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» Seventh Day Adventure: Week 13

The biggest game this week is the Iron Bowl, where the playoff hopes of Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia hang in the balance.

15 Dec 2014

Week 15 Quick Reads

by Vincent Verhei

Kansas City's victory over Oakland this weekend bucked several trends for the Chiefs and Alex Smith. Not so much because Kansas City won or Oakland lost; those have both happened plenty of times this season. The conquest was unique for Kansas City because they accomplished it with an unusual passing strategy. Smith threw seven deep balls that traveled more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage against Oakland on Sunday, double his seasonal average of 3.5 per game and the most he has thrown in any contest since a Week 2 loss against Denver. Meanwhile, he threw only four passes to receivers behind the line of scrimmage; he is averaging 5.9 such passes per game this year.

Even after his "outburst" against Oakland, Smith is still throwing the shortest passes of any quarterback in the league this season. He has now thrown 83 passes to receivers behind the line of scrimmage this season (sixth-most in the league), but only 49 deep balls (31st). Further, Smith's average deep ball this season has only gone 22.2 yards downfield, shortest of any passer with at least 10 deep pass attempts. So even on the rare occasions when Smith has thrown deep, he has still thrown relatively short.

Add it all up, and Smith's average pass attempt this season has traveled only 5.9 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, far and away the shortest of any qualified passer this year. That's barely half of Drew Stanton's league-leading average pass depth (11.4 yards), about one-third shorter than the average pass depth this year (8.5 yards), and more than a yard shorter than the next shortest-throwing quarterback (Kyle Orton, 7.1 yards).

In fact, Smith's dink-and-dunkiness this season is nearly unprecedented in the past decade. We have pass depth data going back to 2005, and among those 450 quarterback-seasons with at least 200 pass plays, only once has a quarterback attempted shorter passes, on average, than Smith has this season:

Shortest Average Pass, 2005-2014
Year
Player
Team
Plays*
Avg.
Gain*
DYAR*
DVOA*
Avg. Pass
Depth
YAC/
Catch
2005 Kelly Holcomb BUF 255 5.4 -114 -18.0% 5.7 5.5
2014 Alex Smith KC 459 6.0 541 7.4% 5.9 6.0
2007 Steve McNair BAL 218 4.8 -242 -28.1% 6.0 4.0
2006 David Carr HOU 488 5.2 92 -8.2% 6.3 4.8
2013 Chad Henne JAC 546 5.6 -94 -13.9% 6.6 6.0
2010 Sam Bradford STL 626 5.3 -186 -15.6% 6.7 5.3
2010 Jimmy Clausen CAR 339 4.0 -760 -48.0% 6.7 5.2
2010 Jon Kitna DAL 339 6.7 233 -0.5% 6.7 6.5
2013 Alex Smith KC 557 5.8 218 -5.0% 6.8 5.7
2009 Jason Campbell WAS 555 6.1 181 -6.1% 6.9 6.3
* Includes sacks.
Minimum 200 pass plays.

Some notes on this data: this is taken straight from play-by-play on the NFL GSIS website, which means it includes things like throwaways, passes tipped at the line, and plays where the quarterback was hit as he threw. The 2014 data is also incomplete, since there are still two weeks to go, and has some YAC errors that we haven't yet updated with corrected data. If you have watched Smith play this season, though, you know his presence on this list passes the smell test.

Smith actually appears on this list twice after two years in Kansas City, but he hasn't always thrown such short passes. (We'll get back to that in a bit.) It's quite notable that he's the only quarterback on this list who is actually having a good season. That's mostly because of his minuscule interception rate (1.4 percent, third-best in the league), but his receivers are also gaining 6.0 yards after the catch, much better than the league average of 5.3. That's a great credit to his receivers -- especially Travis Kelce (424 YAC on a team-leading 56 receptions) and Jamaal Charles (257 YAC on 33 catches) -- and also to Smith. The Chiefs quarterback isn't just throwing dumpoffs to outlet receivers who are getting tackled on contact, he's making smart decisions with the football and delivering accurate throws, getting the ball to guys in space and giving them opportunities to make plays. And it has been effective more often than not.

In fact, aside from Smith, most of the quarterbacks in this table were essentially at the end of their careers. Only two -- Sam Bradford, who was a rookie in 2010, and Jason Campbell, who has had a very weird career -- ever hit 200 passes in a season again. McNair retired, and the rest settled into whatever backup jobs they could find.

(By the way, if we cut our minimum to 100 pass plays, this list would be peppered with Steve Spagnuolo-era Rams quarterbacks, including Bradford, Kyle Boller, A.J. Feeley, and Keith Null. Those weren't just some of the worst offensive teams in the league, they were boring as well.)

And the other end of the spectrum? Here is a list of the deepest single-season passers since 2005. It is, frankly, fascinating:

Deepest Average Pass, 2005-2014
Year
Player
Team
Plays*
Avg.
Gain*
DYAR*
DVOA*
Avg. Pass
Depth
YAC/
Catch
2011 Tim Tebow DEN 303 5.2 -222 -22.8% 13.1 4.8
2006 Michael Vick ATL 437 5.1 -260 -20.4% 12.8 4.1
2014 Drew Stanton ARI 255 6.9 242 4.5% 11.4 4.8
2014 Mike Glennon TB 221 6.0 91 -4.2% 11.1 3.7
2005 Mike McMahon PHI 233 4.9 -324 -33.6% 10.9 4.5
2006 Jason Campbell WAS 214 5.8 135 -1.1% 10.8 4.9
2005 Michael Vick ATL 424 5.4 36 -9.8% 10.8 4.1
2006 Tony Romo DAL 362 7.7 696 18.9% 10.8 4.4
2005 Byron Leftwich JAC 327 6.2 583 18.1% 10.8 4.3
2006 Matt Hasselbeck SEA 406 5.7 15 -10.6% 10.7 3.5
* Includes sacks.
Minimum 200 pass plays.

Tim Tebow completed less than half his passes in his miracle season of 2011, but he somewhat made up for it by hitting a number of big plays downfield. (His propensity for deep balls no doubt also contributed to his woefully low completion rate.) Michael Vick like Tebow, was a scatter-armed scrambler who amassed QB WINZ early in his career with big runs and long bombs. On a related note, the 2006 edition of Vince Young missed this list by a few thousandths of a yard; none of the three had sustained success as starters.

Two quarterbacks from this season have taken a bombs-away approach. Drew Stanton has been around since 2007 and has a sub-60 percent completion rate. His best chance to win with Arizona is to go for the home run and let the Larry Fitzgeralds and John Browns and Michael Floyds of the world make plays downfield. Similarly, Mike Glennon is on a Tampa Bay team loaded with oversized jump-ballers, and he has been targeting them whenever he has been on the field. (Josh McCown's average throw has traveled 10.2 yards downfield, which is nothing to sneeze at.)

I'm not sure what was in the NFL waters in 2005 and 2006, but it produced a lot of long-bombing quarterbacks. It's no surprise to see Tony Romo, with his well-earned reputation as a gunslinger, in this table. Matt Hasselbeck is more unexpected; perhaps he was motivated by the midseason trade for Deion Branch to go deep more often. Leftwich in 2005 was throwing to 36-year-old Jimmy Smith and a pair of first-rounders in Reggie Williams (2004) and Matt Jones (2005). Both of those players proved to be busts, but not before Leftwich lobbed a few dozen rainbows their way. Mike McMahon was pressed into action when Donovan McNabb was injured. His long-ball ways produced few completions and eight interceptions, and he was out of the league the next year.

As for Cambpell, well, I told you he had a weird career.

A few other big-picture notes:

