Four Downs: AFC West

Four Downs: AFC West
Four Downs: AFC West
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Tom Gower

Denver Broncos

Biggest Offseason Hole: Secondary

Tim Tebow has occupied most of the conversation concerning the Broncos since he became the starter six games into the 2011 season. Tebow was inefficient. As a passer, he ranked 37th among 46 quarterbacks by DVOA, and as a rusher, he surprisingly ranked just 34th among 41 quarterbacks. Tebow ran the ball 42 times on third or fourth down, and only made it to the sticks for a new set of downs 13 times.

However, Tebow is far from the only young quarterback in the league who needs to improve for his team to see serious improvement on offense, and it’s worth giving him the benefit of the doubt for another season since he didn’t have a full offseason to work with John Fox and Mike McCoy.

The Broncos’ biggest problem instead comes in the defensive backfield. Champ Bailey is still one of the league’s best cornerbacks, but will be 34 by the start of the 2012 season. While 2008 was the only season where he missed significant time, he has only played 16 games once in the past five seasons, and age is likely to take an increasing toll on his availability and level of play. The other starting corner, Andre’ Goodman, had a surprisingly decent season, but will be 34 as well by the start of next season. There are no clear replacements for either on the roster. Rookie Chris Harris had a good year as a nickelback, but is probably not ready to start. The only other corner who saw significant action was Cassius Vaughn, who graded poorly in our game charting project before going on injured reserve.

At safety, the biggest problem will be replacing strong safety Brian Dawkins. The veteran ex-Eagle was effective, primarily in underneath coverage, but is 38, and a late-season neck injury may force him to retire. Unlike at corner, the Broncos do have a couple young players on the roster who may compete for playing time: third-year player David Bruton and 2011 draftees Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter, who all split time at free safety.

If Dawkins doesn’t come back, a reasonably-priced veteran strong safety would be a good priority for the Broncos in free agency. With Goodman and Bailey in place, at least for now, the Broncos could pass on paying to dollar for a corner in free agency and opt to choose one with a high draft pick and the intent of installing him as a starter in 2013.

Kansas City Chiefs

Biggest Offseason Hole: Re-establishing 2010’s Core

The Chiefs’ surprising trip to the top of the AFC West in 2010 was keyed by the contributions of a number of important young players. This core included:

A little over one year removed from the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the status of each of those players as a core member of the Chiefs is in question.

Moeaki, Charles, and Berry each suffered an ACL tear that caused him to miss all or almost all of 2010. The Chiefs were planning on a big role for Moeaki in 2011, but his history of injury problems extends back to college and was a big reason he fell to the fourth round in 2010. Charles was perhaps the league’s most explosive back in 2010, and without him the Chiefs fell from third and eighth in Second Level Yards and Open Field Yards, our key measures of running back explosiveness, to 25th and 27th, respectively. Berry showed preternaturally good instincts at free safety as a rookie in 2010, but any lingering effects from his ACL injury could slow him just enough to make a pass defensed in 2010 into a pass completed in 2012.

Both Bowe and Carr are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents if the Chiefs do not re-sign them by March 13. The Chiefs acquired Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin at wideout last offseason, but right now, both players look better served as complements behind Bowe and not the cornerstones of a passing offense. Carr is probably not quite as good as the other starting cornerback, Brandon Flowers, but is still a very good player in his own right. Carr has averaged 7.0 and 6.9 yards per pass in our game charting project the last two years, which ranks him in the upper half of starting outside cornerbacks.

The Chiefs thus could be at a bit of a crossroads. If Moeaki, Charles, and Berry return to form, and they retain Bowe and Carr, then with the right moves around them the team could be competitive for several years to come. If Bowe and Carr are allowed to depart in free agency, though, and Moeaki, Charles, and Berry are permanently slowed by their injuries, then the Chiefs’ building process could be delayed several years.

