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» SDA: Early Playoff Elimination Round

TCU-West Virginia and Auburn-Ole Miss might as well be early playoff elimination rounds, with the losers likely knocked out of playoff contention.

13 Dec 2011

Week 14 Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

Between the league-wide assault on Dan Marino's passing record, the Packers' pursuit of perfection, and Tebowmania, the exceptional production of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has flown under the radar this year. Gronkowski caught two touchdowns against Washington, giving him 15 scores on the season. That's a new record for tight ends, and there are still three games left on the slate. With Gronkowski so dominant in the red zone and Wes Welker so effective as a possession receiver, the Patriots have two-thirds of a perfect receiving trio. All they need is a deep threat. Will that weakness cost them in the postseason?

To answer that question, we have to define what a deep threat is. For simplicity's sake, we'll call a player a deep threat if he averages at least 15 yards a catch and at least 50 yards per game.

In the past five full seasons (2006-10), there have been 70 deep threats in the NFL, an average of 14 per season. Eighteen players turned the trick in more than one season; Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers did if four times in that five-year span.

Of the sixty teams that made the playoffs in that timeframe, exactly half had at least one deep threat. (Some teams in and out of the playoffs had two, and the 2010 Chargers, who did not make the playoffs, had three.) That's convenient for this study, because it means there were lots of matchups pitting one team with a deep threat against an "unarmed" opposition squad. In matchups like this, the team with the deep threat went 16-12, a winner percentage of .571.

It's one thing to win wild card games, though, and another to get to (and win) the Super Bowl. Seven of the ten Super Bowl teams in this study had deep threats, including all four teams the past two seasons. On the other hand, the 2007 Giants and 2008 Steelers managed to win the Super Bowl without a deep threat in the lineup.

Enough about the past. What about this year? There are 23 players who meet the deep threat qualifications this season. They include veteran superstars (Larry Fitzgerald, Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson), younger dynamos (Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace) and a bunch of rookies (Julio Jones, Torrey Smith, A.J. Green, Doug Baldwin). If the season ended today, eight of the 12 playoff teams would take a deep threat into the postseason. The four others: the Jets, the Broncos, the 49ers, and (surprisingly) the Saints.

Missing from that list: the Patriots themselves. Gronkowski had six catches for 160 yards against Washington, and is now averaging 15.3 yards per reception this year. He's also averaging 84 yards per game, which means by the terms we're using here, Gronkowski is a deep threat. That will probably change in the next three games, as Gronkowski's average catch will likely creep back below 15 yards.

