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25 Jul 2007

More Fun with Incomplete Passes

by Aaron Schatz

On Monday, we delved into the Football Outsiders game charting data to look at which quarterbacks saw their completion percentages suffer due to dropped passes, and which quarterbacks saw their completion percentages get better or worse because they happened to throw more short or long passes.

Today, we want to look some more at incomplete passes from the 2006 season, and the various reasons why passes were incomplete.

Percent of Passes Marked Overthrown/Thrown Ahead
Most Overthrows Fewest Overthrows
1 4-B.Favre 13.5% 36 2-A.Brooks 8.3%
2 3-D.Anderson 13.4% 37 8-M.Hasselbeck 8.3%
3 9-T.Romo 12.6% 38 6-J.Cutler 8.1%
4 10-E.Manning 12.4% 39 9-D.Garrard 7.8%
5 8-R.Grossman 12.4% 40 9-S.McNair 7.8%
6 17-J.Delhomme 12.2% 41 10-T.Green 7.1%
7 7-B.Gradkowski 12.2% 42 13-K.Warner 6.9%
8 15-S.Wallace 12.1% 43 9-D.Brees 6.4%
9 3-J.Harrington 12.1% 44 2-C.Simms 5.3%
10 13-T.Rattay 11.9% 45 8-D.Carr 3.3%

"Overthrown" refers to passes thrown over the receivers head, while "Thrown Ahead" refers to passes thrown in front of where the receiver is running his route (for example, thrown out of the receiver's reach on a crossing pattern). Overthrown passes were about four times as common, and these are pretty similar errors, so we combined them for this table. Obviously, an overthrown pass is not necessarily the fault of the quarterback. Perhaps the receiver was jammed at the line, or ran a route slightly wrong, or just wasn't fast enough to get where he was supposed to be.

Not every quarterback with a lot of Overthrown passes also had a lot of Thrown Ahead passes, and vice versa. For example, Marc Bulger and Tom Brady had the most Thrown Ahead passes in the league, but both had an average number of Overthrown passes. Actually, the stats on the Rams' incomplete passes are generally weird. Torry Holt was overthrown on 27 passes, the most in the league and two-thirds of all of Bulger's overthrows. Isaac Bruce was only overthrown six times, but he was the target on eight "Thrown Ahead" passes, the most in the league. No other Rams receiver was the intended target on more than two "Thrown Ahead" passes, and that includes Holt.

Some quarterbacks had general problems overthrowing their receivers. Brett Favre's overthrown passes were equally split between Donald Driver and Greg Jennings, with a few left over for everybody else. Jake Delhomme overthrew both Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson equally. Other quarterbacks had specific issues with specific receivers, primarily those who ran deep routes. Most of Grossman's overthrows were to Bernard Berrian or Rashied Davis. Most of Harrington's overthrows were to Chris Chambers. Most of Eli Manning's overthrows were to ... well, actually, a lot of them were to Plaxico Burress, but there were also a good number of overthrows intended for Jeremy Shockey.

Percent of Passes Marked Underthrown/Thrown Behind
Most Underthrows Fewest Underthrows
1 2-C.Simms 13.2% 36 16-A.Walter 4.4%
2 7-B.Gradkowski 10.4% 37 3-D.Anderson 4.2%
3 17-J.Campbell 9.6% 38 10-C.Pennington 4.2%
4 7-B.Leftwich 9.6% 39 9-T.Romo 4.1%
5 6-J.Cutler 9.6% 40 17-P.Rivers 3.9%
6 10-T.Green 8.8% 41 9-C.Palmer 3.8%
7 10-E.Manning 8.5% 42 10-M.Bulger 3.8%
8 14-B.Johnson 7.5% 43 9-C.Frye 3.5%
9 13-K.Warner 7.5% 44 18-P.Manning 3.1%
10 5-D.McNabb 7.4% 45 13-T.Rattay 3.0%

Again, we've combined two different but similar categories here. "Underthrown" passes didn't get far enough vertically down the field, while "Thrown Behind" passes were behind the receiver as he was running left or right. The total number of passes marked as "Underthrown" was less than half the total number of passes marked as "Overthrown." Both "Thrown Behind" and "Thrown Ahead" were each about 30 percent as common as "Overthrown."

The most frequently underthrown receivers in the league were -- surprise -- two speed merchants. Chris Chambers had 14 underthrown passes, Joey Galloway had 13, and nobody else had more than eight. The two receivers with the most "Thrown Behind" passes were Donald Driver and Roy Williams, although they weren't far ahead of the rest of the league in the same way.

Matt Leinart had twice as many "Thrown Behind" passes compared to "Underthrown" passes. The only other quarterbacks to have more "Thrown Behind" passes than "Underthrown" passes (minimum 100 passes) were Jake Plummer, Aaron Brooks, and Seneca Wallace.

Now here's the big table, combining all four of these "poor accuracy" categories.

