring. Walker’s no-touchdown day tied him with Mike White (4), who had some garbage-time value, but not enough of it to overcome four picks.
Case Keenum (4) came in for the injured Baker Mayfield and just squeaked pass the penalty with 12 attempts; he didn’t get to 100 yards. Mayfield (5) wasn’t much better—Keenum actually outgained him, but Mayfield’s touchdown put him over Keenum, even with an interception on his ledger. Also in the replacement category was Jacoby Brissett (7), who was on pace for a double-digit score before injury caused him to be pulled for the also-injured Tua Tagovailoa.
Jared Goff (5) managed only 114 yards playing a full overtime game, which is astonishingly low, but the Lions recognized their best chance to win didn’t involve Goff throwing the ball all across the yard. If only the Seahawks had realized the same thing with Russell Wilson (7), who didn’t seem all the way back from his injured finger despite rehabbing a reported 19 hours a day.
And then both quarterbacks in the Colts-Jaguars tilt hit single digits as well, as Carson Wentz and Trevor Lawrence had just nine points each in sub-200-yard passing days. The AFC South is not exactly the bastion of great quarterback play.
If you had told me we were going to have 11 single-digit passers, and none of them would be Trevor Siemian (22), I never would have believed you. But no, Siemian actually was dealing, especially in the second half, going for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Saints put a shock into a Titans defense that had just embarrassed Matthew Stafford the week before. It wasn’t enough to win, mind you, but those weren’t empty garbage-time calories; Siemian actually played quite well.
Worst of the Worst
Adrian Peterson (2) was used mostly as a red-zone back against the Saints, and not a particularly effective one—eight carries, 21 yards, no score. D’Onta Foreman is clearly the Titans’ preferred runner with Derrick Henry out, because Peterson has zero explosion. This was Peterson’s second game in a row with exactly 21 yards; it’s just that he had a touchdown in Week 9 to balance things out. This is not the Hall of Famer out there.
Adrian Peterson once again having to work a little harder for less. pic.twitter.com/fgVNyA8RFk
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 15, 2021
I guessed the wrong Baltimore running back—this week, it was Devonta Freeman (5) who ended up slipping past the penalty, out-touching Le’Veon Bell 13-3. Playing Ravens Running Back Roulette is a game of the highest possible skill.
Elsewhere, Alex Collins (5) only replaced the running half of Chris Carson, with Travis Homer taking over the pass-catching snaps, and half of Seattle’s offensive value is no bueno. Myles Gaskin (4) is now averaging just 2.2 yards per carry over the last three weeks, though a game against the Jets next week may be just what the doctor ordered. And Javonte Williams (4) keeps getting just enough carries in his timeshare with Melvin Gordon to have low, low scores—but beware if Gordon starts sitting more with the Broncos fading fast.
Maybe Antonio Gibson (19) is finally healthy! The Buccaneers had only allowed two rushing touchdowns entering Week 10, but Gibson matched that total in just one game. Rushing for 64 yards in 24 carries isn’t exactly a day to write home about, but lots of goal-line touches makes a fantasy superstar out of an average performance.
Worst of the Worst
Five Goose Eggers to report. Russell Gage and Freddie Swain had 0-for-3 days, with A.J. Green, Allen Lazard, and T.Y. Hilton clocking in with single-digit yardage totals. For the record, you don’t get any points for sweet blocks, or else Lazard would have been well into the positive digits.
The beautiful play from #Packers Allen Lazard:
— Scott Grodsky (@ScottGrodsky) November 14, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
Trinity Benson has an odd statline. The NFL calls it two receptions for 17 yards, and that’s what we’re going with, but his two catches only gained 5 and 4 yards, which if my math is correct adds up to 9. The extra 8 yards come from the Lions’ lateralpalooza on the last play of overtime; he doesn’t get credit for a catch, but he does gain credit for 8 receiving yards, thus preventing him from a goose egg. Stats!
Your less curious one-point scorers were Rondale Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tim Patrick, Laviska Shenault, Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole, Tyler Johnson, A.J. Brown, and the debuting Odell Beckham in Los Angeles.
