Friday, April 13, 2012

Did the NFL Lockout Help the 2011 Rookie QB Class?

Friday morning on ESPN’s Mike and Mike, NFL analyst and former quarterbacks Ron Jaworski made an intriguing comment as to why he believes the rookie quarterback class of 2011 had so much success.

He credited the lockout.

“Offensive coordinators and head coaches are geniuses, ask them, they will tell you,” said Jaworski. “And rightfully so, they have to be. You have to have an ego. You have to believe you’re winning football games by your design, your creativity. But I think what happened last year because of the lockout, the playbook got scaled down. It became smaller. Less volume. So now these young rookie quarterbacks can step in and they weren’t clouded with all these theories and Xs and Os and designs. They went out and let their athletic ability take over and they played well.”

His theory may be right.

When you look at the stats from last year’s class and compare them to the stats of other recent rookie classes, the 2011 crop of quarterbacks performed significantly better.

2011 rookie quarterbacks (ranked by QB Rating)
  • Jake Locker: 546 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTS, QBR 99.4 (1 rushing TD)
  • Cam Newton: 4,051 yards, 21 TDs, 17 INTs, QBR 84.5 (14 rushing TDS)
  • T.J. Yates: 949 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, QBR 80.7 
  • Andy Dalton: 3,398 yards, 20 TDs, 13 INTs, QBR 80.4 (1 rushing TD)
  • Christian Ponder: 1,853 yards, 13 TDs, 13 INTs, QBR 70.1
  • Blaine Gabbert: 2,214 yards, 12 TDs, 11 INTs, QBR 65.4
2010 rookie quarterbacks
  • Tim Tebow: 654 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs, QBR 82.1 (6 rushing TDs)
  • Sam Bradford: 3,512 yards, 18 TDs, 15 INTs, QBR 76.5 (1 rushing TD)
  • Colt McCoy: 1,576 yards, 6 TDs, 9 INTs, QBR 74.5 (1 rushing TD)
  • John Skelton: 662 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, QBR 62.3
  • Joe Webb: 477 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs, QBR 60.9 (2 rushing TDs)
  • Jimmy Clausen: 1,558 yards, 3 TDs, 9 INTs, QBR 58.4
2009 rookie quarterbacks
  • Mark Sanchez: 2,444 yards, 12 TDs, 20 INTs, QBR 63.0 (3 rushing TDs)
  • Matthew Stafford: 2,267 13 TDs, 20 INTs, QBR 61.0 (2 rushing TDs)
  • Josh Freeman: 1,855 yards, 10 TDs, 18 INTs, QBR 59.8
  • Josh Johnson: 685 yards, 4 TDs, 8 INTs, QBR 50.9
  • Keith Null: 566 yards, 3 TDs, 9 INTs, QBR 49.9
  • Brian Brohm: 146 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, QBR 43.2

The 2011 class had an average quarterback rating of 80.1, which was 11 points higher than the 2010 class (69.1) and a whopping 25.5 points higher than the 2009 rookie class (54.6).

Also, of the 18 rookie quarterbacks listed above, nine of them threw more (or the same number) touchdown passes than interceptions during their rookie season. Six of those nine were from the 2011 class, including Ponder and Yates who both threw the same number of touchdowns and interceptions.

While it goes against conventional thinking, Jaworski’s theory about a scaled back playbook for a rookie quarterback makes a lot of sense. However, don’t expect teams to embrace this approach. As Jaworski mentioned, head coaches and offensive coordinators feel the need to put their “genius” touch on everything, especially a phone book-thick playbook.

“To me, I’m going to watch very closely after the draft, these OTAs and all these mini-camps that teams have, if all of a sudden the big fat playbook comes out and the young quarterbacks struggle next season,” said Jaworski on Mike and Mike.

Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill, we’ll be watching.

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