The Quarterback Stories
The big quarterback story from Week Three was the return of Donovan McNabb. In terms of QB Score per play, McNabb was the second best quarterback in 2006. In Week One and Week Two of this year, though, he was below average. Suddenly people were booing him in Philadelphia. Against the Lions in Week Three, though, he offered the third best performance of the season by a quarterback (and the booing stopped for a week).
How do we explain McNabb’s poor performance and sudden re-emergence?
1. McNabb was hurt and suddenly recovered.
2. McNabb is not very good but got to play a really bad defense
3. McNabb is very good but had two bad games.
I am partial to explanations (1) and (3). The injury probably played some role. McNabb removed the brace on his leg and it seemed to help. But I also think we need to remember that all quarterbacks have bad games. Even Peyton Manning has games where he is not that good (see the playoffs last year). Quarterbacks, as I often say, or consistently inconsistent and that always needs to be remembered (okay, it also helps to play a really bad defense).
McNabb is not the only player to make a comeback. Kurt Warner also played amazingly well this weekend. And Matt Leinart showed that even if you don’t turn the ball over, you can still have a really bad game. It’s not enough to just avoid mistakes. An offense must move the ball if it’s going to score. When you don’t move the ball, you will definitely have trouble being successful.
Of course turnovers are still a problem. Rex Grossman, who was very inconsistent last year, has suddenly become consistent. He was ranked #22 in Week One, #30 in Week Two, and #30 in Week Three. Overall he is ranked 34th out of 34. And now he is going to be sitting. As a Lions fan, I think this move is a bit hasty. As Mike Kurylo noted at Knickerblogger.net, Grossman came into this season with a 17-5 record as a starter. That record is now 18-7. Certainly these numbers suggest he should be starting this Sunday in Detroit. I know I would feel much better about this game if he did.
The Running Back Stories
Grossman is not the only Chicago Bear at the bottom of the position rankings. Cedric Benson has a negative RB Score and is currently ranked 36th out of 37. Apparently Grossman isn’t the only problem in Chicago. Or maybe Grossman’s poor play has a negative impact on Benson. Of course, maybe Benson is making Grossman play badly. Ah, the problem with football numbers. Causality is awful hard to figure out.
Although we are never quite sure why a player in football posts the numbers we see, we can see that Benson is in good company at the bottom of the RB Score rankings. The bottom 11 includes Larry Johnson, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Steven Jackson. Last year these three backs put up numbers that ranked in the top 40 among all backs from 1994 to 2006. So far these backs are not even in the top 25 in 2007.
And they are each nowhere near Brian Westbrook. Against the Lions last week Westbrook posted the best numbers – both in terms of overall RB Score and the per-play measure – of any back this season. Westbrook has posted very good numbers in his career. His production in 2004 and 2006 ranked in the top 40 since 1994. But even he is not this good. No, I think Westbrook owes part of his success to a Lions defense that had a very, very, very bad day. Hopefully this is not a sign that the Lions defense is just really, really, really bad. But I sense, that is indeed what the performance of Westbrook and McNabb (and Kevin Curtis) indicates. My Lions have some issues on defense. Okay, more than some.
For more on QB Score, RB Score and what these metrics mean see