Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks
Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz

The Best of the Second-Best?

Tom: I read something, I can't remember what, about the NFL salary cap era, saying that the introduction of the salary cap didn't really make individual years more competitive. You still had roughly the same number of dominant teams in a year and the same number of bad ones. This is pretty much true, but misses the point. The difference is, those teams aren't the same every year. The common denominator of great team success seems to me to be good quarterback play.

So, I thought I'd do a little experiment. Who's the best quarterback to begin his starting career in the salary cap era who never made the Super Bowl? I'm trying not to eliminate too many guys, so I looked at all quarterbacks who started their career 1990 or later. I did a Pro Football Reference search of every quarterback who started at least 80 games since 1990. The results list includes guys whose career started before 1990 and aren't eligible for this discussion.

Mike: Shiny.

Tom: Yes, P-F-R is great. I'm looking at the leaders as sorted by Adj Net Yards Per Attempt.

Mike: Jeff Garcia? What?

Tom: There are three guys in the Top 10 who've never been to a Super Bowl: Garcia, Trent Green, and Chad Pennington, who's smack dab at 80 starts (not including his one this season).

Mike: I think we can take Pennington out of the equation pretty much entirely. You have to value consistency to some degree with this sort of judgment.

Tom: I know Mr. Barnwell will be disappointed, but yes. He actually has been remarkably successful when he gets on the field, but he just hasn't been on the field that much.

Mike: Right.

Tom: Garcia also feels like he has deceptive longevity. He has 116 starts, which is more than I would have guessed, but he has started more than 13 games only three times. He just has five seasons where he started 10-13 games.

Mike: Trent Green also had the advantage of playing for a better team, at least for a time, than either of the other two.

Tom: Well, he had the advantage of playing with a very solid collection of offensive talent, especially at offensive line.

Mike: That is a better way of putting it.

Tom: Not to sell Tony Gonzalez or Priest Holmes and young Larry Johnson short. He did at least manage to perform like he was playing with a bunch of great talent, ranking in the Top 10 in DVOA and Top 5 in DYAR for 2002-05.

Mike: Yeah, on the other hand, there's something to be said for going into a terrible situation and making it not quite so terrible, as Garcia has done pretty routinely.

Tom: You know who else was kind of like that? Steve DeBerg.

Mike: I never thought of it that way, but that is true.

Tom: DeBerg also was the subject of one of my favorite Bill Walsh quotes, said when DeBerg was quarterbacking the 49ers: "He plays just well enough to get you beat."

Mike: Much like the Bengals, who are good enough to lose by three points to anyone.

Tom: Hah! To be fair, the Bills did beat them by more than three.

Mike: Zing! Back to quarterbacks.

Tom: Two more names in the teens to consider: Carson Palmer and Daunte Culpepper. I'm not sure what you think of those guys. My general perception is that people thought Palmer was good and Culpepper was a product of the system more than somebody who was really good in his own right.

Mike: Culpepper's career is always going to be discussed in terms of Randy Moss, fairly or unfairly, which both makes him a difficult subject to discuss, and nearly impossible to publicly evaluate.

Tom: Yup. But I think they're both more similar than you think. They both were pretty good for a couple years throwing to well-regarded receivers, then suffered injuries that turned them into much lesser quarterbacks.

Mike: True. I guess that actually cuts against Palmer, who still has excellent talent at receiver but is just not executing properly.

Tom: Part of the problem with the Bengals offense is they don't really have a vertical passing game. Both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco are old and better on short and intermediate routes. I'm not sure Palmer can still throw the deep ball well, but having those starters doesn't make it easier.

Mike: True. It also doesn't help that he's in a pretty tough division. Baltimore and Pittsburgh don't have the best secondaries, but they have great pass rushes and pretty good intermediate coverage. The Browns aren't great but still have a respectable defense. He'd be doing a lot better in the AFC South.

Tom: Eh. That's probably true for this year, but I think his arm is probably now permanently shot after his 2008 shoulder injury.

Mike: Probably true.

Tom: There's actually another name the query isn't picking up, because he's not quite at the 80-start threshold yet. And that's Philip Rivers.

