The real question is whether any of that matters. In general, I’m a Splits Happen type of analyst, but I thought I would run some numbers. As it turns out, perhaps there is some reason to think Smith’s strong December (subject to the caveats below) is a sign of good things to come. Here’s what I did:
From 1990 to 2013, there were 51 quarterbacks who threw at least 224 passes during their rookie season. Toss out the 2013 rookies (EJ Manuel, Smith, and Mike Glennon), along with the nine quarterbacks who threw fewer than 100 passes in year two (Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Leaf, Kyle Orton, Chad Hutchinson, Andrew Walter, Bruce Gradkowski, Chris Weinke, Ken Dorsey, and Matt Stafford), and that leaves us with 39 quarterbacks who threw at least 224 passes as a rookie since 1990 and then at least 100 passes in their second season. For those quarterbacks, I calculated their Y/A and AY/A averages over their final 4 games of the season, and their Y/A and AY/A averages over the first 1-12 games of the season (with the 224 pass attempts minimum, I felt pretty confident that we would have a large enough sample on the “early” portion of the season). Then I looked at how those 39 quarterbacks fared in their second years.
The table below shows all 39 quarterbacks, plus the 2013 rookies. Here’s how to read the table below. Heath Shuler, a rookie for Washington in 1994, had 150 “early” season attempts, defined as all pass attempts before the final 4 games of the season. His early year Y/A average was 5.0 and his AY/A average was 2.8. Shuler had 115 “late” season attempts, defined as pass attempts in the final four games. His Y/A in the late part of the season was 7.9, and his AY/A was 7.8. As a result, Shuler improved his Y/A by 3.0 and his AY/A by 5.0 over the final four games of the season. In Year N+1 — i.e., 1995 for Shuler — he had 125 pass attempts, and averaged 6.0 Y/A and 3.9 AY/A. [click to continue…]