Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project
Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball. We write from an alternate reality in which the Dolphins are two games clear at the top of the AFC East, Ryan Fitzpatrick holds the record for the most consecutive 400-yard passing performances in NFL history, and the Browns have a half-game better record than the Patriots. Though the alternate reality is definitely entertaining, we still hope to find our way back to the real world soon.

Bryan: We say this every year, but the 2018 season has been insane to this point. Everything we thought we knew is wrong, except for the fact that we knew that everything we thought we knew would probably be wrong. And now we need to know new things, because teams are having to turn to new quarterbacks, because they know the old new quarterbacks' knees are shredded. Sob.

Andrew: Have you slept since Sunday? You don't sound like you've slept since Sunday.

Bryan: I've been up all night, researching a dynamic new procedure in which doctors would exchange my ACL for Jimmy Garoppolo's. What do I need a knee for? I'm a writer; I sit in my dang chair all day. I was not expecting, when the year began, to be jealous of Tampa Bay's quarterback situation but, well, here we are.

Andrew: The 49ers, our readers may have heard, are in the hunt for a new quarterback to back up second-year pro C.J. Beathard. The front-runner, at the time of writing, appears to be Tom Savage, who is most famous for being...

Bryan: ... terrible?

Andrew: Concussed, actually. Savage, you may remember, was the quarterback who was knocked unconscious on the field during his time with the Houston Texans, but was put back into the game five minutes later despite video of him literally convulsing on the field.

Bryan: I suspect that Kyle Shanahan would do a better job protecting Savage's brain than Bill O'Brien did. Incidentally, The Savage's Brain! sounds like a bad pulp film from the '40s, but that is neither here nor there.

Nick Mullens is not our future, there are no available veteran quarterbacks with experience in Shanahan's system, and for some reason everyone's allergic to the name Colin Kaepernick. What the 49ers need, then, is a guy with plenty of starting experience around the league, who has a long track record of popping into places on short-term deals and performing adequately.

They need a Ryan Fitzpatrick. They need … a journeyman.

Andrew: Every year, it seems like we hear somebody, somewhere recite platitudes about how the backup quarterback is only one play away from being the starting quarterback. We've seen articles ranking teams by their backup quarterback, as if anybody really knows how guys we usually haven't seen in years will perform in their current offense. The past two years have brought teams' backup situations into sharper focus. In part, that's due to the sheer number of quarterback injuries and suspensions around the league: Tom Brady and Jameis Winston, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson, to say nothing of rookies taking over from underperforming veterans as just occurred in both Cleveland and Arizona.

Another major factor, however, is the performance of those high-profile backups. Case Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and the NFC Championship Game. Ryan Fitzpatrick has the Buccaneers at 2-1 despite a tough schedule with those three consecutive 400-yard games. Then of course, the greatest example is Nick Foles, Super Bowl MVP.

Bryan: Fitzpatrick joined a select group this season; he's one of only 15 quarterbacks who have been the opening day starter for four different franchises. Sam Bradford joined that group as well, though I think it's fair to say the Buccaneers have been happier with Fitzmagic than the Cardinals have been with the Bradford Experience.

Andrew: Only one other 2018 opening-day starter has started at least one game for four different NFL franchises. We'll have the full list later, but we welcome our readers to have a guess at the player's identity ahead of time.

Bryan: Only two quarterbacks -- Vinny Testaverde and Kerry Collins -- have started the season for five different teams, so both Fitzpatrick and Bradford have a clear goal for 2019.

Andrew: One of the discussion points that amused me over the past few weeks was the number of people who think of Ryan Fitzpatrick as a career backup. He really, really is not.

Bryan: He has started for seven different franchises! Josh Johnson is a career backup; Fitzpatrick is something else.

Andrew: It's not just that he's started for seven different franchises. Fitzpatrick started at least eight games -- that is to say, at least half the season -- every year from 2008 to 2016. He's nobody's franchise quarterback, but he has consistently been a starting quarterback since his fourth year in the league. Which is not bad going for a seventh-round draft pick.