Kendrick Bourne (19) had four targets for 98 yards and a touchdown, the highest yardage total of his career, as he was used as Mac Jones’ primary deep target, a role which has become less and less theoretical in recent weeks. He also had 43 yards rushing; he never had a rush before coming to New England. I would not have thought we’d see the day when the Patriots offense ran through Kendrick Bourne but, well, here we are.
Worst of the Worst
The Saints likely would have beaten the Titans had they had reliable kicking, but Brian Johnson (-7) had an absolutely terrible game, missing a pair of extra points in what ended up being a two-point loss. Even making just one would have drastically altered New Orleans’ strategy, as they had to go for a two-point conversion late just to attempt to tie the Titans. Hells Bells, but Johnson will have to Shake a Leg if he wants to get through this Ruff Stuff; the fans are ready for him to return to being a Gun for Hire.
Other Loser Leaders
Matthew Wright (-4) missed an extra point and a field goal, as did Ryan Santoso (-3). Santoso’s Lions were closer than Wright’s Jaguars to pulling out a win, so he gets more of the blame, but at least he made an extra point while Wright didn’t. Jason Myers (0), meanwhile, continued his solid Loser League season with another game where he didn’t have to attempt a kick.
Zane Gonzalez (14) was the only kicker to out-do the penalty this week, with four field goals and a pair of extra points as the Panthers stomped all over the Cardinals.
Week 10 Contest Results
A week after we saw a new record-set with a seven-point day from our leader, scores have rocketed all the way back up … to eight points.
Fynsta has come close to winning a week before, but never quite topped the table until this week, when every single one of his starters ended up mentioned in the writeup above; not a dud in the bunch. Matthew Wright’s -4 points led him most of the way, but he had Laviska Shenault and Rondale Moore with one-point days at receiver, and the quality low-scoring duo of Adrian Peterson (2) and Myles Gaskin (4) to lead his pitiful rushing attack. And at quarterback? Well, take your pick between Mike White and P.J. Walker, both of whom had four-point days for very different reasons. All in all, a well-earned copy of Madden 22 and a FO+ annual subscription!
Your top five for Week 9:
1. Fynsta (8)
2. GrandPooBob (13)
T3. In The Hunt (14)
T3. Bart (14)
T3. All I Do Is Lose (14)
The Mojo Momenteers have expanded their overall lead from five points to eight. Hey, every little bit helps, right? The Momenteers scored 29 points this week with a solid team ruined by the running back situation—Antonio Gibson finally had a day worthy of his preseason fantasy hype, and so the Momenteers were forced to score Mike Davis’ 16 to go along with Myles Gaskin. Still, it could be significantly worse, and a Gaskin-P.J. Walker-Matthew Wright trio turned out to be a solid foundation to work with in Week 10.
AlecV moves up a slot to second place with a 21-point week, aided by sniffing out those terrible wide receivers—he had Rondale Moore and Laviska Shenault’s one-point days working for him, and even Mecole Hardman on his bench only scored two points. He also, wisely, figured the Jets are really bad at football, and believed in the Mike White disaster potential, as well as Matt Ammendola’s totally acceptable five-point day, mostly in garbage time. He’s now tied with Aaron Schatz Has a Posse, who is not eligible for any of the prizes, but had a 19-point day to recover some from his flop the week before. It’s hard to beat the Head Honcho!
In the Hunt had one of the top three teams of Week 10, and that’s enough to vault him into the top five—P.J. Walker, Adrian Peterson, Keelan Cole, and Matthew Wright weren’t quite enough to get him to tops of the week, but a 14-point day has him right back into contention for the leaders. He jumps Unintentional Grounding, who had running back problems, with Mark Ingram, Michael Carter and Mike Davis all scoring in the double-digits to pin him back with 37 points this week.
We are entering the home stretch of the season here. There are still hundreds of teams who could come back and win this one; eight weeks of taking nothing but the penalty is 720 points, so there’s plenty of time for a team to implode along the rest of the way. But there are now 50 teams within 80 points of the Momenteers for first place, and I’d put those teams in a bin as the real contenders here—making up 10 points a week is entirely plausible. If you’re sitting at 400 points or less, you’re still very much in contention for the trip to the Big Game at the end of the year, so keep grinding!
