Put the Film on Bro: Mallet's Debut

Southerners have a language all their own. Spend a few minutes with true below-the-Mason-Dixon-Line southerner and you'll get a lesson in one liners like never before.

…"get butter from a duck."

…"turned like a button on an outhouse door."

I had a coach that liked to use that one when one of his defensive linemen got beat at the line of scrimmage. The rasp in his voice added to the ambiance as well. 

Southern football coaches aren't immune.

…"it's not about the Xs and Os, it's about the Jimmys and the Joes"

I love that one. But after a practice when I was an assistant coach, one of our young assistants was giving the head coach some grief about how his quarterback performed in practice. The assistant mentioned that he completed only four of ten passes during a particular team drill and that he was worried about it. Without skipping a beat, the head coach exclaimed…

 

…"Stats are for assistant coaches, losers and fantasy geeks".

I'd never heard that before so I assumed it was that coach's Southern wit shining through. That said, I immediately got his point. Stats never tell the whole story, yet many rely on stats solely to represent the entire situation. Advanced metrics have been quite the talking point in the NFL over the past five years, especially in the media world. Advanced metric driven websites like Pro Football Focus attempt to put a quantitative value on highly qualitative situations. But if the stats are combined with the right question and focused properly, it can tell a much more accurate story.

I bring you Ryan Mallett's debut against the Cleveland Browns. His Pro Football Focus number was -0.1. To put a negative next to any number for his performance on Sunday is not only highly questionable, it paints an inaccurate picture of what truly took place at First Energy Field on Lake Erie.

Once I saw that metric, I was perturbed because it flew in the face of what I saw with thine own eyes on that field on Sunday. So I went to the film to get a truly complete picture of his statistical performance and what it really said.

The stat sheet said Mallett completed 20 of 30 passes for 211 yards with two TD and one INT, but dive

deeper into the REAL stats and Mallett was 25 of 32 for 230 yards with two TD and two INT. Let me explain...

I studied every pass Mallett made on Sunday, which included two completed passes that didn't register because a defensive penalty negated the completion and the corresponding gain. The other thing I did was define "Quality completion". I defined a quality completion as a completed pass or a pass dropped that should've been caught. Likewise, I gave him an incompletion for a bad throw that was still caught or an interception that was dropped. That's how he ended up with two interceptions - the one Joe Haden picked off and the one that Paul Kruger dropped.

Here's Mallett's "hit chart"...

MallettPTFOB.jpg

So, what does that graphic show you? Well, let's dive deeper into the numbers…

On throws beyond the line of scrimmage up to and including 20 yards

20 of 25 (80%), 1 TD and 1 INT.

He completed two quick screens behind the line of scrimmage which I didn't count in this metric, but he completed 80 % of the 25 other throws beyond the LOS. That's an impressive number, but the next one is even more so.

On throws between 10-20 yards

6-7 (86%), 1 TD.

How often have you heard analysts say that a quarterback can only succeed if he can make those 15-17 yard intermediate throws in the NFL? I've heard it a thousand times if I've heard it once. Eighty...Six...percent?!? In his first start? That's definitely NOT worth a -0.1.

So, then I thought about what typically ails many first-time starting quarterbacks. Oh, yes, blitz and pressure. As such, I looked at the number of rushers for each throw he made. A couple of them I eliminated from the computation because they were throws down on the goal line or 3rd and 1 throws. In essence, I was looking for five and six man pressure situations. There were plenty of complex four man zone dogs but I didn't account for them in this metric.

Against five man pressure

7-9 (78%), 1 Int

Against six man pressure

0-1 (0%)...arguably

I say arguably because the only instance I found where the Browns brought six rushers, two Browns beared down on Mallett forcing him to sling it earlier than he wanted. The throw was in WR Andre Johnson's hands and you could argue that it could've been caught. But, I gave AJ80 the benefit of the doubt.

Regardless, against five or six man pressure in his first start, Mallett completed 70% of his passes, which was perhaps the most impressive stat I dug up watching the film. Think back to other first-time starting quarterbacks and the struggles they all had when opposing defensive coordinators dialed up

pressure. Let me repeat, 70%. Wow. Now, being equitable, Kruger's "manos de piedra" kept him from hanging on to an interception on a zone dog where he dropped into the passing lane. All in all, I felt like Mallett was in total control in all facets of the game, even when he got a mild amount of heat. The numbers back that up.

I wasn't convinced that other quantitative measures told the full story and hopefully I showed a bit more of what really mattered statistically.

Southerners say "a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again", meaning that anything can happen once. Here's hoping this squirrel has 20/20 vision.

I made that one up. I'm a Southerner too.

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