Percent of "Bad Passes"
Most Bad Passes Fewest Bad Passes
1 7-B.Gradkowski 22.6% 36 18-P.Manning 13.8%
2 10-E.Manning 20.9% 37 16-A.Walter 13.6%
3 17-J.Campbell 18.7% 38 9-D.Brees 13.3%
4 4-B.Favre 18.5% 39 7-M.Leinart 13.1%
5 8-R.Grossman 18.4% 40 17-P.Rivers 13.0%
6 2-C.Simms 18.4% 41 2-A.Brooks 13.0%
7 7-B.Leftwich 18.2% 42 9-S.McNair 12.7%
8 3-J.Harrington 17.9% 43 9-D.Garrard 12.6%
9 15-S.Wallace 17.7% 44 9-C.Frye 12.2%
10 14-B.Johnson 17.7% 45 8-D.Carr 10.5%

The list of the quarterbacks with the most bad passes doesn't really have any surprises on it. As far as the list of the quarterbacks with the fewest bad passes, Charlie Frye and David Carr learned last year that it is hard to be inaccurate when every pass only has to go three yards, and that doesn't necessarily make you a good quarterback. The presence of Andrew Walter and Aaron Brooks on this list makes the Oakland offensive line look even worse than they looked before, because those guys weren't half bad when they actually managed to get a throw off.

The strangest result on this table, however, is Byron Leftwich coming out with a high number of bad passes, and David Garrard coming out with a low number. It could simply be the effect of which game charters did which games. There's also nothing to say that throwing a pass that falls incomplete because it was defensed is any better than throwing a pass that falls incomplete because you overthrow the receiver.

Check out this comparison of incomplete passes by Leftwich and Garrard:

Reason Leftwich Garrard
Defensed 13 25
Dropped 12 21
Overthrown/Ahead 17 17
Underthrown/Behind 13 6
Hit in Motion/Tipped at Line 11 8
Receiver Tripped 0 3

That is certainly different than what I would have expected to see, and it makes me wonder if I am correct in supporting Leftwich over Garrard as Jacksonville's starting quarterback. Then again, half a season for each player isn't the kind of sample size that anyone should be making decisions on.

Here's a look at which quarterbacks had the highest and lowest percentage of passes marked as Pass Defensed:

Passes Defensed
Most Passes Defensed Fewest Passes Defensed
1 16-A.Walter 13.9% 36 8-M.Brunell 7.3%
2 10-V.Young 13.2% 37 9-D.Brees 7.3%
3 7-M.Vick 12.9% 38 7-B.Leftwich 7.0%
4 17-J.Campbell 12.8% 39 11-A.Smith 6.9%
5 7-M.Leinart 12.8% 40 3-J.Harrington 6.4%
6 11-D.Bledsoe 12.8% 41 9-T.Romo 6.3%
7 2-C.Simms 12.3% 42 12-T.Brady 6.2%
8 8-R.Grossman 11.4% 43 10-E.Manning 6.1%
9 6-J.Cutler 11.0% 44 8-D.Culpepper 6.0%
10 8-M.Hasselbeck 11.0% 45 14-B.Johnson 5.9%

Looking at that list of quarterbacks with the highest percentage of incompletes marked "passes defensed," I would say that there definitely is something to the idea that having more passes defensed than passes overthrown and underthrown does not necessarily say good things about David Garrard's quarterbacking ability. You want your quarterback to be accurate, but you also don't want him throwing into coverage. A quarterback who has a lot of passes defensed is a quarterback who threw into coverage too often.

This leaves three other reasons for incompletes. First, pass interference or illegal contact, which of course actually end up with yardage for the offense. Second, the random assorted stuff like Receiver Tripped, Ball Hit Umpire, and Hail Mary. Third, the reasons related to the pass rush: Thrown Away, Hit in Motion, and Tipped at Line. Combining those three categories, here are the quarterbacks who most often had incomplete passes specifically due to the pass rush:

Hit in Motion/Tipped at Line/Thrown Away
Most Fewest
1 2-C.Simms 14.2% 36 7-B.Roethlisberger 5.6%
2 2-A.Brooks 11.5% 37 9-C.Palmer 5.5%
3 11-A.Smith 11.4% 38 16-A.Walter 5.1%
4 8-D.Carr 10.1% 39 5-D.McNabb 5.1%
5 7-J.Losman 10.0% 40 6-J.Cutler 5.0%
6 17-J.Delhomme 9.6% 41 10-C.Pennington 4.5%
7 8-M.Brunell 9.6% 42 9-T.Romo 4.4%
8 7-B.Gradkowski 9.2% 43 4-B.Favre 4.2%
9 11-D.Bledsoe 9.2% 44 18-P.Manning 3.9%
10 13-K.Warner 8.8% 45 10-M.Bulger 3.7%

No, I don't have any clue how Andrew Walter ended up on the bottom of this list either. The guy certainly took enough sacks, didn't he? Most of the quarterbacks on the bottom of the list are guys who didn't have throws affected by the pass rush because they were good at avoiding it, but Walter and Culter are guys who didn't have throws affected by the pass rush because the pass rush usually ended the play sitting on top of them, possibly with the ball popping out and into a defender's hands.