Mike: I'd probably say he's the best of the bunch. And considering his performance this year, I imagine many would agree, especially considering...

Tom: NORV!


Tom: We've probably mentioned this before, but does Ron Turner feel left out because he got a normal first name and his brother was named "Norval?"

Mike: He's probably just happy he's not Norv.

Tom: Eh. Norv's making more money, is more famous, and is instantly identifiable by his first name.

Mike: True. Anyway, I think you have your answer right there.

Tom: The thing about Rivers is, he's only 28, turning 29 later this month.

Mike: And?

Tom: Barring injury, he should have 4-5 more elite-type years.

Mike: So you're concerned he may make a Super Bowl after this column.

Tom: Well, no. Just that I'm not thinking of him as a guy who's likely to end up in a re-hash of this discussion in five years' time. That's probably presumptive of me. But this little exercise has clarified in my mind just why teams chase quarterbacks. If you have somebody who's very good for an extended period of time, chances are pretty danged high you will make the Super Bowl.

Mike: At the most important position on your team? That makes sense.

Tom: In a way, this is validation that quarterback is the most important position on the team. I don't think either of us would have seriously argued to the contrary, but I still think it's an interesting exercise.

Mike: Well, did you look at this for, say, linebackers?

Tom: I did not. Part of it is it's hard to tell who the best linebackers are.

Mike: True, but that might be an interesting comparison.

Tom: Here's your issue: There are a ton of linebackers who started 80 games in this time period. Does looking at Allen Aldridge really tell us anything?

Mike: You could go by defeats. That would get rid of a lot of the noise, but as we said, that is for another time.

Tom: Yup.

Fantasy Football Update

Tom: I put up 37 more points than the third-highest scoring team in my fantasy league this week. Unfortunately, I was playing the other top-scoring team. We were tied at 117 after the afternoon games. Ben Roethlisberger put up nine for me on Sunday night. All I had to do was have Tom Brady not point up more than Ben did. Ah, well.

Mike: Roethlisberger vs. Brady is rarely a fair fight.

Tom: In a way, I'm glad that I ended up losing by 22.

Mike: Why's that?

Tom: Points against don't really matter, and it's less agonizing than the alternative. As soon as Brady hit Deion Branch for an early score, I knew I'd lost my game.

Mike: Heh. I had a battle for the second seed in my playoffs and ended up with the lowest score of the week

Tom: Ouch.

Mike: Somehow, Kansas City and Denver ended up a low-scoring, run-first ordeal in which my all-stars Kyle Orton and Dwayne Bowe and decent WR3 Jabar Gaffney combined for a whopping four points. That was pretty much the game, right there.

Tom: Ah, well, that'll do it.

Mike: The less said, the better.

Tom: Oh, my final regular season game this week is against the team I'm tied with for the top record. I'm tempted to say "to heck with the top seed, time to bench all my best players," just like I'm a real NFL team.

Mike: Haha, what? I'm the second seed? I somehow only lost by 23 points. If you remember from last week, if I lost by fewer than 25, I backed into the second spot, which I apparently did.

Tom: Excellent.

Mike: So I am playing the seventh seed, which is probably better than the sixth seed, which is a good team that's had some really bad luck. But if we both win, I'll be looking at a rematch of this previous game two weeks from now, so that will be interesting.

Tom: Well, it beats playing the top seed in two weeks.

Mike: True, although that was never a danger. Since we have an eight-team playoff, only the fourth, fifth and eighth seed have a chance of facing the top seed before the finals.

Tom: I hope the top seed is talking a lot of trash.

Mike: He's not, because he played the second (myself) and third seeds during the season and lost to us both. He's hoping that we'll both be knocked out.

Tom: Ah.

Mike: Then again, we're definitely hoping he will, because he clearly has the best team. We'll have to see.

Tom: The dominant top team in my fantasy league last season went undefeated and was happy to remind everybody at every opportunity he could find. Only to go out in the semifinals.

Mike: Yeah, fantasy is too random for me to engage in any kind of smack talk.

