Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Nov 2010

ESPN: Halfway Myths And Realities

We've got a feature up for ESPN's Midseason Report on four myths and four realities from the first half of the NFL season, one for each division.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 10 Nov 2010

16 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2010, 10:04am by MJC-Hardcore


by are-tee :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 1:16pm

I wonder what Mark Sanchez has ever done to Bill Barnwell to become his new favorite whipping boy. Not just this article - it seems that every week's Quick Reads has some put down of Sanchez, no matter how he plays.

Oh well, Kyle Orton used to fill that role in FO, and things have changed for him.

by are-tee :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 2:57pm

Almost forgot to mention - Sanchez 2009 DYAR and DVOA = -266 and -21.9%; 2010 = +236 and +2.3%. But I guess Barnwell only believes in conventional statistics.

by jfsh :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 10:01pm

Well, even as a Jets fan, I have plenty of sympathy for people who get tired of the ridiculous New York sports media. You're either the world's greatest hero or a worthless piece of human garbage, and since the Jets are (barely) winning, Sanchez is a hero. I can understand the desire to push back on that, although maybe Bill takes it too far sometimes.

So, what's the real story on Sanchez? In my opinion, he's definitely improved since last year; he doesn't look completely lost and/or terrified out there anymore. He can throw some pretty passes, he's got good weapons (even if the WRs have bad hands) and it seems like his teammates like him. So that's all a plus.

On the other hand, his accuracy comes and goes... he really needs to get his completion percentage up if he wants to be a serious NFL QB. I think his grasp of the offense and defense isn't completely there yet. This leads to some dumb throws and INTs. He's also a pretty poor scrambler for a young guy.

It's easy to forget that it's only his second year. I think he's on the Eli Manning path: a smart player who starts out slow, but can become very good with time. Eli's completion percentages: 48.2, 52.8, 57.7, 56.1, 60.3, 62.3, 65.7. Curious to hear what other people think of that comparison.

by are-tee :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 11:49pm

I agree - Sanchez is on his way to becoming Eli Manning with charisma.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 5:03pm

I think his full potential is higher than Eli's, but I think he's also less likely to reach it.

Someone else pointed out he looks much more comfortable running a quick paced offense when he can get into a rhythm, and not have to think to much, which isn't really a great fit for a team that wants to get a lead and sit on it while the defense handles the rest.

by vinyltoupee (not verified) :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 1:30pm

That's Barnwell, the Outsider with the most bite, by far.

by Adam (not verified) :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 1:34pm

Bill, did Sanchez sleep with your girlfriend or something?

by morrongiello :: Wed, 11/10/2010 - 10:18pm

Those that have seen some of my comments on this website know that I usually play the role of the harsh critic, but I think he's absolutely right on Sanchez. Can you have a near 50% completion percentage and still add value as a quarterback? Yeah, I guess -- nearly 100% of your completions would have to be for first downs, or successes, or whatever. Adding to that, by my own simplistic way of adjusting for opponent defense, Sanchez's completion rate appears even lower than it is.

But that's not even the biggest part of the issue. The most glaringly obvious fluke has to be in his interception rate through those 5 games / 147 passes. There's a statistical test using something called a "standard score" to tell when a "streak" is significant, but I'm too lazy to work it out right now. To me, someone with a consistently below average completion rate can't be THAT good at avoiding interceptions. He's simply too inaccurate a passer to be that good.

by dmb :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 1:54am

To further your point, low INT% in general is not a repeatable skill. The excellent Pro Football Reference blog did about a bazillion (OK, maybe 3 or 4) entries about it, and I believe Brian Burke has addressed the issue, too. Both the year-to-year and within-season (first 8 games to second 8) correlation for full samples of QBs are very, very low.

That said, I think Bill is being a bit harsh. Sanchez's DVOA and DYAR are waaaaaaaay up from last year, so I have to wonder if his stationary ypa is a bit misleading; I suspect he might be accumulating some of the yardage in more useful situations. Even if that's not the case, it's worth mentioning that even though his INT% is very unlikely to stay as low as it has at the beginning of the year, it's also very unlikely to head all the way back to 2009 levels. Whether that's an "improvement" is in the eye of the beholder, but it seems noteworthy that he probably won't be replicating last year's performance anytime in the foreseeable future.

by Led :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 11:45am

"To me, someone with a consistently below average completion rate can't be THAT good at avoiding interceptions. He's simply too inaccurate a passer to be that good."

That's not necessarily true. It seems to me that a good bit of Sanchez's innaccuracy is the result of being over cautious. Waiting too long to be sure of a read, not throwing guys open in the middle of the field, placing it too far outside on passes to the sideline, checking down too early before the pattern develops, etc. These types of incompletions can be consistent with a low INT rate. Sanchez has a goldilocks problem in terms of how much risk to take, which I attribute to his relative lack of game experience (including college). Hopefully for the Jets, he develops a better feel and his percentage goes up.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 12:59pm

Haven't watched enough of Sanchez to really comment on your other points, but wanted to point out that checking down too often usually leads to a high completion rate, but a low YPA as well as DVOA.

David Carr with the Texans was a pretty good example of this from what I remember, with a completion percentage that exaggerated his actual value.

by AlanSP :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 1:28am

To me, someone with a consistently below average completion rate can't be THAT good at avoiding interceptions. He's simply too inaccurate a passer to be that good.

I'd point out that Donovan McNabb for most of his career has generally had completion percentages a bit below average and he's been one of the best in history at avoiding interceptions.

by MJC-Hardcore (not verified) :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 10:04am

That's exactly right. Donovan has a habit (intentional or not...I don't know) of rifling passes at the receiver's ankles. These passes are hard for anyone to catch so both his completion percentage and his interception percentage are low.

by Failgoat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/11/2010 - 2:20pm

The numbers don't tell the whole story on Sanchez; he plays a bizarre brand of football that has to be seen to be understood. He holds the ball way too long and constantly waits for plays to develop downfield, which means either a) he hits a big completion, b) he throws to a covered receiver for an incompletion, or c) he looks short so late that the dump-off goes for no YAC. Keeping in mind that most of his deep incompletions appear to be missed throws as opposed to missed reads, I think it explains his weird combination of numbers, and it also means I'd be surprised if his completion percentage or interception numbers rose dramatically before the end of the season.

The countervailing factor, of course, is that he gets a lot of credit and exposure from the MSM, which means he's irrefutably terrible and always will be.

by Q (not verified) :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 8:36am

They were discussing this article today on Mike and Mike

by Q-Tip (not verified) :: Fri, 11/12/2010 - 9:41am

And Golic rightly took a dump on it.

Greenberg: And when we return from the break, we'll go through the AFC myths or facts!

Golic: Oh.