Bryan: Basically, no one ever goes "we have Ryan Fitzpatrick! We are set at quarterback!" But he's quite often the Best Available Stopgap. He's probably one of the 32 best quarterbacks at any given time; he's just closer to 32 than someone you'd like to stick around for the long term.

Andrew: So yes, even "journeyman" might do Fitzmagic a disservice. Fitzpatrick is not just any journeyman; he may well be the gold standard by which all journeyman quarterbacks should be judged.

Bryan: But can we come up with some kind of nonsense way to quantify that claim?

Andrew: For those of you who are new to this, Bryan can always come up with a nonsense way to quantify anything. The man has a formula for determining the most entertaining Super Bowls, for pity's sake.

Bryan: What we need is a new proprietary stat. Perhaps the Judgment Of Unusually Roving Nomads, Every Yard Meaning Added Notoriety. Or JOURNEYMAN, for short.

Andrew: Now you're just throwing words onto the page and hoping some fit.

Bryan: Hey, if Vince Verhei can coin "SHOVeLLs" this week, I need to up my game to stay apace.

To be clear, I think what we're looking for is the best journeyman quarterback, not the best quarterback who happened to be a journeyman. We're looking for the platonic ideal of the journeyman, not a great player who spent the last few years of his career bopping around. If we were looking at the latter, we could argue that someone like Brett Favre or Warren Moon were the ultimate journeymen; they spent their late 30s and early 40s as quarterbacks for hire. They're certainly more journeyman-y than other quarterbacks, but I don't think that's quite the sort of player we're looking for, right?

Andrew: Absolutely not. The true journeyman never spends too long in one place. Moon spent ten seasons in Houston. Favre was in Green Bay for 16 years! A second contract alone might be enough to disqualify a player from our list.

Bryan: So, we want a quarterback who has travelled around quite a bit, but never was viewed as the long-term answer. It's important, however, that they were considered short-term answers. Otherwise Josh Johnson and J.T. O'Sullivan, who have each spent time with 11 different franchises, would top any sort of rankings.

Andrew: We're looking at guys like Brad Johnson, who won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay but only started one more full season for the Buccaneers. Kerry Collins played in a Super Bowl for the Giants, but only after leaving Carolina and New Orleans. He was eventually bumped off to Oakland, then bounced in and out of the Titans lineup for a further five years.

Bryan: Collins might have actually been in New York for too long to really top the Journeyman charts; he was a five-year starter! That's half a decade! We don't want players who just bounce around before finding their home -- like, Rich Gannon shouldn't rank highly as a journeyman just because it took him a while to find his MVP form in Oakland.

Andrew: For sheer longevity of journey, Vinny Testaverde might well have the best case. Testaverde played for almost a quarter of the league, which is even more impressive when you consider that several of those teams didn't exist until he'd already been playing for a decade. The only thing standing in his way might be draft position: first-round picks always get a ton of chances, unless they really do flame out spectacularly. Case in point: even Blaine Gabbert has now started games for four different franchises.

Bryan: And longevity is important; you can't rack up tons of starts and yardage without being good enough to stick around forever.

The ideal journeyman, I think, is an important figure in a franchise's story, but not a load-bearing figure. You want a player who a lot of different fanbases go " oh yeah! I remember when So-and-So was starting for us," but not someone who is going up in a lot of Rings of Honor. You want brief exposure to Fitzmagic, because the long-term effects aren't great for your franchise. And to prevent Gabbertian situations, you want those short-term flings to be good -- high in whatever stat you're using, be it DYAR or A/NYA or what have you. The ideal journeyman experience is a summer fling before you get serious with your next franchise player.

Andrew: That is probably enough to rule out the rather variable Josh McCown, who had one good year in Chicago and a handful of mediocre ones elsewhere, but a whole heap of spectacular, epic lowlight reels in Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Cleveland. (Yes, I recognize that almost everybody ends up in a lowlight reel at those particular franchises.)