Oakland Raiders

Biggest Offseason Hole: Linebacker

Despite the rocky start to Carson Palmer’s tenure, the Raiders’ offense improved from 2010 to 2011, as they rose from 23rd to 14th in our DVOA ratings. Had the defense maintained its league average performance from 2010, when it ranked 15th, instead of falling to 26th, the Raiders probably would have won at least one more game and taken the division for the first time since their Super Bowl appearance in 2002.

For the Raiders to improve on defense, they’ll have to upgrade the talent on the defensive back end. The first place to look may be at middle linebacker, where it’s fair to characterize Rolando McClain, the eighth overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft, as a disappointment. At his best, he’s a thumper who fills the hole well, but he does not make many plays at or behind the line of scrimmage, nor does he have the range to make as many plays as most middle linebackers. He was also targeted in pass coverage more than any other linebacker in our game charting data, with mostly middling results.

Unfortunately for the Raiders, McClain was probably their best cover linebacker. Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley is a pass rusher who rightly kicked down to defensive end in obvious passing situations. Aaron Curry, who started after being acquired via trade from the Seahawks during the season, is one of the least instinctive players in the NFL and should not be on the field in passing situations.

The Raiders do not have a pick in the first four rounds of this year’s draft, so any serious improvements will have to come in free agency. While in an ideal world, the Raiders find upgrades for both McClain and Curry, a more realistic solution might be replacing Curry with an outside linebacker that has the ability to play pass coverage, while playing even more dime personnel in obvious passing situations.

San Diego Chargers

Biggest Offseason Hole: Cornerback

In 2010, the Chargers missed the playoffs despite an excellent offense and defense because of historically bad special teams play. In 2011, the offense was still very good while the special teams improved to merely below average (23rd in our DVOA ratings), but the Chargers once again missed the playoffs because the defense declined. The biggest problem was pass defense, where the Chargers declined from -6.2%, fourth in the league, to 27.6%, 31st in the league.

The most inconsistent play the Chargers received came at cornerback. Antoine Cason had an up-and-down season, giving up some big passes, but overall came out fairly well in our game charting statistics. On the other side of the ball, Quentin Jammer did not come out so well. The veteran was one of the few cornerbacks whom our game charting project rated as giving up an average of at least 10 yards per play. Jammer has had an inconsistent career and is probably capable of a bounce-back season. Still, he will turn 33 before the 2012 season begins, and both he and the Chargers would be better off if he replaced Steve Gregory at strong safety.

If the Chargers do move Jammer to safety, the obvious candidate to replace him in the starting lineup is 2011 second-round pick Marcus Gilchrist. Our game charting, project, however, rated Gilchrist as giving up more yards per pass than even Jammer, and with fewer successful plays. An upgraded pass rush would help the entire secondary, but if they want the defense to return to an elite level, the Chargers should consider acquiring the best cornerback they can reasonably afford in free agency.

(This article originally appeared on ESPN Insider.)


72 comments, Last at 18 Feb 2012, 11:11am

1 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

and as a rusher, he surprisingly ranked just 34th among 41 quarterbacks.

Is that a surprise? DVOA loves small sample-size effects for rushing DVOA. QBs are the king of small-sample size rushing bonuses, because they only ever rush in high-benefit situations (3rd and long with an open zone, or sneak situations where gaining 6" counts as a "success").

Now if we started doing things the college way, and counting sacks against their rushing performance, that might change dramatically.

2 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

What also doesn't help is that Tebow runs a lot more that the average QB on longer yardages to go. That has to be limiting his "effective" runs, relative to other QBs that only run on third and shorts, for example.

23 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Well yes, but that would require him to throw more, and, well, no.

(from Boulder, CO)

I don't believe in God, but I do believe in Tim Tebow.

27 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Keaton always said, "I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of him." Well I believe in God, and the only thing that scares me is Tim Tebow.

Or something like that.

66 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Spoken like a true Bronco fan...

Seriously, folks, is there any question that a sub-50% completion rate and visually appalling accuracy with the football mean that QB is the biggest position of need for the Broncos this offseason? The fan faithful will probably insist on another few starts, or even a full season, be we all know that Tim Tebow is never going to be a good NFL quarterback, and that if the Broncos want to contend, they need a replacement, ideally a nice project starter with great physical tools that can sit behind him for a few weeks or a year and then start in 2013.

