The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Will Brady Quinn help?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 11 September 2007

With Charlie Frye now out of the picture there is a strong possibility that Brady Quinn will start Sunday against the Bengals. Is there any reason to expect that starting Brady Quinn with help?

I’m not yet sure.

But while I work on an answer for that I’d like to direct your attention to something I forgot to post a few weeks ago in my post about NFL experts’ choices for how many games the Browns will win the season, which I didn’t, in fact, post. I forgot.

Football Outsiders — the Baseball Prospectus of football, made somewhat famous recently when Aaron Schatz was featured on Bill Simmons’s podcast — posted its expected win totals for all 32 teams. Here is their prediction for the Browns (note that this was in a story about over/under win totals):

Cleveland Browns (+/- 6.0 Wins)

PFP 2007 Mean Projection: 7.6 Wins

Here’s a projection I agree with. While I did mention in the Bills section that offensive lines that stick together tend to improve, and that the Browns spent their first-round pick on left tackle Joe Thomas and signed guard Eric Steinbach away from Cincinnati, the line was so dire last year (31st in the NFL) that bringing in replacements can only help. A full season with center Hank Fraley and/or the possible return to health of former All-Pro center LeCharles Bentley also bodes well for what was a line in shambles.

The other somewhat hidden factor that should bounce back for the Browns this season? Injuries, particularly on the defensive side. The Browns, as a whole, were more hurt in 2006 than any team has been in the six years we’ve tracked injuries. A likely regression to the mean on those injuries would result in a healthy, deep team. There’s a serious success story brewing here, and a real chance to make money. Over.

So the Football Outsiders see the Browns as a likely candidate to exceed Vegas expectations.

Brian Burke of NFL Stats would probably agree. After doing a quick analysis of betting patterns and NFL performances over the last few years Burke came to this conclusion:

1. The NFL is impossible to predict before the season starts.

2. Regression to the mean rules the day.

Allow me to quote:

In practical terms, expert predictions, including the consensus Las Vegas over-under predictions, are bad primarily because they underestimate the annual tendency for bad teams to improve their records and good teams to worsen their records.

Why is this? Let’s let Phil Birnbaum of Sabermetric Research explain:

Basically, a lot of what happens over a short 16-game season is luck. Consider a team that goes 10-6 last year. It could be that this team is an average 8-8 team that got lucky, or a really great 12-4 team that got unlucky. There are so many more average teams than great teams, though, that the odds greatly favor the “lucky team” hypothesis. But fans have trouble grasping that; they see the actual 10-6 record, and think the team is likely to repeat that performance.

The same is true, in reverse, for the teams with bad records.

In a 16 game season luck can play a huge roll and the roll of luck is often underestimated when people think about how many games a team will win. The Browns suffered far more than their fair share of injuries the last season, had a couple of blatantly unfortunate losses, and all of a sudden the team fell short of its previous season’s win total. Now people look at the team’s performance against the Steelers and assume that there is no way the Browns can win more than a game or two. And this is just not the case.

I’ll grant you that when the Browns line up against their opponents each week very few times will the Browns be fielding a team that has a demonstrable advantage in talent or experience (and likely every week the Browns will face a team with a superior head coach) but that doesn’t mean that something small like a gimpy punter can’t make a huge difference over the short term, nor does it mean that an injection of youth and enthusiasm can’t be the difference between a win or a loss.

I have no idea how much of a difference Quinn will make. No one does. But there are only 15 games left and maybe the Browns will get lucky and be one of those teams that exceeds expectations.

I mean, we’re due. Right?


One Response to “Will Brady Quinn help?”

  1. Good post, I’m going to have to link it. It’s too bad Brady isn’t starting this sunday or I bet he’d spark us to a win, I really do.

    That said, I gotta get behind Derek Anderson and hope he does something.

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