No Controversy: A QB Analysis

OBR readers loved fan columnist Alex V's first entry, a calm and reasoned view of the Browns status. Now he takes the same approach deep into dangerous territory: the team's quarterback controversy.

No controversy: an analysis of the quarterback situation.

By Alexander Vesha

"Depression is the inability to construct a future."
-Rollo May

The forecast for the 2009 Cleveland Browns: gloomy with torrential shame.

There are teams who play well – but lose.  There are teams with a good defense but poor offense – and they lose.  There are teams with a good offense but poor defense – and they lose.  And then there's the bad, bad, Cleveland Browns.  Baddest team in almost every damn category:

On offense: last in the league in yards per game (218)
2nd to last in total points (29)
2nd to last in turnovers (-7)
2nd to last in passing yards (146.7)
Last in longest play from scrimmage (26)
3rd worst in QB rating (51)
4th worst in rushing yards (214)
2nd to last in yards per catch (8.8)
Last in receiving TDs (1)

(I can hear Harry Doyle in my head: That's it?  One catch?  One g*damn catch?)

On defense: 3rd worst in yards given up per game (412.7)
Last in total points (95)
3rd worst in total yards rushing (553)
2nd worst in big plays (2 rushes for 40+ yards)
Last in the league with 0 interceptions
Only their pass defense has been passable (16th in the league)

The stink emanating from Cleveland is powerful enough for biological warfare.

Are you depressed yet?  Do you want to hear something more depressing?  Everything you've just read… that's not the worst part.  As bad as the first three games have been, and as bad as the next thirteen games will be, that's not the worst part.  The worst part is the feeling you get when you ask yourself this question:

What if 2009 isn't the low point?

The Browns have been rebuilding for a decade.  "Building for the future."  The future arrives and it's more of the past.   A new coach comes in, a few years go by, the new coach gets fired and they tear down what little structure they've erected.   And they actually make fans pay full price to watch them.  Isn't there some kind of amateur football discount?

I wrote to the pessimists last week, asking for patience.  I said 2009 was going to be ugly, really ugly, hug-your-mother ugly.  (And it is.)  But as bad as 2009 might be, I pointed out that Mangini has a better coaching record at this stage of his career than 8 out of 9 coaches who won the Super Bowl.   Give him time, I said.  We're going to see a lot of bad football in 2009, but at least we're constructing a future.  At least 2010 won't be as bad as 2009, and maybe by 2011 or 2012 we'll have a playoff-contender in Cleveland.  Finally.

And then what does Mangini do?  He yanks the starting quarterback after two and a half games.

In order to construct a future, in order to rebuild, you need an architect.  Benching Quinn after ten quarters of football is not the move of a smart architect.

10-6!  29 TDs!  Pro Bowl!

I know.  I heard you, Anderson fans.  I have a one-word reply:


In his "magical" 2007 season, his 10-6 season, Anderson beat one team with a winning record.

That team: 10-6 Seattle.  Anderson didn't even have a good game: 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a QB rating of 75.3.  Seattle's pass defense was 19th in the league that year.

I'll say it again.  One win against a team with a winning record.  Not feeling as great about 10-6 now, hmm? 

How about this?  Anderson's best four games in 2007 were against:

7-9 Cincinnati (QB rating of 121)
5-11 Baltimore (109.5)
1-15 Miami (142.5)
3-13 St. Louis (143)

Those were his best four games, and they were all in the first half of the season.  Against very bad teams.

And how did he do under pressure?  The biggest game of the season: Dec 23, 2007.  At Cincinnati.  All he had to do to make the playoffs was beat 7-9 Cincinnati.  Their overall team defense was 27th in the league!  But DA laid an egg.  Four interceptions and a QB rating of 53.4.

Do you think I'm picking on him?  Fine, we'll look at his entire career.  In his 27 career starts, guess how many times he beat a team with a winning record?


27 career starts.  13 wins.  Of those 13 wins, only 2 wins came against teams with a winning record. (15%)

The total record of the teams he beat: 76-131 (.367)

The average team defense: 18th.

So… after 27 starts (almost two full seasons of football) DA has a losing record, 2 wins against good teams, and a career QB rating of 73.7.

He is not a franchise quarterback.  You don't build your team around Derek Anderson.  And – sadly – the Browns are at the stage where they need to build around a quarterback.

You still need proof that DA is not a long-term solution?  Going back to 2000, 23 quarterbacks have made the playoffs more than once.  Only 1 of those quarterbacks has a career QB rating as low as Anderson:  Kerry Collins (73.7)

On a good team, Anderson would make a serviceable QB.  Or a good backup.  Unfortunately, the Browns are not a good team, and his role as a backup will only make things worse for the starter.  There is no reason Derek Anderson should ever take another snap for the Cleveland Browns.

Mangini's decision is inexplicable.  I thought we were building for the future?

Trade him.  Get what you can, even if all you get is a 6th round draft pick, a Bud Light Grooler, and some bottled water for your players at a reasonable price.  Maybe Anderson gives us a better shot to win on Sunday – maybe – but so what?  What does one or two more wins this season mean, anyway?  Are we going to get to the end of the season and still not know what we have in Quinn?

I've seen all I need to see of Quinn!