Honestly, Tim Tebow might make an okay replacement for Brian Dawkins...

51 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

DVOA for runners tends to decrease as frequency of runs increases. (The Jamaal Charles Effect) Tebow had more rushs per start than Cam Newton did, because Tebow accrued the same number of rushes in fewer games.

57 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

You're right, which is why it's better to use DYAR (as he did) instead of DVOA. It measures against the replacement-level baseline, instead of average.

No matter how you look at it, Newton was a much better runner than Tebow this year.

6 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

34th out of 41 may be the wrong measure, but if you just compare him to Cam Newton and Michael Vick, does he look any better?

Who are the other running QBs in the league, anyway?

7 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Rodgers is very effective at picking good times to run, its not really a strategy for him like it is for Tebow/Vick, its just an option he sometimes chooses when he thinks it is beneficial.

9 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Good post. I also would think that Tebow's rushing success is mitigated by the use of spies, which are much more viable against him than someone like Netwon or Vick who are more likely to beat you with their arms. In other words, DVOA isn't saying Tebow isn't a good rushing QB (he certainly is), just that he wasn't as effective due to factors than may not be due to his rushing ability.

46 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The counterpoint to that is that if opposition defences are using spies, and other strategies to limit Tebow's effectiveness as a runner, it should benefit his effectiveness as a passer.

72 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Exactly. Like tuluse implied before, if Tebow ran less, he would be far more effective. It's not just spies, it's that Tebow ran into defenses that were expecting the run a large percent of the time. Every other QB picks his spots (except for QB sneaks), but he was sent to battle with little chance of success. Why? Because the alternative was to have him actually pass the ball.

His running is definitely the least I'd be concerned about with him.

We are number one. All others are number two, or lower.

4 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The Raiders acquired Curry from the Seahawks via trade, not waivers.

5 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I think the San Diego secondary could have a bounce back year. All they need, in my opinion, is an effective pass rush and that secondary could be in for a major improvement. It was painful watching that defense try to get to the quarterback all year, and when you give a pro quarterback all day to throw the ball, it doesn't matter how good your secondary is, things will break down.

Also, I think Gilchrist is actually a pretty good corner, I think it was just because his only start was against the Packers (where, again, the defense could not get pressure on the Packers for anything). The eyeball test says he actually performed fairly well in limited time in other games.

12 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Not sure if simple regression towards the means (even with a better pass rushers) will improve the Chargers defense. Thought their problems was with failed draft picks on DBs, inability to find a NT, and a good OLB (Larry English? Paging Larry English). It's weird to see the Chargers front 7 struggle against the pass like that, when they were able to shut down the Colts offense. AJ Smith really needs to do his homework at the Combine and Pro Days, his dam has a lot of holes to fill.

16 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Actually Garay has done alright in position for NT and Cam Thomas is starting to come along fairly well. That being said, when Castillo is healthy (he got injured in the first game of the season), the defensive ends are probably the strength of that defensive line. I haven't seen any "failed" draft picks on DBs outside of Sammy Davis Jr. (2003 I think) and arguably Antonio Cromartie. Cason and Jammer were actually pretty good last year. They do need another good OLB to be opposite Shaun Phillips who is a decent all around guy, but not the best pass rusher (he does alright, but not great). Barnes started turning it on at the end of the season, especially against the Ravens (his former team) where he really turned it on.

They didn't play the 2010 Colts Offense this year, and if they had, it would have torched them I think, especially if it was mid-season. Instead they had to worry about the Patriots', Lions', and Packers' passing offenses and summarily got torched.

49 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

As a defense, the Chargers have been struggling. I thought they lacked an initial push against the run and relied overly much on Spikes and Weddle to make stops. Not sure if Garay's performance is a fluke or trend, heard Liuget has been a disappointment to the staff, not sure what to think about Thomas' performance (only 2 starts, played in all 16 games, sometimes dominant, sometimes disappears), and thought the Tommie Harris signing was out of desperation.

