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The Eagles have resigned Sam Bradford, in a move that’s pretty hard to justify. In five different seasons, Bradford has thrown at least 250 pass attempts (he missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL). In those years, he has never ranked as a league-average quarterback as measured by Net Yards per Attempt. Based on PFR’s Advanced Passing Index ratings, Bradford had an 84 NY/A+ as a rookie, a 73 in year two, a 94 in 2012, an 89 in 2013, and a 98 last year.

In these ratings, 100 represents league average, 85 is one standard deviation below league average, and 70 is two standard deviations below league average. That’s five seasons of below-average — and often really below average — quarterbacking. And it now appears as though he’ll be given a sixth year, and you can imagine the smart money is on him once again falling short of league average.

I’m using NY/A instead of ANY/A because NY/A is a better predictive stat and less sensitive to outlier plays, and that arguably hurts Bradford in this analysis. He did post a 102 in ANY/A+ in 2013 because of an excellent interception rate, but the biggest criticism of Bradford is that he doesn’t take enough risks, as he generally throws very short passes. His average pass traveled just 7.04 yards downfield in 2015, which ranked 31st out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. He ranked 34th out of 37 passers in this metric in 2013, 22nd out of 32 in 2012, 10th out of 33 in 2011, and 30th out of 31 in 2010. As a result, yes, Bradford does throw fewer interceptions, but I don’t think that’s a sign of anything other than conservative quarterback play.

I looked at all quarterbacks who had at least five seasons since 19701 with 250 pass attempts. Every season with a NY/A+ index of less than 100 was graded as “Bad” and every season with a NY/A+ index of 100 or better was “Good.” Bradford therefore goes down as 0/5, giving him a grade of -5. That’s pretty bad, although not the worst score in the group:

Alex Smith07-7
Dan Pastorini17-6
Joey Harrington06-6
Tony Banks06-6
Randall Cunningham16-5
Jason Campbell05-5
Sam Bradford05-5
Dave Krieg37-4
Jim Harbaugh36-3
Ken O'Brien25-3
Neil O'Donnell25-3
Mark Sanchez14-3
Mike Phipps14-3
Trent Dilfer14-3
Jeff Blake35-2
Kordell Stewart24-2
Matt Cassel24-2
Donovan McNabb56-1
Joe Ferguson45-1
Ron Jaworski45-1
Archie Manning34-1
Chris Miller34-1
Michael Vick34-1
Richard Todd34-1
David Carr23-1
Jim McMahon23-1
Marc Wilson23-1
Jake Plummer550
Jeff George440
Jim Plunkett440
Joe Flacco440
Joe Theismann440
Rich Gannon440
Kyle Orton330
Matthew Stafford330
Neil Lomax330
Roman Gabriel330
Kerry Collins761
Matt Hasselbeck651
Jay Cutler541
Ryan Fitzpatrick431
Aaron Brooks321
Andy Dalton321
Cam Newton321
Lynn Dickey321
Stan Humphries321
Steve Beuerlein321
Drew Bledsoe752
Mark Brunell642
Craig Morton532
Jon Kitna532
Matt Ryan532
Steve Bartkowski532
Gus Frerotte422
Jake Delhomme422
Jim Zorn422
John Hadl422
Marc Bulger422
Tommy Kramer422
Eli Manning743
Phil Simms743
Brad Johnson633
Danny White413
Doug Williams413
Jeff Hostetler413
Mark Rypien413
Troy Aikman*844
Steve DeBerg734
Chris Chandler624
Terry Bradshaw*624
Bernie Kosar514
Bert Jones514
Bill Kenney514
Bobby Hebert514
Brian Griese514
Chad Pennington514
Jay Schroeder514
Trent Green514
Vinny Testaverde945
Jim Hart725
Matt Schaub615
Bob Griese*505
Daunte Culpepper505
John Elway*1156
Boomer Esiason936
Carson Palmer826
Jim Everett826
Ken Stabler826
Aaron Rodgers716
Jeff Garcia716
Kurt Warner716
Tony Romo716
Brian Sipe606
Fran Tarkenton*817
Steve McNair817
Steve Young*817
Roger Staubach*707
Tom Brady1138
Philip Rivers918
Steve Grogan808
Ken Anderson1129
Jim Kelly*1019
Drew Brees12210
Warren Moon*12210
Ben Roethlisberger11110
Brett Favre15411
Joe Montana*12111
Dan Fouts*11011
Peyton Manning16115
Dan Marino*16016