Your top five to this point:
1. Mojo Momenteers (316)
T2. Aaron Schatz Has a Posse (324)
T2. AlecV (324)
T4. In The Hunt (326)
T4. Unintentional Grounding (329)
You can check your results and the rest of the Loserboard here!
Plays for Week 11
Can we go for three? It appears it won’t be Zach Wilson or Mike White under center for the Jets this week, but Joe Flacco, with his “experience” being listed as the reason why he got the nod over the still injured Wilson and the ineffective White. We’ve seen what the experienced Flacco can do multiple times over the past few seasons, and none of it screams “yeah, this will be a good time for New York”. Better to give White more reps to see if there’s anything there than for Flacco to go out and…what, fill space? Anyway, for the curious, Flacco has two 4-INT games on his record, but none since 2013; he’s much more of a check-down guy than a risky throw guy. Still, as long as there’s a chance…
It’s another pick-on-the-rookies week too, as I’m going with Trevor Lawrence as my other pick. Lawrence has just one touchdown since Week 8, and he just has no help out there at receiver; even when he makes solid throws, they’re not being caught. The Jaguars are at a point where Lawrence has to play perfectly for Jacksonville to have a chance, and Lawrence just isn’t there in his development yet. I don’t expect the 49ers’ secondary to look as good against Lawrence as they did against Matthew Stafford (now there’s a statement I didn’t think I’d be writing), but I can’t imagine Jacksonville moving the ball much at all Sunday.
Other promising picks: Justin Fields (v. BAL), Colt McCoy If He Starts (@SEA)
Mike Davis picked up the penalty against Dallas because the Falcons were blown out of the water early. But I fully expect him to get a full workload against the Patriots as Cordarrelle Patterson has an ankle sprain and is unlikely to be ready by Thursday. The only fear is that Davis began to shed some carries to Wayne Gallman, and it’s possible Gallman will eat into his workload going forward. This isn’t exactly what the Falcons were hoping for when they added Davis this offseason.
It looks like Chris Carson’s neck injury will linger on for another week—he’s back at practice, but Pete Carroll has said there’s no update on his return timetable, and that doesn’t bode great for his odds of playing Arizona this week. If he sits, I’m riding Alex Collins again, as he offers very little in the way of receiving value and isn’t any great shakes on the ground either.
I’m closing my eyes and picking Phillip Lindsay in the ever-evolving Texans backfield. With Mark Ingram out, Lindsay should continue to be the lead rusher for Houston, but that has been just eight carries a game in both Week 8 and Week 9, meaning he has been dancing on the edge of the penalty. I think his lack of success is worth the risk, but a Texans blowout could easily keep him below the penalty line.
Other promising picks: Adrian Peterson and D’Onta Foreman (v. HOU), Wayne Gallman (v. NE)
Stack ’em up! Jamison Crowder gets paired with whatever Jets quarterback actually starts this week—he somehow had just 20 yards even though the Jets were passing all day long in a major blowout, and yet has had at least six targets in every game he has played this season, making him uber-safe. Laviska Shenault gets paired with Lawrence, as he keeps leading the Jags in targets and just not catching enough passes or generating enough yards to make him a problem; I am not overly concerned with Jamal Agnew’s continued assault on his workload.
If it hadn’t been for overtime, Amon-Ra St. Brown would have had a three-point day; his 30-yard catch in the fifth quarter knocked him down a rung or three on the Loserboard. Brown has yet to top 70 yards this season, and while he does have a couple of penalties to his name, the Lions generally have to throw enough to get St. Brown to the requisite three targets without too much hassle.
Other promising picks: Marvin Jones (v. SF), Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson (v. BAL)
The Jaguars have gone from never making field goals to almost never making field goals. That’s not enough to scare me off of Matthew Wright; nice try, Jacksonville.
My other pick was going to be Ryan Santoso, but he was released from the practice squad. Aldrick Rosas looks to be Detroit’s replacement, but I should play it safe and go with Brian Johnson … except the Saints just re-signed Brett Maher, so Johnson could lose his job, as well. To heck with it—make it Ka’imi Fairbairn and call it a day.
Other promising picks: Whoever Ends Up Kicking For The Lions (@CLE), Matt Ammendola (v. MIA)