Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Never-Ending Search for the Franchise Quarterback, 2016 Edition

Jared Goff may prove to be a "Quarterback of the Future" but not in the present.

   You always hear about teams searching for the "Franchise Quarterback."  With the regular season almost complete, what if anything have we learned about Franchise quarterbackology?  Everybody has their own little narrative about what's going to happen, and sometimes it works out and sometimes not.  

    1.  The number one narrative is that drafting the "Franchise Quarterback" is going to be transformational process that allows bad teams to become Super Bowl contenders.   Teams subscribing to this idea are Tampa bay (Jameis Winston #1 pick of 2015), Tennessee (Marcus Mariota #2, 2015), Los Angeles (Jared Goff 2016 #1) and Philadelphia (Carson Wentz 2016 #2).   At the moment, Jameis Winston is the 21st ranked quarterback, and Marcus Mariota is number 11, Jared Goff has been awful but not played much, and Carson Wentz is 25th.   None of the so-called "Franchise Picks" turned their team around immediately, but Tennessee and Tampa Bay were in the hunt for the playoffs this year.  If there is a franchise quarterback, it's Dak Prescott of the Cowboys, ranked third in the NFL. Mariota might get there in a year or two, in my opinion, based on his accuracy, and athleticism.  

The Houston Antichrist, aka Brock Osweiler may not be as bad as people believe, and Tom Savage may not be that good.  

     This year the 72 million dollar experiment was Brock Osweiler, an experienced player with a good but limited record with the Broncos, who had a poor season for Texas and  has been replaced by Tom Savage.  The Houston narrative is that Osweiler is the Antichrist, and replacing him with Tom Savage is bound to turn on the offense.  Well, it worked for one game, in which Savage led them to victory over the weak Jacksonville Jaguars.  But against the Cincinnati Bengals playing without star Vontaze Burfict, Savage managed only 176 yards passing.  To tell the truth, I liked what the Texans did in getting a young but experienced quarterback to try to lead the team from the get-go.  So I was surprised to see him struggle.  But there may be  other problems with Houston besides quarterback, and Osweiler may take another year or two to assimilate Coach Bill O'Brien's system. Or maybe Bill O'Brien's system is not as good as he thinks it is.  

Dak is the People's Choice to start of Tony Romo.  

     If you're looking for a simple formula, draft a quarterback in the fourth round!  Dak Prescott has been the bomb for Dallas.  Maybe he doesn't have the deep arm of a Jameis Winston, but he is very smart, accurate and able to avoid the bad interception.   Should we have seen that in college?  The Village Elliot believes so.  My number one stat for evaluating quarterbacks is yards thrown divided by interceptions.  I llike this stat because it reflects the quarterbacks decision making as well as raw ability.  A guy with low INTs correctly evaluated the play most of the time.    Dak was one of the best in the NCAA with an amazing 758 yards per interception.  That's more than twice Jared Goff's average of 363 yards per INT.   So yeah, I would predict Dak would be better than either Goff or Wentz (413 yd/INT) on that basis.  And the absolute king in college was Marcus Mariota with 1114 yd/INT.  Famous Jameis was one of the worst at 217 yd/INT.  But the scouts love Jameis' arm, which is the strongest of the bunch.  

     And in case you're wondering, the leaders in this stat for the 2016 college season are Mason Rudolph (944 yd/INT) and Mitch Trubisky (867 yd/INT).  
     As for the experienced quarterback, perhaps the most intriguing is Jimmy Garoppolo, who has been the understudy for Tom Brady at New England.  The Patriots are interested in shopping him around.  The deal would be complicated because a new team would want to lock him in, and Jimmy's agent will want Osweiler money for sure.   So despite his talent, he may not be traded unless some team wants to come up with 70 million dollars.  
     Otherwise, available quarterbacks include the likes of Case Keenum, Mark Sanchez, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt McGloin and Geno Smith.  Not exactly an inspiring list.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

How Bad is the Browns Offensive Line for 2017

The Fat Kids have killed the team all year long.

