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» Scramble for the Ball: The DVOA Schism

Mike and Tom try to figure out what kind of secret sauce Arizona is feeding the media to sit at the top of the power rankings and in the middle of our DVOA rankings.

08 Dec 2009

Week 13 Quick Reads

by Bill Barnwell

Look at the boxscore of Sunday's Giants-Cowboys game and you'll see this line:

Brandon Jacobs 74 Yd Pass From Eli Manning (Lawrence Tynes Kick)

In the NFL, we give both offensive players involved in a reception the same amount of credit for its yardage. In this case, Jacobs accrued 74 receiving yards and Manning picks up 74 passing yards.

Of course, if you watched the game, that's an absurd way to split the value of the pass. Manning threw a nice enough eight yard out to Jacobs from behind the line of scrimmage. From there, though, a poor angle taken by Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, some good downfield blocking, and a couple of broken tackles by Jacobs resulted in a stunning 70 yards after the catch, meaning that just under 95 percent of the yardage gained on the play was accrued by Jacobs' running, not Manning's pass.

Although this is a particularly egregious example, it seems ridiculous to judge a 54-yard bomb downfield that results in 20 yards of YAC the same way that we do Manning's dumpoff to Jacobs. Research still needs to be done to the level of impact quarterbacks have on yards after the catch, but what if we look strictly at the percentage of their passing yards that comes through the air? Who gets the highest percentage of their passing yards off of their own arms?

The answer, coincidentally enough, is Eli Manning himself. Among quarterbacks with 10 completions per game or more (a threshold of 120 completions on the season), Manning ranks as the league leader in percentage of passing yards through the air, at 60.1 percent. If we lower the requirements down to 100 completions, he's overtaken by Vince Young, who's at 60.9 percent on 107 completions. Immediately behind them are Mark Sanchez (59.9 percent), Matt Ryan (59.4 percent), and and Carson Palmer (58.8 percent).

On the flip side, the quarterback accruing the smallest percentage of his yards through the air is Jason Campbell; only 45.1 percent of his passing yards come through the air. The other quarterbacks below 50 percent include Kyle Orton (45.5 percent), Matt Hasselbeck (45.7 percent), and Matthew Stafford (47.0 percent). The average qualifying quarterback picks up 54.6 percent of his yards on his passes.

