Looking at the Young Quarterback in the NFL


With all the recent talk about the young QB’s in the NFL I wanted to take a look using my incremental yards matrix as to how they are performing in 2013. For those unfamiliar with these numbers that I use the way it works is that using data supplied by Pro Football Focus relating to length of passes we can determine how many yards an average QB would pass for on a similar set of throws. By comparing the two we can determine just how many yards the QB actually contributed to the team. The average YPA is as follows:

Behind the Line- 5.8 yards

0 to 9 yards- 6.2 yards

10 to 19 yards- 9.5 yards

20+ yards- 11.7 yards

In addition we can calculate the expected interceptions and use that to calculate yards allowed/prevented by maintaining possession of the ball. A turnover should lead to an average of 30.8 yards being gained by the opposition. So for every interception above the expectation we consider the player to have contributed a negative 30.8 yards to the team. In the past I have considered rushing yards, but I tend to think long term that is unsustainable and we have seen major cutbacks in those numbers this year for a number of “running” QB’s.

Young QB yards

What I found most interesting in the results is that for all the talk about how great the young QB’s in the NFL are only two players truly stand out- Nick Foles and Russell Wilson. While I have not run the numbers for the entire NFL these totals should be right at the top of the NFL. In Foles’ case it’s exceptionally impressive since he does not have as many snaps as other players. Both players are improved over last season when Foles was at -85 pass yards and Wilson at 285 pass yards. After two years of numbers like this I think Wilson has cemented himself as the real deal and should be paid accordingly after the 2014 season. Foles I think we all want to see a full year of work, but its certainly a good start.

Cam Newton is getting more love this year because his team is winning but statistically he’s worse this season. Last year he was at 388 passing yards and this year is down to 125 with 6 games to go. His turnover rates are higher as well. Cam can be extended after this season but the Panthers salary cap situation may prevent that. In many ways that might be a good thing because he has draft cache and name value which can sometimes lead to bloated contracts.  I’m not sure if you want to consider elite dollars to him yet or not. RGIII is not as bad as people are making him out to be but he is a shell compared to last season when he was close to 400 yards. His turnovers are also way up and I wonder if some of the regression is his inability to run this year.

Andrew Luck has also been overvalued the last two season, though this represents an improvement over last year where he finished with -272 passing yards. Luck is still young but right now I could see a bit of Eli Manning in there in that he gets passes for being a number 1 pick, wins games, and has late game rallys. He is not the same style player as Manning but I could see the perception being bigger than reality. He has cut down on turnovers. At this stage it’s ridiculous to compare him to Wilson, who is just a superior player.

Colin Kaepernick has crashed. He was incredibly productive last year and this year just is not. San Francisco has to think long and hard before extending him in the offseason. I doubt they offer him more than $15 million a season.  Andy Dalton is a turnover machine and if not for that would be a slightly above average player. He’s certainly helped by his WR corps. but the turnovers are terrible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how low Ryan Tannehill ranked. Why did he rank so poorly?  Basically anything he throws 10 yards or more down the field leads to nothing. Pin some of that blame on the Mike Wallace failure, but the bottom line is Tannehill only completes 50.5% of his passes between 10 and 19 yards and just 26.5% of his deep throws. His team calls far too many intermediate passes for his skillset right now and that hurts. 31% of his passes are travelling between 10 and 19 yards. The next closest from this group is Newton who threw about 28% of his passes in that range. Newton completes 64%. I tend to think if they had him shorten the field his numbers would improve.

Of the guys getting their first chances this year we see two camps. Neither Mike Glennon or EJ Manuel are having success passing the ball but both are at least doing something positive by limiting interceptions. This is in direct contract to Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith who are producing average pass numbers but horrific turnover numbers. Smith’s -256 yards is nearly double the next worst player. The only players worse than him lass season were Matt Cassel (-309 TO yards) and Mark Sanchez (-332 TO yards). He is on pace to shatter those numbers. Why does his passing rank as high as it does?  He completes 46.5% of his bombs. He is below average on every other throw. If that balances out his final numbers could be scary on the season.




State of Rebuild – San Diego Chargers


How do you build a winning football team?  Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild.  The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.

