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What can we learn from Game Scripts splits?

Christian Ponder actually played better in the worst Vikings games last year

Christian Ponder actually played better in the worst Vikings games last year.

When I ask a question in the title of a post, I usually have an answer. But not this time. From 2000 to 2012, 163 different quarterbacks started 16 games. I thought it might be interesting to check out their splits based on the Game Script of each game. I grouped each quarterback’s statistics in their team’s 8 highest Game Scripts and 8 worst Game Scripts in the table below. The statistics in blue are from the 8 best games, while the numbers in red are for the 8 worst games (as measured by average points margin in each game).

I don’t know if individual splits will tell us much, but Rex Grossman had the largest split. In 2006, the year the Bears went to the Super Bowl, he averaged 8.54 AY/A in Chicago’s best 8 games but just 3.24 AY/A in their worst games. Splicing out cause and effect is tricky: in games where a quarterback has lots of interceptions, his team is probably going to be losing and will have a negative game script for that game. In Chicago’s 8 best games that year (according to Game Scripts), Grossman threw 16 TDs and 4 INTs; in their 8 worst, he threw 7 TDs and 16 INTs.

Maybe there’s nothing to make of this. But it’s Sunday, so I’ll present the day and open the question to the crowd. What can we make of Game Scripts splits? Check out the table below.

