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Bradford looks to check down

Bradford looks to check down.

As a rookie, Sam Bradford ranked last in the league in yards per completion. That year, he averaged 9.92 YPC, 1.61 yards per completion lower than the league average of 11.53. In his second and third years — 2011 and 2012 — Bradford was a little better in that metric, but he still finished 0.65 and 0.34 yards per completion below league average in those seasons. So far in 2013, Bradford has earned his reputation as a checkdown artist: with a 10.21 YPC average, he’s averaged 1.43 fewer yards per completion than the average quarterback.

If you take a weighted average (based on his number of completions in each season), Bradford has been 0.98 yards per completion below league average over the course of his 980 career completed passes. In August, I noted that the Rams have experienced constant turnover at offensive coordinator and wide receiver since Bradford entered the league. This year, with Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, and developing talents like Chris Givens, expectations were high for Bradford. So far, we’ve seen more of the same from Bradford, which means lots of checkdowns and few big plays.

For his career, Bradford has averaged just 10.68 yards per completion. The table below shows the 164 quarterbacks since 1950 to complete at least 850 passes. The far right column represents the difference between each quarterback’s career yards per completion average minus the league average (calculated on a weighted-average basis for each quarterback based on his number of completions in each season) rate. As it turns out, Bradford ranks in the “top five” when it comes to the worst era-adjusted yards per completion averages.

