Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Geno Smith and the 80-80-80 Club

Geno Smith's rookie season was really bad. Exactly how bad, and what could it mean for 2014?

Even the biggest "quarterback wins" backers would admit Geno Smith's rookie season was awful. Smith's 8-8 record was due to a lot of late-game luck, most of which he wasn't even a part of, during an otherwise underwhelming season. Despite having those eight wins, the Jets were really a five or six win team by their pythagorean win expectation. It doesn't take advanced statistics or a trained eye to notice how much Smith struggles in 2013, but some advanced stats can help but his season into perspective better than even the most telling raw stats — here's looking at you, 21 interceptions — could.

I'm a big fan of Pro-Football-Reference's advanced passing stats and more people should be too. One of the problems in comparing quarterbacks is the era adjustment needed because the passing environment is much different now than it was in 1993. Hell, it's even different than it was in 2003. PFR bases their advanced passing stats against the league average of that season with easy to follow numbers. For each stat, a 100 rating equals league average. A 105 rating would represent that player was five percent above average in that category, while a 95 rating would mean the player was five percent below the league average. Each digit above or below 100 represents a percentage above or below league average.

With the use of those numbers, Geno Smith's 2013 was absolutely amazing in all the wrong ways. Smith posted an 80 or below in completion percentage+, interception rate+ and sack rate+, a trifecta of inefficient quarterbacking equivalent to pooping in the refrigerator and eating the whole wheel of cheese. It's less disappointing than amazing. To find out how rare a season like this would be, I plugged in those numbers to PFR's play index tool, set the minimum pass attempts to 100 and found only 13 quarterbacks, including Smith, fit those qualifications since 1990. Smith can't be considered the founder of the 80-80-80 Club, but his 2013 numbers could make him the president.

Here's the full chart:

Games Passing Advanced Passing
Player Year Age Tm G GS Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk ANY/A Cmp%+ Y/A+ TD%+ Int%+ Sack%+
Geno Smith 2013 23 NYJ 16 16 443 55.76% 3046 12 21 66.5 43 4.17 80 95 82 65 79
Christian Ponder 2011 23 MIN 11 10 291 54.30% 1853 13 13 70.1 30 4.25 78 85 102 73 75
Andrew Walter 2006 24 OAK 12 8 276 53.26% 1677 3 13 55.8 46 2.78 76 85 67 75 50
JaMarcus Russell 2009 24 OAK 12 9 246 48.78% 1287 3 11 50.0 33 2.31 59 67 64 78 56
Trent Dilfer 2007 35 SFO 7 6 219 51.60% 1166 7 12 55.1 27 2.37 68 68 91 62 69
Anthony Wright 2003 27 BAL 7 7 178 52.81% 1199 9 8 72.3 19 4.54 78 99 112 77 79
Todd Marinovich 1992 23 RAI 7 7 165 49.09% 1102 5 9 58.2 20 3.48 72 97 92 71 77
Alex Smith 2005 21 SFO 9 7 165 50.91% 875 1 11 40.8 29 1.11 71 72 60 40 47
Steve Beuerlein 1995 30 JAX 7 6 142 50.00% 952 4 7 60.5 17 3.86 73 99 86 71 69
Craig Krenzel 2004 23 CHI 6 5 127 46.46% 718 3 6 52.5 23 2.33 57 79 80 73 38
Daunte Culpepper 2008 31 DET 5 5 115 52.17% 786 4 6 63.9 14 3.88 71 98 93 68 66
Rick Mirer 1997 27 CHI 7 3 103 51.46% 420 0 6 37.7 16 0.51 79 49 58 64 62
Caleb Hanie 2011 26 CHI 6 4 102 50.00% 613 3 9 41.8 19 1.12 63 78 85 2 23

The table doesn't feature a lot of names a young quarterback would strive to be associated with, especially the one that rhymes with RaMarcus Jussell. Seven of the 13 quarterbacks were first round picks and most of the 13 did not achieve any success after this season. Russell, Dilfer, Marinovich and Krenzel did not throw an NFL pass after this season of record — Caleb Hanie is also in this group, but is still an active quarterback in the league, well kind of.

There is some hope in this group, though. Alex Smith went from terrible Alex Smith in 2005 to okay Alex Smith in 2013 with a Pro Bowl appearance. Steve Beuerlein also made a Pro Bowl in 1999 after a team change and a few years of above average play. With such a small number of quarterbacks on this list, there's no way to make any proclamations about how the rest of Geno Smith's career will turn out based on the careers of these other QBs. One interesting thing about the other quarterbacks on the list is Smith was the only one given the reigns to struggle through all 16 games in the season without being benched. He's the only QB on the list to have both 300 and 400 pass attempts in the season. There's two ways to look at that fact — 1. The Jets had more confidence in Geno than than the other teams had in their quarterbacks, or 2. no quarterback has been that bad for that amount of time in a single season.

Mark Sanchez, in his four years as a Jets starter, was never able to crack the 80-80-80 Club, coming the closest in his rookie season with a 76-63-95. Sanchez, though, is also part of the reason Smith was kept in for all 16 games in 2013. After Sanchez tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve, the Jets didn't have a reliable backup to play in place of Smith. Backup Matt Simms threw 31 more passes than Matt Simms probably should have thrown last season.

Smith and the Jets will get help in a number of different areas for 2014. The team signed wide receiver Eric Decker, who has been a productive receiver for Peyton Manning, Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow. Decker becomes and even bigger help if the Jets because serious bidders for DeSean Jackson, though that sounds unlikely. Still, with a deep class of wide receivers in this year's draft, the Jets should come away with at least some other additional upgrade over what they had at receiver last season.

Michael Vick was also brought in as a mentor/super-backup/pseudo-starter combination and his one-year/$4 million contract suggests the same. Vick has't been the super athlete in quite a while, but he reinvented himself in Philadelphia, especially last season when he graciously accepted backup duty after Nick Foles took over as the starter. The Jets don't gain much with Vick as the outright starter — he'll be 34 on a one-year deal — but he does give the team a safety net in case Smith fails to develop in his second season.

It would be unprecedented for Smith to be as bad again — no one has two seasons in the 80-80-80 Club — but there are plenty of bad quarterbacks who don't reach those numbers each season. This season, though, the Jets will have a contingency plan in place in the offense again does downhill. The Jets should hope that doesn't happen as they'd be left with a 34-year-old starter hitting free agency at the end of the season and more questions about the future at quarterback. It wouldn't be uncharted waters for the Jets, but charted and successfully navigated are two very different things.


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