Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

13 Oct 2009

ESPN Any Given Sunday: Falcons over 49ers

by Vince Verhei

The linked article talks about which leg of the defense/running game/game manager tripod is letting San Francisco down. It explains why Shaun Hill has been effective despite a negative DVOA, but it doesn't go into one weakness of his game: a reliance on checkdowns that is inflating his traditional statistics but hurting his DVOA.

In DVOA, plays are considered successful if they pick up 40 percent of the needed yardage on first down, 60 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third or fourth down. Hill has completed 30 passes that have failed to pick up meaningful yardage. That's tied for second in the league. Number one shouldn't be a surprise. Hey there, Trent Edwards.

Most Failed Completions, 2009
Player Team Failed Completions
5-T.Edwards BUF 32
8-M.Schaub HOU 30
13-S.Hill SF 30
18-P.Manning IND 29
7-M.Cassel KC 29
4-B.Favre MIN 28
8-K.Orton DEN 27
9-M.Stafford DET 25
5-K.Collins TEN 25
9-D.Brees NO 25

It may be surprising to see that Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, and Drew Brees have a lot of failed completions, but that's partly because they have a lot of completions, period. Here's the leaderboard of players with the highest failure rate among their completions.

Highest Percentage of Failed Completions
Player Team Failed Comp. %
7-M.Cassel KC 38%
7-B.Leftwich TB 38%
5-T.Edwards BUF 37%
13-S.Hill SF 37%
2-J.Russell OAK 35%
10-B.Quinn CLE 33%
9-M.Stafford DET 32%
12-K.Boller SL 31%
6-M.Sanchez NYJ 29%
9-D.Brees NO 29%

Just to be clear, this is (failed completions) divided by (total completions). And Brees still shows up. Well, when you throw that many screens, they can't all work.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 13 Oct 2009

25 comments, Last at 14 Oct 2009, 2:13pm by coboney


by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 1:44pm

Please tag with "ESPN". Thanks.

by Keith (1) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 2:03pm

I find it hilarious that OAKLAND QB has a high percentage of failed completions, but does not even show up on the highest of the total number of failed completions. This speaks volumes to his lower number of completions at all. He really should not be a quarterback for any NFL team. Or, dare I even say, a USFL team.

I guess it is not so bad. At least he will be financially set for life when his rookie contract ends since he managed to get such a huge amount of money. Then he can sit around and do nothing at home instead of on a football field.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 3:17pm

I honestly think he does not care. He got drafted to OAK, got his money and is playing out his contract. Any hope of a successful career was drained from him by the black hole that is the Raiders front office. How would you feel if your dream job turned out to be a collection of questionable decision making, perennial failure and poor leadership, all glued together by a bucket of crazy. Look at Randy Moss' career before and after OAK.

He was successful in the SEC and won a BCS championship and now he is on the Raiders. He could not have been as dreadful as he now appears.

by gormleymp (not verified) :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:34pm

JaMarcus Russell won the Sugar Bowl (not the BCS Championship game) while playing for LSU over Notre Dame. Definitely playing much worse at Oakland but LSU probably would have won that game nine times out of ten even with mediocre QB play.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 3:29pm

This article almost convinces me to become an ESPN insider again, but only almost. Good effort, Vince, and may the Satanists of Bristol give you a much deserved raise!

Luckily for this newly re-minted 49er fan, there is a huge gap between what is required to win the NFC West, and what is required to win a playoff game. I revert to my pre-Jeans Model mode of rooting for a team: if, when the ball is kicked off for their 16th game, they have not been officially eliminated, I will be satisfied, if not happy.

by Dan :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 3:49pm

That means that Russell's success rate is about 28% (65% of 42.5%).

by Dan :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 12:24am

I realized that this leaves out sacks. On passing plays, Russell's success rate (gaining meaningful yardage) is 24% (33/135) and his failure rate (sack or interception) is 13% (18/135), including a 5% (7/135) turnover rate. The rest (62% = 84/135) are wasted plays (49% incompletions and 13% unsuccessful completions).

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:07pm

Seriously? DAVE predicted this. DAVE also predicted JAX over SEA. . . . Why not cover that one instead?

by Whatev (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:22pm

DAVE also says that Jacksonville has gigantic variance, so the probability of them performing badly enough to overcome the difference in ratings is something like 40%?

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:24pm

DAVE might have predicted an Atlanta win, but not an Atlanta blowout.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 4:43pm

I question whether the Falcons over the 49ers is actually an upset. You're telling me it's surprising that Matt Ryan's team beat Shaun Hill's team?

by David :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:14pm

You wound me sir, you wound me...

Shaun Hill's team beat Kurt Warner's team...

by sfckoski :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:18pm

Also, Ted Ginn beat Darrelle Revis, Randy Moss did not. Does that mean Ted Ginn > Randy Moss? Hardly.

by RickD :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:16am

No, it means Chad Henne > Tom Brady.


by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:13pm

I think it's bogging a lot of people (partially including me), that this piece is called "Any Given Sunday". It implies a huge upset - it rarely is. This game was basically a cointoss before the game. You should call it what it is "Look what interesting bit of info we stumbled upon this week!" Don't get me wrong - I like AGS, but it's generally not involving an upset.

Also: I'm absolutely thrilled that Kyle Orton is not showing up on that last list. Maybe he isn't showing the captain-checkdown i thought he was.

by sfckoski :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:20pm

I think the most disappointing thing about the 49ers OL play is that there was virtually no turnover from last season(Barry Sims/Adam Snyder). FO illustrates the importance of OL continuity, but that hasn't been the case for the 49ers this season, which means just bad football./

by jimbohead :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:29pm

Doubly frustrating is Rachal's serious regression. It looks like the tackles are holding up as well as can be expected, but there's no push from the gaurds in the run game, and Hill can't step up into the pocket, b/c opposing DTs are constantly pushing Rachal and Baas backward.

by sfckoski :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:32pm

you're right. Especially troubling since run blocking was supposed to be Rachal's specialty.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 7:44pm

Two second round picks on Guards that can't block in either phase of the game, it's pretty depressing really.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 5:34pm

1) It has now been five weeks. It should not be surprising anymore that this piece is on ESPN.

2) Going by Vegas lines, there were four upsets on Sunday: Falcons over 49ers, Bengals over Ravens, Broncos over Patriots, and Browns over Bills. Nobody outside of the Lake Erie region cares about that putrid Browns-Bills game, and I've already covered Bengals and Broncos in recent weeks.

You could argue that we should use DAVE instead of Vegas lines to pick which game we cover, but remember that the piece is being written for ESPN's readership. Most sports fans thought San Francisco would beat Atlanta at home -- again, they were favorites -- so it was mildly surprising they lost, and very surprising how badly they lost.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 11:17pm

Oh, I wasn't surprised. I was sincere in congratulating you for a good lede, even if it was for the Evil Empire.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/13/2009 - 7:34pm

Singletary's methods seems to be reaching the point of diminishing returns. Who'd have thought that simply shouting at people might begin to wear after a while?

by RickD :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:17am

Coughlin won a Super Bowl.

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 1:58am

Coughlin was driving players out of the league and into TV jobs by shouting at them. Then he STOPPED shouting at them and won the Super Bowl.

by coboney :: Wed, 10/14/2009 - 2:13pm

Obviously this means that Singletary hasn't yet reached the critical point of Shouts Per Player that when removed force a team to respond so well out of shock.

I do like Singletary but there'll be days like this where I wake up monday morning wondering if our coach is good enough. On the bright side he is growing as a coach. He didn't remove any clothes in that rah-rah speech.