  • There is absolutely no pattern between average pass depth and DVOA. An XY scatter plot between the two variables just produces a giant blob.
  • We would probably guess that quarterbacks throw shorter passes as they get older, and a very, very cursory glance at the data says that is probably true, though the difference is hardly drastic. Smith is one of ten quarterbacks with at least eight 100-play seasons since 2005; the others are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Phiip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tony Romo. Only one of those ten men (Eli Manning) averaged deeper passes in 2010 and later than he did in 2009 and earlier, and that increase was from just 9.29 yards per throw to 9.34. Each of the other nine threw shorter passes after 2010 than they had before that; the biggest dropoff went to Smith, who averaged 8.9 yards per throw prior to 2010, but 7.1 yards per throw since then. As a group, these ten quarterbacks averaged 9.1 yards per throw from 2005-09, and 8.4 yards per throw from 2010-14.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Tony Romo DAL
22/31
265
3
0
161
162
0
This first-place ranking was mostly built on passes to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. Take out throws to those two, and Romo went 14-of-20 for 132 yards and nine first downs, with three sacks. (It goes without saying that all quarterbacks would look worse if we removed throws to their best receivers.) He was also sacked three times, fumbling once.
2.
Drew Brees NO
29/36
375
3
0
149
149
-1
3.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
27/34
360
0
0
144
144
0
Roethlisberger didn't throw for any touchdowns against Atlanta, but he cleaned up in short-yardage situations. With 4 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 5-of-5 with five first downs, gaining 92 yards in the process.
4.
Tom Brady NE
21/35
287
2
1
119
108
10
Brady didn't have much luck throwing up the middle against Miami, going 5-of-9 for 56 yards and only two first downs.
5.
Joe Flacco BAL
20/30
221
1
0
117
122
-6
Throwing to his left against Jacksonville, Flacco went 4-of-6 for only 25 yards and one first down.
6.
Matt Ryan ATL
26/37
312
2
1
96
87
9
Ryan had a stretch over the second and third quarters where he completed a dozen passes in a row, gaining 169 yards and eight first downs (including a touchdown) in the process.
7.
Eli Manning NYG
23/34
250
3
0
84
84
0
It was the Odell Beckham, Jr., show for the Giants. Not counting throws to ODB, Eli went 11-of-19 for 107 yards and only four first downs. Manning's first three passes all went to Beckham, resulting in one completion for only 6 yards. Manning's next six passes went to non-Beckham receivers to force the Washington defense to cover other receivers. This made Beckham a much more dangerous threat later in the game, as we shall see shortly. If you're surprised to see Manning so low, he had the biggest penalty due to opponent adjustments of any quarterback this week.
8.
Peyton Manning DEN
14/20
233
1
0
84
84
0
Manning ripped up the Chargers with deep balls, going 5-of-7 for 156 yards and a touchdown. His first pass was a deep throw up the middle, completed for a 36-yard gain. He didn't throw another pass to the middle of the field.
9.
Alex Smith KC
18/30
297
2
0
82
80
2
Smith struggled to finish drives against the Raiders. Inside the Oakland 40, Smith went 4-of-10 for 42 yards and only two first downs, including one touchdown.
10.
Derek Anderson CAR
25/40
277
1
0
70
62
8
The Panthers had four drives of 10 plays or more against Tampa Bay, helped largely by Anderson's performance on his own half of the field, where he was nearly perfect, going 13-of-14 for 155 yards and 11 first downs.
11.
Charlie Whitehurst TEN
10/23
203
0
0
36
32
4
On the Jets' half of the field, Whitehurst went 1-of-8 for 11 yards, plus a sack.
12.
Drew Stanton ARI
12/20
109
0
0
10
11
-2
Stanton only threw for four first downs before getting injured. Three of those came on third downs, where he went 3-of-7 for 29 yards, plus a 36-yard DPI.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Teddy Bridgewater MIN
31/39
315
1
2
9
-6
15
On third downs, Bridgewater went 4-of-6 for 31 yards and only one first down, with an interception. He had two fourth-down throws, completing one for 5 yards and a first down.
14.
Matthew Stafford DET
17/28
153
1
0
3
8
-5
First five drives: 6-of-12 for 37 yards, no first downs. Rest of the game: 11-of-16 for 116 yards and eight first downs, including a touchdown.
15.
Philip Rivers SD
24/41
232
1
2
3
4
-1
Rivers only threw four deep balls against Denver, all in the second half, three of them down by two scores in the fourth quarter. One was incomplete, two were complete for 37 yards, and one resulted in a 26-yard DPI.
16.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
29/47
348
1
2
2
-7
9
In addition to his interceptions, Tannehill was sacked four times (fumbling once), and also fumbled a snap. He particularly struggled in the red zone, where he failed to throw a touchdown, going 2-of-5 for 15 yards with a sack-fumble, another sack, and the fumbled snap.
17.
Russell Wilson SEA
12/24
168
1
1
-2
-15
13
On passes to receivers within 11 yards of the line of scrimmage, Wilson went 10-of-11 for 86 yards. On passes to receivers at least 32 yards downfield, he went 2-of-2 for 82 yards. In between, he went 0-for-11 with an interception. He was also sacked five times. He had three runs for 29 yards (not counting kneeldowns), including a 9-yard gain on first-and-10 and a 19-yard gain on second-and-5.
18.
Colin Kaepernick SF
11/19
141
0
0
-14
-24
10
Kaepernick had six pass plays on Seattle's side of the field. He went 0-for-3 with three sacks. He was sacked six times in all. He also had nine runs for 46 yards and two first downs.
19.
Jake Locker TEN
6/11
57
0
0
-16
-19
3
Locker's production was sort of the opposite of hit teammate Whitehurst. Locker made a play or two in scoring range, which is good, but on Tennessee's half of the field he went 4-of-8 for 17 yards and no first downs.
20.
Geno Smith NYJ
17/28
179
1
0
-20
-22
1
Technically speaking, Smith got credit for a fourth-quarter comeback and a game-winning drive in this game. In the fourth quarter, he went 3-of-5 for 20 yards and two first downs, plus two sacks. He also gained 6 yards on a DPI.
21.
Ryan Lindley ARI
4/10
30
0
0
-22
-22
0
Lindley only threw for one first down against St. Louis, even though he had five passes with 9 yards or less to go.
22.
Shaun Hill STL
20/39
229
0
1
-24
-25
1
Hill went 13 plays between the second and third quarters without a first down, going 3-of-11 for 11 yards with two sacks.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Andrew Luck IND
18/34
187
2
1
-37
-36
-1
Luck had a rotten day on third downs, going 2-of-9 for 42 yards with one touchdown, one other first down, one sack, and one pick-six.
24.
Andy Dalton CIN
14/24
119
0
1
-55
-55
0
Dalton did not complete a pass more than 13 yards downfield against Cleveland, going 0-for-8 on deep balls.
25.
Tom Savage HOU
10/19
127
0
1
-60
-43
-16
Savage did not throw a pass in the Indianapolis red zone. On the Colts' half of the field, he went 1-of-4 for 3 yards, including incompletions on third-and-1, third-and-4, and fourth-and-4.
26.
Kyle Orton BUF
14/27
158
0
1
-66
-66
0
The amazing thing about Buffalo's upset of Green Bay is that the Bills won despite failing so many times to put the game away. Orton had eight plays across the 50 in the second half, three of them with a lead. He went 1-of-6 for 1 yard with no first downs and two sacks.
27.
Robert Griffin WAS
18/27
236
1
0
-81
-73
-8
With about six minutes left in the third quarter and the game tied at 10, Griffin hit Andre Roberts for 61 yards to set up a go-ahead field goal. After that 61-yarder, he went 6-of-9 for 27 yards and one first down, with four sacks and a fumble. On the day, he was sacked seven times, fumbling twice.
28.
Aaron Rodgers GB
17/42
185
0
2
-83
-84
1
40 percent completion rate, 34.3 NFL passer rating, 25 incompletions, all the worst marks of Rodgers' career. Our advance stats say it wasn't THAT bad, because Buffalo's defense is tremendous -- no quarterback got a bigger boost from opponent adjustments this week. Still, it was an awful game. Rodgers did not throw for a first down until there were 42 seconds left in the first quarter; up to that point, he had gone 2-of-11 for 12 yards. On third downs, he went 2-of-11 for 23 yards with two first downs and one interception. On deep passes, he went 1-of-10 for 20 yards with an interception.
29.
Mark Sanchez PHI
17/28
252
0
2
-89
-89
0
Throwing to his left, Sanchez went 3-of-8 for 20 yards and one first down.
30.
Josh McCown TB
13/28
154
1
1
-96
-111
14
The Panthers sacked McCown three times, all on third downs, and he fumbled every time. When he wasn't sacked on third down, he went 3-of-6 for 35 yards. Granted, all three of those completions went for third downs (including a touchdown), but that's still 0.8 yards per play on third downs, with three fumbles. Somebody please explain to me again why Mike Glennon is on the bench.
31.
Blake Bortles JAC
21/37
210
0
1
-112
-110
-2
Bortles had two plays in the Baltimore red zone; he was sacked twice. He had 10 plays in the front zone (the area between Baltimore's 20- and 40-yard lines); he went 4-of-9 for 13 yards with no first downs and another sack. He was sacked eight times on the day, including four sacks facing a one-score deficit in the fourth quarter.
32.
Jay Cutler CHI
17/31
194
2
3
-124
-131
7
33.
Derek Carr OAK
27/55
222
1
0
-136
-136
0
It took Carr 22 plays before he got his first double-digit gain, a 13-yard completion on second-and-10 in the second quarter. Inside the Kansas CIty 40-yard line, he went 3-of-8 for 9 yards and a touchdown, with a 9-yard DPI and a sack.
34.
Johnny Manziel CLE
10/18
80
0
2
-164
-148
-16
Manziel only had four successful completions against Cincinnati. That's as many as Jake Locker, Colt McCoy, Drew Stanton, or Ryan Fitzpatrick had this week, and they all left their games with injuries. Manziel did not pick up a first down until the Browns were down by 20; he did not convert a third down until they were down by 23. And those were his only two first downs of the day. On second downs, he went 1-of-4 for 4 yards with an interception and two sacks.


Five most valuable running backs (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Eddie Lacy GB
15
97
1
2/2
11
0
48
41
8
Lacy was a non-factor for most of Sunday, but for 16 minutes he was an unholy monster. One minute into the second quarter, he had four 10-plus-yard runs and a 1-yard touchdown. From that point forward, he had seven runs for 25 yards and no first downs.
2.
Matt Asiata MIN
11
36
1
7/7
50
0
47
36
11
Slow, steady production. Asiata's longest carry gained only 9 yards, and he averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. However, all of his carries gained positive yardage, and he had five first downs in short-yardage situations.
3.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
21
91
1
1/2
7
0
42
44
-2
Lynch had seven carries with 5 yards or less to go and picked up a first down six times, including a touchdown. The seventh carry: a 2-yard gain on third-and-3. He also had three 10-plus-yard runs, while being stuffed for no gain or a loss just twice.
4.
Pierre Thomas NO
2
11
0
5/5
83
0
37
6
31
5.
Jonas Gray NE
11
62
0
1/1
7
0
29
25
4
Six of Gray's carries gained 5 yards or more, including 13- and 14-yard runs, and he converted a third-and-2, while being stuffed for a loss just once.


Five most valuable running backs (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Jeremy Hill CIN
25
151
2
1/1
6
0
23
45
-23
Twenty-four of Hill's 25 carries gained at least 2 yards, which is outstanding. In addition to his two touchdowns, he had seven other first downs, including gains of 16, 20, and 21 yards. He finishes as the week's leading rusher despite a fourth-quarter fumble. He also fumbled on his only reception, so that's apparently a problem for him.
2.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
21
91
1
1/2
7
0
42
44
-2
3.
Eddie Lacy GB
15
97
1
2/2
11
0
48
41
8
4.
Matt Asiata MIN
11
36
1
7/7
50
0
47
36
11
5.
Carlos Hyde SF
6
55
0
0/0
0
0
29
29
0
Making the most of limited action: Five of Hyde's six carries gained 5 yards or more, including gains of 28 and 10 yards.


Least valuable running back (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
22
76
0
1/1
6
0
-35
-36
1
Stewart had three 10-plus-yard runs, but only one other first down on the day. Meanwhile, he was hit for no gain or a loss seven times and fumbled twice.


Least valuable running back (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Jonathan Stewart CAR
22
76
0
1/1
6
0
-35
-36
1


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Dez Bryant DAL
6
7
114
19.0
3
83
All of Bryant's receptions produced first downs, and four of them gained 20 or more yards. His only failed play was an incomplete pass on second-and-24.
2.
Odell Beckham NYG
12
15
143
11.9
3
66
As mentioned earlier, most of Beckham's action came late in the game. He had four targets in the first quarter, one in the second, five in the third, and seven in the fourth. (Yes, that is 17 targets; it includes a pair of DPIs for 40 total yards that are not listed in his receiving stats in the table, but are accounted for in his DYAR.) At one point over the third and fourth quarters he picked up a first down on five targets in a row, gaining 96 yards and a touchdown in the process.
3.
Mike Wallace MIA
5
7
104
20.8
1
48
Four of Wallace's completions produced first downs; the fifth was a 7-yard gain on second-and-10. His incompletions came on third-and-10 and third-and-18.
4.
Devin Hester ATL
5
6
85
17.0
1
41
First three targets: 5-yard gain on third-and-2, 17-yard touchdown on third-and-6, 46-yard gain on first-and-10. He did not pick up another first down, though his last two catches were successful plays.
5.
Antonio Brown PIT
10
10
123
12.3
0
36
Brown is dinged a bit for his failed completions, including a 10-yard gain on third-and-17 and an 11-yard gain on third-and-13.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Marqise Lee JAC
4
9
14
3.5
0
-51
Lee's four completions: 1-yard loss on second-and-8; 2-yard gain on second-and-5; 13-yard gain on third-and-1; zero-yard gain on first-and-10. And then he failed to catch five passes on top of that.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 15 Dec 2014

176 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2014, 1:39am by tuluse

Comments

1
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:49am

Buffalo's defense is tremendous, yes, but as DVOA-leading pass defenses go it's currently the weakest relative to the league average since at least 1989, although it'll tick up noticeably after this week.

By the way, the page for the 1989 defensive efficiency ratings doesn't have a drop-down menu.

18
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:52am

Aha! I just fixed that. Thanks.

2
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:58am

I just realized that there wasn't any news about Smith finally throwing a TD pass to a wide receiver, which means that at least that trend didn't get bucked. Only two more games to go!

3
by TimK :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:31am

70 yard pass to RB, 20 yard pass to TE, so respectable distances out for touchdown passes, but still none to a WR...