Tom: Yup. My league has a Thursday lineup lock, so with Adrian Peterson looking like a game-time decision, I had to take a risk and start him hoping he'd play or go with Toby Gerhart.

Mike: Are you playing through some kind of time vortex to 1998? Who locks their full roster on Thursdays?

Tom: Well, the Thursday lock is only when we have the Thursday games. Anyway, after reading Will's Med Check column, I decided to go with Peterson, and benefited to the tune of 23 points. This is the same league where the commish accidentally made it a 2RB/1W lineup last year and forgot to set autodraft for absent owners this year.

Mike: Yaaaay.

Tom: OK, he did get the autodraft set eventually this year, so our draft ended up being only slightly delayed instead of done piecemeal over several days.

FO Staff Fantasy League Update

Team CBORG (Skynet, 3-10) 94 def. Consensus Picks (Elias, 7-6) 60

Yes, you read that correctly: CBORG put up 94 points. With significant waste, as Felix Jones (8 points) was started over Brandon Jacobs (22), and Kellen Winslow (2) over Vernon Davis (18), due to ESPN's projections. Marshawn Lynch and Chris Ivory still came up big, contributing 27 and 21 points, respectively. This was a down week for Elias, balancing a surprisingly good week for Knowshon Moreno with awful weeks from Justin Forsett, Eddie Royal, Tony Gonzalez and Bears DST (a combined 13 points). Elias still has no kicker, which could be a problem when he plays the formidable Jefes in the first round of the playoffs. Even this win, however, is not enough for CBORG to not be the worst team in the league, trying Wagstaff's Ringers in record but down by 72 points, despite CBORG having a better home record (what?). That said, every team makes the playoffs, so even these two losers have some chance of winning it all.

(Ed note: Seriously, ESPN's fantasy game standings list home and road record for each team. What on earth is that for? There's no difference whatsoever between "home" and "road" in fantasy football. -- Aaron)

Scramble Forever (Ian & Al, 9-4) 110 def. Phanatic CodeBreakers (Tanier, 5-8) 66

While your Scramble writer enjoys having freedom to choose between quarterbacks from week to week, it would be even nicer to have the choice between Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick. Either way, Ian and Al win, since they both had 26 points this week. Vick and other 20-plus-points players were Arian Foster (22) and Greg Jennings (24). In contrast, the CodeBreakers had one player above 20 (Ahmad Bradshaw with 21) and started Darren Sproles who, in Scramble parlance, got NORV'D for -2. As we discussed last week, despite this dominant victory and having the most points for in the league by a mile (93 more than Equipo del Jefe and 119 more than Remain in Matt Light), Scramble Forever will not get a bye because it is two games behind Barnwell. C'est la vie.

That's Great Hustle! (Sean, 9-4) 76 def. Team Verhei (6-7) 50

Sean wraps up the Non-Scramble Alumni division and with it a first-round bye with this victory, albeit a fairly unimpressive fashion. Sean suffered the fate of many a fantasy owner, dealing with a goose egg from Dwayne Bowe. But Vince's lineup was generally unimpressive: Philip Rivers (13 points) was the only roster spot to produce double-digits. You are almost never going to win a game like that.

Equipo del Jefe (Aaron, 8-5) 100 def. Wagstaff's Ringers (Tom, 3-10) 60

Another beat-down, but due to Sean's win, Aaron is unable to snatch the first-round bye. It was another impressive team effort for the Jefes, with double-digit totals from six out of nine roster spots, even if none cracked the 20 mark. Tom, on the other hand, received nearly half of his total points (26) from Reggie Wayne. That about sums it up.

Malice Aforethought (Will, 5-8) 103 def. Triple Asian Flu (Doug, 6-7) 33

Even counting games with roster mishaps (which explains Jason Hanson, who is on IR, starting for Doug -- it's hard to remember to pick up a kicker by Thursday, OK?), this is probably the beat-downingest beat-down the league has seen. Three of Doug's slots produced zero points, and only one of those players didn't play. Two more scored four, then six and seven. Will, on the other hand, had both across-the-board production and some burst, with a great game from Adrian Peterson (28 points). Will is still, sadly, at the bottom of the Non-Scramble Alumni Division, and he will likely get eaten by That's Great Hustle! if he advances past next week.

