Derek Carr: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Derek Carr: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Derek Carr: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Scott Kacsmar

When a sportswriter incurs the wrath of a fan base with his work, he probably said something they find highly disagreeable. One thing sportswriters usually want to avoid is poking the bear for fun, because that's when the bears get really angry, and the mama bear is most protective when you target her young cub.

Last week, I poked the bear on Twitter when I said Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was overrated. I was working on the second part of our look at passing plus-minus for ESPN Insider, and I already knew Carr would cause some controversy. One of his fans already left a misguided comment in the discussion thread for our ESPN article on the top 10 quarterbacks in this metric, which included Teddy Bridgewater at No. 3. You basically cannot talk about Bridgewater without someone bringing up Carr and vice versa, for obvious 2014 draft-related reasons. Between that comment and hearing on my TV that Carr was the best young quarterback in the league, I guess I felt the need to say "stop the presses" with the late-night tweet that he was overrated, which I quickly summarized in our look at the bottom passers in adjusted completion rate. Carr's C%+ went from minus-1.3 percent (29th) as a rookie to minus-1.2 percent (31st) in 2015, and this even adjusts for things like dropped passes and throwaways.

Oakland fans came out in full force to back their guy, because that's what a fan base starved for success will do when you criticize the player who might be the best quarterback their team has drafted since Ken Stabler in 1968. Oakland is tired of the retreads, reclamation projects, and draft busts from the last three decades. Carr is the 53-touchdown-throwin', possibly-eyeliner-wearing, better-than-his-brother-ever-was, baby-faced stud. How dare you criticize, Scott. How dare you.

One usually inactive Twitter user even flooded my mentions with links to articles filled with puffery about Carr. In an attempt to cure the insomnia I had while at a sleep study, I actually read some of them and started seeing the same arguments, which I found to be highly disagreeable. In another recent article, Carr ranked 16th in Mike Sando's 2016 quarterback tier rankings at ESPN, voted on by 42 league insiders. That article did little to praise him this year, and there is also little to distinguish him from Tyrod Taylor, the 26th-ranked quarterback.

The more I looked at it, the more I started to see what was happening here. Carr's first two seasons are an excellent case study for how fans view fantasy football value compared to real football value, and the perceived divide between statistics and film study.

Fantasy vs. Real Life

Can you name an NFL player who was widely considered good, but had below-average stats and played on losing teams? Have fun with that one in the comments, because as I told Cian Fahey earlier this summer, it's almost impossible to find one. Success will almost always show up, either on the stat sheet or in the team's record. Haloti Ngata has some pretty soft numbers even for a defensive tackle, but he has anchored some of the best defenses in the NFL since 2006, and has a ring. Brandon Marshall has yet to even play for a playoff team, but he is carving out a nice Hall of Fame resume given his stats achieved with so many different teams and quarterbacks.

In the case of Carr, Oakland is clearly not winning yet, hence the 10-22 (.313) record since 2014. As for his stats, we have to continuously adjust what "good" means as the game changes. As Chase Stuart recently pointed out, the league's 2016 average touchdown-to-interception ratio is likely to eclipse Joe Montana's career average of 1.96, which was the highest in NFL history when he retired after the 1994 season. Now Montana's number would be below average! This is why we do opponent and era adjustments. Given how many future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and other accomplished players there are in the NFL right now, Carr's numbers must be compared to a higher modern standard.

Back in the day, a second-year Pro Bowl quarterback with 32 touchdown passes would have been on his way to superstar status. The first three quarterbacks to do that were Dan Marino (1984), Kurt Warner (1999), and Daunte Culpepper (2000). Marino and Warner were both league MVPs who got to the Super Bowl, while Culpepper was in the NFC Championship Game with Minnesota. The only other second-year player to even throw at least 28 touchdowns was Jeff Garcia (2000), who like Warner, got a late start to his NFL career and took advantage of a soft NFC West schedule.

Last season, Blake Bortles (35) and Carr (32) joined that list, but they had nowhere near the overall success of Marino, Warner, and Culpepper. Carr's Pro Bowl berth was one of the highlights of his resume held aloft by his supporters. Fine, but just remember he was one of 11 quarterbacks to get a Pro Bowl selection. That includes injury and Super Bowl replacements, and not the snubbed Kirk Cousins, who had a better year than most of the replacements.

The Pro Bowl does not have the same meaning it used to, but neither do the touchdown passes these days. Here's another list that Bortles and Carr headline: when you look at the lowest seasons in ESPN's QBR for quarterbacks with at least 30 touchdown passes since 2006, Bortles (46.4) and Carr (49.2) are the only two players under 50.0, which is the benchmark for average. The next lowest seasons belong to 2010 Eli Manning (56.4) and 2013 Andy Dalton (56.8).

While 32 to 35 touchdown passes used to indicate strong play at the position, Bortles and Carr showed otherwise last year, and it is reflected in their teams' losing records. Among the 74 seasons in NFL history where a quarterback had at least 32 touchdown passes, 66 of them (89.2 percent) resulted in at least a .500 record. From 1920 to 2014, there were three seasons in NFL history where a quarterback threw at least 32 touchdowns and had a losing record as a starter. Vinny Testaverde did it for the 1996 Ravens, FO's favorite 4-12 team given how out of whack they were with the defensive approach that was to come in Baltimore. Drew Brees did it twice in defenseless New Orleans (2012 and 2014).

Last season, a whopping five quarterbacks did this, including Carr (7-9), Bortles (5-11), Eli Manning (6-10), Matthew Stafford (7-9) and Brees (7-8) again. In most of these cases, a lack of rushing touchdowns helped inflate the passing total. Jacksonville only scored five rushing touchdowns, and Bortles even had two of those. Since 2014, Oakland's 11 rushing touchdowns are the second-fewest in the league, and Jacksonville's 14 are the third-fewest. (San Diego has a league-low 10 rushing scores.)

While Carr's red zone passing has actually been exceptional through two years, his offense does not score many points overall and he gets a high share of the few touchdowns they do produce. This is great for fantasy football, but in real football, you want an offense that can score a lot regardless of how the ball is actually getting into the end zone. Oakland went from 31st (1.24) in points per drive in 2014 to 20th (1.89) last year -- an improvement, but still below average.

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A lack of context is why Carr's money stat -- ranking second in touchdown passes (53) through two seasons in NFL history behind only Dan Marino (68) -- bugs me. The stat is true, but how meaningful is it when Carr is only the eighth quarterback to start 32 games in his first two years, and he has the second-most pass attempts (1,172)? Carr threw one more touchdown in his first two years than Peyton Manning on 64 more attempts, and one more touchdown than Russell Wilson on 372 more attempts. Carr's touchdown percentage (4.5 percent) is identical to what Andy Dalton had through two seasons.

If it was not clear enough already, the 2014 and 2015 seasons featured the most touchdown passes in NFL history and the two highest touchdown passing rates since the 1970 merger. I'll give credit to Carr for earning a Week 1 rookie starting job and having the durability to go 32 consecutive starts, but 14 NFL teams have thrown 53 touchdown passes since 2014, with four more sitting on 51. When Manning threw 52 touchdowns in 1998-99, only six teams had more. If you throw a touchdown pass on 4.5 percent of your passes in 2014-15 like Carr, that doesn't make you good. That just means you're average.

So when people say Carr's stats are good, it really is a simplified fantasy football outlook of focusing on volume. He starts every game, he throws the ball a lot, and he does get a high percentage of his team's touchdowns. But the lack of more efficient play overall is not helping Oakland win more games, and Carr's second-half slump in 2015 would have disappointed even fantasy owners. After starting the season with four 300-yard passing games and four games with three-plus touchdown passes though Week 9, Carr hit that yardage only twice and that touchdown benchmark just once in his final eight games. While year-to-year defensive correlation makes predicting schedule strength trickly, Carr may even stumble again in 2016's second half given that the Raiders will play Denver twice, Kansas City, Carolina, and Houston after Week 8.

When you get past the touchdown total that had decreased real football value last year, it is hard to see where this idea that Carr has arrived as a franchise quarterback comes from. He is not as rough around the edges as Bortles, but they are similarly inconsistent players through two seasons.

Stats vs. Film

Just as the standards of quarterback play have risen in the NFL, the standard in using football stats for analysis has really improved. I feel like I am preaching to the choir on this part, so we will jump right to the conclusion. An analyst should use both game film and statistics. It does not have to be exclusively one or the other, and if it is, you probably are missing some valuable information and doing your readers a disservice.

