Geno Smith: 2022's Most Pleasant Surprise

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith
Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 4 - There's a surprising name near the top of Quick Reads this week, up there amidst Super Bowl veterans such as Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson. He's an aging veteran, but according to our quarterback rankings, he's playing as well as the sport's young superstars, including Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Mahomes. We are speaking, of course, about Seattle's Geno Smith, who has emerged from nearly a decade of ignominy and irrelevance to become one of the NFL's best passers early this season.

A second-round pick by the Jets in 2013, Smith started all 16 games as a rookie and went 8-8, with a league-best five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter. Our numbers were not impressed, however—Smith made the bottom four in both DYAR and DVOA that year, suggesting his success would be short-lived. Indeed, Smith went 3-10 as a starter in 2014 and was benched for a 34-year-old Michael Vick at one point. In 2015, Smith suffered a fractured jaw in a fight in training camp, then lost his starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick and spent most of that season on the sidelines. That looked like the end of Smith's starting career; he made only five starts in the next seven seasons as a backup with the Jets, Giants, Chargers, and Seahawks.

Smith entered this season in a quarterback competition in Seattle, but the Seahawks' insistence on getting Drew Lock in the Russell Wilson trade (and their praise for Lock in the subsequent press conference) suggested he was an underdog in that battle. But he started with the first string in training camp and never looked back, and his early performance has been better than anyone could have expected. As of Monday afternoon, Smith leads the NFL in completion rate, and his yardage, touchdown, interception, and sack rates are all better than average. He has even won over the Football Outsiders computers, sitting at third in DYAR and second in DVOA.

This has us pondering the best seasons ever by a quarterback who returned to the starting lineup after spending time on the bench. We're going to define starters simply as any quarterback who started at least half his team's games in a given season—so, seven starts in a 14-game campaign; eight starts in 16 games; nine starts in our new 17-game world; or five or six starts, respectively, in the strike-shortened seasons of 1982 and 1987. From the AFL merger in 1970 to last season, we found 159 instances of a quarterback who:

  • qualified as a starter;
  • but had not been a starter the season prior;
  • but had been a starter at some point before in the NFL.

That last point is key. We're not looking for rookies or veterans who have never started before. We're trying to compare Smith to other quarterbacks who started but were benched for poor performance, then came back later to earn another starting opportunity; quarterbacks who came Back From a Benching (BFB). Our definitions are looser than that—we're also going to pick up a lot of passers who came back from injury or suspension—but they at least give us a good starting point. We'll do our best to filter those cases out in search of players who went from starter to backup and back.

This can be trickier than it sounds, however. Should Drew Bledsoe qualify as a BFB quarterback in 2002? During the second game of the 2001 season, Bledsoe suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest that sidelined him for the rest of the regular season. An unproven backup named Tom Brady guided New England to the playoffs, but when he too was injured, it was Bledsoe who finished the AFC Championship Game victory over Pittsburgh. Two decades later, this may be difficult to believe, but Bill Belichick's decision to start Brady over Bledsoe in the Super Bowl was not without controversy. Brady, of course, started and won the Super Bowl and kept throwing passes in Foxborough for nearly 20 years, while Bledsoe was a starter in Buffalo the next season.

This is all relevant because Bledsoe's 375 completions, 610 attempts, and 4,359 passing yards with the Bills in 2002 would be BFB records, if you want to consider Bledsoe a BFB quarterback. If you don't, those records instead go to Jon Kitna, who started 76 games for the Seahawks and Bengals before backing up Carson Palmer for a couple of seasons in Cincinnati. In 2006 he started every game for Detroit, picking up 4,240 yards in 596 attempts and leading the league with 372 completions. He was also sacked a BFB record 63 times.

Neither of those would be the greatest BFB season of all time, however. After 11 seasons with a lot of highs and a lot of lows in Philadelphia, Randall Cunningham retired from the NFL in 1996. Cunningham spent a year installing granite and marble, then returned to the NFL in 1997 to back up Brad Johnson with the Vikings. He started in place of an injured Johnson in two playoff games that year, but it was Johnson who was starting the first two games in 1998. After Johnson left the field in Week 2 with an ankle injury, however, Cunningham was off to the races. He started every game for the rest of Minnesota's season, finishing with BFB records of 34 touchdown passes, 1,598 passing DYAR, and a 45.1% DVOA as the Vikings reached the NFC Championship Game. Don't feel bad for Johnson, however—after returning to back up Cunningham later that year, he had an excellent BFB season with Washington (1,074 DYAR, 18.7% DVOA) in 1999, won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay in 2002, and returned to Minnesota for another BFB season in 2005.

The best BFB quarterback of the DVOA era, however, would be Steve Young. After a brief stint with the Los Angeles Express of the original USFL, Young joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons—and he was terrible, finishing below replacement level in both years. He then joined the San Francisco 49ers as a backup, but he played frequently as Joe Montana's injuries began to pile up. Young played in 35 games from 1987 to 1990, including 10 starts, amassing 898 DYAR. Officially, 1991 was Young's only BFB season, and though his own injuries limited him to 10 starts, he finished fifth in DYAR and second in DVOA. That was the first of eight seasons when Young finished in the top 10 in passing DYAR and top five in DVOA; only Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (13 each), Dan Marino and Drew Brees (11), and Montana (eight) have done so that often. Young was also first or second at the position in rushing DYAR in seven of those eight seasons. Oh, and he also won two MVPs and a Super Bowl.

A few other notable BFB quarterbacks:

• Erik Kramer spent a few seasons in a quarterback rotation in Detroit; three-plus decades later, he is still the last Lions quarterback to win a playoff game. He joined another quarterback rotation with Steve Walsh in Chicago in 1994, then started every game for the Bears in 1995, leading the league with 1,585 DYAR (a single-season record for Chicago, more than double any other Bears quarterback) and finishing second in DVOA behind future Hall of Famer Troy Aikman. His 3,838 yards and 29 touchdowns that season are still Bears records.

