2011 NFL Season: 10 Early Questions for NFL QB’s (Week 3)

No time like the present to dig in and ask some tough questions about performance.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions

  1. Why is Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco currently ranked 28th (tied with Browns’ QB Colt McCoy) with a completion percentage of 54.1%?
  2. Of the three QB’s that have thrown for over 1,000 yards this season (Brady, Brees, and Newton), which one has the biggest “upside”?
  3. Which QB with a lower completion percentage than Minnesota’s Donovan McNabb should be benched first: Jay Cutler, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton or Sam Bradford?
  4. Quarterbacks averaging less than 7 yards per attempt include Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford and Donovan McNabb. Only Ryan has offensive weapons as deep and varied as Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones. Is it time for a change in Atlanta — and if so, who stays, who goes?
  5. Why is Chad Henne still playing (and why is Tony Sparano still coaching)?
  6. Should we all expect Kevin Kolb to win close games by now? When does his honeymoon end with the national press? Kolb and Cam Newton are the only 2 QB’s average more than 8 yards per attempt with losing records. The Panthers lost to the Cardinals in Week 1 due, in part, to a dropped pass in the endzone at the end of the game.
  7. How many writers had to trash stories about a “gritty, tough, resilient, smart, heady and really, really gritty, tough, resilient, smart and heady” Kevin Kolb positioning the Cardinals for a playoff run after T. Jax ran over both Cardinals safeties to knock off the red birds? Kolb is as unproven today as he was when the Philadelphia faithful fawned over his every move.
  8. When is Ben Roethlisberger going to stop playing down to the level of his competition and author a blowout defense that allows his aging defense to get some rest?
  9. Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Matt Cassel lead the league in pass interceptions. Anyone covering this?
  10. Philip Rivers has thrown two interceptions in EVERY GAME THIS SEASON; his teams have always underperformed; and the Chargers are a razor’s edge away from an 0-3 start, but it’s crickets ALL AROUND the national media. Can Phil get a check up from the neck up? Is it as simple as the loss of a “security blanket”?


  1. Tom Brady throws 4 picks and some analysts, I use the term loosely, are blaming receivers for failing to run routes properly…but missing Brady’s failure to finish plays and convert to defense once he surrenders the ball. Play the game the way its supposed to be played.
  2. If you’re running the Rams right now, would you rather have Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ndamukong Suh or Sam Bradford?
  3. The Texans next three games are against the Steelers, Raiders and at Baltimore. Is Matt Schaub the guy? Will we know after this stretch, once and for all?

Just one final note: At some point it will be fitting for the NFL family to remember that Tom Brady has essentially had two careers. In the first stage of his career, as his team won 3 Super Bowls in 4 years by a total of 9 points (three point wins each time), Brady was not a dominant passer. He was efficient. He didn’t throw interceptions. He was a game manager, not a game changer. Young Tom Brady didn’t win games with his arm. He won them with his hand offs, and his execution of play action fakes. He had some big passing games (Super Bowls vs. Carolina and Philadelphia), but each of those games was also punctuated by high carry games from Patriot running backs. He threw for less than 4,000 yards in each of the Patriots Super Bowl-winning seasons…and he had QB ratings of under 93.

Rivals of the Era: Closer than Close

In the second stage of Tom Brady’s career, he has emerged as a dominant passer, but his teams have struggled to win post-season games. The Patriots, with an undefeated team, lost a Super Bowl to the New York Giants in which Brady threw 48 passes for a mere 266 yards. He was throttled, hammered and harassed all night long – and it still took a miracle for them to lose. Still, they lost. His passing was unable to carry the day – in much the same way that dominant passing was unable to garner rings for players like Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and others.

It seems as though there is a bit of collective amnesia with respect to these two phases of Tom Brady’s career. The elite passer of the second phase has not won a Super Bowl. Like Peyton Manning and Donovan McNabb and Dan Marino and others, he was won a lot of regular season games. However, he has lost a home playoff game to a team that featured an overwhelmed Joe Flacco (4-10, 35 total passing yards, 1 INT). He has lost to the New York Jets and second-year QB Mark Sanchez. And, for what it’s worth, Tom Brady has not thrown for 300 yards in a PLAYOFF GAME since 2005 against the Denver Broncos…and New England lost that game by 2 touchdowns.

It is difficult to separate Brady’s numbers and the regular season wins from his early success as the offensive leader of a team that was actually run by men like Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Ty Law, and Lawyer Milloy. It’s hard. I know it is. But the bottom line for Brady and the Patriots is what it is…and the numbers never lie.


  1. 1) Joe Flacco has been/is/always will be one of the more over-rated QB’s in the league. Size and a powerful arm doesn’t mean that you are going to be a great QB.

    2) Obviously Newton. The other two have been there before, and we all know what they can do. Cam is an unknown.

    3) Should be: Henne. The Dolphins offense scares no one. Probably will be: Orton. The Denver fans are wanting their Tebow, even if it means that they may regress some.

    4) The biggest change in Atlanta needs to be to realize that the offense needs to flow through Turner, first.

