Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

16 Nov 2007

Time to Go to Beck?

by Sean McCormick

(Note: Too Deep Zone is off this week.)

This Sunday in Philadelphia, John Beck will get his first NFL career start for the Miami Dolphins. That makes the Dolphins the third team in the AFC East to sit a healthy starting quarterback in favor of a younger backup this year. Chad Pennington, who once came off the bench to take the league by storm, has now returned to the bench so that Kellen Clemens can take his turn at trying to make Jets fans forget about Joe Namath. Trent Edwards played well enough in relief of J.P. Losman to convince the Bills' coaching staff to name him the starter for the season, before promptly getting hurt himself. And of course, sitting high above them all are the New England Patriots, who set the gold standard for quarterback switches when they rummaged around under the bench back in 2001 and pulled out a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady.

There are generally two arguments put forward when a quarterback switch is made, a short-term argument and a long-term argument. The short-term view is that the team isn't getting enough production from the position and that plugging in a new guy might generate some offense and spark the team. The long-term angle is that even if the new guy doesn't play well, he is gaining valuable experience that will translate into wins the following season. There is some evidence that tentatively supports those views. In an article for the New York Times, Greg Bishop noted that since 2003, there have been 11 instances where a starting quarterback was replaced for performance reasons rather than due to injury, and that two teams, Arizona and Cleveland, chose to make a switch twice. Before the switch, those teams had a .395 winning percentage; after the switch, their winning percentage went up to .437. In the following season, those teams improved dramatically, posting an average winning percentage of .581.

But wins are not necessarily a good indicator of performance, as can be seen with two of the quarterbacks Bishop singled out as responsible for their team's turnarounds, Jason Campbell and Vince Young. Yes, both Washington and Tennessee are better, but a quick look at their DVOA shows that each team's resurgence has been built on defensive improvement. Campbell and Young have been the beneficiaries of their team's improvement, not the cause. Indeed, the struggles of both Campbell and Young in their second season as starters should raise questions about the validity of the assumption that letting a quarterback take his lumps by plugging him in midway through a season will make him a better player the following year.

At Football Outsiders, we use two tools to isolate how much responsibility any individual player has for his team's performance, DPAR and DVOA. DPAR is a cumulative statistic, showing how many points the player is generating beyond what a replacement-level player would be expected to generate in the same position, while DVOA measures how effective a player is on each play. By using these tools to examine 17 cases between 2002 and 2006 where a coach either benched his starter for non-injury reasons or left the backup in after the starter healed enough to play, we can get a strong idea as to whether or not teams that go to the bench end up getting better quarterback play, and whether the development of the new quarterback really leads to improvement in the following season.

While each situation is different, there are some clear trends. The first is that in most of the cases, the starter really is playing badly enough to force the coaching staff to consider making a change. In 13 of the 17 cases, the starter posted a negative DVOA for the season, and in nine of them the starter's DPAR was near or below replacement level. Although there are exceptions (most of them involving Mark Brunell, for some reason), the starters are giving the coaching staff no choice but to consider alternatives. When the starter is posting a positive DVOA but is pulled anyway because the team as a whole is struggling, the replacement quarterback invariably performs worse.

Unless your name is Joe Gibbs, you don't go sitting younger quarterbacks so older quarterbacks can play (and even Gibbs eventually followed the trend to go young when he elevated Jason Campbell in the middle of last season). In a majority of the situations, the quarterback who comes off the bench is someone who the organization has made a significant investment in, often in the form of a first- or second-round pick, and is a player who the fans and local media identify as the future of the franchise. Having that kind of player around clearly creates pressure to play him as soon as the starter begins to struggle. Those players may have talent, but they haven't earned the starting job, they are being given it, and often before they are ready. In the case of top-five selections like Joey Harrington, Eli Manning and Alex Smith, they are often being thrust into starting roles on teams with poor personnel or dysfunctional coaching staffs. Unsurprisingly, they tend to struggle. In contrast, players like David Garrard and Tony Romo, who were never looked at as future stars when they were drafted and who had to earn their shot through strong performances in practice and the preseason, have generally performed better when thrust into the starting role.