What happens if we remove Thrown Away, and only include Hit in Motion and Tipped at Line? Most players stay in roughly the same place, with a couple of huge exceptions: Drew Bledsoe and Mark Brunell go from the top of this list to the bottom. Say what you will about Bledsoe and the pass rush, but that's two veterans who know that sometimes you just need to throw the ball away.

Let's look at one more list: Passes Thrown Away divided by Passes Thrown Away plus sacks. In other words, which quarterbacks were the best at getting rid of the ball before they went down?

Thrown Away as a Percentage of
(Thrown Away + Sacks)
Most Thrown Away Most Sacks
1 8-M.Brunell 57.1% 36 8-J.Kitna 19.2%
2 2-C.Simms 55.6% 37 13-K.Warner 17.6%
3 7-J.Garcia 53.8% 38 10-M.Bulger 16.9%
4 8-R.Grossman 51.1% 39 16-A.Walter 16.4%
5 3-J.Harrington 48.3% 40 8-D.Culpepper 16.0%
6 9-S.McNair 48.3% 41 10-T.Green 12.5%
7 18-P.Manning 48.1% 42 15-S.Wallace 12.5%
8 17-P.Rivers 46.0% 43 10-C.Pennington 11.8%
9 16-J.Plummer 45.7% 44 3-D.Anderson 11.1%
10 17-J.Campbell 45.5% 45 6-J.Cutler 7.1%

Thanks again to Bill Moore for putting most of these tables together and coordinating the whole game charting project. Just like last year, we've now made the game charting data available for anyone who wants to purchase it and do their own studies. The 2006 data costs $60 and please make sure that you read the whole legal agreement before purchasing.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Jul 2007

74 comments, Last at 17 Aug 2007, 6:37pm by stan


by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 7:24pm

Interesting article.

If it is a compliment to Bledsoe to say that he threw it away, why doesn't he show up in the top ten of getting rid of the ball?

It'll be more interesting to see this data in line with data from other years. I'm really curious how much of this is stable from year to year.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 7:38pm

Rex Grossman is in the top five for overthrows. Who could have seen that one coming?

by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 7:59pm

Drew Brees is even better that I subject thought while watching him. The fact that he wasn't in serious consideration for MVP is a crime.

by Eddo (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 8:49pm

3: Didn't Brees finish in the top 3 in MVP voting? I believe Peter King even had him selected as his choice. (Of course, PK also wrote two or three articles, each with a different pick, so take that as you will.)

by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 9:24pm

I don't understand the Garrard/Leftwich comparison... I didn't follow the Jags much last year, but Aaron said that each played half a season, and acts surprised that Garrard is apparently "better"--yet the table clearly indicates that Garrard had far more incomplete passes, mainly due to passes defensed (i.e. he was throwing into coverage more). Am I missing something?

by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 9:53pm

I've been patiently saying it all along: Chris Chambers suffered from a severe case of Harrington-itis last season, not a bad case of "worst-receiver-in-the-league-who-
previous-year-itis". I'm telling you, some of those overthrows were pathetic... as in Chambers standing still 20 yards downfield, not a defender in sight, and the ball sailing 10 yards over his head.

But we'll know for sure this season...

by dje (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 9:55pm

I was at the first Colts-Jags game last year. The game started out awful for the Colts until they forced Leftwitch to beat them. He couldn't do it (probably because he was hurting). His accuracy in that second half was just awful. I am not surprised to see him rank 7th in bad passes.

by Adrian (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 9:59pm

Have you correlated this data with interceptions at all? I doubt that all types of incompletions result in an equal chance of an interception. For example, are underthrows safer than overthrows or vice-versa? With that, a defensed pass seems more likely to be intercepted and probably also indicates a bad read by the quarterback. If this is so, it would certainly make Leftwich a better choice than Garrard.

by morganja (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 10:06pm

Note, to all the Delhomme doubters out there, the pressure that he was under. Of full time QB's only Smith, Carr and Losman had more incompletes due to pressure. He has gotten no credit for the season he did without his starting LT and Center for the entire year.

by Noah of Arkadia (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 10:10pm

Why wait for the rebuff when I know what it will be? Someone will say there are stats that show Chambers has never been so hot. And yet, in good fun, I dare them to find a Pro Bowler who turned out to be a really bad player. I'm sure there might be someone. It won't really prove anything, really, but then, as I said before, we'll know for sure later this year, and it'll be fun.