• Jeff George was the NFL's first overall draft pick in 1990, but he wore out his welcome in Indianapolis after four losing seasons and a litany of disagreements with coaches and management. He was then traded to Atlanta, leading the Falcons' run 'n' shoot offense to a wild-card game against Green Bay in the 1995 season. After throwing an interception against Philadelphia in Week 3 of 1996, however, George got into a shouting match with head coach June Jones on the sideline; he was then suspended for the rest of the season. (His spot was taken by former Saints starter Bobby Hebert, who went on to throw 25 interceptions, a BFB record he shares with Lynn Dickey of the 1980 Packers.) In 1997 George was in Oakland, leading the league in passing yards; in 1998 he was in and out of the Raiders lineup, publicly feuding with new head coach Jon Gruden and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. In 1999 he was Back From the Bench in Minnesota, taking over the starting role in mid-October after Randall Cunningham could not sustain his magical performance from the year before. George finished third in DVOA that season (behind future Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning) and seventh in DYAR, beating the Dallas Cowboys in the only playoff win of his career. The Vikings opted not to re-sign him, going with 1999 first-rounder Daunte Culpepper instead. George signed with Washington, where he rotated with fellow BFB QB Brad Johnson. He started the first two games of the 2001 season, but was released outright after a pair of disastrous performances (-143 DYAR, -60.1% DVOA). He would later sign contracts with the Seahawks, Bears, and Raiders (again), but never played for any of those teams.

• Kerry Collins was the fifth overall pick in 1995, the first-ever quarterback of the Carolina Panthers in their expansion year. Though they reached the NFC Championship Game a year later, the marriage between Collins and the Panthers did not last long. After an 0-4 start in 1998, Collins approached head coach Dom Capers and said his heart was not in the game and he didn't think he could play; Capers took this as Collins quitting on the team and released him. Collins signed with the Saints a few weeks later and was starting in New Orleans by the end of the year. Following an arrest for drunk driving, Collins entered treatment for alcohol abuse; he later admitted that much of his erratic behavior was due to his struggles with alcoholism. He began the 1999 season backing up Kent Graham in New York, but again was starting by the end of the year. In 2000, Collins made the top 10 in DVOA and DYAR, leading the Giants to the Super Bowl. Collins was runner-up for Comeback Player of the Year; he would also finish second in that category in 2008, when he was a BFB QB in Tennessee.

• Like Jeff George, Michael Vick was a former first overall draft pick; like George, he quarterbacked the Falcons in a playoff game in Green Bay; and like George, the end of his tenure in Atlanta had nothing to do with his performance on the field. A dogfighting scandal in 2007 led to a suspension and, eventually, 21 months in federal prison. He returned to the NFL in 2009 backing up Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia; when McNabb was traded to Washington in 2010, Vick started the year on the bench behind Kevin Kolb. A concussion knocked Kolb out of the lineup in the season opener, and Vick went on to start 11 games, finishing seventh in passing DVOA, leading all quarterbacks in rushing DYAR, and winning the AP's Comeback Player of the Year award. Vick would last a few more years in Philadelphia before finishing his career as a backup with the Jets and Steelers. 

With the obvious exception of Young, most of these BFB QBs were not long-term answers for their teams, so Seattle is likely to have another new quarterback in 2023 regardless of how Smith fares the rest of the year. This also applies to the other BFB candidates this season, including Marcus Mariota in Atlanta, Jacoby Brissett in Cleveland, and either Jameis Winston or Andy Dalton in New Orleans. (The Jets' Joe Flacco and Pittsburgh's Mitchel Trubisky would also qualify, but it appears they're going to spend the rest of the season behind Zach Wilson and Kenny Pickett.)

