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Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks

Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

It's time to take a trip back to the summer and revisit our 2010 Wisdom of Crowds predictions. For those that have forgotten, it's an exercise we go through before and after each season with the help of my Twitter account. Each day, I ask users to predict three statistics for a given player while assuming that the player in question will play a full 16-game season. We use the average projection as our baseline projection of what the public thinks about a particular player's performance heading into the season. Now, we'll review those predictions and the thoughts I gave about them before this season passed. We will start this week with quarterbacks, finishing them up along with wide receivers next week, and then cover running backs the week after that.

For reference, you can read the original prediction articles covered in this piece here and here. With each player, I'll provide his average projected performance, his actual performance, and then, for those players who missed time, his pro-rated performance for a 16-game season.

Donovan McNabb

Projected: 3406 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 3377 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
Pro-rated: 4156 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 18 interceptions

McNabb ended up nearly hitting his yardage total and actually exceeded his interception total despite only playing in 13 games. He would have been well over the yardage total if it wasn't for some spectacularly poor drops; while every other quarterback has passes dropped, not every quarterback has a number of passes dropped 40 yards downfield. The yardage bump came thanks to an unexpectedly high number of attempts, as McNabb threw 472 passes; in 2003, he only threw 478 in a full 16-game season. His interception rate spiked, with the highest figure since his 216-attempt rookie season. It seems awful unlikely that he'll throw an interception on more than three percent of his passes again, which could make him an undervalued asset heading into free agency.

Tom Brady

Projected: 4164 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 3900 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, 4 interceptions

For reference, Brady's most sanguine projection had him with seven interceptions. Obviously, the 0.8 percent interception rate is totally unsustainable and is likely to double -- if not go even higher -- in 2011. I thought Brady's yardage total would actually exceed the average projection and hit 4400, but Brady only threw 492 passes in 2010. That's the second-lowest full-season total of his career.

Matt Schaub

Projected: 4218 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
Actual: 4370 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

Considering nobody expected Arian Foster to score 16 rushing touchdowns before the season, this seems like a pretty solid projection by the crowd. The difference between the projection and Schaub's actual performance amounts to one catch for 9.5 yards per game.

Eli Manning

Projected: 3705 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
Actual: 4002 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, 25 interceptions

The interception total comes thanks to the outstretched fingertips of Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham, but Manning's projection was low across the board. All those interceptions meant more chances for the Giants offense, which had a league-leading 201 drives in 2010. In 2009, they only had 180 drives, which was in the middle of the league's pack.

Philip Rivers

Projected: 4146 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 4710 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

Despite adding a first-round running back and starting the year without Vincent Jackson or Marcus McNeill, Rivers' passing numbers went up yet again. He traded a little bit of efficiency for volume, exceeding his previous pass attempt total by 55 to hit 541. I didn't think Rivers would make it to 500 attempts, projecting him at 4000 yards with 26 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Aaron Rodgers

Projected: 4440 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 12 interceptions
Actual: 3922 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, 11 interceptions
Pro-rated: 4183 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 12 interceptions

Rodgers' interception rate in 2009 was at an unsustainable 1.3 percent; naturally, it bounced back up to a more reasonable 2.3 percent in 2010. I've pro-rated his numbers above assuming that he played 15 games; if we actually pro-rate them by assuming he played 14.5 games (not giving him credit for that second half against the Lions), he's at 4,328 passing yards, with 33 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That's dead on.

Jason Campbell

Projected: 3247 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, 15 interceptions
Actual: 2387 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions
Pro-rated: 2938 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 10 interceptions

I thought Campbell's projected interception rate was a little high heading into the season. He certainly will take sacks and fumble with the best of them, but Campbell protects the ball too well to throw that many picks. With $4.5 million left in the final year of his contract, he's going to be back in Oakland.

Jay Cutler

Projected: 4062 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 20 interceptions
Actual: 3274 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Pro-rated: 3492 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 17 interceptions

As you might have heard during the Bears' second-half run, Cutler didn't throw the ball quite as frequently in Chicago as might have been expected. Consider that in 2008, he averaged 38.5 attempts per game in Denver; that fell to 34.7 in 2009, but it hit 28.8 last season. The crowd rightly expected his interception rate to fall; I noted that I thought it would fall even further (good) and that he would not hit 27 touchdowns (also good), but that his yardage total looked right (not good).

Mark Sanchez

Projected: 3138 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions
Actual: 3291 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

That's another projection within ten yards per game of Sanchez's actual total, while the dip in interceptions probably has something to do with the Sanchize's league-leading dropped interception rate. I found it highly unlikely that he would hit 468 attempts, but he made it all the way up to 507, nearly seven attempts more per game than his 2009 figure.

Tony Romo

Projected: 4287 passing yards, 30 touchdowns, 13 interceptions
Actual: 1605 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 7 interceptions
Pro-rated: 4280 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions

We end with a figure ravaged by injury. I did note that his interception rate was going to rise from the 1.6 percent figure Romo hit in 2009, a career-low, but it's obviously unfair to judge Romo on five and a half games. On the other hand, he's now posted an interception rate greater than three percent in every season besides 2009.

Next Monday, I'll take a look back at the rest of the quarterbacks, and review the hopes and dreams that surrounded Randy Moss and several other wide receivers.


5 comments, Last at 22 Feb 2011, 11:35am

1 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks

Would it be possible to include number of attempts, or completion percentage in the actual stats? Know that this was not projected, but as it is referenced it is very nice to have the total handy here.

Maybe the same for the RB categories too when they come out?

2 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks

I'm so sick of every pundit saying Eli's interceptions are because of tipped balls. Ask any Giant fan, Eli throws high all the time. Alot of those tipped balls are his fault.

3 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks

I'll have to see if I still have my game notes, but I counted 8 interceptions that were completely or predominately the fault of the WR, and 4* that were equal between the QB and the WR. Yes, Eli tends to throw high, but he wasn't as bad in that respect this season as he had been in the past.

On the other hand, Nicks has made some pretty amazing grabs (and Manningham mades some pretty amazing cuts after the catch) that resulted in completions/TDs that most other WRs would not have gotten.

*(I think - I'm sure about the 8, but not so sure about this number)

4 Re: Wisdom of Crowds Review: Quarterbacks

My impression was that Romo, like Eli, had a truly massive number of blooper reel interceptions this year. We'll see how he comes back in 2011.