by Brian (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 10:23pm

Looking at the most passes defended list, inexperienced QBs dominate the list. In contrast, experienced QBs dominate the least passes defended list. It clearly has something to do with experience. The one exception is Romo, which supports what many analysts said about him last year--that he looked like a veteran QB.

by Dan (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 10:27pm

I'll second Adrian's request. I'd like to see how closely each category is correlated with interception rate, and maybe even a regression predicting interceptions based on types of incompletions. I remember when FO correctly predicted that Eli's interception rate was going to go up, based on his low completion percentage, and I imagine that you could do that sort of thing even better with this data.

by Peter (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 10:35pm

Re: Leftwich

He played an unknown number of games (probably 2) with an injured plant foot, which lead to the high # of underthrown passes.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 11:04pm

Re: 5

I think the surprise came from the fact that Leftwich was in the top ten of most bad passess, while Garrard was top ten for fewest. It's questionable whether more passes defensed is due to throwing into coverage or the defenses faced or what (which is why looking at interceptions would be useful, though not as useful as more years of data), so the bad passes could be surprising.

Re: 9 "Note, to all the Delhomme doubters out there, the pressure that he was under."

The data only prove that he had problems, not that his protection was bad. Maybe (and I'm not saying it's true) he held onto the ball too long. Notice that Bledsoe's in the top ten in that chart, while Romo's in the bottom ten.

by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 07/25/2007 - 11:38pm

It would be interesting to see interceptions added to the thrown aways + sack chart.

by JoRo (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 12:06am

Is it me or does it seem you guys suddenly have some hate for Jay Cutler? I mean, first I read in the quarterback rankings by you guys on fox how he is the least athletically gifted of the three first rounders... (which makes no sense as I would think he has a more physically gifted body than Matty Matt.... who is sposed to be smart but lack some speed and arm strength) and then everytime I look at something that seems to point out something positive for him one of you is making an excuse to make him sound bad.

Didn't that same projection system that said Young and Rivers would be so good say that Cutler would be a likely Pro Bowl qb and he even said he may OUTPLAY his projection? Or do we only use that system when it benefits our arguments.

by Len (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 1:55am

It's interesting to note that in spite of all of the talk about which Romo will show up this year, these stats show that with the exception of overthrowing (i.e., getting excited like Favre used to do), he's in the top echelon of QBs.

Maybe that late season stutter had more to do with the defense failing instead of Romo.

by countertorque (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:31am

We should just be adding INT's to passes defensed, right?

by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 3:06am

I don't know how ints are being counted here, but I think it would be interesting to see a percentage breakdown with throwaways/sacks/ints. Since it would show that Kitna throws a lot of picks and takes a lot sacks, and needs to throw the ball away more. While Grossman has a lot of picks and throwaways so he should just take the sack instead of risking a pick.

I don't know how it breaks down for every QB on the list through, so I think it would be interesting.

by morganja (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 3:07am

Re: 14

Coupled with the fact that his starting LT and Center were injured for the entire year would seem to indicate that he had problems with protection. From watching his games, it seemed he was always under incredible pressure due to both poor protection and uninspired play calling.

by centrifuge (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 3:14am

Hey, Ben Roethlisberger finally makes a list, and it's no shocker to any Steelers fan -- it's the list of lowest %IPR (Percentage of Incompletions from Pass Rush). I am surprised not to see a reappearance on the Most Sacks list -- he has to be close, or else he managed to get 1-yard gains on more of those plays than I realized. I feel like unsuccessful QB runs should be part of this data somehow too, but that might be asking a bit much.

by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 7:20am

Most Passes Defensed
1 16-A.Walter 13.9%
2 10-V.Young 13.2%
3 7-M.Vick 12.9%
4 17-J.Campbell 12.8%
5 7-M.Leinart 12.8%

I havent seen much of Andrew Walter, but this list with QBs with most defensed passes contains all / most of the scrambling QBs.
To throw in a FO classic: but I have no idea what that says.
Maybe defenses are good at covering the right receivers when a QB scrambles. Maybe that the QB is scrambling because he's just not that good at passing.
Maybe because there's a lot of pressure, he's running for his life and his passes are off.
Maybe because they're young and 'trying to make something happen'.

by Sifter (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 8:23am

I found it interesting in that last table for throw aways vs sacks, that 4 of the top 6 on the sacks side are currently playing in or have played in a Mike Martz offense (Kitna, Warner, Bulger, Green). Maybe the Lions should get Culpepper...

by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 8:40am

Centrifuge (21) wrote: "I feel like unsuccessful QB runs should be part of this data somehow too, but that might be asking a bit much."

