First of all, I apologize for not posting on here in a while. My college schedule and work have taken over a lot of my life, so being on Spring Break has finally allowed me to clear time.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand. On Tuesday (March 15th), I posted a chart of my research from watching 33 quarterbacks throw the ball downfield. This is the (recently fixed) chart I am referring to.
Since posting the chart, the number of views exploded immediately. While the reaction has been mostly positive, many people have had questions relating to my grading methods, as well as the requirements for the charting.
That’s why I’m here to answer those questions. Below are the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) I’ve been receiving, and my answers to them.
Q: What is the minimum requirement for a “deep” ball?
A: The football must travel at least 16 yards in the air to be able to qualify as a deep pass. This means the ball must travel at least 16 yards from the original line of scrimmage to qualify.That’s why the numbers/grading looks a little more generous.
The NFL’s play-by-play has these throws listed as “deep” either way, so it felt appropriate for me to make that the minimum.
Q: What’s the criteria for a deep ball making it on the chart?
A: The deep pass attempt cannot 1) Be tipped at the line of scrimmage thereby preventing it from traveling the minimum of 16 yards in the air. 2) Be offset by penalty. This includes both incompletions and completions. For example: If a pass is incomplete, but defensive pass interference is called, that pass would not qualify. However, incompletions and completions where the penalty was declined do qualify. 3) Be intentionally thrown away. The pass isn’t aiming to be accurate, rather the QB is trying to throw the ball out of bounds and away from pressure, thereby erasing it as a deep attempt.
Q: Do you grade QBs based on their stats?
A: This has been a popular question, and the answer to that is no. I grade based on the eye test. The All-22 angle provides the most comfortable angle (unless we’re talking about Soldier Field. That’s another story.) for me to judge the accuracy of the throws.
My grading comes based on the accuracy of the throw, the quality of it (did the receiver have to make any adjustments?), and how open the receiver was. Contrary to a few comments, I do not downgrade if the throw was to an uncovered wide receiver, but rather grade tougher throws much higher. If the QB has to avoid a sack or escape pressure to make the throw, that will grade out a lot higher.
Q: Why do QBs like Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater grade out the same or better than guys like Andy Dalton and Derek Carr despite having inferior stats?
A: As stated above, I do not grade based on stats. However, one stat that has a huge influence in how I grade QBs is Accuracy%.
Simply put, if the throw is in the catch radius of the WR or in the area, it’s accurate. If the WR has to extend his arms out, stop his route, or the ball was tipped by a defender and into the arms of a receiver, the pass will be graded as inaccurate. In certain instances, interceptions are accurate passes when the receiver tips the pass (if it’s in his catch radius) or fails at the catch point. It varies.
When watching Ryan Tannehill, I saw that he was consistently good at throwing downfield in 2015, and while his Accuracy% did not compare to other QBs, he did not have the awful throws many other QBs had, which is another key factor in my grading. I’m perfectly fine with incompletions and interceptions, but throws that miss wide open receivers, go straight into a defender’s arms, or are made without any sense or field awareness get downgraded. Regarding Teddy, he wasn’t spectacular, but he also avoided the dumb throws.
Derek Carr actually started out really well in the first half of the season before making more bad throws in the 2nd half of 2015. The same thing happened to Andy Dalton. That’s why these grades look so much more different than the numbers suggest. Each throw is weighted equally, so a touchdown or interception doesn’t mean your grade gets boosted really high.
Russell Wilson, for another example, wasn’t the most accurate QB, but I gave him an A+ because his completions were consistently fantastic, and he avoided making any glaring throws. That’s really where his grade comes from.
Q: Did you make this chart to be controversial?
A: No. Having spent the last 5 months doing deep ball research (starting on injured quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco first), the last thing I would want to do is manufacture my opinions to get retweets. The retweets simply came because I posted the chart, and the reactions blew up.
I made this chart to provide people free access to an alternative version of stat keeping and film watching. Pro Football Focus, with all due respect to them, does not release most of their unique stats for free, as they are a growing business that’s been high in regard amongst many people.
No one had really made an entire section dedicated to deep passes, so I went out of my way to create a list on Deep Ball Quarterbacks from 2014. My grading methods were far different back then, as I did not use All-22 for my film watching, but Twitter exploded in a similar matter.
Someone like Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, or Clay Travis would not dedicate the extensive amount of time and painstaking research into a project such as this. Those guys are controversial because they manufacture their opinions in order to get a reaction out of people. I’m not apart of that “shock value” and don’t wish to be.
Granted, I do try to get reactions out of people, but this is because I want people to form their own reactions to my charting. I also do not wish for people to look at my work as the gospel, but rather as a tool for their own research and projects.
That’s the long answer to this question.
Q: Does your grading reflect on your overall opinions of the QB?
A: Absolutely not. Tom Brady, for example, graded out with a D+, but he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league because of his success on intermediate throws. While someone like Blake Bortles graded out higher, his overall decision making is currently nowhere near that of Brady’s.
While a higher graded QB is more likely to be a better overall QB in my opinion, I prefer Ben Roethlisberger over guys like Carson Palmer and Russell Wilson when it comes to heading into next season.
If I have any more FAQs, I will post them here.