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Smith against the Bucs

Smith looks to go deep against the Bucs.

We were very spoiled last year. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson had outstanding rookie seasons in 2012, and perhaps that set expectations a bit high for the 2013 class. No one will confuse those three with EJ Manuel, Geno Smith, and Mike Glennon, all of whom struggled for most of their rookie seasons. But while Smith and Glennon didn’t produce excellent numbers, they produced very interesting ones.

Among the 35 quarterbacks with the most pass attempts, Glennon finished a very pedestrian 27th in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. But he did it in a very unique way: Glennon had an outstanding 19/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he ranked dead last in Net Yards per Attempt. One reason for that is Glennon averaged only 10.6 yards per completion, the 3rd worst average among the 35 passers.

Smith finished 34th in ANY/A, largely due to his horrific 12/21 TD/INT ratio. He was a bit better in NY/A, ranking 28th, but what’s interesting about the Jets quarterback is that he ranked 7th in yards per completion. That metric is not a particularly effective measure of passer quality — after all, Matt Ryan ranked 35th — but it is a pretty good way to describe a quarterback’s style. While both Glennon and Smith were below average, they were below average in very different ways.

The table below shows the 35 quarterbacks with the most pass attempts in 2013. The quarterbacks are listed in descending order by their ANY/A average. Then, for each quarterback, I’ve listed his NY/A average, his TD/INT Ratio, and his Yards per Completion average, along with where he ranks in those three categories. As always, all tables are fully sortable and searchable.

QuarterbackTeamYearAgeANY/ANY/ATD/INTY/CNY/A RkTD/INT RkY/C Rk
Nick FolesPHI2013249.187.8813.514.2211
Peyton ManningDEN2013378.877.915.512.2129
Aaron RodgersGNB20133087.782.8313.1393
Philip RiversSDG2013327.797.542.9111.84711
Drew BreesNOR2013347.517.163.2511.65518
Russell WilsonSEA2013257.16.842.8913.1684
Colin KaepernickSFO2013266.656.522.6313.210102
Tony RomoDAL2013336.546.243.111.215625
Matthew StaffordDET2013256.46.821.5312.57196
Andy DaltonCIN2013266.36.691.6511.881612
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT2013316.246.36211.4131422
Jay CutlerCHI2013306.236.661.5811.791716
Tom BradyNWE2013366.136.122.2711.4161221
Sam BradfordSTL2013266.15.743.510.623332
Andrew LuckIND2013246.065.972.5611.1191126
Alex SmithKAN2013295.945.673.2910.826430
Matt RyanATL2013285.726.071.5310.3171835
Cam NewtonCAR2013245.695.91.8511.6211519
Matt CasselMIN2013315.696.381.2211.8122413
Carson PalmerARI2013345.676.51.0911.8112814
Ryan FitzpatrickTEN2013315.626.321.1711.3142623
Robert Griffin IIIWAS2013235.485.931.3311.7202317
Case KeenumHOU2013255.45.731.512.825205
Jason CampbellCLE2013325.325.741.3811.2242224
Kellen ClemensSTL2013305.255.841.1411.8222715
Ryan TannehillMIA20132555.441.4111302127
Mike GlennonTAM2013244.985.032.1110.6351333
EJ ManuelBUF2013234.875.431.2211312428
Chad HenneJAX2013284.865.540.9310.6293031
Eli ManningNYG2013324.555.990.6712183310
Matt SchaubHOU2013324.535.670.7110.5273234
Brandon WeedenCLE2013304.515.28112.333298
Joe FlaccoBAL2013284.55.420.8610.8323129
Geno SmithNYJ2013234.175.620.5712.328357
Terrelle PryorOAK2013244.095.260.6411.5343420

So what can we learn from the statistical profiles of Smith and Glennon? Since 1970, there have been 97 rookie quarterbacks who (1) ranked among the top 35 passers that year in attempts and (2) were 24 years old or younger. For each of those 97 quarterbacks, I recorded where they ranked as rookies in NY/A, TD/INT Ratio, and Y/C. Then, I created a “similarity scores” for each of the three rookies to each of the other quarterbacks in this dataset. The similarity score is based on a simple formula. For example, Mark Sanchez grades out as very similar to Geno Smith. Sanchez ranked 21st in NY/A, Smith 28th (the absolute value of the difference is 7); Sanchez ranked 31st in TD/INT ratio, Smith 35th (difference of 4). Both ranked 7th in yards per completion. Therefore, Sanchez is graded as an 11 relative to Smith. Obviously a lower score indicates a more similar rookie quarterback.