The failure would be Cason, he was benched for a rookie CB, then put back in when Gilchrist struggled. He also gave up TDs from Sanchez to Burress, which contributed to him getting benched. As a first round pick, that's bad. Not saying he can't turn it around, but just when you think the pass defense is turning the corner it will breakdown.

It's just hard to tell where the defense is going. Because the team is inconsistent, it indicates success might be due more to schedule, than ability.

65 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I agree that they lacked push as a defense, but I think they relied more on Weddle and Butler rather than Spikes (Spikes contributed more as a leader than a player in my opinion). But, then again, they have been relying on Weddle for quite a few years now.
I disagree that Cason was a failure, I think he was just inconsistent. He actually had a great game against the Jets on all but three plays (all touchdowns). In fact, I heard that Manusky's benching of Cason was widely criticized by the players and other coaches, and may have played a part in his early departure (in addition to the free-fall that the Defense experienced).
I agree that they are very inconsistent (2010 they had the 30th ranked variance and this year they had the 25th ranked variance on Defense), But I don't think it has to do with schedule. They played very well against the Ravens, but barely did anything against the Bears (granted it was with their full complement of Offensive stars, but still) and played poorly against the Jets of all teams as well.
They actually played against some fairly poor offenses this year, and to do what they did is pretty bad. I would like to see consistent quarterback pressure, and I think that will improve this defense quite a bit. And here's hoping that Mouton has a season next year like Butler had this year.

68 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Antwan Barnes was the best player on the Chargers' defense and will very likely make the Ravens sorry he left very soon. Phillips is unfortunately just a guy now, but he's a starter guy. Can't believe this team didn't make a run at Aubrayo Franklin last year, they would have benefited immensely.

Eric Weddle.

42 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Regression towards the means doesn't make a weak defense better any more than it makes a slower-than-average runner faster.

50 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

For individuals, no. As a group/team/process performance, yes. Though, defensive performance from year to year is less consistent than offensive performance.

54 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Regression toward the mean is only a factor when considering action that is happening by chance. If you think the Chargers' poor defensive performance was due to luck, then you could see regression toward the mean. If you think it's simply a case of the defense getting worse due to aging and other non-random factors, then regression toward the mean isn't relevant.
We don't really think success or failure in football is decided primarily by random luck, do we?

55 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I agree with RickD on this one; the relevant regression is to the team's mean, not the league mean.

I think you can make the case that 2011 was a bad year for defense across the league, possibly due in part to the lockout, but San Diego was unusually bad even adjusted for that. Here's the San Diego's defense over the last 10 years - Norv is the head coach from 2007-2011, Marty from 2002-2006:

2011: 15.9%, 29th
2010: -6.4%, 7th
2009: 9.6%, 23rd
2008: 8.3%, 20th
2007: -8.2%, 6th
2006: 2.4%, 17th
2005: -2.5%, 16th
2004: -3.9%, 12th
2003: 11.0%, 30th
2002: 4%, 23rd

Norv's defenses fluctuate wildly. They've been very good in two years, and very bad in three years, with nothing in between, but while I think their 'true' mean is probably a bad/below average defense rather than a terrible one, the variance is so high that you really can't say with any certainty.

62 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

In reply to by Independent George

Hmm, you gave me an idea.

2012: John Pagano Pending
2011: Ted Manusky Corey Liuget, Marcus Gilchrist, Jonas Mouton, Shareece Wright
2010: Ron Rivera Donald Butler, Cam Thomas
2009: Ron Rivera Larry English, Vaughn Martin, Brandon Hughes, Kevin Ellison
Jamal Williams released
2008: TC/RR Antoine Cason (picks traded for Weddle)
2007: Ted Cottrell Eric Weddle, Waters, Siler
Paul Oliver signed
2006: Wade Phillips Antonio Cromartie, Tim Dobbins, Chase Page
Donnie Edwards released, Steve Foley non football injury
2005: Wade Phillips Shawne Merriman, Luis Castillo
2004: Wade Phillips (switch to 3-4) Igor Olshansky, Shaun Phillips
Steve Foley, Clinton Hart signed
2003: Dale Lindsay Sammy Davis, Drayton Florence, Terrence Kiel, Matt Wilhelm
Donnie Edwards, Stephen Cooper signed
Junior Seau traded, Rodney Harrison released.
2002: Dale Lindsay Quentin Jammer, Ben Leber

