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Kessler in a losing effort.

In 2016, Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler had an uneven year. He went 0-8, but he ranked 24th in ANY/A out of the 31 quarterbacks who started at least 8 games and threw at least 150 passes. His stats weren’t great, but they weren’t 0-8 bad, either. In PFR’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt Index, which attempts to adjust for era, Kessler ranked 15th out of the 43 rookie passers to meet the 8 start/150 attempt threshold. It was a pretty good rookie season that came with an 0-8 record.

And then there was Brock Osweiler.  The Texans quarterback — now on the Browns — was dead last with a pitiful 4.34 ANY/A average last season.  But for the second year in a row, Osweiler produced a winning record despite poor play; Houston went 8-6 with Osweiler under center.

I calculated the winning percentage and Relative ANY/A (i.e., ANY/A adjusted for era) for each passer since 1970 to meet the 8 start/150 attempt threshold.  I then calculated the standard deviations above/below average each passer was in each category.  Here are the results for 2016, and here’s how to read the Kessler line: he started 8 games for the Browns and had a 0.000 winning percentage.  His Relative ANY/A was -0.34, so just a hair below league average.  He was 2.53 standard deviations below average in winning percentage, but only 0.28 standard deviations below average in RANY/A.  As a result, he was 2.24 standard deviations better in RANY/A than he was in winning percentage; that was the highest number on the list.  Passers at the top had much better stats than wins; passers at the bottom (highlighted by Osweiler) had better wins than stats.

RkQuarterbackTeamStWin %RANY/AStDv Win%StDv RANY/ADiff
1Cody KesslerCLE80.000-0.34-2.53-0.282.24
2Colin KaepernickSFO110.091-0.29-2.07-0.251.82
3Matt RyanATL160.6882.810.952.371.42
4Drew BreesNOR160.4381.05-0.320.891.20
5Philip RiversSDG160.3130.16-0.950.131.08
6Kirk CousinsWAS160.5311.
7Blake BortlesJAX160.188-0.98-1.58-0.830.75
8Andy DaltonCIN160.4060.31-0.470.260.73
9Marcus MariotaTEN150.5330.920.170.780.61
10Andrew LuckIND150.5330.620.170.520.36
11Sam BradfordMIN150.4670.19-
12Aaron RodgersGNB160.6251.020.630.860.23
13Carson PalmerARI150.433-0.19-0.34-0.160.18
14Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ110.273-1.23-1.15-1.040.11
15Tom BradyNWE120.9172.592.102.180.08
16Tyrod TaylorBUF150.467-0.15-0.17-0.120.04
17Matthew StaffordDET160.5630.350.320.29-0.02
18Dak PrescottDAL160.8131.641.581.38-0.19
19Cam NewtonCAR140.429-0.76-0.36-0.64-0.28
20Ben RoethlisbergerPIT140.7140.771.080.65-0.44
21Russell WilsonSEA160.6560.340.790.29-0.50
22Trevor SiemianDEN140.571-0.170.36-0.15-0.51
23Jameis WinstonTAM160.563-0.230.32-0.20-0.51
24Ryan TannehillMIA130.6150.050.580.04-0.54
25Carson WentzPHI160.438-1.12-0.32-0.95-0.63
26Derek CarrOAK150.8000.981.520.83-0.69
27Case KeenumLAR90.444-1.16-0.28-0.97-0.69
28Joe FlaccoBAL160.500-0.830.00-0.70-0.70
29Alex SmithKAN150.7330.171.180.14-1.04
30Eli ManningNYG160.688-0.260.95-0.22-1.17
31Brock OsweilerHOU140.571-1.880.36-1.58-1.94

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Neither Kessler or Osweiler may be the Browns QB of the future, and they are very different. Kessler had 195 passing attempts in his rookie year with a struggling franchise, while Osweiler had just 30 pass attempts in his first three seasons for a contender. I was more impressed by Osweiler’s first real game experiences in 2015 than what I saw from Kessler in 2016. While Osweiler had a superior supporting cast, I doubt Kessler beats New England, and shows the kind of potential Osweiler did in his seven games in 2015.

    Obviously, Osweiler was disappointed with being replaced by Peyton Manning for the playoffs. We don’t know if a combination of the massive Houston offer, wanting to make a clean start, and Denver’s questions about his maturity played into his departure. I think Osweiler did a poor job of handling the pressure as the number one guy with a huge contract on a new team, and even had a physical altercation with a coach on the Texans staff. So his future is just as cloudy as Kessler’s.

    The league caught up with Trevor Sieman in 2016, and by the end of the season, the Broncos offense was being booed, and Denver failed to make the playoffs. So both the Texans and Broncos are now in on Tony Romo. Such is life in the NFL.

    • Jonathan Tolbert

      I think if you look at all of those 7 games with Denver you will notice the more games he played the worse he got as teams began to catch on to Osweiler. I think Denver noticed that’s why they didn’t go all in to keep him.

      • sacramento gold miners

        What about Osweiler’s second to last start against the playoff-bound Bengals? 69% completion percentage, over 100 passer rating in the victory. That was a nationally televised game.

  • Tom

    I like this way of looking at things, especially considering the “Team wins=QB is great” debate. It also confirms something I just “felt” last season…that Cody Kessler wasn’t *that* bad. In fact, I believe it was this “feeling” that led me to continually pick the Browns and the points in Pigskin Pick’Em (and we know how the Browns did last year against the spread…ugh).

    • I haven’t spent any time digging into his numbers — were they inflated by garbage time? were they fluky? — but there’s no doubt that a RANY/A of -0.34 on a terrible team as a rookie *sounds* impressive. Especially for a non-1st round pick.