NameYrGSCmpAttYdTDINTAY/AGSCmpAttYdTDINTAY/AAY/A Diff
Rex Grossman200614.814122617901648.54-4.112125414037163.245.3
Drew Brees200510.416422419511649.33-2.615927616258114.674.7
Matt Ryan200810.6122183170910110.19-1.814325117316105.584.6
Kerry Collins20028.716023921141539.54-2.217530619594115.054.5
Eli Manning200910142225210518410.16-12.117528419169105.84.4
Joe Flacco20089.71171981580918.66-2.914023013915114.334.3
Drew Bledsoe20036.813421616261047.62-10.11402551234183.514.1
Doug Flutie20015.715625219661057.7-5.213826914985133.773.9
Aaron Brooks2001215726720531448.06-10.4155291177912184.153.9
Daunte Culpepper20045182255253025411.18-6.319729321871477.343.8
Peyton Manning20039.217925422382039.85-4.22003122029976.073.8
Brad Johnson2003716324918861548.06-6.6191321192511174.33.8
Andy Dalton20129.315123818621948.66-2.317829018078124.923.7
Drew Brees20078.422031224011948.34-7.422034020229144.623.7
Joe Flacco20099.715222418341118.97-4.5163275177910115.43.6
Chad Pennington20069.117624819111147.87-6.213723714416124.313.6
Tony Romo20078.616024622842179.71-3.5175274192715126.163.6
Tom Brady20028.220530222231957.87-7.61682991541994.43.5
Brett Favre200912.6172244221121210.41-0.619128719911256.993.4
Tom Brady200913.518126023222269.580.21903052076676.173.4
Jake Plummer20049.414022418591849.1-4.616329722309165.693.4
Trent Green20014.51492422072997.63-6.614728117118154.263.4
Donovan McNabb200811.216926420751428.58-1.71763071841995.263.3
Drew Brees20127.120129624962649.58-6.6221374268117156.273.3
Quincy Carter20038.114423617011057.1-4.114826916017163.83.3
Peyton Manning200711.517325722152049.470.8164258182511106.183.3
Philip Rivers200714.811617813751238.31-316128217779125.023.3
Jon Kitna20034.915724918251938.31-5.116727117667125.043.3
Brett Favre20089.916523117291577.42-4.417829117437154.153.3
Aaron Brooks20041.814524120001158.28-9.9164301181010115.033.2
J.P. Losman20065.512718814391128.35-714124116128125.113.2
Sam Bradford2010617027018261237.15-5.418432016866123.963.2
Brett Favre20019.816024320541949.28-2.5154267186713116.113.2
Jake Plummer200511.913219416481019.2911452621718866.143.2
Peyton Manning20016.715824420831898.35-8.718530320488145.213.1
Kyle Orton20095.813222217881128.64-6.9204319201410105.533.1
Philip Rivers20087.5139209193320310.52-5.317326920761487.423.1
Josh Freeman20104.614321517571619.45-6.81482591694956.373.1
Donovan McNabb2003814823318031147.91-1.81272451413574.893
Drew Brees20087.919427324081949.55-5.5219362266115136.563
Kurt Warner2008920328524691649.15-11198313211414106.212.9
Philip Rivers200910.8155220215516310.64-1.416226620991267.782.9
Jeff Garcia20018.513620416381848.91-4.318030019001486.072.8
Matt Ryan201210.419126121222029.32-3.2231354259712126.492.8
Brett Favre200311.614721716992088.01-2.3161254166212135.192.8
Tom Brady200611.514423216931838.27-2.51752841836695.462.8
Shaun King200010.29918412861447.53-0.51342441483494.752.8
David Carr20020.81082061360546.21-10.412523812324113.432.8
Josh Freeman20125.613023318391648.49-5.5176325222611135.732.8
Tom Brady201213.817827022352019.591.522336725921476.972.6
Brett Favre20048.414220817041648.87-9.1204332238414136.262.6
Mark Brunell20058.610518113281328.28-4.215727317221085.722.6
David Garrard2009416826120331147.94-111462551564465.392.6
Rich Gannon20018.815823418221528.68-1.420331520061276.132.6
Jon Kitna20076.41562301811847.79-13.3199331225710165.252.5
Matthew Stafford20119.620030224982459.12-8.3221361254017116.612.5
Kerry Collins20009.316124518691037.89-5.3150284174112105.392.5
Brett Favre20079.519026622061858.8-0.9166269194910106.322.5
Jay Cutler20085.419929723591458.13-8.2185319216711135.652.5
Matt Hasselbeck200311.814322417811648.58-3.3170289206010116.112.5
Philip Rivers20117.916124021161368.78-5.6205342250814146.312.5
Drew Brees201112.8222303274729610.09-1.624635427291787.652.4
Peyton Manning20068.218227124421859.51-2.318028619551347.122.4
Brett Favre20028.316325118051447.59-4.5178300185313125.242.3
Carson Palmer2006917225222611578.91-3.615226817741366.582.3
Alex Smith201110.213320916121118.55-0.71402361532646.242.3
Ryan Fitzpatrick20116.217025518731487.03-10.5183314195910154.732.3
Kyle Boller200481222131217816.25-3.813625113425103.952.3
Kurt Warner200114.617624022532189.643.8199306257715147.342.3
Trent Green200312.815924421381258.82-2.317127919011276.542.3
Peyton Manning20026.618026619811447.82-10.1212325221913155.552.3
Tony Romo20099.517226923931539.51-1.517528120901167.262.2
Joe Flacco20107.414622518501028.710.116026417721586.482.2
Aaron Rodgers200913.717625323001739.9-117428821341347.692.2
Daunte Culpepper2002516126419741396.93-8.517228518795144.732.2
David Garrard20082.51622491819837.41-7.917328618017105.212.2
Cam Newton20117.314022519661278.4-4.617029220859106.222.2
Eli Manning20081115023717491447.8-21392421489765.622.2
Joe Flacco201111.513023216931347.64-3.21823101917785.472.2
Gus Frerotte20054.413023115701366.75-8.61272631426574.62.1
Donovan McNabb20009.718328319011366.68-3.31472861464874.582.1
Derek Anderson20077.112422216481657.85-6.6174305213913145.82.1
Aaron Rodgers20086.917225019731538.55-4.5169286206513106.562