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Tom Brady TB
39/52
385
3
0
1
178
178
0
KC
Brady had the most passing DYAR in a number of scenarios, such as inside the opponents' 40 (13-of-17, 124 yards, three touchdowns, plus a DPI for 15 yards), throws to running backs (completing all 12 of his throws for 97 yards and a touchdown), and throws to his right (16-of-19 for 147 yards and a touchdown).
2.
Geno Smith SEA
24/30
320
2
0
0
174
156
18
DET
We're starting to introduce opponent adjustments this week, and Smith loses 26 DYAR for playing the Lions. He led the league with a 70% success rate, and he was the best passer in the first quarter (9-of-10 for 119 yards and a touchdown) and on deep balls (7-of-9 for 191 yards and a touchdown).
3.
Justin Herbert LAC
27/39
340
2
0
1
164
164
0
HOU
Herbert had the week's best DYAR on third/fourth downs, where he went 11-of-15 for 142 yards and eight conversions, including a touchdown. He was dominant from under center, going 9-of-11 for 150 yards and a touchdown.
4.
Jared Goff DET
26/39
378
4
1
1
118
123
-5
SEA
Goff loses a league-high 32 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He was the week's best passer on throws down the middle (8-of-10 for 171 yards and a touchdown) and in the fourth quarter/overtime (12-of-18 for 135 yards and three touchdowns).
5.
Cooper Rush DAL
15/27
223
2
0
1
106
106
0
WAS
Rush led all quarterbacks in DYAR on throws to wide receivers, going 11-of-17 for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
6.
Jimmy Garoppolo SF
16/26
239
1
0
0
89
87
2
LAR
7.
Joe Burrow CIN
20/31
287
2
0
1
85
88
-3
MIA
The Dolphins let Burrow throw for 10 first downs on Thursday night, and seven of them came on throws to the quarterback's left. Burrow's totals on throws in that direction: 11-of-14, 194 yards, two touchdowns.
8.
Patrick Mahomes KC
23/37
249
3
1
3
72
61
11
TB
Yes, this is much lower than we expected Mahomes to finish after Kansas City demolished Tampa Bay on Sunday night. But his average dropback came with 6.7 yards to go for a first down, lowest in the league, and he kept failing to convert in short yardage, picking up four conversions in nine plays with 1 or 2 yards to go. DYAR hated that, and also his three sacks, and especially his interception on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter. However, it loved his performance on throws to tight ends and running backs, where he went 12-of-15 for 105 yards and three touchdowns.
9.
Daniel Jones NYG
8/13
71
0
0
1
71
28
44
CHI
Despite leaving the game due to injury in the third quarter, Jones led quarterbacks in rushing DYAR, running six times for 68 yards and two scores. Random weirdness: he threw only one pass on second down, a 1-yard completion to Saquon Barkley with 6 yards to go.
10.
Derek Carr LV
21/34
188
0
0
2
60
40
20
DEN
Not only did Carr's five carries produce 42 yards, but each of those five carries picked up a first down. The bad news is that as a passer, Carr struggled in scoring range—inside the Denver 40-yard line, he went 8-of-13 for 68 yards with no touchdowns and only two first downs.
11.
Russell Wilson DEN
17/25
237
2
0
3
57
42
14
LV
Wilson's success rate of 29% was the worst in the league this week, but in his defense, he faced a league-high average of 10.9 yards to go. He had seven plays with 15 yards or more to go for a first down and failed to convert any of them. That's one reason (but not the only reason) he only threw for only one first down in the second half.
12.
Ryan Tannehill TEN
17/21
137
2
0
3
50
47
3
IND
Tannehill also threw for only one first down in the second half. That's partly because he spent a lot of time checking down—his average depth of target was a league-low 4.3 yards. But he tied Tom Brady for the best DYAR in the red zone on only three throws: a 7-yard touchdown to Robert Woods, a 3-yard completion to Woods for a first down, and an 8-yard touchdown to Chigoziem Okonkwo.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Aaron Rodgers GB
21/35
251
2
1
1
49
54
-5
NE
Rodgers must have gotten hold of some really good ayahuasca at intermission. He went from being the week's worst quarterback in the first half (4-of-11 for 44 yards with a sack and a pick-six) its best in the second half and overtime (17-of-24 for 207 with two touchdowns, plus an 11-yard DPI).
14.
Andy Dalton NO
20/28
236
1
0
2
49
53
-4
MIN
Dalton was perfect on throws down the middle, completing all five of his passes for 65 yards and a touchdown.
15.
Matt Ryan IND
27/37
356
2
1
3
41
52
-12
TEN
Fun with positional splits! Ryan was the league's best passer this week on throws to tight ends (completing all 11 of his throws for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns), but its worst on throws to running backs (3-of-5 for 4 yards and no first downs).
16.
Kyler Murray ARI
23/32
207
2
1
1
39
46
-8
CAR
After a very slow first half, Murray came to life in the third quarter, going 7-of-9 for 81 yards and a touchdown, plus a 37-yard DPI. His nine carries gained only 29 yards with one touchdown, one fumble, and three stuffs for no gain or a loss.
17.
Teddy Bridgewater MIA
14/23
193
1
1
0
36
30
6
CIN
Bridgewater came into the game with Miami down 7-6 late in the second quarter. He finished as the best passer this week on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage (3-of-4 for 24 yards and a touchdown), but its worst on throws to tight ends (only two throws: a 2-yard completion on third-and-4 and an interception while down by five points in the fourth quarter).
18.
Josh Allen BUF
19/36
213
1
1
1
30
10
20
BAL
Allen was tremendous rallying Buffalo to a fourth-quarter win, but they needed that rally because he was the week's worst passer in the first quarter, when he went 3-of-9 for 31 yards with an interception. He finished the game with nine carries for 72 yards and a touchdown, but also a fumble.
19.
Kirk Cousins MIN
26/38
273
1
1
3
23
23
0
NO
Cousins had a rough day on second downs, going 8-of-15 for 68 yards with an interception and only two first downs.
20.
Jacoby Brissett CLE
21/35
234
0
1
1
20
7
13
ATL
Brissett threw for only one first down inside the Atlanta 40-yard line, going 5-of-10 for 41 yards.
21.
Tua Tagovailoa MIA
8/14
110
0
1
1
13
13
0
CIN
Tagovailoa left this game late in the second quarter, and we just want him to be healthy.
22.
Zach Wilson NYJ
18/36
252
1
2
1
12
2
-2
PIT
New York's tight ends and running backs didn't do much to help Wilson out; he was the week's worst passer on throws to those positions, going 7-of-14 for 78 yards with an interception. So he took care of things himself; his totals include 12 DYAR receiving for his 2-yard touchdown catch.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Jalen Hurts PHI
16/25
204
0
1
2
2
17
-15
JAX
Hurts' 13 carries gained only 34 yards with one touchdown and one fumble. There sure were a lot of yards after the catch in this game; Hurts' average completion gained 8.1 yards after the catch, second-most by about an inch per play behind Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence. That didn't help Hurts on throws to his left, where he went 8-of-14 for only 64 yards with a pick-six.
24.
Kenny Pickett PIT
10/13
120
0
3
0
-10
-16