New England fans shouldn't be concerned, though. Based on recent history, deep threats are not necessary to make the playoffs, to win in the postseason, or to hoist the Lombardi trophy. Whatever the eventual fate of the Patriots may be, it won't be decided by a few digits on Gronkowski's stat line.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tony Romo DAL
21/29
321
4
0
173
173
0
2.
Eli Manning NYG
28/47
400
2
1
156
156
0
The folks at NBC must have been happy, as the two best quarterback performances of the week both occurred in their Sunday night showcase. Even in defeat, Romo was the better of the two (although the one sack he took was a safety, costing the Cowboys two critical points in a nailbiter of a game). Eli's numbers are nothing to sneeze at either. Manning made up for his low completion rate with a plethora of big plays on third down: He had six third-down completions, averaging 27 yards each, plus an 8-yard gain on defensive pass interference.
3.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
16/21
280
2
1
142
142
0
Most of the press coverage of Thursday night's game concerned Roethlisberger's second half, toughing it out while dealing with a high ankle sprain. So let's take a moment to celebrate his scintillating first half. He hit six of his first seven passes for 89 yards, with each completion gaining at least 11 yards and a first down. His next two passes were completions for 6 and 7 yards, although his receiver fumbled the ball away each time. And then he was sacked, the play where he hurt his ankle.
4.
Drew Brees NO
36/47
337
2
0
130
124
5
On the one hand, Brees had a whopping 14 failed completions against Tennessee. No other passer had more than six. On the other hand, he cleaned up on third down, going 10-of-15 for 115 yards with one sack, no interceptions, and eight first downs (including a touchdown), good for 66 DYAR.
5.
Tom Brady NE
22/37
357
3
1
126
123
4
There was a point late in this game when Brady looked unstoppable. He hit 11 passes in a row for 123 yards, two touchdowns, five other first downs, and ten successful plays. (The unsuccessful completion: A 4-yard gain on first-and-10.) Then, on goal-to-go from the 4-yard line, needing only a field goal to take a dominant 10-point lead, he threw an incompletion on second down, then an interception on third down. So much for momentum.
6.
Philip Rivers SD
24/32
240
3
0
116
116
0
At one point Rivers was 9-for-9 for 78 yards, one touchdown, five other first downs, and nine successful plays. And then he finished up 10-for-11 for 120 yards, two touchdowns, five other first downs, and nine successful plays. We'll ignore that messy middle part of the game.
7.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
13/21
181
2
0
112
92
20
The Jets quarterback has been called a lot of things, but "fantasy superstar" is not one of them. On Sunday, though, Sanchez threw two touchdowns and ran for two more against Kansas City. He did nearly all his damage in the first half, though. He didn't complete a pass after halftime, going 0-for-5 with a sack and a lost fumble (although he did pick up two first downs on defensive pass interference calls).
8.
Aaron Rodgers GB
17/30
281
2
1
101
101
0
While Rodgers was pulled partway through the third quarter, he still had 34 pass plays, so it's not like he didn't have time to make an impact. By DYAR, it was not his worst game of the year — he was worse in Week 2 against Carolina and Week 11 against Tampa Bay — but it was his lowest DVOA of the year, at 28.5%. The only starting QBs with season-long DVOAs that high (besides Rodgers himself, obviously) are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and Matt Schaub. On his worst day of the season, Rodgers is still a top-five quarterback.
9.
Matt Ryan ATL
22/38
320
4
0
92
94
-2
Second half: 11-of-20 for 232 yards, nine first downs (including three touchdowns), no sacks or interceptions, 114 DYAR.
10.
Andy Dalton CIN
16/28
189
1
0
86
89
-3
Second quarter: 5-for-8, 86 yards, one touchdown, four other first downs, 74 DYAR. The rest of the day, he was pretty lousy.
11.
T.J. Yates HOU
26/42
305
2
1
82
70
11
Yates had eight third-down conversions, tied with Eli Manning and Drew Brees for the most in the league this week. He went 8-for-12 for 105 yards on third down, plus a 17-yard DPI call. One of those errant throws was intercepted, which kind of ruins his third-down DYAR (26, seventh), but make no mistake, Yates was definitely a contributor to the Texans' win, not just an observer.
12.
John Skelton ARI
19/28
282
3
2
81
79
3
Midway through the third quarter, Skelton was 6-of-12 for 93 yards (60 of which came on one play) with one touchdown and one other first down, and an interception. After that: 13-of-16 for 189 yards, two touchdowns, six other first downs, and one other interception.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Jake Locker TEN
13/28
282
1
0
75
57
19
What a boom-and-bust day this was. Locker had 21 failed pass plays on the day. That was tied for 14th in the league, but keep in mind he only played three quarters. Extrapolate that performance over a full game and you get 28 failed plays, which would have been second-most in the league behind Alex Smith. However, he also had (without extrapolation) five 25-yard completions. That's tied with Aaron Rodgers for most in the league in that category.
14.
Tarvaris Jackson SEA
21/32
224
1
0
60
63
-3
15.
Matt Stafford DET
20/29
227
2
0
46
49
-3
Third-down passing: 8-of-13, one touchdown, seven other first downs, 123 yards, no sacks or interceptions, 58 DYAR.
16.
Joe Webb MIN
12/23
84
1
0
40
-13
53
Webb's 65-yard touchdown run on third-and-10 was worth 27 DYAR by itself. That makes it the sixth-most valuable running play of the year. But it wasn't his only big play on the ground. He had five other runs for first downs, plus an 8-yard gain on third-and-10. Let's not ruin the mood by talking about Webb's passing. Oh, OK, if you insist. Webb had only four first downs (including one touchdown) and three other successful plays in 24 dropbacks. His sack-fumble on first-and-goal from the 1 on the game's final play was worth -48 DYAR.
17.
Joe Flacco BAL
23/31
227
2
1
40
40
0
Without opponent adjustments, Flacco would have ranked ninth this week. Only six of his 23 completions gained 10 or more yards. Not that the Ravens needed a big play or anything.
18.
Cam Newton CAR
19/39
276
2
2
16
0
16
Newton threw 13 deep passes this weekend, more than any other quarterback except Eli Manning. He only completed four of them, though, for 103 yards, one interception, and -5 DYAR.
19.
Rex Grossman WAS
19/32
252
2
1
14
14
0
Late in the first quarter, Grossman threw to Jabar Gaffney for an 11-yard DPI flag. Then he hit six passes in a row for 131 yards. Then he was sacked. Then he hit four in a row for 39 yards. Then he threw one incompletion. Then he hit three more in a row, albeit for just 11 yards, but one of those throws was a touchdown. On official NFL pass attempts, Rex Grossman hit on 13-of-14 passes. Yes, that Rex Grossman. The Patriots secondary, everyone!
20.
Tyler Palko KC
16/32
195
1
1
4
-1
5
First half: 3-of-8 passing for 11 yards, no first downs, one interception, three sacks, -98 DYAR. He played much better in the second half, but the Chiefs were behind by at least 25 points after halftime.
21.
Michael Vick PHI
15/30
208
1
1
-7
-7
0
The Eagles went into halftime with a 17-point lead, and from that point Vick essentially took the day off. In the second half, he went 4-of-11 for 41 yards (29 of them on one play), two first downs, no other successful plays, one interception, -51 DYAR.
22.
Tim Tebow DEN
21/38
236
1
1
-8
14
-22
Not even the most ardent Tebow supporter would be surprised to see the Denver quarterback rank so low in passing statistics, but how do you rush 12 times for 49 yards and get -22 rushing DYAR, especially when you don't fumble even once? A lot of Tebow's runs come on third down, and he often comes up short. He had two first downs in seven third-down runs against Chicago, and though he converted a third-and-16, he also had a 0- and 6-yard gains on third-and-10, a 5-yard gain on third-and-6, a 3-yard gain on third-and-5, and a 1-yard gain on third-and-4.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Caleb Hanie CHI
12/19
115
0
0
-31
-30
-1
At the end of regulation, Hanie was 9-of-15 for 76 yards, only three first downs, plus four sacks, for -51 DYAR. He actually played well on the Bears' only overtime drive, but Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow.
24.
Dan Orlovsky IND
17/35
136
1
1
-46
-46
0
Four sacks, three fumbles, and an interception. He had only two first downs in the first three quarters of the game. He had seven (including a touchdown) in the fourth quarter, when the Colts were down 21 points and the Ravens were well into their postgame nap.
25.
Sam Bradford STL
13/29
193
0
1
-71
-59
-11
26.
Colt McCoy CLE
19/35
209
0
2
-71
-63
-8
McCoy had four first downs in his first five passes. He had only seven more the rest of the day. The Browns had one red zone drive in the fourth quarter, down only four points. McCoy was called for intentional grounding, then threw an interception, and Cleveland never really threatened again. His red zone DVOA for the game was — I am not making this up — -1,109.5%.
27.
Blaine Gabbert JAC
19/33
217
2
2
-73
-73
0
First nine dropbacks: 3-of-8 passing for 11 yards, no first downs, one sack, one fumble, one interception, -123 DYAR. No, this is not a repeat of Tyler Palko's statline.
28.
J.P. Losman MIA
6/10
60
0
0
-76
-68
-8
Losman was sacked five times in 15 dropbacks, and still wasn’t the worst Miami quarterback of the day.
29.
Carson Palmer OAK
24/42
259
1
4
-84
-86
2
Palmer joined the Raiders in Week 7. He has thrown 13 interceptions since then, which leads the league in that timeframe. That's bad, but not really remarkable. No, what's really remarkable is that Palmer is now seventh in the league in total interceptions despite only playing half the year.
30.
Alex Smith SF
18/37
175
0
0
-85
-75
-10
Which was worse, Smith's performance in the red zone (2-of-8 passing, 12 yards, one first down), or on third down (7-of-15 passing, 66 yards, only four first downs, plus two sacks)? Considering the 49ers lost by two points and just one touchdown would have made a huge difference, we'll go with the red zone passing.
31.
Matt Moore MIA
11/19
95
1
1
-88
-83
-5
Moore's first three plays went sack, 16-yard touchdown, 17-yard completion for a first down. After that he went 9-of-17 for 62 yards (21 of them on one play), only one first down, three more sacks, a fumble, and an interception.
32.
Josh Freeman TB
17/30
181
0
2
-100
-117
17
Freeman was sacked three times and fumbled twice, while picking up only seven first downs.
33.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
13/34
176
0
2
-102
-106
4
Think the league has figured out that Fitzpatrick likes to throw short? On passes within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, Fitzpatrick went 9-of-26 for 54 yards and an interception, with only four first downs and one other successful play.
34.
Christian Ponder MIN
11/21
115
2
3
-130
-136
7
Ponder was the least valuable quarterback of the week, and Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman was hardly any better. The lesson: If your starter is injured and missing practice, sometimes it's best to leave him on the bench and play your backup. Ponder fumbled twice and threw three interceptions before being benched for Joe Webb, who came within one yard of rallying the Vikings to a victory.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Shonn Greene NYJ
127
1
58
0
67
37
30
Greene's first carry against Kansas City gained 31 yards, and his last carry gained 19 yards. In between, he picked up just one first down (a 7-yard touchdown) and averaged only 3.7 yards per run, but he was stuffed for a loss just one time. He finished with 127 yards on 23 carries. The Jets also threw him three passes, and he caught them all for 58 yards and two first downs.
2.
Maurice Jones-Drew JAC
85
2
51
2
60
2
58
Jones-Drew's receiving numbers: Six receptions in six targets for 51 yards, two touchdowns, two other first downs. The two catches that were not first downs were a 6-yard gain on second-and-10 and a 10-yard gain on first-and-15, each of which is still considered a successful play by DVOA. His rushing numbers were mundane: 27 carries for 85 yards, although he did run for two more touchdowns and three other first downs.
3.
Ryan Grant GB
85
2
13
0
41
31
10
After going over 1,200 rushing yards in 2008 and 2009, Grant played in only one game in 2010. Over the first 13 weeks of 2011, he was averaging only 3.4 yards per rush, and his longest run was just 14 yards. He topped that total twice against Oakland with 47- and 16-yard runs, and threw in a 12-yarder for good measure. He had two other first downs on the day, one of them a touchdown, on a pair of 6-yard gains. Finally, he caught the only pass thrown his way, a 13-yard gain on first-and-10.
4.
Brandon Jacobs NYG
101
2
0
0
41
46
-5
Jacobs had two touchdowns, four other first downs, and three 10-yard runs in 19 carries against Dallas. He had no catches with just one pass target, but he had the most rushing value of any player this week outside of Minnesota's backup quarterback.
5.
Ryan Mathews SD
114
0
34
0
39
19
20
Mathews was stuffed just once in 20 carries, and he had four first downs on the ground, including gains of 10, 16, and 37 yards. He also caught all six of the passes thrown his way, and while they only gained 34 yards, three went for first downs, and one was a 7-yard gain on second-and-9.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
LeSean McCoy PHI
38
2
33
0
-32
-24
-8
In the first 13 weeks of the season, McCoy was far and away the most valuable runner in the league. And then came Sunday. Though McCoy scored a pair of touchdowns on the ground, those two plays netted a total of 3 yards. It's not like McCoy did anything special there. He was stuffed for no gain or a loss on 13 of his 27 carries. That's the single-game high for stuffs this season, and only two other runners - Michael Turner and Arian Foster - have been stuffed even ten times in a game. He was also the target on six passes, and though one of them was a 26-yard gain, he caught only two more for a total of 7 yards.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Marques Colston NO
7
7
105
15.0
2
74
Colston's two touchdowns (both in the fourth quarter) went 35 and 28 yards. Three of his other catches gained first downs. His other two receptions, his worst plays of the day, were a 7-yard gain on second-and-10, and an 8-yard gain on first down.
2.
Larry Fitzgerald ARI
7
9
149
21.3
1
62
Fitzgerald had a 46-yard touchdown and another catch for 53 yards. He had two other 10-yard catches on the day. He was the target on an interception, but receivers are not penalized for interceptions in DVOA.
3.
Antonio Brown PIT
5
8
151
30.2
1
61
Thursday night's game against Cleveland was Brown's career-high by more than 40 yards, and only the third 100-yard game of his career. Each of his catches gained at least 10 yards and a first down, three of them went over 20 yards, and one was a 79-yard touchdown. Brown is only 23. His teammate Mike Wallace is 25, and behind only Wes Welker in our wide receiver rankings. If Brown can maintain this kind of production, the Steelers could have the best one-two wide receiver punch in the league for the next half-decade or more.
4.
Laurent Robinson DAL
4
5
137
34.2
1
59
Gee, who saw this coming? Robinson's 9-yard touchdown was his shortest catch of the day. His other catches gained 14, 40, and 74 yards. His only incompletion was on third-and-3.
5.
Rob Gronkowski NE
6
10
160
26.7
2
57
Gronkowski has now passed Antonio Gates' 2010 record for most DYAR in a season by a tight end. It's possible, though very unlikely, that he'll get negative DYAR from this point forward and fall back behind Gates. Realistically, he's going to finish on top of the heap by a comfortable margin.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Brad Smith BUF
0
5
0
0.0
0
-38
Smith was the target on five passes against San Diego. All of them came with the Bills down at least two scores, when the Chargers would have been happy to surrender short gains. Three of them came on first down, and two came on second-and-9. Yet Smith wasn't able to catch a single pass on the day.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 13 Dec 2011