Remain in Matt Light (Barnwell, 11-2) 97 def. Better Call Saul (Rob, 6-7) 77

Barnwell could have spent the week goofing off and backing into the top seed and bye week, but Her eyes are ever upon him, and he came to play. Not starting BenJarvus Green-Ellis against the Jets made sense, but Mario Manningham cost Barnwell 16 points. Rob answered the heavy hitters (LeSean McCoy with 24 and Sidney Rice with 22) with some slugs of his own (Tom Brady's 29 and Giants DST's 24), but received an average of three points each from the rest of his team. In the end, modest performances from Michael Turner (14 points) and Jason Witten (10) may have made the difference.


Some time in the next few weeks, your Scramble writers will break down the numbers and make some sense out of the great CBORG experiment. Initial thought tends toward "disastrous."

This Was Probably A Failed Sitcom Pilot

Mike: Every time I see the title, I keep thinking Spoonman. That was a complete aside, I know.

Tom: In which case I must admit I'm not familiar with Spoonman.

Mike: It's a mediocre Soundgarden song. It bears no relation to this commercial. I'm not sure why it popped into my head.

Tom: I see. Once again, there's a great deal about this commercial I don't get. Let's say that you're Pond Man. You're moving to the big city. What kind of apartment do you get?

Mike: Wait, he's moving into the apartment?

Tom: Apparently, one that doesn't have much that initially reminds you of home.

Mike: I thought he was crashing at someone's place, based on his initial interaction with the woman.

Tom: No, I think it's his place and the woman is a real estate agent.

Mike: Hm. That makes sense, but there are a million ways to make this relationship more clear.

Tom: Yes, you could have the woman saying, "Now is a great time to buy or sell a home, just like any other point in history," and you'd know for sure she was a real estate agent.

Mike: While I appreciate the jab at realty practices, she's more likely a building manager since we believe this to be an apartment, and condos are usually shown by the association.

Tom: I was more making fun of the National Association of Realtors commercials rather than realty practices themselves, but yes, you're probably right.

Mike: In conclusion: Realty organizations are always fair game. Back to the commercial, I think they're trying to emphasize how out of place he is, which is why everything is stark white and steel with no extraneous furniture

Tom: Yes, I get that.

Mike: To give the audience a sense that it's not really a home.

Tom: The only things in there that aren't white/steel are the black screen around the electronics, including the wall-mounted television, his suitcase, and him.

Mike: On the other hand, it is now official: Even swamp monsters have HD, so get with the times. You know who you are.

Tom: Yeah, HDTV really is nice. That reminds me I want to upgrade my bedroom TV.

Mike: You have a bedroom TV? You bourgeoisie!

Tom: I do. I live alone and have two televisions.

Mike: No animals, even. You're practically a reclusive millionaire.

Tom: Thousandaire.

Mike: True.

Tom: But that just brings up my next point: Where does Pond Man get his money?

Mike: Sold natural gas rights from the swamp?

Tom: I admit I'm not hugely familiar with pond ecosystems, but as far as I know, they don't tend to feature much use of money.

Mike: Maybe that's why he had to leave -- the equipment was taking over the surface of his land.

Tom: Hm, I guess that makes sense. But from the text, Mom is still living at the pond.

Mike: Well, she's the holdout. That is why all the frogs have moved to her plat. It's like Up, but instead of cranky but lovable old men, it has swamp monsters.

Tom: Great. If this is Up, then I suppose Pond Man's mom is named "Kevin?"

Mike: I'm not sure we want to go there

Tom: Have you seen Up? Didn't it bother you that the Boy Scout named the female weird animal "Kevin"?

Mike: I have. I know. To be fair, he didn't know it was a she, and that was the joke.

Tom: I got it. It still bothered me. I'm very literal, as I mention literally almost every week.

Mike: This is literally true. Anyway, pond man and mother need to figure out Skype. I bet it even runs on his low-rent smart phone, because Skype rules our world.

Tom: Pretty much. Or at least it may be the only reason my niece doesn't run away when she sees me.