But the most similar quarterback to Smith is Terry Bradshaw, who ranked 29th in NY/A (absolute value of 1), 33rd in TD/INT ratio (2), and 2nd in yards per completion (5), for a similarity score of 8. Glennon has a similarity score of 55 to Geno Smith, making him the 4th least similar rookie quarterback to Geno Smith. Of the three quarterbacks more dissimilar to Geno, two of them had outstanding rookie years – Dan Marino and RG3 — which shows just how drastic the differences were between Smith and Glennon that they could both be below average and grade as so dissimilar.

The table below shows where each of the 97 rookie quarterbacks rank in NY/A, TD/INT ratio, and Yards per Completion. I’ve also included the similarity score grade for each quarterback relative to Smith, Glennon, and Manuel in the three columns at the far right of the table. Currently, the table is sorted from most-to-least similar to Smith, but you can click on the “MG SS” column to sort the table from most-to-least similar to Glennon or the “EM SS” to do the same for Manuel.

Geno SmithNYJ2013235.620.5712.32835705535
Terry BradshawPIT1970224.810.25172933285737
Richard ToddNYJ1976233.340.2513.433329104529
Mark SanchezNYJ2009235.770.612.521317115838
Neil LomaxSTL1981224.810.413.2313212114424
Dave WilsonNOR1981225.480.0912.9253515115030
Heath ShulerWAS1994235.690.8313.826311125939
Josh FreemanTAM2009215.650.5611.7233212135232
Quincy CarterDAL2001245.40.7111.9263013134626
Vince YoungTEN2006235.420.9212282511144121
Kerry CollinsCAR1995235.620.7412.723303145939
John ElwayDEN1983235.030.513.5343010144127
John ReavesPHI1972224.530.581433289144125
Ryan TannehillMIA2012245.90.9211.7253115154626
Colt McCoyCLE2010235.890.6711.7293319154020
Andrew WalterOAK2006244.410.2311.4333517154024
David WhitehurstGNB1977224.920.1412.7243519164727
Dan FoutsSDG1973224.790.4612.9272512164121
Rodney PeeteDET1989235.920.5614.419313176444
Joe FergusonBUF1973234.210.412.9302714173818
Matthew StaffordDET2009215.230.6511.3293019183717
Jake PlummerARI1997235.4911422281196040
Steve WalshDAL1989235.60.5612.5293121193616
Vinny TestaverdeTAM1987245.140.8315.234263194430
Dan PastoriniHOU1971225.340.3313.4213116204929
Andrew LuckIND2012236.181.2812.919264215838
Christian PonderMIN2011235.26111.7312919213414
David CarrHOU2002234.190.611.1353420213422
Ryan LeafSDG1998224.30.1311.6343421213420
Jesse FreitasSDG1974235.360.3814.718283216242
Bert JonesBAL1973223.390.3312.5342916213420
Tony BanksSTL1996235.38113.329192224333
Steve BeuerleinRAI1988235.411.1415.628173224135
Patrick RamseyWAS2002235.741.1313.222232235436
Dennis ShawBUF1970235.860.514.114289236040
Joe FlaccoBAL2008235.861.1711.6222313244325
Cade McNownCHI1999225.420.811.5292823243111
Bob AvelliniCHI1975225.740.5514.115259255636
Joey HarringtonDET2002245.080.7510.731332826299
Chris ChandlerIND1988235.940.6712.6202919264525
Jeff KomloDET1979234.60.4812.2323125262911
Steve BartkowskiATL1975235.350.8714.521194264939
Matt LeinartARI20062360.9211.9162613275232
Eli ManningNYG2004234.570.6711343427272814
Steve GroganNWE1975225.980.6114.212247276040
