clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pro Football Focus vs The Great Drew Brees Decline Debate

New, comments

We've all heard it. Drew just isn't the same quarterback as in years past. Is this truth or perception?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Give me a Guard this wide!
Give me a Guard this wide!
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees lead the league again this year, along with Ben Roethlisberger, throwing for 4952 yards. Drew threw 33 TDs, 52 20+ completions, 10 40+ completions, with a QB rating of 97%. The one flaw in Drew's game this year was the 17 interceptions. You can check these facts at NFL.com.

PFF, a much touted grading site actually thinks Drew had a much better 2014 season than many here want to give him credit for. I'm going to quote a lot of this from their  2014 Depth-adjusted Completion Percentage post.

Here's how they start off: Credit to Mike Clay of PFF

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that shorter passes are easier to complete, which explains why (Alex) Smith often ranks so highly in completion percentage each year. The question is - how much of an impact does depth actually have? To answer that question, I went play by play and adjusted each quarterback's completion percentage based on the distance of his throws. Quarterbacks who usually throw a lot of screens and short passes will be punished. Those who aren't afraid to chuck it deep will be rewarded.

To accomplish this, we're using a pair of statistics. One is aDOT and the other is an adjusted version of completion percentage (aC%)*.

*aC% = (Completions + Drops - NFL average drop rate) / (Pass Attempts - Spikes - Throwaways - Batted Balls - Balls disrupted by a QB hit)

I’ll be referring to "aC%" throughout this piece. Don’t be confused by it. Remember, it’s just an adjusted version of completion percentage that removes wasted throws and normalizes drops.

Many here have been saying Drew just can't throw the deep ball anymore. Guess again. For those who don't know aDOT stands for average depth of throw. Drew's average of 8.1 depth is only 1.5 behind Tony Romo's 9.5 in the chart below. And in the bottom chart you can compare him to all the QBs.

Our first chart shows the top-10 quarterbacks in terms of their actual aC% exceeding their expected.

Rk Quarterback Aimed aDOT Actual aC% Expected aC% +/-
1 Drew Brees 607 8.1 74% 67% 7.1%
2 Tony Romo 467 9.5 69% 65% 4.1%
3 Philip Rivers 532 9.0 69% 65% 4.0%
4 Carson Palmer 209 9.2 69% 65% 3.6%
5 Teddy Bridgewater 362 7.9 71% 67% 3.6%
6 Matt Ryan 588 8.2 70% 66% 3.5%
7 Ben Roethlisberger 623 9.1 69% 65% 3.4%
8 Alex D. Smith 421 6.0 73% 70% 3.3%
9 Russell Wilson 469 9.0 68% 65% 3.3%
10 Tom Brady 671 8.3 69% 66% 2.6%

Drew Brees (+7.1 percent) was easily the league's top quarterback in this department during the 2014 regular season. Brees (69.2 percent) trailed only Tony Romo (69.7 percent) in straight-up completion percentage, but Romo benefited from a low drop rate and had significantly fewer "unaimed" throws. Brees' +7.7 percent is the highest we've seen from him in eight years of this study, but he's been no worse than +2.3 percent in a given year. It's far from a secret, but Brees is arguably the league's most-efficient passer.

And for those who like to claim these type of studies cover too short a span to be  statistically significant:

There are 40 passers who have 1,000 aimed throws under their belt since I started this study in 2007.

Aaron Rodgers (+5.8 percent) is tops in the category during that span. Brees (+4.9 percent), Kurt Warner (+4.1 percent), Peyton Manning (+3.9 percent) and Philip Rivers (+3.8 percent) round out the top-five.

On the other hand, Derek Anderson (-4.8 percent) is worst in the category since 2007. He's followed closely by Marc Bulger (-4.7 percent), Mark Sanchez (-4.2 percent), Josh Freeman (-2.5 percent) and Matt Hasselbeck (-2.3 percent).