Loser League Update

Kicker: We see a definite trend with Loser League kickers, where the player who gets few chances (and screws up) grabs the gold. This describes Graham Gano's -1 to a tee. One extra point and one missed field goal, and that's all she wrote.

Wide Receiver: This week is a mix of players at 0 points: Jerricho Cotchery and Eddie Royal both played in games where their team's passing offense either imploded or were simply shut down. James Jones, on the other hand, was part of a pretty good game by the Packers, but played no real part in it. Jones had two receptions, sneaking him past the penalty line, but he only amassed eight yards.

Running Back: It's a foregone conclusion that playing the Steelers is bad news for a running back, and despite all the questions surrounding their defense, playing the Vikings isn't so great, either. Ray Rice and Fred Jackson played very different teams but met with very similar problems, ending their games with 4 points each.

Quarterback: This week is pretty retro, marking the return of Kyle Orton to your loser leaders. Not to be outdone, however, perennial whipping boy Derek Anderson came through with 2 points. Whereas Orton simply had a bad game with a fumble, Anderson had a super-awful game and an interception.


KEEP CHOPPING WOOD: In a game where points and yards are at a premium, don't be the guy who gives up a touchdown and gives the other team first downs. Don't be Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden, who lost track of Anquan Boldin in man coverage to allow a touchdown and gave the Ravens two more first downs with defensive pass interference penalties.

MIKE MARTZ AWARD: A wasted challenge on a first-quarter quarterback sneak in the middle of the pile, one of the hardest spot challenges to win. An extreme long-shot field goal attempt in unfavorable weather conditions in the first quarter. Punting on fourth-and-1 near midfield in the second quarter down three scores after going for in in the same spot a quarter earlier. Given everything else that happened, Rex Ryan's coaching decisions almost certainly wouldn't have affected the final outcome, but the Jets as a whole seemed discombobulated on Monday night, and that started with the head coach.

COLBERT AWARD: We resisted the each temptation to give Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims Keep Chopping Wood this week in favor of giving Sean Payton the Colbert Award. This is maybe a little much, but keep in mind that: (a) the hut-hut strategy rarely works and (b) when the Saints lined up to hut-hut, they were coming out of a timeout, meaning they would have no option but to take a delay of game, forcing a game-tying field-goal attempt to come from five yards farther back. As he did in the Super Bowl, Payton took a risk that could have cost his team and it paid off.

Scramble Mailbag

nick_thunderdome: First round of my fantasy playoffs and I've got tons of questions for starts in round 1:

QB: Roethlisberger or Kyle Orton. Scoring is 6 points per TD, with a bonus at 300 yards. As of now, I'm leaning towards Ben.

RBs / WRs: My league gives .5 ppr for WR / TE (not RB) and a 4 point bonus for 100 ReYds / 100 RuYds. Long TDs are worth 7 points.

My choices (average points per game so far in parentheses for reference on the scoring system): Rashard Mendenhall (14.7) vs CIN, Mike Tolbert (12.2) vs KC, Matt Forte (14.6) vs NE, Ray Rice (12.3) vs HOU, Andre Johnson (17.1) vs BAL, Steve Johnson (15.0) vs CLE, Steve Breaston (11.0) vs DEN, Hines Ward (8.9) vs CIN.

All positions are flex and I can pick 5 starters. Thanks guys.

Tom: I'll hit the quarterback question first. Denver worries me. As we mentioned earlier, Orton had a horrible game for both fantasy and real purposes last week. And I sort of assume Josh McDaniels had a lot to do with the passing game. How a team reacts after a coach is fired is always hard to know.

Mike: Yeah. On the other hand, he's playing an awful secondary, and Roethlisberger is hurt.

Tom: Both the Bengals and the Cardinals are low-ranked against the run, and the Cardinals are also bad against the pass in DVOA terms. The Bengals haven't been quite so formidable against the pass with their injuries in the secondary, though. And I just can't trust a team that's just had its coach fired.

Mike: See, I don't think coach firing is nearly a counterbalance to playing the Cardinals, but I see what you're saying.

Tom: And, oddly enough, we've now both come down more in favor of the guy on our fantasy team.

