In my Washington Post article this week, I noted that Ryan Fitzpatrick was doing well as Jets quarterback in part because he was often playing with the lead. Fitzpatrick threw a whopping 58 times against the Eagles, and all but two of those plays came with the Jets trailing. In his other four games, Fitzpatrick threw just 18 passes while trailing. And, this year, Fitzpatrick has a 6.5 ANY/A average while throwing passes with the lead, and 4.8 ANY/A while throwing passes while trailing.1
But I thought it would be fun to see how every quarterback has fared this year while leading and then while trailing, with a minimum of 30 pass attempts in each situation. That’s what graphed below, and the two guys who really stand out are Cam Newton and Andy Dalton. The Bengals quarterback has been outstanding this year in both situations, while the Panthers quarterback has been significantly more impressive this year while trailing. In the graph below, the X-Axis shows ANY/A while leading; for Newton, that’s a pedestrian 5.5 ANY/A. The Y-Axis shows ANY/A while trailing, which is an incredible 9.2.
- On average this season, quarterbacks have a 6.81 ANY/A average while passing with the lead, and a 6.10 ANY/A while passing while trailing. This is driven not by any one factor, but by slight edges in all the components of ANY/A. While trailing, quarterbacks have produced slightly worse numbers across the board, although understanding the cause and effect here is tricky. In any event, passes attempted while leading have edges in completion percentage (65.4% to 63.2%), yards per attempt (7.7 to 7.2), touchdown rate (5.1% to 4.5%), interception rate (2.4% to 2.7%), sack rate (5.9% to 6.2%), and net yards per attempt (6.9 to 6.4).
- In addition to Newton, Peyton Manning and Joe Flacco are the quarterbacks who see the biggest bump while trailing. On the other side, Brandon Weeden, Tyrod Taylor, Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, join Fitzpatrick as the passers whose numbers have been elevated most while leading.
- Not included in the graph above: Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, who each have at least 119 passes while leading but under 30 while trailing (for what it’s worth, both have been outstanding while trailing, with Rodgers at 10.9 ANY/A and Brady at 12.0!). Matthew Stafford, Colin Kaepernick, Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler,and Jameis Winston all have at least 114 passes while trailing but less than 30 while leading. And, even more incredibly: Andrew Luck has just 6 passes while leading, 129 while trailing, while Josh McCown has only 3 (!) passes while leading but 140 while trailing.
As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.
- Frankly, even that understates the split. Fitzpatrick was terrible in the Eagles game, which, admittedly, may have more to do with the Eagles defense than the Game Script. But Fitzpatrick averaged 2.98 ANY/A that day. In 13 passes against the Browns — all of which came in the 2nd quarter with the Jets trailing by 3 or 7 points — he averaged 7.1 ANY/A. And in 5 passes against Washington, Fitzpatrick averaged 20.2 ANY/A, which was largely the result of yards after the catch gained by his receivers. [↩]