The complete 2014 rundown

Rk Quarterback Aimed aDOT Actual aC% Expected aC% +/-
1 Drew Brees 607 8.1 74% 67% 7.1%
2 Tony Romo 467 9.5 69% 65% 4.1%
3 Philip Rivers 532 9.0 69% 65% 4.0%
4 Carson Palmer 209 9.2 69% 65% 3.6%
5 Teddy Bridgewater 362 7.9 71% 67% 3.6%
6 Matt Ryan 588 8.2 70% 66% 3.5%
7 Ben Roethlisberger 623 9.1 69% 65% 3.4%
8 Alex D. Smith 421 6.0 73% 70% 3.3%
9 Russell Wilson 469 9.0 68% 65% 3.3%
10 Tom Brady 671 8.3 69% 66% 2.6%
11 Ryan Tannehill 555 8.2 69% 67% 2.6%
12 Aaron Rodgers 559 8.6 69% 66% 2.5%
13 Kirk Cousins 192 9.0 68% 66% 2.3%
14 Robert Griffin III 199 7.0 72% 70% 2.2%
15 Joe Flacco 581 9.2 67% 66% 1.8%
16 Colin Kaepernick 445 9.5 66% 64% 1.6%
17 Andrew Luck 682 9.2 66% 65% 1.5%
18 Shaun Hill 211 8.3 68% 67% 1.3%
19 Ryan Fitzpatrick 294 9.1 66% 65% 1.2%
20 Eli Manning 564 9.2 66% 65% 1.1%
21 Peyton Manning 623 9.0 66% 65% 0.7%
22 Jay Cutler 529 7.7 68% 68% 0.4%
23 Kyle Orton 415 7.5 68% 68% 0.2%
24 Geno Smith 329 8.6 66% 66% 0.2%
25 Colt McCoy 124 7.3 69% 68% 0.1%
26 Austin Davis 264 8.7 66% 66% 0.0%
27 Mike Glennon 188 11.6 61% 61% -0.3%
28 Andy Dalton 482 8.1 66% 67% -0.8%
29 Charlie Whitehurst 163 10.7 62% 62% -0.8%
30 Mark Sanchez 301 8.8 65% 66% -1.0%
31 Nick Foles 285 10.3 62% 64% -1.3%
32 Matthew Stafford 593 8.2 66% 67% -1.3%
33 Josh McCown 300 10.7 61% 63% -1.5%
34 Drew Stanton 222 11.7 60% 61% -1.6%
35 Jake Locker 141 10.1 61% 63% -2.3%
36 Zach Mettenberger 168 9.1 62% 64% -2.4%
37 Michael Vick 110 9.9 63% 65% -2.6%
38 Cam Newton 492 9.8 61% 64% -2.7%
39 Derek Carr 546 8.5 63% 66% -3.4%
40 Blake Bortles 444 7.4 64% 68% -4.1%
41 Brian Hoyer 409 10.8 58% 63% -4.9%
42 E.J. Manuel 122 7.6 62% 67% -5.7%
43 Ryan Lindley 116 12.3 50% 60% -10.0%

Follow Mike Clay on Twitter: @MikeClayNFL

I know. I've heard it all season long. That pass was under thrown. The receiver had to wait for the ball or come back for it. His decision making sucks. The facts are people, Mr. Brees is still one of the best out there. Is some of the fault for the offense stalling or turning the ball over his fault? You betcha. There is plenty of blame to go around though. I think Drew did the best he could with the supporting cast he had around him. True he needs to learn to just throw it away sometimes. Of course then we will hear, he should have extended that drive. You know it's true. Just go back to some of the game threads, and read the comments gripping when he did just that. In fact I saw Drew run to try to extend drives more this year past, than any other season with the Saints.

As far as the draft and or free agency goes, I want pass  rushers, linebackers, and corner backs, but I would be perfectly happy protecting Drew as well.