Short-yardage passing had a good year, except at the end of the Super Bowl. We look at the return of quarterback runs, the rise in pass-happy strategy, and 2014 success rates for offense and defense.
08 Jul 2013
by Rivers McCown
Joe Flacco was technically a free agent this year. That distinction gets less descriptive every year between the amount of players that won't ever hit the open market and the number of practically retired players (like "free agent Terrell Owens") that draw publicity for being themselves. Flacco almost certainly would have drawn the franchise tag had he and the Ravens been unable to come to an agreement -- probably the elite franchise tag, which gives clutchness incentives. During the regular season, Flacco's -1.6% DVOA ranked him 17th among all qualified quarterbacks. That encompasses his historical background rather nicely: his highest DVOA rank in a single season was 15th place in 2010. Flacco's trump card in negotiations, beyond those last four playoff games, was that he was stuck with Cam Cameron's arcane offensive philosophies and a passing attack without a true No. 1 receiver. This does not make him worthy of the enormous contract he got, of course, but it does mean that FO statistics probably undervalue his total worth.
The deal looks worse than it actually is. Flacco's contract needs to be looked at as a natural outgrowth of the CBA changes born from the last lockout. Less money is being paid to rookies, but there's still plenty of emphasis on youth and veteran players are still getting squeezed on the open market. That money has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is the most important position on the field. (Ditto Tony Romo's new deal.)
Backup quarterback musical chairs rarely fit as neatly as they did this offseason, when Arizona, Indianapolis, Tenneseee, and Buffalo each put an underwhelming quarterback into the white elephant office party. Arizona came out with the best of the lot, signing Drew Stanton to a three-year deal. Stanton has not thrown a pass in an NFL game since 2010, when he had a 12.2% DVOA in 113 passes for the Lions. Stanton was a second-round pick, but has since seen his roles usurped by Matthew Stafford, Shaun Hill, Tim Tebow, Andrew Luck, and now Carson Palmer. Well, at least the quarterbacks that take his job are getting older.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Matt Hasselbeck are better fits for their new situations than their old ones. Tennessee needed a quarterback without the necessary history to push Jake Locker over for the starting job, but with enough experience to not be awful when Locker gets hurt. The Colts, with their young star quarterback, preferred the crusty veteran type. Hasselbeck can fill that role better, since he's getting a bit too old to be good when he's pressed into service.
The Bills paid Kevin Kolb two years and $6.1 million, and are the clear losers of the exchange based mainly on the fact that they actually consider Kolb the clubhouse leader to open the year under center. Kolb's seasonal DVOA's under pressure since 2010: -90.2%, -130.1%, -130.7%. The Bills might have a better line than Arizona has, but they lost Andy Levitre to the Titans in free agency, and the rest of the line wasn't exactly the early-2000's Chiefs to begin with.
Jason Campbell was brought into Chicago based on the idea that the Bears would have made the playoffs in 2011 had Caleb Hanie not been, well, Caleb Hanie. In 58 total attempts, he posted a -50.3% DVOA; not quite as bad as Hanie had done in 2011, but still appreciably bad. Of course, this was a small sample size theater. You may remember the two games that Campbell saw the majority of his attempts in were against Houston on Sunday Night Football and San Francisco for Monday Night Football. The Bears basically had nobody not named Brandon Marshall to throw to, and the Chicago offensive line spent said MNF game allowing six sacks and generally looking hapless, so it's probably fair to disregard a lot of his actual performance. What is Campbell's true value to a team though? He can't ride those six good games with Oakland in 2011 forever, and outside of that he's never shown himself to be appreciably good. The Browns picked him up to backup Brandon Weeden, probably because they didn't want to sign anyone younger than Weeden. The mentoring jokes would've written themselves.
Outside of his trainwreck in Carolina during the 2010 season -- one which looked much better with the retrospect of seeing how brutal Jimmy Clausen performed after taking over -- Matt Moore has put up some very solid numbers with some limited teams despite a lack of standout arm strength. He garnered a -5.7% DVOA over 12 starts with the Dolphins in 2011, and a 17.1% DVOA in five Panthers starts in 2009. This year he only found 21 pass attempts, as Ryan Tannehill was able to stay upright most of the season, but he garnered a 15.4% DVOA playing with legendary targets such as Davone Bess, Brian Hartline ... and others. The Dolphins could have done a lot worse with their money than $8 million over two years for Moore ... and they probably did at some point this offseason.
After making us all wistful for the days of Najeh Davenport by "being [pooped] on by the Vikings for four years," Tarvaris Jackson was sent packing by the Seahawks to Buffalo, where he fudged around the bench watching Fitzpatrick stink up the joint. Jackson isn't the first quarterback to be dumped the second someone better was around, nor is he the first one to be farting around in this column. Upper management does tend to clench their teeth when they're on the throne, forced with a decision to sh*t or get off the pot on a quarterback who has only finished with a positive DVOA once. Jackson is the type of quarterback that can wipe the floor with a low-round pick pushing for that No. 2 job, but he makes some throws that will leave you gassed with laughter. Like Campbell and Moore, Jackson belongs in the punch bowl, but he'll never be KSOFM (NSFW).
Buffalo gave him $500,000 to kick the can around for most of this offseason, then flushed his non-guaranteed contract off their cap when Kolb was brought in. Back in Seattle, he'll make a big splash if he can thrust Brady Quinn back to the third-string role he deserves.
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