Quarterback Carousel

First off, happy Veterans Day, Grandpas. I miss you both.

Now to football. The quarterback carousel continues to spin. Everyone wants to know about how their team will do now that the new quarterback is under center. I’m going to look at three teams this week, the Eagles, Cardinals, and Texans and discuss the probable futures of each team.

Eagles

I am not worried one bit about the Eagles. I’m writing this after the Monday night where Sanchez went crazy, but don’t think I’m overreacting to one game here. Sanchez currently has a crazy high completion percentage for him. I’m fully expecting him to regress. Mark Sanchez has consistently been 4-6% below league average in terms of completion percentage depending on the year. We shouldn’t expect that he suddenly learned some profound bit of information about how to complete more passes. We should expect that he will return to his 4-6% below league average completion percentage over the course of the rest of the time he’s a starter in Philadelphia. But, you know who else was about 4-6% below league average completion percentage? Nick Foles. Honestly, I don’t see Sanchez being a detriment to the Eagles offense. I think Chip Kelly has a plan and that he is nothing if not adaptable. Philly will get through this leaning on their defense and their receivers.

Cardinals

The Cardinals are going to have more of a problem. The drop from Palmer to Stanton is going to be a much bigger drop than the drop from Foles to Sanchez. Stanton is consistently 3-4% poorer in completion percentage and he’s also not as effective throwing the ball down field. Palmer is generally league average in down field throws, but Stanton is more like bottom of the league in that category. Couple that with the fact that the Cardinals have really been punching above their weight up to this point in the season and you have a situation ripe for regression. The Cardinals should be very very worried.

Texans

The Houston Texans are the wild card. I did not see a quarterback switch coming for them. I’m not saying that Fitzpatrick is great. I know I predicted him to be a wildcard to lead the league in passing yards this year, but that prediction wasn’t as much based on him as it was everyone else around him. I believe I called him “serviceable” at the beginning of the year. And I still stand behind that assessment. He’s a little below average in completion percentage, but in an offense that’s more about throwing downfield than the average team we would expect that. Hopkins seems to be having a reasonable season and the team has already won twice as many games as it did last season.

Which is why I was very surprised to see that they’ll be going with Ryan Mallett for the foreseeable future. What exactly can Mallett offer you that Fitzpatrick can’t? Mallett has never started an NFL game and has thrown a total of 4 passes in an NFL game, one of which was intercepted. What can we even know about him?

Actually, we can know something about him since he played his college career recently enough to be part of my data set. I’ve even got a prediction about his career passer rating after four years in the banner up top (2011 draft class). The prediction in the banner is for a passer rating around 65. However, that prediction was based on a model I call “Mk. I” (Everyone seems to name their models and I’m an Iron Man fan). That model worked, but was based on Linear Regression and a data set that wasn’t as expertly cleaned as it could be.

Here’s what we learn about Ryan Mallett. I have a measure of college arm strength that helps differentiate quarterbacks. Mallett has the fourth highest score on that metric in a dataset that goes back to 2007. The three above him are Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, and Russell Wilson. However, arm strength is icing on the cake of an effective quarterback, but the cake itself. The cake of effective quarterbacking is accuracy and in that category, Mallett falls woefully short compared to the three other quarterbacks mentioned. When Mallett actually completes a pass, it goes for a long long ways. But he has tremendous trouble actually completing those passes. Basically, I see Mallett as Zach Mettenberger amplified. He’s got a cannon arm, but no ability to control it. The “Mk. III” model predicts his passer rating to be somewhere around 71. I think Fitzpatrick might be able to do a slight bit better.

So You’re a Jets Fan: A Practical Guide to Quarterback Problems

Football season hasn’t started yet, and already Jets fans are feeling the effects.  I won’t restate the obvious here because you’ve probably already read the obvious on other, heavier trafficked websites.  Plus, I don’t like to get bogged down in the raw emotions of the situation.  And the Jets are in a terrible situation.

The question is, what do they do about it?  Can there possibly be a solution to the horrible situation the Jets have placed themselves in?  Because this is a terrible situation they are in.