4
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:50am

Eye roll about the Romo section. One suspects that if the top spot were Manning or Brady, there'd have been no attempt to try to diminish the result, and instead it would have been phrased as "Star QB naturally got his best results from his best options!" and then some Gronk/Welker build-up would have followed.

6
by Lyford :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:11am

That might be a more compelling complaint if the Brady section did not read, in its entirety, "Brady didn't have much luck throwing up the middle against Miami, going 5-of-9 for 56 yards and only two first downs."

7
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:28am

You missed the point. Brady didn't have the day's best QB performance. My point wasn't that Brady/Manning are always spoken of highly. It was that the narrative seems to be that when they do have great performances, it's because they're great. Romo does it and it's because he had a good WR and TE.

9
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:58am

Well he does have a top 3 WR and probably a HOF TE - what is your point?

10
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:04am

Well, I don't have much issue with this quick reads blurb, given it also says the same phenomena would be seen with other great qbs, but per my post below, Romo really has been the recipient of an extraordinary volume of dumb criticism.

14
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:13am

I don't disagree, Will Allen-- though I admit that I'm a little too young for Fran.

Perhaps I was just grumpy this morning about Aaron's comment, but I feel like given the narratives, Brady or Manning would be lionized with their performance without mentioning guys like Gronk-- who is routinely considered to be among the best players in the NFL now, regardless of position. Or Welker, who has long been considered amazing. It was just odd phrasing-- without his two best receiving options, Romo was just normal. He mitigates this by saying that most QBs would be, but since that's true, why say it for Romo?

Whichever.

16
by ZDNeal :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:41am

Is 14-20 with 9 first downs bad? Could they give us the DVOA (not dyar) on that? It seems like getting 9 first downs on 20 passes is actually pretty good. I'm sort of confused by the blurb.

Look at Stafford's blurb:

14. Matthew Stafford DET 17/28 153 1 0 3 8 -5

First five drives: 6-of-12 for 37 yards, no first downs. Rest of the game: 11-of-16 for 116 yards and eight first downs, including a touchdown.

He essentially is the good part of Stafford's game throwing to people other than his first two options.

19
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:53am

Wait, what comment did I make about Tony Romo?

26
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:31am
25
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:29am

Sorry Aaron! I meant Vince!!

27
by RickD :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:31am

Apparently it was wrong to note that most of his success was to Bryant and Witten. Because you wouldn't do that to Brady or Manning or Rodgers. Even though three lines lower you do that to Brady.

38
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:51am

Again, missing the point. But no worries. I just went through the last 6 or 7 quick reads and see how I am just applying selection bias and am a bit out of line in my critique. So I take the whole thing back.

20
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:57am

You are correct, that's it a little silly to make an assertion, along the lines of "Player A wasn't all that good, once you take away his really good plays".

13
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:06am

If you couldn't get it from the original post, then it's not worth it.

88
by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:58pm

NM, just read nat's more insightful response.

31
by nat :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:39am

1) It's not a Brady-Manning thing. It's that Quick Reads are quick tidbits, usually picked for novelty rather than insight. Me, I'd prefer insight. But novelty is quicker to write. And insight is boring when it just confirms the obvious.
2) Vince is far better than some people who have had the Quick Read gig. He's only occasionally silly.
3) It's a fun game to see which blurbs you can give the opposite spin.

Romo: great use of mismatches. Excellent decision-making.
Roethlisberger: despite moving the chains in general, had red zone issues all day.
Brady: excellent results throwing to the outside. Nice variety in his targets.
Flacco: good results to the right and center.
Ryan: streaky and inconsistent.
E.Manning: VOA shows a great day. Smart play to avoid mistakes rather than try to compile more stats.
P.Manning: totally reliant on D.Thomas, throwing more than half his passes that way.
Smith: Excellent play on his own side of the field helped his team dominate field position all day.

etc.

35
by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:44am

Really kudos to Vince. He has write 32+ blurbs on QB performance each week with a max of a couple of sentences and make those blurbs play specific.

40
by nat :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:54am

I agree.

My counter-spinning notwithstanding, Vince does a good job.

39
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:54am

Fair enough. I will chalk this up to being grumpy in the morning after a long plane ride and drive home. I've been visiting FO almost daily for the last 10 years. Aside from my Gmail account, the NY Times and perhaps ESPN, there isn't another website I have been as loyal to. And there's a reason for that: these guys are great and entertaining and smart. My apologies for grumpiness, Vince. (And Aaron.)

42
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:58am

This is a man who understands how not to tempt the FOMBC.

48
by nat :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:06pm

Well said, and gentlemanly.

FWIW, you were right to roll your eyes about the Romo blurb, just wrong to think it was a bias issue and not just one of getting a bit too cute in the search for a novel analysis.

Heck, it was obvious that Vince himself thought he was being too cute.

So no worries.

5
by Jerry :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:55am

As far as the last paragraph before the tables goes, I'm wondering whether there are two things at work. Has the average distance leaguewide remained the same, or is it getting shorter as a replacement for the run? Or is it all due to QBs aging? This may be more research than you want to do for one paragraph of Quick Reads, but it seems interesting.

8
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:58am

As bad as Cutler was last night, he actually is still on pace to have one of his higher DYAR rankings in his career. It's funny how expectations and trend lines affect perceptions.

(edit) In contrast, Romo may have yet another top 10 DYAR ranking, about the, what, 8th of his career? With around 4 top 5? With the majority of those with lousy offensive lines, and many with lousy defenses? That guy may have received more stupid criticism than any qb since Tarkenton, prior to Tarkenton getting traded back to the Vikings.

12
by BJR :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:50am

It's gonna be great in the Cowboys first playoff game when Romo throws a game clinching 4th quarter interception after his defence has been shredded all day.

Edit: I think (at least from my vantage point) that the general perception of Romo is now simply that he is a good QB, and it really is only a few real blowhards who cling to the mindless narratives.

21
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:00am

Hey, there were still dummies who tried to use, predictably, the last Super Bowl as a serious criticism of Peyton Manning's career.

22
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:17am

I think Tanier nailed the exact moment when the casual Romo haters finally realized that the Romo as a choker meme made no sense: Week 17 of 2013 (http://goo.gl/dMpU78). It took Romo leading a major comeback with a ruptured disc in week 16 and Orton throwing the game-clinching interception the next week, but most people finally woke up. Now it's just Deion Sanders, a handful of the most irrational Eagles fans, and the idiots at NBC who cling to said mindless narratives.

That being said, Romo probably got more undeserved criticism during his first 8 years as a starter than any QB in NFL history.

28
by RickD :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:34am

Romo got the choker label for a small number of games early in his career. It's unfortunate, but early perceptions have excessive staying power. It took years for Peyton Manning to shed the label, which was also based on a very small number of games. Manning really only did that by beating the Pats and winning a Super Bowl.

It's unfair, but Romo is going to need that kind of run to quiet his critics. If the Cowboys make the NFC championship game, but then lose to Seattle, it'll again all be Romo's fault.

34
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:43am

Agreed. However, the Romo hate was more a combination of the criticism hurled at Peyton Manning (good QB who chokes in big games) and Donovan McNabb (hometown fans irrationally wanting to replace a good QB with anybody else for reasons they cannot articulate). Honestly, the worst part of the Romo hate was that Cowboys fans were just as likely to engage in it as everybody else (trust me, I live in Texas, and the fan base was split 50-50 over Romo until this year).

30
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:37am

I think his reputation has also been hurt by the team he plays for - the hype machine gears up so quickly for the Cowboys that it becomes oppressive fast and a natural reaction is to pump the breaks. Earlier this season, Romo/Murray/Bryant was getting constant, straight-faced comparison to The Triplets. So, Romo through no fault of his own gets caught up in that hype war where the positive comparisons are insane and the push-back is probably even more irrational and hate-filled. Regardless of their recent status, the Cowboys have to be one of the more universally disliked franchises in all of pro sports and so Romo's reputation (which it seems pretty obvious should be: he's somewhere between very good and great) gets battered just by him being in that uniform.

His reputation is just all caught up in that larger tug-of-war where the moment the Cowboys show signs of life "They're back! They're like the 90's Cowboys and this o-line might be EVEN BETTER!" - for comparison, the defending champion Seahawks can play a couple of mediocre games midseason and be written off. It's not Romo's fault, but the hype machine certainly has focused on him to a degree that's out of kilter for a QB who hasn't played on a consistently playoff-bound team. The push-back against Romo is all about the media's Cowboys fixation...

36
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:47am

The dumbest stuff occurred in the latter Wade Phillips years, when you had halfwits on radio and t.v. talking about how Romo was falling short, what with all the "talent" surrounding him. I always wondered how many hallucinogenic frogs these folks were licking, prior to watching the Cowboys play, as Romo got chased all over the field, trying to keep his team in the game while the Cowboys secondary was getting shredded.

41
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:55am

That's definitely true - but I also remember some of those Philips team being hyped up as serious Superbowl contenders. He was "falling short" in the context of the ridiculous media attention that the Cowboys attract. It's a funny thing, he was a big part of why the Cowboys got excessively promoted as a contender, but he wasn't quite on the Rodgers/Brees/Manning level where he could carry a team with a bad defense and/or weak running game all the way to the playoffs on his shoulders so he was relentlessly slammed for being just below Hall of Fame level great. If he played for the Titans or something, he'd be universally regarded as a top QB, there's no doubt...

45
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:58am
49
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:10pm

Do people really think that play is an example of why Romo's bad? If not for a miracle tackle from the defender, Romo would have made one of the craziest saves in the history of the game. I always see that play and think "Holy cow, Romo was a fingernail away from making one of the most spectacular plays I've ever seen." As for the botched hold, I'm not sure it's his fault, but it's debatable. It seems more unfortunate that he's the holder (and gets blamed) than the bad play being his fault in any meaningful way.

50
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:14pm

Well, here is an NFL films short on Romo produced about two weeks ago.
"The Five Faces of Romo: The Goat"
http://goo.gl/ATvM3t

55
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:19pm

No, no! I was using that as an example of how Romo amazingly turned crap into something. I am 100% a Romo apologist. Him turning what most of the time would have been a huge sack for a loss into a first down was amazing.

And even on the botched hold-- watch it again. He is about a foot short of turning that into a conversion. I am fairly sure that 90% of QBs (let alone holders) in the league would have been squashed 5 yards behind the LOS.

57
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:23pm

I agree with you. It's just that most people think of it as proof that he is a choker.

58
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:25pm

Ha - we agree. I guess it would have been more accurate for me to say "I know some people hold that play up as the quintessential Romo choke. I believe those people to be idiots."

79
by tictoc :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:40pm

While I have always enjoyed the Romo botched hold (was at the game). Every time I re-watch it I'm amazed at Big Play Babs and what he did to get Romo down just shy of the First down and/or touchdown. How simply that play could of been an heroic save for Romo and the Cowboys.

60
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:58pm

Every time you make this argument (and this must be attempt no 72654) you over exaggerate how bad his pass protection was and never give any mention to him having played with close to as good a group of receiving targets as any qb has ever had over the length of his career. Witten, Owens, Bryant, healthy Austin, Bennett, a solid bunch of third receivers and usually good running backs.

