Luck and Griffin

In case you haven't seen it, there was a Rick Reilly article today comparing Luck and Griffin on ESPN, making the case that Luck should be the rookie of the year favorite so far. It's worth a read, for sure:

I'm obviously a biased Redskins fan, but I thought that almost every point he made could have actually gone either way. For example:

A scrambled argument

Luck runs more successfully than Griffin. He's had 10 scrambles for first downs. Griffin has had nine.

How on earth is number of successful scrambles a good measure of how well a player runs? How shall we factor in the touchdown run against the Vikings that Luck is not physically capable of duplicating? How shall we factor in Griffin's league-leading yards per carry, yards per game, first downs on designed or option runs, and total rushing touchdowns? This is one of the thinnest of the arguments made for Luck. Luck is obviously an excellent scrambler, but Danielle Steele is not superior to Ernest Hemingway because she wrote more books.


because MOAR!

Luck is asked to do more than Griffin and is doing it.

Just a bizarre statement. The read option attack means Griffin makes a play call in real time on almost every snap. Griffin's passing and running combine to account for a higher percentage of his team's offensive yards than any other NFL player, and the resulting offense is one of the league's five best by most measures. The offense that Luck is running and playing a more conventional role in is one of the league's lowest scoring against a comparable strength of schedule.

Points for difficulty?

His average pass completion travels 8.6 yards in the air, highest in the NFL. Griffin's is 5.8, one of the lowest.

Sixty-nine percent of the Colts' passing yards are gained while the ball is in the air, the rest after the catch. Only 49 percent of the Skins' passing yards come through the air.

There are two specious implications here. The first is that real men throw more deep balls. We will not discuss the long passes that go for zero yards because they were incomplete. What I find most bizarre about this is the preoccupation with how far the ball traveled in the air. A well-thrown pass, as we all know, hits a receiver in stride and creates an opportunity for yards after the catch. Turn this around and it sounds idiotic- no one would ever try to tell you that Luck is better because his receivers make proportionately less yardage after the catch.

The second is that you should care at all. Right now you should be saying to yourself, "Um... that's coo but which quarterback gains more yards when he passes the freaking ball?"

The answer is Griffin, and it isn't close. Griffin leads the league with 8.5 yards per attempt. Luck checks in at 24th with 6.7 yards per attempt. Luck is having below average success attempting difficult throws. Griffin is gaining yardage in gobs by throwing easier passes and getting his receivers the ball with room to run.


If you want a stat that considers everything a QB does, and when he does it, and what was at stake when he did it, then Bennett's QBR stat is for you. Going into Week 8, it had the Mannings at 1 and 2 (Peyton, then Eli), with Tom Brady third. Sound about right? In the QBR rankings, Luck is sixth and Griffin eighth.

Gosh, that sounds decisive. The one point difference between the two quarterbacks in this metric should probably be compared to the margin of error, which I can't seem to find. For comparison, though, Jake Locker, on pace to have the 30th greatest QBR season in NFL history, presently leads Alex Smith by a similar margin.

Since we're being scientific, we should probably discuss the completeness of the metric. QBR is an EXCELLENT stat, but when you misuse it it makes baby Einstein cry. No number stands alone, and a one point difference in QBR is by no means decisive. Consider, in particular

  • that the considerable sack penalty in QBR is independent of offensive line play
  • that performance on play action and options is not accounted for because handoffs are not considered actionable plays in QBR
  • that the metric is clutch weighted

The last of these points is notoriously problematic. There are plenty of examples, such as when Tebow scored a higher QBR than Rogers last year when he went 4/10 for 79 yards in a loss to the Chargers. Clutch weighting only works with a large volume of data. This year, the Redskins have had some big failures on late, high leverage drives and that has cost them, and Griffin's QBR, dearly. The stathead proponents of QBR will be the first to tell you that seven games is not enough clutch-context data to distinguish Jake Locker from John Elway, much less Luck from Griffin.

It's tough to be a colt

Luck is more valuable to his team than Griffin.

The team that paid an outrageous warchest of draft picks, unheard of since the early days of RIcky Williams, respectfully disagrees with you. The fan base who has seen two playoff wins in twenty years is laughing out loud. It is a chilling, desperate laugh, accompanied by bursts of tears and spittle.

... but I'd like to conclude with my favorite line of the whole article. While Luck inherited a disaster of a team, Griffin inherited a team so good that it beat the Giants twice last year!

I don't blame the Skins for babying Griffin. Why wouldn't they? He's America's baby. Mike Shanahan (283 games as a head coach in the NFL) has a good enough team to do that. It beat theNew York Giants twice last year.

Finally an advanced metric that we can all get behind! The 2011 Redskins set an all-time NFL record in beating of the Giants.

Seriously, you guys. Just like everyone keeps saying. The Redskins kicked ass last year. We practically won the hypothetical super bowl. Twice. Anyone could step in behind center and look good.

There. I feel better.

If you've read this far, you probably have some ranting of your own to do in the comments.

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