Would this also suggest sacks and "successful" QB runs be included in an overall evaluation? Sometimes it can be hugely beneficial to have a QB who can take nothing and turn it into a 5-yard gain for a first down. (McNabb a few years back, somehow Manning this year)

If you do this you might also want to figure in a system (yards per attempt?) where you penalize interceptions (however, long interceptions on 3rd down may be something like a punt - let alone at the end of the half or game) and maybe a small bonus for TDs.

by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 8:48am

I am wondering if you guys have figured out how to adjust for game charting tendencies. As somebody that has spent 1.5 seasons charting Eli Manning, I suspected he'd be on the leaderboard in both overthrown and underthrown passes, but perhaps I'm more critical of QBs vs. WRs than other charters, who may have noticed that Buress ran the wrong route or was dogging it more often than I did.

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 9:50am

How many charters are there per game? Are there enough to get an idea of how variable charter tendency's are?
I'm thinking of the tackle/assist statistic and how it has differed historically by stadium.

by joemustgo (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 9:52am

Somebody needs to show these stats to Troy Aikman next time he dogs McNabb about his alleged inaccuracy.

Sure, Donovan bounces the occasional ball at his receivers feet, but it's not nearly as often as Troy (or his buddy Moose) would have you think.

If his arm was really as inaccurate as Aikman loves to claim (over and over and over and over and...), wouldn't McNabbs name appear more then once (and even then, only occupying the #10 spot)?

I'd be curious to see the rest of his data and where in the middle of the pack he falls.

by sam (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 10:17am

re: Garrard/Leftwich, you also have to account for the fact that Leftwich was hurt for at least a third of those 6 games. The inconsistency at receiver is certainly not helping either (I believe Leftwich had several different sets of starters during his 6 games).

by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 10:52am

That last table confirmed what I'd seen. Last season, Mark Brunell would huck the ball to the Gatorade Guy on the sidelines about every third pass play. It approached comedy.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 11:22am

Re #26
Typically only charter does one half of a given game and another charter does the other half. Charters tend to stick to their favorite team when possible, so about half the data you see for a QB came from one regular charter, who probably knows more about the team and its tendencies, and half the data came from a random charter.

As for whether or not the FO people do any comparative analysis as to charters' tendencies, I don't know. For the playoffs, they did have 2 people do each half, but for the regular season that simply wasn't practical. One thing that would make it easier would be if more people volunteered to be game charters. It doesn't take that long, 90 minutes a week tops, and I definitely find myself knowing more than I would if I didn't do the charting work. They'll probably be putting out a call for charters in the next couple weeks, so go volunteer. Plus, they give you free swag, like all the charting data, that stuff they charge $60 for.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 11:31am


Joro, the fact that we predict Cutler to be Very Good, doesnt mean he was Very Good his rookie year. Rivers, Leinart, etc, were all MUCH better than him this year. Will it stay that way? Maybe, maybe not.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 11:32am


"And yet, in good fun, I dare them to find a Pro Bowler who turned out to be a really bad player. "

Umm? Chris Chambers.

Michael Vick.

...need I go on?

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 12:17pm

Re- Leftwich vs. Garrard:

Here is the beauty of "deep stat" as given by the game charters. Watching these two quarterbacks extensively, I feel that Leftwich is a clearly superior quarterback, despite the nearly equal "traditional" stats like QB rating and YPC/YPA. Leftwich's greatest strength is his intelligence; he sees the field and goes through his progressions very well. Garrard constantly struggles with this, and uses his strong arm to force throws into coverage, or just takes off running to try to make a play. Leftwich also has a (very) strong arm, but he avoids depending on it exclusively.

Also, check the stats on Leftwich after the Washington game in 2006; they were horrible! Clearly, the injury was preventing him from playing anywhere near an acceptable level, and Del Rio rightly set him down.

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 12:19pm

D'oh! "sat him down", not "set him down"

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 1:12pm

re: 30 , thanks NtT. I would like to help out the wonderful people at FO but I would be worried about the quality of my data if I didn't have other results to compare with, learn from, argue over ;) , etc. At least this season I'll have an HD pvr which helps a lot in seeing what goes on.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 1:17pm

Michael Vick consumed entirely too much cap space in relation to his productivity, but he never was a "really bad player". People go overboard in criticizing his performance on the field. No, he wasn't a great passer, but he was a great runner, and that skill helps win games as well. If he had been paid proportionately to his productivity, he would have been a decent qb to have on the roster, especially on a team with a good defense.

by Fan in Exile (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:00pm

#31 I have to take exception with what you say here. First I think you misunderstand JoRo. He doesn't make any claim about Cutler's ability he just points out that the presentation of the stats here seems to take an unneeded shot at Cutler.

Which is why in your response to him it seems out of place to me that you take another shot at him. To be clear I'm certainly willing to believe that when adjusted for the defenses they faced Cutler didn't do as well as Matt and Vince. However that is a far cry from saying that they played much better than he did.

Maybe it's just because you have more confidence in the advanced metrics than I do. The conventional stats all point to Cutler as having done better. Better completion percentage, better TD/INT ratio, better yards per attempt, even a better adjusted yards per attempt. The link should be in my name.

In light of this your comment just seems superficial and biased.