Mike: Funny how that works out.

Tom: Yup. Second half of the question, backs and receivers, pick five. Easy sit: Steve Breaston. I think Mendenhall, Forte, Rice, and Andre Johnson are all auto-starts. That means one of Tolbert, Stevie Johnson, and Ward.

Mike: I'd say sit Ward, also, and I agree with you on your auto-starts.

Tom: So we're really coming down to Tolbert against Stevie Johnson.

Mike: I'd actually go with Tolbert.

Tom: Johnson has higher upside, but he's also the riskier play.

Mike: Cleveland's defense has flashes of above-averageness. Yeah.

Tom: Even playing three running backs already, I want the more guaranteed production of a back. Start the four running backs and Johnson. Andre, that is.

Mike: I concur.

With the playoffs starting in most fantasy leagues, it's crunch time! Send in your questions to Contact Us and get some non-zero edge on the competition!


41 comments, Last at 13 Dec 2010, 4:48pm

4 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Honestly, I think there's a good argument for Garcia as the most underrated QB of all time.

In terms of passing rate stats, he's really, really good. He didn't get sacked much. He ran well and efficiently. He put the ball on the ground more than you'd like, but not at a terrible rate. His 2000 and 2001 seasons were legitimately terrific, and he was already 30 in 2000.

On the other hand, his postseason record frankly sucks. But that is only six games total, and we should all know to beware the small sample size.

And as of now, his reputation is pretty lousy compared to the stats.

23 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Maybe, but he's not a guy you'd really want quarterbacking your team for the long term. Whatever system you're trying to install just goes out the window in favor of Jeff Garcia's freelancing. There's no timing or rhythm to the offense. He drops back, nervously glances from left to right looking at the pass rush and then scrambles at the slightest hint of pressure and then looks to see if anyone is open. I don't you can build a consistent winner around a guy like that.

24 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

That reads more like a rationalization than an argument.

Though given the way coaches work, the freelancing could explain why Garcia wasn't more popular with coaches. Lots of them would rather stink on ice with a guy running their system the way they want it to be run than be effective with a guy running out there and playing schoolyard ball all time.

29 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Seems pretty clear to me.

All of these are potential effects and in some cases rather extreme.

When the QB freelances, it leads to breakdowns across the offense.

1. WR change their routes to help him. Potentially flooding zones and /or confusing the pass patterns. If you are trying to attack certain peopl or areas of the defense, this confuses the issue.

2. Rushers peel off their blocks to follow the QB. This leads to blockers in poor leverage positiona and potentially more penalties as they try to protect the QB.

3. The QB ends up in poor locations and unnecessarily exposes himself to injury.

2 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Also, if you open up the best non-Super Bowl QB to the whole Super Bowl era, not just the cap era, is there a debate, or is the answer just obviously Dan Fouts?

5 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Good question. I imagine some people would argue for Warren Moon, though I'd put Fouts ahead myself.

Bernie Kosar pops into my head as one of the better ones, though obviously not better than Fouts or Moon.

Randall Cunningham is one of the more famous, and had some great years, but probably wasn't good enough on the whole. Is he even better than Daunte Culpepper?

7 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Ah, Moon. For some reason I was forgetting Moon. Yeah, I'd still go with Fouts without much hesitation, but obviously Moon would draw some justified support.

Cunningham is killed for me by the sacks and fumbles, as is Culpepper. I'd rank them pretty similarly, I think, though I'd definitely take Cunningham before Culpepper.

3 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Can someone explain the false start rule, in full, as it pertains to Quarterbacks?

I was watching on just a tiny TV hanging in the concession area of the stadium and haven't seen a replay, but it seemed to me at the time like Brees faked a step back and his foot, head, and shoulders (pretty much his entire body) moved. I could swear I've seen false starts on the QB called for less than that.

But I don't know the specifics of the rule.

13 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Rule 7-3-4:
Article 4 From the start of the neutral zone until the snap, no offensive player, if he assumed a set position, shall charge or move in such a way as to simulate the start of a play (false start).