If anything, Wade Phillips was the nearest thing to consistency for the Chargers defense. The Ted Cottrell era was marked by inconsistency in aggressiveness, then a mid-season switch. The Rivera era started on the bad side, but ended well. We all what happened during Manusky.

Though looking at the talent (by no means an all-inclusive list) it's just plain hard to tell how well things will turn out.

63 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

In reply to by Displaced Bolthead (not verified)

gawd, that looks awful.

Anyway, I was looking at the DCs and defensive players signed or drafted. On a quick look, Wade Phillips gave the most consistency to the defense, Cottrell had one good year, Rivera started with 2 average/bad years, then 1 good one.

Defensive talent and development is harder to gauge. Pagano could have a decent year if the 2011 draft class turns out above average.

56 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Agreed on the point that "regression toward the mean" is regression toward some true mean that the unit possesses, not toward the league average or anything like that.

But it doesn't have to be just due to chance or luck (depending on how you define those). For any given player, there's going to be a spectrum of performance they could have in a given year, even not having luck involved. If a lot of players fall on the lower end for whatever non-luck based reasons may occur - psychology, life events, scheme, work ethic, etc. - then you might have a team that under-performs and is likely to regress toward their mean the next year.

Luck would almost certainly be a factor just because it usually is, but you don't need to be able to point to the usual "lucky" things - injuries, turnover luck, unusual plays, etc. - to account for possible regression.

60 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Not necessarily, I've seen manufacturing processes that fluctuate even with controls. Digging deeper, the root cause can be anything from decaying gaskets, operators not changing the oil, a bad sensor, a missed monthly repair/replacement, etc. What people attribute to luck or random chance can be attributed to not changing out a worn part on time or bad MTBF analysis.

As for the Chargers, remember (waaaayy back) when the were 4-12 and rebounded to 12-4? I didn't think it could happen with the same roster, but 3rd down rebound effect and an easier schedule kicked in and got them into the playoffs.

I think the defense will improve next year, partially because defenses will normally rebound from a previously bad year, except the Rams from two years ago and the Buffalo are exceptions to that rule. Those teams were exceptionally bad, but I digress. Teams will add talent through the draft and free agency; injuries occurrence; and random bad calls by the officials, ball placement, etc will normally go their way the next year. The other issue would be the NORV factor and it's hard to calculate how infinitely it repeats mediocrity. It's just hard to tell where the Chargers are going.

8 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I get that the "core" listed for Kansas City was all younger players, but it seems absurd to talk about getting back to 2010's success without even mentioning that Cassell had 27 TDs vs only 7 INTs that year. Having a healthy Charles will help, but Cassell (and Weis as OC) were a major part of that success. Without high production from the qb, neither Bowe nor Charles are likely to get back to the sort of numbers they had in 2010.

11 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

It's only absurd if you think Cassel's production was a result of his own skill.

If the Chiefs can keep their defense together, I'm fully expecting Orton to make them a boring to watch, but rather good team.

13 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Doesn't much matter if it were all his skill or a product of him and Weis, the point is the same--they got a simply amazing season out of their qb. (I believe Brady has had 20 more TDs than INTs twice and Peyton has done it once. Most guys never even come close.) It makes no sense to talk about running backs and wide receivers reaching high levels without looking at the qb and offense as a whole.

15 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I think tuluse was suggesting that much of Cassel production came off career years from Moeaki, Bowe and Charles.

19 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

That would make sense if it were anywhere close to normal to see quarterbacks throw 20 more TDs than interceptions, but it's a very rare event, indeed. It's not even a once-in-a-career sort of happening. (Orton's only had 10 more TDs than INTs once...he threw 20 TDs and 9 INTs one year.)