Oh, good, you again.  You think 6 career starts is enough time to judge a quarterback?  I bet the Baltimore Ravens are glad they don't share your evaluation methods, or Joe Flacco would be "that one guy who played six games last year before Troy Smith took over."

Flacco's numbers through his first six games: 2 TDs, 7 interceptions, a QB rating of 68.8… only slightly better than Quinn's 3 TDs, 5 interceptions, and QB rating of 64.9.

Flacco is 5th in the league right now with a QB rating of 101.4  In Quinn's only six starts, do you know how many of the opposing teams had a losing record?

One.  That team was 7-9 Buffalo.

In Quinn's first three games this year, the opposing teams have a combined 9-0 record and their defenses currently rank 1st, 4th, and 7th in the league.

Those numbers will change, of course, and playing Cleveland only helped to inflate them… but we're judging Quinn based on the information we have now, both his numbers and the numbers of the opposition.

It's vital to make the right call at the quarterback position.  If you want a consistent winner in Cleveland, if you want a team that makes the playoffs more than once a decade, you need to make the right decision at QB.  Every year, there are 12 playoff spots available.  9 of those spots will be taken by quarterbacks who make the playoffs more than once.

Here are the numbers:

Going back to the 2000 season, there have been 108 playoff spots available.  Only  25 of those spots were taken by a quarterback who made the playoffs just once. (23%)

We don't need one of those quarterbacks.  We had one – Tim Couch.

So if we want a consistent winner, we need to look at the other 83 playoff spots.  Those spots were filled by the same 23 quarterbacks.

108 playoff spots.  77% of those spots taken by the same 23 quarterbacks.

Here is the list.  (The number reflects how many times the quarterback made the playoffs since 2000.)

  1. Steve McNair – 4
  2. Kerry Collins – 3
  3. Rich Gannon – 3
  4. Jay Fiedler – 2
  5. Daunte Culpepper – 2
  6. Donovan McNabb – 7
  7. Peyton Manning – 8
  8. Kurt Warner – 3
  9. Brett Favre – 5
  10. Jeff Garcia – 3
  11. Tom Brady – 6
  12. Brad Johnson – 2
  13. Michael Vick – 2
  14. Chad Pennington – 4
  15. Marc Bulger – 2
  16. Jake Delhomme – 3
  17. Jake Plummer – 3
  18. Matt Hasselbeck – 6
  19. Ben Roethlisberger – 4
  20. Drew Brees – 2
  21. Eli Manning – 4
  22. Philip Rivers – 3
  23. Tony Romo – 2

I decided to apply the "Quinn Standard" to see how each of those quarterbacks did after their first 6 career starts.

The bad news first: Quinn is near the bottom of the list.

  1. Kurt Warner – 131.5
  2. Chad Pennington – 110.2
  3. Ben Roethlisberger – 108.9
  4. Tony Romo – 105.3
  5. Marc Bulger – 101.4
  6. Daunte Culpepper – 98.3
  7. Philip Rivers – 96.3
  8. Steve McNair – 96
  9. Brad Johnson – 93.4
  10. Tom Brady – 91.4
  11. Rich Gannon – 84.6
  12. Brett Favre – 82.6
  13. Jay Fiedler – 82.6
  14. Michael Vick – 80.1
  15. Drew Brees – 79.9
  16. Jeff Garcia – 73.5
  17. Jake Plummer – 73.2
  18. Kerry Collins – 67.3
  19. Matt Hasselbeck – 66
  20. Donovan McNabb – 65.3
  21. Brady Quinn – 64.5
  22. Jake Delhomme – 63.5
  23. Peyton Manning – 55.7
  24. Eli Manning – 47.5

Now let's apply the Quinn Standard.  Any QB rating below 70 is failing, so let's assume the players in the Miserable 60s Club were benched after 6 games.

That list (including Flacco):

  1. Joe Flacco – 1 playoff appearance (rookie year)
  2. Kerry Collins – 3 playoff appearances
  3. Matt Hasselbeck – 6 playoff appearances
  4. Donovan McNabb – 7 playoff appearances
  5. Jake Delhomme – 3 playoff appearances
  6. Peyton Manning – 8 playoff appearances
  7. Eli Manning – 4 playoff appearances

Those 7 players have a combined 32 playoff appearances (out of 108.)  That's 30%.  You would have benched 30% of the playoff quarterbacks in this decade, including two Super Bowl winners.  And you would have been wrong about Peyton Manning.  After 6 starts, his QB rating was 55.7.  His career rating: best on the list at 95.1.

My point is not that Quinn will be the quarterback who takes the Browns to the playoffs multiple times (or even once.)  I wasn't thrilled when they drafted him, and he hasn't demonstrated much to be enthusiastic about.  But I doubt that Peyton Manning looked good en route to that 55.7, and I know Eli Manning looked awful while attaining his 47.5 rating.

The 2009 season is meaningless from a win/loss standpoint.  So why not play Quinn, remove the tight leash from his neck, and see what we have after 16 games?  Maybe we'll discover that he isn't any better than what we've seen – but at least we'll know.

Do we need to learn more about Anderson?  Are we serious about building a solid foundation, or are we playing week to week?

If we're building for the future, I'd love to know what the blueprint looks like.  Coach Mangini… any clues?  Please?  I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Why are you making it so hard?

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