As much as some of the press continues to repeat the 'Romo chokes' trope, you repeat the 'Romo has the worst blocking ever' trope and these days you use his coach, his defense and his owner as well.

I think most sane observers have him about right nowadays: he's a good qb who can be a bit streaky, there's no need for the battered Romo Christmas charity appeal.

61
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:07pm

You are inaccurate when you claim (for the 72563rd time, if we are counting) I've exaggerated how poor his pass protection was in most seasons. Absent Parcells, the coaching has been awful. This is indisputably true, and it is indisputably true that the poor coaching is in good measure due to the Cowboys having among the worst owners in the league. This is plainly a fact. Now, if you want to imply that bad coaching and ownership are mostly irrelevant factors, in regards to qb productivity, go right ahead. It would be plainly inaccurate as well.

62
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:28pm

Don't forget that the Cowboys had the worst defenses in franchise history (up to that point) in 2010, 2012, and 2013. Cowboys fans are happy to have the 28th ranked defense (in DVOA) this year because it's the first defense in recent memory that can make occasional stops and get turnovers. Remember, multiple opponents never even had to punt against Dallas last year.

65
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:38pm

I should note that I think their coaching staff improved a lot this year, because Linehan is a good match for their personnel and Marinelli is just flat out one of the best defensive coaches in the league. I'll also concede that the stupid criticism of Romo has receded. After all, he has been a starter now for 9 years, has only finished lower than 8th by DYAR twice, and has never finished lower than 11 by DVOA. Even the dimmest observers of the game eventually catch something that resembles a clue.

Are there any metrics which support the proposition that Romo's variance is greater than is normally seen in qbs that finish between 4 and 8 by DYAR? I'm not trying to play "gotcha" with Karl; I'm truly curious.

66
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:45pm

My own subjective assessment is that Romo has been very consistent. I don't get Karl's "streaky" comment either.

72
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:02pm

I have a suspicion that it is a notion that mostly holds true only if Romo is being compared to the best qbs ever, like a Manning or Brady, which means it is somewhat limited in it's usefulness.

76
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:22pm

The reason I said streaky is that sometimes he'll be playing very well, his offense will be in complete control and then he makes an inexplicably bad throw or two. Over the course of a full season that stuff averages out so his yearly DYAR etc is consistent, it's that while he is generally good, he can screw up any particular game. He's been better this year but right now even Will would struggle to put the case that he isn't surrounded by a tremendous offense.

78
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:37pm

Streaky is fair insofar as there has to be some word to describe his occasional meltdowns. Those times when he'll suddenly take a few sacks, throw an interception and then do something else boneheaded in a short span definitely get weighted too much in assessing Romo's overall career, but you can't go the other way and deny those meltdown stretches happen from time to time. And those streaks are disastrous to an extent that goes beyond "well, but only in comparison to Rodgers and Brady!" Romo has taken plenty of unfair hits from fans and the media, but don't swing the pendulum too far the other way.

85
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:54pm

Does he have meltdown stretches any more frequently than other qbs who aren't first ballot HOFers? Again, I'm not trying to argue here; I legitimately don't know. However, if the point is merely another way of saying that Romo isn't a first ballot HOFer, I don't know how notable that is.

89
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:59pm

I guess we're agreeing. I don't have any numbers either. He's certainly no worse in that regard than Eli Manning, who (barring a ring for Romo) will probably make it to the HOF before him.

152
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:56pm

Neither should ever get in.

153
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:17pm

I'd support neither for induction, but if Eli gets in, because David Tyree pinned a ball to his helmet, and Eli had three terrific games in another year, while the Giants had great d-line performances in both runs, while the clearly superior Romo never gets a sniff, the HOF will have become an even more ridiculous institution.

80
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:40pm

Do we have any metrics which support the proposition that he is worse in this regard than any other qb who is not a first ballot Hall of Famer?

Why on earth would I attempt to deny the quality of the current offensive line and other offensive teammates? The moment they drafted Tyron Smith I said it was going to be more fun to see Romo play with better protection.

82
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:45pm

And yet his numbers this year aren't out of line with his career stats.

84
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:53pm

Actually, his per-play numbers are easily the best of his career. His YPA had been steadily declining from 2010 to 2013, but they are up significantly this year.

86
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:57pm

DVOA disagrees. He's 6th in DVOA (a per-play metric) which is in line with his past three rankings: #7, #7 and #4. He has always been good, he's good again this year, the greatness of this o-line versus past Romo o-line's is being wildly overstated.

93
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:07pm

The O line is still below average (19th) in pass blocking. The improvement is that they are now the best run blocking line in the league, which means that Romo actually has a run game to balance the offense.

114
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:53pm

I'll agree with Roger here. The line's ability to run block has improved and taken a lot of pressure off Romo. It is so great to see Dallas line up and not think "here's another pass" every time. It's also great to see Dallas in 2nd-and-5 and 3rd-and-2 situations way more than we used to see.

142
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:53pm

You might want to double check that. His DVOA rankings the last 3 years are 10th, 10th, and 4th.

87
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:57pm

Also, he is doing this despite it being obvious that he is past his physical prime. Again, the parallels with Tarkenton are interesting, which is not to say that Romo's career approaches Tarkenton's, or is likely to.

91
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:01pm

Maybe past his physical prime for scrambling (maybe.) But there's no drop in arm-strength or accuracy on his deep ball right now. He certainly has displayed very reasonable escapability all season, if not out and out scrambling skill. I think the argument is getting over-stated.

97
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:09pm

He has been unable to throw deep since the back fractures in the Redskins game. That's a major reason why Terrance Williams (the team's deep threat) practically disappeared from the offense and was replaced with Beasley.

112
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:49pm

If "right now" means "week 16", then you may be right. Maybe. There is no doubt that early this year he was still recovering from years of abuse, and durability does fade with age.

119
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:03pm

Oh for sure he had a few games where he was ailing. But for the majority of this season he's been his usual self. I would never bet on him lasting even another single big hit, his durability is definitely his big concern right now.

74
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:10pm

Will, that's just a list of you saying 'no it isn't, not really a proper attempt to argue the point. You haven't addressed the wealth of talent at RB, TE or receiver. Romo isn't the only quarterback who has had some poor pass blocking, it's the normal state of affairs for at least half the teams in the league every year. You usually point to (multiple probowler) Flozell Adams but I'll see your Adams and raise you the like of Kwame Harris and Jamarcus Webb.

And whatever the faults Garrett has add a head coach, I think he's been a decent offensive coordinator and Son of Bum is one of the great defensive coordinators of the past thirty years.

Yes, Jerry Jones is a tool. Nobody disagrees with that. He might even be the worst offender out of the rather tawdry ranks of the meddlesome billionaires that own NFL franchises. It's still a bit of a stretch to say he directly drags down Romo's performance. His biggest fault as a GM is that he has spent too large a proportion of the Cowboys' resources on toys for Romo leaving holes at linebacker, safety and yes, at guard. However, on the whole I'd say the supporting offensive cast has been good.

77
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:33pm

Karl, all you did was make an assertion, absent any proof whatsoever, that I've exaggerated how poor Romo's protection has been for most of his career. You have now have pointed to Flozell Adams' multiple pro bowls, which ignores that Adams was 31, and as is typical, making Pro Bowls on reputation, and a monumental penalty machine, by the time Romo was starting, and Adams was never a truly superior pass protector. Don't take my word for it. Aikman knows something about pass protection, and in those years he frequently noted that the Cowboys were just awful at protecting the passer. If you think it is normal for a guy to nearly always finish in the top 10 by DYAR and DVOA, for many years, with terrible pass protection, terrible defense, and terrible coaching (Wade as defensive coordinator is a completely different proposition than Wade as head coach) and terrible ownership, we will have to differ.

81
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:44pm

Do you think it's unusual for a QB consistently supported by a great running game, great wr's and a HOF tight end to put up good numbers? Romo is good, but he wasn't without support. It was never a case of like Donovan McNabb throwing to Pinkston, Thrash and LJ Smith. All good QB's have had some element of adversity to overcome, very few find themselves in absolutely perfect situations. Rodgers, Brees and Manning have all been frequently hamstrung by terrible defenses, poor running games and sometimes even questionable coaching. Romo is not some crazy outlier in terms of being a great player on an inconceivably bad team with no support. This isn't James Wilder or Archie Manning we're discussing.

90
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:00pm

Romo has only had a great running game once (this year). The only other times he has had good running games were in 2007 (ranked 10th in DVOA) and last year when the run game was effective, but the cowboys had the fewest running plays of any team in the league (and the fewest in team history).

Every other year, the Cowboys have had bad running games (usually bottom 10).

92
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:05pm

Look, I just glanced at one random year and their 2008 running game DVOA was 7th. I'm not going to go year by year, but that's at least three years he's (2007, 2008 and this year) he's been supported by a great running game. That's more than some QB's ever get. And two of those years (2007 & 2008) are back when he supposedly had no help.

96
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:08pm

Jesus man, I just looked it up and in 2009, they were 3rd in DVOA. Last year they were 5th. He's had GREAT running game support.

100
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:14pm

2010--15th in rushing
2011--27th in rushing
2012--24th in rushing
2013--5th in rushing DVOA (but they ran the ball less than any other team, so it didn't help. They actually set a franchise record for fewest rushing yards in a season)

104
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:16pm

So, 2 down years? I'm not sure if you think those numbers support your point (they don't) or if you're admitting you're wrong.

107
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:29pm

My point is only that Romo has not been "consistently supported by a great running game" as you claimed. The Cowboys had four consecutive years without a run game (either because the coaches were too stupid to run the ball [and success rates go up when you run the ball so infrequently the opposition doesn't bother to defend it] or because the run game was ineffective).

103
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:15pm

They were 27th in 2011 24th in 2012. 15th in 2010. That's "consistently great"?

99
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:11pm

The Cowboys have not had a consistently great running game in the nine years that Romo has started. They've finished in the bottom 10 by rushing DVOA nearly as many times as they finished in the top 5. If the argument is that Romo isn't a first ballot HOFer, or even a HOFer, I really don't disagree.

105
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:19pm

Top 10 in 5 out of 8 years? 2 bad years? That's great running game support. And Bottom "10" versus Top "5" - give me a fucking break, man.

109
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:36pm

Yes, give me a break The term "consistently great" has a definition. If you think you can miss being in the top 20% 5 out of 9 years, and still be accurately considered "consistently great", I disagree. Being 10th in a league of 32 is not "great", unless you think there are 10 "great" teams every year. I don't.

115
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:56pm

Ok - if you're going to parse definitions and twist endpoints to prove your (incorrect) analysis, then here's some inarguable ones:

In the past 8 seasons, Romo has most frequently had a productive, inarguably above average running game to support him.

With the second most frequency after that, he has had a Top 5 (by DVOA) running game.

He has least frequently had a Bottom 5 (by DVOA) running game.

He has most frequently had support from his running game. The argument that he has not had frequent support from his running game is false. If you turn around and say "I never said he didn't have any support from his running game!" save your breath. I'm not interested in moving the goal-posts around on "great" and "consistently." Romo had running game support, period and his success is not in spite of the running game as you seemed to be arguing earlier. If that's not what you're arguing, I genuinely don't care anymore.

