The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Consistent inconsistency in NFL quarterbacks

Posted by disappointmentzone on 25 September 2007

Here are the NFL Passer Ratings for a few quarterbacks from the first few games of their careers. Let’s see if anyone can guess who each player is.

Player A: 62.9, 79.6, 58.7, 93.4, 148.3, 57.1

Player B: 39.8, 91, 90.4, 76.7, 59.5, 25.3

Player C: 136.8, 68, 58.7, 91, 65.1, 87.3

Player D: 98.6, 148, 64.9, 100.5, 101.2, 10.2, 137.4

Player E: 62.3, 97.6, 101.7, 88.9, 84.1, 81.6

Player F: 43.1, 91.7, 88.6, 36.3, 51.7, 47.7

Okay, determining from a set of numbers the quarterback responsible for them is an impossible task. So how about this instead: Can you determine the draft order of the quarterbacks?

Of course, who knows if draft position really matters in the NFL. For every John Elway there is a Tim Couch. What’s ultimately most important is what a player does once he comes into the league. So why not try guessing the number of Pro Bowls for each quarterback?

Hmmm. That might be tough too. Would more Passer Rating statistics help, maybe flesh out each player’s profile? They would? OK! Of course, to keep things interesting let’s disguise this next group of numbers. These Passer Ratings come from consecutive games in each player’s career but they are not ordered to match the list above.

Set 1: 100.3, 89.3, 51.4, 137.3, 41.1

Set 2: 105.7, 81.4, 23.7, 1.3, 114.4, 104.3

Set 3: 111.6, 42.5, 93.4, 122.8, 89, 52.6

Set 4: 91, 131.1, 92.3, 140.8, 59.9, 63.5

Set 5: 114.3, 87.5, 96.9, 60.2, 140.5, 92.6

Set 6: 79, 96.6

Now you have a nice sample for each player, albeit it a little jumbled. Can you connect each set to the correct player? That should make a big difference in determining which player has had a good career, which would go a long way to winning the guessing game.

Ok. Maybe that’s too tough a task as well. Let’s just combine everything. That should make it easier.

Player A: 62.9, 79.6, 58.7, 93.4, 148.3, 57.1 / 111.6, 42.5, 93.4, 122.8, 89, 52.6

Player B: 39.8, 91, 90.4, 76.7, 59.5, 25.3 / 114.3, 87.5, 96.9, 60.2, 140.5, 92.6

Player C: 136.8, 68, 58.7, 91, 65.1, 87.3 / 91, 131.1, 92.3, 140.8, 59.9, 63.5

Player D: 98.6, 148, 64.9, 100.5, 101.2, 10.2, 137.4 / 105.7, 81.4, 23.7, 1.3, 114.4, 104.3

Player E: 62.3, 97.6, 101.7, 88.9, 84.1, 81.6 / 79, 96.6

Player F: 43.1, 91.7, 88.6, 36.3, 51.7, 47.7 / 100.3, 89.3, 51.4, 137.3, 41.1

Now that you have all the numbers tied to the correct players, can you tell which players have been to the Pro Bowl? Which players were high draft picks? Which players are struggling to keep their starting jobs? Which players are being touted as The Future of their respective franchises? Which players are already a lock for the Hall of Fame?

Yeah, that’s still pretty tough. You could venture a guess, though. Perhaps a smart guess would be that Player D is the Pro Bowl sure-fire Hall of Famer and Player B is struggling to keep his starting job. Judging by the numbers it would be hard to disagree with you. But what’s difficult in all of this is just how damn inconsistent the numbers are. It seems that every quarterback fluctuates between really good games and really bad games, no matter if the quarterback is headed to the Hall of Fame or the bench, and that the degree of fluctuation is pretty consistent for each quarterback. Everyone’s high, everyone’s low, everyone’s in the middle, but no one is high or low or in the middle on a regular basis. In fact, the only safe conclusion you could probably draw from these numbers is that all quarterbacks are consistently inconsistent.

Which is true and ultimately the point of this post. For the moment let’s hold off on referring to the “good” Derek Anderson and the “bad” Derek Anderson, as Mary Kay Cabot does in today’s Plain Dealer:

“…it would help if [Crennel] could get “Good” Derek Anderson to show up this week…”

Sure Anderson has had good games and bad games, but the above list shows that all quarterbacks have an element of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s just the nature of a game in which all 11 guys must work together.

Statistical analysis of football players is still comparatively weak to sports like baseball because football is so complex. Think of all the things that must go right for a pass to be completed and how many of those things have nothing to do with the quarterback. Is the running game good enough that the play action fake froze the safety? Did the line block long enough to give the quarterback time to make his reads? Did the receiver run the right route? Did the receiver catch the ball? Is the offensive coordinator mixing up the play calling enough so that the defense is kept on its feet? And so on.

The by-product of all these parts working together is that when one fails the entire mechanism can fail, which is why quarterbacks test out as inconsistent. This is also why quarterbacks shouldn’t be awarded win and losses, but that’s another story.

Anyway, here are the answers to the quiz.

Player A: Tom Brady
Player B: Joey Harrington
Player C: Drew Brees
Player D: Rex Grossman
Player E: Jay Cutler
Player F: Matt Leinart

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2 Responses to “Consistent inconsistency in NFL quarterbacks”

  1. MandM said

    Let me ask you this. Would you Start Rex Grossman on Sunday if the Bears cut him today?

  2. There is no way I’d give the starting job to Grossman were he cut by the Bears.

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