    5) Their other QB is Matt Moore. My guess is Sparano is still around because the owner can’t find a big name coach to come there, but he’ll probably go with an unknown after this season.

    6) Yes, seeing as Josh Freeman won a couple in his first year, and Cam just pulled one out, if we don’t see a couple this year, the criticism should ramp up to 10. That honeymoon will probably last ’til next year with the excuse being that he hasn’t played much.

    7) Probably every writer that follows the Cardinals.

    8) I’m still not convinced that Ben is the real problem as much as Arians. Ben loves Arians because Arians loves to throw. The team doesn’t want to piss Ben off because he is a diva after all. Granted the Steelers have great receivers, but the team’s bread and butter has been the running game since the 70’s for the most part.

    9) Of course not. And if they were, it’s not those guys faults.

    10) He deserves some of the blame. I think the Raiders are taking the AFC West this year because San Diego always has those games that they should dominate, but lose. If by security blanket, you mean Sproles, yeah, I think that’s affected him.

    Extra Credit:

    1) We all know Brady is teflon in the eyes of the media. I remember a couple of times when Randy Moss was there, he had some bad throws and folks blamed Moss for not getting the ball. They also used Moss’s own words against him about not playing hard every down….as if every other WR doesn’t take some plays off.

    2) They’ll never say it, but having a bargain basement priced Fitzpatrick teamed up with a beast like Suh would make the Rams clear favorites in the NFC West. It would also have left them with cap room for other players.

    3) The better question is: “Is Kubiak that guy?” He tossed his lot in with Schaub. If Schaub isn’t that guy, then Kubiak has to go down with him.

    Good points about Brady’s careers. Takes me back to your big QB meeting a couple of years ago about all the guys that threw for all of those yards and their records in playoff games!

  2. Thanks kos.

    This is probably the last tango in Texas for Kubiak. Now that Wade is there, the excuses are gone. They have continuity on offense. They have talent on both sides of the ball. They have free agents. The problem is that they don’t have any shared experience of winning. They’ll have to learn on the fly. 3 Weeks are going to really show and prove if they’re ready.

  3. *In my Bart Scott voice* “Can’t wait!”, to answer these questions tomorrow…

    Btw, your Tom Flores piece was entirely dope.

  4. 1) Just heard today that Flacco doesn’t enjoy the confidence of his teammates, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise. When Troy Smith was there, Many players open questioned why Flacco was playing over him and that Flacco hadn’t beaten him out. That aside aside, Flacco’s percentage is low, I argue, because he doesn’t seem to go through his reads and progressions well enough. Many times, to me, it appears that he telegraphs his throws and, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has more passes broken up than most QBs, as a result. Despite the aforementioned, Flacco will remain the QB because the Ravens won a SB with Trent Dilfer so Flacco basically has the job for as long as he wants it. In this age of the Obama Effect [OE] (read: extreme white backlash) coupled with this age of the Second Great Depression, The Raven braintrust probably felt that the greatest demographic appeal, business-wise, was to keep someone who looks like Flacco to appeal the primary ticket purchasers who also hail from his demographic.

    2) Newton.

    3) Henne will be benched because, unanimously, they’re calling for his head.

    4) The OC in ATL simply needs to change the play-calling to reflect a run-first orientation, plain and simple. Gassing up the QB by giving him a nickname many think is cool may make it hard to convert him to a game manager from a signal-caller. So, good luck with that!

    5) I have no earthly idea why Chad’s still playing and I’m wondering if Pat White’s still there.

    6) Kolb, of course, will never face the scrutiny that Black QBs face so he, like Flacco, will receive a pass.

    7) Too many writers to list in this space that’s for sure. They had to swallow all of that which killed their anticipated Dopamine rush that the OE fuels…

    8) Ben will succeed in that when the O-Line improves its run-blocking such that RM is able to get some holes to run through.

    9) Of course, golden boy, Great White Hope QBs will get a pass on these deficiencies and they’ll be excused away as them attempting to making something happen. I listened to Eric Mangini and Skip Bayless both give TB a ‘B’ grade for his 4 pick-performance—and, Skip give Romo a ‘B’ grade for his performance versus the Lions. Mangini tried to pass off the logic of Romo’s attempts in an attempt to excuse his poorly thrown balls, as if the road to Hell isn’t paved with good intentions.

    10) Gates being out due to foot problems does take away a major checkdown. Couple that with Sproles, as mentioned by kos above, and yes, it will make him press—which does exonerate him. He’s still definitely responsible for the picks with his ugly-throwin’ self, lol.

    Extra Credit:

    See question 9. Also, I wanted to kick my TV when Skip Bayless accused Chad OchoCinco of quitting on the route that he had his man beaten on when Brady clearly threw the behind him. It was nauseating to witness—with neither Rob Parker nor Mangini telling him that he was a lying sack of excrement.

    Fitz and Suh would have been the better options, no doubt, this Detroiter concludes.

    The Texans are steadily learning to win, as a team, and as long as Foster runs the rock the way he does, Schaub will be ok as long as he doesn’t try to do too much. I’ll bet that the better Foster does, the tighter the reigns’ll be on Schaub to do the bare minimum.