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:26pm

So Pennington doesn't lead the league in underthrown balls, although it seems to be what the pundits want you to believe. I always hear his arm strength get criticized, yet statistically he leads the league in completion percentage for passes over 40 yards, and he doesn't seem to have an issue with underthrown passes either. I guess perception clearly is different than reality in his case.

by H.Tipton (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:33pm

Sorry for the off-topic post but do you have any idea what the hold-up is with Amazon for the book or how long we are going to have to wait?

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:48pm

18: Intercepted passes are considered defensed, at least they were in the charting project. Its possible that Aaron filtered out the interceptions, but I doubt he would have done this.

by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 2:50pm

A weak arm doesn't mean that you underthrow receivers(just look and Donovan McNabb) it just means the ball takes ages to get to the receiver.

And the pundits are right, Pennington does have the weakest arm of any starting QB.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 4:07pm

16: I looked back at the article, and it didn't say that Cutler was less athletically gifted than the other two. What it said was that "Cutler doesn't have the elite ability of a Leinart or Young."

Primarily, I think they're talking about passing accuracy and decision-making.

by John (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 4:20pm

Re: 39 Mine shipped this morning

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 4:37pm

Re #35
Learn by doing. I started at the beginning of last year with the same concern, but phfft. They sent out an example last year of Aaron charting one of the nationally televised preseason games, to serve as an example of what they're looking for, along with some useful tips. If you (a) have eyes and (b) try, you'll do fine.

Re #40
I can't say about other charters, but I graded interceptions based on what happened that created the interception. If the DB jumped an out route, that's Defensed. If the QB threw the ball over the receiver's head and it was intercepted by a safety 5 yards downfield, that's Overthrown. If it hits the receiver in the hands and bounces to the defender, that's Dropped. For INTs, I tried to lean toward Defensed.

Basic charting disclaimer: opinions expressed in relation to the game charting project are my own, based on my experience. Other charters may, or may not, have the same opinions. I am an FO commenter and game charter, but am not otherwise affiliated with Aaron et al. If they tell you plays should be charted differently, then listen to them and not to me. Certain of the data produced in the game charting project is the result of observations that are subjective by their inherent nature, and columns like the above and Monday's should be taken as valuable additions to the universe of knowledge, not as infallible supplements to the already infallible one true faith. I think the game charting data is pretty good.

by James G (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 5:16pm

45, 40 - I graded the same was as NewsToTom. And there were definitely INTS of Eli's that were not defensed.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 5:36pm

Interesting that the supposedly hopelessly inaccurate Vick doesn't show up on overthrows, underthrows or bad throws. He is on the list for passes defensed, which although interpreted as "throwing into coverage" in the article could just as easily be an indication that receivers just aren't getting a whole lot of separation and/or not fighting for the ball very well.

re 22: Walter, Campbell and Leinart definitely NOT scrambling QBs. All very much pocket passers.

by billvv (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 5:50pm

#38 and #41
It must be really embarassing to all the weak-armed pundits to see Pennington listed so highly. And these statistics, not punditry, were in a season when the opponents KNEW he was going to pass!

by countertorque (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 6:00pm


Thanks. I hadn't been thinking about deflections and huge overthrows. Cleary, an INT does not always result from a pass defended.

I am glad that you guys aren't keeping INT's as a seperate result. I think that's the right way to do it.

by DW (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 6:26pm

Very interesting to see A. Walter wedged between Brees and P. Manning for "fewest bad passes." I don't want to read too much into it, but you do get the feeling that having 1. Tom Walsh call his plays 2. That line block for him 3. Most receivers some combination of hurt/pouting/benched/traded 4. No previous NFL experience made it pretty tough to evaluate his performance objectively. It will be interesting to see what happens if he ever gets another chance down the line. There may be some hope for this kid who tore up the Pac 10.

by Tracy (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 6:41pm

42: but Cutler's projected to be a better passer then Vince Young, so it must instead be interpereted as: "Cutler's not as physically gifted as Young and not as good a passer as Leinert." The projections are close enough, though, that it's hard to really justify the claim they made: That Young and Leinert have elite ability but Cutler does not.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 7:47pm

Re #49
I think the issue with Andrew Walter is that he shows some of the limits of the current game charting system. Complete passes are complete passes, whether they're the product of pinpoint throws 30 yards downfield or checkdowns the back has to struggle to catch 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage. DVOA and DPAR help us figure out which of these is happening more often. The game charting data for Walter (and also Brooks) strongly suggests there are reasons other than their performance throwing the football to receivers that explain why they had poor DPAR/DVOA scores.

