Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mark Bradley, you Complete me

I've had this gnawing feeling in my gut for weeks. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something just didn't feel right in my life. I had pent-up feelings of...something. This morning, I figured out what I'd been craving: a good fisking. I figured this out when I read Mark Bradley's superficial argument that Matt Stafford is better than Tim Tebow. I read Bradley's piece and the words just came pouring out like they were written in my soul. Let the fun commence:

Tim Tebow is a great player. Tim Tebow is the Heisman holder. Come Saturday, Tim Tebow will be the second-best quarterback on the field.

I'm anxious to hear your reasoning, Mark. After all, ran the numbers two weeks ago and found that there was no comparison between Tebow and Stafford using, you know, objective data. Let's see what facts Mark has in mind to make his argument...

Matthew Stafford has become the Matthew Stafford Georgia fans envisioned when he arrived from Dallas. He has stopped throwing the ball to the wrong team, and he has long thrown the prettiest ball in college football. But throwing isn’t everything, and there have been times where we wondered if Stafford the quarterback would measure up to Stafford the arm. We wonder no more.

And the answer to my prior query is "none." When Stafford got on the bus to go to Baton Rouge, he had thrown five picks in his past three games, or three more than Tebow has thrown all season. After 60 minutes in Death Valley in which Stafford did not throw a pick, Bradley has now concluded he no longer throws the ball to the wrong team. On the same basis, I can conclude that Duke would win the SEC this year because they beat an SEC opponent last week.

He was the difference at LSU. Jarrett Lee’s first pass went to Georgia linebacker Darryl Gamble, and after 20 seconds the Tigers were chasing seven points. As hard as they chased, they could never get ahead. Stafford kept his team moving, kept making the throws that finally revealed the Georgia we thought we’d see.

Uh, Mark, are you aware that the LSU team that Stafford shredded is 9th in the SEC in total defense, 11th in scoring defense, 10th in pass efficiency defense? If you're trying to prove that Stafford is better than Tebow, then using a performance against LSU isn't the best idea. Tebow went 14 of 21 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and no picks against LSU. But anyway, you've decided to shift from arguing that Stafford is better than Tebow to arguing that Stafford had a good game against LSU, so don't let me stop you.

Two Stafford passes, both in the third quarter, that were the finest he has made as a collegian. Both times LSU, desperate to force a turnover, brought a blitz, and both times Stafford stepped into the rush and delivered down the left side. One ball went to A.J. Green - 49 yards and a touchdown. The other went to Aron White, the tight end who’d never caught a pass at Georgia - 48 yards and a vital first down.

Again, there is a reason why LSU is so bad statistically in pass coverage. Stafford wasn't exactly up against Alabama 1992. Or Alabama 2008, but I guess Matt Stafford has undergone a series of blood transfusions and is now a different quarterback than the one who led Georgia to a big fat goose egg for a half against the Tide.

“He’s standing in there when everything is flying around him,” Mark Richt said afterward, and never has Stafford stood taller than those 3 1/2 hours in Death Valley. And now, if you’re voting for All-SEC quarterback, who’s the pick? The Heisman holder and living legend, or the guy who leads the conference in yards passing and total offense?

Hey, actual numbers. Admittedly, Bradley is using aggregate numbers that would favor a quarterback with a lot more attempts (Stafford has 65 more attempts than Tebow), but I'm touched that Bradley is going to use some actual evidence to support his claim. In the words of Jules Winnfield, allow me to retort:

National rank in pass efficiency:

Tebow - 11
Stafford - 23

Yards per attempt:

Tebow - 8.63
Stafford - 8.5

Interception rate:

Tebow - one every 82 attempts
Stafford - one every 45.8 attempts

Touchdown rate:

Tebow - one every 13.7 attempts
Stafford - one every 19.1 attempts

As good as he has become, Stafford still needs a championship of some sort for full validation. All he has to do to win the SEC East is to outplay the most famous player in the land. The belief here is that John Matthew Stafford will.

Mark, rooting for the home teams is all fine and good, but your reputation as an oracle took a bit of a hit after you wrote these words on May 26:

Memorial Day arrived with the Braves in second place. They’ll be in first by the Fourth of July, and come Labor Day they’ll be pulling away.