Was part of Cassel's 2010 performance due to the other guys playing well? Of course. Was part of it due to Weis calling a great year as OC? Of course--probably a large part was due to that. But when you get down to it, Cassel was the guy putting up the numbers and he had a simply amazing year. Yet, for reasons that have never been clear to me, many supposedly knowledgeable fans like dismissing it out-of-hand, like a Kyle Orton is going to just step in and give a team a similar performance. That's just nuts. I'm not a Cassel fan nor am I a Chiefs fan, but it just strikes me as odd when fantastic performances get undervalued or ignored.

Want to argue that Cassel won't be able to repeat it? No problem. I'd bet on that myself. But don't get so lost in the forest you start discussing Bowe, Moeaki and Charles getting back to elite levels without even mentioning they benefited from an elite qb that season.

22 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

That would make sense if it were anywhere close to normal to see quarterbacks throw 20 more TDs than interceptions, but it's a very rare event, indeed.

It's happen 34 times, occasionally to such luminaries as Jeff George, Jeff Garcia, and Scott Mitchell. Dan Marino managed it once in a season in which he threw 23 INTs.

Almost all of those seasons are after 1990. I think prior to that only Tittle and Marino managed it. It's becoming increasingly common. Most of the QBs who have done it are still active. I think Favre has the most career seasons of this type. Rodgers has the highest ratio of seasons.

26 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Bob Beamon long jumping 29'2" was still amazing even though he never came close to duplicating it. Matt Cassel isn't an all-time great but he had an incredible 2010 that played a big part in the Chiefs' success. How can that be argued?

Without looking all the examples up, I'd venture that most of the other guys you named likely also had incredible years. The fact that one great year wasn't indicative of their careers as a whole doesn't diminish the accomplishment. In some ways, it actually makes it even greater. And unlike your Marino example, Cassel didn't throw 23INTs. He threw only 7. That's a heck of a year even if you ignore he had 27 TDs.

29 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Here's what I originally wrote "It's only absurd if you think Cassel's production was a result of his own skill."

I didn't say he didn't produce well, I just don't think much of it was due to him.

34 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

And here is what I originally posted:
"Without high production from the qb, neither Bowe nor Charles are likely to get back to the sort of numbers they had in 2010."

You don't seem to be arguing with my basic premise, instead you are getting lost in weeds trying to decide whether Cassel's great year was because of him, Charlie Weis, the running back and receivers, or pure luck. While an interesting side debate, none of that has anything to do with my original point.

And while it is fun to hear all the things you "think" I'm getting hung up on how you also think Orton has shown himself to be significantly better than Cassel. The stats definitely are against you there. Are your other thoughts on the Chiefs likely to be more accurate than that one?

35 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Just to be completely clear, I think there are about 20, possibly more quarterbacks in the NFL who would have produced equal to or better than Cassel in the same situation.

From watching both QBs play, I think that Orton is a superior talent who has been in worse situations.

37 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

No doubt Cassel had it good when he stepped in with the Pats. But the Chiefs were 6-26 the two years prior to acquiring him and 2-14 the year immediately before.

The two years prior to drafting Orton, the Bears went 12-20. The Broncos were 15-17, had the third ranked offense in the NFL the year before and missed the playoffs by one game.

Your definition of "worse" differs from mine.

39 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The "worse situations" line caught my attention. On the one hand, Orton's time in Denver couldn't have been any worse. The fans hated McDaniels, were tired of all the losing, were mad about the Cutler trade, and Orton got blame for lots of things out of his control. The love affair with Tebow got its start because nobody ever really liked Orton. But on the statistics side, times were good. The first year in particular he had good receivers, they had no running game to steal yards from his passing, McDaniels had him throwing tons of high percentage short passes, and there were lots of losses where he had long stretches of garbage time just piling up stats.

