Ryan Leaf, and Peyton Manning. Philip Rivers, Eli Manning. Sometimes, especially at the quarterback position, players are linked together by their association in the pre-draft madness. Every strength, weakness, foible, physical stat, mental test — they are all compared against each other as if these are the only two players ever to exist.
There was a comment on last post (also take a moment to read my post-length response) regarding how Stafford is a “nevers was, could have been” after 4 games. Again, while it is too early to judge in total, I thought maybe a look at his performances against what could be considered a reasonable gage might be in order. But what?
The first stats to look at were how much his “big arm” was really being used. When you take YAC (Yards After Catch) out of consideration, then you can get a gage of where the players are catching the ball, and then making plays. Surprisingly, about 81% of Stafford’s completions are within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. (all Stats as per SI.com passing stats)
Distance to Catch Completions/Attempts
Behind LOS 24/30
LOS – 10 yards 40/62
11-20 yards 13/32
21-30 yards 1/8
31-40 yards 1/6
40 + yards 0/1
This demonstrates how great CJ is a getting some meaningful YAC, as well as the other WR. However, even more so it shows how Linehan is using the short passing game to take pressure off of Stafford, and help open up the running game. Those shots way down the field aren’t often successful, but they also force teams to defend the deep ball. Overall, this doesn’t look too bad for Stafford. He is hitting a lot of the short passes, but still taking his shots. This is taking what the defense gives, and is a good thing for a QB so young to “get”. If he were in a dink n dunk WCO style where all the passes are pretty much inside the 20 yard range, he would have a 62% instead of about 56.8%. The longer, less often completed throws are what bring down a “gunslinger’s” passing percentage. So while he still needs put some arc/air under the longer touch passes, he is not as inaccurate as a first glance might make it seem. This is something that is very coachable as well, and which I look for him to improve on.
Still, this only shows his progress in the abstract. What we really need is a benchmark. Fortunately, all the gushing stories over Mr. GQ Abs himself got me to thinking: How about a Sanchez/Stafford comparison? They have had one opponent — the Saints — in common. This also happened to be the team that made each QB look like, well, like a rookie. Stafford in game 1, Sanchez in game 4. So with Stafford seemingly flying under the radar while Sanchez and the Jets get all the National Media attention, the result of a short statistical comparison may surprise you:
Player Comp/Att % Att/G Yds Avg Yds/G
Mark Sanchez 63/110 57.3 27.5 744 6.8 186
Matthew Stafford 79/139 56.8 34.8 894 6.4 223.5
Player TD INT 1st 1st% Lng 20+ 40+ Sack Rating
Mark Sanchez 4 5 39 35.5 46 11 3 9 71.2
Matthew Stafford 3 6 41 29.5 64 16 2 10 65.5
As you can see, they have similar stats, despite the fact that most fans and experts would readily agree that Mark Sanchez plays on a team that has much better talent on both sides of the ball. The Jets also haven’t been playing form behind most games (as you can see from the attempts/game). Factor in fewer long balls due to the Jets WCO style of offense, and Sanchez should have a better accuracy mark. Take from this what you will, but it says to me that the “best” QB of 2008 is still far from decided, no matter who has been annointed thus far. Looking at these stats, they both have a lot to learn and a long way to go.
It will be interesting to watch this debate as the next few seasons roll on. As Lions fans, will we be blessed to see a true Franchise QB mature before our eyes on the field, or will we be cursed once again with thoughts of what might have been? Only time will be able to answer this question.
What are your thoughts on this? Where do you stand??