    As for your final note, kos is 100% correct. This brings to mind that piece you did.
    Also, you know that I think Brady is the most glorified “System” QB and never, ever should be mistaken for anything other than that, which the Giants exposed to be the case in the SB (with a clearly rattled Brady missing easy passes to Welker in the flat because he was so shook). I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to read the scouting report on Brady released before he was drafted in the 6th round just before the re-watch that Giants SB victory again. Brady played just like the Scouting Report reads. Thus, to me, with all you wrote, coupled with Brady getting a haircut after the four pick debacle (which symbolized an effort on his part to rein himself in from his usual unbridled hubris), it’s clear to me that the system that’s allowed him all the time in the world to throw the ball has enabled him to delude himself into believing that he was some strong-armed gunslinger. Today, he was quoted as saying that he wasn’t in Montana’s league (as Brady approaches one of Montana’s records). While in a socially correct setting, I’d bet money that Brady would say otherwise, Brady probably doesn’t no that there will never be truer words about him ever spoken…

  5. P.S. Listening to Rob Parker and a slimmed-down Nate Newton say that Donovan ought to hang it up at the instigation of BSPN, when all of the aforementioned stiffs such as Flacco and the others who are playing with better Receiving Corps, but are playing like complete stiffs has finally become too much to bear. The OE and its heightened manifestation within the NFL has compelled me to turn off the games, perhaps, for good, as I purposely passed up the opportunity to see Josh Freeman play. I think I’m truly done.

  6. I have no problem watching games with the volume off. I’m sure Jaws probably slobbered all over Curtis Painter and gave back-handed, half-assed compliments to Freeman all night long. Thankfully though, I have no idea.

  7. When DK Wilson chronicled in gross detail the way in which ESPN went out of their way to attack athletes and paint the pictures we see, it confirmed empirically what we all knew experientially and intuitively. So I don’t subject myself to that too much. Sometimes it is accidental and therefore unavoidable, but otherwise…those cats are all banned.

  8. You’re wise to ban them. No use driving up my BP to ever watch them again, either. I’m gonna push away from the TV the way comically corpulent Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey, should push away from the all-you-can -scarf-down buffet table.

    Way to flesh out the crap they’re running about these QBs, especially Flacco. I couldn’t imagine Donovan throwing to Q (Anquan Boldin) and performing so pathetically. That’s the searing indictment. And, Donnie wouldn’t stink up da joint the way Phillip Rivers has been doing. So, yes, I’ll live with D-Mac’s propensity to throw passes that could only be caught with a Five-Iron as opposed to him throwing 2 picks a freakin’ game! Lastly, I’ll always be pissed about, in my book, the NFL-sanctioned stolen ’04 Super Bowl that very well could have cemented his legacy. Thankfully, many players are mustering the courage to verbalize that they believe that those three 3-point SB wins are quite dubious. Interestingly, as I’ve stated in other places, no such dubiousness shrouds the multiple SB wins by the Steelers, Niners, or the Cowboys…

  9. Oddly enough, I watched a segment of First Take where Bayless and Screamin A. were talking about Favre and it all came back to me. Idiotic white supremacists and their psychophants use situational ethics for “their own kind” while hypocritically demonizing Black and Brown athletes for the same or less — and all of this occurs while people are screaming. How damn insane is that? BANANAS!!!

  10. Situational for ethics for “their own kind” is so true! That Jake Delhomme is still fresh in the mind of most coupled with the Stinkfest that Flacco and Sanchez put on the other night makes me think that I’m in the Twilight Zone. Donnie Mac, aside from that 1st game (most of which I hadn’t seen), is better than both of those guys, in my book. Of course, he doesn’t have a receiving corps to speak of, which has been par for course… Psychophants… I just got it! Too funny, man…

  11. I know that people do meta-analysis of media all the time, but I’ve always had the feeling that television commentators tended to have different points of focus, depending on the race of the QB. For example, it seemed to me that with Black QB’s, great plays or great games were often attributed to the wide receivers rather to the passer. On Sunday, with the Panthers vs. Bears game, the announcers were raving about a play that Steve Smith made. He ran a 15-yard dig, cut across the middle and caught a ball that was on the money. Newton, for his part, stood in against the Bears front as the line broke down. He didn’t leave the pocket, but waited for Smith to come clear. He went down on the play — and there wasn’t a peep from announcers about pocket presence, composure, grit, toughness, headiness, or anything else. They were raving about Smith for running a 15-yard dig. With all the catches he’s made in his career — and would make in that game, it was just absurd.

    My gut says that a quantitative analysis of this issue would bear me out. I felt this way years ago when Randall Cunningham was playing. I didn’t feel that way during Warren Moon’s games. I have also felt like the announcers reserved their timing of comments about the overall play of the QB when it coincided with running plays. This isn’t something that’s done 100% of the time. I’d say that it’s probably something with a variance of 20% or so…something beyond chance, something statistically significant, but not something that occurs 100% of the time.

    It is something that you’d notice IF you became aware of it. How about you?

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