You wrote those words after the Braves had impressively knocked Brandon Webb around. One would think that you'd learn your lesson not to get overly excited by one good performance. One would also think that the morning after the Phillies won the World Series, you might remember that you dismissed the Phils as unlikely to win even the division because they have "so few arms" and thus shy away from the bombastic predictions of glory for the local collectives. I guess not.

How exactly does one write about Atlanta sports and retain this sort of optimism, Charlie Brown?


SRQDawgs15 said...

I see you love Tebow and have a propensity for bashing UGA/Stafford but I don't get it. Numbers aren't everything. Stafford is the leader of his team, calling audibles and executing plays. Tebow is Urban Meyer's puppet and is lost without him. The numbers are what they are because of the difference in the systems the 2 teams run. Tebow is not asked to drop back and make throws, he either throws a bomb, a screen, or a short slant. You also say here Stafford has 5 INTs in the last 3 games (not true its the last 4 games) compared to Tebow's 3 all season. I guess you phrased it that way because it sounds better than saying Stafford has 5 for the whole year, huh? You attack Bradley for using his own eye rather than stats while you twist the stats to make your argument better. How about this: Tebow has 3 INTs in his last 4 games and Stafford has just 5 on the year. Now which sounds better? You also say Stafford has more yards because he throws more, wouldn't it also be true that he has more INTs because he throws more? Both are great QBs for their respective teams, one of them is actually a QB that will play on Sundays though. I wouldn't trade Stafford for anybody. Plus, if the 2 were in the opposite situation, Stafford would be great at UF and Tebow would be sitting behind Joe Cox at UGA. Maybe not that drastic, but Tebow wouldn't be nearly as good as Stafford has been at UGA.

Michael said...

1. The argument that you seem to be making is that the Florida offensive system is simpler and better than Georgia's. Do you really want to make that case?

2. Read my post again. Here's what I said about Stafford's interceptions:

"When Stafford got on the bus to go to Baton Rouge, he had thrown five picks in his past three games, or three more than Tebow has thrown all season."

That statement is correct. Also, note that I used the two players' interception rates for the entire season later in the post. The same point applies to your claim that Stafford has thrown more picks because he has more attempts. The point of the stats that I used is that they are attempt-neutral.

3. I can flip your argument around. Tebow's mobility allows him to run Meyer's spread option offense. Stafford is not as mobile, so he can't run the Florida offense. Conversely, Tebow could certainly run the Georgia offense, as he's an excellent passer.

For the record, I agree with you that Stafford is a better pro prospect because he has run a pro-style offense in college. Meyer's offense is more productive on the college level, but it's not as good at preparing a quarterback for the pros.

SRQDawgs15 said...

I think Stafford can run just fine and would be able to run Florida's offense with little to no drop off from Tebow. Tebow is inaccurate/inconsistent (more so than Stafford) when throwing, has happy feet in the pocket, and can't read a defense on his own so I don't think he could run UGA's offense as effectively as you do. If you notice, Tebow and his offense have to stand up and get a new play from the sideline if the defense isn't what they expected. Meyer's offense may be more complicated for the blockers, receivers, or running backs but not for the QB. He either throws a bomb, a screen, or a short slant or he runs up the middle. The other plays are hand offs and zone reads which Stafford already does effectively. You say UFs offense is more productive in college, I say its more productive at running up the score against weak opponents but not against good defenses. I do see you said "before he got on the bus" now, but you still twisted the words around to make Stafford look worse and Tebow look better. In reality Tebow has 3 INTs on the year and Stafford has 5, not a big difference. All 8 of those INTs came in the last 4 games for both QBs. Plus, UGA has played better defenses that cause more INTs than UF has which plays a big part too. I'm really not trying to get into an argument, I just disagree with your thought process and think you presented it a little out of context. Ever heard the saying "There's lies, damn lies, and statistics," this is a case where that is true. Anyone can make an point using stats to support it in some way. How about Tebow has orchestrated exactly 0 come from behind wins? And that's when trailing at any point in the 2nd half. Stafford, on the other hand, has 8 come-from-behind wins. Or that Tebow has 5 losses in 15 starts while Stafford has 5 losses in 29 starts?