120
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:03pm

Of course, I never put forth the false argument he has not had frequent support from his running game. I observed it was inaccurate to assert that the Cowboys running game has been "consistently great" since Romo became starter. This observation has the virtue of being true.

If you had simply written that Romo's run support has more often than not been above average, with a couple of great years, I would not have disagreed at all. That isn't what you wrote.

122
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:11pm

I'm the one who stated that Romo's run support has been poor, and I stand corrected. He had good run support from 2006-2009, was injured for most of 2010 (when he had average run support), had terrible run support in 2011 and 2012, and had a coaching staff that used the run game at a historically low rate in 2013 (franchise record for fewest rushing yards despite its success on a per-play basis).

125
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:18pm

I was surprised that the Cowboys had two years when they were in the bottom 10, and, prior to this year, only three when they were in the top 6.

126
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:18pm

I was surprised that the Cowboys had two years when they were in the bottom 10, and, prior to this year, only three when they were in the top 6.

128
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:31pm

Well, since I successfully convinced the person I was arguing with of my point (once again, still not sure what your point is other than to be as unclear as possible so as not to have to concede any points), I'll take issue with your semantics.

Give me a definition of consistently great and we can see if the Cowboys match your definition. This is not rhetorical, I'm curious your definition, we see if the 2006-2014 Cowboys match it and if there are any teams over a similar span that do match it. Possibly no team has ever had a consistently great run game to your liking because you're set the bar awful high if these Cowboys don't qualify.

As pointed out right below you - in 6 of the 8 years Romo was a starter they (in 2006, which I've left out until now, they were rated #6) They had a top 10 running game, in 5 out of 8 season they had a Top 7, in 3 out of 8 a Top 5. That's the very definition of consistent positive production. Not "unabated" positive production or "unfailingly" positive production or "only" positive production but consistent. So you can't be objecting to the observable meaning of of the word consistent.

So, I guess you don't think those numbers are great. At very least that's debatable. You will observe that great in fact has a soft meaning in this case. Give me a hard number or definition of the word great in this context and you might find that many reasonable people have a slightly or even wildly different definition. You have not caught me in some logical fallacy to use the word great to describe these rushing attacks, only that I have a slightly lower threshold for the word great. The word "best" or the phrase "Top 3," those would have hard definitions in this context, so if you are so very careful to observe what I wrote, you will see I didn't use those words. That's why I am asking for your clear, observable definition of the word "great," so we can see if the Cowboys meet it.

Don't use squishy words without concrete empirical definitions or tell me what you saw with your eyes that can't be quantified because I disagree with you - we know that already! I think those running attacks qualify as great based on my own eyes and then comparing them to numbers. I have a feeling that no team in the history of the NFL is going to be able to meet your definition for consistently great...

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by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:02pm

I think I'm being pretty loose with the term "great, when I've stated that if you aren't in the top 20%, which is six teams, in any category, you haven't been great. Has there ever been a team which has been "consistently great" in any category, over 9 years? I suspect so. Very few teams focus on running much over the past 10 years, however, so I'd be surprised if anybody has been "consistently great" at running in the DVOA era, although I'd guess the Cowboys of the nineties have the best chance.

I'm sorry if you think I'm being unclear.

(edit) I see the Cowboys had 5 top 6 finishes in rushing DVOA from 1992-2000, with those 5 actually occurring in a 7 year span. I'd say that is consistently great. Yes, I also suspect that having a top 20% finish in any category in 5 of 7 years is pretty rare. By definition, I'd say being consistently great is pretty rare.

(2nd edit) A quick scan of the Steelers in the Cowher era shows a bunch of top 6 rushing DVOA finishes, so it may be that it isn't as rare as I expected, thus meaning that top 6 is defining "great" too liberally.

121
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:09pm

I never once argued or implied that Romo's success was "in spite of the running game". Words have definitions. Use the right ones and you won't have to ask people to give you "a fucking break", when they (politely) note that the words you have employed don't match up with the observable world.

102
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:14pm

I'm not trying to suggest his pass protection has been good, just that many guys have to deal with bad blocking, bad coaching too.

Will you concede that he had a really special group of receivers over the course of his career? Does that boost the expected returns on DYAR?

106
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:24pm

I will agree that he has had some great receivers in his career (Owens and Bryant) and one low-end #1 with injury problems (Austin). However, he also has had a few years with Patrick Crayton or Roy Williams as his #2 receivers. Are they really special? No. But they are above average. Look at what Laurent Robinson did in his only year with Romo (858 yards and 11 TDs on 80 targets); the guy had 344 yards and 2 TDs on 75 targets the previous year and was out of football within a year of leaving the Cowboys.

You also have to look at the fact that Romo makes receivers much better.

110
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:43pm

He has had a HOF tight end. 3 years of Terrell Owens. A year of a good Terry Glenn. Some other nice receivers. As I've stated previously, that has been a boost to his career. I've never claimed the guy is a HOFer.

(edit) Yes, Bryant's last 3 years have been terrific as well.

111
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:47pm

I think we might be arguing past each other. My view is that he a good qb, a probowl-ish player and I think that's what most people think. So from my perspective there isn't any need to defend his record. However, it could well be that because I'm on the UK I am somewhat insulated from the nonsense that gets thrown his way which you feel the need to defend him from. Maybe stop listening to sports talk radio?

113
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:53pm

I don't think either one of us has a firm grasp of what "most people" think of Tony Romo. All I can do is observe what is observable.

116
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:57pm

You seem pretty good at observing unobservable things as well.

123
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:11pm

Ok, whatever you say.

124
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:17pm

Tangentially related, but re the HOF TE-- I recall recently when Romo was singing Witten's praises and USA Today's inane "FTW" blog pointed it out. The link is here:

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/10/jason-witten-tony-romo-best-dallas-cowbo...

We can all agree that Witten is going to have to line up behind a number of greats-- Roger Staubach, Bob Lilly, Randy White, Tony Dorsett, Emmitt Smith, Mel Renfro, and I'm sure some others-- it is true that Witten is one of the Cowboys' greats.

What struck me, though, was this comment from FTW's Chris Chase:

"Witten has never been the best tight end in professional football. That honor has belonged to either Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham. If he makes the Hall of Fame, it’ll be because the Hall lets in far too many people. Few have ever looked at Jason Witten and thought, 'there’s a Hall of Famer.'"

When I read this I thought it was nuts because I've seen here and elsewhere plenty of people who have thought that Witten was a likely HOF candidate. He has numbers and career length, and that... je ne sais quoi that happens with really good players who just manage to always make game story lines with key blocks, sacks, receptions, touchdowns, catches, runs, passes, returns, etc.

Am I-- and a number of FO commenters-- crazy? Or is this FTW hack just that-- a hack who has put all of two seconds into thinking about actual football while writing for America's Highlights for Adults?

127
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:24pm

Anybody who puts forth the possibility that the Hall of Fame "lets in too many people" is one of those numbnuts I referenced before, for whom the contents of the ball remain a mystery.

129
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:31pm

As far as the greatest Cowboy, I always like to separate qbs from the other positions, and to me the greatest Cowboy, non-qb division, is Bob Lilly.

131
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:42pm

I'd put Witten in. He was often the second best and up against some all time greats, his consistency is really quite remarkable.

132
by Ryan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:45pm

I....would not consider Chris Chase a football expert. He likely decides "best tight end in football" by "how many times have I seen this guy's name in a headline."

134
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:58pm

You could say the same about so many HOFs. I know it's a different case, but was cFranco Harris ever the best RB in football? He probably wasn't even in the top 5 in many years.
Wittens career has been pretty amaizing, will have over 10,000 receiving yards and will probably have over 1,000 catches, 4 years of over 90 catches, never gets hurt, pretty good blocker - I say he's almost a no brainer.

148
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:05pm

Agree completely.. Witten kills it on the consistency/longevity meter.

For humans anyway... It ain't his fault that Tony Gonzalez is a mutant.

I've always assumed he was going straight to the Hall.

//AJMQB

33
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:42am

By your moniker, it may be reasonable to guess that you saw Tarkenton play, as I did. Now, my memory of him starts about 1969 or 1970, when I first started paying attention to the sport, but that was his ninth or tenth year, and you cannot believe the way he was criticized, directed at a guy who can reasonably be labeled as one of the top 5 qbs of all time. There were people, actually a lot of people, many of them "experts", saying he was bad at his job. Since I was 5 years old, I've known that a substantial percentage of fans of the game don't know, to quote the great Parcells, whether the ball is blown up or stuffed.

44
by Staubach12 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:58am

Actually, I was born in 1980. I just happen to like Staubach more than any other Cowboy. I have only known Tarkenton as a Hall of Famer and have only seen him via NFL films and replays. Tarkenton was probably the best QB of his era. Unfortunately, given the level of intelligence that often passes as sports analysis, it doesn't surprise me that he was so unfairly criticized.

47
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:02pm

Tarkenton and Romo is actually a cool comparison because I think their reputations also both suffered from not playing "right" - too improvisational, too willing to take risks, too willing to play outside of the pocket, just both seemed like they are having too much fun out there. And there's nothing that a certain kind of fan hates more than a player who has too much fun (especially without a championship to show for it.)

71
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:58pm

Like Staubach more but it can be argued either wayh as to whether staubahc was betetr or if F. Tarkenton was better than Staubach,. Certainly both better tjhan T. Bradshaw and K. Anderson

73
by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:08pm

Staubach was great, great, great. The one thing I'd argue in favor of Tarkenton is that Staubach never had to try to be productive with consistently lesser teammates and coaches surrounding him, whereas this was the norm for Tarkenton until he was 32 years old.

108
by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:30pm

I think the main reason Tark was criticized for so long was because he was unconventional. Great QBs didn't scramble back then. Unitas, Starr, Namath, Dawson, Jurgenson, Gabriel, and Lamonica were all classic drop back passers. The expert consensus was that scrambling was something only bad QBs did. Tarkenton would sometimes run around behind the line of scrimmage for ten or more seconds looking for an open receiver. Nobody back then realized it was all he could do to make his offense competitive.

117
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:00pm

It's funny - if you see a clip of a classic Tarkenton scramble now, it doesn't even look crazy, you see a couple plays every week where Rodgers or Wilson or Romo dances around behind the line for a half dozen seconds, but you're right that back then nobody but nobody who was good was doing that.

75
by EricL :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:21pm

I liked Staubach as a kid because an uncle of mine was one of his top receivers at Navy.

Doesn't mean I've ever liked the Cowboys, though. I was an Air Coryell fan as a kid. John Jefferson was, in fact, all that AND a bag of chips.

I vaguely remember Tarkenton. All I really remember, though, is lots and lots of running around the backfield like he's being chased by a swarm of hornets.

136
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:09pm

Given the relative sizes of the people involved, more like a swarm of rhinos.

11
by big10freak :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 9:07am

I work to avoid criticizing playcalling, but I do think Mike McCarthy 'owns' some of the second half in that his qb was clearly off. As in missing throws with regularity and his running back is getting good chunks with the opponent playing only six guys near the line and still heavy on the pass plays.

This wasn't Detroit where you could excuse it being early in the season and the run blocking still not in synch. GB has been running the ball pretty well the last 5-6 weeks.

