The QB Win Argument
Coming into this week I had absolutely no intention of talking about the QB position, it’s something we’ve discussed at length over the last month as we transitioned from Mike White to Zach Wilson.
Being who I am though, I often get drawn into conversations online about the position, and even if I’m not participating, I often get sent conversation chains to look at and one thing is driving me crazy.
People are still using QB wins as a measuring stick for QB talent. In all of the sports I watch, even more so than a starting pitcher W/L being used, I have no greater pet peeve than using a team statistic to analyse an individual player.
So today I’m going to talk about that. But then I promise, as long as there are no major developments, we’ll skip the QB talk the rest of the week.
CBS released their rookie power rankings for week 15 and unsurprisingly the Jets had the #1 and #2 players on the list. Sauce Gardner led the way followed by Garrett Wilson.
CBS also had the Jets ranked #14 in their latest power ranking:
Here is the ESPN ranking for comparison. ESPN have the Jets two places higher:
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed Jonathan Marshall off the Jets practice squad. Marshall hasn't made an impact with the Jets since entering the league as a 2021 6th round pick out of Arkansas.
The Jets also announced that LB Marcell Harris was added to the practice squad IR ending his season, and in a corresponding move they signed DL Marquiss Spencer to the practice squad.
Garrett Wilson is now the bookies pick to win the Rookie of the Year award at +175, the Packers Christian Watson and Seattle's Kenneth Walker III are second at +300, followed by the Saints Chris Olave at +550.
24-31, 77.42% completion, 343 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 INT, 131.5 passer rating
36-50, 72.00% completion, 446 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 119.2 passer rating
10-18, 55.56% completion, 110 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 INT, 73.8 passer rating
18-36, 50.00% completion, 252 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 INT, 59.0 passer rating.
This in a nutshell is why I dislike people using quarterbacks’ win/loss records as a reason why one player is better than the other. I’ve seen this argument being made countless times by Zach Wilson fans to argue that as Zach is 5-2 and White is 1-2, Wilson is the better QB and gives the Jets a better chance to win.
Looking at the stats above, Player A would be 0-2 based on those two games and player B would be 2-0. There are thousands of examples just like the ones above, a bad QB can win a lot of games and a good QB can lose a lot of games as well. Why? Because football is a team game, it’s not golf.
An active roster is made up of 53 players, 46 of those players will be active on any given game day. The QB is the most important player on the field, but he’s not the only player. A QB can be the best player on the field across both teams, and still end up on the losing side, a QB can be the worst player on the field, and end up winning.
I don’t think we should completely discredit wins, at the end of the day that’s the ultimate goal each and every week. But when you combine those wins with every other stat available, individual performance should trump team win/loss every single time. The simple point is that if the QB is performing below the mean, it’s very unlikely that the QB is the reason for the positive result, but certainly may be the reason for any of the negative results.
Quarterbacks can help you win a lot of games. That is an undeniable fact, if you have a great one they can help mask deficiencies in other areas of the field but they can’t always eradicate them completely. Patrick Mahomes threw 6 touchdowns against the Rams back in 2018, but the Kansas defense allowed 54 points and Mahomes was credited with a loss. Is that fair or logical? No. This year Zach threw for 110 yards, 0 touchdowns and completed 55% of his passes and was credited for a win. Is that fair or logical? No.
A quarterback’s ability to stack wins correlates with the performance of his teammates. In that win over Green Bay, the Jets rushed for over 175 yards and the defense limited a future hall-of-fame quarterback to just 10 points, that’s why they won the game. The question I always ask myself is would Mike White have won those games? Anyone who’s watched a minute of Jets football this season would say absolutely, and he may have won the other two as well. Then I ask myself, would Zach have beat the Vikings and Bills? There is nothing statistically speaking, or visually speaking that could lead anyone to make that assumption.
In every single category whether it’s completion percentage, yards, passer rating, depth passing, passing under pressure, pressure to sack conversion or time to throw, Mike White is the better QB. Add in the element of how his team responds to him, which is more important at the QB position than a win/loss record and you have to be outside your mind if you think Zach being 5-2 has more to do with Zach than it does the rest of the team.
If wins was a QB-dominant stat, we would see a lot of examples of good QBs carrying mediocre teams to inflated win percentages, and of course, there are examples of that with players like Tom Brady, but they’re not as frequent as you’d expect. Plus we’re talking Tom Brady here, perhaps the best QB to ever play the game depending on who you talk to.
A QB who is completing 55% of his throws while averaging 182 yards passing a game with more interceptions than touchdowns is not carrying a team, the team is carrying them.
Look at someone like Matt Stafford and his .451 win percentage as a member of the Lions, he switches to the Rams in 2021 and that win percentage climbs to .706 and he wins a Super Bowl, the same player, a different supporting cast. Stafford’s winning percentage during his final year with the Lions was .313 despite throwing for over 4000 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Then you look on the flip side, Jared Goff had a .600 winning percentage in 2021 with the Rams and then that fell to .250 in his first year in Detroit. The same QB, and his passer rating actually went up in 2021 (91.5) in comparison to 2020 (90.0), but the wins/losses were considerably different because of the supporting cast etc.
Jimmy Garoppolo has a higher winning percentage than Aaron Rodgers, John Elway, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw and many others, would anyone consider him a better QB? I’m not sure you’ll find too many takers on that one, especially when Brock Purdy comes in and puts up a performance as he did on Sunday. It’s a team game, always has been and always will be.
Wins above replacement is a baseball dominant stat, it’s significantly easier to calculate. However, it’s starting to come into vogue in the NFL as well. Nerdball had a WAR for 2021 for NFL quarterbacks and it won’t surprise you to hear that Zach was dead last at minus 2.48, which basically says had the Jets received average QB play last season they would have won 2 more games. So far this year Zach Wilson is at -0.92 meaning in essence had Mike White started the 7 games Wilson had, statistics indicate the gets would have been 6-1 in those games instead of 5-2. Which again debunks the whole win/loss argument for QB evaluation.
This isn’t designed to be a critique of Zach, it’s more designed as a critique of the fans who use that one stat to try and argue the case on his behalf.
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