6
NYJ
Pickett entered the game with Pittsburgh down 10-6 in the third quarter. He was the week's worst quarterback from under center; his only pass that wasn't from a shotgun formation was intercepted.
25.
Davis Mills HOU
26/35
246
2
2
4
-11
-11
0
LAC
Mills threw a league-high 13 failed completions.
26.
Lamar Jackson BAL
20/29
144
1
2
2
-26
-44
19
BUF
Jackson gains 46 DYAR due to opponent adjustments, most in the league this week. His 10 rushes went for 71 yards. But he struggled as a passer in clutch situations, including third/fourth downs (4-of-8 for 33 yards with one conversion, one sack, and one interception) and in the fourth quarter/overtime (4-of-6 for 21 yards with two interceptions, plus a 17-yard DPI).
27.
Marcus Mariota ATL
7/19
139
0
1
1
-40
-34
-7
CLE
Mariota had the week's worst DYAR in the third quarter, when he went 1-of-6 for 7 yards with an interception and a sack. Then his first two passes of the fourth quarter were incomplete, but he finished strong with a 42-yard completion on second-and-9.
28.
Bailey Zappe NE
10/15
99
1
0
3
-46
-46
0
GB
Zappe came into the game with New England up 3-0 in the first quarter. He failed to convert a single third down, going 3-of-5 for 15 yards.
29.
Justin Fields CHI
11/22
174
0
0
6
-50
-64
15
NYG
Though he was somewhat effective on his own side of the 50, Fields failed to throw for a single first down in Giants territory, going 2-of-6 for 3 yards with three sacks and a fumble. One of those completions was a 6-yard gain on third-and-15; the other was a 3-yard loss on third-and-6.
30.
Matthew Stafford LAR
32/48
254
0
1
7
-56
-57
1
SF
31.
Carson Wentz WAS
27/42
170
1
2
2
-67
-67
0
DAL
Wentz gains 36 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He was the worst passer down the middle of the field, going 5-of-6 for only 24 yards with an interception.
32.
Mitchell Trubisky PIT
7/13
84
0
1
3
-70
-64
-5
NYJ
Well, he went down swinging, you can't deny that. Trubisky's average depth of target was a mind-blowing 16.1 yards—his average pass attempt qualified as a deep ball! Mind you, he wasn't terribly effective on deep balls, going 2-of-7 for 50 yards with an interception.
33.
Trevor Lawrence JAX
11/23
174
2
1
4
-78
-67
-10
PHI
Per ESPN Stats & Info, Lawrence is the first player this century to lose four fumbles in one game. Three came on sacks, one on an aborted snap. There's some bad luck there—per Stathead, Baker Mayfield and Matt Ryan both had four fumbles in Week 1, and Mike Glennon and Kyler Murray did it last year, but they were fortunate that they (or their teammates) recovered some of those balls. Regardless, it's certainly not a good thing to have four sacks, four fumbles, and an interception while completing less than half your passes. This is only the fifth game in Stathead's database where a quarterback has done that. Glennon did it last year, but before that you have to go back to Mark Sanchez with the Jets in 2010.
34.
Baker Mayfield CAR
22/36
197
1
2
2
-135
-116
-19
ARI
Mayfield was terrible on deep balls, going 0-for-5 with an interception. He was also terrible on very short balls, going 5-of-10 for 18 yards on passes to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage. To cap off this tragic triple crown, he was terrible on the ground; his two carries were a stuff on third-and-1 and a fumbled snap for a loss of 3. And he did it all against a rotten Cardinals defense; he loses 31 DYAR due to opponent adjustments.
Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Miles Sanders PHI
27
134
2
2/3
22
0
51
44
7
JAX
Though the Jaguars stuffed Sanders a half-dozen times, they also allowed him to run for seven first downs. Four of his carries gained 10-plus yards, the longest a 35-yarder. His best catch was a 16-yard gain on second-and-11. He gains a dozen rushing DYAR for playing the Jaguars, who were first in run defense DVOA coming into the week.
2.
Josh Jacobs LV
28
144
2
5/6
31
0
51
34
17
DEN
Jacobs ran for eight first downs while being stuffed four times. His longest run gained 43 yards. Four of his catches gained first downs, the longest a gain of 12.
3.
Derrick Henry TEN
22
114
1
3/5
33
0
49
41
8
IND
Henry gains nearly 20 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. The Colts stuffed him four times while letting him run for five first downs, including four runs that gained double-digit yardage. His best catch was a 22-yard gain on first-and-10.
4.
Rachaad White TB
3
6
1
6/6
50
0
43
13
30
KC
Has White taken over as Tampa Bay's short-yardage specialist? His three carries each came with 3 yards or less to go; he converted twice. Though his longest catch gained only 11 yards, four of them picked up first downs.
5.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
19
92
1
1/2
2
1
33
27
7
TB
Edwards-Helaire ran for five first downs against the Bucs, the longest a 20-yard run on third-and-1, while being stuffed just once. His two targets: a 2-yard touchdown and an incompletion on fourth-and-1.
Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Miles Sanders PHI
27
134
2
2/3
22
0
51
44
7
JAX
2.
Derrick Henry TEN
22
114
1
3/5
33
0
49
41
8
IND
3.
Josh Jacobs LV
28
144
2
5/6
31
0
51
34
17
DEN
4.
Jamaal Williams DET
19
108
2
1/3
1
0
19
29
-10
SEA
Williams ran for five first downs against Seattle, the longest a gain of 51, while being stuffed three times.
5.
Joe Mixon CIN
24
61
1
4/4
13
0
23
29
-5
MIA
Mixon gains 34 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. That's how he makes this list despite averaging 2.5 yards per carry, with a long run of 7 yards, picking up four first downs while being stuffed four times.
Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Jonathan Taylor IND
20
42
0
1/3
1
0
-40
-28
-12
TEN
Taylor ran for just three first downs while being stuffed five times and losing a fumble. Only three of his runs gained more than 3 yards. His only reception was a 1-yard gain on first-and-15.
Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Jonathan Taylor IND
20
42
0
1/3
1
0
-40
-28
-12
TEN
Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Mike Evans TB
8
10
103
12.9
2
58
KC
Six of Evans' receptions gained first downs, the longest a gain of 30 yards.
2.
Michael Gallup DAL
2
3
24
12.0
1
50
WAS
Yes, Gallup only caught two passes, but both were third-down conversions, including a 9-yard touchdown. Plus, he had a pair of DPIs for gains of 27 and 38 yards.
3.
Travis Kelce KC
9
10
92
10.2
1
48
TB
Eight of Kelce's catches resulted in first downs, the longest a gain of 22, with a trio of third-down conversions.
4.
Allen Lazard GB
6
8
116
19.3
0
44
NE
Five of Lazard's catches picked up first downs, with three gains of 20-plus yards.
5.
Tyreek Hill MIA
10
14
160
16.0
0
43
CIN
Hill's totals include -1 rushing DYAR for his one carry for a 1-yard loss. Six of his catches resulted in first downs, including a 64-yard gain. He also picked up a 24-yard DPI.
Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Rondale Moore ARI
3
5
11
3.7
0
-34
CAR
Moore's totals include -10 rushing DYAR for his one carry, a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-1. His three catches: a 7-yard gain on second-and-8; a 2-yard loss on second-and-7; and a 6-yard gain on third-and-27.

