07 Aug 2008
An analysis of what the Brett Favre trade can do for the Jets isn't something that can be summated in a couple of paragraphs. There are countless variables that make this trade unique. For example, keep in mind that Favre is moving to a brand new offensive scheme for the first time since 1992, one that's already been implemented for several years and drilled all offseason by his new teammates. Will Favre's arrival change a scheme likely built around protecting the weaknesses of incumbents Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens? If so, you'll have eleven players having to learn on the fly, not just one. That's obviously not a positive, but does the addition of Favre's talents justify the change?
We'll be exploring the trade from a variety of angles over the next few days, but in the initial period following the trade, the first idea that came to mind for me was to look at how teams do when they acquire another team's starting quarterback and install them as their own.
Since 1983, there have been 41 quarterbacks who started the majority of the season's games for a team, left that team in the offseason, and started the majority of the season's games for his new team the year after. For each of those teams, we tracked their rank in points scored before the quarterback arrived and afterwards, as well as how the quarterback's old team did without him. In the interest of acquiring a larger sample, we used points scored instead of DVOA.
Just as a note, the reason we tracked offensive rank and not simply passing rank for the study is because the offensive effects aren't just limited to the passing game. In our injury research in this year's book, we discovered that injuries to a starting quarterback affect the running game more than injuries to a starting halfback. That sort of effect means that we have to analyze the offense as a whole as opposed to simply looking at the passing game.
Those 41 quarterbacks saw their teams improve by an average of two spots in the rankings -- not a huge amount, but then again, it would make sense to think that teams acquiring a new veteran quarterback to start would be acquiring them because they were unhappy with their current quarterback's performance.
Favre isn't just any quarterback, though, and he's not coming from just any team. The Packers had the fourth-best scoring offense in the league last year, while the Jets were a lowly 25th. What if we limit the pool to players going from a very good offense, one in the top ten in points scored, to an offense outside of the top ten in that year?
That leaves us with nine candidates. Of those players, seven saw their team improve, with only two suffering minor declines. The players:
Drew Bledsoe took over for Vinny Testaverde in Dallas in 2005 and saw his new team go from 25th in 2004 to 15th the year he arrived. Having a healthy Terry Glenn helped, but Bledsoe also had to play with Rob Petitti.
Drew Brees authored the biggest jump, leaving from 5th-ranked San Diego and taking New Orleans from 31st to 5th. Of course, there were many additions to that squad that changed things around, not the least of which was the return of a home field to play on.
Chris Chandler left Houston and its tenth-ranked offense to open up a spot for Steve McNair; replacing the ancient Bobby Hebert and installing Dan Reeves' ball-control scheme, Chandler moved the Falcons up a spot from 19th to 18th in the points scored rankings, then handed off the ball on the way to a Super Bowl a year later.
Jeff Garcia was Cleveland's big hope in 2004 after several Pro Bowl years in San Francisco; instead, the team around him collapsed and Garcia was left to try and win games essentially on his own. He actually raised their offense two ranking spots, but it was only from 29th to 27th.
Elvis Grbac was supposed to replace Trent Dilfer as Ravens quarterback following the latter's Super Bowl victory; instead, the team went from 14th to 18th in points scored, suffering from the loss of Jamal Lewis to a torn ACL and a disappointing year from Grbac, who'd retire following the season.
Bobby Hebert wasn't ancient in 1993, when he left the run-based attack of New Orleans for a pass-heavy scheme in Atlanta. The team dropped from 11th to 12th when Hebert took Chris Miller's job.
Warren Moon, who might be the closest comp to Favre in this entire situation, left a fourth-placed offense in Tennessee for a Minnesota attack that was 20th in the league in 1993. Replacing the punky QB known as McMahon and benefiting from the selection of Todd Steussie in the first round as well as the return of Terry Allen from a year missed with injury, the Vikings saw their offense shoot all the way up to seventh in the league in 1994.
Jay Schroeder is our final player; he bailed on a Redskins team that he performed poorly on for the Raiders, where he started eight games while splitting time with Steve Beuerlein. Schroeder's team got better by one rank, but it's of no real relevance to our discussion since Favre and Schroeder are in totally different scenarios.
It's not a large sample, but based upon these quarterbacks' experiences, we're seeing that the veteran guys tend to improve the offense in their new digs.
Oh, and if you don't believe me when it comes to quarterbacks affecting the running game? Those 41 aforementioned quarterbacks saw their new team's yards per carry increase by .31 yards, on average, during the season of their arrival. Teams that added a new starting running back under the same circumstances lost, on average, -.21 yards per carry.
Adding .31 yards per carry to Thomas Jones last year gives him nearly an extra 100 yards. Jones was already a sleeper pick in a lot of leagues, but he might be the player who benefits the most from Brett Favre's arrival. That's just one of the many ways we'll see the Jets change this year.
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