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The part that really irks me is the perception that these two methods are so far apart. They may be if you are bad at using them, but a lot of our data that gets presented on the site or featured in the Football Outsiders Almanac comes from carefully watching the games and rewinding plays several times to get things right. The game-charting project, with its roots going back to 2005, makes it absolutely essential to watch every play to get accurate charting data. When Cian Fahey breaks down a quarterback in Film Room, you can bet he watched every dropback multiple times. When we do our annual studies on adjusted interceptions and pass pressure, we had sets of eyes on every play. When I wrote about Amari Cooper's catch radius, I watched and charted every catch he made. Is there always a level of subjectivity to many of our charting metrics? Yes, but that is unavoidable. The fact is we are looking at the full picture and trying to offer unique stats to help with the analysis.

Too often I see articles that do a nice job of breaking down a few plays for a player, but when a quarterback has more than 700 plays in a season, what can you really learn from a few plays? You can make those plays say whatever you want if you find the right ones. Stats count every play. It's like watching a teaser compared to the full movie. I am not trying to pick on any individual writer, because I know how time-consuming it can be to chart a full season for a player. Then, if you want to make it meaningful enough to read, you need at least one other player or one other season to compare it to, and hopefully more. But the payoff can be huge when you combine stats and film, even if some want to continue distancing them from each other.

So a few hours after my Carr tweet, Matt Bowen had a piece at ESPN Insider that ranked the young quarterbacks on upside. He had Carr at No. 1, which of course had Oakland fans sending me another link. I like Bowen, an ex-player with the experience to break down film and the writing skills to simplify it for his readers to understand. Since his focus was on upside, this was more of a forward-thinking piece than a raw ranking of what's happened the last two seasons.

Here is an excerpt of what Bowen had to say about Carr:

You want to see Carr sling it? Go check out some of the throws he made against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The skinny post, the seam to split the safeties. Big time. Or turn on the tape against the Green Bay Packers and watch Carr drop an absolute dime on the deep corner route to Amari Cooper. Wow. That's legit stuff.

I think I know which three throws Bowen is talking about, but are these three any more important than the other 570 passes Carr threw in 2015? We can always go back to find great plays from Josh McCown's last three seasons, especially in 2013 with the Bears when he was the best quarterback under pressure in the last six seasons. Of course, in the last two years McCown has helped Tampa Bay and Cleveland earn very high draft picks, an unexpected value to be sure, but not surprising when you look at his full body of work. The bad plays still count.

Furthermore, Bowen ranked Teddy Bridgewater fifth, giving him the highest floor, but not much room for upside with his conservative nature. That may be fair, but I think Bowen too easily dismisses the edge Bridgewater holds over Carr (and Bortles) in QBR in 2014 and 2015. I am not saying he should have pimped the stat more because the article was on ESPN, but QBR is valuing every play with context (except, admittedly, strength of schedule). Bowen mentions Carr's struggles under pressure and against better competition (AFC West defenses), but Bridgewater should get credit for playing some of his best ball against teams like Denver and Arizona while facing the most pressure in the league last year, while Carr was one of the least pressured quarterbacks. Getting rid of the ball really seems to be Carr's most significant statistical achievement, something that likely became a goal after watching his brother David get pummeled in Houston.

In fact, here is a very interesting split from last season.

  • Bridgewater (14th) ranked higher in DVOA with pressure than Carr (17th).
  • Bridgewater (12th) ranked higher in DVOA without pressure than Carr (17th).
  • Bridgewater (22nd) ranked lower in passing DVOA than Carr (13th).

The inclusion of scrambles in the pressure splits (but not in passing DVOA as of now) is not enough to explain a nice example of Simpson's paradox in sports stats. Jason Lisk had a good one years ago at Pro Football Reference about the rushing averages for Jim Brown and Jim Taylor. This particular split comes back to Bridgewater being pressured on a league-high 36.0 percent of his plays compared to 20.5 percent for Carr (sixth-lowest). If these quarterbacks were pressured at a similar rate, Bridgewater would likely have the better overall DVOA too.

But pressure rates and sack percentages take a backseat to several metrics we have found that annually highlight strong quarterback play and lead to success. Stats where the cream generally rises to the top: DVOA, QBR, yards per attempt, passing plus-minus. Even more unit-driven results such as yards per drive often reflect favorably on the top quarterbacks, assuming they started the full season.

Derek Carr's Stat Rankings
Statistic 2014 2015
Total QBR 38.2 (28th) 49.2 (23rd)
Yards per drive 22.63 (32nd) 28.86 (26th)
Points per drive 1.24 (31st) 1.89 (20th)
Drop-adjusted passing +/- -6.9 (29th) -6.7 (31st)
DVOA with pressure -84.5% (22nd) -65.2% (17th)
DVOA without pressure 26.9% (34th) 47.7% (17th)
Yards per pass 5.46 (33rd) 6.96 (25th)

We can excuse Carr's rookie year for obvious reasons, and should note the improvement last year. But in a 32-team league, Carr and the Raiders failed to make the top 16 in any of these categories. That makes it hard to believe the full picture shows a good quarterback. Just remember: the stats won't change until the film does first. The full film.


Rarely should you lay out the "Jump to Conclusions" mat and set your mark for a quarterback's career after his second season. Things can change in a hurry. I have found that a four-year rule works well, but two years are usually not enough time. You might have been sold by Dan Marino and Peyton Manning that early, but Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman needed more time to transition from disappointing No. 1 picks into future Hall of Famers. Of course, the latter pair had the advantage of playing on dynastic teams with many great players, but you would have been dead wrong to project them to be poor players moving forward after Year 2.

Too often in today's social media world, which keeps an unforgiving history of your old takes, we get forced into choosing a side. But any good analyst should know that in light of new information, you have the right to change sides. If Derek Carr is legitimately good in 2016, then the critics are going to quiet down. I will quiet down. However, that does not make his 2014-15 performance any better. That would be all in the past, when he was a different level of player.

Good players rarely need much justification, because the results tend to speak for themselves. The results have not been there yet for Carr, but on the bright side, he is still young and has time to deliver. And if you can make Oakland relevant again after 13 non-winning seasons, then you are probably good.


112 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2016, 10:44am

#1 by Will Allen // Aug 17, 2016 - 9:45pm

Took a quick skim, and will come back for fuller reading, but just a quick thought. Can you imagine the state of shock the modern qb would experience, if they allowed, say for a month, receivers to be jammed all over the field, allowed the head slap for defensive linemen again, and allowed qbs to be hit again? We might see some 10 int games.

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#33 by Pottsville Mar… // Aug 18, 2016 - 9:31am

Will, that's a good point, but I think there's a factor that would counteract it. Now the NFL has the pick, every year, of at least 30-40 QBs coming out of college who played in pro-style or spread systems and threw hundreds of passes. College passing games are no longer purely rollout- or play-action-based systems with one or two potential receivers. For all the whining from NFL pundits about how college QBs aren't ready for the NFL, there are a lot more guys who have played in an advanced passing game than there used to be (and this is true of the high school level, too).

Two of my favorite examples are failed draft picks. Rick Mirer was drafted #2 overall in 1993, and Heath Shuler was drafted #3 overall in 1994. Both played in option offenses in college. If you look at their highlights on YouTube, you see virtually no instances of them reading defenses. In retrospect, it's not surprising that they couldn't cut it in the NFL despite their physical talent. So I agree that QBs had it tougher back in the bad old days, but I think it's also likely that those QBs simply weren't as good as the QBs today.

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#35 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 9:50am

Well, of course they weren't, but again, I'm mostly referring to what the modern defensive player would be like, playing in the pre '78 rules environment..

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#2 by Travis // Aug 17, 2016 - 9:52pm

Can you name an NFL player who was widely considered good, but had below-average stats and played on losing teams?

Isn't the answer to this question always Archie Manning?

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#5 by Will Allen // Aug 17, 2016 - 10:29pm

People who never saw him play, and only look at the stat lines, have a tough time imagining it, but Archie was really, really, good, like HOF good, if only he'd been drafted by a better managed team.

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#37 by Aaron Schatz // Aug 18, 2016 - 10:11am

Archie Manning's stats are much better than most people would think once you adjust for era. In particular, he took advantage of the loosened passing rules in 1978 better than most quarterbacks.

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#39 by Travis // Aug 18, 2016 - 10:31am

Archie Manning's stats are much better than most people would think once you adjust for era.

Only for 1978-1980. He's below league-average in adjusted net yards per attempt (and pretty much every other adjusted statistic) in every other year in his career.