Why MM cannot accept running the ball as a centerpiece of the offense in some games is a mystery.

Mike Sherman saved his d8mn job for a few years by moving the offense from Favre centered to Green centered. I am NOT suggesting that type of dramatic shift. But at least do it every so often in a given game given taht your offensive line can make it happen.

Grumble, grumble

51
by Ryan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:14pm

I'd point this comment out to any Denver fans who are worried that Peyton isn't putting up 350yds/3TDs a game.

54
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:17pm

ARe Denver fans worried? The sense I get is that they're delighted that CJ Anderson can carry some of the load. I've heard more than one "this is like the 1998 team!" comment from the less level-headed Broncos fans..

63
by Ryan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:30pm

Well, as I noted on Audibles, it IS (via a very very small sample size) a similar transition--taking the load off the star QB, run, defense, etc. Not that they're blowing teams out or the single most dominant team in the league, but the foundation has changed oh so slightly. (The defense has been more or less excellent all year.)

I can't speak for Denver fans but I grew up on Peyton in Indy and I think what they're doing right now is super smart. The St. Louis game was certainly that team's nadir. I know teams never say they look ahead, but I think Fox & Co are already thinking about how to beat New England in Foxboro, and this is what they'll need.

69
by BroncFan07 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:55pm

As a Denver fan, what worries me is that they've slipped to the extreme end of the John Fox Spectrum. That is, they're kicking field goals from the 2 and 1 yard lines. He even used to do that with Tebow, who was the most 4th and 1 QB ever.

149
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:13pm

That has to be the best Tebow description I've ever read.

Certainly if we limit it to positive ones.. Though, in all fairness, its not like there were many positive attributes to riff off of..

//AJMQB

83
by Hang50 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:48pm

This Broncos fan is certainly not worried, at least about the run/pass mix. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Peyton is playing with an injury that occasionally results in the high, floating passes we've been seeing the past few weeks.

I am pleasantly surprised at how well Jack Del Rio has prepared his defense for each game, and not surprised at all to see a lack of in-game adjustments that allow opponents to mount comebacks in the second half. (Also, I'm very happy Denver was able to resign Chris Harris, a great, great move.)

15
by Guido Merkens :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:18am

Speaking of average pass length, I've been wondering all season how 2014 Matt Stafford compares to 2013 Matt Stafford. Last year the Lions seemed to have a very downfield passing approach, whereas this year they seem to be much more dink-and-dunk. I realize that Megatron's injury and the addition of a YAC monster like Tate have something to do with that, but the change seems systematic as well.

Stafford seems much less comfortable in this style of offense, and I think it's really hurt the Lions. It diminishes the importance of Stafford's arm strength, and magnifies the effect of his inconsistency. It's especially odd because Jim Caldwell came from Baltimore, which has seemed to have a run-run-bomb offensive approach the past few years.

17
by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:47am

I think it's by design not only because of Tate, but also by necessity because the offensive line had struggled so much early in the year, and Stafford was getting David Carr'ed. They definitely tried to throw downfield more earlier in the year, and the line couldn't hold their blocks long enoough. I think they overdid it against Minnesota, hamstringing themselves on offensive, and nearly got upset because of it. They're going to have to get more aggressive and take some risks against the better teams like Green Bay and whoever they end up playing in the playoffs.

23
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:24am

For the first time in probably 15 years, I don't know what I want to happen with the Eagles. When Sanchez played awful versus the Seahawks and they lost because of it, I wasn't exactly happy, but I felt like at least what should be obvious would finally get some traction: Foles should be back in the line-up ASAP. But there was no talk of it. Foles "accidentally" letting it slip to the media pre-game that he felt like he could play that day versus the Seahawks didn't even rate consideration.

After the Cowboys game, Sanchez has proven decisively that he stinks and the Eagles likely won't make the playoffs because of it. Chip Kelly got up in front of the press yesterday and said he was "unsure" of Foles' status and who would be the starter going forward. He talked about how he still believes in Sanchez. It's just horrible mismanagement of something that should have been obvious from the start: Mark Sanchez should not be the starting QB this team.

Kelly's personel decisions have been generally awful, not the least of which is his handling of the QB situation from the moment he arrived. He's been winning with players developed by Andy Reid or brought in as free agents. I'm afraid he believes his own hype and it's totally undermining his positives as a coach - he feels free to cut their #1 wr, give a big contract to a crummy career back-up wr and bench the only QB with whom he's had success. He brings in a host of former Oregon players to "create culture" and then (like Josh Huff) they are game-changingly bad.

There are clearly a ton of positives to him as a coach, so I don't want to write him off, but I feel like sneaking into the playoffs with Sanchez at the helm is probably with the worst thing that could happen because Kelly will continue to believe in his own genius and make these unjustifiable personnel decisions. On the other hand, I've never once in my life rooted against the Eagles, especially to miss the playoffs. And then if they miss the playoffs, I have a sinking feeling they'll move on from Foles and next year will be even worse as they try to develop the 4th or 5th best QB in the draft or bring in another Sanchez-esque project for his "QB-proof" system.

I mean, right now, I keep thinking of Wade Phillips. That's not what you want to think of when considering the behavior of your head coach.

29
by RickD :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:37am

I have to say that this idea that Sanchez should start over a healthy Foles is baffling. I don't care if Foles had some bad games this season, his ceiling is much higher than Sanchez's.

37
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:50am

That's the fucking thing about Foles: his ceiling is literally as high as Peyton Manning's, in the best season of Manning's career. We know that's Foles' ceiling because he's already achieved it. It's not good for Kelly that the reaction seems to be "no, that's Kelly and his system's ceiling" because I think talent matters a huge amount at the NFL level - right now Kelly clearly doesn't: he's treated the two players with the most success for him (Foles and DJax) as entirely expendable. That's insane. A couple more years of that and it'll be a team full of Josh Huffs and Zach Ertzes.

Kelly has been lucky because he inherited a team that didn't need rebuilding: Maclin, Jackson, McCoy, Foles, Celek, the entire offensive line (save RT) and even Riley Cooper were all Andy Reid guys. I look at the first two drafts under Kelly and I don't see the future of this team. I'm worried Kelly is going to be given carte blanche for too long and then the team is going to crater with the shell of RGIII throwing passes to Josh Huff, Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews while McCoy is banging into an aging o-line over and over again for a mix of 3 yard gains and 2 yard losses.

Getting rid of DeSean was depressing. Giving up on Foles is bad, bad news. I just don't see good outcomes here.

52
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:15pm

One more weird thing I noticed: a lot gets made of how Foles lacks the athleticism to take full advantage of Kelly's read-option system and that a more natural athlete like Sanchez opens things up in that regard. Well, Foles' rushing DVOA is higher than Sanchez's. There's literally nothing Sanchez has done better than Foles.

137
by SandyRiver :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:16pm

Totally agree that giving up on Foles now would be idiotic. However, I'm not sure whether his 2013 represents ceiling or fluke. A couple seasons with TD/INT numbers in the 35/13 range would support the former, but right now it seems a bit early to rank his potential with top-seasons (and the plural is crucial, IMO) Peyton or Rodgers.

160
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 5:22pm

Oh, I agree 100% that there's no reason to assume he'll regularly perform at that ceiling he's already established. The jury is out on Foles, as it is on a lot of his contemporaries (that have shown promise, but lower ceilings) like Kaepernick, RGIII, Tannenhill and Andy Dalton. Unlike those guys, we KNOW he can put up numbers equal to Rodgers, Manning and Brees because he has already done so once. Whether or not he ever will again is a completely legit question - and it's reasonable to lean towards the answer that he won't ever do it again.

But... the downright bizarre thing that I think is happening with Foles is that his amazing 2013 numbers are being treated as somewhere in the neighborhood of a baseline for what a quarterback SHOULD produce under Chip Kelly. Right now, the perception is that a quarterback SHOULD put up 4,500 yard 35td/13int seasons in a Chip Kelly offense. Through the lens of that perception, folks think that Foles exceeding those numbers doesn't mean Foles did anything special, only that he slightly over-performed the "natural" baseline for a Kelly offense.

This is bananas.

Foles' 2013 numbers are astoundingly good and the way they get casually dismissed is weird - you just don't see QB's do what he did (especially young QB's in their second year!) and just get waved off like they're nothing. The culprit is that imaginary baseline for what a Chip Kelly QB should be doing and, honestly, having watched almost two full seasons of it now, I'm not sure that the perception isn't entirely backwards. I personally think there's more evidence that Kelly benefitted from Foles than vice versa. Barkley, Vick, Sanchez back me up on it...

161
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 5:51pm

One more funny thing about Foles: there's a perception that he had some "bad" games this season, RickD mentions it above, and it's not really true. He had a single bad game - he did indeed have a pretty bad game against the 49er's, but the Eagles were starting their 8th and 9th o-linemen in that game and the offense in general was just a mess. Other than that, the games where he's said to have been bad, he's being held to an insane standard. For example, one of them is the Jaguars game where he started slow but ended with 320 yards and 2 TD's!/0 INT's! These are the kind of "bad" games he had this year - after the Jaguars game you can find comments on this very site where people were writing "yeah, but if you watch the All-22, he should have had 500 yards and 5 TD's." It gets said with a straight face.

You look at, like, the Rams game where he had 207 yards and 2TD/1INT and people are openly wondering if he should be benched. After a game they won and scored 34 points while starting 3 back-up o-lineman and their leading RB averaged 3.3 y/c, fumbled once and was tackled for a loss 5 times. And their defense choked away a 34-7 lead. This is a game where Foles was criticized for his performance. The nadir of his season, the 49er's game, he threw two interceptions, but he's getting no help - as a team, they had 22 rushing yards on 12 carries. McCoy averaged 1.7 y/c and Zach Ertz and Riley Cooper both fumbled the ball away. It was a team-wide disaster and Foles brilliant (ultimately failed) drive at the end of the game was the only bright-spot.

According to DVOA, his bad season has been better than Russell Wilson's (as a passer) and very similar to Ryan Tannenhill's "breakout" year. And apart from the 49er's game, you can go through the schedule but just can't find games where he's having a total meltdown. The ones that get brought up are, like, the Cardinals game where he had 411 yards 2TD/2INT and didn't take a single sack against the #6 defense (by DVOA.) Tannenhill has two games all year where he managed to put up 300 yards - and he threw 1TD/2INT in one of them. Kaepernick threw for 300 yard once all year. It's maddening the standard to which he's being held...

70
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:56pm

Smnachez turd-like quarterback with limited upside. Sanchez neesd gerta protection from lineman and needs good ground attack. Files better, can succeed with less help. Foels more decisive with throws. Foles should start when healthy.

98
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:09pm

Tell that to Chip Kelly - Foles told the media two weeks ago he's ready to play.

59
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:43pm

You don't think-- and I don't follow Philly except as an NFC East rival-- that perhaps trying to find a more read-option-ish QB would be a good idea?

The good news is that it seems like the NYG and WAS are going to be bad for a bit, and Dallas will almost certainly regress next year (though perhaps their defense might improve a tad with some key injuries returning there is no way the offense plays as well), PHL should be poised for good things next year regardless...