It's not that simple to split the value of a pass -- good routes by receivers help create opportunities for yards through the air, while balls thrown in stride create opportunities for yards after the catch -- but it's pretty clear that the current system is merely the simplest thrown-together solution as opposed to something approaching an equitable one. As statistical analysis of football improves, figuring out a better split between a quarterback's responsibility in a passing play and his receiver's responsibility will be ripe for analysis.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Jason Campbell WAS
30/42
369
3
1
275
275
0
His pick on the Redskins' penultimate drive was an awful, ill-advised throw, the sort of bad decision he usually avoids with a checkdown or a sack, but Campbell otherwise had his best day as a pro by shredding the league's best pass defense. His 275 passing DYAR were the third-most in a game this year, and the best performance by anyone not named Drew Brees. Our numbers overestimate his level of performance because they don't consider the injuries that were affecting the Saints' secondary, but the Saints were about as injured one week ago, and Campbell's numbers blew away Tom Brady's.
2.
Tony Romo DAL
42/55
392
3
0
226
226
0
Only the most driven of Romo detractors could suggest that his performance represented the latest in a string in December disappointments. The Cowboys lost, but Romo completed nearly 75 percent of his passes while averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. That's great in 20 attempts, but it's
even better over 57 dropbacks; had the Cowboys been able to run the ball for better than two yards an attempt, they would've scored more than 24 points.
3.
Philip Rivers SD
18/25
373
2
0
200
201
-1
In another weird down split, Rivers' first pass on second down was an incompletion to Antonio Gates. Suitably chastened, he promptly completed each of his other nine attempts on second down, gaining a total of 219 yards and picking up either a first down or a touchdown on each of the passes. That's nothing new for Rivers; 66.1 percent of his completions have resulted in either first downs or touchdowns, the highest such percentage in the league for any starting quarterback. Mark Sanchez is second at 64.6 percent; competing for last (minimum: 50 attempts) are 49ers quarterbacks Alex Smith and Shaun Hill, at 46.3 percent and 44.8 percent, respectively.
4.
Drew Brees NO
35/49
419
2
1
190
190
0
The Redskins were able to get pressure on Brees with three and four pass rushers, allowing them to drop seven or eight defenders into coverage and shut down Brees' windows to throw deep. Once they struggled to get pressure, Brees was able to isolate LaRon Landry and Fred Smoot in coverage and take advantage of their weak wills. On first down, he was 16-of-23 for 212 yards with six first downs and two scores.
5.
Kurt Warner ARI
22/32
285
3
0
183
183
0
Over his last four starts, Warner's thrown for 1089 passing yards and 12 touchdowns against zero interceptions. Actually, over his last three and a half starts, since he missed the second half of his game against the Rams with a concussion. He's accrued 725 passing DYAR, and ranked first, first, tenth (Rams game) and fifth in our weekly Quick Reads. Those are “Best Quarterback In The Universe” numbers, and he's playing the 49ers, Lions, and Rams over the next three weeks before probably sitting out in Week 17. Think he'll add to those totals?
MNF.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/40
263
3
2
168
159
9
6.
Chad Henne MIA
29/51
335
2
1
139
139
0
A 55.8 completion percentage isn't anything to write home about, but Henne makes his way to the top ten because of volume and a ridiculous level of performance on third down, where he was 12-of-16 (with one defensive pass interference penalty included as a completion) for 198 yards with nine first downs and two touchdowns. Henne also nearly beaned a mascot with a throw through the end zone that might have required new concussion guidelines for mascots had it connected.
7.
Peyton Manning IND
24/37
270
1
0
130
130
0
Most quarterbacks do their worst work on third down, when teams know that a pass is usually coming. It's particularly impressive, then, when a quarterback goes 10-of-12 on third down. Manning turned those completions into 129 yards, seven first downs, and his only touchdown pass of the day.
8.
Bruce Gradkowski OAK
21/33
308
3
0
121
112
9
If you pegged Gradkowski as the leading fantasy scorer in the 1:00 games, you deserve to pat yourself on the back for an hour or two. We don't necessarily agree with our colleague Adam Schefter's opinion that the Raiders would be a playoff team if they'd started Gradkowski all season, but it's pretty clear that he's the superior option to JaMarcus Russell. His poor man's Jeff Garcia routine allows him to extend plays, which gives the athletic Raiders' wideouts more time to create space downfield, something they can't do with their route running or their work at the line of scrimmage. He doesn't have Russell's vaunted arm strength, but unlike Russell, he has an idea of where the ball's going.
9.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
18/24
278
2
1
103
107
-4
Roethlisberger delivered the two prettiest passes we saw all week, on consecutive plays in the second quarter. The first was a deep post to Hines Ward that hit Ward, in stride, with a perfect spiral 26 yards downfield, and the second one was even better: A 34-yard corner route to Santonio Holmes that was lofted over a trailing defender and stuck inbetween the defender and a fast-approaching pylon.
10.
Alex Smith SF
27/45
310
2
0
93
96
-3
It's funny to see the perception of Alex Smith as a potential franchise quarterback change as his usage in the shotgun increases. Couldn't they have just stuck him in the shotgun two years ago? This week, though, Smith was actually pretty effective outside of the shotgun, going 7-of-13 for 126 yards with both his touchdowns; on the other hand, he came up short on a fourth-and-goal from the Seahawks 1-yard line from under center.
11.
Brady Quinn CLE
25/45
271
3
0
84
78
6
Quinn started the day with six consecutive completions, and followed that with a 43-yard hookup with Brian Robiskie three attempts later, but he was erratic the rest of the way, and didn't have a single pass play longer than 18 yards the rest of the way. Getting sacked and losing the ball on the Chargers 7 wasn't helpful, even though the team was already down 20.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
12.
Tom Brady NE
19/29
352
2
2
70
70
0
Brady was downright devastating on first down, to the tune of 9-of-11 for 211 yards, five first downs, and two touchdowns -- although he benefitted from some great work after the catch by Sam Aiken and Wes Welker. On the other hand, Brady did not convert a single one of the three third downs he faced in the second half.
13.
Vince Young TEN
24/43
241
2
1
60
68
-8
He can't win every game for the Titans. Young played well altogether, with a potential long touchdown washed away by a Nate Washington drop. With the loss pretty much consigning the Titans to a season out of the playoffs, the team should spend the rest of the season giving Young plenty of game reps working on his mechanics and his accuracy, as he's still missing receivers on short-to-intermediate routes frequently enough to require remedial work.
14.
Brett Favre MIN
30/45
275
2
2
53
53
0
Well, we knew Brett Favre's 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio was unsustainable because of history, but we weren't necessarily expecting him to throw two classic Favre picks only a week after we mentioned it. In his defense, Favre wasn't exactly placed in great situations by halfback Adrian Peterson. AD had eight first down carries, and five of them went for one yard or less.
15.
Donovan McNabb PHI
14/25
238
1
0
51
44
7
The Eagles slowed down the pace of this game when they had the ball, and so McNabb didn't really throw very many passes. 9.5 yards per attempt is nothing to be ashamed of, but McNabb left a few completions on the field. No one's better at hitting a wide receiver on a crossing route on his trailing ankle than McNabb.
16.
Eli Manning NYG
11/25
241
2
1
51
51
0
Take out the pass to Jacobs that was almost exclusively yards after the catch, and Manning completes 42 percent of his passes while averaging seven yards per attempt instead of 9.6. Over 24 passes, that's not helping things.
17.
David Garrard JAC
15/28
238
2
0
43
40
3
Dunta Robinson did a good job on Mike Sims-Walker, holding him to one catch for 12 yards on eight targets, so Garrard spread the wealth and got the ball downfield. It's rare to see the two longest passes of the game from a quarterback go to two different tight ends, but Zach Miller had a 62-yard play, while Marcedes
Lewis' lone catch went for 47 yards.
18.
Chris Redman ATL
23/44
235
1
2
36
36
0
Redman's a perfectly acceptable backup quarterback, but the Eagles aren't a good fit for him, as a team with a great pass rush and a propensity for luring steadily-eyed quarterbacks into ill-advised throws. Redman threw two picks, and would have thrown two more if Will Witherspoon had better hands. He also pretty distinctly focused on his two stars -- 17 of his 23 completions went to Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez.
19.
Matt Hasselbeck SEA
25/34
198
2
0
16
12
4
Hasselbeck's line looks better than it actually played on the field. He had consecutive completion streaks of nine (second quarter) and 11 (third/fourth quarter), but he only registered eight first downs amongst those 21 completions, and picked up just a single first down on his other 18 dropbacks. He was also stripped of the ball on two of his four sacks, losing one of them.
20.
Brodie Croyle KC
6/14
50
0
0
9
9
0
21.
Matt Schaub HOU
19/27
207
1
1
8
4
4
It was good to see Schaub come back from his dislocated shoulder, but it's pretty clear that Schaub is more breakable than the elite quarterbacks his statistics lump him in with. As much as accuracy and arm strength, health is a skill, and great quarterbacks have it. Schaub ranked sixth in DVOA heading into this week, and the quarterbacks ahead of him have been remarkably healthy over their careers. Brett Favre (first) and Peyton Manning (fifth) have never missed an NFL game. Drew Brees (second) hasn't missed a game since 2004, while Tom Brady (third) and Philip Rivers (fourth) have been the pictures of health outside of their one-off knee injuries. None of them have the pattern of consistent yearly injuries that Schaub's shown as the Houston starter. It's extremely difficult to be a Pro Bowl quarterback when you're sitting out a game or two each year, and it appears that Schaub might be extending that streak to a third consecutive season.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
22.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
7/15
104
1
0
-4
-8
4
23.
Matt Moore CAR
14/20
161
0
1
-8
-8
0