Believe it or not, Alex Smith has only had one season with a NY/A+ Index of 100 or greater, and it came in his injury-shortened 2012, when he threw only 218 passes. Bradford is a poor man’s Smith, though, and given Smith’s rushing ability and tremendous interception rate, he’s a bit underrated by this analysis. He has had ANY/A+ ratings of 100 or better in 4 of the last 5 years.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. What do you guys think?

  1. I have included quarterbacks who entered the league before 1970, but only counted their post-1969 seasons. []
  • Four Touchdowns

    This move mystified me when it happened and seems even more confusing when seeing this laid out.

    QBs really have all the leverage in today’s NFL. You’d think the Eagles would go ahead and gamble on finding the next Kurt Warner or Tom Brady — Bradford has hit his ceiling and it’s low. Might as well hit that ceiling with a cheap passer who could end up being something above average.

    • sacramento gold miners

      I’ve been more impressed with Brock Osweiler in his brief career than what I’ve seen in Bradford since entering the NFL.

    • The NFL will always overvalue high draft picks, specifically at this position, until those players do enough to prove they cant play in the league. In that respect Bradford being hurt and being on teams that were considered poor helped him compared to players like Mark Sanchez or David Carr who played through whatever and were considered the problems. For the Eagles, who just had a power struggle at the top, they probably could not afford to start over at the QB position and be certain to keep their positions

    • Stephen E.

      The last time I checked, we hadn’t had the 2016 draft yet.

  • Yazan Gable

    When I’ve heard criticism of the Sam Bradford signing I’ve usually
    thought of Cian Fahey’s section on Sam Bradford in his Pre-Snap Reads
    Quarterback Catalogue which paints him as a very accurate passer who has
    also not been around particularly good talent. According to his own
    game film research his accuracy was not as impressive as it should have
    been due to loads of passes being dropped by his receivers or Failed
    Receptions (“plays where the receiver fails to make a reception he had a
    realistic chance at making. You can fail at the catch point in many
    ways without physically dropping the ball. Receivers regularly misread
    the ball in the air, fail to fix their footwork or maintaining control
    while falling to the ground or absorbing a big hit. One of the most
    common problems is being aware where your feet are when working by the
    sideline.”) This is not to say that if they caught his passes he would
    be Tom Brady of course, but toward the end of the season he became a
    solid starter once he became more comfortable with what he had around
    him. I do wonder how he would do if he had a running game that worked or receivers that are decent.

    To quote his conclusion, “There are very few quarterbacks who are
    better advertisements for the need to evaluate quarterbacks in different
    ways than Bradford. He is entering his seventh year in the NFL, his
    sixth season, and he has never played with an adequate supporting cast.
    He has never had even an average offensive line and his best receivers
    have been Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Chris Givens, Jordan Matthews
    and/or Brandon Lloyd.”

  • Richie

    Look who’s number one!

    • Richie

      Upon further inspection, I figured Marino was 16/16 because he attempted fewer than 250 passes in 1999. But that’s not the case. Instead, he is just helped that you used NY/A+ instead of ANY/A+. He had a 90 ANY/A+ but a 107 NY/A+.

      I guess a 12-17 TD-INT differential will do that to you.

    • Tom

      Yeah baby!

  • Richie

    Am I crazy to think that the Eagles would be no worse off with Sanchez at QB than Bradford?

    Disregarding salary, I am not positive that Bradford is better than Sanchez. But when you figure that you can probably pay Sanchez 25%-50% of what Bradford’s new deal is, I think I’d rather go with Sanchez, and use the other money to strengthen the rest of the team.

    • Adam

      I don’t think Bradford is any better than Sanchez. The only real difference between them (besides salary) is Bradford’s low variance style vs. Sanchez’s high risk / high reward style. Both are below average QB’s, but at least Sanchez gives you hope for a handful of good to great performances, even if he may implode a few times, as well. Bradford has a pathetically low ceiling and almost certainly doesn’t make his teammates better. Plus, given Bradford’s injury proneness, there’s a good chance Sanchez will play a lot anyway. Terrible move by the Eagles.

