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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.

ANYA Trailing Leading 10-23-15

  • 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).
  • 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.

  1. 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. []
  • EverTheWiseFool

    I’m wondering if the sentence about Rodgers and Brady was supposed to indicate that they have been very successful while …leading.., but have under 30 passes while trailing….? Their respective team records and general tendencies make me suspect that you said the opposite of what you meant. Next sentence about both being outstanding while trailing accurate, or following in the same vein?

    • Whoops; just a typo. It’s fixed now.

  • Andy Dalton, destroyer of worlds.

  • Trepur

    How about career ANY/A for trailing/leading?

  • sacramento gold miners

    Ryan Fitzpatrick has had periods of short term success, but even with the lead, he’s the type of QB where the deficiencies would show up down the road. In other words, even if Fitzpatrick had a better supporting cast, those teams would surrender those leads and/or fail to be as successful.

  • Adam

    Chase, I think the leaguewide splits you gave are incorrect. How can the league average 8.1 Y/A while leading and 7.6 Y/A while trailing when the overall average is 7.3 Y/A? The other figures seem to be inflated in the same way.

    • You’re right. I was adding back in sack yards, but not realizing that those were not being included already, hence the overstatement. I don’t think there’s an issue with the other stats, tho.

  • Dr__P

    Might be more interesting to see how big the leads were. If you are far behind, the play calling/risk taking changes significantly. Several points up or down should not make a big difference.

    • True. Maybe something to analyze once the sample sizes are bigger.

      • Dr__P

        Perhaps you could use the last three years for data instead of just the games so far this year

  • anonymous

    If you’re leading, that implies that you’re probably playing an inferior opponent. (Or at the very least that your team is having an up day or the opponent is having a down day.) QBs should have a better ANY/A when leading for that reason. I think a better way to measure it is how ANY/A will change in the exact same game if the game situation changes.