I have been noticing some disturbing numbers in Sam’s seven starts. I have discussed some of them in some responses here on TST based solely on what seemed logical without hard data to back it up. So I embarked on a detailed analysis of all 512 starts this past season to see what the numbers actually say. I know what I was expecting but they turned out worse than I thought.
I broke down stats for every start for every team this past regular season. Where two QBs played I used the stats from the QB that attempted the most passes as my default starter. So in the Carolina game Bradford was the QB of record for lack of a better descriptor.
For any QB their average passer rating for the season is a composite of games generally in the neighborhood of half above and half below the average by definition. Yes there were some really bad games (like Kaep’s 20.1 rating 71.5 points below his average vs Seattle which left him with 10 games above his ave and only 6 below) and some really good games (like Alex Smith’s 158.3 rating 69.2 points higher than his average vs the Raiders which left him with only 6 games above his average and 9 below). But those were anomalies and most QBs had a more natural distribution.
So I was curious as to what the win rate was if a QB had a passer rating above his average regardless of what magnitude, 0.1 point or 70 points above. League wide the win rate was 65%. Not really that surprising, when a QB plays better, he wins more often. However, the corollary must also be true. If a team allows an opposing QB to register a passer rating any amount over their season average statistically they will lose 65% of the time.
Here is where the Rams were very unkind to Sam. In all seven of his starts the D allowed the opposing QB to turn in a passer rating above their season’s ave. And it wasn’t like just a point or two, the lowest number of points above their ave was +12.7, the second lowest was +23.2 and two were over +40! So not to make myself completely crazy I just reran the numbers with a passer rating +12.7 or higher, thereby including all seven starts by Bradford. Now the league wide likelihood of losing jumps to 74%. Considering the Rams record in those games was 3-4 a loss % of 57% looks OK.
So if the opposing QBs Sam faced average +28.8 (the highest aka WORST in the league by far with no other player +20) what did his competitors in the NFC West face? As for the other three starting QBs in the division, they were 1st, 2nd and 5th BEST: Wilson -18 (46.8 points better than what the Rams D served up to Sam), Kaep -18 (42.4 points better) and Palmer -9.2 (38.0 points better). So the Rams had the worst pass D in the league in Sam’s seven starts and the other three teams in the division had all among the top five best, I think it’s easy to see why we finished last in the division.
Now you might be thinking this is a look in relative terms, what about more specific terms. Yeah, let’s go there next. The passer rating of the opposing QBs in Bradford’s starts was 108.8, again the highest in the league. This is the equivalent of facing a QB with a better passer rating than Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees every single game. In Wilson’s starts the opposing QBs had a rating of 65.9, akin to facing a QB worse than Geno Smith but slightly better than Seneca Wallace every game. In Kaep’s starts the opposing QBs had a rating of 75.0, akin to facing a QB not quite as good as Chad Henne every game. In Palmers’s starts the opposing QBs had a rating of 81.4, like facing a QB worse than Matt Cassel but better than our own Clemons every game.
Are you beginning to see the problem here?
OK, let’s move on to another stat that is not the QBs fault but has a major impact on wins and losses. 222 times this year a team rushed for less than 100 yards. The NFL average likelihood of losing if your team can’t break the century mark is 66%. In Bradford’s seven starts only once did the Ram’s rush for more than 100 yards. But wait, it gets worse, what if you rush for under 50 yards? This happened 44 times but I threw out four because on two occasions both teams rushed for under 50 and somebody had to win. In the remaining 40 occurrences your statistical likelihood of winning was a whopping 20%! We managed that twice for Bradford and once for Clemons, all losses.
So now what happens if we put those two stats together? How many times did a team rush for less than 100 yards and allow the opposing QB to have a passer rating at least 12.6 points above their season’s ave? I used 12.6 because it was the lowest number above their rating the Rams allowed in Bradford’s seven starts, the next lowest being 23.2. It happened 82 times with the likelihood of losing sitting at 81.7% (15-67). The Rams served six such games up to Sam and that was out of seven games, not 16. Of the 15 wins under such circumstances only two were against teams with winning records, one being the when the Rams beat AZ.
So let’s recap. In EVERY ONE of Sam’s starts there was at least one factor that made the likelihood of winning horrible. The D allowing the passer ratings to swell against us meant that the statistical likelihood of winning was around 1 in 4. Add to that the poor running game which in six of seven games meant on that stat alone the likelihood of winning was only 1 in 3. In two games where we ran for less than 50 yards the likelihood of winning was only 1 in 5. Now remember that in all six of those running deficient games we also had the abysmal pass D on top of that. When you put that all together his best chance of winning statistically was a season high of 26% in the one game we rushed for more than 100 yards and much less than that I the other six. Yet they won 3 of the 7.
Now I know as a numbers geek that the NFL is not an equal distribution of talent. Better teams beat the odds and worse teams don’t. But even if you look at the bottom six QBs in ESPN’s QB stats for the regular season in terms of passer rating (Flacco, Schaub, Weeden, Eli, Pryor and Geno Smith) they won 60.5% of the games they had a passer rating above their average. That is only 4.4% points below the league average of 64.9% so say what you want, these numbers are real.
Like Sam, hate Sam or ambivalent, Sam was dealt a really crappy hand in every game he started this year in terms of things beyond a QBs control. Given the circumstances I think the outcome was remarkably good. Now if you are of the mindset that the only thing you want to look at with a QB is wins and losses I completely understand, your minds made up so don’t confuse you with facts.