Friday, March 31, 2006

And This Is How Not to Analyze Draftable Quarterbacks

The gulf between Football Outsiders' rational, astute, fact-based analysis of the three top quarterback prospects and this conclusory, ill-reasoned effort from Ian O'Connor at Since I'm feeling snarky this morning, I thought I'd do the Fire Joe Morgan thing and Fisk the shit out of this bad boy:

Some 130 million job and school applicants have taken a Wonderlic test, and I don't care if 129,999,999 of them posted a higher score than Vince Young. It's the films, stupid.

Crap, we're one paragraph in and he hasn't said anything disagreeable yet. Since there's little evidence that Wonderlic scores are good predictors of success in the NFL, I'm with Ian so far, although at the margins, a 6 for a quarterback might be extreme.

Take another look at them and tell me with a straight face that Young shouldn't be the first quarterback taken in next month's draft.

I'm sure that Ian has pored over the coach's film of Vince to analyze his reads on every play for the past couple seasons and to determine whether he can make the mental decisions that are so critical for an NFL quarterback...or he just watched the past two Rose Bowls while pounding Miller Lites and said "damn, that boy sure is fast!"

So now Young's one-man demolition of the Trojan empire in the Rose Bowl doesn't count, right? His one-man demolition of Michigan in the previous Rose Bowl can be scrapped as well, no?

This is what I hate about the analysis of Vince Young. I really liked the guy as a college player and there's no doubt that he's in the pantheon of great college quarterbacks, but it does bear mentioning that he wasn't playing for Baylor against Michigan and USC. Texas' line-up was loaded with future NFL starters, or didn't Ian's intensive film study reveal that?

And it also occurs to me that Ian might want to do some film study on the '95 Orange Bowl and the '96 Fiesta Bowl, then look up Tommie Frazier's NFL stats. Wait, Frazier didn't play in the NFL? You mean dominating a college national title game isn't a sure sign of future pro success? The film lies?

We're all supposed to forget everything our eyes, brain, gut and heart tell us about Young as an NFL prospect — and remember that he scored a six out of a possible 50 on a test with a name that sounds more like the title of an adult film.

Hahahahaha!!!! Good one, Beavis!!!! I had never noticed that the Wonderlic has the syllable "lic" in it and that can be a euphemism for oral sex, but now that you've pointed that out, I'm rolling on the floor. Now how about a Brokeback Mountain joke for some real originality.

This is the naked truth: General managers and scouts are petrified of their own shadows. They're afraid to run against the grain of the pack. So if four or five of buddies say they wouldn't touch the Texas quarterback in the top half dozen picks of the draft, your average GM or scout will embrace the copout in the name of self-preservation.

Yes, and it's SO controversial to take one of the most hyped college stars from a marquee programs in football. How would a GM ever be able to handle the media firestorm after doing that?

Ian is right that NFL GMs and coaches are afraid of doing anything against the grain, but this is actually a reason why Vince has a good chance of being a failure. He ran an offense at Texas that was perfectly suited for his talents, but that is also foreign to the NFL. Some coach is going to have to have the balls to install the modern version of the veer offense to make Vince work. What's more likely is that he'll end up in some cookie-cutter NFL offense that would be great for Tom Brady or Matt Schaub, but lousy for Vince Young.

If I take Young and he flops, the thinking goes, I'll be ridiculed for gambling on a kid who showed an alarming lack of cognitive ability on the Wonderlic, and I might be fired because of it. Who needs that angst when you can just as easily take Jay Cutler of Vanderbilt, a guy who's won absolutely nothing?

Ian, you may be unfamiliar with this strange thing called "Vanderbilt," but they're a college football team in Nashville that has far, far less talent than the teams they compete with because their pool of potential players is one quarter the size of that of their rivals. They haven't been to a bowl game since 1982. They've never won the SEC. Bitching that Jay Cutler never won anything at Vandy is like bitching that Noriega's generals must have been crap because they couldn't fend off the U.S. invasion in 1989.

Somehow, some way, one measurement at the scouting combine — of speed or strength or intelligence — can negate three of four years' worth of gameday heroics. Or vice versa. Mike Mamula was the ultimate combine creature, a player who looked positively Cantonesque under the combine microscope and who looked entirely different — ordinary, even — on Sunday afternoons.