RkQuarterbackFirst YrLast YrCmpYardsY/CLgAvgUnder
1Bill Munson1964197910701289612.0513.38-1.33
2Kyle Boller20032011861893110.3711.49-1.12
3Joey Harrington2002200714241469310.3211.42-1.1
4John Brodie1957197324693154812.7813.86-1.08
5Sam Bradford201020139801047110.6811.66-0.98
6Roman Gabriel1962197723662944412.4413.4-0.95
7Y.A. Tittle1950196421182833913.3814.33-0.95
8Ryan Fitzpatrick2005201213381433610.7111.63-0.92
9Mike Phipps197019818861050611.8612.73-0.87
10Milt Plum1957196913061753613.4314.29-0.86
11Dan Pastorini1971198315561851511.912.74-0.84
12Billy Wade1954196613701853013.5314.36-0.84
13Archie Manning1971198420112391111.8912.71-0.82
14David Carr2002201213531445210.6811.46-0.77
15Bernie Kosar1985199619942330111.6912.42-0.74
16Jack Trudeau198619958731024311.7312.41-0.67
17Brad Johnson1994200826682905410.8911.56-0.67
18Ken O'Brien1984199321102509411.8912.55-0.66
19Tim Couch1999200310251113110.8611.5-0.64
20Fran Tarkenton1961197836864700312.7513.38-0.63
21Joe Montana1979199434094055111.912.52-0.63
22Steve DeBerg1978199828743424111.9112.53-0.61
23Steve Bono198519999341043911.1811.79-0.61
24Sonny Jurgensen1957197424333222413.2413.85-0.61
25Rick Mirer199320031088119691111.61-0.61
26Alex Smith2005201313541494911.0411.58-0.54
27Troy Aikman1989200028983294211.3711.89-0.53
28Charlie Conerly1950196111041517513.7514.27-0.52
29Jim Harbaugh1987200023052628811.411.92-0.52
30Chad Pennington2000201016321782310.9211.42-0.49
31Kordell Stewart1995200313161474611.2111.7-0.49
32Bart Starr1956197118082471813.6714.13-0.46
33Tony Eason198319909111114212.2312.69-0.46
34Brian Sipe1974198319442371312.212.65-0.45
35Brian Griese1998200817521944011.111.51-0.42
36Don Majkowski1987199610561270012.0312.44-0.41
37Jason Campbell2006201313291468811.0511.45-0.4
38Mike Livingston196919799121129512.3812.77-0.39
39Bobby Hebert1985199618392168311.7912.18-0.39
40Rich Gannon1987200425332874311.3511.72-0.37
41Jon Kitna1997201126772974511.1111.48-0.37
42Tommy Kramer1977199020122477712.3112.68-0.36
43Ken Stabler1970198422702793812.3112.64-0.33
44Joe Theismann1974198520442520612.3312.66-0.33
45Matt Cassel2005201212031349511.2211.55-0.33
46Ken Anderson1971198626543283812.3712.69-0.31
47Greg Landry1968198412761605212.5812.89-0.31
48Len Dawson1957197521362871113.4413.7-0.26
49Bubby Brister1986200012071444511.9712.23-0.26
50Jim McMahon1982199614921814812.1612.42-0.26
51Chad Henne20082013858971011.3211.57-0.25
52Billy Kilmer1961197815852049512.9313.14-0.21
53Kyle Orton2005201212931462111.3111.51-0.2
54Erik Kramer1987199913171533711.6511.84-0.19
55Danny White1976198817612195912.4712.66-0.19
56Dave M. Brown199220008921024811.4911.68-0.19
57Jeff Garcia1999200822642553711.2811.47-0.19
58Brett Favre1991201063007183811.411.58-0.18
59Byron Leftwich200320129301053211.3211.5-0.18
60Norm Snead1961197622763079713.5313.71-0.18
61Steve Bartkowski1975198619322412412.4912.66-0.17
62Gary Danielson1977198811051376412.4612.63-0.17
63Matt Ryan2008201317351986611.4511.62-0.17
64Neil Lomax1981198818172277112.5312.69-0.16
65Neil O'Donnell1991200318652169011.6311.78-0.15
66George Blanda1950197519022672314.0514.18-0.13
67Steve McNair1995200727333130411.4511.57-0.12
68Matthew Stafford2009201311911382711.6111.72-0.11
69Tobin Rote1950196613291885014.1814.29-0.11
70Drew Brees2001201341164694011.411.51-0.1
71Elvis Grbac1994200114461677411.611.7-0.1
72Matt Hasselbeck1999201230293451711.411.49-0.1
73Joe Ferguson1973199023692981712.5912.64-0.06
74Carson Palmer2004201326343022711.4811.53-0.05
75Dave Krieg1980199831053814712.2912.33-0.04
76David Garrard2002201014061600311.3811.42-0.04
77Billy Joe Tolliver198919998911076012.0812.11-0.04
78Vince Ferragamo197719869021133612.5712.6-0.03
79Mark Brunell1994201127613207211.6211.63-0.01
80Jim Zorn1976198716692111512.6512.66-0.01
81Drew Bledsoe1993200638394461111.6211.620
82Trent Dilfer1994200717592051811.6611.660
83Bob Griese1967198019262509213.0313.010.02
84Chris Miller1987199915801932012.2312.210.02
85Joe Flacco2008201315791837711.6411.610.03
86Bert Jones1973198214301819012.7212.640.08
87Wade Wilson1981199813911728312.4212.340.08
88Randall Cunningham1985200124292997912.3412.260.09
89Mark Sanchez2009201210281209211.7611.670.09
90Dan Marino1983199949676136112.3512.260.1
91Jim Everett1986199728413483712.2612.120.14
92Johnny Unitas1956197328304023914.2214.080.14
93Josh Freeman2009201311441353411.8311.690.14
94Jake Plummer1997200624842925311.7811.620.15
95Marc Bulger2002200919692281411.5911.430.15
96Richard Todd1976198516102061012.812.650.16
97Kerry Collins1995201134874092211.7411.560.17
98Jeff George1990200122982760212.0111.830.18
99Jim Kelly1986199628743546712.3412.150.19
100Peyton Manning1998201351716063011.7311.530.2
101Warren Moon1984200039884932512.3712.170.2
102Ron Jaworski1974198921872819012.8912.670.22
103Tony Banks1996200512781531511.9811.750.23
104Tom Brady2000201338714550411.7611.510.25
105Stan Humphries1989199714311719112.0111.760.25
106Rex Grossman200320118631023211.8611.60.26
107Jay Fiedler1998200510081184411.7511.490.26
108Jeff Blake1992200518272171111.8811.620.26
109Donovan McNabb1999201131703727611.7611.480.28
110John Elway1983199841235147512.4812.20.28
111Bill Kenney1980198813301727712.9912.680.31
112Jay Cutler2006201318642200911.8111.50.31
113Rodney Peete1989200413441633812.1611.840.31
114Vinny Testaverde1987200737874623312.2111.890.31
115Jeff Hostetler1988199713571643012.1111.770.34
116Scott Mitchell1992200113011569212.0611.70.36
117Dan Fouts1973198732974304013.0512.660.4
118Charley Johnson1961197517372441014.0513.650.4
119Babe Parilli1952196915522268114.6114.20.42
120Chris Chandler1988200423282848412.2411.80.43
121Mark Rypien1988200114661847312.612.160.44
122Matt Schaub2004201319012278211.9811.530.45
123Phil Simms1979199325763346212.9912.540.45
124Steve Young1985199926673312412.4211.950.47
125Jim Hart1966198425933466513.3712.890.48
126Daunte Culpepper2000200920162415311.9811.470.51
127Charlie Batch199820129081108512.2111.70.51
128Don Meredith1960196811701719914.714.180.52
129Frank Ryan1958197010901604214.7214.190.53
130Boomer Esiason1984199729693792012.7712.230.55
131Marc Wilson1980199010851439113.2612.710.55
132Jake Delhomme1999201117412097512.0511.490.56
133Eli Manning2004201326793245812.1211.530.58
134Eddie LeBaron195219638981339914.9214.310.62
135Tony Romo2006201321802650812.1611.540.62
136Jim Plunkett1971198619432588213.3212.70.62
137Kurt Warner1998200926663234412.1311.490.64
138Aaron Brooks2000200616732026112.1111.470.64
139Doug Flutie1986200511771471512.511.850.65
140Jack Kemp1957196914362121814.7814.120.66
141Craig Morton1965198220532790813.5912.910.68
142John Hadl1962197723633350314.1813.480.69
143Lynn Dickey1971198517472332213.3512.650.7
144Philip Rivers2004201323382868912.2711.540.73
145Bobby Layne1950196216432474015.0614.30.75
146Roger Staubach1969197916852270013.4712.710.76
147Mike Tomczak1985199912481607912.8812.120.76
148Aaron Rodgers2005201318332271812.3911.590.8
149Norm Van Brocklin1950196015212301015.1314.280.85
150Steve Beuerlein1988200318942404612.711.840.85
151Gus Frerotte1994200816992129112.5311.580.95
152Michael Vick2001201316772110612.5911.571.01
153Ben Roethlisberger2004201324413069212.5711.551.02
154Trent Green1997200822662847512.5711.541.03
155Doug Williams1978198912401699813.7112.661.05
156Terry Bradshaw1970198320252798913.8212.761.06
157Earl Morrall1956197613792080915.0914.031.06
158Bill Nelsen196319729631416514.7113.641.07
159Otto Graham195019558721349915.4814.231.25
160Joe Namath1965197718862766314.6713.381.28
161Daryle Lamonica1963197412881915414.8713.571.3
162Steve Grogan1975199018792688614.3112.681.63
163Jay Schroeder1985199414262006314.0712.361.71
164Ed Brown195419659491560016.4414.332.1