Bryan: Now, no system is going to perfectly identify the true essence of raw journeymanism, but I whipped up a system at five o'clock in the morning that I think does a halfway decent job of sorting the wheat from the chaff. And, of course, decisions made at five o'clock in the morning are guaranteed to provide the same level of quality and forward thinking that causes a team to end up with a McCown starting at quarterback.

Quarterbacks are given credit in JOURNEYMAN based on a couple factors. The first and most important is simply number of teams played for -- you have to journey to be a journeyman. Players are given partial credit for any team for which they've had fewer than 500 attempts, because at that point you're more making a cameo rather than being a full-time player. They get full credit for 500 to 2,000 attempts with a franchise, but no credit once they pass that 2,000-attempt barrier. Once you've started getting up there into the multiple thousands of attempts, you're not a short-term solution; you're the quarterback of the franchise, for good or for ill.

In addition, a player is not given any credit for teams he played for before hitting the 2,000-attempt barrier with a franchise; that's to avoid players who bounced around the league before getting a chance to be a full-time starter somewhere. We're looking for players who bounce from place to place because they're not super-fantastic, not because they end up stuck behind a Favre in Green Bay and never get a chance.

So there are lots of ways to earn 0 Journeyman Points. Tom Brady earns 0 Journeyman Points because he has played his entire career for one team. You can't be a journeyman if you never leave home.

Peyton Manning earns 0 Journeyman Points. Yes, he played for two teams, but he topped 2,000 pass attempts with both the Colts and the Broncos. He was never a short-term solution in either place; he was the quarterback around whom they were building their teams for the foreseeable future.

Drew Brees earns 0 Journeyman Points. His time in San Diego was short enough to qualify, but it's overwritten by his extended time in New Orleans. Had Brees gone to Miami, washed out there, spent some time in, say, Cleveland and then Tampa and then maybe Oakland or something, then yes, his Chargers time would count for his total. But because he went to the Saints and stuck, his time in San Diego is considered to be a good player waiting for the right situation, without the true whiff of Journeyman-ness.

But Brett Favre? He does earn some Journeyman Points. Not for his time in Green Bay, obviously. Not for his time in Atlanta, which is overwritten by his Packers success. But his post-Packers career, where he played a year for the Jets and two years for the Vikings, do count. We give him credit for those years based on his Adjusted Net Yards per Pass Attempt -- we'd use DYAR, but we want to look at all-time quarterbacks, not just post-1986 quarterbacks. Since Favre had between 500 and 2,000 attempts for each team, he ends up with 11.3 Journeyman Points, getting full credit for his ANY/A in both stops. 11.3 is a solid number, but it's easily outdone; Favre may be one of the top 10 quarterbacks of all time, but he's not one of the top 25 journeyman quarterbacks of all time.

Andrew: At the opposite end of the scale, the aforementioned Josh Johnson gets very little credit despite having been signed by no fewer than 13 different NFL franchises throughout his career, because he only threw passes for one of those teams: the Buccaneers. J.T. O'Sullivan very slightly exceeds Johnson's mark, having thrown passes for three of his 11 employers, but neither ends up anywhere near our carefully curated leaderboard.

Bryan: And neither came close to hitting the 500-attempt threshold for full credit with any of their franchises. Both have fewer than three journeyman points -- they're well-travelled; they just also sucked. That's no good.

