In 2015, Carson Palmer finished first in ANY/A, as did his Arizona Cardinals. It was a magnificent passing season for Palmer, who was 36 years old last season. In the offseason, I noted that it was a big outlier, but there were a couple of ways you could interpret the data:
If you’re a Palmer fan, the results here can both show how much of an outlier Palmer is, but also might be considered inspiring. Peyton Manning was really good at age 36 and then historic at age 37; Gannon and Steve Young had great years at 36, and then were even better at age 37. The same goes (with a slightly lower baseline) for John Elway, Kurt Warner, and Tom Brady. Supporting cast is undoubtedly a big part of this, and Palmer seems to be playing with one of the best ones. The wildcard in the room is how much his meltdown in the NFC Championship Game impacts him mentally.
The general rule of thumb, I think, for an older quarterback is to project them to be OK until they aren’t. What does that mean? Well, I think of Adam Harstad’s mortality tables. Just because a quarterback is old doesn’t mean he’s going to have a 5 or 10% decline: guys like Manning, Gannon, Young, Elway, Warner, Brady, and Brees are examples of that. But once that decline hits, it’s often severe and permanent. For now, though, Palmer is still one of the rare quarterbacks who had his best season at age 36.
Well, we have our answer. While teams like the Texans, Panters, and Jets have suffered notable declines in the passing game, all three teams are dwarfed by the decline in pass efficiency endured by the Cardinals this season:
|Rk||Team||2015 ANY/A||2015 Rk||2016 ANY/A||2016 Rk||Diff|
|5||New England Patriots||7.48||4||8.56||2||1.07|
|9||Green Bay Packers||6.07||20||6.80||9||0.73|
|14||Kansas City Chiefs||6.44||13||6.52||12||0.08|
|15||New Orleans Saints||7.25||5||7.24||6||-0.01|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||6.44||12||6.40||13||-0.04|
|19||San Diego Chargers||6.51||11||6.40||14||-0.12|
|20||San Francisco 49ers||5.35||28||5.10||27||-0.25|
|22||St. Louis Rams||5.15||29||4.57||31||-0.59|
|23||New York Giants||6.82||8||6.09||21||-0.73|
|31||New York Jets||6.38||14||4.80||29||-1.59|
The split is particularly severe if you manipulate the end points a little bit. Take a look at his first 15 games last season, compared to his last 15 games: that’s week 17 of last year, his two playoff games, and his 12 starts (he missed one game this season due to injury) this year:
Carson Palmer's dropoff is unbelievable. Here are his splits in his last 30 games. Went from MVP to terrible. pic.twitter.com/je6uaKzRMY
— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) December 12, 2016
Those are brutal declines across the board: not just completion percentage, TD rate, sack rate, and INT rate, which are obvious from the chart above, but also yards per completion. He averaged 13.8 yards per completion in his first 15 games last season, but is down to 11.4 since. The only way such a decline is acceptable is if he was much more efficient and conservative, but his interception rate, sack rate, and completion percentage have gone in the tank, too.
This isn’t exactly a #breakingnews post, but the decline Palmer has suffered this year has been remarkable.