Although he was playing a very mediocre pass defense, the Panthers didn't trust Moore with very much down the field. He had attempts of 15, 42, and 48 yards in the air, but then everything else was within nine yards of the line of scrimmage.
MNF.
Joe Flacco BAL
15/36
137
1
3
-8
-15
7
24.
Jay Cutler CHI
8/17
143
1
0
-11
-11
0
The Bears could've taken Sunday and given Cutler's confidence a boost by letting him throw the ball around against a miserable Rams defense, but they chose to take the air out of the ball and have Cutler drop back 19 times. Much like Eli Manning, he combined a low completion percentage with a high yards per attempt, but Manning was doing it against a better pass defense.
25.
Kyle Orton DEN
15/25
180
2
1
-46
-46
0
26.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
9/23
98
0
1
-48
-59
12
This is what happens when you put Fitzpatrick up against a very good pass defense. His 9-of-23 performance yielded a 39.1 completion percentage, which isn't actually his worst game as a pro; this week one year ago, Fitzpatrick was 12-of-31 for a 38.7 completion percentage in a game against the Ravens. What we've discovered is that when Fitzpatrick plays in Week 13 against a Rex Ryan defense, disaster happens.
27.
Rex Grossman HOU
3/9
33
0
1
-55
-60
5
Rex Grossman is so bad that it wouldn't be surprising to see him avoid listing his years in the NFL on his resume going forward, just out of fear that his future employers might call them as references. He'll pretend he was in a touring band or something, who knows.
28.
Carson Palmer CIN
17/28
220
1
2
-58
-63
5
Palmer was supposed to smash the dire pass defenses of the Browns and Lions in consecutive games, but he followed a miserable Week 12 with a pretty disappointing Week 13. Two picks and a fumble aren't impressive when Will James is across from you. When he wasn't throwing to Chad Ochocinco, Palmer was 8-of-13 for 83 yards and two picks. What happens when he faces a team with an elite cornerback that can shut down Ochocinco? Not that they're making the playoffs, but the Jets would be an awful matchup for Palmer and his offense as presently constructed.
29.
Josh Freeman TB
23/43
321
0
5
-71
-82
12
We've said more than once that the most harmful thing a player can do on the field is turn the ball over in or near the opposition end zone. Throwing an interception from your own end zone that's returned for a touchdown costs your team six points; throwing one in the opposition's end zone that's returned for a touchdown costs your team 12, combining the six your team was about to score with the six the opposition just picked up. The Buccaneers were by no means guaranteed a chance to score, but Freeman throwing three picks inside the Panthers' red zone (and a fourth from their 24) cost his team the game. Even if the team kicks four field goals instead of those four picks, they score 12 points and win. It's more complicated than that, but turning the ball over that close to the end zone is just awful for your team.
30.
Kyle Boller STL
17/31
113
0
1
-113
-113
0
Boller's 3.5 yards per attempt rank among the 25 worst of the DVOA Era (1994-2009) for passers with a minimum of 30 attempts. The worst single-game YPA under the same criteria? Why, it's Kyle Boller! He averaged a dismal 2.7 yards per attempt in 2004, in a game against the Patriots that saw Boller go 15-of-35 for 93 yards with an interception, a fumble, and four sacks against. That's terrifying. Teams over that timeframe with a starter throwing more than 30 passes and fewer than 3.6 yards per attempt were 3-19, and the three wins saw those teams combine to score 31 points. The most productive game came during Derek Anderson's bizarre 2007 campaign, with the now-deposed Cleveland quarterback throwing three touchdowns despite going 16-of-35 for 123 yards.
31.
Matt Stafford DET
11/26
143
1
2
-122
-112
-10
You won't often see a quarterback throw a pick-six to a defender inside the hashmarks and six yards behind the line of scrimmage, but Stafford can be sublimely, bizarrely bad at times. Beyond that, his day consisted mostly of two bombs to Calvin Johnson, one of which was at the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, already down 16 points. Take out the 92 yards Stafford gained on those two passes, and he was 9-of-24 for 51 yards. Yuck.
32.
Matt Cassel KC
10/29
84
0
2
-141
-148
7
This isn't what the Chiefs had planned, by any means. It's nice to think that the Chiefs just wanted to give Brodie Croyle some reps in a blowout, and Cassel was victimized by some poor work by his receivers, but his line -- 10-of-29 for 84 yards -- is just terrifying. With one more incomplete pass, he would've been fourth in the Lowest Yards Per Attempt stat we mentioned in the Kyle Boller comment. It's hard to judge him when his best receivers are castoffs Chris Chambers and Bobby Wade, but right now, Cassel doesn't even look like a borderline NFL starter, let alone the franchise quarterback the Chiefs are paying him to be.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Correll Buckhalter DEN
113
0
15
0
48
47
1
Buckhalter went to Denver in the hopes that he'd become a starting back, but the team added Knowshon Moreno months later, leaving him in a similar role to the one he played under in Philly behind Brian Westbrook. Now, ironically, Buckhalter is playing the best football of his career, but if he were still in Philly, he'd probably be getting the bulk of the carries.
2.
Leonard Weaver PHI
37
0
63
1
46
17
29
Instead, the focus back in Philly is becoming Weaver, who's a better blocker and receiver than LeSean McCoy while providing the team with a great change-of-pace on the interior. He's perceived as strictly a short-yardage back because of his size and position, but four of Weaver's five carries came on first down, and they resulted in an average of nearly nine yards a pop.
3.
Joseph Addai IND
79
2
17
0
43
29
14
Addai's rushing total of 79 yards on 21 carries was unimpressive, but he had a success rate of just under 50 percent, and scored on rushes from the eight- and one-yard line without getting stuffed beforehand. Scoring on your first try instead of your third doesn't yield any extra points, but it's more valuable because getting stuffed on first and second down limits your opportunities to pick up the play on subsequent downs.
4.
Kevin Smith DET
75
1
29
0
42
30
12
Five of Smith's 16 carries went for first downs, and he had a 55 percent success rate on his 11 first down carries.
5.
Chris Johnson TEN
113
0
28
0
39
32
7
The streak of 125-yard games ended, but Johnson played much better in this game than he did in the game that preceded his streak, which was also against Indy. There, Johnson mustered only 43 yards on 11 touches; here, although he never broke the big play that's become his trademark, Johnson had a 62 percent success rate on the ground, and rushed for three yards or more on ten of his 13 carries.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Marion Barber DAL
36
0
7
0
-42
-4
-38
The Cowboys chose to pay Marion Barber big bucks after three seasons as a part-time back behind Julius Jones. Up to that point in his career, Barber was averaging 4.54 yards per carry, with a touchdown once every 16.4 carries and a fumble once every 79.5 carries. Since then, he's been a totally different player. He's got 390 carries now over the past two seasons, a total that approaches the 477 carries he had over the first three years of his career. His average yards per carry are down to 3.98; he's scoring touchdowns once every 35.5 carries, and he's fumbling once every 43.3 attempts. If you extrapolate his numbers in each role to a 16-game season, he went from averaging 771 yards and 10 touchdowns as a part-time back to 956 yards and seven touchdowns as the featured back. Everyone loves his style of running, but Barber has been a disappointment for the Cowboys since he put pen to paper.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Devin Thomas WAS
7
7
100
14.3
2
84
It's tempting to look at the days enjoyed by Thomas and fellow 2008 second-round pick Fred Davis and suggest that the combination is having a coming-out party, but let's see how they play over the rest of the year before crediting Vinny Cerrato with a great draft. In all fairness, Thomas and Davis were both developmental players who needed even longer than the average receiver needs to get acclimated to the NFL; then again, the team's third second-round pick that year, wideout Malcolm Kelly, was supposed to be NFL-ready straight out of school. And he's the worst of the three. As with many forward-looking moves made by front offices, the young combination might only mature by the time that the front office is out of town. Remember when Houston couldn't wait to fire Charlie Casserly for taking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush?
2.
Percy Harvin MIN
6
7
79
13.2
1
69
Harvin was the target on an slant that Favre tried to squeeze in unsuccessfully, but beyond that, the Vikings' slot receiver couldn't have done much more on offense. Five of his six completions went for a first down or a touchdown.
3.
Antonio Gates SD
8
9
167
20.9
0
67
After a year off with various maladies, Gates has returned to the elite level of play he was at from 2004 through 2007. His total of 994 yards is already his second-best total as a pro, and he'll have four more games to get past his career high of 1101, set in 2005. The difference is that Gates is still only at four touchdowns this year despite having eight or more in each of the last five seasons. With plenty of options available near the goal line, though, the Chargers will be happy with the extra yards, even at the cost of fewer touchdowns.
4.
Robert Meachem NO
8
10
142
17.8
1
64
Since we don't create DYAR for individual defensive players, no, this doesn't include points gained by Meachem for stripping Kareen Moore on a relatively useless, hopeless interception return at the end of the first half and returning it for a touchdown. If we just gave Meachem credit for a touchdown pass from the spot instead, he'd probably rank slightly ahead of Thomas, though. Anecdotally, no receiver contributed more to his team's victory this week than Meachem.
5.
Louis Murphy OAK
4
6
128
32.0
2
59
Your leading fantasy receiver for the week, Murphy had been benched for Chaz Schilens and the continued misanthropy that is Darrius Heyward-Bey, but with DHB on the sidelines, Murphy got his chance to play and came up with two of the biggest plays of the Raiders' season. His two touchdown catches were obviously huge, but the most impressive play he made was a leaping sideline catch on what essentially amounted to a Hail Mary pass from Bruce Gradkowski. Murphy remains the most promising rookie receiver the Raiders have.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Mike Sims-Walker JAC
1
8
12
12.0
0
-36
Sims-Walker's one catch was for 12 yards on second-and-12, so it was a nice play. Otherwise, though, Dunta Robinson made a case for his next contract by shutting the Jaguars' top receiver down.

