Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Sep 2008

2008 Quick Reads: Week 2

This week: Darren McFadden wasn't quite as good as you would expect from 166 rushing yards, but Jay Cutler and Kurt Warner were every bit as good as you would expect from over 350 passing yards.

Posted by: Bill Barnwell on 15 Sep 2008

73 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2008, 2:49am by The Ninjalectual


by Telamon :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:45pm

I love seeing Campbell and Moss on the list, but how much of that will go away when you account for NO's seemingly unimproved secondary?

Also, first?

Edit: Choosing Papelbon over a guy who just set the saves record = total East Coast/Boston bias. For shame!

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:01pm

I'm not sure if Papelbon is the best closer in baseball, but he's definitely better than Francisco Rodriguez. Papelbon allows .354 fewer runners per inning (.922 vs. 1.275 WHIP) and has a much better K/BB ratio (72/7 vs. 74/32).

If you're only going by saves, do you really think Papelbon couldn't get 58 saves if you gave him 66 opportunities? Measuring a closer by saves is like measuring a quarterback by wins.

by Bronco Jeff :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:09pm

And just think...Cutler will be exploiting New Orleans' secondary next week. I hope Hole in Zone brings his A-Game or we could see 400+ yards for Jay.

As I've said on multiple occasions during the offseason and last year...Cutler will be considered the best QB not named Brady or Manning (Peyton, that is) in the league by the end of the year. Write it down!

Eschew Obfuscation!

by Yaguar :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:47pm

I've been agreeing with you ever since the end of last season and I don't intend to stop now. First of all, here's how good his 2007 was. According to Doug Drinen's similarity score method, here are the top five passers most similar to Cutler 2007 in their first year as a non-rookie starter.

1. Tom Brady, 2001
2. Brett Favre, 1992
3. Philip Rivers, 2006
4. Peyton Manning, 1999
5. Jim Kelly, 1986

Now, consider that he played the season with undiagnosed diabetes. If you're an AFC West fan and that list doesn't scare the bejeezus out of you, your name is Raiderjoe.

by billsfan :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 10:26am

Wow. That list makes Rivers look like a hall-of-famer.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:11pm

Out of curiousity, why impact did the infamous fumble that wasn't and then was again have on Cutler's stats?

by Anonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:50pm

Along the same line, how much would Rivers' numbers have improved if his interception would have been called correctly?

by Richard :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:29pm

I'm also curious what difference that would have made in his numbers. It certainly made a big difference in the game.

by cowfez (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 11:56pm

Yes, what effect did the incorrect int against Rivers have on his numbers?

by Sean D. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:11pm

I'm also curious about how that play hurt Rivers. Specifically, would he have been better than Cutler without it?

by PerlStalker :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:11am

IIRC, Cutler had two fumbles. The bad call at the end of the game, of course, and one earlier that he picked up and threw to his TE for a few yards.

by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 7:16pm

I would also like to ask how would Delhomme's number change, if the INT was changed to a fumble? King had it in his hands, and started to run backwards when it got punched out.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:17pm

I am amazed that any receiver or TE did more to help his team lose than Greg Olsen yesterday. Two attempts, two turnovers which were both entirely his fault. Useless.

by Jason :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:35pm

How did The Siege Weapon (Chris Johnson) fair? Sad to not see him in the top five again, but where did he fall?

by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:51pm

All right, I confess. YAR has me utterly confused. How could Peyton Manning get -20 YAR for two no gains at the goal line. That makes it sounds like the outcome of those two plays would be comparable to losing 20 yards on a normal drive. It's obviously not the same. Losing 20 yards would doom most drives. Getting stuffed from the 1 on first and second down won't necessarily, will it?

It just seems like the attempt to correlate a statistical ranking with easily understood concepts like yards should produce results that make sense. In this case, I'm not seeing it. Can someone explain it more clearly?

by shake n bake :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:59pm

(Answered on DZ's blog, but here someone is much more likely to correct me if I'm wrong)

Best I can do on the rushing YAR:
1. Usually a QB can convert on a one yard sneak so both play were clearly below replacement level.

2. YAR likely uses a TD bonus that's similar to the 10 yard bonus used in adjusted yards per attempt.

So two plays that would usually net a 10ish yard value went for nothing, so -20 YAR.

Sound reasonable? (my explanation, not the system. I don't care enough about QB rushing to stress over how FO measures it).

by Telamon :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:00pm

I don't know the numbers, but a QB sneak is a very high probability play, and is therefore way more painful if botched than a simple no-gain on 1st and 10.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 09/18/2008 - 2:49am

[Peyton Manning's] -20 rushing YAR comes from back-to-back failed quarterback sneaks on the Minnesota 1 in the third quarter.

