Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Drunken Questions Answered Sober

By Joe Parello

It certainly was an interesting weekend of football, and I found myself enjoying the majority of it while also enjoying several adult beverages. Naturally, when sports fans partake in the frothy ambrosia that is cheap beer, they begin arguing things that don't really need to be argued. During the second half of New England's beat down of the Tebow-led Broncos, this site's fearless leader, editor-in-chief Jeremy Conlin, and I argued the merits of Joe Flacco as "an above average NFL quarterback."

This debate went on for, oh, I don't know, seven hours? Maybe not, but it sure seemed like it did, and that's what happens when you're drinking and watching football. At the end of it, I thought to myself, "why did I just waste my breath arguing all night that Joe Flacco is above average? Who cares?" All that being said, I thought it was an interesting debate, just one that we could not adequately finish without statistics, context and of course, fully functioning brains.

With that in mind, here are two debates we drunkenly had that night, now analyzed with a clear mind and access to numbers and past results. Enjoy.

Debate 1
Jeremy: Joe Flacco has no redeeming qualities except throwing the ball hard.
Me: Joe Flacco is better than a bunch of other scrubs.
The way I see it, there are two approaches to putting this debate to rest: The objective approach of stats, and the subjective approach of "well, who would you take over Flacco?" Let's start with the objective.

Joe Flacco-212.5 Y/G, 58% passing, 20 TD, 12 INT, 81 QB Rating, 6.7 Y/A.
NFL Average-229.7 Y/G, 60% passing, 18 TD, 16 INT, 82.5 QB Rating, 7.2 Y/A.

By this metric, Flacco is just below average in every category, except TD to INT ratio. While the touchdowns and lack of turnovers is nice, I don't think it erases everything else. So, going strictly by numbers, I think we can say Flacco is, at best, an average quarterback. But, let's put a little bit of context to some of those numbers.

The Ravens run one of the more simplistic offenses in the NFL. It truly is a throwback to the great Steelers and Raiders teams of the 1970's. The only problem is, like the modern-day Ravens, neither of those teams were known for innovative offense. From what I can tell, the Ravens have four basic play types: Iso power run, counter run, play-action deep pass, and drop back intermediate crossing route, usually to a tight end.

With that in mind, Flacco's completion percentage should be expected to be a bit lower than most other NFL quarterbacks, simply because he is attempting lower percentage passes deep down the field. This would also hamper his Y/A and QB rating. Also factor in the fact that Flacco's sack percentage is a full point below the league average at 5.4%, and you see there are some hidden yards he is saving his team by not taking sacks.

But that doesn't fully answer the question. There is also something to be said for the subjective. Jeremy and I compiled a list of quarterbacks we would rather have than Joe Flacco. Here they are in the order of what division they play in, starting with the AFC East.

1.Tom Brady
2.Phillip Rivers
3.Ben Roethlisberger
4.Peyton Manning
5.Matt Schaub
6.Eli Manning
7.Mike Vick
8.Tony Romo
9.Aaron Rodgers
10.Matthew Stafford
11.Jay Cutler
12.Drew Brees
13.Cam Newton
14.Matt Ryan

Ok, so looking at it from this angle, we see that we had Flacco ranked, at best, 15th among active quarterbacks, making him remarkably average. Of course, that includes Peyton Manning, but we're going with it. I also decided to include Ryan, despite my refusals on Saturday night, because, honestly, he's just better. We also compiled a mini-list of guys that "may be" better than Joe Flacco. For the record, I do not think any of them are yet, but Jeremy brought these guys up(though I don't think he believes they are ALL better). Here they are, in no particular order.

1.Ryan Fitzpatrick
2.Matt Hasselbeck
3.Matt Moore
4.Andy Dalton
5.Tim Tebow

Throw in the fact that Sam Bradford was more impressive when healthy, Alex Smith is out-dueling Drew Brees in the playoffs, Josh Freeman is better than he played this year and Andrew Luck will be added to this mix next season, and I must concede defeat. While I think you can win a Super Bowl with him, Joe Flacco is not an above average NFL quarterback.

Debate 2
Jeremy: I still don't know if Tebow has done enough to warrant being 1st rounder.
Me: If you re-picked the 2010 draft now, Tebow is going in the 1st round.

Something to also keep in mind is that we are not accounting for merchandise sales, hype, buzz, hoopla, and the like in this debate. It is strictly about building a winning football team. For that reason, the fact that Tim Tebow has pretty much become a cultural icon is being tossed out the window. That does not mean, however, that we are throwing out the fact that he plays the most high-profile position on the field. You need a good quarterback to win, so his position has granted him a little extra value in this discussion.

If you go back and look at the first round of the 2010 draft, you will see the Broncos traded back in to draft Tebow at No. 25. That means that eight players chosen behind him would have to be better, with no players chosen before him being worse to kick him out of the first round. Obviously, this is incredibly inexact since teams often pick for positional need, but we're going to try to eliminate specific need and go for merit, while admitting that a good quarterback is worth more than a good left guard.

I have gone back through and found the players taken before No. 25 that I would take after Tebow. I have also gone back and found the players taken after No. 25 that I would take before Tebow. What happened? I found exactly six on each side, with two taken after No. 25 that were questionable. That means that the draft, at least two years later, appears to have placed Tim Tebow exactly where he should have been picked. Here are the six players taken before Tebow that should drop:

1.Gerald McCoy
2.Rolando McClain
3.C.J. Spiller
4.Tyson Aluala
5.Brandon Graham
6.Derrick Morgan

And here are the players taken after Tebow that should have shot up:
1.Rob Gronkowski
2.Carlos Dunlap
3.Ben Tate
4.Navorro Bowman
5.Jimmy Graham
6.Aaron Hernandez

If you're curios, the two questionable players were Dallas' Sean Lee, who I am leaning towards putting ahead of Tebow, and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, who I am leaning towards putting behind. Either way, Tebow would still only drop two spots from his original position of No. 25. This means that if they re-drafted the class of 2010, Tim Tebow would belong in the first round. Yes, Tim Tebow is a first round pick.

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