(And that said, I'm not convinced Dallas is going to make it this year. Obviously the control-your-own-destiny thing helps, but IND at home and WAS on the road aren't ideal.)

64
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:36pm

What I'm convinced of is this: good QB's are the rarest and most valuable commodity in the NFL. If you have a good QB, you should make every effort to hold on to him. If there is a reasonable chance you have a good QB on your roster, you should make every effort to determine his actual level of talent before you make any decisions about what to do with this potentially valuable and rare commodity.

Here are the basic issues:
1) Four different QB's have started games for Chip Kelly. Three of the four (Vick, Barkley and Sanchez) have been awful. In 2013, Foles delivered a performance on the level with literally one of the greatest QB performances of all time. In 2014, with a messed up supporting cast, he was very slightly above average.

2) If you consider just the 2014 season of all Foles' contemporaries at QB (I'm saying guys taken since 2011, the year before Foles was drafted, but that includes guys like Cam Newtown and Colin Kaepernick), there is exactly one QB who has been inarguably better in 2014 than Foles: Andrew Luck, a once-in-a-blue-moon AAA+ talent. There are two QB's who arguably had a better 2014 (and this is just considering their performance in 2014 alone): Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannenhill. It would be tough to argue that any other QB taken since 2011 has definitely played better than Foles this year. Kirk Cousins? Andy Dalton? You can say, "but Newton. Kaepernick and RGIII were just having down years!" Why wouldn't the same be said for Foles? And it should be noted his "down year" is not nearly as down as any of those guys.

3) I've seen a running QB in Kelly's system and he sucked: Vick was terrible under Kelly and if he had continued on as the starter, the Eagles wouldn't have made the playoffs. Maybe Vick was washed up? Well, not in terms of his running game, which was very productive under Kelly. It was his best rushing performance since his Atlanta days. In fact, his overall performance resembled his Atlanta performances in terms of DVOA/DYAR and overall crumminess as a passer.

So, there is no guarantee any old QB will be good under Kelly. The opposite seems to be true: the QB matters more than the system under Kelly. A running QB is not inherently better for Kelly's offense - the best running QB of all-time was in fact bad in Kelly's system. Of the 48 QB's taken since 2011, only three of them could even be argued to have been better than Foles in his DOWN year. By all accounts, they are getting ready to get rid of a rare and valuable commodity to replace it with something unproven. That they're doing so based on a fantasy (the fantasy of Kelly's QB-Proof System of Unlimited Potential) is what's troubling.

To get a QB who had a superior 2014 in comparison to Foles 2014, you must likely give a high draft pick (Luck or Tannenhill) or hope a insanely talented player is two inches too short and goes into an idiotic freefall in the draft. If a player of Wilson's caliber is available in the 3rd (or even 2nd) round, then yes, the Eagles should definitely take him. But to get rid of Foles is incredibly short-sighted considering all these factors: the demonstrated production ceiling of Foles (higher than any young QB in the league, higher than the average season for Manning, Brady or Rodgers), Foles' performance in comparison to other QB's in Kelly's system, Foles' "down year" performance in comparison to other young QB's having a down year in 2014, the state of the Eagles offense in terms of injuries and rb/wr support when Foles was a starter, the cost of replacing Foles (1st or 8th overal pick for a Luck or Tannenhill), the value to be had in flipping him (his trade value being heavily depreciated by the fantasy of Kelly's system) and the simple fact that getting rid of good QB is just about the stupidest thing you can do in the NFL. Even if you believe Foles to be unproven as a talent just risking him before it is proven is stupid.

24
by BroncFan07 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:26am

Wonder where Bobby Hoying would have ranked on the dink and dunk list.

32
by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:41am

“Tom Brady’s legs propel him to 4th in DYAR”

A possible headline we aren’t likely to see again. Speaking of QB rushing DYAR. Flacco has -6. He only rushed twice so that failed sneak (3rd and a ‘full’ 1 from the JAX 31) must have been pretty costly. The other run was a 10 yard gain on 3rd and 5 from the RAV 42. Just curious.
Don’t get me wrong, I was screaming at the TV ‘no sneak!, no sneak!’. The line just hadn’t been getting any push against the Jags all game. Even though sneaks have been pretty successful for the Ravens this year, it was a full yard, and I thought doomed to fail.

42
by MarkV :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:58am

I am not sure if this is easy (or possible) to find, but this week sure looks exceptionally below average for league QB play as a whole. My fast math says the QBs combined this week for -85 passing DYAR.

On the season the weekly average is 789. I wonder if this makes the bottom 10 weeks for QB play of DVOA era.

46
by Boots Day :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:01pm

Was the note about Eli Manning getting the biggest opponent adjustment of the week written before the Monday night game? Honestly, 29-for-36 for 375 yards, three touchdowns and no INTs looks to be about an average game against that Bears defense.

67
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:47pm

Well, the QB with the biggest opponent adjustment should be the one who played the worst pass defense, and Eli faced 32nd-ranked Washington.

53
by Paul R :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:17pm

Wouldn't average pass attempts be affected by the players on the roster? If the team has a bunch of sprinters who can get behind the safeties, naturally the QB would throw deep more often. A team with a strong running game and good tight ends wouldn't go long as much.

56
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:23pm

I think that's actually one of the best aspects of Reid as a coach, how he builds his team according the strengths of his personnel. The strength of that crummy KC roster he inherited was is running game and pass-catching back. The best available QB was a guy with a weak arm who excels at throwing short, accurate passes and has good ball security. Build your team from there.

95
by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:07pm

I think that's actually one of the best aspects of Reid as a coach, how he builds his team according the strengths of his personnel.

Are there actually coaches that don't do that?? I mean, sure, there must be coaches who try that and execute badly, but are there really coaches that don't even operate that way? (I give a pass when the entire team is pretty much crap and the best thing to do is blow the whole thing up.)

101
by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:14pm

Chip Kelly. The contrast is striking. He let DeSean Jackson go in part because he wants big WR's. He refuses to bench Fletcher or Williams for Boykin (who is miles better than either) because he want his CB's to be tall and strong.

Also, the Giants this year have been perversely committed to playing against their QB and WR's strengths on offense. It's kinda nuts to see in action, actually. So yes, a lot of (bad) coaches don't build to their team's strengths. You've been watching a great coach up there in NE too long if you don't notice stuff like Jay Gruden misusing RGIII or Wisenhunt jamming big, strong, immobile QB's into the line-up happening on the reg all around the league.

130
by LyleNM :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:39pm

Actually, coaches don't do that all the time. Ever hear of a new coach who comes in and wants to install a 3-4 defense instead of the 4-3 that they were running and promptly sells off the 4-3 DEs for pennies on the dollar? The coaches who let talented players go who "don't fit their scheme" (see Desean Jackson)? Coaches like Carroll and Reid and some others (Belichick?) fit their scheme to the players' abilities. Most coaches demand that the players fit their schemes.

139
by Lyford :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:30pm

There's a great quote I ran across 10 years ago from a guy who worked as an area scout under Belichick when he was in Cleveland:

"I remember sitting in a meeting with Bill that first year in Cleveland and the scouts were going around explaining what this guy does wrong and what this other guy does wrong and on and on. It was all criticism. And Bill said, 'Stop telling me what this guy does wrong. I want to know what he does well. Let's focus on that, and I won't even worry about the rest of it. We just won't ask him to do those things.'

"And you can see he still does that. Everyone else seems to be looking for the perfect player, and he's just the opposite. He says, 'Find out what they do well, we'll use them in that situation for 20 snaps and be thrilled with it.'"

157
by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 3:51pm

Mangini did that in New York. He switched to a 3-4 in 2006, made the defense worse, and then traded Jonathan Vilma to New Orleans a year or two later. Granted, drafting David Harris allowed him to trade Vilma. The only reason they made the playoffs in 2006 was Pennington's revival and a super easy schedule. I'm worried whoever replaces Rex will do the same thing, only switching to a 4-3 and making a bunch of their defensive linemen worthless.

163
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:13pm

This is another interesting Reid vs. Kelly comparison - Kelly came into Philadelphia and immediately switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 despite not having the personnel for it. Amongst other things, it switched their best pass-rusher and their 2010 1st round pick (Cole and Graham) out of their natural DE position into OLB's. It also put their 2012 1st round pick (Cox) into a position he had never played before. It also required on boosting their thinnest position group under Reid - there were only two passable LB's on the roster when Kelly took it over. It has worked out ok for them, but I think the overall came at the expense of dealing with their messed-up secondary.

They couldn't invest everywhere at once, so they used key draft picks and free agent money to bolster the d-line and LB corps. The switch meant too much had to be fixed simultaneously and to deal with the secondary, they were forced to bring in cut-rate free agents like Bradley Fletcher and Patrick Chung and hope a 6th round rookie could be out Nate Allen for a starting job. Their plan to build a strong front 7 for the 3-4 defense has worked ok thus far, but it doesn't really matter because their secondary is so unbelievably bad and, furthermore, can't handle the man-coverage assignments that Billy Davis insists on giving them as part of his philosophy.

Meanwhile Reid, who had run a 4-3 his entire career in Philadelphia and always skimped on LB's, takes a look at his KC roster and says "shit, we're building this defense around these excellent linebackers and that dominant nose tackle!" Now, of course, DVOA likes Philly's defense more than KC's, so which method is better is certainly up for debate (although Philly's 20th pass/6th run defense ranking support my point about the front 7 vs. the secondary and KC's defense was one of the worst in the league by DVOA before Reid took over.) But it's a nice contrast demonstrate how a coach may or may not build to his roster's strengths...

143
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 6:05pm

A lot of coaches believe in doing things a certain way and finding players who can do that instead of adapting their ways of doing things to the players in front of them. For the most extreme modern example I can think of, look at Mike Martz.

I'm not entirely sure it's necessarily bad or wrong either. It's pretty much how Tony Dungy operated on defense and it produced some good results.

158
by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 3:52pm

I think I'd rather be Belichick.

164
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:19pm

Well sure, but you can do a damn sight worse than Tony Dungy.

Jeez louise are we grading coaches on a first or worse basis here?

170
by mehllageman56 :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 2:27am

Look, I think Dungy was a great coach, but I'd much prefer the guy who can tweak his system to fit his own players.

171
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 2:59am

I think that's fair - those Colts missed out on another ring or two because their defense, I never really considered how mismanagement of their personnel could have played a factor in the defensive failings. And it's true their secondary just never seemed to work with the schemes they were running...

172
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 3:30am

If you want to find a reason for the Colts under-performing in the playoffs, you might want to check Marvin Harrison's statlines.

The Dungy Colt's lost playoff games 0-41, 14-28, 3-20, 18-21, 24-28, and 17-23. I'm not sure you can just blame the defense here.

173
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 3:54am

Oh sure, the offense fell down plenty. However, there was no chance of their defense winning games for them - if the offense faltered those teams were cooked, which is not a formula that many teams that win multiple championships adhere to. An even slightly better defense puts them over the top in some of those close games and keeps them on the road to another championship. The offense underperformed, the mediocre defensive outing were normal performances - in those loses they didn't once hold a team under 20 and three times gave up 4 or more TD's. That's not good, even if the offense was worse (and heavily underperformed.)

