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12 Sep 2006

Any Given Sunday: Rams over Broncos

by Ned Macey

The Denver Broncos are a perennial playoff team poised to make a run at the Super Bowl. Most analysts expect them to win the AFC West. The St. Louis Rams are a team whose day has passed. Most analysts project them to finish third in their division.

That conventional wisdom was tossed aside as the Broncos offense faltered Sunday, and they fell to the Rams 18-10 in St. Louis. Bronco Nation is soothing itself by recalling last year's Week 1 whipping at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The Rams are convinced they have a new, powerful defense capable of leading them back into the playoffs. Is it possible they are both right?

Research in Pro Football Prospectus 2006 showed that Week 1 results were no more surprising than any other week. Results that seem surprising, such as perhaps Tampa Bay's shutout loss to Baltimore, prove to be no more than an early sign of the two teams' true qualities.

The article also showed that losses on the road are not nearly as ominous for future performance as home losses. No 13-win team since 1993 has ever lost Week 1 at home. Seven of nine 13-win teams who opened on the road, including the 2005 Broncos, lost their first game.

Opening on the road in St. Louis is a particularly difficult task. The Rams are a dominant team at home, especially with Marc Bulger at quarterback. As the CBS broadcast pointed out, he is now 21-4 as a starter at home, an NFL best. Bulger's success is only partially attributable to his own play. Just as significant a reason for his stunning home record is how much better the St. Louis defense is at home.

Over the past four seasons, the Rams offense has scored 245 more points at home than on the road. The disparity is even greater on defense, with 268 fewer points allowed in St. Louis. 650 points allowed in 32 games is hardly reason to break out the champagne, but when compared with 868 in 32 games on the road, it is the difference between adequate and horrendous.

These rationalizations do little to ease the nerves of jittery Broncos fans who question Jake Plummer's ability to lead their team to the Super Bowl. Plummer, the obvious goat of the game, was sacked four times, completed only 50 percent of his passes, and most importantly, turned the ball over four times. When an established quarterback on an elite team has four combined interceptions and fumbles, it is usually written off as a bad day. For instance, Tom Brady threw four interceptions against Kansas City last year. Matt Hasselbeck had two interceptions and two fumbles the opening week of last season. Daunte Culpepper and Brett Favre both did it multiple times last year. Heck, Favre has done it once every year since 2001.

Plummer is unlikely to earn the same free pass other quarterbacks get after similar performances. His last outing in the AFC Championship game also saw him turn the ball over four times. More importantly, the Broncos drafted Jay Cutler in the first round this year. The pick was a clear indictment of Plummer, a 31-year-old with several seasons of quality football left. When a team one game away from the Super Bowl uses a rare top-12 pick on a quarterback, the management lacks confidence in its signal-caller.

To make matters worse, Cutler dominated the pre-season, a fact which proves litte about his ability but excites fans who have tired of Plummer. It took the television cameras only one turnover to give their obligatory Jay-Cutler-on-the-sideline shot. Broncos fans look east to Pittsburgh and see Ben Roethlisberger, the 11th pick two seasons ago, put together a 15-win season and a Super Bowl championship in his first two seasons. Why can't Cutler do the same?

Of course, Roethlisberger replaced the ineffective Tommy Maddox. Plummer, on the other hand, has had three very good seasons since signing with the Broncos. In DPAR terms, he has amassed 50.4, 56.4, and 88.0 points above replacement. That ranked him in the top 11 all three seasons. Since 1997, the first year for which DPAR has been calculated, only one rookie has posted a higher DPAR than Plummer's worst season as a Bronco. Roethlisberger had an impressive 75.3 DPAR as a rookie. The second highest rookie total was Charlie Batch with 31.1 in 1998. Table 1 shows all the totals, and the performances are not particularly impressive.