We can break down the variation in passing performance provided by a quarterback switch into a few simple categories to get a feel for how often the move is successful. If we consider a net change in DVOA of 20.0% or more to be a major improvement or decline, and a net change smaller than that to be a minor improvement or decline, then the results break down like this:

QB Replacements, 2002 to 2006
Year Team First QB DPAR DVOA Replacement QB DPAR DVOA Net Improvement
Major Improvements
2002 NYJ V.Testaverde 0.1 -12.9% C.Pennington 110.7 49.1% 62.0%
2006 DAL D. Bledsoe –7.3 –22.9% T. Romo 51.3 20.1% 43.0%
2006 CAR K.Collins –8.4 –34.7% V.Young 7.7 –8.1% 26.6%
Minor Improvements
2005 TB B.Griese 2.8 –9.5% C.Simms 27.5 6.2% 15.7%
2002 WAS S.Matthews 1.5 -11.6% P.Ramsey 14.8 1.8% 13.4%
2002 DET M.McMahon -12.3 -32.3% J.Harrington -12.9 -20.1% 12.3%
2006 JAC B.Leftwich 3.7 –8.7% D.Garrard 12.2 –2.4% 6.3%
2006 DEN J.Plummer 4.5 –10.0% J.Cutler 3.6 –7.4% 2.6%
Year Team First QB DPAR DVOA Replacement QB DPAR DVOA Net Improvement
No Change
2006 ARI K.Warner 12.9 3.9% M.Leinart 28.3 3.9% 0.0%
Minor Declines
2006 WAS M.Brunell 29.7 13.1% J.Campbell 14.8 3.5% –9.6%
2005 WAS P.Ramsey 3.7 20.3% M.Brunell 47.0 10.1% –10.2%
2003 ARI J.Blake –4.8 –16.2% J.McCown –12.4 –28.7% -12.5%
2003 JAC M.Brunell 9.0 10.2% B.Leftwich 16.9 –4.1% –14.3%
Major Declines
2005 CLE T.Dilfer 14.9 –3.8% C.Frye –9.3 –25.0% -21.2%
2004 NYG K.Warner 16.9 –0.5% E.Manning –13.3 –28.4% –28.9%
2006 MIN B.Johnson 1.8 –12.2% T.Jackson –11.9 –44.8% -32.6%
2005 SF T.Rattay –7.6 –30.0% A.Smith –66.5 –97.8% –67.8%

It's a fairly even distribution of results, but in this case, an even distribution does not make a strong argument for the effectiveness of making a quarterback switch in the middle of a season. Remember, teams that are getting good or even above-average play almost never make a change, and it is notable that only two teams that went to the bullpen transformed themselves from poor passing teams into good ones: the Jets in 2002 when they replaced Testaverde with Pennington, and Dallas in 2006 when they subbed in Tony Romo for Drew Bledsoe. Otherwise, about the best a team could do was take a terrible passing attack and transform it into an average one, as Tennessee did last year when they opted to play Vince Young full-time.

If you have a good defense and a good running game, getting average play from your quarterback can make a real difference, but on a team that is struggling in multiple aspects of the game, that kind of marginal improvement is unlikely to translate into many more wins. And roughly half the teams got worse as a result of a change, some of them significantly so. Nine teams ended up with both starters posting a negative DVOA for the season, which, while not flattering for the quarterbacks involved, does suggest that their performances were as much the result of poor play by the rest of the offense as the cause of it.