From the Supplemental Notes:
(3) Any quick, abrupt movement by a single offensive player or by several offensive players in unison, which simulates the start of the snap is a false start.

A.R. 7.23 Second-and-10 on the B40. Quarterback A1 bobs his head in an exaggerated manner prior to the snap and draws the defense into the neutral zone.
Ruling: Penalize five yards for false start. Blow the whistle immediately.

From 7-2-6:
Note 2: Non-abrupt movement of head and/or shoulders by offensive players prior to the snap is legal. Players must come to a stop before ball is snapped. If officials judge the action of the offensive players to be abrupt, false start foul is to be called.

6 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Don't laugh, but I feel like Brunell and Jake Plummer at least deserve to be in the conversation.

14 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

When I initially posed the question on Twitter last week, Brunell was one of the names I mentioned, and we probably should have discussed him, though I think his case is less interesting and/or worse than all of the guys we did discuss. Jake Plummer, well, maybe if you ignore interceptions.

31 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Trent Green also technically qualifies, although he was not on the active roster for the Super Bowl when his team made it. He was on IR for the Rams when they won the Super Bowl. It was his season-ending injury in preseason that opened the door for Kurt Warner, and the rest is history.

33 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Since neither guy played meaningful regular season nor playoff minutes, neither qualified for the sort of exercise I had in mind. A better way of frame the question would perhaps have been "Who's the best quarterback in the cap era not to lead his team to the Super Bowl?"

8 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I'm facing the exact same fantasy predicament for the first round of my playoffs: Big Ben or Orton. I've whiffed on this so often this year I don't want to do the same now but I know I will. Anybody got any better arguments either way than just "I don't trust coaching changes."

9 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I have the same thing, too, and I'm going with Ben, because I'm guessing at the following without McDaniels:
A. Lots more running
B. Brandon Lloyd turns back into a pumpkin
C. Lots more Eddie Royal
D. A quick hook in favor of Tebow

I think that makes Orton too risky to play.

10 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

D is what frightens me the most, as well as that lingering feeling that Orton himself has long since turned back into a pumpkin. However, Arizona is terrible, has given up on the season, the weather will be good, and maybe the offense will actually benefit from going away from McDaniels' stale schemes. Plus there's the fear that you bench Orton and he goes off for 40, while I don't have the same fear about benching Big Ben.

11 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

On the subject of Carson Palmer's problems:

Our o-line has been bad ever since the injuries of '06, save for a brief bout of run-blocking in '09. And our playcalling is horrible; we've had the same idiot OC for the entire Marvin era. We never utilized a pass-receiving TE until this year (Gresham).

But, even with all those problems...Carson does throw high, at times, and he tends to force it, instead of going the dump-off route. He's jittery even with okay protection. I sometimes think he got spoiled from playing behind an elite line at USC. You'd think that, after what happened in the Steelers' game, we'd have invested heavily in o-line. Instead, we've basically ignored it, spending only two draft picks on OL in the first two rounds, one of which was Andre Smith (ugh).

15 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I guess you guys don't do radio commercials, but I'm ready to track down the carmel mocha guy and strangle him with my bare hands.

18 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Biggest problem with CBORG is that it's a projections bitch. The ESPN projections are just wrong sometimes. A big part of fantasy is deciding who to start.

19 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Okay, guys, if you're going to do a fantasy column, even a comedy fantasy column, all the team owners have to be trying or at least interesting. Tell Elias to get his !#$!%! act together. It's been weeks of indifference, not comedy. If it were comedy, he'd be starting Jan Stenerud.

20 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

One thing Norv doesn't have that Ron does - an outright Big Ten Championship!

If only I could forget the rest of the Ron Turner years in Champaign

22 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I read something, I can't remember what, about the NFL salary cap era, saying that the introduction of the salary cap didn't really make individual years more competitive. You still had roughly the same number of dominant teams in a year and the same number of bad ones. This is pretty much true, but misses the point. The difference is, those teams aren't the same every year. The common denominator of great team success seems to me to be good quarterback play.

Lots to argue with here!

A few years ago, Doug Drinen did a series on parity. He distinguished between two types: in-season ('any given Sunday') and season-to-season.