Player Rookie DPAR
Ben Roethlisberger 75.3
Charlie Batch 31.1
Peyton Manning 28.4
Byron Leftwich 16.9
Patrick Ramsey 14.8
Shaun King 0.2
Cade McNown -2.8
Mike Vick -6.0
Jake Plummer -6.4
Charlie Frye -9.3
Joey Harrington -12.9
Eli Manning -13.3
Quincy Carter -13.8
Kyle Boller -26.7
Akili Smith -26.7
Kyle Orton -38.9
Chris Weinke -39.3
Tim Couch -41.5
Donovan McNabb -41.6
Ryan Leaf -55.6
Alex Smith -66.5
David Carr -68.2

If the Broncos want to punt this season in hopes of getting better quarterback play a year or two from now, then maybe playing Cutler makes sense. If this year is a priority -- and for a team coming off a 13-3 season how can it not be -- Cutler's presence is a complete distraction. The only way playing Cutler this season makes sense is if his mere presence has put too much pressure on Plummer, rendering him incapable of playing at his established level.

More likely, Plummer just had a bad game. He was nearly as bad in Week 1 a year ago when he went 22-for-48 with two interceptions. His performance on Sunday was not helped by his teammates in the passing game. The fumble happened when Mike Bell was asked to block Leonard Little one-on-one. The resulting sack was almost inevitable as Bell, despite his best efforts, was bowled over by Little. Newcomer Javon Walker dropped multiple passes and showed some rust. The offensive line never developed a pass-blocking rhythm, and Plummer rarely had the time he was afforded a season ago.

The legitimate concern for the Broncos is that the Rams are not exactly the Dolphins or Steelers on defense. The Rams ranked 29th in DVOA a year ago and were equally bad against the run and pass. The Broncos running game got the message with the two Bells, Mike and Tatum, combining for 161 yards on 25 carries.

The passing offense was undone not just by Plummer's struggles but by an active St. Louis defensive front. Leonard Little dominated the first half, consistently disrupting the pass protection. The Rams blitzed effectively when they came and didn't expose their questionable secondary by blitzing too much.

That secondary held up, particularly Fakhir Brown, whom the Broncos targeted early and often. The journeyman, who followed defensive coordinator Jim Haslett from New Orleans, is far from a Pro Bowler, but he disrupted Javon Walker just enough to hold down the Broncos passing game. Rookie first round pick Tye Hill chipped in with a quality interception on a pass intended for the venerable Rod Smith. The outstanding defensive play of the game goes to linebacker Will Witherspoon, who made an athletic deflection on a pass late in the fourth quarter with the Broncos trailing by eight. Witherspoon epitomized the defense, active and athletic but potentially too small to hold up against the run.

While the pass defense was excellent, the rest of the Rams struggled. The offense, in particular, wasted one golden opportunity after another. Kicker Jeff Wilkins attempted seven field goals on the day, and the Rams never scored a touchdown. Problems in the red zone are nothing new for the Rams or a Scott Linehan offense. The combination of the two seems to have created an impenetrable barrier to the end zone. The Rams' first-team offense scored zero touchdowns in the pre-season and, despite 320 total yards and excellent field position, zero touchdowns on Sunday. If this red zone ineptitude continues, someone better take out an insurance policy on Wilkins's leg.

The Rams have ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in red zone offense each of the past three seasons. Last year was particularly painful, as they ranked 16th in offense overall but 25th in the red zone. Scott Linehan's red zone calls were so bad in Minnesota that Pro Football Prospectus 2005 had an entire essay devoted to them. On Sunday, after an even run-pass mix got them inside the 10-yard line on their first drive, they threw on three straight plays. One failed run attempt on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line was followed by two pass plays. They threw five straight times upon crossing the 30-yard line on their third possession. The only time they ran on consecutive plays in the red zone, they would have earned a first down had Isaac Bruce not dropped a very catchable ball on a third down slant pattern. On no other pass play near the goal line did the pass come close to an open receiver.

Given that the Rams receivers' best attribute is speed, it makes no sense to throw the ball often in the red zone. Linehan was doing this often a year ago with Gus Frerotte as his quarterback and no shiny toy as pretty as Torry Holt, so expect this damaging pattern to continue.

Still, the Rams have hope because their pass defense was revitalized. In 2003, their last year a Rams team won more than eight games, it was that very pass defense that keyed their run to 12-4. The offense and run defense graded out as league average according to DVOA. Their pass defense was fourth in the league. The defense fell apart upon the departure of Lovie Smith, so it is not crazy to hope that the importation of Haslett will make them respectable. Every statistical indicator in our toolbox points toward a bad defense for the Rams, but statistical toolboxes do not call well-timed corner blitzes on third-and-1 that result in 10-yard sacks.