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#42 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 11:40am

By 1981 Archie Manning was a 32 year old qb who had the snot kicked out of him for a decade, in a way that doesn't happen anymore, given most of that decade was on a truly awful team. My other contention is that the awful teams of the pre-salary cap era were markedly less competitive than the awful teams of today. Hmm, that's worth looking in to, although I seem to remember Aaron doing something along those lines.

Archie started 11 games in 1981, due to injury, and never started in more than 5 in a season again.

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#44 by Travis // Aug 18, 2016 - 11:58am

I'm not saying there's not an explanation for his poor statistics, just that it's hard to come up with statistics that say Archie was an above-average QB for the majority of his career.

And then he was traded to the godawful early-80's Oilers, and traded again to what became the Les Steckel Vikings. You can see why Archie was so adamant about Eli not playing for a Charger organization that he thought was dysfunctional.

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#47 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:14pm

There was a game against the '84 Bears (which really was almost as good, defensively, as the '85 bunch) where Archie started, got concussed to the bench, the Vikings put in Wade Wilson, who got concussed some time in the 4th quarter, Steckel asked Archie to go back in, and Archie pretty much told Ol' Blood and Guts Les to go eff himself, and the Vikings finished the game with a rb playing qb.

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#67 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 19, 2016 - 2:12pm

Wonder whether the Vikings-Bears game came before or after the Raiders game in 84.

The Raiders lost Marc Wilson and David Humm and were down to Ray Guy (the punter). Guy refused.

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#69 by Travis // Aug 19, 2016 - 2:56pm

Neither of the Vikings-Bears games from 1984 exactly meets Will's description - the closest one is the Week 9 game.

Manning started in place of Tommy Kramer (out with an injured shoulder), was sacked eleven times, leaving after the last of these with about three minutes to go in the 4th quarter. (Manning, joking about the concussion postgame - "It's a game I'd like to forget and fortunately I have forgotten most of it.")

Wilson took over and played the rest of the way, passing on all 12 of the Vikings' remaining offensive snaps.

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#68 by Will Allen // Aug 19, 2016 - 2:52pm

I assume Barry Allen would have been preferred as 2nd stringer, given the league probably has some obscure rule prohibiting actual flight, which makes Clark Kent unavailable. Bruce Banner, of course, would immediately be suspended for suspected PED use.

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#73 by Independent George // Aug 19, 2016 - 6:54pm

Now I want to look up every superhero secret identity on PFR. It'd be like that mashup I once saw where Tony Stark obliterates a bunch of Lannisters on Game of Thrones...

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#14 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:45am

I think Brodie winning MVP and All-Pro honors in 1970 removes him from the discussion. He also had above-average passing stats, was one of the hardest ever to sack and had a winning record until he went 2-7 in his last nine starts.

Archie Manning - career was before my time, but I know the modern story is he was really good and the Saints were an embarrassment. I just wonder how many people thought he was still good before the Blount Rule went into effect in 1978. I never realized before tonight just how much he benefited from that. From 1971-77, Manning only surpassed 1700 yards passing in one season (pedestrian even for those years), and he was 16-51-3 as a starter. Not even Alex Smith would be afforded a stay at QB with those numbers in today's game, but it was a little different back then. Come 1978, Manning put together his three best seasons (1978-1980) with above-average stats and earned respect with 2 Pro Bowls before fading into retirement. So I guess it depends how much people really thought he was good before 1978, and how much of his legend is built on 1978-80 or just revisionist history in general given his sons' success. But he may be the best answer to this.

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#17 by Be0 // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:52am

Statistically john elway had some very lean years with dan reeves . Elway's passing stats and W/L % became significantly better once mike shanahan came to town. Stats dont lie but they can be used to mislead.

RIP Barrel Man...

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#20 by Megamanic // Aug 18, 2016 - 1:50am

Oh yes, look at 1986. 126/280 completions went to RBs - I remember seeing Denver games during this era and every other play seemed to be a "shovel pass" which has a ridiculously high Comp% so his Comp% to TE / WR would have been woeful. That was his 1st Pro-bowl year. Never saw why the NFL thought he was a pro-bowler, never rated him until Shanahan came on board. If he'd quit before Shanahan he'd never be HOF

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#23 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 2:06am

Yes, we know Elway was statistically bland for a decade, but he was still 37 games above .500 and started 3 Super Bowls in that time. Even won an MVP that probably should have went to someone in San Francisco in 1987. So he didn't have the stats then, but easily qualified for the winning part.

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#25 by Megamanic // Aug 18, 2016 - 3:00am

Scott, I'm disappointed to hear someone on FO fall back on the "but he's just a winner" argument...

maybe, just maybe, the supporting cast might have had something to do with it...

I was there for the eighties and I can't think of a more overrated QB from that decade than Elway. All the commentators with their head up his fundament explaining away the latest INT or INC "because he throws the ball so hard" before the next 3yd underarm toss goes to Sammy Winder for an easy completion to pad his woeful stats...

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#28 by TimK // Aug 18, 2016 - 6:54am

There is some excuse for Elway's stats regarding his supporting cast and how much he was having to elevate them. Don't have links to hand right now. But there have been a number of articles from various places attempting to look at skill position players and QB production and Elway generally scores pretty well for getting a lot out of very little help in the first 2/3rds of his career. No-one is every going to mistake Sammy Winder, Vance Johnson and Clarence Kay for Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jay Novacek... Put him with a excellent supporting cast in the last few years of his career and there was a dominant team.

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#55 by Noahrk // Aug 18, 2016 - 5:32pm

I admit to the exact same feelings about Elway Megamanic had. He struck me as the sort of player who, in baseball, hits 25 homeruns with a low batting avg. Valuable, yes, but profited from a relatively strong defense in a very weak conference to make it to all those early Super Bowls.

As to the last line, the same can be said for players like Jay Schroeder and Mark Rypien. Put them with an excellent supporting cast and they were dominant.

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#94 by Denaina // Aug 22, 2016 - 7:07pm

To support the argument for Elway, this was from Football Perspective a few years ago.

It's not just that his supporting cast was bad, but it was really bad. Tom Brady never put up monster numbers before playing with Randy Moss and Wes Welker:

Brady had 2 seasons with > 7.0 YPA
1 season with TD% over 5%
Every season with Int% over 2.3%

2 seasons with <7.0 YPA
1 season with <5.0 TD%
2 seasons with >2.0 int%

I'm not comparing the two, I'm just pointing out that it's hard to play well with a bad cast, or a good cast makes a difference.

How much sustained success did Mark Rypien have playing on a loaded Redskins team with a Hall-of-Fame coach? In the primes of Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders, Rypien had a few good seasons, but as soon as those guys declined(Monk, Sanders)/left(Clark), Rypien was awful.

It would be great to have film back in Elway's day and see what FO, PFF, and other advanced stats sites would grade him and others back in the day (Montana, Marino, Deion, Woodson, LT, Singletary, etc). Maybe one day...

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#98 by theslothook // Aug 23, 2016 - 4:05pm

Those kinds of comparisons aren't particularly useful since Brady himself has changed quite a lot. Of course, its no secret that superstar teams can send your numbers into the stratosphere.

Elway is a thorny case primarily because we don't have enough advanced stats(any?) to measure what kind of quality his teammates are. Its also problematic because the offensive environment has changed so much since then.

In any event, I don't think Elway's legacy has suffered all that much. Most people regard him as one of the greatest ever and in the general conversation for the GOAT. I suspect a large amount of the punditry still has him over Peyton Manning in their all time lists.

Frankly, short of Brady winning another sb, most of the pundits will put the list of GOAT as Montana, Brady, and then some mish mash of others.

I don't personally agree with those who do that, because it really short changes players like Marino and Tarkenton(not too mention, steve young whos era adjusted numbers are also insane). I also suspect Rodgers will get shortchanged historically too, though he has lots of time to change that.

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#19 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 1:06am

You put Peyton on the aints team in 1971, and he's out the league in 5 years, because he would have been killed. The only reason Archie lasted to have good seaons in 78-80 was because he could move well.

I'll say it again; reverse Bradshaw's and Archie's b-days, and thus the teams they were drafted by, and Archie is argued by sme to be the GOAT, and better than his son Peyton, and Bradshaw is a medium level New Orleans celebrity, afer a short, colorful, unsuccessful NFL career.

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#22 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 2:03am

If little Eddie LeBaron lasted as long as he did in the NFL, then I think the 6-foot-5 guy with the quick release would get out alive. Every time I hear about today's players in the past, I think of them hopping in a time machine with their current knowledge. If you dumped Peyton on the 1950 Rams, traded Waterfield and NVB for another great receiver and OL, and gave him the summer to teach Crazy Legs Hirsch and Tom Fears the no-huddle spread offense, that team might score 50 points per game.