(Ed. Note: Quick Reads appears on ESPN Insider on Monday, then gets republished on FO on Tuesdays, with added ratings for Monday Night Football.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Dec 2009

86 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2009, 3:34pm by Pat (filler)

Comments

1
by Bobman :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:49pm

An Addai sighting! Go, Joe, go!

49
by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:48pm

Must say its nice to see Addai on the list. He has not filled up the stat sheet this year, but he is playing light years better than last year. In hindsight, Donald Brown in the 1st round may have been unnecessary this year. Although I have high hopes for him in the years to come.

52
by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:51pm

How do you know that drafting Brown didn't motivate Addai?

54
by Johnny Socko (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:47pm

That is a possibility; however, I think health is the primary reason. Polian has stated that Addai was never fully healthy last year. Considering Addai's injury history, it will be nice to give him rest before the playoffs. I think we will see a large dose of Hart in weeks 15-17.

2
by peterplaysbass (verified?) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:50pm

I'm surprised Adrian Peterson wasn't the least valuable back this week. 19 yards on 13 carries? Yuck.

3
by DL (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:54pm

He didn't fumble, though, which has to make a huge difference. Also, he had some reasonable gains in the passing game.

5
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:57pm

Opponent adjustments.

7
by JasonK :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:04pm

I have to think that most of Barber's negative receiving DYAR was the fumble, along with his failure to convert on a 4th-down reception late in the game. (The fumble was a fantastic play by Mathias Kiwanuka, who ran by Leonard Davis as if he wasn't even there to hit Barber.)

4
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 1:57pm

Four QBs worse than Josh Freeman's five-pick day. Then again, Freeman had a decent completion percentage and lots of yards; he played well until he got near the end zone. At which point he played terribly. Possibly worse than terribly.

I do find it somewhat amusing that the top five WRs include Devin Thomas, Percy Harvin, Robert Meachem, and Louis Murphy. If somebody had told you prior to the season this would happen, would you have believed it, even as a one-week fluke?

64
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:38pm

It's a curious list, no question - though it's somewhat less curious if you exclude Harvin, who was in the top five last week as well, currently leads rookies in catches, yardage and TDs, and now seems a pretty fair bet to win ROY. Pre-season caution was reasonable in his case - rookie receivers do generally take time to adjust - but only if it wasn't based on draft-time blather, which missed very, very badly in his case... to my great satisfaction. (Hi there, FO!)

6
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:02pm

No value for Chris Brown as a QB? He looked pretty awful.

8
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:06pm

I think the Vikings need to get Harvin more involved in the running games. People have pretty much figured out how to negate Peterson. He's had only 13 carries. He's averaging 8.7 a carry and that includes a negative 8 against SF when a lineman just clipped his ankle.

I would like to see 4-5 runs a game for Harvin.

9
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:08pm

"Those are “Best Quarterback In The Universe” numbers, and he's playing the 49ers, Lions, and Rams over the next three weeks before probably sitting out in Week 17. Think he'll add to those totals? "

I just put up a post about the NFC playoffs. I don't think there's much chance week 17 doesn't mean anything to Arz. They will either be fighting Minn for the 2 seed or wanting to hold onto the 3 seed to ensure they avoid NO in round 2.

19
by wr (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:48pm

The thing I was wondering about the "Best Quarterback in the Universe Numbers" thing was that Warner's going to have to have ungodly games to overcome opponent adjustment against the Lions and Rams...

37
by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:05pm

And one good hit in any of those games will probably keep him on the sidelines for the remainder of that game (and possibly longer).

10
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:12pm

Bill Barnwell - "...but right now, Cassel doesn't even look like a borderline NFL starter, let alone the franchise quarterback the Chiefs are paying him to be."

Not sure it was you Bill that I was arguing with about Cassel last year, but FO was commenting how Cassel had turned the corner and was playing like a top flight QB. I argued it was about the team and that when you compared his production to Brady's the year before it suggested Cassel was less than ordinary. His terrible numbers this year don't surprise me in the least.

KC got suckered and wasted a valuable draft pick for a guy that can be replaced by about 50 guys not even playing in the league.

1st rule for a bad team - don't ever make a trade with a good team.

14
by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:25pm

It wasn't me, but there's not really a "FO was commenting..." because we don't share a hive mind; people have different opinions on players. Mike doesn't like Jeff Garcia, Doug does. I think Wes Welker's overrated. Aaron had nice things to say in the past about Brad Smith, I thought he's a waste of a roster spot.

15
by Led :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:33pm

Whoa, hold it. Brad Smith is not a good wide receiver. No doubt about that. But he's an exceptional special teamer. He's worth a roster spot for that reason alone. And he's occasionally useful on reverses and WR screens. In a different situation, with a team that didn't spend 3 years treating him like a QB-hybrid, he might've developed into a decent #3 receiver.

17
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:41pm

I read almost everything you guys put up so I can't say who it was but I distinctly remember the debate. I think almost every big name player at any of the offensive stat positions is typically grossly overrated in terms of there contributions to actual wins.

25
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:05pm

As I commented before, read "Bloody Sundays" (only one section linked) by Carl Prine, whose done quite a bit of research into how valuable each position is. Your opinion regarding quarterbacks is not justified by actual data at all - the most important positions on the field (i.e. the ones that impact likelihood of winning in the next game) are, on average, quarterback, wide receiver, blindside tackle, defensive end, then other defensive/offensive linemen.

Teams don't overrate the contributions of quarterbacks in general. They might overrate the contributions of a specific quarterback, but not in general.

I also think it's entirely incorrect to assume that the Chiefs got an easily replaceable player. In terms of Cassel's contributions this year, yes, he could probably be replaced by anyone and would perform the same. But it's safe to say that it's a lot easier for 10 bad guys to make 1 good guy look bad than for 1 good guy to make 10 bad guys look good.

34
by mrh :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:28pm

Some conventional stats:
QB A 183/339 54% 2344 yds, 9 TD, 16 INT, 65.1 passer rating
QB B 188/349 54% 1982 yds, 13 TD, 9 INT, 72.3 passer rating

QB A is Trent Green in his 1st 11 starts with the Chiefs, QB B is Cassel in his 1st 11. Green had a decent interior line, a HoF TE, and one of the top 3 RBs in the league; the addition of Roaf in the follwoing year and moving Tait to RT made the o-line one of hte bets in hte league. Cassel has a far inferior line, TE, and RB (although Charles has been a huge upgrade on Johnson). Bowe is probably a better wr, when playing, than what Green had, but overall Green had a better cast and was in an offensive system he had played in for several years.

Cassel has been pretty bad, especially the last two weeks, but it's a little early to write him off. Credit for the stats and general point of this post to http://www.kcchiefs.com/news/2009/12/08/insider_blog_remember_trint

36
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:00pm

"Instead, losing players at important positions is why teams flop. Top of the list: The quarterback. A team is 24 percent more likely to lose when its QB is out. The passer is followed closely by receivers and more distantly by offensive and defensive linemen. "

I presume this is the comment in the article that makes you say QB play in general isn't overrated. I would like to see the study that generated that number.

I wouldn't argue that QB is the most important position. If 24% is the actual number in terms of losing a QB than I would have to admit I'm wrong. When I took a list of top QB's and looked at years where they missed more than 4 games I found that decrease in winning pct was quite a bit lower (.566 vs .500). In a 16 game schedule that is the difference between 9-7 and 8-8.

