24 Aug 2010
This blog post by Kevin Seifert over at ESPN takes a closer look at Matthew Stafford's rookie struggles and what he's trying to do to fix things in his second year. Seifert makes an excellent point: Learning when to throw it away instead of trying to make the impossible play is a very important lesson for a young quarterback.
Seifert notes that a lot of Stafford's interceptions came on third down with 5+ yards to go. In fact, it was nine of 20. But Seifert doesn't compare this rate to the NFL average, so I figured I would look myself. Is it so strange to throw nearly half your picks on third-and-long?
As it turns out, it is an abnormal rate. Stafford threw 45 percent of his picks on third-and-5 or more. As a group, all NFL quarterbacks threw only 26 percent of picks on third-and-5 or more. If we include fourth down as well, still 5+ yards to go, that figure becomes 29 percent.
Seifert also points out that Stafford seemed to throw a lot of his picks "during desperation mode in the fourth quarter." Now, I don't know if they all came during desperation mode, really. Three of his fourth-quarter picks came with the Lions down by less than a touchdown (two against Seattle in Week 9, one against Cleveland in Week 11). That's not desperation mode. Nonetheless, it is true that Stafford threw seven picks, 35 percent of his interceptions, during the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter. As a group, NFL quarterbacks threw only 15 percent of picks during the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter. Perhaps Stafford really can improve his turnover totals simply by not pressing so much.
It's interesting that Seifert says that Stafford's analytical approach to the game is one of the reasons that Jim Schwartz likes him so much. Who knows, perhaps he has read Football Outsiders. If he knows what we've written about him, he knows that he has to play above replacement level this year lest he be consigned to history's scrap heap of draft busts. But he also knows that we're pulling for him. It's no secret that I'm friends with some of the Detroit coaches; separate from that, I'm sure I'm not the only non-Detroit Lions fan who wouldn't mind seeing the Detroit Lions fanbase happy one of these years. Go ahead and prove our projections wrong, Matt, we won't mind.
31 comments, Last at 27 Aug 2010, 1:37pm by tuluse
What do you call a fifth-round rookie WR with real expectations? Tajae Sharpe, and there may not be another player like him in NFL history. Tennessee's poor history of developing wideouts has led to a rare opportunity that Sharpe can seize this season.