      • cshav10

        If Sanchez had really good receivers I might be with you on this. But he seems to be blind to who he trusts to make a play when he puts the ball into open space. Sanchez had decent chemistry with Matthews, but no one else. Oddly, Nick Foles got to the pro bowl by trusting Riley Cooper to make plays for him, which kind of shows you how chemistry factors into this whole thing. In the absence of chemistry, I think you go for the accurate passer/game manager QB until an Aaron Rodgers/Joe Montana-type gunslinger shows up on your doorstep.

    • Stephen E.

      Yes, you are crazy. Have you noticed how often Sanchez turns over the ball? If he turned over the ball at the league average, he would be fine as an average starter. But it’s far worse.

      • Richie

        Yeah, fair point.

        Small sample-size alert. Sanchez’ half-season as a starter for the Eagles in 2014 was probably the most effective single season of Sanchez or Bradford’s career, even when you factor in interceptions. Though, his 7 fumbles may be enough tip the scales back to a Bradford season.

        Here’s a list of all QB’s who had 2,000+ career attempts by age 28 with a career ANY/A under 5.5.

        It’s a mixed bag. There are a couple late bloomers in there. So maybe Bradford has a chance. It does seem like he has had a pretty weak supporting cast on offense for his entire career.

  • Since Bradford entered the league in 2010, he is one of twenty QBs with at least 2000 pass attempts. Among those 20 QBs, Bradford ranks:
    20th in Y/A, NY/A, AY/A, and ANY/A
    20th in passer rating
    20th in TD%
    6th in INT%
    13th in Sack%
    18th in Comp% (19th and 20th are Newton and Luck, who are more likely to scramble than dump the ball off)

    Granted, a lot of those 20 quarterbacks are all-timers. On the other hand, some of those 20 quarterbacks are Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Stafford, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, and Joe Flacco. And those guys pretty uniformly blow Bradford off the page. Tannehill is the only guy within a half yard of Bradford’s 5.32 ANY/A.

    It’s not that Bradford is a worse QB than those guys. It’s that he’s a uniformly worse QB than every one of those guys in every aspect. It’s not even like his conservative play is keeping his offense out of big holes, decent int% notwithstanding. If you add his INTs and sacks together into a single “negative play” bucket, Bradford even has a worse negative play rate than any of the aforementioned QBs other than Tannehill, Smith, and Cutler.

    Aside: Bradford also has a better negative play rate than Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, and Cam Newton, and he only trails Ben Roethlisberger by 0.001% (not a typo: it’s 8.197% for Bradford vs. 8.196% for Roethlisberger). Which shows that “avoiding negative plays” isn’t anywhere near as important to greatness as “making positive plays”.

    I get that statistics can be misleading. But the Bayesian in me tells me that I should be assigning belief based on the strength of the evidence, and this evidence is getting stronger every year.

    • Adam

      You could argue that Bradford has the lowest ceiling of any current starting QB. This contract extension is mystifying.

      • Stephen E.

        It sure is. After all, amazing prospects like Chase Daniel and Clipboard Jesus are out there for the taking.

        • Adam

          I know you’re being snarky, but I’d take Daniel over Bradford. We already know Bradford is a sub-par QB with little upside. Conversely, Chase Daniel is an unknown and could prove to be a good QB (even if he’s average that’s still better than Bradford).

          • WR

            I think this contract extension boils down to a dearth of viable alternatives. If I’m running the Eagles, I don’t see anyone in the draft or available as a FA who is likely to outperform Bradford. And Bradford’s best years could still be ahead of him. I don’t get the claim that Daniel would be a better option. Adam, what have you seen in the course of Daniel’s 77 career pass attempts to suggest he’s a better bet than Bradford?

            By ANYPA, Bradford is pretty much the definition of league-average. In his last 3 seasons, he has ANYPA+ figures of 97, 102, and 95. I’d much rather take Bradford, a league-avg QB with significant upside, over taking a chance on a mediocre draft crop or FAs like Chase Daniel.

