Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Sep 2009

FOA 09 MEDIA: Minnesota

In what may very well be the last bit of FOA 09 media to talk about, I did an interview with Darren Wolfson for the Minnesota Star-Tribune about the Vikings and the rest of the NFC North.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 09 Sep 2009

10 comments, Last at 13 Sep 2009, 12:05pm by Bowl Game Anomaly

Comments

1
by Eddo :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 1:16am

Good interview. Thanks for posting this.

I do have a question here, though, Bill. You say, "[Cutler's] interception rate was flukily high and will regress back towards league average this year."

According to P-F-R, his interception rate last year was 2.9 interceptions per 100 attempts. This is lower than his previous two years, 3.0 and 3.6. P-F-R's Int%+ metric, which, to my understanding, measures interception rate against the league average, was 101 for Cutler last year. Since higher numbers in the "+" metrics are better, this actually indicates that Cutler was better than league average at throwing interceptions last year.

Do your figures show something different? I'm honestly confused, I don't mean to come across as snarky. And, as a Bears fan, I would love to see his interception rate drop even lower.

2
by Bill Barnwell :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 1:56am

I think the nature of how those interceptions came -- almost all on third down -- indicates that Cutler's "true" interception rate by his talent is probably something like 2.5 or 2.6%, and that he should improve even further. That's my reasoning behind saying that.

3
by Henrik Madsen (not verified) :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 6:55am

Maybe I missed a point somewhere, but why is throwing interceptions on third down less worrying than doing it on first and second?

4
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 10:22am

I don't know, but my guess is that it's related to unusual performance on 3rd downs regressing to match performance on 1st and 2nd down. Whether this really applies to individual players in traditional stats the way it applies to teams in advanced stats, I can't say.

5
by Eddo :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 10:42am

Thanks for the explanation, Bill! That's good to hear, as a Bears fan.

6
by Arkaein :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 2:15pm

So how exactly is the Packers' 3-4 defense "a mess", especially when the article later says that preseason performance should be thrown out, and that new defensive schemes only tend to start out slightly worse than the previous season's performance? This observation is not supported by any statistical or subjective evidence whatsoever. The article hints at potential problems with the CBs aging, but considering that Jenkins and Barnett both missed significant time last season with season ending injuries, and Harris missed four games, I don't really see injury regression to the mean causing GB particular problems.

I'm also curious as to why when Cutler is expected to improve, Rodgers "may very well have already peaked in his first season as a starter", despite the fact that he is entering his 5th year, normally one of the biggest steps forward in a QB's career progression?

It seems like half of the things I'm reading about GB on FO this preseason seem to contradict the FO conventional wisdom.

7
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 2:16pm

"There's no comparable quarterback perhaps in NFL history who was traded at the same point of their career after achieving the same level of success."

Especially considering where you were doing this interview, don't you think Fran Tarkenton would count? Cutler has played 3 fewer seasons but Tarkenton was only a year older (according to PFR).

8
by tuluse :: Thu, 09/10/2009 - 3:36pm

You don't 100% increase in years played is a large difference?

9
by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Sat, 09/12/2009 - 1:56pm

I think the age is more important for defining "at the same point of their career," so I just don't think that matters much. It's a difference, but enough of one to really say that they're not comparable? I don't think so.

10
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Sun, 09/13/2009 - 12:05pm

Actually, the two players are very comparable. Tark had already achieved far more success than Cutler has, so his trade is actually even more astonishing. Trading away Cutler pales in comparison to the Tark trade. (Tark brought back 2 1sts and 2 2nds, which is worth a bit more than what the Bears gave up for Cutler. 2 2nds > Orton + 3rd)

Because there were fewer teams when Tark played, I'll compare Tark's top-5 rankings to Cutler's top-10 rankings.

Before he was traded, Tark was a starter for 6 years and a 2-time Pro Bowler. His passer rating was top-5 once in those years. His passing-yards-per-game was top-5 once. His YPA was top-5 in two of those years. His completion% was top-5 in 3 of those years. His TD% was top-5 in three of those years. His INT% was top-5 in two of those years. Total top-5 rankings in the metrics I selected: 12.

Cutler has started for slightly less than 2 1/2 years as made the Pro Bowl once. His passer rating has never been top-10. His passing-yards-per-game was top-10 once. His YPA was top-10 twice. His completion% has never been top-10. His TD% has never been top-10. His INT% has never been top-10. Total top-10 rankings in the metrics I selected: 2.

Add to that the fact that Tark was a serious running threat who ran for 300+ yards (in 14 games) five times in his first 6 years, putting up 22+ rushing yards per game five times (Cutler's career high in rushing yardage is 205 (in 16 games) and his rushing YPG has been around 12). Clearly no one could argue that Tark was not fully established as a supreme talent and a highly productive player. (They could only object to his win-loss record.) Cutler looks good, but he just doesn't have nearly the resume that Tark had.

I'm not trying to knock Cutler. I think Denver made a mistake to let him go and Chicago was lucky to get him. But if anything, Minnesota trading Tark away was more insane than Denver moving Cutler. Surprisingly, Minny made out alright. I seriously doubt Denver will even approach that kind of success over the next few years.