107 comments, Last at 16 Dec 2011, 9:11am by Julio

Comments

1
by BJR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 10:56am

Of course DVOA/DYAR treats all interceptions equally, but Cam Newton's left-handed underarm lob was the worst I have seen in a long time.

25
by dan s (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:35pm

I know this might fly in the face of what FO tries to do, but it'd be interesting if they added some subjective element to create new stats--like a Subjective DVOA that penalizes awful decisions. Might not make a huge difference, and you'd probably need the all-22 film to be sure, but it might beinteresting.

45
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:24pm

They do have the charting project, but they can't do it fast enough to get results during the season.

2
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:05am

Santonio Holmes of 2008 misses the "deep threat" designation by .1 yards per catch. He also meets the qualification every other year as a Steeler.

64
by JimZipCode :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:05pm

Yeah, seems disingenuous to write "Based on recent history, deep threats are not necessary to make the playoffs, to win in the postseason, or to hoist the Lombardi trophy" when 7 of 10 Super Bowl teams had deep threats (almost of 10), including all 4 of the most recent teams. I'd have drawn the opposite conclusion from the data.

71
by 0tarin :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:15pm

I was wondering about that when I read it, but was too lazy to look it up myself. Thanks for enabling me!

84
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:18pm

Burris missed for the 2007 Giants by 0.4, but had qualified from 2001-2006. To say he wasn't their deep threat is disingenuous.

3
by White Rose Duelist :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:06am

How did Jacobs get -5 receiving DYAR if he wasn't thrown any passes?

15
by mansteel (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:37am

I can't answer your question directly, but if anyone in the league can generate negative DYAR without being targeted, it's Jacobs.

By the way, -5 DYAR on no targets works out to a DVOA of negative infinity, does it not?

19
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:53am

It hurts because it's true.

16
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:39am

Whoops, that's an error. Jacobs was thrown one pass, no catches. I will fix.

17
by Dales :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:43am

He was targeted the first play after the safety.

New York Giants at 09:36
1-10-NYG29 (9:36) E.Manning pass incomplete short right to B.Jacobs. Screen pass.

46
by GK (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:25pm

He was 'targeted', by definition, but not much more than that.