Ugh. That was my thought too. *Close eyes, divide by ten, pretend I'm reading DPAR*

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:54pm

And just think...Cutler will be exploiting New Orleans' secondary next week. I hope Hole in Zone brings his A-Game or we could see 400+ yards for Jay.

You people need to stop insulting Hole In Zone by comparing it to a clearly inferior defender like Jason David.

From the article:

[Peyton Manning's] -20 rushing YAR comes from back-to-back failed quarterback sneaks on the Minnesota 1 in the third quarter.

I'm curious: Is there data supporting the notion that quarterbacks have a significant impact on the success rate of QB sneaks? I always intuitively thought a QB sneak is mostly about whether or not the offensive line gets a few inches' worth of push (and, in inches-to-go situations, how generous the officials are feeling when they spot the ball).

Has this issue been studied? Do some quarterbacks show consistently better results running the sneak than others, particularly in 1 yard or less to go situations?

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 10:42pm

the offensive line is a big part of all of these outsider numbers, but there's no good way to separate the different contributions.

Outsiders do provide some o-line measurements, but in my opinion they don't do a very good job.

by cd6 :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:56pm

How on earth did Santana Moss get a higher DYAR than Anquan Boldin, who had more TDs and a 100% success rate on catches thrown his way?

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 7:56pm

God, I hate having to start from the beginning and read through the comments to try and find new comments that are stuck in the middle of the page instead of at the bottom.

That's why I take the time to rate everyone's comments; I find it's the quickest way for me to eyeball the page and figure out which comments I haven't read yet.

by Telamon :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:18pm

I totally agree that this non-sequential, non-numbered system is a big pain. Maybe it's just resistance to change, but it seems totally counter to readability if you want to check for updates.

by Yaguar :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:32pm

I often read the AV Club, which uses this sort of nested reply system. It begins to work pretty nicely if people use the reply function appropriately and comments "group" well.

by Richard :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:34pm

The nesting system is great if there's a way to tell new comments from old. SBNation's commenting system is easily the best in my opinion. I would love to see something like that here.

by Kulko :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 5:25am

Well it still would be nice if you then can minimize and maximize groups.

And continue too see where new responses came to old groups.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 9:46pm

Oh, good. I'm not the only person who feels that way.

Yeah -- in the old system, you could just remember the number of the last post you had read, or just go right to the bottom.

With this new system, I need to re-scan everything from the beginning to look for new posts.


by Lou :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:23am

i totally agree

by Richard :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:32pm

Agreed. It would be nice if the replies looked more distinct.

by Carlos :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:47am

Agreed. Nested comments are not an improvement. The site looks better but participation is harder.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:11pm

Another vote for a system where you can easily see new replies, whether that means eliminating nesting (and providing handy numbering) or by including some kind of "new post" indicator.

Also, having to go back to the beginning after each reply is quite annoying on multi-page threads.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by jimmo :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 9:02pm

Agreed. I'm a daily reader but not a frequent poster; between the multiple-page threads now, the nesting and the near impossibility in finding new replies/posts, I don't see myself bothering with much here other than the articles and the stats.

I know the standard caveat applies: if you don't like the changes, ask for a refund. Still, the replies from the FO community are most often intelligent and entertaining, and I've missed being able to make sense of a thread since the redesign. Looks good though.

by tuluse :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:16pm

Wow, Orton's numbers come out looking half-way decent.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 10:03pm

I thought Orton played OK. He clearly lacks zip on the deep ball (although it rained I think for part of the game - I wasn't watching on a very big screen), but I don't really think the Bears should be aiming fades at Lloyd and Booker anyway. He ran the offense (such as it is) quite well and made a some very good throws, though not that all of them were caught. If those balls had been held and Olsen doesn't decide to repeat what I hope was the worst game of his footballing career his DYAR might have been better.

The demented attempt at a quick slant at the end of the game is something I could definitely see a lot less of.

The most limiting thing on offense for the Bears at the moment isn't the QB (boy it feels strange typing that) but John St Clair's inadequacy in the passing game. He has opened against Freeney and Peppers so he isn't failing against scrubs, but the schedule this year reads like a who's who of NFL DREs so that isn't going to change. The way things stand the Bears are limited to three step drops if they want to keep Orton upright, which makes the game a lot easier for opposing offenses as the only deep routes available are the kind of floaty throw that Orton sucks at.

by brasilbear (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 8:08am

I don't think the passes he threw to Llyod and Booker were fades, Booker was running a (what we called in the street) a long down and in. Lloyd was running deep along the right sideline (right from the QBs perspective.) The OL gave him the time to drop, set and throw. They (the OL) weren't the problem, Orton was.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 11:27am

I agree somewhat. The O-Line was adequate in pass protection for the most part, but below average in run blocking. Orton didn't lack "zip" on his deep throws; in fact, he had too much zip, as it seemed every deep ball didn't have enough air under it.

