06 Feb 2013
The Denver Broncos made a surprising coaching hire last month. It flew under the radar because the playoffs were still going on, but the Broncos named Greg Knapp as quarterbacks coach. It was a surprising move, considering Knapp's prior stints as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, Oakland (twice), and Seattle hardly set the world on fire. On the other hand, he had more success as a quarterbacks coach in Houston, and especially early in his career in San Francisco. Here's a look at Knapp's NFL resume, the quarterbacks he has played with, and how they performed under his watch compared to the rest of their career:
|Years||Team||Position||Primary QB||DVOA||DVOA, rest of career|
|1998-00||SF||QB coach||Jeff Garcia||19.9%||9.2%|
|2001-03||SF||Off. Coordinator||Jeff Garcia||13.5%||10.9%|
|2004-06||ATL||Off. Coordinator||Michael Vick||-20.4%||1.3%|
|2007-08||OAK||Off. Coordinator||JaMarcus Russell||-25.5%||-62.1%|
|2009||SEA||Off. Coordinator||Matt Hasselbeck||-24.8%||2.6%|
|2010-11||HOU||QB coach||Matt Schaub||16.3%||13.7%|
|2012||OAK||Off. Coordinator||Carson Palmer||-2.4%||13.0%|
Knapp clearly got the best out of Jeff Garcia. Of course, Garcia also enjoyed throwing to Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens with the 49ers. Garcia's leading wideouts in each of his seasons with five or more starts after leaving San Francisco: Dennis Northcutt, Roy Williams, Reggie Brown, Ike Hilliard, Antonio Bryant. It's not surprising that Garcia's numbers declined. And for the record, he was better when Knapp was his quarterbacks coach than he was when Knapp was OC.
Michael Vick showed a lot of promise early in his Atlanta career, but his production plummeted as soon as Knapp and Jim Mora arrived, and his best season came with Andy Reid in Philadelphia. We now know, though, that Vick basically half-assed his way through his Atlanta career, devoting most of his time to running a multi-state dogfighting ring. Obviously, nobody is more responsible for Vick's struggles than Vick himself. The Falcons coaches deserve some blame for not holding Vick accountable for his poor work ethic (for three years!), but I'm not going to tell you that Knapp was holding Vick back or anything.
In 2007 the Raiders' leading passer was Josh McCown. His DVOA that season was -32.9%. The rest of his career: -24.9%. JaMarcus Russell was awfully bad in his first year as a starter in 2008. Then Knapp left and Russell became completely inept, with one of the ten worst DVOA seasons a quarterback has ever had. Like Vick, Russell had horrible work habits and an illegal off-field distraction (in his case, cough syrup abuse). Knapp got the best out of Russell, but it's hard to say he did a good job when his quarterback ranked 34th in DVOA.
Knapp reunited with Mora in Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck had already started to decline by that time, so it's obviously not accurate to say Knapp was the cause of Hasselbeck's lousy season in 2009. However, for the record, Hasselbeck's DVOA was higher in each of the next three seasons (one in Seattle and two in Tennessee) than it was in his one season with Knapp.
Matt Schaub ranked 13th and fifth in DVOA in his two seasons under Knapp. He was sixth in each of the two prior years, and fell to 12th in 2012. Really, there was no substantial change in Schaub's performance with or without Knapp.
Carson Palmer actually had a lower DVOA in 2012 than he did in 2011, and that included his 8-of-21, three-interception debut just a few days after the Raiders acquired him in a midseason trade. Still, the biggest difference between Cincinnati Palmer and Oakland Palmer is the guys he's throwing to — from Chad Johnson/Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
All in all, there's no obvious pattern for Knapp. Some quarterbacks have played better with him, some worse. The real lesson from this short little study: A change in receivers will have a much greater effect on most quarterbacks' numbers than a change in coaches. And since Peyton Manning's receivers in Denver will still be Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, we shouldn't expect much change in Manning's numbers either.
19 comments, Last at 09 Feb 2013, 2:48pm by Mr Shush
Bill Connelly takes a look at the early-season S&P+ outliers and whether his eyeballs agree or disagree with the stats. Spoiler: Alabama is underrated. Alabama! Underrated!