Despite the result, the Broncos are likely to end up with a better record than the Rams. But in a single game, every team's strengths and flaws are magnified. St. Louis is abuzz with talk of their resurgent defense, and Denver talk radio hosts get a free week of content debating Plummer v. Cutler. Odds are that next week the Rams will give up over 20 points in San Francisco, and Plummer will play an efficient game in a victory over Kansas City. For one week, however, the Rams can look at their schedule and conceive of entering a showdown with Seattle in Week 6 undefeated, while Broncos fans can worry about starting 0-3 requiring a switch to their version of Ben Roethlisberger after the bye.

Each Tuesday in Any Given Sunday, Ned Macey looks at the most surprising result of the previous weekend. The NFL sells itself on the idea that any team can win any given game, but we use these surprises as a tool to explore what trends and subtle aspects of each team are revealed in a single game.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 12 Sep 2006

44 comments, Last at 13 Sep 2006, 10:56am by Wanker79

Comments

1
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:03pm

Just curious why Tom Brady isnt listed in there in the comparison DPAR chart. He seems atleast superficially similar in the fact that he was behind a quarterback with physical talent, but a penchant for making bad decisions when pressured.

2
by joepinion (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:11pm

just want to say... VERY nice article. These kinds of articles are why I love this site.

3
by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:14pm

The chart is for true rookies, not first-year starters, isn't it? Brady didn't wind up starting until his second year.

4
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:16pm

Just curious why Tom Brady isnt listed in there in the comparison DPAR chart.
He didn't start as a rookie.

He got to learn the playbook under the tutelage of Charlie Weiss and Dick Rehbein, for an entire season before he was even #2 on the depth chart. That's a significant advantage over even a talented rookie.

5
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:22pm

ah, my bad. I was thinking more along the lines of first year starters.

6
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:24pm

A really nice AGS to start the year.

St Louis fans, I hope you like chewing your own liver in frustration. Linehan did the passing in the red zone thing to death last year in Miami.
There was a notorious example in the 1st game against NE where he called 4 straight pass plays from inside the 5 at the end of the game. 4 incompletes later, the game is over and NE win. It can be hard to take.

7
by Rocco (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:36pm

Nice article. I didn't get to see the game (our affiliates stuck with Philly-Houston and Ravens-Bucs until the bitter end, grumble), so I was wondering what the heck was going on there.

Interesting info in the chart on rookie QBs. Obviously, Batch would be better than Peyton if Detroit hadn't held him back. :)

8
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:38pm

Incidentally, Tom Brady has had at least one 4+ turnover game a year since 2001. Peyton Manning usually has at least one abysmal game per year (usually in the playoffs). It happens. I was shocked by Plummer getting so much better last year, but now I'm sold. He'll be fine.

9
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:58pm

"behind a quarterback with physical talent, but a penchant for making bad decisions when pressured."
Isn't this also an apt description of Jay Cutler's performance in college? I know his line at Vanderbilt was built of swiss cheese, but he tended to take off at the first hint of pressure, and I think that's something he needs to learn to avoid before he can be successful in Denver. Also, I think Shannahan understands this, so I don't expect to see Cutler as a starter for at least another season, barring an injury to Plummer.

10
by mshray63 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 12:59pm

Totally agree with #2, this is the kind of stuff that separates this site from the rest of the pack.

Loved this line: "Problems in the red zone are nothing new for the Rams or a Scott Linehan offense. The combination of the two seems to have created an impenetrable barrier to the end zone."

LOL!

11
by Hutz (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 1:30pm

This was a good article to start the seaon of AGS.

The only other event from this game that I would have mentioned is the roughing the kicker penalty that Denver foolishy committed when St. Louis was kicking from their own endzone and Denver would have gotten the ball in good field position only down 5. Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't St. Louis then go right down the field and stretch the lead to 8 with another field goal?

12
by Kalyan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 1:31pm

A few quick questions, love if i receive some responses:

1. Can someone remember the pre-season performances of Big Ben (rookie year) & Tom Brady (2nd year)

2. Who was the last rookie QB who looked great in the offseason and looked bad when inserted in the regular season

Just curious!