We had a saying during my high school debate career that whenever someone broke down and used Hitler or the Nazis in an argument, that meant that they were out of ideas. I think a corollary to that truism should be that whenever someone brings up Mike Mamula in a draft discussion, they've officially waved the white flag.

Downgrading a once-in-a-generation talent like Young is going to get a GM fired. Not the GM who picks him, but the GM who does not.

Vince is great and all, but he's a more durable Mike Vick with inferior moves and an inferior arm. He's very close in terms of talent to Donovan McNabb. Thus, he's hardly a once-in-a-generation talent. But why miss a chance to make a grandiose statement.

Young shouldn't just be taken ahead of Cutler; he should be taken ahead of Matt Leinart, too. The Texas quarterback just came off the greatest performance in the history of Big Bowldom, running for 200 yards and passing for 267 more to end Southern Cal's 34-game winning streak and its bid for a third straight national title.

Matt Leinart's numbers in the 2006 Rose Bowl: 29 of 40 for 365 yards, one touchdown, one pick. Yeah, I can see how Vince should obviously go #1 seeing how Leinart crapped the bed on the biggest stage. Or maybe Leinart's performance in the Rose Bowl was a fluke? Let's see his performances in USC's other national title games:

2005 Orange Bowl: 18 of 35, 332 yards, five touchdowns, no picks.
2004 Rose Bowl: 23 of 34, 327 yards, three touchdowns, no picks.

Leinart is clearly some sort of choker who can't match Vince as a big game performer.

Young scored the winning touchdown in the final seconds. He won the MVP. He was a better passer than the 2004 Heisman winner, Leinart, and a better runner than the 2005 Heisman winner, Reggie Bush.

In what alternate dimension is Vince Young a better passer than Matt Leinart? Here are their career stats:

Leinart: 807 for 1245 (64.8%) for 10,693 yards, 99 touchdowns and 23 interceptions, 8.59 yards per attempt, one pick every 54.1 passes

Young: 444 for 718 (61.8%) for 6,040 yards, 44 touchdowns and 28 interceptions, 8.41 yards per attempt, one pick every 25.6 passes.

Leinart is better in every single category. Even taking into account that Leinart got to throw more than Young and thus, his raw numbers are higher, he still had a higher yards per attempt, a better completion percentage, and a significantly lower interception rate. But hey, Texas won the Rose Bowl, so Vince must be better.

In winning his 20th consecutive game and finishing his college career 30-2 as a starter, Young was equal parts John Elway and Randall Cunningham — tall, accurate and lethal on the move. After Young wiped out the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl with four touchdowns and 372 rushing and passing yards a year before he won the national title from USC, Lloyd Carr called him "the finest athlete I've ever seen on the field as a quarterback."

Yes, equal parts John Elway and Randall Cunningham, other than the fact that Elway and Cunningham don't throw like Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds. Incidentally, Elway never played in a bowl game at Stanford. Ian, remember when you held that against Jay Cutler a few paragraphs ago? Care to reconsider in light of inconvenient facts?

And with all due respect to Vince, the 2003 Michigan defense could make Dam Marino circa 1998 look like a fine athlete.

Caveat emptor to those who pass on him.

Would I have preferred a Wonderlic score of 20 for Young, a score that represents average intelligence? Sure. Would I take Leinart and Cutler ahead of Young because they reportedly scored 35 and 29, respectively, at the combine — much higher even than Young's second score on the rebound, reported to be 16? Absolutely not.

No, you should take those guys ahead of Vince Young because they throw the ball better, which seems somewhat important for a quarterback.

Let's assume for a moment that of the 11 USC Trojans trying to tackle Young in the Rose Bowl, at least 10 would've outscored him on the Wonderlic. At least 10 would've performed better in the areas of problem solving, understanding instructions, learning specific tasks, applying knowledge to new situations, etc.

They still couldn't tackle Young. In fact, all that additional cognitive power didn't help the Trojans put a single gloved hand on him. Young was the man, and they were the boys, making the Longhorns the outright national champs for the first time in 36 years.