I can't deny the potential existence of some "GOAT genes" in Archie given his offspring, but you really think he'd be that good in Pittsburgh? Some people don't even want Swann and Stallworth in the HOF, and they never get there without Bradshaw giving them opportunities to make all-time highlight catches in huge games. I agree that Bradshaw would be closer to Mike Phipps if he went to NO, but I don't see guaranteed success for Archie in Pittsburgh (or Dallas).

Given what we have learned about QB play, I can't imagine there's a roster in NFL history that could make Archie the GOAT QB. It has to start with the player himself, and in all of those seasons, not once did he put it together to have a great year or even lead a team to a winning record. In 1978-79, he had Chuck Muncie, Tony Galbreath, Wes Chandler, TE Henry Childs, two tackles that were high 2nd-round picks, interior OL that went on to start a ton of games, RG Conrad Dobler was 3x Pro Bowler, and you're still talking about 32 TD, 36 INT while just flirting with .500. Nope, didn't have much of a defense, but we can find tons of weaker offensive supporting casts than that, and these were really Archie's best years. That's like top 8 (for the season) QB stuff there.

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#24 by theslothook // Aug 18, 2016 - 2:36am

There's an uncomfortable reality some people are unwilling to face. Today's players(yes, even the defenders) are much better than players 5, 10, and 20 years ago. Its very likely a corner like Deion would be merely good in today's nfl and not shutdown. The game really is much more physically demanding and mentally demanding than it use to be.

Peyton Manning, reared and trained in todays environment and then dropped into the 70s and 80s(assuming he wasn't his broken down self) would dominate the league eve with the rule changes. So would rodgers, brady, and brees. That's because the game today has much more skilled players. Even today's corners are so much better than in years past.

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#26 by Jerry // Aug 18, 2016 - 3:52am

On one hand, the game evolves, medicine advances, etc. and the overall level has improved over time.

On the other hand, great players would be great players whenever they came along. Do you really think Deion, or Rod Woodson, wouldn't be able to cover receivers now? If you sent the quarterbacks you listed back 40 years, to an era when their receivers could be rerouted by DBs, and there was no radio in their helmets for coaches to call plays or give advice, and a third receiver on 3rd-and-long or a second TE in short yardage was the extent of package football, and salaries were such that they'd take offseason jobs, and pass rushers were allowed to make much more contact, do you think those guys would dominate, or just be good quarterbacks for the time?

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#30 by secretbonus // Aug 18, 2016 - 8:28am

Dion Sanders was better than good when he was an old, slow, 37year old man 4 years AFTER retirement.
He'd probably still be better than some of the worst starting CBs at the age of 49.

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#32 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 8:57am

I really think the immobile guys of today would not dominate as much, absent good offensive lines, because a quick release simply is not nearly as valuable, if the receivers can get mugged all over the field, and the d-linemen get to use head slaps, and take free shots at the qb, even at their heads.

I really have been not phrasing things as well as I should have, because I was also envisioning dropping todays defensive players, with modern training techniques, into the pre '78 rules environment. The game would be a bloodbath for the immobile qb behind a bad o-line. A quick release would just get you beat more efficiently.

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#31 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 8:47am

You coudn't live on quick release, behind a bad o-line, in 1973, unless you were simply willing to accept a loss. You had to stand there and take your beating, waiting for a receiver to get open after being wrestled with, or scramble to buy time. Fran Tarkenton survived on bad teams, in the less defesively dominated 1960s because you couldn't get a good shot at him.

I'm probably not phrasing this right, because most of what I'm referring to with regard to inserting Peyton into the 1970s environment is how unworkable the 1970s rule environment would be with the modern defensive player. They wouldn't be able to complete seasons without getting to large numbers of street free agents playing qb, or converting rbs to qbs. The rules HAD to change, not just for marketing reasons, but for the sport's survival. Archie and his sons played very different games.

With regard to Bradshaw vs. Manning Sr., I'll stick with my contention. You give Archie the benefit of Chuck Noll, and 11 or 12 HOF teammates (which undestates how good the Steelers o-line play was, since only Webster has been so recognized), and I think Archie does what Bradshaw did, and more. You put Bradshaw in the environment Archie had to deal with, coaching, teammates, city, the whole thing, and I don't think Bradshaw does as well as Archie did. This kind of goes to my longstanding contention that Tarkenton is underrated, in that it is not fully apporeciated what an outlier he was, in being able to compensate for awful coaching and teammates for the first 2/3 of his very long career. He was well past his physical prime by the time he got back to the Vikings.

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#92 by Pen // Aug 22, 2016 - 2:07am

I was never a Saints fan, but I, like everybody else, though Archie Manning was a great QB playing for a lousy team. That's during the entirety of the 70's, not just the very end.

Another QB I'd put out there was Jim Zorn.

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#58 by Dan // Aug 18, 2016 - 6:41pm

Vinny Testaverde? See Jason Lisk's PFR blog post, "Vinny Testaverde was better than you think."

90-123-1 career record, slightly below average career ANY/A, first season with a non-losing record or above average ANY/A came at age 30, and Lisk argues that he was a Hall of Fame caliber QB.

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#111 by bravehoptoad // Sep 08, 2016 - 7:22pm

Can you name an NFL player who was widely considered good, but had below-average stats and played on losing teams?

What about looking at non-QBs? Maybe Nnamdi Asomugha? Nobody targeted him in Oakland because he was decent and no other cornerbacks there were, but as soon as he left his play crashed.

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#3 by Dan // Aug 17, 2016 - 10:16pm

Different advanced stats disagree with each other a lot on Carr and Bridgewater.

In 2015 Carr was 13th in DVOA, 12th in DYAR, 26th in QBR, 20th in EPA, 19th in ANY/A, and 10th in PFF grade.

Bridgewater was 22nd in DVOA, 21st in DYAR, 13th in QBR, 18th in EPA, 28th in ANY/A, and 13th in PFF grade.

Also, quarterbacks have a lot of responsibility for pressure rate, by getting rid of the ball quickly or hanging onto it for a long time. Bridgewater tends to hold onto the ball for a long time, while Carr tends to get rid of it quickly, so it's not that surprising that he we ran into Simpson's paradox when breaking things down by pressured vs. not pressured.

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#4 by Will Allen // Aug 17, 2016 - 10:25pm

Unless you have some stopwatch times for Bridgewater which indicate otherwise, I'm going to suspect that the pressure rate on Bridgewater is mostly a result that nobody, and I mean nobody, blocked for him. The object of the passing game is not to avoid pressures. It is to find an open receiver. When the blocking is non-existent, and the receivers mediocre at best, then the pressure rate will be high, unless you've told your qb to simply give up on plays at first opportunity.

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#9 by Dan // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:04am

3.03 seconds. Only Tyrod Taylor and Johnny Manziel had a longer average time to throw.

The guys with the stopwatch are at PFF. The spam filter won't let me link, but you can find it by googling "Teddy Bridgewater, 3.03."

Bridgewater also had a very low average depth of target (with lots of failed completions), a lot of throwaways, and a lot of play action plays, which gives him a pretty distinctive statistical profile.

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#10 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:24am

If what you are telling me is that PFF is saying that Bridgewater's o-line provided him the third most time to throw of any qb in the league, then I have to say, not for the first time, that PFF doesnt know if the ball is blown up or stuffed.

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#16 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:50am

I've done the snap-to-release stuff in the past, and it frankly doesn't have any use unless you tie it directly to the presence of pressure. For example, if a QB holds it for 4+ seconds without any pressure, I bet the completion percentage looks pretty good for those plays. Time to sack is useful to see which QBs take quick sacks and which ones take really long ones. I thought it'd be a good metric, but it just wasn't useful when a few examples of trying to extend the play after getting pressured can really drive up the number, while quick screens really bring it down. Not many QBs are even willing to hold the ball for as long as they possibly can, so it's not like you could really draw conclusions like "he had this much time to throw on the play."

Bridgewater did lead all QBs in 2015 with 35 intentional throwaways, and since those are excluded in plus-minus, that is a reason he fares much better than you might expect. But Bridgewater isn't on trial here.

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#21 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 1:52am

Yeah, I didn't realize that PFF was just measuring snap to release, which really is a useless metric.

I'm still agnostic on the whole Carr v. Bridgewater debate. I'd be fun if they were both good enough 5 years from now to have irrational threads about the topic.

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#74 by Duff Soviet Union // Aug 19, 2016 - 8:53pm

I remember being online in 2002 and reading these really passionate / irrational David Carr vs Joey Harrington debates.