Re #46
As the primary game charter for Vince Young, with Vick at the top of the Defensed list, my subjective impression is that Defensed was frequently the result of a QB throwing to a receiver in a place not away from the coverage. Even where there is good coverage, there is generally a better place and a worse place to throw the football. If you can hit the better place almost every time, you're Peyton Manning. VY, and Vick, from what I saw of him, threw it more often in the worse place. That fine-point accuracy, more than anything else, is what separates very good passing QBs from lesser ones in my mind.

by milo (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 9:00pm

So how do you score a pass from Tony Romo to T.O. for a touchdown when:
a) It is under thrown
b) It hits the defender (Fred Thomas, aka Toast) squarely in the hands
c) It passes directly through such hands into the hands of the receiver?

by Mike (not verified) :: Thu, 07/26/2007 - 9:56pm

I always thought completion percentage was an overrated statistic. I didn't know anyone kept stats like overthrows and underthrows. I think that stat will let you know who the truly accurate QBs are. But it might be good to cross reference that with Yds/Att, or a similar stat.

by admin :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 12:21am

Notes on charter consistency:

While most charters like to do their favorite teams, when I was putting the information together for the book I was amazed at how many teams were charted by a large number of different charters. To give an example, 18 different charters tracked at least 25 offensive plays by Green Bay, primarily me, Ned Macey, and Bill Moore.

There are a few exceptions, most notably Buffalo (Shawn Krest), Denver (Nate Richards), and Miami (Sergio Becerril).

I did spend a little bit of time looking at charter tendencies, particularly when it came to marking hurries. In the book, in the essay on "Beyond Sacks," I adjust the hurries to make up for certain charters who gave out hurries at extremely high or low rates. However, I also point out the following:

"The league was able to give its official scorers a strict definition of a quarterback hit, but different official scorers still marked the stat at widely varying rates. So as you might imagine [since we didn't have a strict definition of a hurry,] the scoring for hurries by our unofficial game charters was also inconsistent. However, it wasn't that much more inconsistent than the official scoring for hits. 22 of the 32 official scorers fell within one standard deviation of the league average for hits per pass play. Looking at the 32 game charters who charted the most pass attempts, 21 were within one standard deviation of the league average for hurries per pass play, including eight of the top ten."

I have marked down certain charters who will get certain instructions before next season, and I'm confident the charting will be even more consistent in 2008.

by Peter Libero (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 12:59am

Couldn't Pennington's place on the "fewest underthrows" also be a result of the fact that he rarely throws deep, because it's hard for him to get the ball there quickly? Or that he doesn't often throw it deep unless the guy is open enough for him to get him the ball... unlike if you're Eli Manning, who's got the strength but probably always thinks he can get it there. I'm with #41 Tom on this one, Pennington just doesn't have much zip on his throws.

Also, on the McNabb thing... spiking the ball in front of his receivers is one of McNabb's trademarks, although I feel as though they happen more often in bunches when he has a bad game. Also, wouldn't Aikman be justified if he's talking about actual starting QBs, thus excluding Johnson, Warner, Campbell, and Gradkowski from the top 10?

That's actually a good question for an FO guy: what were the standards (# of attempts I guess?) to appear on these lists?

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 1:44am

The article mentions a 100 attempt minimum a couple of times.

by James G (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 8:45am

Re: 40, 44, 45, 48:
Just got my PFP last night and it looks like all INTs are counted as passes defensed according to the introduction.

by SG (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 9:12am

Percent bad passes:

Eli - 20.9% (2nd out of 45)
Peyton - 13.8% (36th out of 45)

I'm guessing Peyton didn't like to share the tire hanging from the tree in the backyard all that much when he was little.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 12:46pm

Re #54
Thanks for chiming in.

Re #52
The data you're seeing in these articles seemed to me to be designed to answer a particular question: "Why are passes incomplete?" That's why this article is titled "More Fun with Incomplete Passes," because that's where the data comes from. Such a play as you describe would be marked as a completion. I would also likely note in the "Comments" section of the game charting form something like "Thomas dropped INT-ball hit off hands and bounced to Owens." If you want detailed charting, go do something like this for your team of choice. Note, though, that doing a half of that takes about as much time as doing an entire game for FO, and I didn't even do defense last year.

by Zac (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 1:00pm

RE: 39,43. Mine shipped on Monday, and ridiculously, it still isn't here yet. It shouldn't take 4 days to go from Kentucky to Wisconsin. At 10 mph, going 16 hours a day, I could have bicycled it home by now. Instead they sent it to Minneapolis, and I probably won't get it until monday.

by Raj (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 1:41pm

RE:60 I got the 'book shipped' email on 20th but i received the book yesterday (26th). I was really surprised with the projected wins for all teams in AFC west.

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 1:49pm

re: Amazon:
Just be glad you are not in Canada.
I got an email this morning saying PFP would be delayed and when I checked my account I got this!

Delivery estimate: Aug 29 2007 - Sep 14 2007

* 1 of: Pro Football Prospectus 2007
Sold by: Amazon.com.ca, Inc.