On a screen pass that was blown up by a LB + Safety blitz to that side, Eli basically dropped the ball over the shoulders of an oncoming rusher to avoid the sack, with Jacobs being the 'intended target' to avoid grounding.

4
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:08am

It is indicative of how little confidence the Vikings have in Webb's ability to find the right receiver that they are willing to throw Ponder out there, with his 4 months of NFL employment, with no reps during the week. I'm tempted to say that they should allow the two to have a real competition for the starter's job next year, but I have some suspiscion that simply getting the play called right is a challenge for Webb. There's likely a reason that such an athlete played at such a low level in college.

5
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:16am

I don't think the definition of a deep threat is a helpful one. We're not interested in how many short passes a player catches, or whether they pick up yardage after the catch. We're interested in the extent to which they're a threat to catch passes that go perhaps 20 or more yards in the air.

9
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:23am

Yeah, backing out YAC is probably a good idea. What we are looking for is the value in forcing a defense, at the snap of the ball, into using personnel to defend all areas of the field, for fear that somebody fast will get behind them.

10
by BigNachos :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:25am

That was my thought too.

Besides, if anything is going to keep the Pats from winning in the playoffs, it's going to be that God-awful pass defense.

13
by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:31am

I suspect the definition was massaged until it "looked right" -- both in terms of total number of deep threats in the league, and which players qualified.

Unfortunately, your definition is equally bad. The actual definition of a deep threat in this context is "a player whose presence causes other teams to adjust their defense to spend more effort preventing long passes than they otherwise would;" being "a threat to catch passes that go perhaps 20 or more yards in the air" is simply a means to that end. The only way I can think of to examine this is a +/- system, looking at the Min(YardsGained/YardsToFirstDown,1) percentage on a per play basis, showing that some players have a real influence on their team's ability to get the short stuff, solely via their presence (further adjustments, including, ironically, ignoring plays that player was involved in, are possible).

Really, though, this is much more about telling a story about how great Rob Gronkowski is using numbers than it is about coming to a statistically valid definition of a deep threat.

30
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:51pm

I don't know about equally bad, but I agree it's very, very far from perfect. I think a definition along the lines of "caught more than n passes which travelled more than x yards in the air" would probably be a better proxy than the one used while still not being an intolerable nuisance to calculate. But yes, it would still be a distinctly imperfect proxy.

34
by RickD :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:00pm

"We're interested in the extent to which they're a threat to catch passes that go perhaps 20 or more yards in the air."

Let's keep it simple then. #receptions more than 20 yards downfield.

The problem is that you can't read this from a game log.

I blame the data.

48
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:27pm

The scorers mark if a pass was short or deep.

6
by Crack (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:20am

So if you give Webb the face mask and then have MN just fail to get a TD by incompletes where does Webb end up? In the vicinity of Rodgers?

I think Webb shows one thing, that Denver should have an easy time finding a backup for Tebow. Webb could execute the Teboffense at well above replacement level. I'm not saying he'd be as good as Tebow, but the Tebow - Webb dropoff is less than the dropoff between most 1-2 QBs. There are plenty of Joe Webbs out there.

I only bring this up because I heard someone ( I think Merrill Hodge) talking about the danger of designing an offense around Tebow and not being able to get a backup. That is ludicrous, and not the awesome rapmaster.

14
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:32am

I'm not a fan of Webb, but I think you overestimate the number of guys who combine his speed, elusiveness, size, and throwing ability. My guess is that running an NFL offense is a mountain that will be too high for him to climb, but that there really are not a lot of guys who combine his physical tools.

21
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:11pm

Guys like Michael Vick, Aaron Rodgers, Tarvaris Jackson, Vince Young, Josh Freeman, Brad Smith, Josh Johnson, Michael Robinson, Tyrod Taylor, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Troy Smith...

22
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:24pm

Michael Vick, Tavaris Jackson, and Troy Smith don't have Webb's size, and are probably more likely to get hurt. I haven't check some of the other guys on your list, so I don't know if they are dissimilar as well. Tebow's size really makes him different.

The fact you would put Tavaris Jackson, a guy with straight line speed, little elusiveness, and less instinct for the open field, in the same category as some of the runners on your list, is very puzzling.

26
by Crack (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:41pm

I think there are plenty of guys who come out of college each year with better passing skills than Webb. I agree Webb is better than most of them at running ability, but I think there are enough Eric Crouch's that don't get a sniff in the NFL that finding a backup for Tebow should be easy enough.

28
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:46pm

Eric Crouch didn't throw as well as Webb, in my recollection. Webb is a very physically gifted guy, even by the standards of NFL qbs.

43
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:20pm

I'd rather not sniff another Crouch.

27
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:44pm

I think Vince Young would be a better choice to back up Tebow. It may even be the best offense for Young. Other options include Brad Smith, Josh Cribbs, Ronnie Brown, or any other Wildcat/Slash types. We could even bring back Bobby Douglass.

29
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:48pm

Young would be a terrific choice, assuming he's mentally ok with the role.

32
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:54pm

"Young would be a terrific choice, assuming he's mentally ok"

Fixed.

Seriously though, this is absolutely what Denver should do. They should also look at designing plays that get them both on the field at the same time. It's not as though Young's promoted the "Vince Young, NFL starter" concept with his play for the Eagles this year.

60
by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:48pm

Tebow might be a good influence on Vince Young, too.

39
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:09pm

Yeah, the only problem with Vince Young is that he's a better quarterback than Tim Tebow...

[edit] And it is not close.

42
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:15pm

Part of being a good NFL qb is not having to have your relatives call the cops because they are afraid you might eat your pistol, so I think it may be a bit closer than you think.

54
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:40pm

That's true now. But it may not be true in a year or two. Not being a Tebow apologist. Just that Tebow is still a project while Young is probably about as good as he'll ever be. I also don't think Young is more than a borderline starter, but will be a better than average backup wherever he plays.

7
by NotJimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:21am

It seems funny to me that the "definition of a deep threat" wouldn't include a minimum yardage of where the catch is made. Gronk isn't a traditional deep threat - He's just a huge target with outstanding hands - he also gets some sick YAC. Shouldn't a true deep threat catch the ball deep - behind the D? A burner, ala Moss or Julio Jones?

And shouldn't the number of defenders you're taking with you be a multiplier of YAC?

8
by NotJimmy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:23am

Oops, didn't see #5 before my post.

41
by RickD :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:12pm

I think the definition as presented shows that it's reasonable to think of receivers who can get yardage without blazing speed. It's not like it's easy to average 15 yards/catch as a TE. And, ultimately, we don't care how the receiver is getting yardage.

Well, we do, a little bit. But I think the people who complain about how the Pats can't win because "they don't have a deep threat" are like the people on the Titanic who are bummed out about the orchestra's choice of music.