But if changing quarterbacks is unlikely to immediately transform a team's passing game, what about the argument that it aids in the development of the younger player so that he is more prepared to be effective in the following season? It makes sense intuitively, but we can test it by comparing each quarterback's numbers to those they generate in the following season:

QB Replacements, The Year After
Year Team QB DPAR DVOA Improvement
Major Improvements
2003 NYJ C.Pennington 17.3 –0.8% –49.9%
2007 DAL T.Romo 62.5 33.9% 13.8%
2007 TEN V.Young –9.9 –24.0% –15.9%
Minor Improvements
2006 TB C.Simms –13.0 –40.2% -46.4%
2003 WAS P.Ramsey 13.5 -4.3% -6.1%
2003 DET J.Harrington -22.4 -22.6% –2.5%
2007 JAC D.Garrard 48.9 60.5% 62.9%
2007 DEN J.Cutler 44.8 26.5% 33.8%
Year Team QB DPAR DVOA Improvement
No Change
2007 ARI M.Leinart 5.4 –2.5% –6.4%
Minor Declines
2007 WAS J.Campbell 24.2 7.6% 5.9%
2006 WAS M.Brunell 29.7 13.1% 3.0%
2004 ARI J.McCown 10.5 –7.6% 21.1%
2004 JAC B.Leftwich 30.2 2.3% 6.4%
Major Declines
2006 CLE C.Frye –17.5 –22.5% 2.5%
NYG NYJ E.Manning 36.9 1.8% 30.2%
2007 MIN T.Jackson –6.1 –26.0% 18.8%
2006 SF A.Smith 1.5 –12.5% 85.3%

As it turns out, the quarterbacks who performed worst tended to show the biggest improvements, which suggests strongly that they were thrown out on the field before they were ready. Even with tremendous improvement in his sophomore season, Eli Manning was no better than an average quarterback, while Alex Smith went from being catastrophically bad to merely below-average. It seems likely that these two would have done no worse had they sat out their rookie seasons.

Meanwhile, many of the quarterbacks who were effective regressed the following season, although it should be noted that both Chad Pennington and Chris Simms had their seasons profoundly impacted by injuries. The only quarterback who went from a below-average player to solidly above-average the following season is Jay Cutler; otherwise, players stayed largely the same or improved to a point of competence, not excellence.

The two players who stick out the most are again Tony Romo and David Garrard. Romo was the only quarterback to be able to build on an already strong first season, while Garrard was the only player able to make the jump from average play to elite play. Not only did Romo and Garrard have to fight to get onto the playing field in the first place, they had to show enough to keep their teams from drafting their replacements. But on the whole, the evidence showing that quarterbacks are better off being thrown into the fire midseason rather than sitting and getting a full training camp worth of reps the following year is inconclusive at best.

So what about this year's quarterback switches? We don't know how any of the new players will play next year as starters, or even if they will be starters, but we can see how the changes have effected their teams in 2007:

QB Replacements, 2007
Team First QB DPAR DVOA Replacement QB DPAR DVOA Net Improvement
CLE C.Frye –5.6 –103.9% D.Anderson 70.2 42.7% 146.6%
OAK J.McCown –29.8 –63.1% D. Culpepper 2.6 –8.6% 54.5%
CHI R.Grossman –8.5 –30.5% B.Griese –1.0 –14.2% 26.3%
NYJ C.Pennington 13.8 1.9% K.Clemens 4.6 –2.9% -4.8%
BUF J.Losman 5.5 –2.0% T.Edwards 1.5 –10.5% –8.5%
ATL J.Harrington 28.4 10.7% B.Leftwich –5.7 –51.7% –62.4%

Derek Anderson is poised to join Chad Pennington and Tony Romo as the third backup in the last six years to take a terrible passing offense and transform it into a great one. Cleveland spent first-round picks on Joe Thomas, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, but they weren't getting a return on those investments because of Charlie Frye's limitations. With the strong-armed Anderson, all those pieces are coming together to create a dynamic offense. But Cleveland also spent two first-round picks to acquire quarterback Brady Quinn. Will Anderson even have a chance to build on his successful season, or will the economics of football force Brady Quinn into the lineup?

The other five cases are more in line with what we would expect from a quarterback change, as teams waffle between bad options or throw in the future of the franchise to placate fans angry over a lost season. Daunte Culpepper was not good when he subbed for an injured Josh McCown, but he wasn't the worst quarterback in the league, either, which counts as progress in Oakland. Chicago had no choice but to sit Rex Grossman down, and while Brian Griese has been a bit better, he hasn't been nearly good enough to compensate for an aging offensive line and a rapidly regressing defense, or even to keep Grossman safely on the bench. Buffalo looks set to flip-flop between Losman and Edwards throughout the season; the two quarterbacks provide a radical contrast in styles, but early returns suggest that the results they generate will be roughly equivalent.