Orton has shown in these first two games that he can be an accurate mid-range passer, but his deep ball needs work. Of course, I'd rather have Orton than Grossman, whose only strength was his deep ball, right now.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 7:03pm

The line only looks decent in pass protection because they are scheming to hide it's flaws. I don't think I've seen a 7 step drop in either of the first two games, and 5 step drops are rare.

by JCJ (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:28pm

On the Manning sneaks, remember that there are no opponent adjustments yet. I'll bet that -20 YAR number improves once the MN rush defense is accounted for.

by Richard :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:30pm

"This doesn't even include Sproles' 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Is the difference between him and Reggie Bush really worth more than $26 million in guaranteed money?"

I thought that was a curious statement. Is Reggie Bush better than Darren Sproles at all?

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 8:38pm

Yes. It's fashionable (and correct) to call Reggie Bush overrated and overpaid, but he's still an above-average offensive player. Bush and Brian Westbrook are the two best receivers out of the backfield in the NFL and Bush is still a dangerous weapon on punt returns, as he reminded everyone on Sunday.

It's funny; one of the biggest knocks on Bush is that he can't carry the load of a true #1 RB, and yet you're so ready to call Sproles, who has not even started a game at RB his entire career, better than Bush? Let's see Sproles become a featured player on his own offense, that defenses will be scheming around, before we start rating him ahead of Reggie Bush.

I was a big Sproles fan at Kansas State and I hated Bush at USC. I am a Bears fan, so I have no fan investment in either player. I just think it's absurd to anoint Sproles based on his performance in one game (let alone one that occurred just after Bush himself has had two explosive games).

by DZ (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 9:05pm

I understand the numerical mechanics as to how Manning got a -20. I don't understand why FO considers this an accurate depiction of how someone played. Maybe little things like that average out over time, but it seems that such a huge penalty for such a small thing is a flaw that could seriously skew a QB's stats over time. The merger of Rushing YAR and Passing YAR still needs a lot of work if such a small thing can swing the stat so wildly.

by ammek :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 3:47am

Well this is a case where DPAR was more intuitive than DYAR is. A failed rush on 1st (and then 2nd) and goal decreases the likelihood that the Colts would score seven, increasing the probability that Vinatieri would be called upon to shank another field goal attempt.

DYAR doesn't, I don't think, try to measure anything different from DPAR; it just expresses it differently. The net loss in yardage terms must be around 10 for what was effectively a loss of down at the goalline when Manning (or rather his interior line) whiffed on each sneak.

When opponent adjustments go live, Manning's numbers will look a little better.

by Kulko :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 5:45am

So the system says, that getting stuffed on a 1st and 1 with a TD on the line is about as bad as a 7 yards sack at midfield.( Assumption is a Replacement level play in the open filed gains about 3 yards).

This sounds absolutely fair to me.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:15pm

Maybe QB sneaks should be manually removed from the QB data like Hail Mary interceptions are, since they are based almost entirely on the trench battle and almost not at all on the QB's performance.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by DGL :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 9:16pm

Spake Bill: "If you're a receiver and you go 0-for-7 in a football game, no one notices. Except for us."

And those of us who had him on our LL team. I think there should be a special penalty exemption for zero receptions in seven attempts.

Michael Jenkins: Too ineffective even for Loser League.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 11:31pm

Thanks. I think we should keep harping on this until the Outsiders figure out that it's exactly what they're looking for (DVOA easily digestible for the masses, and the only useful expression of EYds).

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by Mystyc :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:19am

This chart is my favorite part of the article.

Just doing some quick long division, here are the Effective Yards per Target for the top receivers:

Boldin: 28.5
Moss: 21.1
Bruce: 17.8
Fitzgerald: 15.4
Johnson: 12.3

I gave Moss a count of 10 "targets" since the EY included his one run. For whoever wondered why Boldin wasn't first, here you go.

by Eddo :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:00pm

I gave Moss a count of 10 "targets" since the EY included his one run. For whoever wondered why Boldin wasn't first, here you go.
To clarify this statement (I was confused initially), Boldin isn't first because he wasn't targeted as much as Moss was. Moss had more chances to add to his DYAR, which is a cumulative stat.

by Staubach12 :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:42am

Thanks. This spreadsheet is much easier to digest quickly than EYDS. I think FO should at least include EYDS per attempt in their ESPN article along with regular EYDS. Besides, there should be a rate stat on that chart.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 8:26am

Agreed. I'd love to see success rate listed too. It's a lot easier to make the case that say McFadden didn't really have a great day when you can point to his success rate in the article, instead of just a 'trust us, it was bad' kind of way.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 10:46am

This chart is really cool, but I have two small requests. 1) Put a key column so it's easy to tell where they are ranked, and 2) Could you put the average of each column at the bottom.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:03pm

I put the average values up top, because google docs are crazy like that. Othewise, reload that URI, and you should see your requested changes.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 6:59pm


by Jon :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 10:44pm

I don't understand this comment at all. Bradshaw is a terrible blocker, but Jacobs seems to be good at it. The biggest problem with Jacobs is that he has terrible hands, not his blocking.