13
by Nate (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 1:38pm

Wow - a ranking of Qbs in which Orton is not in the bottom 5. Me likey.

14
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 1:56pm

In defense of a possible switch to Cutler, none of those rookie QBs played on a team of the (perceived) quality of Cutler's Broncos. It's hard for a QB to put up good numbers when the surrounding offensive cast is terrible.

The QBs from the article, and the number of games their team won the previous year:

Ben Roethlisberger 6
Charlie Batch 9
Peyton Manning 3
Byron Leftwich 6
Patrick Ramsey 8
Shaun King 8
Cade McNown 4
Mike Vick 4
Jake Plummer 7
Charlie Frye 6
Eli Manning 4
Joey Harrington 2
Kyle Boller 7
Akili Smith 3
Kyle Orton 5
Chris Weinke 7
Tim Couch Expansion
Donovan McNabb 3
Ryan Leaf 4
Alex Smith 2
David Carr Expansion

15
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 2:03pm

Also, unless there was an unstated cutoff, the list should include Quincy Carter (8 games in 2001, including the season opener, and 176 attempts): -13.8 DPAR.

16
by Ferg (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 2:05pm

Re 12: Matt Schaub in 2004 comes to mind ..

17
by Ned Macey :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 2:19pm

Re 14: What you say is very true, and I would expect Cutler to be above replacement level given his favorable situation. I would just point out that several of these quarterbacks (Both Mannings, Vick, and McNabb if not more) had serious jumps in both individual and team performance the next year without a significant influx of talent.

And Quincy Carter would belong--the threshold is just 100 passes.

As for the Brady comment, he was at 24.8 his first season. More promising beginnings come from Pennington: 110.7; Culpepper 89.5; Bulger 45.5 (2nd in DVOA); and Palmer 39.0 DPAR.

18
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 2:41pm

The pick was a clear indictment of Plummer, a 31-year-old with several seasons of quality football left. When a team one game away from the Super Bowl uses a rare top-12 pick on a quarterback, the management lacks confidence in its signal-caller.

I really disagree. I think it was a clear indication that Shannahan plans to stick around Denver for a decade or more. Plummer's got 3 or 4 years of good football left in him at least, but when those 3-4 years are up, what then? Shanny's never had a pick higher than 15th, so he's never had a crack at a "franchise" QB. I'm sure he'd much rather get a great rookie guy and train him up in the system so there's a smooth transition rather than resorting to later draft picks and stop-gap free agency moves. I honestly believe that Mike Shanahan would have no problem with Plummer as his guy for another 4 years.

19
by Kris H (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:02pm

re #18:

I actually agree with your point in principle, but not your numbers.

This isn't the 1970s, and talented young QBs don't wait "3 or 4 years" to start. I expect Denver wants Cutler to compete legitimately for the starting job next year, and if he doesn't get it, be basically given it his 3rd.

The drafting of Cutler may suggest Shanny wants to be around 3 years or so - projecting another decade seems like a reach to me.

But I like Shanahan and his interest does seem renewed now. It seemed like a few years ago, he was rumored for college positions every year, and I'd assumed it was because he was pursuing opportunities.

20
by Fiver (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:09pm

In today's NFL, no team drafts/pays a 1st rounder to sit on the bench for four years. Heck, if Cutler signed a standard 5 year contract (I haven't looked up the details), under your proposal the Broncs would be getting one year of play from him for five years of salary. Maybe in the 1970s when there was no salary cap, but not today. Ned's point carries good weight.

21
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:26pm

FWIW, Rookie QBs drafted that year who threw 100+ passes on teams that made the playoffs the year before (post-merger):

Dan Marino, 1983
- The gold standard. Played in relief in Weeks 3 and 5, but wasn't named the starter until Week 6. Missed the final two games of the regular season with a knee injury (the Dolphins had already clinched the division), but came back for the playoff game against Seattle.
Jim Everett, 1986
- Traded from the Oilers to the Rams in Week 4. Debuted in relief in Week 11. Started final 5 games and in playoff game against Washington.
Tommy Maddox, 1992
- Threw first pass in Week 10 relief effort against the Giants after Elway was hurt. Started next 2 weeks, and appeared in garbage time in Week 16.
Charlie Batch, 1998
- Started Weeks 3-15 (Week 6 was a bye). Missed final 2 games with a back injury.