So, without further ado, here are the top Journeymen Quarterbacks of the post-merger era:

Rk Player Years Teams Points
1 Ryan Fitzpatrick 2005-18 BUF, CIN, NYJ, STL, TB, HOU, TEN 26.70
2 Chris Chandler 1988-04 ATL, PHX, CHI, HOU, IND, LARM, TB 24.92
3 Vinny Testaverde 1987-07 TB*, NYJ, CLE, BAL, CAR, DAL, NE 24.17
4 Jeff George 1990-01 IND, ATL, OAK, WAS, MIN 22.90
5 Gus Frerotte 1994-08 WAS, MIN, DEN, STL, CIN, DET, MIA 22.75
6 Josh McCown 2002-17 ARI, CHI, CAR, CLE, NYJ, DET, OAK, TB 22.73
7 Steve DeBerg 1978-98 TB, KC, DEN, SF, ATL, MIA 22.13
8 Steve Beuerlein 1988-03 CAR, DAL, DEN, ARI, LARD, JAX 19.25
9 Neil O'Donnell 1991-03 PIT, TEN, NYJ, CIN 18.66
10 Jon Kitna 1997-11 CIN, SEA, DET, DAL 18.64
11 Sam Bradford 2010-18 STL, MIN, ARI, PHI 18.00
12 Kyle Orton 2005-14 CHI, DEN, DAL, BUF, KC 17.94
13 Jim Harbaugh 1987-00 CHI, IND, SD, BAL 17.73
14 Brad Johnson 1994-08 MIN, TB, DAL, WAS 17.44
15 Dave Krieg 1980-98 SEA*, KC, TEN, ARI, CHI, DET 17.06
16 Matt Cassel 2005-18 KC, NE, MIN, TEN, BUF, DAL, DET 16.61
17 Brian Hoyer 2009-18 NE, CLE, ARI, CHI, HOU, SF 16.53
18 Case Keenum 2012-18 HOU, LAR, DEN, MIN 16.02
19 Jim McMahon 1982-96 CHI, PHI, GB, ARI, MIN, SD 15.57
20 Jason Campbell 2006-14 WAS, OAK, CHI, CIN, CLE 15.19
21 Elvis Grbac 1994-01 KC, SF, BAL 15.11
22 Brian Griese 1998-08 DEN, TB, CHI, MIA 14.78
23 Mike Tomczak 1985-99 PIT, CHI, CLE, GB 14.72
24 Doug Flutie 1986-05 NE, SD, BUF, CHI 14.66
25 Jay Schroeder 1985-94 LARD, WAS, ARI, CIN 14.48

Andrew: So there we have it, quantified and inarguable. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the greatest journeyman quarterback in modern NFL history. Another argument definitively settled!

Bryan:... or is it? You see, there's an asterisk by Vinny Testaverde's time in Tampa Bay (and Dave Krieg's time in Seattle), as neither stint qualifies for Journeyman Points. They had over 2,000 passes in each location, but of course, 2,000 is a somewhat arbitrary cutoff. If you gave Testaverde credit for his Buccaneers time, he would top Ryan Fitzpatrick, and be our gold standard for Journeymannity. Instead, he gets bumped down to third.

Andrew: Who knows? Maybe a career renaissance will see Fitzpatrick will bump his own time in Tampa Bay off the list of qualifiers!

Bryan: It's certainly conceivable. The leader in the clubhouse, as it were, is the Crystal Chandelier himself, finishing a strong second. Chris Chandler managed to play for both the Los Angeles and St. Louis Rams, a decade apart, which is mighty impressive. He was also a Pro Bowler twice in Atlanta, but was eventually replaced by Michael Vick, which is a great example of Journeymanishness -- good enough to get lauded one year, and then replaced a couple years later.

The list is a little biased towards more recent players -- ANY/A has been generally going up over the years, and free agency makes it easier for a player to rack up multiple stops. Steve DeBerg's high score, then, is remarkable in and of itself; the best journeyman of the 20th century. DeBerg was replaced by Joe Montana in San Francisco, by John Elway in Denver, by Vinny Testaverde in Tampa, and then by Montana again in Kansas City, not to mention coming back at age 44, after five years of retirement, to start a game for Atlanta. He is both the oldest quarterback to ever start a game and the oldest player ever on a Super Bowl roster. The man was the definition of the well-travelled man when I was growing up watching football.