Orton started his career in a tough spot taking over for Grossman in a tough town. He then stepped into the fire in Denver. On the one hand, he does a good job just concentrating on his play, which is all he's ever been able to control. But that frequently comes across as him not really caring about the end result. It got very old watching him in Denver being emotionless as the team burned down around him. He never looked like a leader and I doubt he's ever going to take a team anywhere because of that.

At least part of the support for a Tebow grows out of people spurning the idea of guys like Orton. His numbers always made him look like he was pretty good, but the results never seemed to jibe with the story his stats were telling. Fans see a likable kid only completing 40% of his passes but the team manages to win and they contrast that to a cold fish like Orton who completed 60% of his passes but was the loser nearly every week.

69 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

This is a reply generally to this discussion of KC, Cassel, and Orton.

[Incidentally, Manning has thrown more than 20 more TD's than INT's twice, in 2004 and 2006. Also two years with 18 and one with 19. Brady has three: 2007, 2010, 2011, and nothing else terribly close.]

Kansas City has a tough situation on its hands. Orton and Cassel are both above-replacement-level starters in the NFL, players which any team would be happy to pay as a backup and more than half the league would be better off with as a starter. Either one would make the Jets a 12-4 team. Unfortunately, neither of them is a really stellar talent (Neither of them would make the Colts an 8-8 team, let alone a playoff team).

So KC will probably stick with Cassel, keeping Orton as a backup if they can do so cheaply, simply because Cassel has the huge contract induced by playing for New England's spread for a season. I think KC will be a weak team, though. 2010's "success" was based on an all-world season from Charles (now coming off an ACL), and an unrepeatable INT performance from Cassel.

32 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

When you throw those stats out Tittle's year looks astonishingly good considering when it happened. Back then a linebacker could flatten a receiver crossing the field etc.

43 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Responding to possible sarcasm in the list of "luminaries", Jeff Garcia was a legitimately fine QB. A four-time Pro Bowler himself, his "similar" list on PFR includes Kurt Warner (2-time MVP), Gannon (MVP), Bert Jones (MVP), Theezman (MVP), Namath (HoF), Lomax. For a short stint at the beginning of the 00's, Garcia was among the best QBs in the game.

He became a bit of a punchline, somewhere along the way. But for a while he was excellent.

52 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I'm not as down on Garcia as you think. The original post was arguing that Cassell's season was some amazing aberration. It's really not, especially in this last decade. And it's not all HOFers.

Garcia was a "fine" QB. Occasionally very good, with a brief peak. He had *two* seasons of TD-INT=>20. It's not inconceivable that Cassell has another similar season in him. A lot of the guys who did it early in their careers did it again.

53 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I relish any opportunity to link back to this:

Chris' replacement was a grizzled sailor named Garcia, who was keen of mind but frail of body and big on ambition. Garcia dared to question Yellow Jon, who went so far as to imprison the mate in the brig for a spell. But Garcia was the best first mate Yellow Jon could find, so he was released, and the Yellow Freighter won several battles up and down the coastline.

24 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Dude, I hear you regarding Cassel's 2010 being largely overlooked. Didn't FO have him as like the 14th ranked quarterback for 2010? How can anybody argue that 27 TDs and only 7 ints weren't better than that? I mean, forget any other metric: The guy was throwing a ton of TDs without hardly ever turning it over and winning to top it all off. Fluke year or not, it was off-the-charts and they're not likely to see anything close to that anytime soon.

And not only does the article fail to mention Cassel, it also doesn't mention 2010 happened under a totally different coaching staff. Weis is long gone, Haley is now gone, it's a totally different system that all those guys will be playing. Seems like that is worth a mention beyond just saying "These guys need to get back to the levels they were at two years ago."

14 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

What makes you expect Orton will start over Cassel? I mean I think they're comperable but the job seems like Cassels to lose.

17 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I don't think you pick up Orton off waivers in the position the Chiefs were in if the job is Cassel's to lose.

I also think Orton is significantly better.

30 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"I don't think you pick up Orton off waivers in the position the Chiefs were in if the job is Cassel's to lose.
I also think Orton is significantly better."