Hopefully this doesn't end up like that.

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#50 by Dan // Aug 18, 2016 - 3:50pm

There is a correlation of r = 0.58 between a QB's average time to throw and the percent of his dropbacks where he is pressured, among the 211 quarterbacks with 200+ attempts since PFF started tracking in the 2007 season.

I expect that is mostly because QBs who hold onto the ball longer give the pressure more time to get to them (though holding onto the ball is partly due to offensive scheme and receiving talent, not just the QB).

This is separate from the question of whether Bridgewater had a good offensive line. My point was just that you shouldn't treat pressure as an external factor that the QB had no control over.

Actually, hasn't it been FO conventional wisdom for many years that QBs have a lot of control over how much pressure they face (and how many sacks they get)? Maybe I should've just referred to that.

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#57 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 5:48pm

Offensive scheme has a giant effect on time holding the ball. Play under center, and take a lot of 7 step drops (a dubious thing to do with a bad offensive line and mediocre receivers, but one that has been made more than a few times) and you are going to hold the ball a long time, relative to a team which plays out of shotgun, or takes very sort drops under center, especially with good recievers for such a scheme.

Yes, all things being equal, qbs have a lot of control. All things are not equal in some instances.

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#59 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 7:08pm

"My point was just that you shouldn't treat pressure as an external factor that the QB had no control over."

No one here is doing that, and PFF has the highest pressure numbers out there. Our range is smaller.

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#61 by Dan // Aug 18, 2016 - 7:43pm

I interpreted the discussion of Simpson's paradox as treating pressure as something that happened to the QB, rather than as something that he could have caused. The concluding sentence was "If these quarterbacks were pressured at a similar rate, Bridgewater would likely have the better overall DVOA too", but that might just mean that Carr had a better DVOA because he did a better job of getting rid of the ball quickly before the defense had a chance to pressure him (though of course it's difficult to disentangle a QB from his scheme, protection, receivers, etc.).

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#6 by Sleet // Aug 17, 2016 - 11:30pm

What a joke. Last year at this time FO wrote an article predicting Carr would flop. Why? Because it focused on statistics and ignored context. This year FO's article on Carr criticizes Raiders fans for ignoring the "context" of Carr's laudable stat: 32 TDs in two years. Yet, the author completely ignores the "context" of the stats he uses to criticize Carr. If FO focused on Carr's solid 1st half of the season, FO's criticism wouldn't likely hold up. What FO does is rely on Carr's poor 2nd half of last year, where he essentially regressed to his rookie level of play (that FO hated) to extrapolate that Carr sucks (and vindicate its last year's prediction, rather than admit, like most everyone else, that Carr progressed far more than FO predicted). Well, Carr is going to prove FO wrong again. His play this year--his 3rd year (and 2nd year in the same system with the same receivers), behind a solid OL and with a real running game and defense--is going to look far more like Carr's 1st half of last year, not 2nd half. This time, he'll sustain that level of play for most, if not all, of the season (assuming health). Personally, I hope the Raiders rely on Carr less, and the run game and defense more, but I have a feeling there will be more than one shootout, including Week 1. Regardless, this author should read the title of his own article, b/c that is precisely what he's guilty of.

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#65 by Sleet // Aug 19, 2016 - 8:20am

Well, let's not jump over the point before answering your question. A year ago, FO focused on Carr's poor stats, and drew conclusions about him as a QB b/c statistical history supported that past (even as limited as a rookie year) was prologue as it pertained to the stats FO was focused on. FO ignored the context of those poor stats (poor receivers, no running game, bad D, rookie from a spread system in college with skiddish tendencies, who won the starting job by default the last week of preseason, etc.). Carr showed his 2nd year he was a better QB than FO expected (playing at a top 10 level the first half of the season) even without a full offseason due to injury. Why? He got better and had better targets. In writing this next article on Carr, FO doubled down and argues that Carr is way overrated. Why? The second half of last year drove down his stats. Why the drop off? FO doesn't care. It looks at Carr's statistics over the entire year and extrapolates from there--ignoring context and drawing negative conclusions about Carr once again.

To answer your question, I would postulate multiple things: (1) No balance on offense (the running game wasn't historically bad like the year before, but still poor), which made it easier for DC to adjust and try to take away what Carr was doing well, (2) injuries to Cooper, Hudson, Howard and Penn hurt the passing game, both by reducing the level of play of Carr's best WR and by resulting in more pressure making it harder for Carr to carry the O, which he was being asked to do, (3) the rookie wall in general (Cooper, Roberts and Walford were true or redshirt freshmen last year--limited in their skill sets and ability to play through the grind and NFL adjustments to them), (4) harder schedule in terms of D's faced the 2nd half of last year, and (5) Carr's own personal limitations as a 2nd year QB, which became amplified.

The point is, it was largely a tale of two half seasons, whether I'm right or wrong about the reasons. The question, to me, is which half of season is more probative of who Carr will be this year, and in the future? By looking at the entire season as a whole, FO's focus is faulty (IMO). Carr has played at a high level and been a good, functioning NFL QB for a meaningful stretch of games. I think with a 2nd year in the same system for him and his supporting cast, a better running game, a better D, and less being demanded of him to win, Carr has a good chance of sustaining that high level of play barring injuries. (BTW, winning 7 games last year was not bad for a 2nd year QB with no running game, injuries/rookie limitations in his passing game, and a new D with weak players in the secondary). ESPN just wrote a nice article about Carr, discussing the significance, if any, of Carr's huge drop in production the 2nd half of last year. It concluded that it says little about the future. Carr could be the QB the first half or second half projects. Combining the two halves does not result in a better projection as FO tries to suggest. To the contrary, I think it makes it lies, damned lies and statistics.

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#13 by Grendel13G // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:42am

Oh man. Is Carr the new Tebow?

Not saying their levels of skill are similar, but the emotional attachment to a player's greatness, regardless of the evidence (and accusing the evidence-bearers of vendettas and conspiracies) feels quite familiar.

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#56 by Noahrk // Aug 18, 2016 - 5:35pm

Nah, just in the last month we've seen the same response to articles about Flacco and Eli Manning. It's just that more outside posters are coming here nowadays.

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#77 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 7:18am

Thanks for the snide remarks. Guess I could have jumped into the griping Archie Manning discussion rather than comment on the article, which drew my attention. I enjoy FO. I like advanced statistics and metrics. When used to forward an agenda, or blindly followed without football acumen, or contrary to a belief supported by other considerations, they spark a response. Of course, that response must be invalid if from a fan. Pretty lame comment, but there's likely advanced statistics supporting it. Hahaha.

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#11 by Be0 // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:37am

Scott - thanks for writing up this "contrarian" article. I enjoy reading different perspectives that try to highlight the mass' folly; however, i think your analysis lacks artistry and any insight.

Anyone can mash together advanced statistics and reverse engineer and sythesize an opinion.

What Derek Carr has achieved in his first 2 seasons is remarkable. Can you name a starting rookie QB that has thrown for more TDs than INTs for a 3-13 team?

Comparing bridgewater to carr is also misguided. Teddy is handing the ball off to ALL DAY all day with 8 in the box. Carr had no play makers with constant QB pressure and always playing from behind.

Btw drew brees threw for 33 tds last year while aaron rodgers threw only 31 TDs but i dont see anyone diminishing their achievements.

Seems to me we should all wait 4 years to get a better sample size, but you cannot convince me that at this stage bridgewater is the better qn than carr.

Btw i have been a broncos fan most of my life and oakland looks scary with carr cooper and mack...

RIP Barrel Man...

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#15 by // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:45am

Hard to argue with that. Love Carr because we have a chance with him but he over throws and isnt as accurate as the best in this league. You can see that if you know how to evaluate a QB. For instance he throws deep balls well, great arm, but sometimes when not even pressured will tend to lean on his back foot. Carr improves every year and one thing I believe stats cant calculate is leadership and tenacity and the abilty to correct his mistakes. Raider nation doesnt need him to be Dan Marino, but we could use a top 10 QB that in the right moments can look like a top 3 QB. And with age, he can be a top 5 QB, just like Rothlessburger.

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#18 by theslothook // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:53am

Simple fact 1- teams are throwing more on the goal line than ever before.

Simple fact 2: Throwing over the middle has become easier in the nfl today than ever before

Simple fact 3: more yardage is being accumulated through Yac than ever before

All three combine to explain the massive uptick in passing tds and anya in general.

Having done some regression discontinuity on this topic - I will spoil and say, I did not find Yac was statistically tied to the qb. This being true across seasons from 2009 to 2014(will expand to 2006 -20015). This told me - yac is not a function of the qb, but the scheme and receiver.