Andrew: There are a lot of interesting names on that list, from Doug Flutie to Jeff George, and enough stories to keep us going for several articles. There's a knack to being a journeyman, and a little luck too. Fitzpatrick has been in the right place at the right time more often than not, and it's hard to grudge him the success he's enjoying now in throwing to arguably the best receiving corps in the league. It probably won't last, but it has been a fun ride so far.

Bryan: The question, of course, is whether the Buccaneers keep riding with the Greatest Journeyman Who Has Ever Walked the Earth … or if they go back to Jameis Winston immediately, leaving Fitzpatrick in the lurch. He's a free agent after this year, so he'll continue leaping from team to team, striving to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

Loser League Update

Quarterback: It's not that we're Tyrod Taylor fans here, it's just that we think he got a raw deal in Buffalo. But performances like Thursday night are why he got the reception in Buffalo that he did, and why we're excited to see Baker Mayfield take over from here on out. Taylor had just 9 passing yards before being removed in the second quarter with an injury, but he did just barely squeak over the threshold to avoid the penalty. He earns 2 points in what is likely to be his last sustained action of the season.

Running Back: We have a two-way tie at 3 points this week. The Jaguars knew the Titans couldn't pass the ball with Marcus Mariota's elbow banged up, so they sold out to stop the run. Dion Lewis managed just 26 yards in nine carries, adding 14 more yards through the air. Meanwhile, Peyton Barber was game-scripted out of carries thanks to Pittsburgh's early lead on Monday Night, and he was his usual ineffective self when he actually received carries, ending up with 33 yards on eight attempts.

Wide Receiver: Goose-Egg Brigade roll call! Josh Doctson and Phillip Dorsett failed to catch any of their five targets, Chad Williams failed to gain 10 yards, and both Robbie Anderson and Randall Cobb fumbled. Nul points!

Kicker: We almost made it through the week without a negative score here, but Chris Boswell just had to go ruin it for us, missing both a field goal and an extra point on Monday Night. That's -1 points for you, and a pox on your house.

Check your team's score and the leaderboard here!

Weekly Awards

Keep Choppin' Wood: Falcons-Saints is a rivalry not exactly noted for its high-level defense. These two teams have combined for over 70 points in three of the past five games, and an average score of 30-29 in favor of the Saints. This past Sunday, the teams traded blow for blow in a back-and-forth contest that saw no team lead by more than seven points at any stage. In the final two minutes, the Saints trailed by seven but drove to Atlanta's 7-yard line, where this happened:

Yes, that is 39-year-old Drew Brees somehow spinning away from two Falcons defenders to score the game-tying touchdown. Cornerback Brian Poole at least laid a hand on Brees, but his fluffy tackle attempt was easily evaded. We have no idea what Robert Alford was doing. The Falcons would go on to lose in overtime, 43-37.

John Fox Award for Conservatism: Sunday was a day for scaredy-cat field goals. San Francisco kicked two field goals against the Chiefs, while trailing by scores of 35-7 and 38-24, though at least the latter had the excuse that the team had lost Jimmy Garoppolo to a torn ACL only two plays earlier. Neither was quite as egregious as the Chargers, however, who kicked a field goal from the 7-yard line in the fourth quarter, trailing by two touchdowns against the Rams. Fourth-and-7 against the Rams defense is nobody's ideal situation, but if you don't think the Chargers offense has at least a respectable chance of scoring a touchdown there, when exactly do you think it does? The field goal was useless, Anthony Lynn. Useless.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching:: It's a good idea to point out failures as teachable moments. It's especially a good idea to use veterans to do so -- Bill Belichick famously attacks Tom Brady quite frequently in the film room, as a way to show the team that no one is above reproach. With that being said, Steve Wilks choosing to call out David Johnson for missing a key block is a good idea; he's your best player, and it's a way of showing that everyone needs to be accountable. Just, you know. Maybe do that in the film room on Monday, rather than pulling him on third-and-2 at the very end of the game and leaving Chase Edmunds to handle the most important carry of the day. Unsurprisingly, Edmunds was stuffed, the follow up fourth-down play failed, and the Cardinals fell to 0-3.