Michael Vick20063.110918713441166.92-6.5952011130974.952
Philip Rivers20101115621821101669.91-6.320132326001477.942
Drew Brees20109.120430022751887.58-1.3244358234515145.632
Trent Green20046.918025022191468.92-3.5189306237213116.981.9
Rich Gannon200012.413120915431838.46-1.815326418871086.541.9
Mark Brunell20001016025719101147.59-5.215125517309105.731.9
Andrew Luck20124.915728020191037.44-7.1182347235513155.591.9
Matt Schaub20098.719228324871668.96-4.720430022831397.131.8
Jake Delhomme200511.111418615391258.35-3.7148249188212116.531.8
Alex Smith20062.61161891306956.67-1414125315847114.861.8
Tom Brady200717.3194265233430410.393.620431324722048.61.8
Brett Favre20066.417730221701096.51-7.91663111715894.731.8
Brett Favre20007.31612751957956.95-5.4177305185511115.181.8
Tommy Maddox20035.512621414481256.84-6.217230519666125.071.8
Jay Fiedler20017.512620815631377.25-714724217277125.481.8
Peyton Manning20108.619830621321417.74-3.9252373256819165.971.8
Ryan Fitzpatrick20126.414022415161237.24-10.6166281188412135.481.8
Sam Bradford20122.913824018031057.41-7.519031118991185.661.8
Trent Green200510.31522372041948.61-3.81652701973866.91.7
Jake Plummer20014.113623817611157.38-6.81682871892795.671.7
Peyton Manning20009.217827022071758.6-4.5179301220616106.91.7
Rich Gannon200212.318627021921438.66-1.223234824971276.961.7
Eli Manning20113.215927123371759.05-5.3200318259612117.361.7
Matt Schaub201210.716425518861328.06-5.418628921229106.411.7
Eli Manning20059.111322716041357.22-2.3181330215811125.571.7
Matt Schaub2010415623619581148.47-9.620933824121386.841.6
David Carr20043.71272071747767.81-8.41582591784986.191.6
Brett Favre20055.118129418861095.72-8.1191313199510204.141.6
Matt Ryan20109.818728019091737.55-2.3170291179611661.6
Aaron Brooks20036.414324516831727.89-8.81632731863766.351.5
Philip Rivers200611.113620716501038.29-1.914825317381266.751.5
Eli Manning201210.914323917731757.9-7.117829721759106.411.5
Drew Bledsoe20023.916326919521237.65-6.8212341240712126.181.5
Cam Newton20127.41412402010948.38-4.813924518591086.931.4
Peyton Manning201211.620028423711839.14-3.720029922881987.721.4
Jake Delhomme20088.811218316501088.14-3.31342311638546.741.4
Jason Campbell20082.11572421584917.1-6.11582641661455.741.4
Philip Rivers20129.216624317641677.28-4.717228418421085.921.4
Marc Bulger20065.316226020201128.27-620832822811366.921.3
Steve Beuerlein20007.617728120361496.8-5.21472521694595.511.3
Tom Brady201015.616624719872009.66-0.715824519131648.381.3
Kordell Stewart20018.21282061531957.210.91382361578565.971.2
Aaron Rodgers20129.618227721712539.16-3.518927521241457.921.2
Tom Brady20118.419528625702059.60.120632526651978.41.2
Jon Kitna20011.31472541487684.91-7.616632717296143.731.2
Tony Romo20120.619027821671367.76-6.6235370273615136.621.1
Drew Brees20025.51392311466956.15-8.818129518188115.031.1
Russell Wilson20121212318014931558.71-1.112921316251157.611.1
Carson Palmer2009813922415481576.84-61432421546665.771.1
Aaron Brooks20026.611924116271347.08-4.2164287194514116.031.1
Daunte Culpepper20006.415322519851788.73-5.514424919521687.681.1
Eli Manning20075.214123515071176.01-5.8156294182912135.051
Jeff Garcia20007.317927321251328.41-9.917628821531887.480.9
David Carr20062.61332001218426.04-9.716924215497105.120.9
Tim Couch20015.912821214431095.84-5.814424215977124.950.9
Mark Sanchez20115.814523715981386.32-7.4163306187613105.510.8
Vinny Testaverde20042.5143237176310106.38-6.115425817697105.660.7
Jason Campbell20092.31582441745956.97-9.4169263187311106.250.7
Drew Bledsoe20049.612922513921156.16-4.212722515409115.440.7
Eli Manning201011.916326418391476.83-5.9176275216317186.160.7
Drew Bledsoe20055.41482411779967.01-6.5152258186014116.380.6
Jake Delhomme20046.912921415921467.49-6.518131922941596.860.6
Trent Green2002914222217391878.04-4.41452481951867.420.6
Jake Plummer2002-1.814428114811074.86-12.814024914918134.280.6
Jon Kitna20062.2194315223613116.35-8.417828119728115.830.5
Carson Palmer20075.718326819811296.78-6.1190307215014116.30.5
Matthew Stafford20122.621236625871196.56-7.82233612380986.090.5
Steve McNair20028.812620012691036.67-4.5175292211812126.230.4
Matt Hasselbeck20079.517427119521777.3-3.417829120141156.90.4
Joey Harrington20044.51131951239956.12-8.316129418081075.760.4
Ben Roethlisberger20087.11201971394866.52-1.31612721907996.180.3
Eli Manning20067.113223513741265.72-6.3169287187012125.470.2
Jay Cutler20093.6155277181313125.53-10.2181278185314145.410.1
Tom Brady200410.912821916741467.69116025520181487.60.1
Tom Brady20038.715325615481326.71-2.3164271207210106.720
Jake Delhomme20037.41392231626896.19-4.512722615931176.63-0.4
Chad Pennington20086.51572251655727.58-3.616425119981258.02-0.4
Christian Ponder20129.91382161242855.45-4.216226716931075.91-0.5
Andy Dalton20114.614123214091055.97-5.815928419891086.44-0.5
Peyton Manning200910.722032123851987.49-3.217325021151488.14-0.6
Vinny Testaverde20017.11352311388885.14-5.41252101364765.88-0.7
Carson Palmer20102.8142256161312115.3-7.822033023571496.76-1.5
Kerry Collins20013.91242281348794.75-6.420334024161276.89-2.1
Average7.8155243187113.94.87.95-5.1172287194110.59.95.942

