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Why This Redskins Team is a 4 to 1 Lock to Exceed Your Expectations Today and the Rest of this Season

That may be overstating things a bit but hear me out. There is a historically (and currently) accurate predictor of NFL success that can be relied upon week in and week out to reliably predict each game's winner 80% of the time. Anyone choosing to bet against the Redskins this season is likely to find themselves on the wrong side of this 80/20 rule.

This week a Cincinnati.com sportswriter wrote an article entitled "Why the NFL Loves its Pocket QBs." He stated:

RG3 and his older brother in style and potential, Cam Newton, might yet revolutionize the QB position, the way I thought Vick would. But they haven’t yet. And if history is worth heeding, they probably won’t. There is a reason the NFL loves its pocket QBs. Brady and Brees and Manning, oh my.

Interestingly enough the sportswriter next stated:

...I consulted for this column Kerry Byrne (who) runs a delightful and statistics-driven website called Cold Hard Football Facts. "What’s the most important number in assessing QB greatness?’’ I asked him. He didn’t hesitate. No hedging about the quality of the players around the QB, or coaching philosophies limiting the QB. None of that. "Yards per attempt,’’ Byrne said. "It has worked throughout NFL history. WITHOUT FAIL.’

Oddly, the author concluded his article, saying:

Drew Brees had a monster year in 2011. {But] He didn’t redefine the quarterback position. Maybe RG3 will. Or Newton. Or both. For now, the future of NFL quarterbacking looks a lot like the past of NFL quarterbacking. Otto Graham didn’t win 10 straight titles because he could run.

http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20120920/COL03/309200056/Doc-Why-NFL-loves-its-pocket-QBs?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Sports|p

I'll cover why this was such an odd conclusion. But first let's cover the Yards per Attempt (YPA) measure. YPA's high correlation to winning was tabulated and chronicled by legendary football statistician Bud Goode, who worked for some of the best NFL coaches in history. Upon compiling boatloads of stats over many years Ben Goode repeatedly observed that Yards per Attempt (YPA) was the most highly predictive factor of a team's success on both offense and defense. The reason is simple. YPA is a reliable measure of both production and efficiency, correctly weighting each. Yards per Attempt also inherently recognizes that passing plays use up a scarce resource, a down. A team must use each down as effectively as possible if the team is to succeed.


The NFL QBs with the highest YPAs range all the way from QBs who relied/rely on very short passing attacks (and an exceptionally high completion percentage) to QBs with a much lower completion percentage but a vertical, big gain passing attack. In other words YPA equalizes the difference between those QBs who inflate their completion percentage with short passes versus QBs who have a lower completion percentage but hit the medium and long ball.

We all know the importance of passing in the NFL, which is yet another reason why the Yards per Attempt (YPA) stat has reliably predicted each game's winning and losing teams 80% of the time. In fact, this season YPA has been accurate 84% of the time in predicting each game's winner.

Here's this season's QBs with the highest Yards per Attempt (YPA):

9.6 RG3
9.6 Cam Newton
8.6 Eli Manning
8.5 Sam Bradford
8.3 Christian Ponder

Yup, RG3's 9.6 yards per attempt is the best of all QBs in the NFL, and he's accomplished this in spite of Aldrick Robinson dropped deep ball last game.

I can already hear the skeptics saying, "Hold on a second. "Ponytail's" YPA stat was padded by that 88 yard completion to (and scamper by) Garcon. That was an aberration, a statistical outlier." OK, I'll bite. But you skeptics aren't going to like the outcome. Let's knock a full 60 yards off that play. Guess what? RG3's passing yards per attempt is still among the top 5 QBs in the league. Of course if you're going to knock 60 yards off Robert's longest play from scrimmage, in all fairness you should do the same with the other YPA leaders' longest pass. As soon as we you that, Bob moves right back up the board all the way to second place, placing him just below Cam Newton. (Who, btw, has thrown 5 picks and fumbled twice. More on that later.)

Here's the YPA ranking of the NFL's top 5 YPA QBs if we adjust up to 60 yards off each guy's longest pass:
8.9 Cam
8.47 RG3
7.9 Eli
7.83 Ponder (longest play 29 yards)
7.5 Bradford

So, you see, even if we throw away what someone might claim is a "statistical outlier" (Bob's long throw pass play with Garcon), Bob's YPA is still elite. (While we're on the subject of Garcon, can I mention Robert achieved this league-leading YPA despite his primary receiver, Garcon, being on the field for only 8 snaps this season?) Wow.

I've often heard the NFL's "QB Rating" statistic is an even better predictor of wins and losses than YPA, meaning it has an even higher correlation than 84%. I haven't been able to verify this but it makes sense since it takes passing TDs and interceptions into consideration. But it understates the impact of mobile QBs. It's not a QB rating. It's a passer rating. What I mean by this is it completely disregards the yardage, first downs and TDs earned by a QB with his legs, instead of his arm. Imagine ignoring Randall Cunningham, Steve Young, Michael Vick, John Elway and Cam Newton's production on the ground when calculating their effectiveness.

Just as bad, the "QB Passer Rating" ignores leadership, play-calling, and other intangibles that are critical to an elite NFL QB. I mention this because I want you to think about RG3's leadership and intangibles. Some would say ignoring intangibles is a perfect "money ball" approach since these intangible are built into a QB's stats, and if they don't show up in his stats they are irrelevant. OK, fine. But consider this.The NFL's "QB Rating" completely ignores a QBs' fumbles and how much yardage he lost on sacks. Clearly this underrates a QB, such as RG3. For example, Cam has already lost the ball twice on fumbles this season and been sacked 6 times for a lost of 42 yards.

But it's nice to be in a position where a stat underestimates RG3's true impact. Besides, I have no right to complain. RG3 currently ranks 4th in the league with a QB rating of 111.6. That's not just better than Cam's current 78.3 rating, it's better than Drew Brees's 110.7 QB rating from last season's record setting year. It's also nice to be in a position where the Robert is still developing, the playbook is still developing and while we've seen defenders out of breath after one scrambling play, we've yet to watch the destruction of those defenders when the Skins finally show their hurry up offense.

Anyway, here's what I found ironic. That Cincinnati sportswriter correctly stated YPA is the most reliable predictor of which team will win each game, and is correct over 80% of the time. He then did an about face, ignored this critical statistic and said RG3 does not represent the future of NFL QBing, choosing to ignore RG3's league leading rank in the very statistic the sportswriter claimed was THE predictor of NFL success. The funny thing is, had he not mentioned the reliability of YPA I never would have looked up how RG3 rates in this area and how much that portends.

RG3's league leading ranking in a statistic that correlated to victory in 80% of all NFL games,can be relied upon. Thanks for that Robert. I'll be choosing your house to place my bets. Where else can I get 4 to 1 odds in my favor?!

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