“You’d think after 7 or 8 you’d start to go, ‘Maybe it’s me.'”: Franchise Problems

The title of this post is the punch line of my favorite Ron White joke.  He’s describing a woman who claims to have had bad sex with more than 2,000 airmen.

I’m using the joke as a metaphor for NFL teams that seem to be constantly drafting quarterbacks.  How many times will certain teams have to draft an apparently talented quarterback only to see him waste away before they take a hard look at themselves and say, “Maybe it’s us”?

I’ve actually been kicking this idea around for a while now.  I just didn’t have a proper story to couch the numbers in.  But today I was listening to the latest Wages of Wins podcast with Eric Weiss of Sports Aptitude.  He was discussing how some basketball teams seem to draft really well.  He wasn’t talking about teams that are able to recognize talent and drafted accordingly.  He talked about how some NBA teams draft to create an environment.  He cited the San Antonio Spurs as an example of a team that appears to follow this strategy.  The Spurs seem to draft with an eye to the individual player, how that player will fit within the system, and if the player’s personality will respond to the role they are asked to fill.  Most important for our purposes, he talked about what teams can do to ease the transition when new players enter the system.  It isn’t easy to be uprooted from everything you’ve known as a 22 to 25 year old and be placed in an entirely new place with the only constant being that you’re still playing a sport.  There are really important things you have to learn that have nothing to do with the sport you are now playing professionally.  Where is the good grocery store?  Can you still access your bank accounts?  Where are you going to hang out on your off time?  What do you do with all this money you suddenly have?  And now we’re going to add to that the constant scrutiny and publicity that comes with being a professional athlete?  Anyone that can thrive with that sort of uncertainty, uprooting, and pressure certainly deserves our respect.

But are there some NFL teams that could improve in this regard?  Are there teams that constantly seem to be getting less of a return on their drafting investments compared to others?  Who should be looking at easing the transition to improve the outcomes of their newly drafted players?  If you’ve been reading my site, you know that I claim I can separate the impact of the quarterback from the impact of wide receivers.  I can tell you whether or not a quarterback is succeeding because he is a great quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) or because he has a great set of receivers to throw to (Andrew Luck).  Same with struggling quarterbacks.  Do they struggle because they are having trouble putting the skills together (Ryan Lindley) or because their receivers just aren’t up to the task (Christian Ponder).

Using the same methodology, I can also separate the impact of the quarterback from the impact of the franchise.  The problem is, I can only do this for teams that change quarterbacks.  In the NFL, when things are working they don’t change.  I suppose that’s true for a lot of places, but I care most about the NFL.  So I can’t tell you whether the Patriots are really good at creating an environment for Tom Brady to excel or if Tom Brady would succeed in any environment.  The Patriots haven’t changed quarterbacks in a long time so there is no way for me to tell you that.  But I can tell you about the struggling teams.  The immediate, reactionary move for any struggling team is to change the quarterback.  This gives us some very useful information.  I can quantify how much the issue associated with the franchise is hurting the quarterbacks that play there.  So not only can I say, “Yeah, it’s you.”  I can say, “And this is how much it’s you.”

The data included in this analysis are from the 2007 to 2012 seasons.  Please note that I can’t give you exact reasons for why these teams seem to have poor environments.  Also, each team might have a different reason or its poor environment.  I don’t know.  I’m not close enough to these teams.  I just know that the data say that the problems are not entirely at the quarterback position. In reverse order, the top 5 teams that need to improve their environment for quarterbacks.

#5:  New York Jets      

Expected Reduction in Completion Percentage – 3.29%

The Jets love to rabble rabble rabble about their quarterback situations.  Mark Sanchez is the latest victim here.  Jets fans:  It’s not his fault.  At least, not all of it.  Mark Sanchez would likely really benefit from a change in scenery.  The Jets, though, not so much.  I doubt they would fare any better by drafting another quarterback.  These guys they keep bringing in new quarterbacks to “push” Mark Sanchez aren’t doing anything.  I think we need to accept that playing for the Jets just isn’t that great for a quarterback’s career.

#4:  St. Louis Rams    

Expected Reduction in Completion Percentage – 3.46%

We’ve come a long way from the “Greatest Show on Turf.”  Since the Super Bowl years of the early 2000’s, the Rams have had a hard time getting any quarterback to stick.  Sam Bradford was supposed to be this great success, but he’s had his struggles.  Struggles that are only magnified after he signed the last massive rookie contract ever.  But I say the issue is not with Bradford.  Everyone loves to pick on Sam Bradford for not being the huge success he “should” be by now.  Without the St. Louis drag on him, Sam Bradford is as accurate as Tom Brady.  Think about that.

#3:  Carolina Panthers    

Expected Reduction in Completion Percentage – 4.99%

A surprise franchise comes in at #3.  Carolina hasn’t been the greatest team in the last six years, but they haven’t been the worst either.  They seem to have a quarterback now that can get them where they want to go, and even before that they had talented players at the position.  I would really like to dive into the data and study more about what might be pulling Carolina down so low on the list.  Only problem is that would involve me moving to Carolina to work for the Panthers, and I don’t think that’s in the cards.

#2:  Oakland Raiders    

Expected Reduction in Completion Percentage – 5.00%

Our last two entries on our list are teams that go through quarterbacks like Kleenex.  The first is the Oakland Raiders.  Many quarterbacks have tried to turn this team around.  All have failed.  And it would appear that unless something drastic happens, quarterbacks drafted by the Raiders will likely continue to whither.  I’ve been hearing rumblings of Geno Smith being mock drafted to the Oakland Raiders.  It might be kinder just to break the dude’s legs right now.

#1:  Cleveland Browns    

Expected Reduction in Completion Percentage – 5.37%

You knew it was coming, Cleveland fans.  The train wreck that is Cleveland Browns has seen quarterback after quarterback try to save this thing.  None of it is working and I think the franchise really needs to take a hard look at what they do off the field before they bring in yet another quarterback.  They need to help their players in a way other than talent evaluation.  And I truly believe Cleveland has been drafting talented quarterbacks.  Especially the last two.  Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are loved by my draft model.  But just like Ron White’s airbase lady, when your partner doesn’t have it going on, every one of them seems like a bad…

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  1. […] a previous post, I noted that the Jets are the 5th worst team in the league in developing quarterback accuracy.  […]

  2. […] Manziel time in Cleveland. I’ve discussed what I think of Cleveland in other posts. The short story is that I think the decisions of the Cleveland Browns front office resemble […]

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