Comments

67 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2022, 10:03am

#1 by HitchikersPie // Oct 04, 2022 - 5:18am

It's even more remarkable given that he was pretty much replacement level all of last year (-3.2% DVOA, 54 DYAR) and has exploded this year, whereas most of those other backups who became great had at least shown promise (Cunningham, Young, and even the less impressive others all had decent short stints, or more as starters). Geno's previous DYAR single season high was in 2015 at only 72, and as of writing he has 363 DYAR and the 2nd highest DVOA (29.7%) which is 18% higher than his 2015 high of 11.0%.

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#5 by luisguilherme // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:00am

Geno was a highly coveted prospect that saw his draft stock go down close to the draft due to "intangibles". He had a decent season as a rookie starter. So in a way, he had shown promise early in his career.

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#9 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:22am

FWIW:
https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/01/nawrocki-provides-scathing-assessment-of-geno-smith/

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#10 by HitchikersPie // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:23am

Geno among qualifying QBs in his rookie season was bottom 4 in DVOA and DYAR as mentioned by Vince. He also had a PFF grade of 60.7 (around replacement level), -41.5 EPA, and QBR/PAA of 41.0/-13.2.

 

I don't think any of that constitutes as decent, it's just below average, where he'd really played at most of his career until this turnaround.

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#13 by Pat // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:13am

It's more around average for a rookie QB. Maybe a shade below, but not much. Rookie QBs suck. Even Rookie Justin Herbert sucked compared to current Justin Herbert. And Smith did improve like you'd expect for year 2, although maybe not quite as much as you'd hope.

But yeah, I'd agree that none of that predicts him doing as well as he is this year. At some point I'm just going to have to bite the bullet and admit Pete Carroll's a good coach (just with very weird decisions).

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#25 by mehllageman56 // Oct 04, 2022 - 12:46pm

Geno was high variance his first two years.  He had some good games (beat New England, threw a bomb to Santonio Holmes to beat Buffalo) and some bad (three straight games under 50% completion percentage, which was strange to me).  Accuracy was one of his strengths in college.  The insanity continued the next year, with one of the worst games ever against Buffalo (8 passes with 3 picks before he got pulled) and a perfect passer rating game against the Dolphins.  He had the potential to do what he's doing now (especially when looking at what he did at West Virginia), but he also has the potential to stink the rest of the year.  I hope he keeps it going.

Carroll has always been a good coach, better than Rex Ryan or anyone else Geno has played under.  The question is whether Carroll has reached his expiration date.

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#29 by Pat // Oct 04, 2022 - 1:00pm

Carroll has always been a good coach,

Yeah, I know my opinion's not exactly super-common: while I'm not completely in the "let Russ cook" crowd, I did feel like Wilson was just criminally underused there, and I just couldn't stand his playcalling overall.

But Carroll's been proving me wrong for years now, so what the heck do I know.

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#31 by KnotMe // Oct 04, 2022 - 1:12pm

Carroll seems to do some stuff well and some badly. I can never really figure out if he's good or not. Pretty sure he isn't bad, but it's hard to decide between good and above average.

He's been around a long time and won a decent amount(+ring) so his HOF debate will be interesting.

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#39 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:19pm

I think Carroll's roster-building, play calling, and decision-making are all subpar. (He lost a pair of terrible challenges this week, then said after the game he'll sometimes challenge plays just to fire up his team, whether he thinks he'll win or note.) But I think he's still outstanding from Monday through Saturday, teaching players how to play football well, and that's still the most important part of the job.

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#41 by Pat // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:23pm

Carroll's early winning to me has like, everything to do with the insane drafts early in his career, and I mean insane. Their drafts from '10-'12 basically built a team. Seriously, he drafted like 11 starting-level players in 3 years. 8 guys who went to at least 1 Pro Bowl. Multiple Hall of Fame guys. It was epic. And those guys produced on multiple teams, so this wasn't just a Seahawks thing.

And then... nothin'. Next three years produced like, 3 starters, 2 Pro Bowlers. The three after that, basically 1 starter (and Pro Bowler - and no, I'm not counting the damn punter). Pretty much same after that.

So at that point I pretty much just had to be "OK, it was just luck." I mean, any idiot can win with that much talent on rookie contracts. But nooo, now Carroll keeps having to outperform my crap expectations. Grr.

 

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#37 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:18pm

Everyone laughed when I said Russ was just Cousins with a better narrative.

Who's laughing now?

\well, Geno Smith is

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#66 by KnotMe // Oct 05, 2022 - 8:26am

Pete Carroll too esp if Geno turns out to be competent. Not the most crazy trade of all time but it would be way up there. 

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#67 by ImNewAroundThe… // Oct 05, 2022 - 10:03am

But unsurprisingly you didn't get what you actually said, right.