Michael said...

1. Stafford is a reasonably good runner, but he isn't as good as Tebow. Tebow is faster and breaks more tackles. When they came out of high school, Tebow was seen as more of a multi-threat guy, hence the thinking that he was the perfect guy to run the Florida offense.

2. Florida does what a lot of teams are now doing: they get to the line early and then the coaches in the box read the defense. I'll grant you that this retards a QB's ability to read a defense pre-snap, but if the goal is to produce the best offense possible on the college level, this strategy makes sense.

3. If Tebow can't read a defense post-snap, then explain the high completion rate and the very low interception rate.

4. Which good defenses have shut Florida down? They had good games last year against LSU (pre-Dorsey being maimed by Auburn), Tennessee (admittedly, a half a defense, but still...) and Georgia. This year, they've scored on everyone they've played with varying degrees of success. I don't see the evidence that they only score on bad teams.

5. Tebow has thrown two picks, not three.

6. Georgia has played better defenses in one respect: they've played Alabama. Georgia didn't score in the first half against Alabama. The point, I guess, is that Georgia has flunked its major test on offense and Florida hasn't taken a major test.

7. Individual stats can lie, but Tebow is better than Stafford in every significant offensive category (as long as we control for attempts). This point is not unlike the notion that you can cherry pick one poll at this point to show what you want in the presidential race, but if a number of polls are all showing the same thing, then we can draw some conclusions.

8. On the late game comeback point, I have a few thoughts. First, the prevailing thought in baseball is that sample sizes are too small to determine which players are "clutch." This would be doubly true in college football. Second, Stafford has had more opportunities for late game comebacks, in part because he has a lot more experience as a starter than Tebow and in part because Georgia doesn't knock teams out early the way that Florida does. Third, let's look at Tebow's losses:

Auburn - Tebow leads team from two scores down to tie the game; Auburn kicks a FG on the last play, leaving Florida no time to come back.

LSU - LSU scores inside of the final minute, leaving Florida with almost no time for a response.

Georgia - Georgia takes command in the fourth quarter. I'll grant you here that Florida had chances late and didn't take them.

Michigan - Florida did have one drive to take the lead with six minutes to go. I'll grant you that Florida didn't convert on its last two chances to win the game.

Ole Miss - Tebow missed two throws that would have won the game late. That said, he did drive Florida for what should have been the tying touchdown with five minutes to go. He also wasn't really responsible for an incredibly predictable 4th and 1 call that cost Florida the game.

9. Stafford does have a better record than Tebow. Stafford has also never had to play with the 99th ranked pass defense in the country.

Michael said...

10. If the spread option offense only works against bad teams, then explain the fact that the only games that USC has lost against top ten opponents in the last six years have been against spread option teams (Texas 2005 and Oregon 2007).

SRQDawgs15 said...

So you agree about the comebacks in the UGA, Michigan, and Ole Miss game but not the other 2. Well, against Auburn Tebow lead his offense to a 3 and out, -6 yard drive that set up the Auburn FG. In the LSU game Tebow threw an INT that led to LSU's go-ahead TD. So I'd count those too. Since you like to use percentages to make things fair, Tebow's 0% is far lower than whatever Staford's is. I already explained the completion rate to you. They run screens, short slants, or bombs and he still badly misses receivers at times. AS for good teams stopping the UF offense, they averaged 42+ points per game last year, but when broken down that is 47+ in their wins and 24 or something in their losses. Significant differences there. You also say they had a good game against Auburn and LSU last year. Really, 17 and 24 points are good offensive showings for that team? Finally, even though this is abouot UF and UGA and more specifically Tebow and Stafford, USC lost those games because Vince Young is the man and so was Dennis Dixon. Both of those teams were more similar to West Virgina than UF.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Tebow has 3 INTs this year not 2. 1 against Kentucky last week, 1 against Arkansas, and 1 against Ole Miss in the loss. Sorry if that doesn't help your argument.

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