Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Jun 2010

ESPN: Is Jim Kelly Right?

This week's ESPN feature analyzes Jim Kelly's claim that the Bills need to take a quarterback that isn't from California by comparing the performance of quarterbacks with warm weather backgrounds and cold weather backgrounds in both cold and warm games.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 08 Jun 2010

35 comments, Last at 15 Jun 2010, 2:03am by tuluse


by The Human Spider :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 1:42pm

Here's a list of Hall-of-Fame or potential Hall-of-Fame QBs (some of which I had to dig up from last's week MMQB comments section) who have played in warm weather backgrounds, along with the teams they played for in the parenthesis:

- Troy Aikman, West Covina, CA/Henryetta, OK (Dallas Cowboys)
- Sammy Baugh, Temple, TX (Washington Redskins)
- Terry Bradshaw, Shreveport, LA (Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Tom Brady, San Mateo, CA (New England Patriots)
- John Elway, Grenada Hills, CA (Denver Broncos)
- Brett Favre, Gulfport, MS (Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings)
- Dan Fouts, San Fransisco, CA (San Diego Chargers)
- Bobby Layne, Santa Anna, TX (Chicago Bears, New York Bulldogs, Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Archie Manning, Drew, MS (New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings)
- Eli Manning, New Orleans, LA (New York Giants)
- Peyton Manning, New Orleans, LA (Indianapolis Colts)
- Warren Moon, Los Angeles, CA (Edmonton Eskimos, Houston Oilers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs)
- Carson Palmer, Fresno, CA (Cincinnati Bengals)
- Aaron Rodgers, Chico, CA (Green Bay Packers)
- Bart Starr, Montgomery, AL (Green Bay Packers)
- Y.A. Tittle, Marshall, TX (Baltimore Colts, San Fransisco 49ers, New York Giants)
- Bob Waterfield, Van Nuys, CA (Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams)

by chemical burn :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 1:55pm

Uh... Carson Palmer? Eli Manning? Aaron Rodgers? It would help your case to just leave guys like that out of the discussion.

Also, I believe that part of Kelley's idea is that California makes a man soft and weak by virtue of not only its climate, but its culture. Plus, Louisiana is not exactly a comparably pleasant environment - you'll be soaked in sweat doing any athletic activity almost all year round because of the mind-boggling humidity. I say strike those players from the Gulf Coast (and Southern Alabama)

by tuluse :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 5:51pm

I don't think Carson Palmer or Eli Manning are getting in the HOF without buying a ticket.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 9:42am

Crapping on Eli is so two years ago. One more ship and he's in.

Of course Kelly is much tougher than any QB from sissy California. He's been living in drunkenhazeland for the last thirty years.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 11:02am

Just to be clear, I wasn't crapping on Eli (who I think has many virtues as a QB) or even Palmer or Rodgers - I was just saying, it would be very premature to discuss any of them in terms of HOF credentials. And it would also generate pointless controversy. ahem.

by tuluse :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 4:40pm

Thinking that Eli isn't a HOF quarterback is crapping on him now?

Yeah he's good, but he's not HOF good. He's more like the level of Drew Bledsoe.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 1:58pm

The whittled down list:

Troy Aikman, West Covina, CA/Henryetta, OK
- Tom Brady, San Mateo, CA
- John Elway, Grenada Hills, CA
- Dan Fouts, San Francisco, CA
- Warren Moon, Los Angeles, CA
- Bob Waterfield, Van Nuys, CA

(It felt internally incoherent to leave in Texas, a notably difficult environment)

Still, not a bad list, by any stretch of the imagination.

by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 2:37pm

I think it's also important to note whether or not these guys played in cold weather in college.

From your list, these guys all often played in cold/difficult weather in college:
Brady - Michigan
Fouts - Oregon
Moon - Washington

But even someone like Aikman, Elway, or Rogers, who were raised in California and played their college ball in California, probably had to play in cold weather against teams like Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State (especially Wazzu, Pullman has miserable weather). Like most blanket statements, saying a QB can't make it in a cold weather town simply because he's from California is stupid.

by Bobman :: Tue, 06/15/2010 - 1:35am

Yeah, but if you want to pick where they played college ball, Kelly himself went to Miami, no? Along with fellow good QB Bernie Kosar and the NFL's worst good career stats compiler, Vinny Testaverde.

And yes, Pullman is miserable 24/7/365, for 4.5 billion years and counting....

by Marko :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 4:19pm

Nitpicks: You left out the fact that Brett Favre started his career with the Atlanta Falcons. And it's "Granada Hills" for Elway, not "Grenada Hills."

by The Human Spider :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:21pm

*smacks forehead*

by Megamanic :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 9:39pm

Good list but you could also add Drew Brees

by billsfan :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 12:21am

And here's a list of cold-weather QB's in the conversation to considered to be the best of all time:

Otto Graham
Johnny Unitas
Joe Montana

Graham was in the Navy. In the off-season, Unitas was a steel-worker. Brady carries a man-purse and a lap-dog, while Peyton makes commercials.