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#34 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:15pm

Of 89 rookie QBs since 1981 with at least 200 passes in a season, Geno ranked 65th in DYAR and 59th in DVOA. So he was basically worse than two-thirds of rookies, better than one-third. I'll let the readers decide whether that counts as decent or not.

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#38 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:19pm

How does he rank amongst rookie QBs since 1981 with at least 200 passes in a season, who played for the Jets?

There still has to be a large enough sample for that.

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#2 by BlueStarDude // Oct 04, 2022 - 7:28am

Of course Jim Plunkett achieved one thing in his BFB season that those others mentioned didn't. Everyone here knows that's not the way to judge a QB and so it doesn't top those better individual seasons, but it was still pretty remarkable. I'm tempted to say psoter is durnk for not mentioning.

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#14 by Noahrk // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:17am

Speaking of which, does Rich Gannon not qualify for BFB?

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#16 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:42am

I wondered that too, but...

Gannon's first BFB season was that last year in Kansas City, not his Oakland years.
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/G/GannRi00.htm

Warner did it twice, but his second BFB season was 2007, not his stellar 2008.
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/W/WarnKu00.htm

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#23 by Noahrk // Oct 04, 2022 - 12:15pm

Interesting. The quirks of the methodology, I guess, but in this kind of analysis he should definitely be in the conversation. Warner is another interesting case. As to twice, I don't know. Was he benched in 2006 or was he injured? The first season with the Rams wouldn't count because he'd never been a starter before. But definitely a great story, and a weird one, too, going from the Rams to the Giants to the Cards.

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#33 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:13pm

Warner started in StL from 1999-2001. Injured, then benched.

Started in NYG and Arizona in 2004-2005 (still sucked; recovering from getting Carr'd by Martz)

Started again in 2007-2009. This was his second high-water mark.

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#45 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:36pm

Warner qualified as a BFB QB in 2004 (his only year with the Giants) and in 2007 (in Arizona, the year before their Super Bowl run).

He started the season opener for the Rams in 2003, but was benched after fumbling six times; his only other action that year came in a relief role in Week 17. Then he started nine games in New York before giving way to rookie Eli Manning. 

And this seems impossible to believe, but Warner spent most of the next three years in Arizona battling Josh McCown (!) and Matt Leinart (also !) for playing time. It wasn't until the second half of 2007 and 2008 that he nailed down the starting job. 

So yes, both of those seasons qualify. But neither was especially good -- he was 25th in both DVOA and DYAR in 2004 and 14th/13th in 2007.

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#43 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:25pm

Technically, Gannon only had one BFB season: 1998 with Kansas City. He finished 16th in DYAR, 18th in DVOA, then joined the Raiders the next year and started there until 2003. Yes, in the long term he was among the most successful post-benching quarterbacks, but his specific BFB season (which is what we were looking at here) was nothing special. 

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#26 by mehllageman56 // Oct 04, 2022 - 12:48pm

Plunkett is like Bledsoe; he was actually good in New England, before getting sent off in favor of Grogan.  That's not a match for what Geno is doing.

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#65 by RickD // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:33pm

completion %

1971 48.2%

1972 47.6%

1973 51.3%

1974 49.1%

1975 39.1%

1976 39.1% 

overall 48.5%

even adjusting for era, that's terrible.

In contrast, he completed 51.7% of his passes in SF and 56.2% of his passes for the Raiders.  He went from the bottom third in accuracy to the top third.  

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#40 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:22pm

Without going back and checking for injuries, Plunkett is the only guy I found with four qualifying BFB seasons: 1976 with the 49ers and 1980, 1982, and 1986 with the Raiders. 

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#3 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 7:55am

Absent TDs, Gallup’s two receptions were expected to lose 26 yards. Those are some dump offs!

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#46 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:37pm

I can't tell if you're joking or not, but the DYAR includes his two DPIs, which were his biggest gains on the day.

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#4 by BJR // Oct 04, 2022 - 8:32am

I did comment after week 2 that, whilst Seattle's overall offensive production was dismal that week, Geno himself did not look overwhelmed (in rainy conditions against what now appears to be a ferocious 49ers defense.) 

Subsequent appointments against the Falcons and Lions obviously helped the productivity part. 

Still early to draw any real conclusions, but it isn't the train wreck I (and many) were expecting. 

 

 

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#7 by Mike B. In Va // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:12am

Yeah, I'm stunned that he's been this good so far - he actually looks like a competent pro, which he did not in the two games I saw him in last year. Something like this makes me think I might have been too hard on the Steelers for Trubisky...nah, who am I kidding?

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#6 by Mike B. In Va // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:11am

That was the worst first quarter of football I've seen Allen play since his rookie year. I seriously thought he'd be lower, even with the comeback.

Lamar looked great until he didn't, then made some hero moves in the 4th. I suspect his opponent adjustments may rise as the year goes on, because the Buffalo D was putrid in the first half, at least to the eye test.

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#8 by Ben // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:16am

Wow. White’s 3 carries for 6 yards is worth 13 rushing DYAR? Even with the 2 first downs, that’s a little surprising. 

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#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 9:24am

Much like with Gallup, position-specific small-sample DYAR is basically silly season. It doesn't reduce to sane reflections of the actual results.

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#50 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:46pm

Short-yardage plays have a big impact on DYAR because the difference between success and failure is practically the value of a turnover. White's three carries:

  • 3.0 DYAR for a 4-yard gain on second-and-3
  • -0.9 DYAR for a 1-yard gain on first-and-goal from the 2 (still a successful play!)
  • 10.6 DYAR for a touchdown on third-and-goal from the 1

For comparison's sake, there were nine plays this week where a runner gained exactly zero yards on third- or fourth-and-1. Average DYAR on those nine plays: -5.4.

