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Jump to Conclusions: Nick Foles vs Sam Bradford in QB Wins

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Sam Bradford has a predictably bad showing in Chase Stuart's new analysis of QB wins where his team's defense gives up 21 points or more. By comparison, Foles looks pretty good. But does this tell us anything?

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Measuring "Quarterback wins" as a stat is a dangerous exercise. You're basically taking the lump sum of every NFL hot take where every success or failure of a team can be directly applied to the quarterback under center, and wrapping it in a guise of legitimacy by calling it a statistic. Because, as you know, numbers don't lie.

But whenever somebody smart puts up a new wrinkle on the QB win stat, we all go flocking to it to see what it says. Or at least I do, because I'm kind of a dork that way.

Chase Stuart's new wrinkle tries to decouple the quarterback's performance from his defense's, by isolating games where the defense gave up 21 or more points, and then looking at QB wins in that perspective. As he points out, teams have roughly a 25% chance of winning those games. Your quarterback is in a bind, and more of the responsibility for staging a comeback and winning the game naturally falls on his shoulders. Ergo, it kind of makes sense to treat QB Wins as a thing in this context.

Here's the relevant bit for Rams fans, and the part where we all start leaping wildly to conclusions:

3-22-1. That's a brutally bad record, but probably not a big surprise from those of us who have suffered through the last five years of Rams football. Measuring by "Wins over Expected," Bradford's -3 is lumped together with some pretty ugly company. Kyle Boller. Jamarcus Russell. Ryan Leaf.

How closely does the ordering of this list jibe with our general expectations of who is or isn't a great quarterback? Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are ranked #1 and #2, and of the bottom 100, only one (Phil Simms, ranked #563) won a Super Bowl. Cam Newton is in that bottom 100, but there's always an outlier or two.

Meanwhile, the number that jumped out at me in Nick Foles' rather healthy listing here wasn't his 44% winning percentage or his +3 in wins over expectations, but the 16 total games in his short career where his defense gave up 21 or more points. That's a full two thirds of his total career starts! This got me thinking that it might be more interesting to examine this context a bit further.

QB Record when defense allows < 21 pts Record when defense allows 21+ pts
Sam Bradford 15-8 3-22-1
Nick Foles 8-0 7-9

Immediately a few thoughts come to mind: Bradford indeed looks like a pretty good quarterback when his defense is helping him out. (YEAH BUT FOLES! 8-0!)  We have to acknowledge, though, that quarterbacks typically have less to do when the defense is doing its job, particularly for coaches who are aggressive in the run game. (YEAH BUT FOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLES!)

This is a perfect time, then, to remind ourselves that we traded for Nick Foles, not Nick Foles + Chip Kelly's offensive playbook + the Eagles' offensive line. Contrary to what we'd like to believe, Foles' QB wins stat measure is not inseparable from the Eagles' offensive revival under Kelly. Here's a quick breakdown that illustrates that point.

Coach Foles' record when defense allows < 21 pts Foles' record when defense allows 21+ pts
Andy Reid 0-0 1-6
Chip Kelly 8-0 6-3

Hopefully this just reinforces what we already knew about Foles: that he's not a superman at quarterback that can transcend a bad offensive scheme or a defense that simply doesn't show up for work. But he can do a good job in a very good system, and can be nearly perfect when his defense helps him out.

What does this say about Bradford? Thankfully for us, that's now a question for the folks at Bleeding Green Nation.