WTF! Another Month :(

by morganja (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 3:44pm

Re: 61
Yeah, 24 wins for the Raiders is a little optimistic. I don't know why they let RaiderJoe write that section.

by Yakuza Rich (not verified) :: Fri, 07/27/2007 - 8:58pm

***I’m guessing Peyton didn’t like to share the tire hanging from the tree in the backyard all that much when he was little.***

That and it completely debunks the old adage "the acorn doesn't fall to far from the tree."

by Chris (not verified) :: Sat, 07/28/2007 - 12:17pm

I can't discount Leftwhich being hurt, because the guy is made of glass and ALWAYS hurt. Until he changes his mechanics, don't standardize your data for a "healthy" Leftwhich.

Eli did suffer with Plax. Take a look at the Titans game when Eli throws a high pass for Plax ( that you would think could only be caught by him), but Plax quits on his route and it is intercepted. Not only did Plax quit on the route, he quit chasing after the defender that picked it off.

Incomplete passes are bad, but often times QB's are told to throw into a "window" inbetween defenders. I'd rather have my QB throwing incompletions in the window instead of interceptions.

I'd also like to say that not all offenses are created equal. You can't just look at the numbers of a guy in a west coast offense vs a guy in a game manager conservative offense role. Eli Manning did have problems with accuracy, but he was running a REAL offense. Byron Leftwhich struggled even in the conservative game manager offense.

Mobile QBs have more passes defensed because they aren't as good at reading defenses and finding the "open man". Instead they often lock onto a receiver or run. See Mike Vick.

Marc Bulger wasn't getting hit in motion because the guy gets rid of the ball very quickly and throws the ball before the receiver even made his break. Manning was #2 because the guy makes so many reads before the play and already knows what to look for, as opposed to slower QBs who might have to "watch" the play develop.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sat, 07/28/2007 - 5:34pm

Mobile QBs have more passes defensed because they aren’t as good at reading defenses and finding the “open man�. Instead they often lock onto a receiver or run.

So that's why Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb have some of the lowest interception rates in NFL history, because they can't read defenses. Oh, and I guess that's how Steve Young threw 6 TDs in the Super Bowl, too. Thanks for that pearl of wisdom, Chris.

by coldbikemessenger (not verified) :: Sat, 07/28/2007 - 6:39pm

"So that’s why Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb have some of the lowest interception rates in NFL history, because they can’t read defenses. Oh, and I guess that’s how Steve Young threw 6 TDs in the Super Bowl, too. Thanks for that pearl of wisdom, Chris."

Well put,
last year the Eagles qb's had 302 rush yards, and only 47 pd's against them.
That was the lowest number in the league.

Atlanta 1060 rush yards by qb's
70 pd's agianst them
Titans 553 rush yards
60 pd's

Giants 20 rush yards
80 pd's
Bear's -3 rush yards
74 pd's

corralation between rush yards and pd's

Chris I swear to god that took 14 minutes.
maybe check next time.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sat, 07/28/2007 - 8:57pm

I know I'm piling on here, but where did the mobile QB-passes defensed thing start from anyway?

The QBs with the most passes defensed on the list are: Walter, Young, Vick, Campbell, Leinart, Bledsoe, Simms, Grossman, Cutler, Hasselbeck.

With the exception of two players, Vick and Young, everybody on this list is very much a pocket passer.

by Chris (not verified) :: Sun, 07/29/2007 - 10:05pm

There is a difference between Donovan and Gaycia being MOBILE, and a guy like Vick who is a scrambler. That took 2 seconds coldbikemessenger.

by Alex (not verified) :: Sun, 07/29/2007 - 10:21pm

There is a difference between Donovan and Gaycia being MOBILE, and a guy like Vick who is a scrambler.

Then why did you say that mobile QBs are bad at reading defenses? If you meant scramblers, then why didn't you say that, and offer a meaningful definition of scrambler that distinguishes it from merely mobile QBs?

by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 07/31/2007 - 7:16pm

Because you already know everything Alex. Thanks for posting.

by podpeople (not verified) :: Thu, 08/02/2007 - 3:05pm

Chris, you don't get to make sarcastic remarks when you clearly did a poor job in your initial post and made a sweeping. also, how can you look at the numbers McNabb (a "mobile, scrambling" qb) was putting up early this season (on pace for 4500 yards, 40 something tds) and say "that guy doesn't read defenses." McNabbs football IQ gets no respect, I tell ya.

by podpeople (not verified) :: Thu, 08/02/2007 - 3:07pm

that was supposed to say "a sweeping generalization about mobile/scrambling" QBs.

also...gaycia, heh.

by stan (not verified) :: Fri, 08/17/2007 - 6:37pm

Small quibble -- if a QB not only managed to get rid of the ball before the sack, but managed to complete the pass as well, those completions don't show up on your last chart.

To get an accurate picture, you'd really have to just chart passes under pressure and make some kind of judgment about whether the QB knew a sack was about to happen.