Yeah, the problem is that the strength of the team isn't quite as strong as it could theoretically be. It's not that they're using a 3rd string WR and a special teams player/4th string WR as safeties.

81
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:06pm

"It's not like it's easy to average 15 yards/catch as a TE. And, ultimately, we don't care how the receiver is getting yardage."

It's a lot easier when you have another TE to run all the pick routes to the flat, so you can concentrate on running seam and out routes, though.

11
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:25am

If Randy Moss actually liked playing football, I suspect he would have been around at least three more years.

12
by Anon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:29am

I have to make a digression regarding deep threats and the New England Patriots. Being a deep threat isn't a quality by a WR. The *potential* to be a deep threat is. To become a deep threat, you need a QB who can hit the long passes with presicion, or enough presicion to let the WR make a play. Mike Wallace may be a speedster with good hands, but so was Donte Stallworth coming from Tennessee. The difference is that Stallworth was stuck with Aaron Brooks and Wallace started his career with Ben Roethlisberger: two different QBs with very different arm strength and accuracy. Roethlisberger, for one, is one of the best deep passers in the league. So is Aaron Rodgers, so was Philip Rivers when teamed-up with Jackson or Floyd or any other tall WR, etc.

Brady, on the other hand, has never been good with the long throws. Only in the Moss era, when he had perhaps the best deep-threat WR of all time, he was able to exploit those routes, and in great part because Moss made it possible (go back to video, and you see most of the passes thrown short, or far from the target, etc). He was trained in a system that put more emphasis on the short-routes and his accuracy, gaining first downs and drive down the field slowly but surely; not going for the big play. His lack of arm strength was the reason they had to make that offense rely so much on short and mid routes than long passes. Today, it's the same. Tate was let go because he wasn't much of a factor in NE because Brady just couldn't connect with him. Just check the games from last year: every pass in his direction beyond 20 yards from scrimmage is at least 5 yards away from him in all directions. He can't hit those routes, is what I am saying.

So, the Patriots have as much use for a deep threat WR as the Colts for a quality WR with sure hands: they just don't have the QB to make those plays happen.

18
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:47am

Do you have any evidence to back this up? My recollection, even prior to the Moss years, was that Brady was more accurate with long throws then Manning.

55
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:42pm

No, Manning is much better on longer throws. Brady was lousy at it when he came in, became solid at it from 2003-2006, had an explosion that was mostly due to Moss and, IMO has actually been worse than his 2003-2006 phase since returning in 2009. For every perfect 40 yard pass, I've seen probably 10 that were off or the receiver had to adjust his route.

Brady is very accurate from 25 yards in, so he'll make some "deep" passes to Wes or Gronk down the seem that are gorgeous, but a 40 yarder to a WR outside the numbers is an adventure.

57
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:43pm

This.

61
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:51pm

I just went and did the math using ESPN's data as far back as they keep the stats. Manning completes 34% of his passes 30+. Brady is at 28%. Is that "much" better? Especially when you consider that one plays in a dome? I think the perception is more of a case of selective memory.

63
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:58pm

What do the numbers look like if you eliminate 2007?

72
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:20pm

Removing a each QB's best years makes them 26% and 32%, so about the same differential. This equates to roughly 2 deep passes a year more.

67
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:11pm

So the numbers show that Manning is better at deep passes, and it's out selective memory that makes us think Manning is better?

In any case, accuracy does not mean a completed pass. Manning puts some gorgeous throws right on the money 30-40 yards downfield, while Brady was completing passes to a double covered Randy Moss who would just out leap them.

Of course, no one is really saying Brady is bad at deep throws, just not as good as he is at everything else, while Manning (and some others) are better than him at that one aspect.

73
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:26pm

Better, yes. Much better, not really. Its less than two deep passes a year more that Manning makes over Brady. Does that account for this perception that Manning is much better than Brady at throwing the deep ball? Considering that one plays the majority of their games indoors and has had significantly better deep threats over the majority of their respective careers then I'd say yes it is a case of selective memory.

75
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:42pm

So to sum up...

Objective observers: Although Brady is a great QB, he doesnt have a great deep ball.

BSR: Brady is perfect at everything. The numbers that I provided that dispute my point are meaningless.

Already mentioned is the fact that completing x amount of deep passes is not an accurate way to judge somebody's deep ball ability. How many of those completions were poor throws that the WR adjusted to? How many of the incompletions were good throws that were missed/dropped?

76
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:46pm

...and I I'm not familiar with the ESPN calculator that you refer to, but does it differentiate between the passes were completed at 30+ yards and those that were completed short with large YAC?

87
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 4:54pm

You accuse me of being biased because I am not going off of some selective memory of which passes were thrown well and which weren't and instead refer to actual statistics. And no, I am not trying to claim that Brady is perfect at everything and only an imbecile or obvious troll would interpret my remarks as such. I am simple disagreeing with the inane assertion that a deep threat receiver isn't useful to New England because Brady "has never been good with long throws" as the OP mentioned. To me, the statistical difference between the great long ball thrower Manning and the lousy long ball thrower Brady, doesn't seem to support that assertion because of two extra missed throws over the course of a season.

As for your question about an "ESPN calculator", I don't know what you are even talking about. If I make the assumption that you have a problem with reading comprehension, I'd guess you are wondering about the ESPN statistical data I used in coming up with the percentages. If that is the case, then yes it only includes the distance the ball traveled in the air. Its available under a players statistical page under splits.

94
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 11:38am

"You accuse me of being biased because I am not going off of some selective memory of which passes were thrown well and which weren't and instead refer to actual statistics."

BSR Quote: "My recollection, even prior to the Moss years, was that Brady was more accurate with long throws then Manning."

That seems to be selective memory to me, particularly since your own numbers dispute it.

And I must apologize for mistyping "calculator" instead of "stats". Clearly my mistake is proof that you are much smarter than me and therefore win the argument (despite every other Brady fanatic disagreeing with you).

Believe what you want. The rest of us will believe reality.

98
by BSR :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 1:06pm

Which is why shortly after that I went back and wrote:

I just went and did the math using ESPN's data as far back as they keep the stats. Manning completes 34% of his passes 30+. Brady is at 28%. Is that "much" better? Especially when you consider that one plays in a dome? I think the perception is more of a case of selective memory.

The perception by some is that Manning is a much better deep passer than Brady. The numbers suggest he is better but those TWO EXTRA COMPLETIONS A YEAR is not something people would typically pick up on to justify the notion that he is much better.

Some of us can actually do some investigative work and try to apply some data to support or refute and argument. And I'm not saying I am smarter than you, I just try to read what people write and try to respond constructively and not just add silly little quips without provocation.

Right Kibbles?

89
by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:50pm

That was interesting..