Quarterback play is not the primary culprit for Jets' 1-8 start, but Chad Pennington was getting worse as the season went along, and the quarterback of the future was sitting there on the bench, in clear view of the fan base and the New York media. Clemens looked promising in his second start, a 23-20 loss to Washington, but his success merely highlighted the fact that the team's biggest trouble spots are on the defensive side of the ball. Clemens is the one player most likely to be starting for his team next year, and strong play from him will undoubtedly encourage optimism from the traditionally morose Jets fans, but strong starters have generally regressed the following season.

The most curious quarterback switch of the year is taking place in Atlanta, where Joey Harrington, who has played reasonably well, is going to be benched for Byron Leftwich, who was signed midway through the season and who was absolutely terrible in his brief time on the field. It's possible that Bobby Petrino simply doesn't know what he's doing, and it's also possible that he knows exactly what he's doing and doesn't want to have Harrington be just good enough to cost the team a shot at Brian Brohm.

For all the flurry of quarterback switches that have been made, it's possible that the biggest story of the season is the one that has not been made. The Tennessee Titans currently have the best defense in the league, and the twelfth-best rushing attack to go along with it. They also have a quarterback in Vince Young who is struggling mightily to move the ball through the air. Kerry Collins has posted a 23.3% DVOA in the games he has played in, while Young is sputtering along with a –24.0% DVOA. In short, this is one of the rare situations where a quarterback switch promises to have a major impact. The Titans have a substantial investment in Young, who is already the face of the franchise and figures to be for many years to come. But if Jeff Fisher is serious about giving this year's team the best chance to compete against the likes of New England, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh come playoff time, he needs to seriously consider going to the bullpen. It's one of the few times when the move might pay real dividends.

(Ed. Note: Just to add an idea here... I think Tennessee is a team where the two-QB platoon they tried in Arizona earlier this year might actually work. Collins is a much better downfield passer than Young, while Young's running ability makes him more dangerous the closer the Titans get to the goal line. What if the Titans played Collins on any play between their own goal line and the other 30- or 40-yard line, and then Young once the drive hit the last 30-40 yards of the field? -- Aaron)

Posted by: Sean McCormick on 16 Nov 2007

41 comments, Last at 19 Nov 2007, 2:11pm by johonny


by Fourth (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:40pm

Even if Beck struggles, and he surely will with that cast of teammates around him...the man is 26 years old. Having a 27 year old come in with no starting experience next year does not sound ideal to me.

by Dave (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:47pm

Cleo Lemon has a DPAR of -5.2 and a DVOA of -20.2. I'm willing to be Beck can do just as well. Trent Green had a 5.9 DPAR and a -3.8 DVOA. I'm not as certain Beck can do that. But I it wouldn't shock me if he did. The offensive line is pretty decent. And to Lemon's credit there have been some glarring dropped passes. But one area of improvement I expect from Beck is downfield passing. Lemon's YPA is 5.6 and Cameron hasn't even bothered calling downfield plays. Look for Beck to try and utilize Ted Ginn's speed downfield. If he can do that then this offense should improve a lot.

by Mystyc (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:50pm

The data for the current year is very instructive, but the next-year numbers seem a little incomplete since there's no control group. You say that "it seems likely" that Smith and Manning would have seen the same improvement even if they hadn't been put in, but I don't think that's an assumption you can make. There has to be some sort of criteria one could use to make a sample for comparison...? Anyway, it would make a great follow-up article.

And does Ben Roethlisberger replacing Tommy Maddox in 2004 (well, keeping him off the field once his arm healed) not make the cut? It was only in the second game, so I wouldn't be surprised if Maddox didn't have enough attempts to make the statistical cut as a passer.

by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:51pm

What would be useful to see here as well is a chart of QB's that got the starting job after spending a whole year on the bench, and weren't midseason replacements, to get a better idea of if you benefit more from changing QB's in the middle of the year, or if they will perform as well next year while you let them sit on the bench for the full year.