22
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:41pm

Adding to #21:

Tommy Maddox also started in Weeks 13 and 14 in 1992, shuttling at QB with Shawn Moore. The Broncos lost all 4 games that Maddox started, dooming their playoff chances.

23
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:52pm

LinehanMartz.............

that is both good and bad..... Martz would have lost that game by having Bulger throw deep into traffic many times, causing 1-2 ints. No turnovers with Linehan. Then again, Rams would have scored at least one TD with martz......The Greatest Show on Turf is dead. dead.

24
by SoulardX (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 3:54pm

hey, what happened to my mathematical "does not equal" sign--you know, "" --between "Linehan" and "Martz"?

25
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 4:07pm

24: It got intrepreted as htmtl code.

26
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 4:43pm

Re #9
I interpreted that as more a part of Cutler's legacy as an option QB, but it's also something you see an awful lot in college. I don't expect a problem making the transition to more of a pocket passer; young QBs tend to learn quickly that 8 yards on 3rd and 7 on a scramble in college ends up 2 yards and a hard hit in the pro game.

27
by Wes M (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 4:54pm

re: #18 - #20

And the key pieces of evidence are your starting QB's in New Orleans and San Diego. (Plummer and Brees had very similar years in 2005, at least when comparing DVOA and DPAR.)

28
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 5:30pm

26: MDS had an article here in the off-season that suggested that "Pocket presence" is one of the more difficult skills for a QB to learn when transitioning from College to Pro.

29
by Jon J (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:07pm

Doesn't bode well for David Carr or Alex Smith to appear on any list where they rank below Ryan Leaf.

30
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:15pm

Wow, talk about an out-lier.

Joey Harrington -12.9 (Backup)
Kyle Boller -26.7 (Backup)
Akili Smith -26.7 (out of the league)
Kyle Orton -38.9 (3rd String Backup)
Chris Weinke -39.3 (out of the league)
Tim Couch -41.5 (out of the league?)
Donovan McNabb -41.6 (4 consecutive NFCC appearances and would have been MVP it is wasn't for Payton throwing for 900 TDs
Ryan Leaf -55.6 (out of the league)
Alex Smith -66.5 (on one of the two worst franchises in recent memory)
David Carr -68.2 (on one of the two worst franchises in recent memory)

31
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:20pm

I think the impressive thing about Leaf is that DPAR is a cumulative stat. Leaf was able to be suck more in just ten games than Weinke could in 15. Now that is talent.

32
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:23pm

Wanker, Mcnabb was a rookie in 99, IIRC, and philly went 3-13 in 98.

I think the low dpar may be more of an indicator in this case that his team was awful than that he was.

Its the same reason its tough to tell if Carr/Smith are real quarterbacks on awful teams, or are, like their teams, awful.

33
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:23pm

Fnor, that is pretty damn impressive.

34
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 6:58pm

Re #19: re #18:

I actually agree with your point in principle, but not your numbers.

This isn’t the 1970s, and talented young QBs don’t wait “3 or 4 years� to start. I expect Denver wants Cutler to compete legitimately for the starting job next year, and if he doesn’t get it, be basically given it his 3rd.

The drafting of Cutler may suggest Shanny wants to be around 3 years or so - projecting another decade seems like a reach to me.

I'm not saying that Cutler will wait 3 or 4 years to start, I'm saying that Plummer could start in Denver for 3 or 4 more years without any problems. He's still only 31, so he's relatively young, and should have several good seasons left in him. If Shanahan only planned on sticking around for 3 more years, it would make more sense to stick with Plummer and avoid the growing pains and trouble that comes along with breaking in a new QB.

Drafting Cutler really doesn't make any sense if Shanahan only plans on sticking around for 4 more years. That's how long it will probably take for Jay Cutler to get up to the level that Jake Plummer's already at. I don't see Shanahan as the type of guy who goes out and orders a Porsche, only to turn over the keys once it finally arrives.

