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AFC East Quarterbacks: Actual vs Expected Performance

This week let's take a look at the expected versus actual results of the QB's of the AFC East. To do this what I wanted to do was look at pass attempts by distance based on Pro Football Focus' tracking and use those numbers to calculate the average expectation for QB's. The results are based on the 2011 season. For example we would expect a pass behind the line to be completed 86.1% of the time while a pass that goes 20 yards or more in the air would only be complete 34.9% of the time. Based on that we can extrapolate what the average QB would do based on the situational pass decisions being made on the field.

Now because these numbers do not take into account directionless passes (i.e. throwaways) they will present a higher than expected completion percentage. Knowing that last year 93.7% of non-spike attempts actually travelled towards a target we can adjust the attempts upwards to correct the expected completion percentage. For example if the QB has 155 aimed passes he should have a total of 165.4 non-spike attempts. So lets take a look at the players:

Tom Brady
tom brady stats

To me there are two areas that really stand out for Brady. One is the exceptional completion percentage and the other is the fact that he never turns the ball over. His actual YPC is average based on where he throws the football. His attempts are also a bit lower than expected which is a combination of exceptional line play and poise of the QB. He has yet have a pass go nowhere because of a hit and his percentage of batted passes and throw aways are all below the average. Brady is primarily a short game passer, with 66% of his attempts coming in under 10 yards in the air, which is right around where he was last season. He lives in the 0-9 yard range where he has compiled a remarkable 82% completion percentage which is well above the above the 70.5% average and well above last years number for him of 76.5%. His numbers everywhere else are actually right around the average with the YPC being lower. His intermediate 10-20 yard passing has really declined since last season where he was 62.4% and 19.5 YPC to 57% and 15.9 YPC. That may have to do with the injury to Aaron Hernandez. If teams every schemed a way to take away those short routes the Patriot offense looks as if it would really suffer, but nobody has been able to do that thus far and there is no reason to think it will start anytime soon.

Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Tannehill Stats

Not a bad start for the young rookie in Miami. While he is below the expectation in some categories, for a rookie that is pretty good. Where he has killed it this year has been in his deep passing where he is completing 55.5%of his down the field passes for 36.6 YPC. The odds of that holding up are slim. To put it in perspective those numbers would have ranked number 1 in the NFL in completion percentage last year and 4th in YPC. Like most rookies he has had some battles in the pocket with 15% more batted balls, 32% more throw aways, and 21% more hits when passing than the average QB. Batted passes are almost always on the QB while the hits are likely a combination of a young player with a mediocre line. While the balls thrown away are high that may be a sign of coaching being absorbed by the player since most guys out of college just try to throw it to a target. For example Robert Griffin and Andrew Luck are at 40 and 52% below the average. Now Griffin runs a controlled offense that may explain his numbers but Luck is probably more representative of a younger player trying to make things happen. With Tannehill's high interceptions its for the better that he is throwing the ball away. There are no guarantees for rookies in the NFL, but there is clear upside with Tannehill.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

ryan fitzpatrick stats

If Ryan Fitzpatrick could cut down on the interceptions the Bills might not be as bad as they are right now. His interception total is nearly double the expectation and it is a killer for the team. He can't throw deep at all- he has only 1 more completion than interceptions in the 20+ category. Last year Fitzpatrick completed nearly 37% of his attempts down the field, most of which likely came in the early part of the season. This year it is under 28%. Part of his problem may be forcing the issue. He hasn't been hit while throwing this season and is one of the least pressured QB's in the league. But he never throws the football away, ranking 6th lowest in throwaway percentage. Some of that is due to the good offensive line put when you are struggling with accuracy there is a good chance there are some throws coming that should be headed out of bounds. If you take that out of the equation hes a slightly below average QB and probably a bit better than I give him credit for. He can be a pure game manager if you maintain him in the short range passes. Maybe it's the situations, since they have been blown out often this year, but his intermediate and deep passes are up from last season and he simply cant be effective in that role. Most likely he will find himself in a Kyle Orton backup role next year.

Mark Sanchez

mark sanchez stats

Tough numbers for a player that was expecting to make a big leap this season. With the exception of YPC, which is now bumped by throwing more deep passes than under Brian Schottenheimer, every measure is more or less worse than last season. Since this is primarily a Jets site we will go a bit more in depth here and examine some of Sanchez splits compared to last season.

As I speculated early in  the year there would be a shift in pass selection due to the new offensive system, though surprisingly the Jets have totally eliminated the passes at or behind the line. Whether that is because Sanchez no longer trusts his backs or because the team misses LaDainian Tomlinson they have moved away from what was Sanchez’ most productive aspect of his game last season. That being said when you have a QB as inaccurate as Sanchez it may not make sense to try these little plays here and there.

Despite all the talk of an inferior receiving group the Jets are clearly more effective than last season in gaining yards once the ball is completed. I would think a great deal of credit goes to Jeremy Kerley who has made some big plays this year while Santonio Holmes also had his moments prior to injury. He is still below average in the short yardage categories but is now above average in the intermediate pass routes and nearly average in the deep pass plays. This is probably a statement as well about the uselessness of Plaxico Burress last season outside of the red zone. Considering he was right near the bottom of YPC on the 20+ routes last season this is a big step forward.

So where does it all go wrong? 

Ouch. While the initial thought may have been deeper passes means a worse completion percentage, in Sanchez’ case that is the one saving grace he has had. If he tracks back to his norms in that category, the numbers could get ugly. At his current deep pass connection rate he is actually above the average despite the fact that we have all seen him miss countless opportunities these past few weeks.

Some might be attributed to drops, but Sanchez has only had 6.9% of his aimed attempts dropped.  He was at 5.9% last season so it’s a difference but not gigantic. The league average last season was 6.6% and its at 7% this year so its not that he has it significantly worse than anyone else in the NFL. If there is one area that has maybe skewed the numbers worse is pressures. He is being pressured more than he was last season, which I would imagine is due to Brandon Moore’s decline and D’Brickashaw Ferguson continuing to slide, but being sacked less. He has been a terrible pressure QB so that could be a factor especially since he is getting hit when throwing the ball. His tipped passes, always high, are even higher this season.
The Jets have financial reasons to keep playing Sanchez this season, if only to maintain some aura of being a 1st round talent in desperate need of a change of scenery. The Jets are on the hook for over $8 million in guaranteed salary next year, making him essentially uncuttable. Find a trade partner and that money vanishes off the cap. There is zero chance of finding a trade partner if he is benched. By the numbers he is clearly the worst QB in the division right now. The question is can he be salvaged to be passable for the remainder of the year? Im not sure anyone believes he can.

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