     I've been complaining about the Browns' Offensive Line all year long, as they've been trying to kill all of our quarterbacks.   To recapitulate, Cody Kessler has been knocked out of games twice, Josh McCown missed time with a broken collarbone, Robert Griffin III had a broken bone in his shoulder, and Charley Whitehurst was released with an injury settlement.  In addition the Browns lead the NFL in sacks allowed and hits allowed on the quarterback. It's one of the most disgraceful performances in NFL history, frankly.  

Many analysts believe the Browns need to nuke the line, blow it up and start over.  But I don't think so.  Next year, we hope for a healthy Joel Bitonio, John Greco, and Austin Reiter.  Joel is an up and coming star and threat to make the Pro Bowl, Greco has been a reliable and underrated guard, and Austin Reiter outplayed Cameron Erving however briefly before going on IR with a knee injury.  

No doubt the guys we are playing now are terrible.  But almost all linemen will improve greatly between Year 1 and Year 2.  I don't know whether late round draft picks like Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango will be good, but I do know that they will be better than in 2016.  It's just a fact that most rookies need time to understand the intricacies of their position, and they are still getting stronger at age 21 or 22. No way are they at their peak.  

In that regard, Cameron Erving has been terrible.  But to my eye, he's been getting better.  Not good, but better.   And if you look at his history, he switched from defense to offense only in his sophomore year, and then played one year at tackle and switched to center.  He had very little experience and then messed up by insisting he could play all five positions.   Let's be clear.  I don't blame a 22 year old kid for thinking he could do it.  I do blame the Browns coaching staff for not giving him one position to learn.   I want to see how he does in 2017 before going ape.  As other options, we still have John Greco and Austin Reiter.  

I don't think that Austin Pasztor is the stud road grader that we need at Right Tackle. He's a free agent this year for 2017, along with former first round pick Jonathan Cooper.    I would definitely seek a new starter, either via Free Agency or in the draft.   But I might be receptive to bring Pasztor back if he's willing to sign for a modest contract.  I think he played well at guard as a substitute starter in 2015.  I think Pasztor could be moved to right guard to compete with Greco for a job. We'll find out about Cooper too in the remaining games of 2016.  

Some people talk about moving Joe Thomas but that is crazy talk.  Leave the Hall of Famer alone.  He ain't broke, so please don't fix him.  

So, I think we are okay at  four spots with Thomas, Bitonio, Erving and Greco.  Backups are  Reiter, Spencer Drango, Shon Coleman and depending on free agency, Jonathan Cooper and Pasztor. We still badly need a legit right tackle, and probably a developmental guy who can be a backup tackle.  I think you can count on the guys on the  bench being better (not good, but better) than 2016.  

Shon Coleman has had a chance to start, but will have to improve to be first string next year.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Where Do Good Quarterbacks Come From?

    If you ask the fan bases, they love the guy who was the first overall draft pick and plays right away.  But there are a lot of ways to succeed.  Below is a summary of the top 30 guys in the NFL as of December 2016, and what they did to get their jobs.

Some guys followed the script, started from Day 1 or close to it, and were instant stars, turning around their teams.  

Andrew Luck was one of the most awesome draft prospects ever.  Of course, so was JaMarcus Russell.  

Others started right away but had some early troubles, and then got a lot better.  I would add that even guys in the first group usually got better as they gained a year or two's experience.  

Others sat for a while and learned by watching, later emerging as a good quarterback.  

Some guys, notably Tom Brady, were not taken in the first round, but for some reason played at a high level anyway.  Very few guys come from that far back i

Finally in the last group are guys who are quarterbacking their second team or more.   None of these guys were first round draft pics, interestingly.  
To me it shows that success can be found at all levels in the draft, though of course the first round picks have the greatest success rate.  You would have to go through quite a number of sixth round picks to find one as good as Tom Brady.  