The platoon thing for Vince Young and Collins seems interesting, but I have a couple concerns about it:

- Would either QB ever be able to get into a rhythm if they are coming in and out of the game so often? Warner and Leinhart had full drives to themselves I thought, but this would be changing them out after a first down.
- Would you need to adapt the offensive play calls to suit Vince Young as opposed to Collins? Watching the Oregon game last night, it was an absolute disaster when Dixon got hurt and the backup, Leaf, lacked his athleticism to be able to run the same offense. So, would you have to teach the players two sets of plays, depending on QB, or do you have them both run the same offense, even though it might not fit either one of them as well?

It is an interesting idea, though.

by Sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:52pm

First of all, Leftwich was (regardless of whatever speculation) hurt and DID have SEASON-ENDING SURGERY. While he started the season slowly, he had improved greatly just before getting hurt. The team obviously didn't think Garrard was the better QB as they severely limited the passing game in the following weeks (way more than they limited Quinn Gray this year). Morevoer, his action in 2006 replacing Leftwich was not his first action as the starter as he played in 7 and started 5 games in 2005 (plus 4 games/1 started in 2002).

Secondly, Leftwich was not benched for a younger quarterback. Garrard is two years older and was drafted the year before Leftwich. Garrard was only seen as the young up-and-coming future of this franchise...when Tom Coughlin drafted him before the 2002 season.

When Shack and Jack got here in '03, Leftwich became the future of the franchise. Again, technically Leftwich entered the '03 season as an injury replacement though it became clear very quickly that Brunell was healthy enough to return after a game or two and had been benched. While Leftwich was the starter, Garrard was never the future of the franchise.

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 4:54pm

Chalk another one up for the Madden Curse.

by Mystyc (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:02pm

Come to think of it, Tommy Maddox originally replaced Kordell Stewart in 2002, even if he was a gajillion years old at the time.

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:02pm

Wasn't Collins terrible when he was the Titans starter in 2006? What happened so that he's suddenly competent again.

by Sean McCormick :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:06pm

Roethlisberger should definitely be on- I'd managed to completely block out all memory of Tommy Maddox's 2004 campaign (not that it was hard to do). As you would imagine, the initial upgrade was tremendous:

Maddox DPAR -4.2 DVOA -29.6% Roethlisberger DPAR 75.3 DVOA 40.3% (Net 69.9%)

Roethlisberger regressed a bit in the following year, dropping to 57.4 DPAR and 33.5% DVOA (Net -6.8%), which is not a major decline, but is still in keeping with the general trend of second-year performances.

by TED F!@#ING GINN!? (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:07pm

This took too long to happen, in my opinion. #1 hit the nail on the head. He doesn't have 3 - 5 years to learn the system and get better. Does anyone know about what age QBs' skills start to decline on average?

If he isn't better than most rookies, I think the Dolphins need to start scouting the top QB prospects in next year's draft.

I do hope he's good though. That way the Dolphins can focus on one of their other 17 areas of need.

Re 2: "Look for Beck to try and utilize Ted Ginn’s speed downfield."

I think that's probably extremely wishful thinking...

by Sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:11pm

Well to be fair Beck might be able to utilize Ginn's downfield speed... if Beck goes back with Ginn on punts and then laterals to him.

by Richie (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:18pm


How does Vince Young's performance in the red zone and/or in opponent's territory compare to his overall performance? eg, do the stats back up your platoon suggestion?

It sounds like a fun idea. I always like when teams try things that are outside the box.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:28pm

#8 - I recall vaguely that he was, but I also recall that Collins came into camp very late and had had little time with the offense. Then there was the whole Billy Volek snafu.