Cassel was injured and they needed somebody to play QB, plus they had a game against the Broncos coming up. And the "position they were in" would ultimately place them a single game behind the division champions. You expected them to completely throw in the towel on the season in THAT division?

As for thinking Orton is significantly better than Cassel, you might want to check out their stats.

Career numbers

35-34 record as starter
80 TDs vs 57 INTs
58% completions
6.6 yards per attempt
79.4 rating

28-26 record as starter
76 TDs vs 45 INTs
59% completions
6.6 yards per attempt
82.5 rating

31 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Best receiver Cassel has played with: Randy Moss
Best receiver Orton has played with: Brandon Lloyd
2nd and 3rd best receivers Cassel has played with: Wes Welker and Dwayne Bowe
2nd and 3rd best receivers Orton has played with: I don't even know who to pick maybe Mushin Muhammed the bad years and Bernard Berrian

36 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Orton also played with Brandon Marshall. Threw 21 passes to him in a single game, in fact. He inherited the #3 ranked offense in the NFL when he joined Denver.

Seriously, do you do any research or is absolutely everything based on what you "think" happened?

38 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I did forget Marshall. Yeah he would be the best Orton has played with. For the record I don't think Orton is anywhere near as good as Cutler.

It's kind of interesting, Orton and Cassel both took over super high powered offenses. New England went from 45.2% DVOA with Brady to 16.5 with Cassel, and Denver went from 24% DVOA with Cutler to 4.7% with Orton.

25 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

For that matter, what makes you think Kyle Orton will be a Chief? He's a free agent and clearly wants to be on a team where he is at least the presumptive starter -- my best guess is he will go to whichever QB-starved team does not trade up for RGIII (Washington, Cleveland, maybe Miami).

28 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

That's a fair point. I guess I would pick Orton if I was in charge of the Chiefs, so I assume they'll do the same.

I could see Orton not wanting to go to some terrible team just because of a guaranteed starting job too.

41 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Maybe you should be in charge of the Chiefs . . . but you aren't. I would be shocked if they re-sign Orton. It is all a moot discussion. Then again, I could be wrong . . .

18 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I think Cassel's likely 2012 TD% and INT% are closer to his 2009 and 2011 numbers than his 2010 numbers. 2010's INT% in particular seems fortuitous. Moreover, I don't believe Cassel himself is a good enough quarterback to make up for the difference between an intact and healthy core and something less than that.

40 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Exactly. TD% and INT% are notoriously random from year to year, with much of the variance coming from luck and circumstances rather than repeatable skill. In 2010 he only completed 58.2% of his passes at 6.9 YPA, both below league average. That's who he really is: a slightly below average quarterback.

44 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"Aaron Curry... is one of the least instinctive players in the NFL"

I think I remember when Aaron Curry was rated by seemingly everyone* as the surest prospect of his draft class who was able to play any of the linebacker positions from day one. It's incredible how wrong everyone seems to have been in this case.

Typically gushing headline

* I guess when I say "everyone" I'm really just talking about mainstream media.

45 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I remember thinking that he was being over-rated as a pass-rusher (far too many of his sacks came as an unblocked blitzer), but I really did think he'd be a good 4-3 OLB. I don't think it's just ESPN writers who blew it when it came to Curry.

58 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

It wasn't just mainstream media. Coaches, scouts, draft experts, pretty much everyone thought Curry was going to be a huge success. He had athletic ability like almost no one else, was super fast and strong and mean.

But his football IQ was almost nonexistent.

61 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

But even that is odd. Al Grobe runs a Wake Forest team that's often as much about guile and experience as it is about talent. That a super-athletic dunce came out of Wake makes no sense. That's what Miami is for.

64 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

You mean the Miami that consistantly outranks Wake Forest in US News's annual rankings? Or did you misspell Ohio State?

70 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

True. Even Doug Farrar ranked Aaron Curry high and later remarked where did he go wrong in the evaluation.

Wonder if Curry has a hard time processing what's in front of him quickly, thus needs pre-defined reads.