Byron Leftwich

2009 NFL Season: Announcing Josh Freeman

From where I’m sitting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have accomplished one thing this season.  They’ve shown that they have 3 quarterbacks who can make plays and that they have a defense that is a shadow of its former self.  The offense has hardly been lights out this season, but when you consider that the offensive coordinator was fired at the start of the season, that the team has a new head coach, that the starting QB was determined at the end of pre-season, and that two of the QB’s who’ve started this season are new to town, you simply cannot have high expectations.  As I’ve said, Byron Leftwich was not the reason the Buccaneers were not winning games at the beginning of the season.  They were losing for the same reasons they lost prior to last week: a profound inability to stop the run.

When Leftwich was benched, he was 6th in passing yards in the NFL.  Guess who is 6th in passing yards right now?  Ben Roethlisberger.  The Steelers have won five in a row.

Leftwich performed well in relief of Roethlisberger last year.  Given that Antonio Bryant has played hurt for the entire season, that Michael Clayton is somewhere between Chris Chambers and Chris Henry, and that the Bucs don’t have a reliable deep threat, Leftwich did a credible job.  The same can be said for Josh Johnson — except that he was compelled to play against teams like New England (#3 pass defense) and Carolina (#5 pass defense) and Philadelphia (#2 with 15 INTs) and Washington (#1 pass defense).  Forget that Leftwich scored 21 points against Dallas and threw for nearly 300 yards vs. Buffalo.  Forget that Josh Johnson fought hard against some of the best defenses in the league.

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2009 NFL Season – Week 4 Picks

We’re heading to the Quarter Post.  Week 4 is here and games are on tap for 28 teams in the league (Arizona, Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia are off.).  The first three weeks have shown that some patterns are continuing:

AFC+NFC+Hall+of+Fame+Game+ENz2Ne-O4lJl

Zorn: In search of Directions OFF the Beltway

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Did Byron Leftwich Get a Raw Deal?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced today that QB Byron Leftwich will be replaced in the position by Josh Johnson.  Former Kansas State star and QB of the future Josh Freeman will be promoted to #2.  Johnson replaced Leftwich in yesterday’s 24-0 loss at the hands of the New York Giants.  But did Raheem Morris do the right thing in going with a young QB?  Is the timing right?  Is he changing the right piece of the puzzle?  Is this is a sign of desperation after the recent firing of the offensive coordinator?

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2009 NFL Season: Early Looks with 2 in the Books

The 2009 NFL season is now headed to Week 3.  It is still very early in a season that has yet to reveal its true self.  It usually takes more than two weeks.  With that said, I believe that some early events and trends may be indicators for the long haul.  Some of these events and trends are carry-overs from last season.  Some are as new as Sunday afternoon or Monday night.

1.  The Colts run defense is atrocious. Since his Pro Bowl season of 2005, Colts SS Bob Sanders has missed approximately 27 games.  That is too much time for this elite player to be considered a “reliable” factor in the Colts defense.  Sanders is as likely to play a season as he is to miss a season.  He’s never played 16 games in a season (The Colts routinely held elite players out of Week 17 games under Tony Dungy.) and has played as few as 6 games twice.  The Colts cannot stop the run without Bob Sanders on the field.  The first time this weakness was revealed Jacksonville’s Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew lit up Indy for 303 yards.  Last night, the Dolphins went for 239.  The Colts have neither the personnel, the scheme, nor the inclination to fix this problem.  The only 2009 solution for the Indianapolis Colts is the return of Bob Sanders.  Until then, get used to seeing this team’s Front Seven get mauled. (more…)

2009 NFL Pre-Season: Early Thoughts

The NFL pre-season means absolutely nothing.  Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost every single game and were particularly ineffective on offense.  Pre-season means nothing.  Still…

Santonio Holmes - Super Bowl MVPSantonio Holmes – Super Bowl MVP

I can’t help thinking that some of what I’ve seen is instructive as a prelude to the 2009 season.  Here are some early thoughts: (more…)

Thoughts on 2009 NFL Free Agency

Some teams have better luck than others when it comes to figuring out how best to mix players from other temas with their own.  It’s not as simple as looking at a player on tape or assessing how well he plays against your squad.  There is much more to it.  Signing free agents is more art than science.  Here are some of my thoughts on the canvas of options facing teams across the league.