Collins seems to be a bit of an enigma (without looking at his stats). Dilferesque enough to help the Giants to the Superbowl (good God, what a pair of non-entities at QB in that SB), but generally panned, run out Carolina, run out of NY, massacred in Oakland. I think alot of it is that he's always played for mediocre to lousy offensive coordinators, and never had a feared weapon on offense to work with.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:30pm

Re: My own dumb self. Forgetting that Collins had Randy Moss to throw to, but it was Oakland Randy, not Minnie Randy.

by Digit (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:32pm

re: 13

Do we even want to count that whole Oakland experience against Kerry Collins? The coaching was a debacle.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:35pm

It’s possible that Bobby Petrino simply doesn’t know what he’s doing, and it’s also possible that he knows exactly what he’s doing and doesn’t want to have Harrington be just good enough to cost the team a shot at Brian Brohm.

Bobby Petrino, evil genius. Look for him to show the media pictures showing Joey Harrington at the the scene of a dog-fight.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:47pm

Re #8
Collins was incredibly dreadful for the Titans the first 3 games of 2006. He was benched after the Miami game, in which he did something like overthrow 8 receivers in the second half. VY started Week 4 because he gave the Titans a better chance to win in Week 4 than Collins did.

Collins has played some this year-he had the last drive of the first half against the Saints in week 3, then a quarter and a half against the Bucs and that wacky 38-36 win over the Texans when VY was out with his quad injury. He wasn't great against the Bucs, but looked not too bad against the Texans.

Playing Collins more wouldn't be the unrelieved disaster it was in early 2006. I wonder, though, what effect it would have on the running game (I don't consider the Texans D a true test of this). Fisher's happy to win games with a good running game and a below average pass offense. Could the Titans do better with an average running game and better yet still average at best passing attack (see that fearsome WR corps?)? Maybe.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:48pm

Were you just looking at situations where a QB came in during the middle of the season and then started at the beginning of the next season?

If so Rex started the end of the 2003 season and the beginning of the 2004 season. BTW, the last game of the 2003 season has Rex, Chris Chandler and Kordell Stewart all contribute in the losing effort with 6/10, 6/17 and 5/15 completions to attempts respectively. It's that kind of futility against a team known for its awful defense that Chicago can rely on.

by tunesmith (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:49pm

How was it that Derek Anderson wasn't *obviously* better than Charlie Frye in preseason?

by Sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:55pm


Perhaps Anderson was better in practice last year and this preseason but previously had not translated that into good on-field performance?

by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:14pm

Why can't they make VY the RB option? Go with a two "RB" set, where you have White and Young and Collins as the QB. Collins can hand off to VY for some really interesting play action, White can lead block or get the quick handoff, they can direct snap it to Young and run options...

I know why teams don't do this more often; they don't want to kill their QB. But in some cases it really could work well, and I think this would be one of them. How hard would it be to scheme for that?

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:41pm

A few nitpicks

1. The Anderson for Frye and Brunell for Ramsey changes hardly seem fair to include. Getting pulled before the first half of the first game doesn't give them much chance.

2. Some of these changes (Frye for Dilfer, Roethlisberger for Maddox, Simms for Greiese, probably more) were injury related. That doesn't really alter the argument though.

Re: 19/20

Anderson didn't show much in preseason. And based on all the Browns reporting I read during training camp, he wasn't lighting it up in practices either. It certainly makes you wonder if his performance so far is sustainable.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:41pm

Re #21
VY is too expensive to get killed and Collins is worthless if he's not the QB.

What a team should do, if they really want to do that is go with multiple former QBs and/or "expendable" QBs. Get a couple of the Josh Cribbses, Marques Haganses, Drew Bennetts, and Michael Robinsons of the world, and put them on the field with a Seneca Wallace or DJ Shockley, somebody cheap and who it wouldn't affect the long-term health of your cap if they were seriously injured, and run that package. When your QB-hybrid gets hurt, just plug the next QB-hybrid into the system.

by db (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 7:27pm

It should be interesting to see Croyle play this Sunday. I don't think that a Joe Montana/Bionic woman love child would have a chance behind that O line. Given his injury history the over/under on his staying healthy has to be less than 6 quarters.

by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 7:53pm

I'm with Aaron on the platooning in Tennessee. I think I suggested it a few weeks ago in the quick reads after Collins put up some good numbers. The main benefit as I see it is that you are always challenging the defense by making them plan for different QBs with different skillsets. The only disadvantage in the Titans case is that Vince is getting so much money it might create some agitation if he only got half the snaps.