If I knew how to post an excel list I would. But in short the Star QB's incuded:

Warner, McNabb, Montana, Marino, Young, McNair, Fouts, Hasselbeck

The Replacments:

Manning, E (rookie year), Bulger, T. Green, Feeley, M. McMahon, J. Garcia, J Kemp, D Krieg, S. Mitchell, D. Huard, E. Grbac, B. Volek, E. Luther, S. Wallace

I know you can argue Bulger Green, Krieg and Garcia are above average. But I bet if I gave you the first list and then the 2nd and you guessed at the winning pct's - you would have guessed far higher than 1 game over a 16 game schedule.

42
by Eddo :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:18pm

Well, then, which position are you saying is more important, or loses more wins? Remember, we're talking losing a single player, so "the whole offensive line" or "secondary" isn't a valid response.

48
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:38pm

I think QB is in general the most valuable position but I suspect that their actual overall influence isn't as great as people think.

I also think it is team dependent. If I have an ordinary QB but a great WR or DE - I would rather lose the ordinary QB. I use the example of the NYG in the 80's - would you rather lose Simms or Taylor? I always argued that Moss was the key to the Vikings attack in the 98-2003 years, not Cunningham or Culpepper.

51
by Eddo :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:50pm

Well of course you'd rather lose the ordinary player at any position, as opposed to a superstar at another. However, the point of studies like the one referenced above are to place relative importance on the positions. It would help you determine if you'd rather have an 80th-percentile quarterback or a 90th-percentile wide receiver, for example.

53
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:06pm

I presume this is the comment in the article that makes you say QB play in general isn't overrated. I would like to see the study that generated that number.

That is the study. If you want to see the specific details, contact Carl Prine. The study was done for the article, with a sample size much larger.

When I took a list of top QB's and looked at years where they missed more than 4 games I found that decrease in winning pct was quite a bit lower (.566 vs .500). In a 16 game schedule that is the difference between 9-7 and 8-8.

For an 9-7 team. Given the sample size and simplistic nature of the study (no offense, but Prine's was much larger and controlled for strength of team) I'd say that your findings and his are completely consistent.

you would have guessed far higher than 1 game over a 16 game schedule.

I wouldn't've. You're just aggregating things: it's going to pull to the largest sample size of each, which will dilute things because you pull back to the average. My guess would be the effect is about twice the size of what you're measuring. You need to measure the decrease per incident, and average that.

As an example: two teams, one went from 6-6 to 0-4, one went from 4-0 to 6-6. That results in 0.625 vs 0.375, or only a 0.25 decrease in winning percentage. However, the actual decrease was 50% - the first team went from a 50% to 0%, and the second team went from 100% to 50% (Hence you see the difficulty in measuring this, as you need to actually measure the strength of a team before/after the loss of QB - for small sample sizes the error can be very big).

To be honest, the fact that there's a visible effect in just winning percentage alone is a big indicator. You're just overemphasizing the size of the effect.

(You've also got the problem that you're measuring just the effect, the effect is bounded - you can't win more than 1 game/game, and can't lose more than 1 game/game - and you're linearly averaging.)

56
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:02pm

"You're just aggregating things: it's going to pull to the largest sample size of each, which will dilute things because you pull back to the average. My guess would be the effect is about twice the size of what you're measuring. You need to measure the decrease per incident, and average that."

OK I did that - the average decrease was less than 1%. The teams winning pct actually declined 10 of 16 times, but 5 times the team had a better winning pct some of the gains where huge where the declines were generally small

2002 Warner 0-6 Bulger 6-1
2006 McNabb 5-5 Garica 5-1
1999 Marino 5-6 Huard 4-1
2008 Hasselbeck 1-6 Wallace 3-5

Even if you take out all of the situations where their was actually a decline in winning pct it only amounted to 20.15% average in those situations.

The small sample size is obviously a problem. But that was driven by the fact that there simply isn't many years where a recognized star QB misses more than 4 games in a season.

Perhaps the difference lies in the fact that most of the time a QB isn't injured for 4-5 games - they miss a game or two. Intuitively that makes sense to me. The more time a backup gets with the team the better he would perform. That was certainly the case with Cassel last year.

59
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:29pm

Ack, you just understood half of that: the problem is that with small sample sizes you can't measure the decrease with just winning percentage. The error is too large (a 0.6 winning percentage team goes undefeated in a 5 game stretch ~10% of the time), and way too dependent on schedule strength - you'll get situations like "5-5 goes to 5-1", etc.

Plus, still - linear averaging: note "the teams declined 10/16 times overall" - the tails are pulling the average. You don't want the mean, you want the mode - the most likely change. To do that, though, you'd have to do something like histogram the values and fit it to a distribution.

The small sample size is obviously a problem.

Only with the way you're doing it. There's a lot more data available, because you're not using the won/loss information from the teams they played. The ideal thing to do would be to set up a maximum-likelihood regression for each season - i.e. set up a function f which, given a strength for A, B, f(A,B) is the percentage of times that A beats B, then determine team strengths such that the aggregate outcome of the season is most probable. Treat the team of interest as two separate teams (before/after), and look at the difference in strength between the two (To convert that into a percentage, do f(A',avg.NFL)-f(A,avg. NFL)). Unfortunately since the sample size is small for the split team, you also would probably have to do a Bayesian correction since there's a chance they'll go undefeated/winless.

It's not an easy problem, which is why I said before that the fact that the simple method of just aggregating all of the records shows an effect should indicate that the underlying effect is actually quite strong.

65
by jmaron :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:42pm

ACK - even when you use only the situations where the team declined you still only get 20% decline.

Yes the backups could have presumably played an easier schedule but the odds of that spread over 16 seasons are remote. It's just as likely that the starters played an easier schedule. Sorry I don't have the time to go back and look at the records of all the teams each QB played. But I'd bet you $100 bucks they are within a very small percentage points right around .500 because it is random sample of roughly 160 games in the case of the starters and 80-100 games for the backups.

Look your math skills are obviously far beyond mine. But it all reminds me of what Warren Buffet said about technical analysts - I'd rather be roughly right than precisely wrong.

I would like you to ponder this - if the QB is so crucial to a team's chances why do the smartest teams in the league (Indy and NE) employ the cheapest street level free agents as backups? Maybe it's because they no the risk of injury is fairly low. But maybe it's also that they really don't think there is much difference between all but the very best QB's.

67
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 9:33pm

Yes the backups could have presumably played an easier schedule but the odds of that spread over 16 seasons are remote.

There's more margin available to the "improvement" tail than the "decline" tail. It's going to pull the average. It's not about odds, it's about bias.

Look your math skills are obviously far beyond mine. But it all reminds me of what Warren Buffet said about technical analysts - I'd rather be roughly right than precisely wrong.

Look, the simple idea of assigning "won/loss" to a QB is so flagrantly stupid that any "rough" estimate is going to be full of caveats. The way to do it right is to do what Prine did, which is the way I just said. Doing it any other way doesn't get you "roughly right" - it gets you "biased, and wrong."

I would like you to ponder this - if the QB is so crucial to a team's chances why do the smartest teams in the league (Indy and NE) employ the cheapest street level free agents as backups?