He found that there were two striking periods of the former kind: the early 1980s, and 1993-96. It's tempting to link these to significant changes in the way the game was played and organized: the 1978 rule changes, and the introduction of the salary cap. I'd add that both periods featured big booms in pass offense: attempts per game shot up from 26 in 1978 to between 31 and 32 for all of 1981-87, before declining again. A second spurt boosted attempts from an average of less than 30 per game in 1992 to 34.8 in the wacky Scott Mitchell & Erik Kramer season of 1995 — still a record today (though 2010 is close). A passing league is a more volatile league.

Season-to-season parity is more difficult to read. The 1970s were clearly the most stable era since the merger. The period of most volatility, at least using Drinen's numbers, was 1998-2005: this was the era of those ten-win turnarounds in Indy and St Louis, and of the 'SB loser's curse' in Oakland, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Close analysis of recent years reveals a disparity between the conferences: the AFC has been pretty stable; the NFC totally manic.

That leads me to question the assertion about "good QB play" (which is, in itself, a pretty vague statement — this is clearly not TMQ). We are living through an era of massively consistent quarterbacking by the superstars. Brady, Brees, Rivers and Manning (pick-sixes notwithstanding) have put together the most impressive blocks of great passing seasons the league has ever known. An echelon below, Favre and McNabb have been above average for about 30 seasons between them. If "good QB play" were the key, surely the NFL would be going through an age of extreme consistency?

What's happening instead is that we're seeing a bunch of very solid passing seasons: the gap between this year's #2 (Big Ben) and #13 (Peyton Manning!!) is about 20 percentage points of DVOA; back in 2004, the gap was nearly 30 points, and back in the dark ages of the early 1990s it was bigger than that. There are really only two teams (Cards and Panthers) that have horrible quarterbacking this year: every other team does enough — which is why the 28th-ranked Bears and 29th-ranked Raiders are in playoff contention.

The basis for "success" in the NFL is not static, as you'd expect. But at the moment, I'd argue that good QB play is a given; it's harder for a team to differentiate itself from the pack at that position than it was in the days of Marino and Montana, or even irrational-era Manning and Brady. What sets the elite teams apart from the rest now is what else they can do. (NB This year's top three offenses in DVOA are the top three rushingoffenses.)

As it is, this supposedly topsy-turvy season has brought us a DVOA top-six of NE, Pit, Phi, GB, NYG, Bal — throw in the Colts, and that's your full quota of the best teams of the 21st century. Parity schmarity.

40 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

Those are the top seven teams in wins since 2000, playoffs included or excluded. San Diego is 11th. GB is on course for its eighth winning season in eleven (with one .500). It's not been outstanding, but has been very consistently average or better, which is no mean feat.

25 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

RE: "There's actually another name the query isn't picking up, because he's not quite at the 80-start threshold yet. And that's Philip Rivers."

There's actually two names your query didn't pick up: If you drop the GS down to 50, you get Rivers with 7.28 ANY/A and Romo right behind him with 7.15 (Garcia would be third, way down though, with 6.24 ANY/A).

34 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I included Rivers in the discussion because he'll hit 80 starts at the end of this year unless he misses a start. Romo is only at 61. If I/we revisit this subject in a couple years, Romo and Aaron Rodgers (48 starts at the end of this year) will probably also be in the discussion (assuming, of course, no Super Bowl for them).

28 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

I just think SD defense getting called for too many men on the field on back-to-back plays (one of which resulted in a 37-yard gain despite the D's man advantage) was worth of a mention if not an award.

Also on SD, Fouts and Rivers have zero SB appearances combined yet Stan Humphries has one.

39 Re: Scramble: Pretty Good Quarterbacks

For the fantasy start/sit question the Browns defense has shown more than just flashes of above-averageness, they have simply been above average. I thought you might have figured this out since DVOA has their D at number 9, and number 8 in weighted D. Also I would think you guys would be aware of this since it was one of the spot on preseason predictions. However that being said the Browns are below average against number 1 receivers which makes starting Johnson a possibility, but most of that was against Eric Wright who regressed terribly, and now Haden is in and playing quite well.