But overall I think the 2QB system could be the way of the future. Consider a team who drafts a guy like Dennis Dixon next year in maybe the 2nd or 3rd round, they develop a package of plays for him and rotate him with the established guy, eg. Garcia in TB or Delhomme in Carolina, Griese/Grossman in Chicago. It would be relatively cheap and would definitely make the defense think more. Dixon would be an ideal experiment. He is going to fall in the draft specifically because he doesn't have the ideal overall QB package, but if you platoon him he mightn't need all the skills you generally look for in a QB.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 9:06pm

I would see a 2-QB system as a disadvantage, not an advantage. It seems like that kind of platooning just serves to tip the defense toward the type of plays you'll be calling.

Furthermore, with 2 QBs, as the saying goes, you have no QBs. Good luck finding two guys who aren't going to be clear-cut starters and can handle that. Yeah, I know, you'd think there would be QBs out there who'd rather get 40% of the snaps than none, but think about the quality of QB you'd get for that role. Is it really worth it to platoon QBs like that?

by Matt Saracen - QB1 - Dillon Panthers (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 10:06pm

Re Me #25 and #26:

Even if a platoon isn't a good long term strategy it could be a good way to get your rookie into the action. Eg. Lane Kiffin is apparently developing a JaMarcus Russell package of plays that he is comfortable with. That way he can get a few drives a game, giving him a taste of NFL speed, but not letting the whole offensive gameplan rely on his performance. Sounds like an ideal way to train a rookie to me - why make him carry the whole team straight away?

Tarvaris Jackson would be a guy who might develop through that type of platoon system - trouble is the Vikes need a reasonable QB to substitute him with.

Also, #1 & #10 - I would say that QBs tend to play well until 35 probably peaking after age 30. They can probably keep playing well after 35 if they stay in shape, see Garcia, Favre, Vinny. Exceptions would be guys that are continually snapped like your Steve McNair/Donovan McNabb prototypes.

But really, I think John Beck's age is overblown way too much. Even if he retired at 35 he would still have a 8-9 year career - certainly not worth overlooking just because he is a few years older than Alex Smith. He should get just as much chance to develop as other rookies IMO. Good luck to him.

by footballprofessor (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 11:01pm

John Beck may be 26, but I honestly don't think that age is the biggest factor here. Two years of his life were spent out in the toughest gridiron he'll ever face - as an LDS missionary in Portugal. He may not have been practicing to play football for those two years, but he was practicing to be disciplined, something that a lot of older rookie QBs don't have.

by Gus (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 12:11am

I've asked this before...but has anyone noticed that Joey Harrington isn't having a bad year?

by Ron (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 12:37am


Dave I believe Cam HAS been calling plays that can go downfield. Ginn has been open a number of times or breaking open. Cleo only reads one receiver before checking down to his TE or RB. As he breaks containment he stops his deeper progressions. In college Beck did the opposite. He would break containment and let the play develop patiently with great awareness of his blind side and still made money throws before his receivers even broke on their routes, especially in NFL type throws such as the comeback that fades out and the skinny post. Beck will make his reads, especially after the game slows down for him. He is ready mentally I believe and I believe Cameron when he says John was much better prepared last week than Lemon was.

by matt millen's brain (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 2:04am

I have no idea if this move is going to work, but the Dolphins will win at least two games over the rest of the year (and the Rams will beat the Niners and win one other game if necessary, just to give the Patriots the first draft pick).

So I think Beck will probably end up looking pretty good.

by Just Another Falcon Fan (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 3:46am

Re: 29

In Atlanta's victory over Carolina last week, Harrington threw *1* pass more than 15 yards in the air past the line of scrimmage. Only 6 passes went more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage.

Basically, he threw a lot of "David Carr specials" and his receivers were able to bail him out just often enough. That's pretty much been the pattern for the season and is the reason Leftwich is the starter when healthy.