Billy Joe TolliverSDG1989235.270.6312.3332823282711
Mike PagelBAL1982224.860.7111.528252528277
Archie ManningNOR1971223.830.6713.5321915282719
Cam NewtonCAR2011226.871.2413.111237296042
Ken DorseySFO2004234.760.6710313432292614
Ken O'BrienNYJ1984245.480.8612.1262524293010
Byron LeftwichJAX2003236.240.8811.8132310305537
Drew BledsoeNWE1993215.38111.7222218303721
Kelly StoufferSEA1988245.350.6711.329293030259
Scott HunterGNB1971246.490.4116.19283307151
Trent EdwardsBUF2007245.430.8810.826252631288
Kyle BollerBAL2003224.850.7810.932292831246
Jack TrudeauIND1986244.510.4410.9333432312416
Scott BrunnerNYG1980234.380.6711.7342825312410
Jim ZornSEA1976235.120.4412.4163021314828
Bernie KosarCLE1985225.461.1412.7271518322523
Steve DeBergSFO1978244.430.3611.5333231322313
Tom OwenSFO1974225.380.6715.117201325745
Eric ZeierCLE1995234.390.4410.5343433332218
Rick MirerSEA1993234.870.7110.331293133228
Jimmy ClausenCAR2010234.020.339.9353534342321
Kyle OrtonCHI2005234.220.699.8343232342115
Troy AikmanDAL1989235.110.511.3343434342319
Steve MyerSEA1977234.670.510.4282834342313
EJ ManuelBUF2013235.431.221131242835200
Don MajkowskiGNB1987235.821.6715.923111354648
Nick FolesPHI2012235.51.210.631273236197
Oliver LuckHOU1983235.310.6211.1302834362111
Steve FullerKAN1979224.040.4310.2343335362319
Doug WilliamsTAM1978235.510.881618142364949
Charlie BatchDET1998245.751.8312.6181110374244
Jim PlunkettNWE1971245.051.1913.724914373436
Tom HodsonNWE1990234.660.811.4352932381713
Jay SchroederWAS1985246113151815384335
Blaine GabbertJAX2011224.241.0910.5352632411410
Jason CampbellWAS2006245.81.6711.8191014413840
Peyton ManningIND1998226.080.9311.5142524414222
David WoodleyMIA1980225.010.8210.530223341148
Gary HuffCHI1973222.330.389.7352834411614
Tim CouchCLE1999224.591.151134212942137
Sam BradfordSTL2010235.241.29.9342635431612
Matt RyanATL2008237.41.45133203446957
Jim McMahonCHI1982235.511.2912.5211019443133
Jeff GeorgeIND1990234.941.2311.9331527451012
Russell WilsonSEA2012246.842.612.4977475860
Bruce GradkowskiTAM2006234.2919.4342134471012
Andy DaltonCIN20112461.5411.3201427492222
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT2004227.411.5513.45133496062
Mike GlennonTAM2013245.032.1110.635133355020
Robert Griffin IIIWAS2012227.05412.4436576870
Ken AndersonCIN1971224.011.2510.830532571424
Dan MarinoMIA1983226.963.3312.84214646163

Maybe I’m just a huge geek, but I find this table fascinating. For Smith, the most similar comps are a Hall of Famer…. and two other Jets quarterbacks (and fans don’t have particularly fond memories of either of them). The positive takeaway for Smith fans is that having a bad TD/INT ratio as a rookie is far from a death knell: Eli Manning, Troy Aikman, and Bradshaw all also ranked in the bottom three of the league in that metric as rookies. In particularly, Bradshaw and Aikman were also surrounded by a lack of offensive talent, like Smith. John Elway, Vinny Testaverde, Kerry Collins, and Dan Fouts also produced big yards per completion numbers but little else as rookies. Of course, so did Sanchez, Heath Shuler, Tony Banks, and Patrick Ramsey.