While I'm a big Bradshaw fan, it's obvious that he was more effective because Jacobs was being used as a battering ram to wear down the St. Louis defense all game. I really like the Giants and their platoon right now. Jacobs at the start, Bradshaw at the end, and Ward should be the third and long specialist.

by Anonymous (not verified) :: Mon, 09/15/2008 - 11:10pm

Wow, the ESPN comments are brutal, and most miss the point greatly...

by Lou :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:04am

the fact that one of the commentors is named raidermark is highly amusing though.

by PerlStalker :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:17am

That reminds me. I haven't seen raiderjoe here for some time. I'm almost starting to miss him.


by Temo :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 1:24am

The raiders won, he'll be back after his 24-hour celebratory orgy of Sierra Nevada wears off.

by tuluse :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 11:21am

When I read your comment, I thought they were going to be like the old fox commentators. While the ESPN commentators don't quite get the point, they at least make reasoned statements, use readable spelling, grammar and punctuation. I miss the old fox commentators.

by Richie :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:08pm

Comment #1 was fabulous.

"Well I sometimes wonder how morons like you retain jobs with prestiges companies like ESPN. Your hatred for the raiders and Darren McFadden has clouded your vision.Fantasy football is all about big plays and Darren McFadden will have more 20 plus yard runs than anyone in the NFL."

Prestiges? And everyone knows that fantasy stats are all that matters.

by sam! (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 9:16am

Um, Garrard does not face the Pittsburgh defense next week... unless the Steelers are lending Larry Foote and Case Hampton and some of their other defenders to the Colts for a few days.

by joon :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:48pm

Fortunately for Garrard, Week 3 sees the Jaguars drawing a Pittsburgh defense that had a league-low 11 picks last year.

er... aren't the jags playing indy in week 3?

by Richie :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:03pm

Wow. Look at the names of the Top 10 QBs:
Warner, Cutler, Eli Manning, Rivers, Campbell, Rodgers, Edwards, O'Sullivan, Cassel and Collins.

Not exactly Marino, Montana, Elway, Kelly, Aikman, etc.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:21pm

Well, Warner ranks with those guys. Cutler, E. Manning, Rivers, Campbell, and Rogers are all promising young players drafted in the 1st round. But I see your point about the absence of names like P. Manning, Brady, Favre, Palmer, Brees, and Roethlisburger.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by Richie :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:36pm

Yeah, Warner was once a star QB, but he's been tossed around the league since then, and Eli is a Super Bowl MVP. I'm sure some of these guys will eventually be household names, but it's just interesting how many new faces are amongst the top QBs in the league.

by holeinzonejoe (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 2:49pm

Hole in zone is best defender in nfl. Cuter is shit wont throw for 100 yeards against hole in zone defense with 3 intercpetions. Broncos 2-14 after hole in zone shows every how to intercept Culler.

by Dave H (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 3:03pm

Since 1995, the average quarterback rating for a rookie quarterback seeing the Tampa 2 defensive scheme for the first time on the pro level is 55.2. Ryan's 29.6 rating from Sunday won't help matters.

Ryan's rating on Sunday won't matter at all - he faced the Tampa 2 in Week 1 against the Lions.

by Kaveman :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 3:26pm

I'd be interested to know what Brandon Marshall's YAR was. He caught 18 of the 20 passes thrown at him. 15 of these were successful plays, per FO's definition, and about 10 were for 1st downs. He did fumble once, but is that really enough to drop him below 52 YAR?

by RowdyRoddyPiper (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:05pm

I think Jacksonville plays Pittsburgh in week 5, not 3. They have Indy upcoming IIRC.

by Anonymouspanthersnbraves (not verified) :: Tue, 09/16/2008 - 4:35pm

How would the numbers change if the King pass was ruled a fumble instead of an INT?

It wasn't the greatest of passes, but it was in his hands and was knocked out when he stumbled backwards.

Oh - and I have IE, so I cannot read half of each posting....

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 1:23am
by Arkaein :: Wed, 09/17/2008 - 2:39pm

Since FO is all about upgrades this year, how about giving us the top 10 RBs and WRs instead of just the top 5? It wouldn't even take up any extra space, because it would eliminate the need to preemptively explain why so-and-so didn't make the top 5 because of his great conventional stats each week.