Continuing the theme of presenting statistics I never knew were publicly available, we're going to talk today about Donovan McNabb.
I know what you're thinking: "There's nothing new you can possibly say about McNabb -- we've heard it all before."
Yeah, that's what I thought too. But the place I found those individual sack statistics last week also has quarterback stats I never thought I'd get (at least until the top secret raid on Football Outsiders HQ coming up later this summer -- sign-up via email).
This is, in fact, one of my (few) complaints about the FO guys. I never knew just how much information they had until I did the charting last year. Now that I know, it drives me a little nuts that they publicize a statistic like "catch rate" for wide receivers. Yes, all statistics require context for their evaluation, but that particular number is so context-specific as to be almost completely meaningless as a standalone number.
And yet because that number is out there, people throw it around all the time, as if it sums up the guy's ability to catch the ball, and not the types of routes he runs, the quarterback throwing him the ball, and all that other stuff.
Now obviously the FO guys know all that, but they could do the rest of us a favor by publishing numbers that were a bit more illuminating -- i.e., how many balls did the guy actually drop, what percentage of throws his way were off-target or defensed, etc.
But you know what's pretty sweet? For quarterbacks -- not wide receivers yet, just quarterbacks -- those numbers have turned up.
(I realize this all may seem a bit breathless to those of you more inclined to the "blood and guts" school of football analysis. Pardon the stat geeks for our excitement. Also, keep in mind these are just 2008 numbers, I haven't found anything historical yet.)
Let's roll the charts:
I have to tell you, this is one of my all-time favorite charts. It simultaneously confirms everything we thought we knew about McNabb, while also making it clear that we (including me) have a tendency towards exaggeration when discussing his style of play.
Passes dropped -- This number surprised me. I thought it would be much higher. And, in fact, the Eagles' receivers did drop a lot of balls last year (29 of McNabb's passes alone). But the thing we sometimes forget is just how often the Eagles throw the football. Clearly the drop issue could see some improvement, but McNabb's not seeing anything other than league average when you put things into percentage terms, no matter how "stone-handed" people say his receivers are or how "hard to catch" his ball is.
Poor throw -- Yep, he's higher than average here. McNabb's 13th-highest among the 32 qualifying quarterbacks. However, we should keep in mind the numbers we're talking about here. McNabb was dinged for 89 "poor throws" last year. If he'd been average, that number would have been about 82. That's less than one throw every two games.
Pass defensed -- Same deal here. We know McNabb doesn't like to throw the ball into tight spaces. And yet, while he's below league average on this number, we're talking about two throws all year. That doesn't seem like a guy who's missing a lot of opportunities, as many of us have figured.
Pass hit at line -- Average.
Intercepted -- Yep, McNabb's low as always. These numbers have him sixth-best at avoiding picks. The interesting thing with this category, however, is that it's not one where you can just say, well, a couple more throws and he'd be average. Interceptions are awfully damaging, which means those three additional picks he avoided by being better than average were pretty important.
Other -- There's no legend for this piece. I'm guessing it's mostly spikes and balls obviously thrown away. Either way, he's not far off the norm.
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Added bonus, after the jump because they're huge, full league charts for every category, with all the NFC East quarterbacks highlighed. The charts speak for themselves, but you're going to see some surprises.