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#62 by Red // Aug 18, 2016 - 10:09pm

My personal research on YAC has come to basically the same conclusion as yours. I've found that QB's are 3x more responsible for air yards than YAC. And it makes sense intuitively that a QB has little control once the ball is in the receiver's hands.

Tying this to Derek Carr, he had a below average Y/A in 2015, and was more dependent on YAC than most quarterbacks. If you ignore his era-inflated TD count, Carr was not impressive at all last year (and even worse as a rookie).

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#29 by Clawnsby // Aug 18, 2016 - 7:46am

What a great article. Very interesting-- thanks for writing it.

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#34 by Thomas_beardown // Aug 18, 2016 - 9:33am

"Can you name an NFL player who was widely considered good, but had below-average stats and played on losing teams?"

Keeping in mind this is Carr has only played two years, do you remember Drew Brees?

Even Walter Payton had a year where he rushed for 3.5 yards per carry for a 6-10 team.

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#36 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 9:56am

Brees was on a bust path until breaking out in 2004. In a way, any high draft pick is a bust until they actually prove their worth in this league.

This just reminds me of another Carr-related thing that annoyed me this summer. After Luck's new contract, Ian Rapoport mentioned a near future where Carr, Bortles, Winston and Mariota could be making more than $25M per season. I'm sorry, but none of these guys have even earned a second contract yet, let alone deserve that kind of pay. Again, way too early to be talking about these players like they've been that good.

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#54 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 18, 2016 - 5:01pm

At least we'll get a true idea of whether Carr is capable.

GM ReggieMc just got a new 5-year deal and HC Jack Del did enough last year to suggest he'll be there for at least another 2 years.

So Carr's got everything going for him in terms of a GM that drafted him and a stable situation around him.

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#78 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 7:40am

Of course Carr has flaws, as the article highlights. Yet, Carr has out-performed expectations as a rookie (he fell to the 2nd round for a reason) and a 2nd year player (especially before he regressed the 2nd half of the season). Here's hoping he continues to outperform what his body of work, to date, statistically projects. He is entering the first year where he's actually expected to win football games. While Carr likely gets paid regardless of the outcome this year given the scarcity of good NFL QBs, Musgrave's job likely depends on it, as does JDR's reputation as a HC.

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#38 by ClickbaitTeddyfanBS // Aug 18, 2016 - 10:24am

This is a good article which brings up a lot of solid points. I personally like Derek Carr but I understand he is not infallible. However, I do think the author missed a few important things to note in this article.
Intangibles. I know some folks might call bullshit on this one, but Carr really came into a different situation than Bortles and Teddy. (Disclaimer: I like both Bortles and Bridgewater and think those 3 QBs will be successful.) Carr was annointed as starter since minicamp in his rookie year and given the reigns to the offense. He was allowed to call his own protections and simple audibles even as a rookie. If I remember correctly, Bortles sat behind Henne in minicamp/training camp/first few games and Bridgewater was totally treated with kiddie gloves by the Vikings FO. Secondly, it's important to note that Carr had his head coach fired 4 games into his rookie season and rode it out under an interim coach. It's hard enough for veteran quarterbacks to salvage a season under an interim coach and Carr had to deal with that as a rookie.
Carr had the worst rushing attack in the league as a rookie and 28th in the league last year. Anyone watching Raiders games in 2014 could see Knapp had to implement the "Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb" approach of short passes substituting for a rushing attack gameplan. Our RBs were so ineffective, Carr had to throw 4-5 yard passes to our RBs in order to move the chains resulting in his low YPA (which was continuously cited as a thorn at his side after his rookie season).
In his rookie year, Derek Carr started and played in 11 games against defenses that were in top ten against the pass and in 10 games against defenses that were top ten in points allowed. All other rookie QBs have 6 combined starts against top ten pass defenses and 5 combined starts against top ten defenses in points allowed. Bortles and Bridgewater played against 3 each. Mettenberger and Manziel played against none.
Carr's PFF grade placed him right between Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton last year. If were citing bullshit stats like QBR as the author does, why not also cite other bullshit stats.
PFF graded 96 passing plays last season at +1.5 or +2, the highest grades they give for individual plays, and Carr had six of them. In terms of percentage of his passes that earned those grades, he trailed only Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tyrod Taylor over the season.
The argument that Carr falters under pressure is mistaken at best and completely unfounded at most. Per PFF, Carr was actually ranked top 10 against the blitz last season. As a matter of fact, Carr was leading the league in passer rating against blitzes as late as late November with a rating of 131.8, 36.7 better facing a blitz then not, the highest positive gap in the league by a wide margin. To top it off, Carr was also fairly adept at avoiding sacks. Only 10.4 percent of his pressured dropbacks this season have ended with a sack, the fourth lowest in the NFL (Marcus Mariota is the highest at 27.4 percent for comparison).
Carr takes chances but he's not careless or reckless with the ball. PFF keeps a stat called Turnover Worthy Throws (TWTs) that accrues all passes that were put in harm’s way by the quarterback regardless of the outcome. Carr had only 6 TWTs out of 273 attempts, the second fewest among NFL starters last season.
Carr, for some reason, gets the brunt of the blame for the Raiders' losing record. I understand the NFL is a QB driven league, but here are a few choice comments in a Matthew Stafford thread I posted in yesterday (regarding Matthew Stafford's 1-22 career record on the road vs. teams with a winning record):
Of course, it's Stafford fault they lost those games, he has had such a good team around him, and such great coaches
You're right, it doesn't matter how good a QB is, if they lose its his fault. Sound logic
But Staff still played every game like he was in the playoffs. Truth be told he's only been to the playoffs twice with no wins. I'd say half the blame goes to his supporting cast and half goes to him. He'll take all the blame for a loss that wasn't his fault. He's our guy. And I'm confident he'll bring Detroit it's first super bowl.
Stafford has improved so much the last two years and Calvin was no longer elite, you act like having a bad team around you is a good thing, it's no
Calvin was not too 5 of all time but that's beside the point, that's all he had, no other receivers, no offensive line, no running backs, no good coaches, he had a good defense 1 year out of 7, and the 1 year he had a good defense guess what happened,
Teddy has a stacked team and holds them back, Stafford is the opposite
Yet Carr's success (and Bortles to an extent too) hinges solely on the whole team's record. Why do some QBs get the benefit of the doubt, whole others don't?
To conclude, I do not know if Carr will be an elite, or even very good QB in the league. I do not know if Carr will be the most successful QB from the 2014 class or the best young QB in the league. I work in analytics in a legal setting and there are ways to twist any sort of statistic to prove a point you are trying to make. That's the point I wanted to show.
What I do know is that Carr has shown us Raider fans a glimmer of hope at the QB position. The kid does all the right things; he prepares well, he's a leader, he wants to succeed, shows flashes on the field doing ridiculous shit I've only seen guys like A-Rod or Favre do, etc. No amounts of pro-Raider hype articles or "Why Carr sucks!" articles will make me think differently of him at this point. To me he's the best QB we've had in more than a decade and I'm excited for see how his career turns out.

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#79 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 7:48am

Another snide remark from a poster who apparently isn't a Raiders fan. Do you comment on good punctuation and grammar as well? Not too hard to comprehend the point even if truly irratated by style. Commenting on style to belittle (IMO) is lame. But I agree with kudos to those who write articles and accept countervailing views.

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#85 by dbostedo // Aug 20, 2016 - 8:05pm

Eh... I had the same thoughts. The way an idea is presented can be important. This includes grammar, punctuation, and formatting. Making things difficult to read and digest doesn't help get your point across. And grammar and punctuation are sometimes discussed on this site.

A few typos are fine and don't obscure your point. A rambling post with poor formatting that makes it truly difficult to read does your point and thoughts a disservice.

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#100 by Sleet // Aug 23, 2016 - 11:21pm

100% agree. And that is a far better response. When one does take the time to read a rambling message and post a response (rather than just rolling one's eyes and turning the page), perhaps offer such constructive criticism or nevertheless try to respond to the point (he had several). Or, don't be offended if somebody gives you crap for giving somebody else crap (JMO).

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#87 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Aug 21, 2016 - 12:36pm

Don't have anything against the Raiders, and I personally like Carr, who is the best Raiders QB since Rich Gannon left the building.

I also have nothing against the poster personally, nor did I mean to make fun of him. I really did find his post hard to read (although he made some individual good points in it). I actually was praising Scott for taking the time to not only read it, but also comment upon it. One of the things I really enjoy about this site is the authors wading into the comments section to discuss their work. It takes a certain amount of intellectual courage (as well as patience), to do that.