 

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#12 by JSap // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:11am

"Hurts' 13 carries gained only 34 yards with one touchdown and one fumble."  I'm sure the fumble and having 8 carries of 3 yards or less contributed to that -15 rushing DYAR, but 4 of those short runs were successful (3 yards on 4th & 1, 3 yards (and TD) on 4 & 3, 1 yard on 3rd & 1, 2 yards on 4th & 1).  It wasn't a vintage Jalen Hurts rushing performance, but his tough running was a big part of the win - I think it's just one of those games where even the advanced stats don't reflect the performance (even the best stats can get muddled on an individual game basis).

 

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#15 by Pat // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:22am

Fumbles are really bad. They're -2 points (since they're turnovers half the time) which by yardage converts to friggin' -25. Considering the baseline for QBs rushing is positive, that fumble probably hurts a ton.

 It wasn't a vintage Jalen Hurts rushing performance, but his tough running was a big part of the win

Abbreviated Kelce brothers conversation:

Jason: What's the only correct play on 4th and short?
Travis says some other play and Jason's like "ok, yeah, that's not bad, but.."
Jason (loudly): It's a quarterback sneak! It's like, 92% successful! It's the best play in football!

That's the problem here. Yeah, Hurts was successful on those QB sneaks but almost all QBs are successful on those sneaks. It's just such a ludicrously high percentage play that those plays are just like "whatever" when you baseline-adjust.

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#17 by JSap // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:48am

Excellent points - maybe he just looked better to me because I was also seeing Trevor Lawrence's performance! :)  

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#19 by Badfinger // Oct 04, 2022 - 11:07am

I am assuming that the weather wasn't bad enough to warrant an actual statistical adjustment, but eye test allowing for the conditions, he was fine.

(in my brain it feels rough to categorize "snapped early, ball hit the ground" as a fumble, for everyone, but how can you mark it any other way)

 

Basically exactly in between Josh Allen and Lamar, two awesome quarterbacks playing in almost the same condition.

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#22 by Pat // Oct 04, 2022 - 11:29am

but eye test allowing for the conditions, he was fine.

Yeah, I'd agree. The two early fumbles are just dumb luck, and the two late ones were just a total line collapse. When all 4 rushers win, you're in for a bad time at quarterback. The interception was definitely a bad decision: that definitely felt like a "no, Lawrence, you really are still in the NFL" play.

But I think in the liveblog thread someone said that the game "wasn't as close as the score," which I totally disagreed with. That game had me worried all the way up until that last sack-fumble. Philly going for it on 4th and 3 scared the garbage out of me there.

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#20 by KnotMe // Oct 04, 2022 - 11:22am

Coaches are really good a calling QB sneaks when they are likely to work. It has a high success rate but isn't really a high % play. That's why Brady has rushing yards at all. 

 

Jimmy G wasn't a backup long enough but it will be interesting to see where he ranks at the end. 

He didn't get a blurb either.

6. Still Handsome

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#53 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:53pm

 

That's the problem here. Yeah, Hurts was successful on those QB sneaks but almost all QBs are successful on those sneaks. It's just such a ludicrously high percentage play that those plays are just like "whatever" when you baseline-adjust

Yes, this exactly.

    Points: 0

    #62 by JSap // Oct 04, 2022 - 7:02pm

    Understood - not complaining about the results or methodology, just saying that watching it, it didn't 'feel' like a -15 in this case.  I know that is meaningless, just was surprised.

    Points: 0

    #63 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 7:29pm

    When DVOA likes QB “runs”, what it really likes is QB scrambles. It doesn’t actually like planned runs made by a QB.

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    #52 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:52pm

    His fourth-and-goal from the 3 touchdown was a pretty big play (12.3 DYAR), but his other short-yardage conversions were not (7.4 DYAR between them). I know I said elsewhere that DYAR likes short-yardage success, but that's not always true for quarterbacks because the baselines are so high. Quarterbacks have converted on 80% of runs with 1 yard to go this year, so there's nothing special about going 3-for-3 on those plays -- it's basically the baseline of what we would expect. 

    The 10 QB runs with that 1 yard to go this season that failed to pick up a first down averaged -6.2 DYAR between them, and that's not even counting plays with fumbles.

    Points: 0

    #18 by RickD // Oct 04, 2022 - 10:56am

    And you can't tell me opponent adjustments helped Gallup's case.  

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    #21 by Sixknots // Oct 04, 2022 - 11:27am

    And no D.K.?   149 rec yards has got to get him close to the leaders.  But, I suppose opponent adjustments factor bigly.

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    #59 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 3:07pm

    11th, and HERE opponent adjustments are huge, costing Hockenson 13 DYAR. Seahawks are 30th in DVOA against tight ends and dead last in yards allowed per game. He would have been fourth without opponent adjustments.

    Points: 0

    #58 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 3:05pm

    He was in sixth, so he just missed. Opponent adjustments aren't massive here -- Detroit's pass defense is merely bad, while its run defense is awful. DK had three incomplete targets, and also a 5-yard catch on third-and-10. 

    Points: 0

    #56 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 3:02pm

    Deebo was not in the top 20. 6-7-115-1 is a pretty nice fantasy statline, but only three of those catches produced first downs. And his two runs were both 1-yard gains on first-and-10, also dragging his DYAR down.

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    #24 by big10freak // Oct 04, 2022 - 12:43pm

    Appreciate this weekly summary.  Always makes for interesting reading 

    Points: 0

    #28 by Joey-Harringto… // Oct 04, 2022 - 12:59pm

    Geno Smith and Jared Goff being the top two quarterbacks in the NFC so far (just ahead of Tom Brady) by DYAR is breaking my brain.  

    Points: 0

    #36 by BJR // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:18pm

    These Lions feel like one of those extreme teams that are going to cause statistical quirks all season, and feature on several future best/worst ever tables. 