Brady homer here. No, he can't throw a good long ball. If that isn't evident in the fact his coach has only given him one good one, I don't know what to say. Yet give the man a decent short-range receiver, and Brady turns him into a star.

My question, though, is what's the necessity of a deep threat when Brady's receivers lead the league in YAC? I mean, isn't a deep receivers point to clear out defenders? Apparently other strategies work, as well (if not better).

90
by BSR :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 7:40am

And yet he throws plenty of long passes. The necessity of a deep threat is in dictating the coverages against an offense. As a Brady homer you must know what has given him trouble in the past: pressure up the middle while covering the short intermediate zones. A deep threat will open the intermediate stuff even more.

91
by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 9:07am

No, he really doesn't. All of Brady's "bombs" are really YAC.

As far as a long range target being needed because teams like the Jets would take away the short to mid routes, isn't that more about execution? Those Jets didn't do too well stopping Brady this year, still without a deep threat.

93
by BSR :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 10:06am

ESPN does break down passes by distance thrown, so it excludes YAC. Historically, Brady has thrown plenty of deep passes, comparable to Manning. I'm not sure where he ranks overall in the league but I'd imagine is probably somewhere in the middle. His numbers this year and last are much lower however because of a lack of a deep threat, hence the discussion. Even before Moss would throw it deep a good amount of the time to guys like Patten and Givens. And lets not pretend that they haven't been looking for a deep threat all this time. Tate, Price, Galloway were all attempts to find someone that could stretch the field.

As for the Jet's inability to stop them, well they don't quite have the pass rush that they once had. But you do see other teams that have been able to slow the Pats O like the Steelers, Cowboys and Giants. Given this team's defensive woes they can't afford a sub par day and having a deep threat would have helped prevent that.

20
by Bernie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 11:58am

Well this must be the difference between perception and reality then, because as a person who doesn't see a lot of patriots games, it's always seemed like Brady has never had a lot of trouble getting the deep ball out there and hitting his receivers in stride. If you're watching all his games and saying this isn't true, then the media PR machine is doing a spectacular job boosting his rep in this area.

23
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:29pm

I have noticed it as well, though I certainly dont watch every Pats game I lived in New England until recently.

Brady has never been great with the deep ball. That isnt to say that he hasnt thrown some beauties, but if you take the time to watch you will see that the WR needs to adjust quite a bit most of the time (as described above).

Just watch the Moss years. It seemed to me that Brady would essentially just close his eyes and chuck it downfield and Moss would go get it (in double or triple coverage at times...he really was a freak that year).

I dont think people should be offended by someone pointing that out. Brady is as good as it gets with the short passing game, he just was never particularly great with the deep ball. (And no...he is nowhere near Manning in that respect).

31
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:51pm

The QB I would compare Brady to is Chad Pennington v1.0. He wasn't strong enough to whip it down the field with barely a windup (as compared to Marino, who was quite freakish in that respect), but he had a good feel for how the ball would arc, and could place it in a spot where his WR could make a grab. Before Moss, you wouldn't want to build the offense around the deep ball, but he could still launch one on occasion to keep the defense honest.

It goes without saying that Pennington's arm got weaker with each successive shoulder injury, while Brady got stronger over his first few years, but there's a lot more to the deep ball than just strength. I'd say that Brady's deep ball is better than, say, Daunte Culpepper or Matthew Stafford, despite having a weaker arm.

I picked those two for comparison specifically because their deep balls seem to depend on having the best deep threats of their successive generations. Moss was in decline when he went to New England, but he didn't seem to have to make the same kinds of adjustments he did in Minnesota. To me, Stafford most resembles the early-career Eli Manning in sailing the ball and then getting bailed out by his 6'5" receiver.

33
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:55pm

When Shanahan was with Denver he said that that the Vikings were the only NFL offense he ever saw where the strategy actually was, on a regular basis, to chuck it in a guy's general direction, and have him go up and get it.

37
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:05pm

I would quibble with that; I think it would be more accurate to say that was the only time where the strategy was, on a regular basis, to chuck it in a guy's general direction, have him go up and get it, and it worked.

ETA: I would also make a Drew Brees comparison. He doesn't have great arm strength, but he has outstanding deep placement and timing. I guess you could put Joe Montana in the same category, but I prefer to make comparisons between contemporaries.

40
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:12pm

Pennington, uninjured, and maintaining just average zip on the ball, may have been a candidate for the HOF, in the right setting. He was, mentally, extraordinarily good, and pretty much put the ball where he wanted to, if he had the juice to get it there.

36
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:05pm

Schaub's a pretty good comparison, too. I mean, Brady's better than Schaub in just about every conceivable way except maybe his play-fake, clearly. But their balance of strengths and weaknesses is similar. Schaub's deep ball is pretty lousy - he generally underthrows, and his receivers lose a lot of potential YAC as a result. In fact, TJ Yates' deep ball is vastly superior. So was David Carr's. The fact that Schaub is a far better quarterback than either is another illustration of how non-essential a skill accurate deep passing is. It's a nice bonus, but you can be plenty effective without it.

38
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:07pm

I haven't seen much of Shaub, but I've always thought Brady's play fake is outstanding.

44
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:21pm

Agreed. Only better play fake in the NFL was Peyton Manning's. Too bad teams haven't cared if he was handing off or not since Edge left...

Brady has better arm strength than Pennington did, even pre-injury, but he's probably comparable to Schaub. I think the best comparison is Brees though, as someone noted, who also has less than elite arm strength and occasionally struggles on deep routes, but has great short and intermediate accuracy and really good ability to go through reads.

The best deep accuracy in the NFL (after Rodgers) is probably Eli Manning right now, oddly enough.

50
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:30pm

Mark Sanchez for all his flaws, actually has possibly the best play-fake in the league.

53
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:37pm

But is that because the play fake is good or is the defense more worried about a run by Tomlinson or Greene than a throw by Sanchez?

70
by tequila (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:12pm

I actually think it's because Sanchez is that good. Almost once or twice a game, Sanchez's play fake actually fakes out the camera guy. It's one of his biggest strengths, and I'm a Sanchez hater.

80
by boltsfromtheblue :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:01pm

He actually does have a tremendous play fake.

56
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:42pm

I don't know if he's consistently good because I don't watch a lot of their games but Stafford had the single best play fake I've seen in a long time. I tried to find the highlight but couldn't... It was one of those casual jobs where you don't even continue the action, just kind of relax and totally sell that you've given the ball away.

You know what I mean? Rather than make the action exactly the same whether you hand the ball off or not (ala Manning) this was more of a feat of acting.

47
by MCS :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:26pm

Rodgers has stated that he spent the offseason studying Brady's play fake. I think that is all the praise I need to believe that Brady's play fake is one of the best.