  • Starting at the top, the Redksins announced the signing of former Tennessee Titan defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.  Haynesworth was the most prized signee of the off-season.  Most folks that I’ve heard and read like the signing by Washington.  Some are concerned about whether Albert will eat his way out of the elite.  I like the move by Washington because it strengthens a unit that was already very good.  The Redskins only surrendered more than 24 points one time last season.  Haynesworth figures to increase their sack and INT totals.  If he is paired with Cornelius Griffin and Jason Taylor returns to his natural position, the Redskins should impose their will defensively.
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Scramblers and Statues: The Quarterback in Black, White and Gray

In the NFL, one of the most electrifying players in the game is “the running quarterback.” The players to which this label have been affixed are blessed with tremendous speed, agility and vision. Some of these players have also been considered too nervous or undisciplined to stay in the pocket long enough for a play to develop. In recent years, much has been made about the superiority of the “classic pocket passer” over the “running quarterback.” One staunch advocate of the classic passing game is ESPN’s Ron Jaworski. The former Eagles quarterback is known for saying that “points come in the passing game” and “you can’t design your offense around a running quarterback.” He has added the proviso that mobility within the pocket is a critical aspect of playing the quarterback position. I’ve wanted to test his hypothesis for some time because my own recollection of elite quarterbacks over the past 30 years did not fully square with Jaw’s assessment. I certainly agreed that points came in the passing game. I believe that teams pass to score and they run and play defense to win. It’s nice to be able to do all three of those things, but if I could only take two, I’d take a Top 10 defense and a Top 10 running game. (I’ll take my chances with play action passes and a motion offense any day of the week.)

I have to give a tip of the hat to Jweiler over at The Starting Five. His comparison of Steve Young and Michael Vick (specifically during the first 6 years of their careers was eye-opening. His piece illustrated the extent to which MSM (mainstream media) will go to blur lines, to misinterpret statistics, and to fabricate claims absent a scintilla of evidence.

It spurred me to finally crunch the numbers. I used the same approach as J did over at TSF. I divided pass attempts by rush attempts to establish a pass:run ratio. This is a basic approach to making determinations about QB playing styles. I did not look at yards per attempt. Clearly that statistic would allow for additional separation, but that was not my principal concern here. As it is, I believe there will strong agreement between these ratios and those we recall as “scramblers” and “statues.” The term “running quarterback” is so widely used that it has escaped definition in most circles. We may not have listed all the elements, but we know one when we see one. That’s probably not sufficient for this discussion if it grows beyond this post, but it is a start. So, what then is a “running quarterback”? For me, a running quarterback is a quarterback with the capacity to run. In looking at the data, I found that quarterbacks who can run do run. Quarterbacks who cannot run, do not run. Given the skill level, athleticism and fury of defenders, running is not the worst idea. In fact, some of the greatest quarterbacks in this game were/are excellent runners. It is also probably not sufficient to say a running QB is a QB who can run because there are so many reasons why QBs run. Here are a few:

  • Poor offensive line play
  • Poor wide receiver play
  • Lack of comfort with the offense
  • Lack of knowledge of the offense
  • Lack of confidence in passing ability
  • Evading pressure to extend plays
  • Planned runs/draws/sneaks

I believe there has always been a negative connotation to being a running QB. That’s not entirely surprising. Some players prefer to be called “mobile quarterbacks.” Perhaps that is more accurate. After all, most players and coaches recognize that it is easier to pass for yardage than to run; that players are more dangerous when they pose a dual threat; that powerful offenses tend to have success passing the ball. With respect to the data, I have attached a PDF chart to demonstrate a rather surprising continuum of quarterbacks in the league. For those of you with no desire to look at a PDF, the table is presented below with all of the same data.

QB Pass-Run Ratios.pdf

The first thing that jumped out at me on this continuum of quarterbacks was that the cluster of four quarterbacks with 11 total Super Bowl rings: Montana, Brady, Aikman and Simms. Each has a pass ratio between 11.8 and 14.4. That is a tight grouping. It is interesting that Warren Moon is in the middle of this group with a ratio of 12.6. Moon, of course, was precluded from playing in the quarterback in the NFL due to white supremacy for six years. Stringent unwritten rules were rescinded and Moon was granted an opportunity to play. Moon’s Oilers ran the “Run ‘n Shoot” offense which may have undermined their ability to seal the deal.

Then again, Terry Bradshaw and John Elway have significantly higher ratios – and both did a great deal of running around early in their careers. Bradshaw’s numbers in Super Bowl years, though, are interesting. The numbers would support the idea that as quarterbacks and offenses mature, the pass:run ratio will increase. In the Steelers first four Super Bowl victories, Terry Bradshaw has pass:run ratios of 4.4, 8.2, 11.5 and 22.5. The Steelers won back-to-back twice. Bradshaw basically doubled his ratio with each Super Bowl win.

Other items of note: Quarterbacks with passing records and limited or no success in Super Bowls, except for Fran Tarkenton, were clustered at the traditional pocket passer end of the continuum (Favre, Warner, Marino, Fouts). Some passers who might be considered traditional pocket passers actually have much higher ratios than anticipated (Brady, Williams, Leftwich). Then there’s Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. Stabler had to be one of the more elusive pocket passers of his or any era. I was so shocked by his numbers, I need to check the data from another source. There’s more: consider the pass:run ratios of Danny White and Roger Staubach. That’s a contrast of more than 2:1.

This is just the beginning of an analysis which should weigh some of these questions:

  • How have these quarterbacks performed during the early years of their careers?
  • What were the pass:run ratios of quarterbacks during years in which they won the Super Bowl?
  • Is there really a “sweet spot” ratio for optimizing the effectiveness of quarterbacks?

The table is not working. Please read the PDF.