But I will concede that I was perhaps a little more snarky than I needed to be.

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#41 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 11:24am

A team with a truly awful offensive line and mediocre at best receivers, which was the 2015 Vikings, cannot in any way be accurately described as "stacked". There's a chance their o-line play will achieve mediocrity this year, and the receiving will improve, which will give us much better insight as to Bridgewater's stregnth's and weaknesses.

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#43 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 11:41am

I'm just shocked we made it thru 40 comments without someone using Rodney Hudson's injury to explain Carr's second-half slump. Let's remember that the Vikings lost Loadholt and Sullivan for the season and had the worst OL AGL (33.0). Now that could explain why TB's pressure rate jumped about 8 percentage points from his rookie season.

From what I've been told in the last week by Oakland fans, there are two main reasons for the second-half slump.

1. An exaggeration of Cooper's injury, including its length and blaming the injury on his drops, which I refuted in the Catch Radius piece. The injury looks to have made Cooper very ineffective for three of the last four games of the season, and this doesn't explain why Crabtree's numbers also fell off. Worse QB play does explain it.

2. An exaggeration of the OL injuries - had Donald Penn not missed 17 snaps, Oakland would have had three OL play 100% of the snaps last season. That's pretty good continuity. While Menelik Watson never played last year, are we even sure he's an asset at this point? May have been worse for the team. As for the center Hudson, he only missed 3 games and played in one (Detroit) after being limited in practice/questionable for the week. One of the games Hudson missed was at Tennessee, which is the only time in the last eight games that Carr threw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs. So that wasn't a big deal against a bad D. Hudson also missed the Minnesota game where Carr had his only other 300-yard game (albeit a cheap one) in the second half. He missed the KC game where Carr had a disastrous 4Q (3 INT) after a solid start. If you know me well, you know I don't think a center moves the needle much for a QB, and with the way these games played out, I don't buy this explaining anything. Playing tougher competition does explain it.

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#45 by Will Allen // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:00pm

I'll differ with you a bit, with regard to the importance of center play. Yeah, the difference between great center play and average center play may not show up much in a qb's metrics, but you try to run an offense with awful center play, and a defense with any competence is given tremendous opportunities disrupt things, with a stiff initiating every play. I don't have any opinion about the Raiders o-line play, however.

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#46 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 12:13pm

One thing I've had no qualms about is admitting that I have no idea how to feel for lesser QBs in regards to overcoming OL problems. I've studied Peyton, Brady, Roethlisberger, Wilson, Luck, etc. way too much to see the ways they can overcome a bad line, which clouds my judgment for what a lesser QB should be able to do. But for any QB, managing pressure is a big part of the job.

One of my favorite Pittsburgh offenses was 2007, and Sean "Manhandled" Mahan is probably the worst center this team has had in decades. But if you have the right QB, you can succeed in spite of that. The big problems come when you start compounding injuries with more injuries. Most individuals can be replaced.

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#76 by Duff Soviet Union // Aug 19, 2016 - 9:05pm

Look at what happened in Seattle last year. They started a total trainwreck (Drew Nowak) for 5 games and had a below average offense. Then they made a change to a competent but not especially good centre (Patrick Lewis) and had a good game. But Lewis got injured in that game, so it was two more games of Nowak and two games of below average offense. Then it was Lewis for good and suddenly the offense was the best in the league.

I totally agree with you that aside from someone like Dermontti Dawson, great center play isn't that distinguishable from average play (see Lewis vs Max Unger for example), but the difference between average and terrible is enormous.

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#51 by ClickbaitTeddyfanBS // Aug 18, 2016 - 3:56pm

With each reply you're showing me just exactly how credible you are. You're regurgitating a false narrative that shows me you actually know nothing about Carr, but just say TB is better. He didn't even really fall off until week 12. Week 9 we played the tough as shit Vikings, week 11 he threw 330 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs and had a passer rating of 120.3.
week 12 chiefs, week 13 broncos, week 14 packers, week 15 chargers, week 16 chiefs again. He deals with pressure great, he slides in the pocket and had some of the best numbers against the blitz.

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#82 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 8:42am

Hudson's injury certainly didn't help. Penn's decline in effectiveness due to age or a shoulder injury didn't help. Howard's injury didn't help. Cooper's injury didn't help. Your attempt to isolate or rule out injuries as an explanation for Carr's decline the 2nd half of the season remains flawed, though. They affected Carr's confidence if nothing else. While not the only explanation (I listed five reasons for Carr's decline last year, injuries being one), none of the reasons (even the one you rely upon--Carr simply played poorly) does not mean he's overrated and that's who he is or will be. Carr did, in fact, play at a high level for a good part of the season. If, as a GM or scout, that is how you think Carr will more regularly play as he matures in the league, it's a proper rating. Dragging him down b/c he could not sustain that level of play, or, in fact, regressed to his rookie ways, seems over-the-top or agenda driven when the jury's still out on him. But it made for a good, thought provoking article. I still find it funny/ironic that you used "context" to argue that Carr is overated, when context is what the statistical charting ignores (IMO) to call Carr overrated.

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#93 by jtr // Aug 22, 2016 - 11:40am

One of the key philosophies of Football Outsiders is that throwing out data doesn't make projections more accurate. FO has found this to be true for both team performance and individual players. A 16 game sample size is already rather small, and several Raiders fans in this comment thread want to throw out half of that data. It's natural for a fan to see the positives in Carr's season and want to excuse the negative, but that's not a sound statistical approach. Every QB deals with injuries in their offense, and if we threw out the stats of every QB who lost offensive contributors to injury, the only season left would be 2007 Tom Brady. It's not "agenda driven" to say that 2015 Carr had a good half-season and a not-so-good half season, which averaged out to an OK season.

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#101 by Sleet // Aug 24, 2016 - 12:05am

Thank you for the response, as it moves the discussion forward. When you are dealing with younger players, you are dealing with smaller sample sizes regardless of whether you look at a player's entire body of work, one year, or half a year. That is not the issue. Also, I am not advocating throwing out any data. I am looking at the same data as you, but analyzing it differently and offering a different opinion of what, if anything, that data tells us about next year and who Carr will likely be as a QB.

If your goal is just to rank which QBs had the best year in 2015, fine. But that was not the point of the article. The article was criticizing those who view Carr more favorably than the 2015 advanced stats relied upon in the article support. The first flaw is the belief (forwarded by your comment) that the entire 2015 season is more probative of who Carr will be next year and down the road than his first or second half of last year. ESPN published an article about Carr debunking that very line of thinking. Sorry. Take it up with ESPN.

Advanced stats are great. They reveal things you might not otherwise see or appreciate. The second flaw in your post, though, is an apparent view that advanced stats are the end of the analysis, not the beginning of one.

Carr's case presents a relatively unique situation of a young QB (small sample size) who played at a very high level the first half of his second year (far better than 2014 advanced stats projected), but then regressed the second half of the year (rather than getting better as he got more experience that year). Sure, you can combine the entire year and, without thinking, draw conclusions, as if the entire body of work (but still a small sample size) is more probative of Carr as a QB than either subset. But why do that when you know that the sample size is too small to reach a real conclusion about the QB either way, particularly early in a career when there is reason to believe the QB is still an ascending player. That would just be repeating the same mistake made about Carr as a QB prospect the year before.

Instead, I think it makes more sense to consider the relatively two distinct subsets offered by Carr's 2015 performance and, taking things other than advanced stats into consideration, see what they tell me about Carr's chances. And I think they reveal a more positive view of Carr as a QB in 2016 and beyond than Carr's 2015 advance stats are being used by the article to project. So, yes, I disagree with the conclusion of the article, that Carr is way overrated, b/c I don't weigh the two halves of his 2015 season the same. I like Carr's chance of building off his level of play the first half of last year, and doing a better job of finding the open WR in 2016.

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#104 by ChicagoRaider // Aug 24, 2016 - 9:26am

Derek Carr is still probably undergoing evolution in the face of defenses that are adjusting to him. They adjust, he adjusts. Each stage takes time during which either Carr or the defense is ahead of the game. It should stabilize eventually, where each side gets to the optimal relative to the other.

Thus Terrelle Pryor had a window of success, but then never survived the adjustments. Same for Matt McGloin. Derek Carr has shown the ability to adjust so far, and so has a career path.

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#109 by Sleet // Aug 27, 2016 - 12:50pm

Good post. The Raiders play teams with three young, ascending QBs (Bortles, Mariota, Winston) and five on their second contracts (Luck, Cam, Flacco, Ryan, Osweiler). It should be pretty clear where Carr stands in the pecking order after this, his third season.