49
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:27pm

They both have great play fakes, to the point where there may be no meaningful distinction to be made. It's the only area where Brady isn't clearly superior, to my eyes. I think it's fair to say Schaub gets more value out of his, though, because it's more integral to the offense he plays in. There's a reason why a QB who throws a lousy deep ball regularly completes deep passes to a big, slow wide receiver like Kevin Walter.

24
by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 12:30pm

I've watched pretty much every televised Pats game since 1976 :)

My impression, and that of my circle of fellow fans is that Brady isn't anything special on the long ball (I'm talking about 30+ yards in the air) and that 2007 was an aberration.

35
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:02pm

People need to remember though that nobody is truly accurate at 30+ yards in the air. I think everyone is sub 40% completion percentage at that range.

51
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:31pm

Perhaps, but you can look at Brees, Manning, Favre, Rodgers, etc and find QBs who do a better job on deep balls than Brady. Brady is probably 10/10 at everything else (well except scrambling), but he's only a 6/10 in this area.

59
by BSR :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:45pm

I guess it depends on what the definition of 10/10 is. I believe Brady completes 28% of his passes throwing greater than 30+ yards, lifetime. Brees is around 36%. Thats a difference of about 2 deep passes a year.

To highlight the problem with the offense this year, he is only 1 of 12 so far. Thats awful and far below his norm. The inability of the offense to complete anything downfield is clogging up everything short-intermediate since the opposing defense has hardly any fear of being beaten over the top.

69
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:12pm

I said Brady was 10/10 at other things, how does that matter to what other QBs do with deep passes?

58
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:45pm

Leaguewide success rate last year on passes thrown 31+ yards downfield was 30%. The Steelers led the league with 50%. The Patriots were right at 30%. Note, though, that approximately 5% of passes were thrown 31+ yards downfield, so we're dealing with small numbers here. The Steelers were 14-28, New England 6-20.

77
by nuclearbdgr :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:47pm

FWIW, as of a couple of weeks ago, Rodgers was completing ~65% of his passes 20+ yards downfield.

78
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:51pm

I think we can all agree that Rogers is in his own universe this year.

82
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:07pm

He's now the 3rd best QB DVOA ever, behind Manning 2004 and Brady 2007. I think he's still on pace to be #1 DYAR of all time. But there have been players playing at this level, at least by FO's standards.

96
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 11:55am

True.

For my money, nobody will get quite to what Manning did in 04-05 (but Rogers is pretty darn close).

49 TDs (1 TD every 10.1 attempts, for reference Brady had one more TD on 81 more pass attempts in his 50 TD season).

9.2 yards per attempt (Rogers could beat this, though I doubt it is a record).

121.1 rating for the season (Rogers could beat this).

Manning was nuts that year.

97
by Independent George :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 1:05pm

In terms of productivity metrics, I think it's debatable. In terms of sujective "Holy crap, what the f*** did I just see there?", I'd put Rodgers 2011 ahead of Manning 2004, but both behind Warner 1999.

Again - this is a purely subjective comparison with a 10+ year old memory, but I remember watching Rams games thinking it was as close to perfection as I've ever seen. Part of it was set by expectation (nobody had ever heard of Kurt Warner, while everyone expected Rodgers & Manning to be good, if not quite that good), but I watched Warner '99 thinking, "That's un-possible!".

106
by Shattenjager :: Thu, 12/15/2011 - 5:51am

He is also still below '04 Manning and '84 Marino in ANY/A+. Not much below, mind you (Manning was 153, Marino 150, Rodgers so far is 147), but below.

I'm hoping he either gets up a few points or drops down a few. I always sort of liked that the all-time ANY/A+ list had those two seasons and then a fair drop off to get to anyone else.

Here is the list, in case anyone wishes to peruse it: http://pfref.com/tiny/Vwqiw

101
by nuclearbdgr :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 3:42pm

according to the ESPN NFC North Blog, Rodgers is completing 62.8% of his passes 21 or more yards down field.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcnorth/post/_/id/35879/rodgerswatch-hitting-do...

88
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 9:00pm

And, yet, Steeler fans are constantly complaining about the accuracy of Ben Roethlisberger's deep throws, which his receivers may have to break stride or otherwise adjust to catch, which gets back to a previous poster's point about the danger of looking at deep pass completion percentage as a way of judging who throws a better deep pass.

95
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 11:42am

Precisely.

Ben throws a pretty good deep ball, but his accuracy in that arena isnt perfect. For the past couple of years his biggest problem was underestimating how fast Wallace was and underthrowing him. He has since stated that he just throws it as hard as he can in Wallace's direction and there is very little chance of overthrowing him (though he has a time or two).

99
by Intropy :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 3:16pm

Totally subjective here, but I don't think Roethlisberger throws an "accurate" long ball. His percentage is inflated by having the best deep threat in the NFL. What Roethlisberger does have is a big arm that can actually get the ball deep, and what's more get it there with relatively little travel time.

102
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 4:39pm

Big Ben does an excellent job setting up his receivers so they have a good chance to catch it even though the pass isn't perfect.

103
by Intropy :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 6:20pm

Agreed. And I suppose that's a possible definition of accurate, hitting a barn door from a mile away rather than a bullseye at eight paces. It is however not what I usually think of as accuracy. I do think it's a different skill. Accuracy would be hitting him in stride, whereas what Roethlisberger has success doing is leading them away from defense, part of which comes from his superb pump fake. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just a different skill. Specifically, I think attempting to hit in stride is higher risk and higher reward.

104
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 6:30pm

I didn't mean to imply that should be accuracy. I was just pointing out that not all of his success is thanks to Wallace, and he was throwing deep a good success rate well before Wallace got there.

In short, he has a skill which helps him complete deep passes without being particularly accurate at them. Not that he is particularly inaccurate either.

105
by Intropy :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 7:20pm

Oh I see. I didn't mean to imply that it's all Wallace, just that having Wallace really helps. I think we're in agreement on Ben, it just took us a couple of posts to realize it.

52
by Nathan :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:34pm

I'll chime in on this one... Pats fan... Brady is indeed not particularly good with deep throws, 2007 excluded. I don't think it's really about arm strength as I've seen Brady launch the ball 55 yards in the air. Yes, Brady doesn't have ideal arm strength (he's not going to throw it 65 yards, or gun it on the run or across his body or make those wow throws you see from Cutler) but it's more about the amount of air he puts under the ball and accuracy on those throws in general. Too much air a lot of the time. I wonder if it's a product of the system he's in (lack of deep ball practice reps) or if it's just the kind of QBs they seek out (dumping Bledsoe) because Cassel was also pretty terrible at going over the top in 2008 and I haven't seen him do much of that in KC (not that I watch a lot of Chiefs games). Kind of of a chicken or egg thing.

Brady's play fake is very good to my eyes. Not the best but definately top 5.