TelescoState of the Franchise and Front Office

The San Diego Chargers have continued to uphold their label as one of the NFL’s biggest underachievers.  After going 13-3 in 2009, the Chargers have since failed to win 10 games or make the playoffs.  Despite going 4-2 against AFC West division opponents, the Chargers finished the 2012 season a disappointing 7-9.  While not seemingly rebuilding, the Chargers did shake up the organization after another lackluster campaign in 2012.  Tom Telesco replaces longtime General Manager A.J. Smith, while Mike McCoy replaces Norv Turner as Head Coach.


Contract Strategies and Trends

With only one offseason of data, the sample size for how new GM Tom Telesco will structure his contracts is quite small.  Under former GM A.J. Smith, the Chargers rarely structured any contracts with roster or workout bonuses, with Nick Hardwick being the only player on the roster brought in by A.J. Smith not under his rookie contract receiving a roster bonus.  Hardwick is due a $500,000 roster bonus in 2013 and 2014.  Thus far, Telesco has utilized roster bonuses much more than his predecessor.  Free Agent acquisition Derek Cox is due a $300,000 roster bonus in 2014, 2015, and 2016 as part of his 4-year/$20 million deal and Dwight Freeney is also due a roster bonus of $500,000 in 2013 and $1 million in 2014 as part of his free agency deal after Melvin Ingram went down earlier this offseason with a torn ACL in his left knee.

Freeney’s $500,000 roster bonus in 2013 and $500,000 of the $1 million dollar roster bonus in 2014 are actually per game roster bonuses of $31,250 per game.  For salary cap purposes, the roster bonus is treated as a LTBE incentive.  Because Freeney played in 14 games in 2012, his 2013 roster bonus cap hit is currently $437,500 ($31,250 x 14).  This setup is an extremely team friendly mechanism for the Chargers.  The per game roster bonus works just like a standard P5 salary except the P5 is still fully guaranteed in the event of injury or deactivation while the per game roster bonus is not.  If Freeney plays all 16 games this year, his actual cap hit will be adjusted upwards after the season to the full $500,000 ($31,250 x 16) and if he plays less than 14 games, for example 0, his cap hit will be adjusted downwards after the season to $0 ($31,250 x 0).

Telesco has also been more proactive in using workout bonuses.  Last years third round pick Brandon Taylor is the only player on the roster from the A.J. Smith era who received a workout bonus.  Under Telesco, free agent acquisitions King Dunlap and Johnny Patrick, along with rookie wideout Keenan Allen, received workout bonuses in their new deals.


Philip RiversBiggest Upcoming Roster Decision

Is Philip Rivers still the future of the Chargers?  Once regarded as one of the bright young superstars under center in the NFL, Rivers has come under increased scrutiny after back-to-back subpar seasons.  With two years and just under $31 million left on his current deal, it would appear at first that Telesco’s hands are tied with his options at quarterback.  A closer look reveals that it’s quite an easy feat to accomplish if Telesco wanted to move on from Rivers and hand pick his own quarterback after the 2013 season.  Rivers has a cap hit of $15 million in 2014 and $15.75 million in 2015 but nearly all of the money in both years is unguaranteed P5 salary.  With only a $1.2 million hit of dead money in 2014 and no dead money hit in 2015, the cap effects of moving on from Rivers after 2013 would be negligible.

However, barring a catastrophic injury or an incredibly disappointing season, I do not see the Chargers moving on from Rivers.  An inept offensive line has failed to give Rivers a clean pocket consistently or provide any sort of viable running game.  If incoming first rounder D.J. Fluker can lock down the Right Tackle position and allow Jeromey Clary who struggled at Right Tackle to help shore up the Right Guard position, the right side of the offensive line might actually become a strength of this team rather than one of its biggest weaknesses.  With the potential upgrade to even adequate offensive line play, Rivers should look more like the top-tier quarterback we are accustomed to and less like the mediocre version we have watched over the past two seasons, making Telesco’s possible decision easy.

It is worth noting that Telesco is no stranger to franchise altering quarterback decisions.  During Telesco’s first season as an area scout with the Colts in 1998, the Colts drafted now division rival quarterback Peyton Manning 1st overall and was also part of the decision making process that landed 1st overall pick Andrew Luck in Indianapolis in 2012 before Telesco joined the Chargers this year.  While I do not think Telesco ultimately moves on from Rivers after the 2013 season, it is certainly an available option.

Ryan Feder
Tulane University Law School
J.D. Candidate 2015