Um. They don't. The "cheapest street level free agents" would be a UDFA rookie, who would make $300K. Jim Sorgi's a 6th year vet who makes ~$1M/year and has been with the team that entire time. Brady's backup this year is a cheap street level free agent, but last year it was Cassel, who was in his 4th year with the team.

Previously it had been Vinny Testaverde, or Doug Flutie, which should help recognize a pattern: both the Colts and Patriots want backups who have experience with the team. Why would this be? Should be obvious: backup QBs don't practice a lot, and during a game, you want someone who can come in, on short practice, and run the huddle/offense effectively (I have no idea WTF the Patriots are doing this year with backup QB - many Patriots fans would probably say the same thing).

Coaches have flat out stated this.

I don't get your logic in any case: your test was "does losing a star QB reduce your chance of winning?" and then to support that assertion you said "well, the Colts/Patriots don't spend a lot of money on backup QBs." They do spend a ton of money on starting QBs, which doesn't support your assertion at all.

79
by jmaron :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 1:46pm

Look, the simple idea of assigning "won/loss" to a QB is so flagrantly stupid

oh really - isn't that the crux of the argument - the star QB's are so valuable that if they go down a team is sunk? 25% less chance of winning according to the guy you referenced.

If over 16 examples of some of the top QB's of all time going down for extended periods of time doesn't actually result in much of decline in overall team success that simply suggests the lose of the QB's didn't have much of an effect on winning.

I won't reply to you further because I don't have time for people that use terms like flagrantly stupid. I'm a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them. There are many smarter people in the world than me - I seek them out and try to listen to them - you are not one of those.

81
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 2:09pm

oh really - isn't that the crux of the argument - the star QB's are so valuable that if they go down a team is sunk? 25% less chance of winning according to the guy you referenced.

You're misunderstanding: that paper referenced the delta in winning percentage. Any player can have a change in winning percentage, but that player is not solely responsible for wins/losses.

You need to have some mechanism for determining the baseline likelihood of a team to win. If you don't do that, the massive spread in talent will just wash out any effect you're trying to measure.

The study in question looked at the likelihood of a team to win based on its past performance, its opponents past performance, and the injury reports of both teams. That's an absolute ton of data, and it's far from saying "QB A wins 4 games, his replacement wins 2."

I won't reply to you further because I don't have time for people that use terms like flagrantly stupid. I'm a lot of things but stupid isn't one of them.

I didn't suggest you were stupid. I'm saying that assigning W/L completely to a quarterback is stupid. Aggregating records tends to be bias-free because things do average out, but in general, you heavily reduce the size of the effect. But when you try to split things into smaller sizes, the limitations of the assumption start to become blatant.

It's a nice feature of the central limit theorem that distributions tend to be smooth in large numbers, but small numbers... not so much.

84
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 3:59pm

I should also clear up my point regarding errors - a QB for a team that goes 4-1 has a 0.800 win percentage. Even if you don't look at the wins statistically, that measure has a guaranteed error of +/- 0.200, because you can't measure anything outside of that.

So if you look at cases like, say, 5-6 to 4-1, that looks like "0.454 to 0.800", or a change of -0.345. Except it's really "0.454 +/- 0.090 - 0.800 +/- 0.200" which is actually -0.0545 to -0.636. You might say "yes, but that will average out," but it doesn't.

Why? Since the distribution is off-center (most show a decline) the downward tails don't have as far to go. Which means there are more tails to the right than to the left, and so you skew the mean away from the mode.

85
by jmaron :: Thu, 12/10/2009 - 8:34am

the only statistic specifically targeted at QB's readily available for those years is QB rating. Yes I know that is not as an accurate a stat as DYAR but the drop was very small (from 85-82).

As for the math lessons - thanks.

86
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 12/10/2009 - 3:34pm

You want to try the same thing as before: looking at the decline of each incident, and then choosing the most-likely decline, rather than the mean. Pro-Football-Reference also has ANY/A historically over that period, which is a bit healthier than QB rating. I still don't think either of them are great in this case since including touchdowns means that the ratings for single games (where TDs are single-digits) have huge errors.

Still, I think you're getting away from your basic premise - you're now measuring decline in QB performance, rather than effect of decline on the team's likelihood to win. The lack of decline in QB rating kindof indicates that the reason for the weak decline in wins is that the original premise - that the backup QBs were significantly worse than the starting QBs - may have been flawed (probably in just a few of the cases).

I also want to stress that your "average decline in the 10/16 cases with decline" result - around 20% - is basically consistent with Prine's result, so I don't really see what the problem is. Excluding the big positive gains is just a poor-man's way of calculating the mode rather than the mean.

70
by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:03am

Deleted.

75
by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 11:16am

Good Lord.

I don't think he was suggesting a "hive mind" at all. Instead, he specifically called you out as who he thought said it, but (I think) because he wasn't sure broadened his scope to suggest that at FO, some, maybe only one of the FO guys had an opinion.

I really appreciate when the guys who work for and run this site weigh-in, but I really tire of the defensiveness that is adding nothing to the discussion.

Yes...I see the irony.

11
by Led :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:18pm

I wonder what Sanchez's FO numbers would look like if Edwards had not dropped the perfectly thrown bomb. 8-15, 188 yards and 2 TDs would be a pretty good conventional stat line. There were a couple other drops too. With a small number of attempts, I'd assume the impact of a few drops on DVOA and DYAR is significant. Overall, I was reasonably pleased with Sanchez's performance. I think there were only 2 bad plays -- missing Cotchery wide open in the endzone and an uncatchable low throw to an open receiver on a slant. That's progress.

35
by are-tee :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:28pm

I think Sanchez lost points for not sliding...but seriously, I thought he'd be ranked higher because the Bills have a pretty good pass defense.

12
by dk240t :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:24pm

This article has to be the only one I have seen all season that thinks Dunta Robinson is worth the franchise CB money he is after (and getting paid this year under the franchise tag).

I have the distinct feeling Bill hasn't actually been paying attention to how mediocre Dunta has been this season.

13
by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:25pm

I realize I am the last Rex Grossman fan in the world, but he was coming off the bench, his one interception was on a tipped ball, and he still managed to rate ahead of five starting QBs. He's not good or anything, but he's hardly the worst quarterback ever.

21
by Mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:59pm

Bear in mind that Rex only had nine attempts to accrue his -55 DYAR. If Schaub hadn't been able to return, I have to think Rex would've shot down the charts like a rocket...or a lead weight or something.

Having said that, kudos to you for defending him. Lord knows he needs someone in his corner.

60
by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:42pm

As a Bears fan, I too will defend Rex!!!

27
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:16pm

DYAR accumulates with playing time. Grossman put up his -55 in only nine attempts; at that rate, given a standard 30 attempts, he would have been around -170 or so and the worst QB of this week.

16
by KevinM (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:40pm

Barnwell spends more time whining about Giants players than any Giants fan I've ever seen.

"Take out the pass to Jacobs..." If we're doing that, can I add in the easy TD Steve Smith dropped, the other 2 passes Smith dropped that hit him in both hands, or the pass that Manningham dropped after he ran out of bounds?

38
by Key19 :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:09pm

Well, seeing as Gerald Sensabaugh is a sure tackler and only missed tackling Jacobs due to holding, I would say taking away Jacobs' TD is a lot more useful than taking away drops, which are entirely fair because the player simply made a mistake. Sensabaugh was in position to take Jacobs out and if not held, he surely would've pushed him out of bounds (nearly pushed him out while being held) and maybe would've even outright tackled him.