68
by Dave :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:12pm

I've seen plenty of Brady deep balls that were beautifully thrown - the 60 yarder to Branch in the 05 AFCCG always comes to mind first - and I'd say he does seem to have the arm strength:

Deep desperation throw to Moss (covered 67 yards of field plus it was on a diagonal)

I've seen him underthrow deep balls - often leading to scores anyway, such as the one against the Lions last Thanksgiving - but no more than any other QB. Most QBs underthrow deep balls. Hell, it seems like Flacco, he of the supposed Cannon Arm, does it more than anyone... almost as if the "underthrow it and let the DB run into the slowing WR for a cheap 40 yard penalty" is a staple of the Cameron playbook.

I find the matchup issues created inside by having two beast TEs plus Welker to be fascinating, and I love how the Pats have adapted their offense around those mismatches while mostly ignoring the deep threat WR. Obviously I can see the value in scaring safeties with a guy like Wallace, but with the pass protection Brady gets on a good day sometimes that's not even that useful. They can just send Gronk straight down the middle and not even care where the safety is; he's so big and Brady so good that they can still throw it to him in tight coverage and he has a chance to catch it.

It's not the same as a guy like Moss being able to bail out a terrible throw, but a high accurate one to one of these great TEs (I see it a lot with Rodgers to Finley) just can't be defended.

(Edit: might be interesting to some to learn that I'm a Colts fan.)

62
by AT (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 1:57pm

Would also add that since Moss' departure, it's not like there's anyone to throw it deep outside the numbers to. Welker? Branch? Clearly not threats in that dimension. In fact, other than Moss and Stallworth in 2007, it's hard to remember whether they have ever had any receivers that were even average in threatening defenses on the 9 route.

Brady doesn't have top-tier arm strength, but he's certainly well above-average in this regard. Given his accuracy to all other parts of the field, it's strange to think that he himself is the primary cause of the Patriots' difficulties in completing those deep passes outside the numbers.

65
by Temo :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:09pm

Romo>Manning

66
by Julio (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:09pm

Brady can throw the deep ball as well
as anyone, but Belichick has never been
a fan of wide receivers. He likes possession
football and eating the clock, not quick
strikes that put his defense on the field
a lot. It's no surprise that Brady had
success with Moss because Moss could get
open deep, guys like Tate could not, and
a Belichick team is not going to take
chances on turnovers if it doesn't have to.
Moss was the one Belichick exception because
of his outstanding skills.
The defense is built on a similar strategy:
use up clock time by letting the opposition
move between the 30's, but tighten up in
the red zone.

How does Gronkowski end up 5th? He's tied
for first in TD's, first in yards, 3rd in
yards/catch and first in balls thrown his
way. This looks like QB rating, where a
low pass completion percentage drags the
"efficiency" down, as the only low number
for Gronkowski was catch %. Would Coulston have
caught all 10 balls if he had had 10 thrown
to him? Gronkowski was clearly #1 or tied
for #1 last week.

74
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:42pm

I suspect the definition was massaged until it "looked right" -- both in terms of total number of deep threats in the league, and which players qualified.

The definition was picked because the topic of the essay was not decided until after the late games were over Sunday night. I needed to pick something I could research in an hour to have the piece written for Monday morning. I was interested in finding a definition that applied to about half the teams in the playoffs. I was not interested in which teams/players qualified. I picked two nice round numbers for benchmarks -- 15 and 50 -- prepared to move them in one direction or another to get the sample size where I wanted, but as it turned out, 15 and 50 worked great.

It's not meant to be a revolutionary idea or rock-solid proof of anything. The word "quick" is in the title, folks.

The three players with the most deep threat seasons are Henry Ellard, James Lofton, and Don Maynard with ten each. Stanley Morgan, Paul Warfield, and Jerry Rice (who is going to show up near the top of almost any receiving list) are next with nine apiece. A bunch of players have eight seasons, including Elroy Hirsch, Randy Moss, Lance Alworth, and Wesley Walker (who is about the polar opposite, ironically, of Wes Welker). If you're looking to put together a list of best deep threats ever, you could do a lot worse.

79
by Anon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 2:53pm

Shouldn't YAC be taken into consideration for your definition? I wouldn't say that a WR in the shape of Wes Welker, who took a pass at the 15-yard-line and sprinted all the way up for a TD against Miami, should be considered a deep-threat. I would if the receiver was shaped more like a Torey Smith, catching the ball way downfield.

83
by Duke :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:09pm

Inquiring minds want to know: What was Marion Barber's DYAR? How much did those two plays hurt him (actually, I'm guessing DYAR doesn't penalize you for going out of bounds when you shouldn't). He had a decent day as I remember, except for those two plays...

85
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:19pm

4 DYAR rushing (-15 for the fumble), 6 DYAR receiving. Seven carries for 1 yard or less.

86
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/13/2011 - 3:24pm

That sounds about right. 20-25 DYAR in regular time. Solid, but not great day.

92
by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 9:18am

Also - I don't see why deep threats have to have a high average yards. The fact that you can be both a great WR at short and long passes shouldn't count against you - this is a definition that should be more of a counting stat - how many times you caught a long pass - not were you a relatively one-dimensional player. With absolutely no evidence other than memory, I can't see how t e.g. Jerry Rice was only a deep threat for 9 seasons ... its just that he just caught a load of short passes as well in the other ones.

100
by MJK :: Wed, 12/14/2011 - 3:23pm

It's not like the Pats haven't TRIED to get a deep threat receiver. Off the top of my head, they've spent four reasonably high draft picks in the Belichick era on speedy, "deep threat" type WR's. Their talent evaluation just kind of sucked:

Bethel Johnson (2nd round pick in 2003)
Chad Jackson (2nd round pick in 2006, traded up to take him)
Brandon Tate (3rd round pick in 2009)
Taylor Price (3rd round pick in 2010)

Tate and Johnson had some value as returners, Jackson and Price were total busts. (Jackson is even more maddening, given that they traded up to take him, and there were some really awesome WR's taken after him, including, if I recall correctly, Greg Jennings).

They've also gone the free agency route, trying (and failing) to acquire Derrick Mason, and successfully acquiring Donte Stallworth and Randy Moss. Obviously, a little better luck here, but other than Moss, they've never been able to groom a good deep threat receiver. Even their successful WR picks and free agents--Welker, Gaffney, Branch, Givens, etc., have all been more technicians and possession receivers.

I wonder how much of it is talent evaluation, how much of it is the complexity of their offense limiting the pool of WR's that can actually succeed in New England, and how much of it is that Brady really does kind of throw a poor deep ball and needs an elite talent (like Moss) to compensate for him.

107
by Julio (not verified) :: Fri, 12/16/2011 - 9:11am

Yeah, they try, but not too hard.