It's gonna be a long two more months...

(I also like the Eagles)

by RickD :: Sun, 06/13/2010 - 4:51pm

I suspect Jim Kelly would concede that either Tom Brady or John Elway would have been successful in Buffalo.

by The Human Spider :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 1:50pm

In the above list, a few of the warm weather guys played for cold weather teams. Elway came back from games in the Mile High Stadium, Moon played in Canada, Layne played his whole NFL career above the Mason-Dixon line, and the last time I checked, Green Bay and Foxboro were nowhere near California's temperature during the football season.

by Joseph :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 2:58pm

I was pretty sure I knew the conclusion before reading the article, but it's nice to know that the numbers back it up.
OTOH, I think being used to playing in the cold weather may give one a psychological advantage--whether one has the physical talents to use that advantage is another story.

by Chris M (not verified) :: Tue, 06/08/2010 - 5:53pm

I also think it might be worth looking at the impact on young quarterbacks. If Mark Sanchez turns out to be a productive pro QB, I'd expect him to be good in the cold. But he sure as hell looked freaked out by the cold last year.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 9:31am

Sure didn't look like it at Cincinatti.

Think before you blindly follow the flimsy media narrative. The Bills game was a single data point. The cold (or more probably the wind) might have played a part. Or it could simply have been a case that a rookie quarterback had a bad day, which should surprise no one.

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 9:55am

Give us a break, loneweasel. What, Sanchez had 1 good game in the cold? Whipety whee.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 10:00am

And the quantity of evidence that he was "freaked out by the cold" was?

Yep, one game.

Learn to read before joining a thread.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 11:03am

loneweasel is objectively correct here.

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 11:42am

Sanchez stank all year, in all kinds of weather. But especially cold and windy.

And mind your manners.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:03pm

All quarterbacks stink when it gets windy.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:11pm

Yeah, but he had both his best AND worst games in the cold. So, loneweasel is right. One game to serve as proof in either direction. The media narrative said he would struggle in the cold. It all checks out to me.

Additionally, Rich is right, too. QB's generally play worse in the wind.

Nothing to see here...

(And I'll try to mind my manners in the future?)

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 1:18pm

I didn't mean you, chemical. I was replying to the "you can't read, get out of here" post.

In any case, I'm not saying Sanchez can't or won't handle the cold. In fact, I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter where you're from, you eventually get used to it -which is why warm-weather teams play poorly in the cold, and cold-weather teams play well, even if they grab their players from the same places.

It just seemed pretty wild to me to defend a players' cold-weather performances in such a strong tone ("think before you blindly follow...") when even his warm weather performances were pretty poor.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 2:47pm

1) Don't like my tone? Tough.

2) It was a direct refutation of the assertion that Sanchez was "freaked out by the cold". It is trivially obvious that there is not sufficient data to say definitively one way or another. He's a rookie who played maybe four "cold" games in his life. How you could interprete it as my attempt to say that Sanchez was good in cold weather I cannot tell. Intentional obfuscation or objective inability to read? Either way you add nothing to the debate.

by Noah Arkadia :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 8:14pm

You speak of adding to the debate. You really think your personal attacks add anything at all? You seem to think of yourself as a rational and objective individual, and yet you spend at least a sentence each post attacking the poster you disagree with. Does that seem like a valid form of argumentation to you?

As far as the argument, all I'm saying is that Sanchez looked freaked by everything last year, and that his only defense against any argument made against his play so far cannot be an argument itself, but going out there next year and actually playing well... both in the cold and everywhere else. That's what I found outlandish about your refutation of the original poster.

But hey, feel free to continue to rip me if it pleases you.

by Spielman :: Fri, 06/11/2010 - 8:45pm

"But hey, feel free to continue to rip me if it pleases you."

Please don't encourage him.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 3:12am

Well, there's five minutes of my life I'll never get back.

by Samson151 :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 7:07am

Statistically, you know, Jim Kelly is right a mere .000036% of the time.

by Samson151 :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 7:08am

Excuse me, that's .0000036%.

by Samson151 :: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 7:09am

I dunno if this constitutes proof, but there were 9 NFL scouts at the Fairbanks vs Nome conference championship game last season.

by Samson151 :: Thu, 06/10/2010 - 10:31am

"All quarterbacks stink when it gets windy."

LOL except Michael Vick and Vince Young.

by Bobman :: Tue, 06/15/2010 - 1:40am

I feel compelled to add in Jim Sorgi and.... (struggling to think of another guy who never started to make my joke funnier... failed.)

When it's windy, he just holds on the clip board extra tight.

by tuluse :: Tue, 06/15/2010 - 2:03am

Kurt Kitner, king of the wind.