            • Adam

              I have no idea if Chase Daniel is better than Bradford – and that’s exactly why I’d go with him. I would rather roll the dice on an unknown than stick with a guy who’s proven over a large sample to be mediocre at best. I’m not sure where you think Bradford’s upside comes from; I think he’s already hit his ceiling, and that’s IF he stays healthy. While Bradford has hovered around league average ANY/A a few times, I think that oversells his production. IMO generating positive plays is far more important than avoiding negative plays, and Bradford has been as impotent as anyone in recent memory. Do you think Sam can go out and win you a game with his arm? I don’t.

              • WR

                It just seems reckless to bet on a guy in Daniel who has no track record in the NFL, and is older than Bradford to boot. If Alex Smith can be a top 10 QB with Kansas City, then I believe there’s still hope for Bradford. Obviously the Rams saw potential in him, unless you’re saying they were totally crazy to draft him number one. Philly overpaid, but what are the realistic alternatives? Trade for RGIII or Kaepernick, or take Hackenberg or the N Dakota St guy in the draft?

                As other people in this forum have mentioned, Bradford has mostly played for bad offenses so far. Could he be a lot better with some decent receivers and a good o-line? Absolutely he could. That potential is where I see his upside, and the minimum for Bradford appears to be about 95 anypa+. I’d much rather take my chances with him than gamble on an enigma like Daniel or RGIII.

                • Richie

                  Alex Smith is not a top 10 QB.

                  • WR

                    It depends which definition you’re using. Smith was 9th in the NFL in Real QB rating in 2015, so by that measure my description is accurate. Are there 10 guys I’d take over him going forward? Sure. My point was that if Smith can have a season as strong as his 2015 was, there’s reason to believe Bradford can do the same.

                    • Adam

                      Real QB Rating is even more misleading than standard Passer Rating – it awards a 20 yard bonus for each rushing ATTEMPT! Like pretty much everything created by Kerry Byrne, Real QBR can’t be taken seriously.

                    • WR

                      Then why does Real QB rating correlate more closely to victory than passer rating? And if I’m not allowed to use real qb rating, which stat would you prefer? And please don’t say ESPN’s QBR, which has a multitude of problems itself. And Smith was 12th in anypa, but that doesn’t include his rushing stats, which is why real qb rating has him higher.

                      If there’s a better QB stat that doesn’t overcompensate for rushing or overpenalize for short passing, I’d like to know what it is.

                    • Adam

                      Correlation does not equal causation. PR and RQBR favor quarterbacks playing from ahead who can be conservative….20 yard bonus for safe completions, 20 yard bonus for taking a knee, no penalty for sacks, and avoiding the 100 yard INT penalty. Nobody in the analytics community takes PR and its derivatives seriously anymore; it’s alright for rough comparisons but not for legitimate analysis.

                      Which metrics are better? ANY/A, EPA, DVOA, and yes Total QBR. Why do you hate QBR so much anyway? I acknowledge that it spits out the occasional wonky rating, but its results are far more intuitive and don’t have the obvious systematic biases of Passer Rating. I feel like the only reason PR is still used is simple inertia.

                    • WR

                      You have to remember the context of this discussion. Richie took issue with my claim that Smith was a top 10 QB in 2015, and when I backed it up with real qb rating, you dismissed that metric. But Smith finished 8th in QBR in 2015. So if rating Smith highly disqualifies real qb rating, we’d have to throw out QBR as well. A significant part of Smith’s value comes from his rushing stats, and those aren’t reflected in anypa. Is real qb rating perfect? Of course not. But no stat is perfect. My problem with EPA and DVOA is that they’re based on the premise that we can properly quantify the value of every play in the game, as well as the amount contributed by each player involved in each play. It’s overanalysis, and the figures produced don’t have the inherent value attributed to them. I don’t see any meaningful difference between and EPA of 20, and one of 17. The margin is just too thin.

                      As for QBR, I don’t hate it. I think it’s useful, and I applaud the efforts of those involved to produce a single stat that encompasses everything. QBR produces some game to game results that I think are way off the mark, and I’ve also disagreed with some of the season rankings. But it’s also based on EPA, so the same issue applies to QBR as well. I think QBR can be a useful tool, but the fact that Palmer finished 1st by that metric doesn’t convince me he was the best in 2015.