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#49 by Justinf // Aug 18, 2016 - 1:12pm

You do realize that just because a team blitz doesn't automatically mean it generates pressure right? In fact the Raiders oline was so good at picking up blitz that Carr and his wideouts had an advantage when teams blitzed because that's less defenders in coverage. Carr being one of the least pressured QBs in the league should tell you that includes pressures from blitzes too. Way to exaggerate how good he was under true pressure.

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#60 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 18, 2016 - 7:26pm

Exactly. A blitz that gets picked up should be favorable for the QB. This is why I don't use QB vs. blitz numbers. What we're interested in is the pressure rate against the blitz. Last season, defenses were successful at getting pressure on just 31% of blitzes against Oakland, the fifth-lowest rate in the league.

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#80 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 8:27am

There's a difference between (a) charting a QB's performance and ranking it among his peers in a given year and (b) calling a QB over-rated based on that ranking. The fact that Carr is being rated higher than your charting would support means that those doing the rating are relying upon other factors. While they may have ignored last year's advanced statistics, it does not follow that advanced statisical charting is the proper measure of a QB. Again, time will tell if Carr is being overrated by them, or underrated by you, or somewhere in the middle, perhaps. I'm sure hoping he wins the Carr/Teddy debate.

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#84 by Scott Kacsmar // Aug 20, 2016 - 10:08am

Again, there are several metrics that reflect well for the best QBs, and Carr has a lot of work to do in those areas. I didn't stick to any one stat here. For me, 6 good games out of 16 does not make for a good season. The only good news for Carr is that his six good games were usually very good, and his 10 below-average games were rarely as poor as what he did in 2014.

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#102 by Sleet // Aug 24, 2016 - 12:27am

I don't know if it is common among young QBs (as I don't watch game tape of other QBs), but Carr seems to have a reoccurring problem of locking onto a WR and forcing a throw, checking down, or throwing the ball away, instead of continuing his progressions and finding the open WR. He seems to leave a lot of plays/positive yards on the field. He also throws off his back foot too often (likely b/c of his plus arm strength). I'm sure there are other things he does wrong and can improve on. Will he? I don't know. But improving the process will improve the result, or metrics, as you put it. Being in the same system for a 2nd year, with 3 important targets going into their 2nd year on the 53-man roster, with a better OL, running game, and D, should help. Those 6 games last year showed both growth and promise. He gets back to that level of play, and sustains it for a season, he's a solid NFL QB. Then it will just come down to being clutch, having a knack for making plays when needed, and winning.

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#64 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Aug 19, 2016 - 6:30am

It's stunning to me how many common fans don't seem to realize how much passing volume stats have been inflated over the past 15-20 years.. Troy Aikman made his first Pro Bowl when he had 11 TDs and 10 INTs for god sakes. That's never happening again (even as a 9th alternate injury replacement). Even 10 years ago, throwing more than 20 TDs in a season was an accomplishment. Nowadays, it"s barely adequate for someone who starts all 16 games.

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#81 by Sleet // Aug 20, 2016 - 8:35am


Same can be said for WR stats.

In that regard it's become a different game.

Yet, D's have adjusted. And they still win championships.

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#86 by ChicagoRaider // Aug 21, 2016 - 12:31pm

Carr has had a constantly changing supporting cast, which does deprive him of some stability for development. That the instability would show up in both his stats and the team's success is unsurprising. The only constant that Carr has had is an above-average offensive line, which is quite an asset. On the other hand, he has had constantly changing skill player support, including just-a-guy tight ends. He lacks a go-to dump-off tight end or running back. The run support is unreliable.

In what is likely to be a long career, being in the acceptable-but-nothing-more category of QB after year 2 is better than the Raiders have done with ANY QB pick in forever. Nothing about the article indicates that Carr may not grow into an above-average QB, or that with the right supporting cast, the Raiders could have an above-average offense.

I think this is a case of being grateful for what you do have (a serviceable QB for a second round pick) rather than angry about people telling you that you did not get a top 10 QB for the pick.

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#88 by Will Allen // Aug 21, 2016 - 1:30pm

I wish more people had a grasp on the fact that championships have been won at least 25% of the time over the past 16 years without a qb who was performing at a top 10 level in that season. Yes, quarterbacking is very important, but you can win a ton of games, and have wholly rational championship aspirations without top level quarterbacking.

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#89 by Will Allen // Aug 21, 2016 - 1:30pm

I wish more people had a grasp on the fact that championships have been won at least 25% of the time over the past 16 years without a qb who was performing at a top 10 level in that season. Yes, quarterbacking is very important, but you can win a ton of games, and have wholly rational championship aspirations without top level quarterbacking.

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#91 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 21, 2016 - 2:10pm

There was an article the other day about Elway taking the tack of not overpaying at QB but building a team around him.

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#90 by Bright Blue Shorts // Aug 21, 2016 - 2:05pm

Of what I've observed over the past five years with Reggie McK, constantly changing supporting cast seems to be his norm.

And in the modern NFL, in general it's the case. Last October when the 49ers and Ravens met two seasons after playing each other in the SB - the Ravens only had 4 starters left and the 49ers had 6.

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#110 by Sleet // Aug 27, 2016 - 12:54pm

This year Red/JDR, it seems, have tried to stabilize and provide continuity to the O by doubling down on Cooper, Crabby, Roberts, Walford, Rivera, Holmes, Murray, Olewale and Reece as his skill position players. The only additions were to the OL and at RB. They focused on re-building the D, where they added multiple new starters and depth. My only criticisms are the reliance on Murray, who has serious limitations, and failure to sign/draft a reliable deep threat to take the top off the D. But Red/JDR have put Carr in position to win if the team is healthy. Carr has real expectations this year. I hope he is up to the task.

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#95 by Bob Smith // Aug 23, 2016 - 10:49am

As an old Marino fan I like the way you compared Dan's success in his 2nd year to that of Kurt Warner and then Carr's lack of success. But, that is hardly fair to Warner and Carr. Marino inherited a Super Bowl caliber team and still had a nucleus when he took us (the Dolphins) to the '84 S.B. How good was that '82 team-good enough to make it to the S.B. with David Woodley at QB. Warner and Carr however took over teams that were 4-12. What Warner did was nothing short of fantastic.

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#107 by Noahrk // Aug 25, 2016 - 11:26am

About those Miami teams, the 84 version was light years away from the 82 team. The defense was already in sharp decline and would collapse completely in the next two years. The running game was unremarkable, with FB Bennett leading the team in rushes (!). The only unit that remained strong was the OL -in pass blocking, anyway. The strength of the team was all based in newcomers Marino, Clayton, Duper, with an assist from Nat Moore.

Still, it's true the defense had a little something left in the tank, and even that little -plus the fact that the league wasn't prepared for Marino- was what made the difference in 84's success. In the coming years Marino would be unable to compensate for the teams deficiencies.

Anyway, I don't see what any of this has to do with Carr. Carr is obviously not Marino and it's unfair to compare the two.

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#108 by Bob Smith // Aug 25, 2016 - 12:12pm

Noah-it was Scott that originally decided to compare Carr with Marino and Warner as it pertained to the 2nd year success of each. I agree with you about my guy (Marino) not being able to compensate for our (the Dolphins) deficiencies, but Dan also didn't have any success when we had Top 10 Defenses either. He did know how to get the most out of our running backs however-mostly as pass catchers. Handing off to a running back wasn't Marino's thing-we averaged a Ranking of 20th (out of mostly 28 teams) in Rushing Attempts through Dan's Career.

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#97 by Bob Smith // Aug 23, 2016 - 11:43am

tuluse-Okay, let's play that game. When my guy (Marino) was 27 he was at his prime (as it turned out) and couldn't lead us (the Dolphins) to any success at all in the playoffs. Still-advantage Warner.

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#105 by Bob Smith // Aug 24, 2016 - 11:06am

Sleet-I agree with you about Carr. Plus, keep this in mind-Carr only has to play good enough to help his team get to 1 S.B. and he will have matched my guys (Marino) biggest success as a QUARTERBACK in the NFL. Derek still has a long way to go however to match what Dan accomplished as a PASSER in the NFL. But, the success as a QUARTERBACK means much more to their teammates and overall to themselves.

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#112 by ClickbaitTeddyfanBS // Nov 17, 2016 - 10:44am

So when will you guys, if ever, give Carr some fucking credit? Dude is killing it like he has been his entire career, Bortles is shit, and teddy is broken.

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