Drops are a lot of deserved than TDs due to missed holding calls that directly impacted the outcome.

18
by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:41pm

Had a quick question about Alex Smith. First, let me say that this weekly feature is probably my favorite thing to read all week anywhere in cyberspace. I learn more here about the QB's than anywhere else, probably more than all the other anywhere else's combined.

It seemed odd to me that a team that was 1 of 13 on third downs would have their quarterback rank in the top 10. SF threw 45 passes, and only rushed 12 times. So, it's clear the lack of conversions have to be connected to Smith in some form or another. I know that 303 passing yards with no picks is obviously strong. But, the team only scored 17 points on the day, and could only manage a field goal in the second half with the game on the line. How valuable was the yardage?

Smith had a lesser passer rating on the day than #15 McNabb (facing comparable pass defenses), was a disaster on third downs, put less on the scoreboard with 18 more passing attempts, but was five spots ahead for the week? With 96-44 being the numerical representation of his passing edge?

Love the commentary, concerned about elements of the math (as usual, lol).

23
by Jeremy Billones :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:01pm

Smith had 70 more NFL yards passing, and one more TD than McNabb despite all the intangible suck. Said intangibles mean he only had 30 more DYARs.

30
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:21pm

Smith got hosed by the officials (see post below) and was also let down by his recievers dropping quite a few passes. Of course neither of these factors will have any impact on his DYAR or your argument. Perhaps I just need to vent, Smith played pretty well.

41
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:15pm

Also he had horrible starting position all 2nd half (behind the 11-yard line 4 times). Usually he gained enough yardage that the Seahawks were starting far enough back that they didn't have an easy score, so those were some valuable yards. He also put together two good drives, but one was negated by a Gore fumble deep in Seahawks territory. (The other settled for three after VD let a pass go through his hands and hit him in the facemask in the endzone -- but DYAR wouldn't know about that.)

43
by JuridianSantaal... :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:20pm

My guess would be that DYAR is a cumulative stat that rewards attempts more than say, DVOA. Alex Smith having the extra yardage and TD, while looking bad conventionally because of the sheer volume of attempts, might have to do with the fact that McNabb just didn't need to do as much the whole game.

44
by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:20pm

The Niners started a lot of drives in the second half with horrible field position which might have had something to do with not getting so many points.

50
by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:50pm

Can definitely see the horrible field position impacting the lack of points in the second half (plus some of the other issues mentioned). Hadn't realized he was that far behind the eight ball in terms of field position. What about the 1 of 13 on third downs? Sounds like there might have been a few drops. Were there 6-7 drops on third down plays?

Not suggesting he had a horrible overall game or anything. As I said in the first post, 303 passing yards with no picks is strong. To me 1 of 13 on third downs trumps enough of the volume that it's tough to make a case for a #10 ranking on the day, particularly when he was facing one of the weaker pass defenses.

I suppose one could also make the case that Seattle was allowing some underneath yardage because so much of the field was behind them on the second half drives...then they stepped up their defensive intensity on third downs. That created yardage for Smith, but not necessarily productive yardage because of the third down failures. Definitely some things happening in that game that shouldn't be blamed on Smith. Not sure that DYAR is capturing all that should be. Thanks to everyone who posted comments, helped me understand the ranking better.

61
by greybeard :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:47pm

There were 7 to 9 drops overall depending on how generous you want to be against Smith. I don't remember how many of them were on 3rd downs
Regarding 3rd downs:
Two 3rd and 10s, two 3rd and 12s, one 3rd and 15. Converted the fourth down on one of the 3rd and 12. He had one forth down that was a blatant DPI that was not called.
A 2nd and 4 was dropped by V Davis for touchdown. Next one was a hurried but catchable ball, but Crabtree did not look for it.
One 3rd and 1 dropped by Norris on a screen pass where Norris let his guy fly by.
He was better than his stats suggest.

62
by greybeard :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 7:10pm

With respect to rankings, DYAR is defense adjusted yards (over replacement, but that part is constant for all players).
So having 1 of 13 on 3rd downs limits the QB's ability to accumulate yards and as a result having a good rating. But if you have a good defense or opponent has a bad offense or both than your QB will have a lot drives and even a mediocre one would look better than a good QB who has fever drives to accumulate yards.
Of course if your defense is terrible and the opponent offense is good than the opponent scores quickly and your QB will have a lot of chance to gain yards.
It is a stat that is somewhat unfair to QBs when teams of equal strength play each other especially when they are balanced on both sides of the ball.

63
by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:03pm

Thanks Greybeard. I usually penalize guys a lot for poor 3rd down numbers. Was trying to figure out how that could happen (1 of 13) against a poor pass defense when he was throwing 45 times...and how a metric wouldn't penalize him. The explanations have been helpful.

Still a bit concerned about a lack of points in 2H's under Smith the last month
3 vs. Chicago
21 vs. Green Bay
3 vs. Jacksonville
3 vs. Seattle

That's a good a good performance after being down by 20 at the half vs. Green Bay (similar to the big 2H at Houston), but three low numbers otherwise. Sounds like his supporting cast isn't helping him. I do think some of the issues will reflect back on him in some form or another. I'd have to agree now from all the eyewitness testimony that he played better than 1 of 13 on third downs and just 3 points in the 2H at Seattle would suggest though. Well, A LOT better than those numbers would suggest (lol). Thanks again.

73
by greybeard :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 1:22am

Smith has not become a dominant QB by any means. But the low scoring 2H is not a concern in my opinion.
49ers were fully in control of Jacksonville game in 2nd half and went conservative with play calling. In Seattle game, between Gore's fumble and Davis's drop he lost 4 to 11 extra points that could have been scored.
I think in Chicago game, which was after his interceptions in Titans game, the coaches went conservative and did not use shutgun often and did not take risks, They let Jay Cutler loose the game for Chicago.

20
by @nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 2:58pm

Isnt it a little misleading to to compare Barbers touchdown totals before and after? Technically he is the featured back now, but he's being used entirely different now than he was before. Before they would bring him in when they got to the redzone, and in the fourth quarter. So naturally he's going to have a higher touchdown per carry ratio. Even though he's the featured back now, he is in a timeshare with 2 other very capable backs.

22
by Travis :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:00pm

I know he didn't have enough attempts to qualify, but how did Kellen Clemens's 1 completion, 3 sack, and 1 fumble performance (all in meaningful minutes) rate by DYAR?

24
by MJK :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:01pm

I'm not sure how to view the numbers on what percentage of a QB's yards are YAC.

On one hand, you could say a QB with a low YAC percentage is "doing it all himself", whereas one with a high YAC percentage is "getting carried by the good running of his recievers". In this view, low YAC% implies that the QB is better than his yardage total implies, because he doesn't get YAC help from his recievers.

On the other hand, you could argue that a QB with a high YAC% is picking the receiver not only who is open, but who has the most opportunity to do something with the ball after the catch, and also is getting the ball to him quickly in stride so he can run better, instead of floating it slowly or throwing behind him so he has to slow down, and letting the safety converge. In this view, low YAC% implies that the QB is worse than his yardage total, because, if only he was throwing the ball better, his receivers would get more yards.