                      Four useful measures, QBR, real qb rating, anypa, and PFF grades all produce different lists of the top 10 QBs in 2015. So which is the right answer? And as far as I know, Cam Newton didn’t lead in any of those categories, yet he got the MVP and was named 1st team all-pro. So it’s a very difficult question to answer, but the results produced by real qb rating make sense to me, and I understand what goes into the formula. The fact that Smith was 9th by real qb rating doesn’t convince me to abandon that metric.

                    • WR

                      Also, there is a penalty for sacks in RQBR. It factors in both number of sacks and sack yards lost.

                    • If you’re using a definition based in reality, Alex Smith is not a top 10 QB. No knowledgable and neutral analyst has ever suggested that Alex Smith is one of the 10 best QBs in football. Any stat that shows him there is incomplete at best, and deeply flawed at worst. Smith’s first down percentage in 2015 was 29.9%, which is very poor: 28th out of the 35 players who qualified for the passing title.

                      FWIW, Smith rated 15th in my own metric, QB-TSP, in 2015.

                    • WR

                      “No knowledgable and neutral analyst has ever suggested that Alex Smith is one of the 10 best QBs in football. Any stat that shows him there is incomplete at best, and deeply flawed at worst”

                      Can I assume then that you’re not a fan of ESPN”s QBR, which had Smith 8th in 2015?

                    • Yes, you can. QBR is a difficult stat to evaluate, since the formula is secret, but I think there are intuitive, transparent stats that are trustworthy alternatives.

                    • FWIW, Smith ranked 14th in TAY/P and 17th in New TAY/P. So that’s three (or two and a half) transparent, efficiency and volume based stats that have him in the middle of the pack.

              • Richie

                Yeah, the lack of big plays is what concerns me.

                It’s the same issue with Tannehill. I’ve seen a couple glimmers from Tannehill that he might have some big plays in him. But they’ve been so rare over his first 4 seasons that I’m losing hope that they’ll ever be there. 2016 is make-or-break. If a supposed offensive genius like Gase can’t extract anything, I think it’s over for Ryan.

  • eag97a

    The most charitable I can say about this is Bradford has the GOAT sports agent by his side and circumstances really did him a lot of favors during the course of his career. He might turn around things and become an Alex Smith or even a Rich Gannon or Brad Johnson but that is very unlikely IMO considering his injury history in this QB-friendly era we are in.

  • cshav10

    That’s an interesting assessment. And Bradford does very much feel like an Alex Smith type QB, so his ranking near Smith makes sense. Was Peyton Manning’s one “bad” year this past year?

  • mrh

    “I’m using NY/A instead of ANY/A because NY/A is a better predictive stat and less sensitive to outlier plays”

    I’ve often see you make this argument. There may be other research you’ve done on the subject, but this article seems to be the basis for it: http://www.footballperspective.com/correlating-passing-stats-with-wins/

    By “outlier plays” I think you mean INTs and TDs. The 2nd table in the linked article shows that past interceptions have almost no correlation with future wins. And your discussion spends time further dismissing the importance of INTs, but little on TDs. In fact, you add in that TD/att is “to some extent” a useful component of passer rating. So maybe you don’t include TDs in “outlier plays.”

    But since NY/A and ANY/A have the same 0.28 correlation with future wins (2nd table again), the argument I see for using NY/A as the better predictive stat (of future wins) is that it is a simpler stat. Is there any other reason? Is there other research you’ve done you can point me towards?

  • Does anyone else think the biggest surprise on Chase’s list is Steve Grogan, tied with Tom Brady and Philip Rivers? Seven “points” and up is mostly HOF-quality players, but there’s Grogan at 8.

  • 2016 update:

    Alex Smith finally had a season with both 250+ pass attempts and a NY/A Index of over 100. Sam Bradford had another sub-100 season. As a result, both are now at -6: Smith is at 1/-7, and Bradford is at 0/-6.

    Bradford, Joey Harrington, and Tony Banks are the only QBs with 6 seasons of at least 250 attempts and a NY/A Index of less than 100, and 0 seasons of a NY/A Index of above 100 on 250 attempts.