High Draft Pick, started right away, immediate star
Matt Ryan,           ATL
Andrew Luck,    IND
Jameis Winston,    TB
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
Marcus Mariota,    TEN
Cam Newton,    CAR

HIgh draft Pick, started right away and struggled
Matthew Stafford,    DET
Eli Manning,            NYG
Jared Goff               LA
Carson Wentz,    PHI
Blake Bortles,    JAC
Ryan Tannehill,    MIA
Alex Smith,            KC

Sat and learned for a while
Aaron Rodgers,    GB
Kirk Cousins,   WAS
Philip Rivers,    SD
Carson Palmer    ARI
Joe Flacco,            BAL
Colin Kaepernick    SF

2nd Round or Later Pick
Tom Brady,            NE
Dak Prescott,    DAL
Andy Dalton,            CIN
Derek Carr,            OAK
Russell Wilson,    SEA
Trevor Siemian,    DEN
Cody Kessler           CLE

Traded or free agent transfer
Drew Brees,            NO
Brock Osweiler,    HOU
Tyrod Taylor,            BUF
Ryan Fitzpatrick,    NYJ
Case Keenum,    LA

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ex-Browns in the NFL

The Browns Highly Talented but Last Place Defense had no Spot for D'Qwell Jackson and his Pro Bowl trophies.  

One reason why the Browns seem to have no talent is that their best players are playing for other teams.  You would be amazed to know that from the league's worst defense, there are ten (10) guys starting for other teams.  How is that even possible?  Safety Mike Adams, safety T. J. Ward, LB D'Qwell Jackson, special teams ace Johnson Bademosi,  were all picked for recent Pro Bowls.  No team can lose that kind of talent and replace it with late round draft choices.  What really hurts is that for the most part these guys were either cut outright, or the Browns made minimal attempts to sign them.  

On offense it's not quite so bad.  Only six ex-Browns are starters on other teams, and only two have been to a recent Pro Bowl.     In all, about 16 ex-Browns are starting for other teams.  An amazing nine backup quarterbacks are ex-Browns. 

Did I leave anyone out?

QB    Brian Hoyer (Bears, started 6 games, injured)
QB2  Colt McCoy (Washington)
QB3  Brandon Weeden (Texans, started 1 game)
QB4  Derek Anderson (Panthers, started 2 games)
QB5  Austin Davis (Broncos)
QB6  Luke McCown (Saints)
QB7  Thad Lewis (49ers)
QB8  Connor Shaw (Bears, injured)

QB9  Alex "Youtube" Tanney (Titans)

WR  Travis Benjamin * (Chargers, Pro Bowl alt)
WR  Willie Snead* (Saints)
WR  Taylor Gabriel  (Falcons)
WR  Charles Johnson (Vikings)

WR  Greg Little (Bills)

TE  Jim Dray (Bills)
TE  Jordan Cameron (Dolphins)
TE  Rob Hausler (Bears)
TE Ben Watson (Ravens)

RB   Terrence West* (Ravens)
RB   Dion Lewis (Patriots)
RB   Shaun Draughn (49ers)

RB   Bobby Rainey (Giants)
RB   Fozzie Whitaker (Panthers)
RB   Robert Turbin (colts)

LG  Shawn Lauvao* (redskins)
C    Alex Mack* (Falcons, Pro Bowl)
RT  Mitchell Schwartz* (Chiefs)

FS Mike Adams* (2015 Pro Bowl)
SS T. J. Ward* (2014 Pro Bowl)
CB Buster Skrine* (Jets)
CB Johnson Bademosi* (Pro Bowl special teams)
CB Justin Gilbert (Steelers)
CB Donte Whitner (Redskins)
CB Pierre Desir (Seahawks)
CB Charles Gaines (Bills)

LB Karlos Dansby* (Bengals, 2013 2nd team All-NFL)
LB Barkevious Mingo (Patriots)
LB D’ Qwell Jackson* (Colts, 2014 Pro Bowl)
LB Craig Robertson* (Saints)
LB/DE Paul Kruger* (Saints)

DE Frostee Rucker (Cardinals)
NT Ahtyba Rubin* (Seahawks)
DEJabaal Sheard* (Patriots)
DE John Hughes (Tampa)
DE  Billy Winn (Broncos)

K  Andy Lee  (Panthers)

K  Phil Dawson (49ers)