{ 5 comments }
  • Danny Tuccitto June 9, 2013, 2:20 am

    Without too much thought, I lean towards the idea you alluded to in the 2nd paragraph: There’s a conspicuous “opponent is expecting run, so passes are much more likely to be successful” angle here. Lots of teams with either high run identities or stud RBs. For instance, here’s the top 10:

    2006 CHI: T. Jones had 296-1210.
    2005 SD: LT had 339-1462.
    2008 ATL: M. Turner had 376-1699.
    2002 NYG: T. Barber had 304-1387.
    2009 NYG: Jacobs/Bradshaw had 387-1613.
    2008 BAL: McClain/McGahee/Rice had 509-2027.
    2003 BUF: Henry had 331-1356.
    2001 SD: LT had 339-1236.
    2001 NO: R. Williams had 313-1245.
    2004 MIN: Doesn’t fit (must acquit).

    After that, even 2003 IND fits with Edge (and 2012 CIN too with BJGE). Now, I realize that — duh!– a lot of these were winning teams, and so their top 8 game scripts are going to involve wins, and that causes more running. Just saying that, if I were a DC facing these teams — with those RBs! — I’d probably be using a lot of run-stopping personnel, and calling a lot of run-stopping plays. And if I were a defender in those situations, I’d be educatedly guessing run as well. You know I think strategy is the biggest “known unknown” that we have in football analysis, and I think this is a perfect example of why I think that.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 9, 2013, 11:23 am

      I hear you. I suppose it wouldn’t be too surprising if weaker/inexperienced quarterbacks benefit more from good supporting systems.

      Reply
  • Bob June 9, 2013, 4:44 am

    Does Mark Sanchez (2010) make the list?

    Also, it’s interesting — albeit not unexpected — that the list of QBs with the highest AY/A in their worst eight is as follows:

    Brady 2007 – 8.6
    Brady 2011 – 8.4
    Brady 2010 – 8.38
    P. Manning 2009 – 8.14
    Pennington 2008 – 8.02
    Rivers 2010 – 7.94
    Rodgers 2012 – 7.92
    Rivers 2009 – 7.78
    Manning 2012 – 7.72
    Rodgers 2009 – 7.69

    A little bit further down the list are reminders of how well Russell Wilson played in 2012 and how well Daunte Culpepper player at his Moss era peak.

    Reply
    • Chase Stuart June 9, 2013, 11:22 am

      I can’t think of a reason why Sanchez 2010 isn’t on there. I thought maybe there was some cut-off I added, but it’s hard to see what it might have been.

      Otherwise, yeah, those are some pretty good quarterback seasons atop the list.

      Reply
  • Red June 9, 2013, 3:56 pm

    To me, this just reinforces the context dependency of INT’s. Quarterbacks who play with poor defenses and running games are more often trailing, and thus have to take more risks. You see a large gulf in INT% between the best and worst game scripts, and I think it has much more to do with team performance and circumstances than it does the QB himself.

    I can’t help but wonder if Tom Brady’s consistently low INT% is somewhat of a mirage, in that his teams are almost always ahead on the scoreboard, sparing him the necessity to make risky throws. Brady has FIVE seasons where the game script in the Pats’ worst games is still positive. Compare that to Peyton, who only has one such season, and even that one barely qualifies. Of course, Brady himself is partially responsible for putting his teams in the lead, but he has undoubtedly enjoyed the most favorable in-game circumstances of any contemporary QB. How would Tom’s numbers look if his defense allowed 25 PPG and he had Jim Caldwell as a coach?

    Reply

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