      • Tom

        Other than my “Clutch Situation” stuff, I haven’t looked too deeply into his numbers either…maybe it was my “underdog bias” that made me think he was better than he was. He didn’t do too well in the clutch – 5 for 16, 59 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT, 2 sacks for 12 yards, -102 Clutch Value – but maybe unfair to judge a guy on only 18 plays. Osweiler wasn’t great either in the clutch, but not horrible – on 31 plays, he’s at -14 Clutch Value yards.

        And perhaps we can give Brock a bit more credit for those Houston wins…he does have 2 GWD/4QC’s! Of course, by that logic, Matthew Stafford “won” all but one of Detroit’s games this year…

  • sacramento gold miners

    Archie Manning is the poster child for a talented QB stuck in a terrible situation for years, but it’s the inevitable nature of the NFL. The draft plays a role in the fate of these QBs, no one deserves the opportunity to play for the team(s) they want. At least in this era, we have free agency, so a QB can opt for greener pastures.

    • It’s incredibly rare for quality QB’s to move during free agency though. Brees is the only example I can think of to have a quality career both sides of a FA deal.

      • Richie

        Peyton Manning is another. Their link is that they were both coming off injuries.

  • Adam

    How many QB’s have paired below average ANY/A with a winning record in consecutive seasons (min 150 attempts both seasons)? Can’t be that many.

  • Adam

    Since 2011, Alex Smith has a 60-25-1 record despite a 103 ANY/A+ and only a 96 NY/A+. Over the same span, Joe Flacco has a 51-39 record despite a 94 ANY/A+ and NY/A+. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse in saying QB wins is a terrible stat…but QB wins is a terrible stat.

    • sacramento gold miners

      Vince Young had a 30-17 mark in Tennessee before he imploded, but I think the Titans realized that wasn’t sustainable, and Young wasn’t able to succeed in the NFL after that. While QB wins shouldn’t be the only evaluation tool, we can’t discount the reason the games are played, and the link with the game’s most important position. You’re never going to see an HOF QB who played most of his career after the merger with a losing record. And if we had a standard for “good” QBs, like Alex Smith and Jeff Garcia, those guys would likely have winning records as well.

      • Adam

        Whoa there. Alex Smith is not in the same league as Jeff Garcia. In 2000 and 2001 Garcia played far better than Smith ever has, and put together five additional seasons that were at least as good as Smith’s peak. Alex Smith is a game manager; Jeff Garcia was a guy who could carry his offense.

        • Ryan

          Garcia was a CFL stud before hitting the NFL at age 29, a full career shape could have made him a darkhorse HOF candidate.

          • sacramento gold miners

            Yep, I offered the same view recently. My point about Smith and Garcia was in general terms, if we’re getting specific, I’m definitely taking Garcia over Smith right now.

      • Adam

        Alex Smith’s defenses, rank by points allowed:
        2011 – 2nd
        2012 – 2nd
        2013 – 5th
        2014 – 2nd
        2015 – 3rd
        2016 – 7th

        Since 2011, Alex Smith’s teams have won because of superior defense and special teams, not because of Alex Smith.

    • WR

      Are QB wins as unreliable as rating players based upon MVP awards and All-Pro selections?

      • Four Touchdowns

        Both are imperfect but wins seem to be worse — after all, as Chase points out above, a very poor QB in Brock Osweiler had a winning record this past season while an excellent QB in Drew Brees had a losing record. Trent Dilfer has a Super Bowl ring, Dan Marino does not. Jeff Hostetler has a Super Bowl ring, Fran Tarkenton does not.

        MVP and All-Pro selections are imperfect in that selection is subjective and we’re not sure what criteria is being applied (though this is mitigated by selection through consensus). However, I’m unaware of a flat-out bad QB like Brock Osweiler winning the MVP award or being named All-Pro. His strong teams in 2015 and 2016 can get him a winning record but no one is fooled into thinking he was an MVP or All-Pro candidate while doing so.

        • WR

          I’m with you. I was just teasing Adam a little, because he’s so down on Alex Smith. No one thinks he’s a superstar, but doesn’t a 103 ANY/A+ figure suggest that Smith is a pretty decent player? I do wonder if the reason why so many stat guys hate Smith and Bradford so much is because they haven’t lived up to the billing of being a number one pick.

          • Four Touchdowns

            I also feel Alex Smith is a bit underrated — he’s not a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers but I think he’s a good QB that can win you games. I’d rather have him than say, Joe Flacco, who has actually won it all.

        • sacramento gold miners

          Dilfer and Hostetler are the rare SB winning QB outliers, both caught lightning in a bottle, and neither the Ravens or Giants required big games from them to win. Jim Plunkett was unusual, a repeat SB winner who won’t be in Canton, but a tremendous talent who emerged late in his career.

          • Deacon Drake

            Plunkett was a great NCAA talent, but wasn’t mobile enough to survive behind the Patriots crappy line in the early ’70s. Took years of riding the bench for his shoulders to heal and then he was able to execute the Raiders offense better than Pastorini as Stabler’s replacement and hung around another 6 years.

  • Scott Walker

    Based on your explanation, I thought it would be ideal to be 0.00 in the Different column. Meaning that their stats were a pretty good match to their wining percentage.

    Lo and behold, there is Tom Brady at .008. He’s very close to zero.

    Interesting idea. It’s a good way to look at QBs who overperform or underperform in their circumstances.

  • WR

    Chase, it would be great to see a career version of this list.