Let’s talk gruesome, difficult facts.

Problem #1:  The de facto starting quarterback isn’t very good

Mark Sanchez has not been an effective starting quarterback.  In four seasons he has posted the following CAA numbers.

  • 2009: -29.403
  • 2010: -31.159
  • 2011: -20.908
  • 2012: -27.241

Needless to say, these are not the kind of numbers you want to see out of your starting quarterback.

Problem #2:  The Jets have difficult evaluating and developing quarterback talent.

In a previous post, I noted that the Jets are the 5th worst team in the league in developing quarterback accuracy.  Any quarterback that plays for the Jets can expect to have his completion percentage reduced by 3.29% compared to if he went to a team that is average in developing quarterback talent.  I fully expect Geno Smith to be another victim here, though to be fair, I’m not high on Geno Smith as a prospect as it is.  Once his rookie contract is up, I am predicting Geno Smith will have a quarterback rating somewhere around 71.09, assuming he gets a reasonable number of attempts in his career.

So the Jets have a bad starting quarterback and are not particularly good at figuring out who the good quarterbacks are.  So what do you do?  You let other people who have shown they can effectively evaluate and develop a quarterback do it for you.  If I’m John Idzik, my first calls are to Atlanta, Denver, and New Orleans in that order.

Atlanta

I see Atlanta as the best bet to pull in a good starting quarterback.  There is risk here because, except for the franchise guy, Atlanta’s quarterbacks all very young and inexperienced.  But the risk is calculated.  Dominique Davis is my target from Atlanta.  He’s neatly wrapped up the backup job for the Falcons with a good camp in his sophomore season.  Since he was drafted in 2012, there are fewer political problems by trying to start a rookie over Geno Smith.  You can say that he at least has a year of sitting on a professional bench under his belt.  Dealing Davis also solves a problem for the Falcons who currently have four quarterbacks on the roster.  If they were to deal away Davis, the Falcons would be left with two rookies as backups, but one of those rookies is Sean Renfree, my #3 QB from the 2013 draft class.  Finally, we can expect that Davis has some talent going for him.  I had him as the #6 quarterback in a ridiculously talented 2012 draft class.  He would get a trial by fire, but he does have some talent to make that work.

Denver

If Atlanta doesn’t want to play, the next call is to Denver.  Once again we’re targeting a backup quarterback in his sophomore season, Brock Osweiler.  The football blogs I read blew up during training camp talking about how well Osweiler was throwing the football.  Denver doesn’t have an extra quarterback to work with and Peyton Manning is getting a bit long in the tooth, but you never know.  Especially when Denver has Zac Dysert to develop behind Peyton Manning.

New Orleans

If Atlanta and Denver won’t play ball, I’m calling New Orleans.  New Orleans offers two potential targets at quarterback, a safe option and a “holy-hell-did-he-just-do-that” option.  The safe option is to target the Saint’s backup, Luke McCown and develop Geno Smith behind him.  You know what you’re going to get from Luke McCown.  He’ll run the offense and might put you into position to win a game or two.  At the end of the day, though, he’s not an everyday NFL starter.  He gives you the chance to ride out a mediocre season and keep the fans attitude at a level of moderate annoyance.

But that’s not what I would do if I was in John Idzik’s shoes.  With the latest Jets debacle and the whole country talking about what a horribly run team the Jets are, I’m going to go big or go home.  I’m going to accept that history has proven me inept at evaluating quarterbacks.  I’m going to let Sean Payton do the evaluating for me.  I want to make some noise. I want to get people into even more of a love-hate relationship with the New York Jets than they already are.  I want to make a move that will keep the Jets in the papers and keep everyone talking about them.  I want Ryan Griffin, the rookie quarterback out of Tulane and I’m going to start him over Geno Smith.  I think Ryan Griffin has a very bright future in this league.  He was on an absolutely terrible team at Tulane, but on his own was one of the bright spots.

So there’s where I would go if I were in the terrible shoes of the New York Jets general manager.  Good luck Jets fans.

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.

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Welcome , today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017