    I'm not a fan so will defer to you here, but to me it will be a shame if they go 5-12 (or thereabouts) and Dan Campbell gets fired, because there is clearly progress being made. As I heard mentioned this morning, the team is 31st in defensive spending this season, so that unit is set up to be bad. Still, you need to see some signs of life (especially from the high draft picks) and pathetic showings like last Sunday cannot be tolerated forever.  

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    #42 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:23pm

    Hutchinson looks good and Okudah even has signs of life. Which for the Lions is progress.

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    #44 by BJR // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:32pm

    Yeah a season in which the defense remains bad, but those two look like future blocks to build around, and ultimately ends up with the opportunity to draft your future QB, is a reasonable outcome. 

    Points: 0

    #48 by Joey-Harringto… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:43pm

    "to me it will be a shame if they go 5-12 (or thereabouts) and Dan Campbell gets fired"

    Not happening.  The Fords will give you years to prove your incompetence before they fire you (Darryl Rogers, Matt Millen, Matt Patricia are all testaments to that).  The FO has always been pretty realistic that they have way too many holes to fill in one or two offseasons.

    "Still, you need to see some signs of life (especially from the high draft picks) and pathetic showings like last Sunday cannot be tolerated forever."

    Agreed.  I said on another thread that I'm starting to have concerns about Aaron Glenn.  He seems to want to play defense his New Orleans teams did (heavy doses of cover-1, blitzing, press man) without having the horses to do so successfully.  Maybe he'll look at the film and finally realize he doesn't, and change things up (Campbell basically came out and said this was happening, but we'll see). 

    As AaronBrooks said above, Hutchinson (generating pressures even if sacks have been sporadic) and Okudah  (had a rough game against Metcalf, but was quite good against Devonta Smith, Terry McLaurin, and Justin Jefferson) have been promising, as has 6th rd rookie Malcolm Rodriguez.  That's at least something they can build on.  

    I don't expect the offense to maintain this pace all season, but if the defense can at least upgrade from a small, hard to see traffic cone to a large, annoying speed bump, then they'll have a shot to win a few more games.

    Points: 0

    #54 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:55pm

    Agreed.  I said on another thread that I'm starting to have concerns about Aaron Glenn.  He seems to want to play defense his New Orleans teams did (heavy doses of cover-1, blitzing, press man) without having the horses to do so successfully.  Maybe he'll look at the film and finally realize he doesn't, and change things up (Campbell basically came out and said this was happening, but we'll see). 

    I tend to believe Campbell. He's fired coordinators who didn't get it before.

    Points: 0

    #51 by jheidelberg // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:48pm

    Fields, Mayfield at bottom of NFC, Ryan, Daniel Jones, Mills, Wentz, Trubisky, Flacco.

    Hope that fixed your brain.

    Points: 0

    #30 by Joey-Harringto… // Oct 04, 2022 - 1:02pm

    IIRC, the Bears intended Erik Kramer to be the full time starter in 1994, but he couldn’t stay healthy, forcing Steve Walsh to start multiple games.  I remember ESPN talking heads at the time saying, “Kramer has better stats, but Walsh is just a winner!”

    Points: 0

    #64 by TomC // Oct 04, 2022 - 8:16pm

    This late-middle-aged Bears fan deems you correct on both counts.

    Walsh, with his accuracy, pocket presence, and aversity to turnovers was the perfect qb for an otherwise stacked team. Sadly, that team was not the 1994 Bears.

    Though Kramer wasn't the classic coach killer like Jeff George or Cutler, he did have a tendency to throw gorgeous spirals that ended up being intercepted. In our weekly touch football game around 1998, my brother in law threw an absolutely perfect ball that was picked in the end zone, and someone yelled from a passing car: "Nice throw, Kramer!" 

    Points: 0

    #32 by BJR // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:05pm

    It's remarkable how unremarkable it is seeing Tom Brady still attempting 52 passes in a game and still coming out atop the DYAR rankings. Strange to say after their defense was shredded, but I'm more positive about them going forward seeing Brady with his main weapons back and still able to produce like that. 

    OTOH it's scary for the rest of the league that the Chiefs can put up 40+ against a perceived good defense, even without a vintage Mahomes outing. Their O-Line looked dominant . There was real 'pop' in the running game, which I hadn't seen before. Clearly a fantastic game-planning job by Reid also. 

     

    Points: 0

    #35 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:16pm

    Mahomes basically "debuted" in a game in which he put up 51 on the NFC champions despite five turnovers.
    https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201811190ram.htm

    Mahomes just hits stretched in which he goes incandescent.

    Points: 0

    #47 by Paul R // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:37pm

    Re Matt Ryan's effectiveness passing to tight ends: 

    The Colts have a rookie TE named Jelani Woods. In Sunday's game he went 1/1 for 33 yards. The previous week, he went 2/3 for 13 yards and two touchdowns. Those are his entire career stats so far. Woods is 6'7" and 253 pounds. Keep your eyes on that guy.

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    #49 by serutan // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:44pm

    I would have thought Vinny Testaverde qualified for the BFB list.  Was he never benched?

    Points: 0

    #55 by Aaron Brooks G… // Oct 04, 2022 - 2:56pm

    Just his 2004 season, I think. All his other non-starter seasons were injury-related, I think.

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    #57 by Joey-Harringto… // Oct 04, 2022 - 3:02pm

    I guess unless you want to count Tampa Bay giving up on him after 1992, although that's technically not a "benching".  He started as the backup to Kosar in Cleveland before eventually taking over the starting job.

    Points: 0

    #60 by Vincent Verhei // Oct 04, 2022 - 3:14pm

    Three times! 1994 with the Browns, 2000 with the Jets, 2004 with the Cowboys. But he wasn't terribly effective in 1994 (13th in DYAR, 12th in DVOA). 2000 doesn't count because he was injured in 1999 (torn achilles), not benched. And he was 16th/17th in DYAR/DVOA in 2004.

    Points: 0

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