'Five Percent For Nothing' Fantasy Player of the Week: We have been quite vocal about our negative expectations for Josh Allen this season, so let us give credit where credit is due, as Allen helped lead the Bills to the biggest upset in over 20 years. His passing stats were so-so -- just 196 yards and a touchdown -- but he added a couple more scores on the ground and gave the Bills a huge win. One good game does not a career make -- and Allen still had a negative total DYAR on the game, thanks to three fumbles -- but he certainly appears to be a better option than Nathan Peterman at this point, and really at any point.

Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week: The Vikings had plenty of garbage time in that Josh Allen beatdown, which gave Adam Thielen a chance to get a lot of work in. Thielen was targeted 17 times and caught 14 passes for 105 yards. Only three Vikings in history have had a 14-reception game. Thielen joins 1994's Cris Carter in a tie for second behind Rickey Young's franchise-record 15 receptions, back in 1979. If you were in a PPR league, Thielen probably won you this week. If you were in a standard league, hey, he has now had three straight 100-yard games to open the year. That's not too shabby, even if the Vikings as a whole were too shabby.

'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: We have already covered Adam Thielen's receiving numbers from this week's biggest defeat. The week's second-biggest defeat was inflicted on a team who entered the game as roughly 7-point favorites (and Andrew's Lock of the Week pick last week -- oops!), and who very seldom even have the opportunity to end up in this section of the column. Patriots fans are rightly concerned about the condition of this year's team, but one crumb of comfort can be found in their lone touchdown of the night: James White scored his tenth regular-season receiving touchdown since the start of 2016 against the Lions. That means White has scored more receiving touchdowns than any other running back in the NFL over that period. Despite having only nine career starts to his name, White also tied Julian Edelman for the second-most receiving touchdowns of any Patriots player since he joined the team in 2014. White is usually hidden well down the running back depth chart in New England, but continues to make a valuable contribution when called upon.

Game-Changing Play of the Week: Xavien Howard is not only the best player in the NFL whose name starts with "X," but he's also the reason the Dolphins are 3-0 today. The Raiders were trailing 17-21 with three minutes left in the game. After losing the lead on Albert Wilson's touchdown pass, they put together a nice drive, marching down into the red zone. After a Miami penalty, they had first-and-10 from the Miami 13, and it seemed like this was the point where Jon Gruden's Raiders would finally pick up their first win of the season. But as Derek Carr dropped back to pass, he was hit by Cameron Wake. That caused his pass to sail a little farther than he hoped for, and Howard outjumped Martavis Bryant for his second interception of the day. Two plays later, Albert Wilson scored another touchdown, and the Dolphins were 3-0.

A loss would have bumped the Dolphins from second to third in the AFC at the moment, but more importantly, the win gives them a two-game cushion over the Patriots in the AFC East. We don't expect the Patriots' struggles to stick throughout the entire season, so any distance the Dolphins can put between them and their AFC East bullies early is hugely beneficial if they want to hold off Brady and company the end of the year. Howard's interception could be absolutely huge.

Weekly Predictions

Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Records to Date
Andrew 1-2
Bryan: 1-2

Andrew: I don't want to be the one to overreact to one bad result, but a 20-point defeat at home to the Buffalo Bills had better be just a terrible fluke where the game script fell away from them or the Vikings are in big trouble. A patchwork offensive line has been cause for concern in Minnesota for most of the past two-and-a-bit seasons, and the Bills exposed it relentlessly in the first quarter of Week 3's game. Even down two starting cornerbacks, the Rams should be a whole other level of defense. If this game begins to get away from the Vikings early, Thursday could get even messier than Sunday. At home on a short week, give me the Rams and the points. L.A. Rams (-7) vs. Minnesota.