Note: Leftwich's DPAR is based on 1 quarter in relief against the Titans (where he admittedly looked bad, but so had Harrington) and 1 1/2 quarters against the Saints, where he looked OK.

by Dave (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 4:25am

Re #10:

I say Beck should be able to utilize Ginn's speed downfield because Lemon hasn't. Ginn has been open numerous times and Lemon either can't hit him because of poor accuracy or like #30 said, he doesn't recognize the fact that he is open. And #30, it didn't seem like Cam bothered with downfield passing last game. That could be all on Lemon. But they sure ran a lot of 2 RB/2 TE sets. Hope the offense opens up with Beck.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 2:40pm

I was at the Dolphins-Giants game at Wembley, and the one over-riding impression I came away with was that Cleo Lemon does not have NFL arm strength. Never mind being unable to throw the deep out; I counted two occasions when he got outside the tackles under pressure, tried to throw the ball away, failed to reach either the line of scrimmage or the sideline and got done for deliberate grounding. That guy has no business even being a primary back-up for anyone.

As for the QB decline issue, I believe Lewin's research suggests that the rate of decline due to loss of physical skills typically outstrips the rate of improvement attributable to learning around age 30, but that overall decline is seldom drastic until a few years after that. His conclusion in PFP was that Beck had every chance to be a good starter, but that if he wasn't decent next year he almost certainly never would be.

by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 2:51pm

Does this mean we've all been underestimating Patrick Ramsey all these years? Anectdotally I never thought he was as bad as David Carr or Kyle Boller, both of whom had years to get better and never seemed to, but I also never had a very high opinion of Ramsey.

Maybe I was wrong. If he stays in Denver we'll probably never know, but I'll be very curious to see if he gets another shot at starting on an otherwise decent team how he does.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 8:30pm

35 re Ramsey

As a long time Redskins watcher, I do think Ramsey's actually pretty good. He holds onto the ball too long was always the knock. But anything more than a 2 step drop was death in Spurrier's matador pass blocking scheme.

I still think Ramsey could be a good one. Very strong arm. Pretty accurate. Tough as nails. Reasonably popular locker room guy. Maybe he'll end up like Trent Green or Damon Huard -- only discovered as a relatively old man.

by Eric (not verified) :: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 6:39pm

Campbell hasn't struggled that much...his DPAR ranking is actually quite good, and his receiving corps has been banged up all year. Vince Young, on the other hand, has been horrible...I don't think you should compare the two.

by JKL (not verified) :: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 8:52pm

I think there is a far more important reason than experience to get a young player on the field, when a veteran is struggling. To find out what you have.

I also think that a distinction needs to be drawn between going to a rookie, and going to a non-rookie who has been through at least one full season and off-season of camps. The four major declines were all rookies who came in to play. I would suspect that the biggest improvement is going to come between rookie year and second season, regardless of whether the quarterback started as a rookie.

Link in my name is to my study on pfr blog looking at later round quarterbacks. Virtually all of the later round successes were at least competent their first season playing, and most were above average by year two.

The Chiefs needed to go to Croyle to find out if he can be a starter in this league. They couldn't afford to go into next season assuming that to be the case, without any evidence. I would say the same with Beck given his age. Start him, find out if he can play, and find out if you need to address the position in the off season or not.

by panthersnbraves (not verified) :: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 8:56pm

ok, how does this play for Carolina? Do they hold on and hope Vinny can drag everyone along, or do they start Matt Moore? And what does that mean for Basanez?

by mactbone (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2007 - 1:07pm

Re 28:
Wait, what? Since when is Portugal some hellish third world country? They circumnavigated the globe! They colonized Brazil!

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2007 - 2:11pm

I'm pretty sure the Dolphins coaching staff was not expecting an improvement in the passing game switching to Beck. If they thought Beck could play better than Lemon he would have replace Green after the injury. Beck's playing only so they can get a feel for what to do with thier # 1 pick next year, not because they think it will help them win ball games this year. Personally I also think they're doing it because the rookie QB excuse might save thier jobs in the offseason.