This is idiotic for at least two reasons. First, no one is saying that the Wonderlic is critical for defensive players in the same way that it is for a quarterback, a position that requires far more processing. Second, Ian might have missed the entire college football season up until the Rose Bowl, so I'll let him in on a little secret: USC's defense was not very good, or maybe you missed the 42 points they allowed to Fresno State.

Genius is relative. Behind center, under the lights, Young is a genius. He is also a leader, as evidenced by the way the Longhorns rallied around him after he felt snubbed at the Heisman ceremony.

Right, Texas' highly-motivated play in the Rose Bowl must have been the result of the Heisman "snub" and had nothing to do with the fact that Texas was playing for their first national title in 37 years against a team on a 34-game winning streak that had been anointed as the best team of all-time by ESPN.

They made the Trojans pay for Bush's victory in New York. They ensured that Young would be the biggest star on the sport's biggest night.

Kudos for at least acknowledging that Young's teammates had something to do with the Horns winning the national title and that he didn't have to beat the SC defense one-on-11 on every play.

Leinart? He's going to be a good NFL quarterback, but he's a lead-footed lobber. That's going to get him in some degree of trouble Sundays.

So's Tom Brady and he's done OK in the NFL.

Scouts love Leinart's accuracy, but Young walked into the Rose Bowl with a better passing efficiency rating and an extra 816 rushing yards on his 2005 resume. At a time when pass rushers are faster than safeties, quarterbacks who can move are at a premium.

Which must explain why the Super Bowl quarterbacks this year were Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Hasselbeck, who combined for a whopping 193 rushing yards in 2005.

Young can move like no big quarterback before him. So his Wonderlic score shouldn't hurt him any more than, say, his semi-sidearm release.

Yes, Young is a great runner and that will help him in the NFL, but I have this strange idea that quarterbacks also need to be able to throw the ball with velocity and accuracy to the right receiver.

Young is the best quarterback in the upcoming draft. If an intelligence test can't tell you that, a film projector surely can.



Ben said...

Nice work.

I hate articles like this. I swear this dipshits write them for the sake of...

Fuck, I have no idea why they write them.

peacedog said...

I can't believe you let him off on the "runs better than Reggie Bush" comment. You're slipping.

Mike, I also had no idea you were on the bleeding edge regarding Godwin's Law.'s_law

Or perhaps a later rewording to state "when Hitler/The nazi's have come up in a discussion, it is effecively dead".


Doug said...

To me there are few things more stupid or embarrassing than when a sportswriter makes all sorts of cockamamie conjectures about why a team was especially motivated to win a particular big game. For one thing, it's presumptuous in the extreme for him to assume he can puts words in the mouths (or thoughts in the heads) of a big group of players he's never even met. (Or maybe this guy really did sit down with the Texas team the night before the game and they really did tell him, "We were really pissed at how Vince was snubbed by the Heisman committee, so we figured we'd play extra-hard tonight" -- but I doubt it.)

But the other (and probably more germane) thing is that it's the freaking Rose Bowl, numbnuts, and that national-title trophy they give out at the end is most likely all the motivation anyone would need. If you want to completely miss the forest for the trees and start bringing other motivations into it, fine, write a nice little short story about it and read it aloud for your creative-writing class, but it's got no business in a national sports column. Unless your goal is to look like a tool.

Anyway, I sense that I may be higher on VY's prospects than you are, Mike, but I still thought this post was great and said stuff that needed to be said. Kudos.

Michael said...

Ben, articles like that get written because there is a vast appetite for crap in the sports media market.

Peace, I left the VY/Bush running comparison alone because they run under different circumstances and there's no way to objective quantify one as being better or worse than the other. I would have been forced to use subjective statements like "Reggie would average 20 yards per carry if he ran in broken fields all the time like Vince."

Doug, I think that Vince could be great in the right offense and will be pretty good in the NFL regardless, but he presents huge unknowns because no one in the NFL has ever run the kind of offense that he needs to be used optimally. He is objectively inferior to Cutler and Leinart in the two things that matter most to QBs in existing NFL offenses: accuracy and decision-making.