Bryan: I was going to take the same game, but in the interest of competition, I will look elsewhere on the slate. After my Cardinals gamble paid off last week, I'll pick another underdog and take Tennessee (+4) at home against the Eagles. Marcus Mariota's elbow is getting healthier, bit by bit, and if he's healthy, then the Titans will be better than the general public believes them to be at the moment. Obviously, I'm gambling a bit by hoping he's OK for this week, but you gotta live dangerously, right?

Double Survival League

Bryan: OK, the point of this exercise was to dunk on some bad teams, show off some predicting prowess, and generally have a good time. Now, however, it's getting dark -- I've been on the wrong end of all three of the huge 10-point upsets in the league so far this year, with the Titans and Bills smashing me upside the head last week. Every single one of my losses has come from picking a ten-point favorite to win! That's crazy talk. At least Andrew's Texans pick failed last week, so I'm still just one week out, but man. This is looking less like survival and more like a slaughter.

Andrew: Jacoby Brissett's first pass attempt of the 2018 season set alarm bells ringing throughout the NFL commentariat, but despite concerns about Andrew Luck's arm strength, Luck and the Colts have been competitive so far against one of the more difficult opening schedules in the league. In theory, that schedule should soften a bit over the next five weeks, but only this divisional clash and the Bills game are at home. Houston has started out looking like the surprise worst team in the division, losing in successive weeks on the road against the Blaine Gabbert Titans and at home to the previously-winless Giants. If Indianapolis can't handle this Houston squad at home, there are frankly no other games on their schedule I'd feel confident in picking them to win.

Speaking of teams that elude, rather than exude confidence, the Los Angeles Chargers will be the first team to host the revival of C.J. Beathard, 49ers starting quarterback. The Chargers have proven time and again that they are capable of beating, or losing to, just about anybody, but surely -- surely -- they can be trusted to dispose of a still-rebuilding 49ers squad missing its franchise quarterback.

Bryan: It can't happen four times. It just can't. Double-digit favorites are supposed to win, dang it! I am going to take Green Bay against Buffalo, because they're favored by double digits. It should be the easiest game of the week. It HAS to pay off at some point, right? Right? RIGHT?

Elsewhere, I'll take Dallas over the Lions at home. The Cowboys have been -- how to put it? -- somewhat disappointing this year, so I think I'd better get them out of the way before the wheels fall off the wagon entirely. The Lions are coming off of a hugely emotional game, which often provide hangovers going forward. More to the point, I'm not sure where I see a more winnable game on Dallas' remaining schedule; every single one of the remaining home games after this is against a team who has some realistic playoff hopes after three weeks. So I'll take the Cowboys now, hoping that Andrew gets stuck with a terrible matchup for them later in the year.

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22 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2018, 10:31pm

2 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

I liked the journeyman QB bit, it was fun!

A couple questions:

1. If Fitzpatrick has more than 2000 attempts for Tampa Bay, would he go all the down to 0 points (because all previous stops would be "overwritten")?

2. Given the "Testaverde" problem (that his time in Tampa Bay doesn't count) - perhaps a percentage of total attempts could be used, instead of a 2000 attempt cutoff? That is, the scale could be like something from 500 attempts to [0.3 * total attempts]?

6 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

There are definite improvements that could be made to a metric made at 5 AM for a comedy article, for sure ;)

To answer the questions:

1) Yes, according to JOURNEYMAN, Fitzpatrick would be reset to zero if he manged to hook on with the Buccaneers for a long time -- 47 starts at his current rate of passing, to be precise. This seems highly unlikely; I would bet quite a bit against the Buccaneers starting a 39-year old Fitzpatrick in 2021 -- but I suppose stranger things have happened.

The 2000-attempt cutoff actually a problem currently for Kerry Collins -- Collins' time in New York (2,473 attempts) overwrites his time in Carolina, and means he misses the top 25. If you just counted Collins' New York season as a regular journeyman stop, Collins would end up with a score of 23.47, jumping into the top five just ahead of Jeff George. It's also a minor problem for Trent Dilfer (-his- Tampa time doesn't count either, as Tampa loves keeping their journeymen forever), but Dilfer's bigger problem is that he just was never good. Every other quarterback who you might consider a "journeyman" (or, at least, who Wikipedia considers a journeyman) is covered by the 2,000-attempt cutoff, so it isn't that big of a deal, as currently constructed.