174
by tuluse :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 11:56am

I think that was the way it was going to be with how many resources the Colts invested in offense vs defense. That's on Polian as much, if not more, than Dungy.

I don't recall the Bucs having that problem.

175
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/18/2014 - 12:39pm

Since they weren't investing in defense, it was even more important to maximize their talent. Forcing players into a scheme they don't fit becomes even less defensible in that context.

176
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/19/2014 - 1:39am

Were there any Colts defenders who went to other schemes and excelled where they hadn't under Dungy?

141
by barf :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:36pm

I don't think the KC roster was crummy - they had Charles, Hali, Houston, Poe, Derrick Johnson, Dwyane Bowe, Brandon Flowers and some decent offensive lineman when Reid arrived. When you are saddled with the sad one-two punch of Todd Haley/Romeo Crennel as your HC, the roster can only do so much to counteract their horrific management skills.

162
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 5:55pm

Yeah, fair enough - that's even giving you Bowe and Flowers who don't impress me at all. They certainly weren't a deep roster and they had major holes over it when Reid came in. It wasn't like, say, the situation that whoever coaches the 49er's next year will be in or even what will happen if they move on to a new coach in Buffalo. KC basically had no middle-class - a slew of very good players scattered amongst the roster and then rest being scarcely NFL caliber. You can see it even now two seasons later where they've patched up a lot of the offense, but have wr corps that probably would be bad even by the standards of an Arena League team...

165
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:24pm

"wr corps that probably would be bad even by the standards of an Arena League team..."

Just the way Reid likes it.

166
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:32pm

Yes, TO, Maclin and Jackson would all have struggled to make an Arena League team. That joke is way out of date - it would be like making a joke that relies on the notion that the Bears love having a good defense.

168
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 9:30pm

Or that the Bears love having a winning team

169
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 9:38pm

Seriously: starting Jimmy Clausen demonstrates a deep hatred of winning.

68
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:52pm

if play fantauys football, M. Rivera TE Raiders good chance can help you bring home fnatasy title week 16 espeiclaly if play in PPR league. Rivera real uop and cominger. Derek Carr throwing a lot of balls to him.

94
by Mugsy :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:07pm

"needs great protection from linemen & needs good ground attack.." sounds like we're back to Romo.
Romo has about 3 first round draft picks on the offensive line, he has a HOF TE in Witten, and he has Bryant -- not to mention the league leading rusher. All Romo needs to do is minimize his mistakes. If he actually "held" the ball as the holder- who knows what the Cowboys might have accomplished.
Trent Dilfer could take that team to the super bowl.
;)

118
by mitchellralph :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:01pm

Vince, it's probably worth mentioning in Dez Bryant's blurb that on his only failed play you were talking about, he was wide open about 15 (or so) yards downfield and Romo just missed the throw high.

133
by Moridin :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:51pm

Okay, I got a good chortle from Asiata being in the top 5 RBs. Mostly because his actual yardage is the same as his rushing DYAR (which I know has additives around TDs and successes). Its just funny to (incorrectly) think a replacement RB would've had 11 rushes for 0 yardage if you took that number as literal yards above replacement.

How many times do players have a DYAR equal or above his actual yardage (not counting the players like FBs and TEs that only gets goal line and 1 yard power situational carries / catches. So maybe a cutoff of 10 rushes or 5 catches/attempts)?

138
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:30pm

Eye roll about the Romo section. One suspects that if the top spot were Manning or Brady, there'd have been no attempt to try to diminish the result, and instead it would have been phrased as "Star QB naturally got his best results from his best options!" and then some Gronk/Welker build-up would have followed.

"It goes without saying that all quarterbacks would look worse if we removed throws to their best receivers."

People, do not take the Quick Reads comments too seriously. We're taking the small sample size of one game and dividing that even further into micro sample sizes based on time of game, or intended receiver, or direction of passes, or field zone, or score, or something. In Romo's case, in this one game, the difference between intended targets was stronger than any of the other splits, so that's what I went with.

I can't believe someone actually got upset about this, especially since I included a disclaimer that explicity said in plain English that this same observation could be made about "ALL QUARTERBACKS." And somehow this leads to accusations of bias. I'm mystified.

Look at Stafford's blurb:
14. Matthew Stafford DET 17/28 153 1 0 3 8 -5
First five drives: 6-of-12 for 37 yards, no first downs. Rest of the game: 11-of-16 for 116 yards and eight first downs, including a touchdown.
He essentially is the good part of Stafford's game throwing to people other than his first two options.

That is not even close to what I'm saying. I'm saying that he played lousy for the first 20 or 25 minutes of the game, then got better as the game went along.

I just went through the last 6 or 7 quick reads and see how I am just applying selection bias and am a bit out of line in my critique. So I take the whole thing back.

Cool.

You are correct, that's it a little silly to make an assertion, along the lines of "Player A wasn't all that good, once you take away his really good plays".

Yes it is, but sometimes it's still interesting. Usually when I do that it's a case of a guy struggling for an entire game and then banging out five first downs on a game-winning TD drive or something. Yes, it's ridiculous to make qualitative statements based on that kind of thing, but it can still be interesting to look at and help tell the story of a game.

1) It's not a Brady-Manning thing. It's that Quick Reads are quick tidbits, usually picked for novelty rather than insight.

Perfect. I couldn't phrase it any better.

Me, I'd prefer insight. But novelty is quicker to write.

Really, it's about timing. If you wanted specific breakdowns and analysis of multiple players every week, the piece would be entitled Slow Reads and would come out Thursday night.

(edit) In contrast, Romo may have yet another top 10 DYAR ranking, about the, what, 8th of his career? With around 4 top 5?

He has been top 11 seven times, top 7 five times, and fourth twice. This year, he was 9th going into the Monday night game.

Since 2006, when he was named the Cowboys' starter, Romo is fifth in completion rate and NFL passer rating, and second behind Rodgers in yards per pass. He's very, very, very good. (I have written about this before, in the Almanacs at least, which is why Lance's original comment got under my skin.) He's a modern-day Ken Anderson, a legit HOF candidate who will probably never get the credit he deserves unless he wins a Super Bowl.

It's unfair, but Romo is going to need that kind of run to quiet his critics. If the Cowboys make the NFC championship game, but then lose to Seattle, it'll again all be Romo's fault.

I can see that happening. On a related note, if Atlanta wins the NFC South and then loses at home to a clearly superior Seattle team (I don't need to justify that claim, do I?), I think Matt Ryan haters will add that to the "Ryan chokes in the playoffs" theory, which would be complete garbage.

Speaking of average pass length, I've been wondering all season how 2014 Matt Stafford compares to 2013 Matt Stafford. Last year the Lions seemed to have a very downfield passing approach, whereas this year they seem to be much more dink-and-dunk. I realize that Megatron's injury and the addition of a YAC monster like Tate have something to do with that, but the change seems systematic as well.

He's down a tiny bit this year.

2009: 8.5
2010: injured
2011: 8.3
2012: 8.9
2011: 8.3
2010: 8.0

Speaking of QB rushing DYAR. Flacco has -6. He only rushed twice so that failed sneak (3rd and a 'full' 1 from the JAX 31) must have been pretty costly. The other run was a 10 yard gain on 3rd and 5 from the RAV 42. Just curious.

Yup. -9 DYAR for the failed sneak. QBs have converted 72 percent of their third-/fourth-down runs with 1 or 2 yards to go this year, so A) the bar for success is high, and B) because the of the stakes, the penalty for failure is also high.

I am not sure if this is easy (or possible) to find, but this week sure looks exceptionally below average for league QB play as a whole. My fast math says the QBs combined this week for -85 passing DYAR.
On the season the weekly average is 789. I wonder if this makes the bottom 10 weeks for QB play of DVOA era.

It was the worst week of this season, but definitely not the worst week ever.

Was the note about Eli Manning getting the biggest opponent adjustment of the week written before the Monday night game?

Yes.

Wouldn't average pass attempts be affected by the players on the roster? If the team has a bunch of sprinters who can get behind the safeties, naturally the QB would throw deep more often. A team with a strong running game and good tight ends wouldn't go long as much.

Of course. Like all individual statistics in the NFL, average pass length has a lot to do with a player’s coaches and teammates.

Are there actually coaches that don't do that?? I mean, sure, there must be coaches who try that and execute badly, but are there really coaches that don't even operate that way? (I give a pass when the entire team is pretty much crap and the best thing to do is blow the whole thing up.)

Jim Mora and Greg Knapp spent years -- YEARS -- trying to hammer the square peg that is Michael Vick into the round hole that was their offense.

Vince, it's probably worth mentioning in Dez Bryant's blurb that on his only failed play you were talking about, he was wide open about 15 (or so) yards downfield and Romo just missed the throw high.

Thanks for the insight. It’s true, I don’t actually watch every play that we measure here.

140
by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:35pm

Dankeschön.

145
by MarkV :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:11pm

thanks for the response!

151
by Lance :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:50pm

Thanks for the reply. In case you missed my comment at #39, Vince, I'll repeat it here:

"Fair enough. I will chalk this up to being grumpy in the morning after a long plane ride and drive home. I've been visiting FO almost daily for the last 10 years. Aside from my Gmail account, the NY Times and perhaps ESPN, there isn't another website I have been as loyal to. And there's a reason for that: these guys are great and entertaining and smart. My apologies for grumpiness, Vince. (And Aaron.)"

154
by nat :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 11:56pm

If you wanted specific breakdowns and analysis of multiple players every week, the piece would be entitled Slow Reads and would come out Thursday night.
Snicker. Well put.

155
by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 1:03am

Yeah, I agree, that's awesome. Quick Reads is the numbers and some fun commentary, which I enjoy. I also enjoy the "hey look at this" stuff in the comment section as well.

144
by ryan5581 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 6:13pm

Brown is dinged a bit for his failed completions, including a 10-yard gain on third-and-17 and an 11-yard gain on third-and-13.

How much was he dinged? I'd have to believe that both of these gains were better than the average result in those situations. Yes, they resulted in 4th downs, but improved field position should mean something.

146
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:36pm

All told, -9 DYAR. His 3-yard gain on second-and-7 was actually the most damaging.

147
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:38pm

Also, and I should have said this before saying anything else, but thank you to everyone who said they enjoyed Quick Reads, and to everyone who reads it. It's appreciated.

150
by armchair journe... :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:33pm

Thanks for doing it.. Especially the in-depth lead essay every week, its a good balance to the quick hits to follow.

//AJMQB

156
by Red :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 1:51am

Matt Schaub has a DVOA of -215.6% and a QBR of 0.1 this season. Just in case anyone needed to feel better about their team's QB.

And for all the talk of Peyton Manning's "decline", the man is #1 in both DYAR and DVOA. Has the bar of expectation ever been set so impossibly high for an American athlete?

159
by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 4:00pm

Damn, so much talk about Romo. If he was discovered in Jacksonville, no one would be talking about him except to feel sorry for him. If he ended up on the Jets by the time Rex Ryan got there, he'd probably have a ring and the only question people would ask about him would be if he's better than Namath. So much of this is tied in to where the player lands, and the abilities of the people around him.

167
by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:33pm

Yeah - that's my point: whatever the perception of Romo is, it's an artifact of his uniform.