For Tampa Bay fans, the most similar quarterback to Glennon is…. Bruce Gradkowski? I’ll admit, that’s not a name I expected to see. Part of the issue is that Glennon’s place on the list is odd: his two biggest strengths as a prospect were his size and his cannon arm, and you expect the Collins/Testaverde/Bradshaw comps to be to Glennon, not Smith. This might be a case where the statistics are misleading. According to NFLGSIS, Glennon ranked 16th in average depth of pass, and 10th in average air yards per completion when looking at only completed passers. But he ranked dead last in YAC per completion, which was enough to bring him far down the yards per completion list. That jives with Pro Football Focus, which lists Glennon as having 67.3% of his yards through the air, the highest rate in the league.

The non-Bucs who rate as most similar to Glennon won’t inspire optimism among Tampa fans, either: Jeff George, Tim Couch, Blaine Gabbert, David Woodley, and… Ken Anderson? The Bengals great struggled as a rookie, but posted a positive TD/INT differential as a rookie, which was pretty rare in the early ’70s.

As for Manuel? He had weak numbers across the board, so I don’t think this similarity test will tell us much about his future.

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  • Nick Bradley

    cool. idea: find the harmonic mean between NY/A and TD:INT. then multiply that by ANY/A.

    I’d do it myself, but ANY/A isn’t listed.

    That should give you a better ‘profile’ to compare quarterbacks to.

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  • Brian

    The one major flaw I see with this analysis is that a QB’s YPA cannot be analyzed in a vacuum, as it is heavily impacted by his receiver’s YAC.

    The Eagle’s receivers averaged 7.04 YAC/R (YAC per reception) in 2013, the best in the league. Don’t you think that has a lot to do with Foles’ high YPA numbers? By contrast, the Bucs’ receivers averaged a pathetic 3.96 YAC/R, by far the worst in the league. Doesn’t this account, at least in part, for Glennon’s low YPA?

    Are we to believe that YPA is the sole responsibility of the QB, and that his receivers’ ability to gain YAC, or the offensive scheme in general, have no influence on YPA?

    You pointed out that Glennon ranked 10th in the league in air yards per completion, which indicates he is effectively getting the ball to his receivers down field. They just aren’t doing much with it after they make the catch.

    • Chase Stuart

      No, YPA is not the sole responsibility of the QB. And Air Yards aren’t the sole responsibility of the QB, and YAC aren’t the sole responsibility of the receivers, either.

      Peyton Manning ranked 28th in Air Yards per completion, but he had a historic season because of the YAC generated by his receivers. Of course, Manning is a big reason why his receivers were able to gain so many yards after the catch, too.

  • I find it very interesting that Glennon has an odd statistical profile for what the book on him was coming out (like you said, size and arm strength were supposed to be his big strengths and yet he ends up so low in Y/C) and one of the most similar QBs to him in this system is Jeff George. George also was a huge, cannon-armed prospect and yet ended up with a terrible Y/C as a rookie. For George, the bad Y/C numbers continued throughout his time in Indianapolis (for seasons) and then he started showing more of the statistical profile of a strong-armed QB after that. And there really isn’t anyone else around them who is like that–none of Gradkowski, Couch, Woodley, Anderson, Bradford, and Foles had scouts raving particularly about size and arm strength coming out. The only other one who really got praised coming out for size and arm strength was Gabbert, and he was really getting praised for everything physical not just those two attributes, so he doesn’t feel that similar.

    • That was four seasons for Jeff George, not for seasons.

      • Chase Stuart

        Yeah, George is always somewhat of an oddball comp, but perhaps he fits here.

    • Anders

      Scouts loved Foles size at 6’6 250 pounds. His arm strength wasnt really worse than Glennon, but perception can go a long way in scouting circles.

      • Foles was 6’5″, 243, so yeah he was plenty big though somehow I had never realized that. I went looking for some draft profiles of Foles to see and they do talk about his size, but two different places used the exact same line about his arm strength: “good but not elite.” (Side note: Wow, the scouting reports on Foles sound nothing like the guy who was playing last year!) However, I also found two that said the same thing about Glennon. I got the impression that scouts thought Glennon had some Jeff George-John Elway level cannon and Foles just had a good arm, but it would appear that either my perception at the time or my memory is off on that.

        That makes it slightly less interesting than when it was only George.

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