Re #20: In today’s NFL, no team drafts/pays a 1st rounder to sit on the bench for four years. Heck, if Cutler signed a standard 5 year contract (I haven’t looked up the details), under your proposal the Broncs would be getting one year of play from him for five years of salary. Maybe in the 1970s when there was no salary cap, but not today. Ned’s point carries good weight.
Again, sorry for the confusion, but I didn't mean that Plummer had 3-4 good years of football in Denver left in him. I meant he had 3-4 good years of football in general left in him. I expect 2-3 of those good years to come somewhere else.

Re #30: Donovan McNabb -41.6 (4 consecutive NFCC appearances and would have been MVP it is wasn’t for Payton throwing for 900 TDs
McNabb had no shot at the MVP in 2004. If it hadn't gone to Peyton Manning and his 900 TDs, it would have gone to Culpepper and his 69.2% comp%, 4700+ yards, 8.6 ypa, and 750 TDs.

35
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 7:09pm

Re #34
The Vikings went 8-8. The Eagles went 13-3, including two "who cares" losses after they had HFA. I think McNabb probably wins a sans Peyton MVP, even though Culpepper was the better player and it wasn't his fault the Vikings defense was putrid.

36
by aeneas1 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 7:33pm

the key to the rams' 2003 12-4 record was not their pass defense - it was their league-leading 46 takeaways...

37
by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 7:52pm

re: 30

It doesn't change your point, but Weinke isn't out of the league -- still the backup on Carolina. Not that he plays much.

38
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 8:45pm

36: As part of which, they ranked fourth in the NFL in interceptions. The much, much more important part, since fumble recoveries are essentially random. I'd call that pass defense.

39
by butt (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 10:01pm

butthead

40
by butt (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 10:02pm

weiner is a butthead

41
by butt (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 10:02pm

a big butthead

42
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/12/2006 - 10:33pm

Great article.

The whole Broncos passing offense played poorly on Sunday-not just Jake. Poor pass protection, fumbles and dropped passes were just as big as factors as Jakes interceptions.
The Steelers showed everyone that the way to rattle Jake was to keep him in the pocket –where he seems to be lose patience quickly and then makes bad decisions –particularly when his team is behind.

Jake is a good but not great NFL quarterback, but it doesn’t take a great QB to win in the NFL, it takes one that doesn’t hurt his team by having turnovers. The way the Broncos defense played on Sunday-they easily could have beat the Rams if they catch a couple more passes and have a couple less turnovers, but the Rams made fewer mistakes and played good enough to win.

On Cutler: he is the future –he has a gun, he is intelligent, he moves well and he has good (with the potential to be great) leadership skills-everything you want in an NFL QB. His time will come in 2007 or 2008-but if he is forced to play this year with the Broncos schedule,they will not make the playoffs. In Denver that is just plain unacceptable.

43
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:51am

Re: 34
Looking back at Culpepper’s stats, I had forgotten how good of a year he had in 2004. But to say that “McNabb had no shot at the MVP� is just ludicrous.

Culpepper only averaged about 35 more yards per game. Culpepper’s 69.2 comp. % is pretty impressive, but it’s not like McNabb’s 64.0% is anything to be ashamed of. McNabb was only 0.3 ypa behind Culpepper. Culpepper’s QB Rating was 110.9 (2nd in the league) and McNabb’s was 104.7 (4th just 0.1 behind Brees for 3rd). And while Culpepper threw for 39 TDs and 11 INTs (2nd and tied for 9th), McNabb had 31 TDs and only 8 INTs (3rd and 2nd). And if I’m not mistaken, it was either the first time anyone had ever thrown for > 30TDs & very select class.

Just looking at the stats I don’t think you can really separate them all that much. But when you factor in that Philly went 13-3 that year (13-1 at the time they clinched HFA throughout) and Minnesota backed into the playoffs at 8-8 on a 2 game losing skid, I just don’t see how anyone could think that, sans Manning, the MVP would have gone a guy on a 8-8 team over a guy on the team that clinch HFA in week 15 given that their stats weren’t all that different.

44
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/13/2006 - 10:56am

Stupid HTML.

"And if I’m not mistaken, it was either the first time anyone had ever thrown for more than 30TDs & less than 10INTs, or at the very least is was a very select class."

Oh, and btw, in those league rankings I'm only considering QB with more than 300 attempts (well, plus Reothlisberger who only had 295 attempts).