I guess the relevant question is how much of a QB's YAC is actually "good" yards...i.e. is a QB with a high YAC% racking up yards on swing passes that gain 9 yards on 3rd and 12, or is he racking it up with well executed slants on 1st and 10 that the receiver catches 3 yards down the field and then runs for another 6-8.

And how much of it is influenced by long balls? I suspect that long passes generally have greater YAC than short passes, since there's more space...

How often does the offense utilize screens is the other big question. A screen is all YAC.

72
by Sifter :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:47am

I can see both viewpoints, but probably lean towards the gunslinger/do it himself type as being the 'better' type of QB. To be honest, it's whichever works to keep those drives going the best right? I can you one guy who will be pimping the first theory though - our Giants fan friend Chris (or 'C' as he posts as now). These stats are PERFECT for him, one has Eli the top and the other has Campbell at the bottom. And it's all about checkdowns and YAC. Man, he's missing out on this thread...

76
by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 11:17am

"As statistical analysis of football improves, figuring out a better split between a quarterback's responsibility in a passing play and his receiver's responsibility will be ripe for analysis."

The issue isn't "statistical analysis," but data collection.

80
by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 2:08pm

I think that a proper split might work like Adjusted Line Yards. The QB would get a large part of the credit for the first 5-10 YAC, due to the ability to hit the receiver in stride, while the receiver would get the full credit for the remaining YAC.

82
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 2:16pm

That seems like a good idea, but I would need to see proof of how much a QB is responsible for.

You would also have to adjust for the defense. Getting 10 yac per catch against the Lions is a not as impressive as doing the same thing against the Ravens.

83
by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 3:26pm

I'm not sure what the exact distances and proportions would be, that's what the regression analysis used to calculate VOA factors can do, looking at YAC differences between different receivers and different distance routes.

And of course it could be adjusted for opponents, like all parts of DVOA.

26
by Aack! (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:06pm

"Beyond that, his day consisted mostly of two bombs to Calvin Johnson, one of which was at the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter..."

That second one wasn't even by Stafford - that Culpepper after Stafford re-injured his shoulder.

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by António Lino (not verified) :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 7:02am

Re Post 26:

You're quite right Aack: the 2nd bomb mentioned wasn't by Stafford, but by Culpepper, after he re-injured his shoulder on a Dhani Jones hit.

Not to pull Stafford's stats even more down, but when one's working with stats, better have the correct ones...

28
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:16pm

It's a bit harsh to criticise Alex Smith for the failed 4th and goal. It was a very blatant pass interference on Delanie Walker. Are there any Seattle fans about who'd disagree? Shit call cost the niners the game and any faint shot at the playoffs.

39
by alexbond :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:13pm

It was Aaron Curry on the coverage, if I recall correctly, and yeah, it was unbelievable. PI should be reviewable in egregious cases.

40
by coltrane23 :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:14pm

Yeah, 'Hawks fan here . . . I was shocked at the non-call on that play. Pleased, obviously, but shocked. Smith did have a good game, and was pushing the team hard towards a 3rd TD drive before Babineaux punched the ball away from Gore in the 2nd half.

45
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:21pm

I'm still flabbergasted the 49ers didn't win the game. They seemed to dominate but kept having weird things happen, like that uncalled PI, or the uncalled PI when Crabtree was tackled before the ball arrived, or the 4 consecutive punts that landed inside the 11 (wow...great special teams by the Seahawks) or that weird fumble on the reverse, and then awful clock management in the last :40 to lose the game.

Then the Cardinals murdered the Vikings and made the whole game moot, anyway.

29
by grassy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:18pm

alex smith came up short on fourth and goal from the 1 because the refs missed the world's most obvious pass interference penalty. one of you even mentioned it in audibles at the line. hard to blame him for that.

31
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:23pm

I think Vince Verhei mentioned it. There were several other crap non-PI calls as well, the niners should have put the game out of reach in the first half. Idiotic punt-reverse-fumble didn't help.

32
by grassy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:24pm

also what's with lumping the niners 11th ranked by dvoa pass defense in with the lions and rams in drew brees's blurb? the fact that half of the outsiders are seahawks fans is showing imo

33
by grassy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 3:26pm

sorry, it's in kurt warner's blurb.

55
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 5:50pm

In a strange world where half of more than 4 is 2, sure.

46
by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:23pm

Nice to see a good game by Murphy; I've been a fan ever since he pancaked two separate defenders on that Zach Miller touchdown run (incidentally, there was a Miller reference in David Garrard's blurb; are there two Zach Millers playing tight end in the AFC?).

If people are claiming that starting faux-Garcia all year could have put the Raiders in the playoffs, just think what could have happened had they hung on to the real one...

57
by Todd S. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:11pm

incidentally, there was a Miller reference in David Garrard's blurb; are there two Zach Millers playing tight end in the AFC?

Aye. He's #86

http://www.jaguars.com/team/roster.aspx

47
by anonymiss (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 4:37pm

Harvin's 31-yard score came with 1:20 left and drew Minnesota to within 13 points (after the PAT that is). Big deal. Plays like that shouldn't count.

Not that Harvin isn't a super player, but the garbage-time meter should be going off here.

66
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 8:55pm

Agreed - the game wasn't quite over, but pretty close. Fortunately I'm a college guy who mostly watches the pros to cheer on former Gators, so the timing was immaterial to me.

The more interesting aspect of the game (noted in the blurb) was his first down conversion rate, which has been very good all season. A lot of the pre-season chatter with Harvin concerned his big play ability, but in college he was also an excellent possession receiver - great hands in traffic, strong enough to survive the first hit and plow forward for another couple of yards, fast and elusive enough to frequently turn a first down into something more. Louis Murphy, now - he was the designated deep threat.

58
by Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 6:17pm

PI calls factor into DYAR, don't they? I'm just curious how Rodgers and Flacco's nights would have looked without the crazy ref-fest.

69
by t.d. :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 11:29pm

the fourth and goal that alex smith came up short on failed because a blatant, uncalled pass interference on the play.

ed.:or i could read the thread and see that about five other guys mentioned this before me

68
by strannix (not verified) :: Tue, 12/08/2009 - 11:26pm

Does Jay Cutler's nightmare year vindicate Grossman to some degree? It's pretty hard to deny that playing in Turner's system has royally f**ked up Cutler, who heretofore was generally regarded as a fine young NFL quarterback.

If Rexy would have been drafted by the Broncos and brought up through Shanahan's system, the city of Chicago might have gone bonkers last summer because they finally had a great QB like Grossman. They had similar college stats against similar competition(with Grossman maybe even having an edge due to more playing time), they have similar styles, etc.

Think about it.

71
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 12:41am

No, but Grossman might have been a lot better before his injuries. He was a short Drew Bledsoe by the end. Also, he was no where near as accurate but had similar bad mechanics.

77
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 11:28am

I'd add arm strength as well; I always thought Grossman's arm strength and reputation as the "sex cannon" were overblown. He threw a very nice deep ball, but that wasn't so much arm strength as just nice touch and accuracy going long.

78
by MJK :: Wed, 12/09/2009 - 1:23pm

Be careful with your comparisons. Drew Bledsoe was a great QB for a long time. People remember him as "statuesque" and ineffective, largely because of his later years in Buffalo and Dallas, but he almost single-handedly (OK, Parcells had something to do with it) changed the Patriots from laughingstock to respectable in the early 90's. Give him pocket protection and he could kill you with extremely strong and accurate throws all over the field.