Ed Brown, who played first with Harlon Hill and later Buddy Dial, comes in as the biggest deep thrower of the last 64 years. A pair of AFL greats, Daryle Lamonica and Joe Namath, also make the top five in terms of yards per completion over average. Among active quarterbacks, Ben Roethlisberger (1.02), Michael Vick (1.01), Aaron Rodgers (0.80), Philip Rivers (0.73), and Tony Romo (0.62) are the top five active quarterbacks in YPC over average, while Bradford, Alex Smith (-0.54), Jason Campbell (-0.4), Chad Henne (-0.25), and Matt Ryan (-0.17) come in the bottom five.

Yards per completion is not the best way to grade a quarterback, or even a good one. Great quarterbacks like Joe Montana and Fran Tarkenton have low yards per completion averages, and the presence of Y.A. Tittle on the list makes sense in light of this post. But the issue with Bradford is his low YPC is paired with an unimpressive 58.3$ completion rate, and he’s been below league-average in completion percentage every year of his career. I agree with Jason Lisk — it may be time to give up on Sam Bradford, pending his performance over the final twelve games of the year.

{ 6 comments }
  • Guru September 29, 2013, 2:58 am

    Or you could just check out this list: http://pfref.com/tiny/56Ab6

    For a QB that is grouped with the Hennes, Sanchezes and Ponders of the world, Bradford’s gotten off easy.

    Reply
  • Red September 30, 2013, 8:37 pm

    When I look at Bradford, I see a guy who tries way too hard not to throw INT’s, and the rest of his game suffers as a result. Check out his career advanced passing stats:

    Y/A+ 84
    Cmp%+ 92
    TD%+ 87
    INT%+ 109

    This pattern holds true without exception for every year of his career. In a vacuum, INT’s are bad of course, but in Bradford’s case it would serve him well to take more risks and go for some big plays. And I don’t think you can blame his conservative play on personnel, because there are plenty of high Y/C players on this list who had weak supporting casts.

    Sam Bradford is basically a clone of Jason Campbell. It’s no coincidence that neither QB has ever led a strong offense.

    Reply

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