2) What you'd want, ideally, is for pass attempts to simply ramp back down at some point. A quarterback's credit ramps up (linearly, because that's easiest!) from 0-500 attempts, so perhaps it should ramp down from, say, 2000-2500 attempts. Or maybe it should be 1500-2000, or maybe it should be 1000-3000, or maybe the ramp UP should stop at 1000 and not 500 or whathaveyou. There's a lot of room for tinkering, and if I were to, say, write this up in a more serious capacity for the next Almanac or something, I would experiment with some variable cutoffs to see how what worked the best.

In fact, those cutoffs probably shouldn't be the same for everyone at all times. There's a strong argument to be made that Vinny's 2000 Buc attempts should be treated differently than Dilfer's 2000 Buc attempts, which should be treated differently than Fitzmagic's 2000 Buc attempts. Teams threw the ball 34.7 times per game last season; compared to 32.1 when Testaverde started his career, or 25.0 when Steve DeBerg started out. Players will get to 2,000 attempts faster today, so maybe the cutoff for players in 2018 should be different than it was for quarterbacks in the '70s...

Of course, we could make this super complex if we wanted too, but we're trying trying to objectively measure a very subjective thing -- we're using stats to try to describe a class of quarterbacks we already know exist, as it were. So as long as the formula spits out a list that somewhat resembles how someone would subjectively rank the players, I'm A-OK with it.

9 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

I would argue that being replaced mid-season by a high-ish draft pick is definitely within the journeyman's repertoire. Keeping the seat warm while your rookie learns the ropes was essentially the entire idea behind the Cardinals signing Sam Bradford this season, for instance.

But yes -- if a quarterback gets pulled for another veteran (or, like, a sixth-round rookie), that's a different matter.

11 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

By a 6th round rookie like Tom Brady, or some undrafted schmo like Tony Romo or Kurt Warner?

Actually, Kurt Warner is an interesting one. He was absolutely a journeyman for 5 years across three teams. He just bookended it with Super Bowl stretches that put him in the Hall. But then, Nick Foles has a 7 TD game, a SB MVP, and a Pro Bowl nod. It feels weird that Warner threw more passes for Arizona than for St. Louis.

10 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

I would argue that being replaced mid-season by a high-ish draft pick is definitely within the journeyman's repertoire. Keeping the seat warm while your rookie learns the ropes was essentially the entire idea behind the Cardinals signing Sam Bradford this season, for instance.

But yes -- if a quarterback gets pulled for another veteran (or, like, a sixth-round rookie), that's a different matter.

14 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

Some smart fellow already came up with a journeyman metric last year over at Football Perspective:

A little different criteria, but a lot of the same names. Good stuff!

19 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

Recall that Dave Krieg's alma mater, Milton College, closed in May, 1982, but Krieg played for 17 seasons more, so there should be bonus journeyman points for that! No possible HOF honors from his alma mater.

22 Re: Scramble for the Ball: The Journeyman Project

It'd be a receiver-heavy list, too; you could make arguments for Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Randy Moss (Marshall) AND Terrell Owens (Tennessee-Chattanooga), not to mention Roddy White (Alabama-Birmingham), John Taylor (Delaware State), Marques Colston (Hofstra), John Stallworth (Alabama A&M), TY Hilton (Florida International), Freddie Solomon (Tampa), Rod Smith (Missouri Southern), Pierre Garcon (Mount Union) and Andre Reed (Kutztown Pennsylvania)

Night Train Lane, the only NFL player from Western Nebraska Community College. Ken Anderson from tiny Augustana. Larry Allen, from both Sonoma State (my brother's alma mater!) and Butte JC. Roger Staubach out of the New Mexico Military Institute. Some great names there.

Hrmmmmm....into the article ideas bin this goes.