A Viking, a Jet, and a Mountaineer walk into a bar…

As I was watching the Vikings-Packers game last weekend, a strange thing happened.  I agreed completely with Troy Aikman.  He was talking about the Viking’s struggles in the passing game and mentioned that the Viking’s receivers were simply not winning the one-on-one battles.  This meant that Christian Ponder had nowhere to throw the ball and therefore couldn’t complete any passes.

I’ve already mentioned my take on the Viking’s problems, and that assessment hasn’t changed.  With Percy Harvin out for the season, the Viking’s are likely to struggle in the passing game for the rest of the season.  However, the fault won’t be with Christian Ponder, who is still above average in terms of completing passes to the Viking’s set of receivers.

What about the newest quarterback controversy in New York.  The Jets are under considerable fan pressure to bench Mark Sanchez.  What does the model say?  Is Mark Sanchez to blame for the Jets’ struggles?  This question is more difficult to answer than you might think, but only because of historical coincidence.  My model relies on historical data to observe how performance changes when receivers, quarterbacks, and offensive systems change.  Mark Sanchez and the current Jets coaching staff have never been separate from one another.  Rex Ryan’s staff has never had a different quarterback and Mark Sanchez has never worked within a different offensive system in the NFL.  So, while the model can identify that the problem in New York isn’t a receiver problem, it can’t separate the quarterback from the Jets offensive system (if anyone knows of a good site for seeing historical lists of offensive coordinators and play callers, please let me know in the comments).

What does this all have to do with a Mountaineer?  Well, it’s a lot easier to separate offensive system from quarterback in the NCAA because the quarterbacks turn over so quickly.  This turns our attention to Geno Smith, the current consensus #1 pick.  How much of Geno Smith’s success is due to the West Virginia offensive system?  How much is due to Geno’s quarterbacking ability?  Sadly, the answer is that everything that makes Geno Smith an above average NCAA quarterback is attributable to the West Virginia offensive system.  Geno Smith’s Career CAA is only 3.78.  In his entire NCAA career, he has only completed 3.78 passes that an average NCAA quarterback wouldn’t have completed.  The rest of the success comes from the coach.

I find it strange that no one is talking about this, given that Dana Holgorsen made a name for himself as an offensive coaching specialist.  My model says that there is nothing unique about Geno Smith.  Any average NCAA quarterback dropped into the West Virginia offensive system would perform just as well.  I hope someone with decision making power recognizes this before heaping a load of expectations onto him and turning him into the next JaMarcus Russell.  The new rookie wage scale will limit the damage, but Geno Smith is not likely to be the answer for the Kansas City Chiefs or any other team in the market for a quarterback.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. […] won’t harp on this too much because I’ve already done that in other places.  My assessment of Geno Smith is that he’s an average FBS quarterback embedded in an elite […]

  2. […] Of the three quarterbacks currently on the Vikings roster, Ponder was the best choice preseason.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Ponder is not the problem.  The problem for Minnesota’s passing game for the last three years […]

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