Thursday, June 7, 2012

2 comments All Alex Smith Does is Win Games According to Clark Judge

I'm sure most people heard Alex Smith's comments about winning football games, along with Smith's comparison to Cam Newton and his 2011 statistics versus Carolina's wins. Really it is a non-story, but this is the NFL offseason so a big deal will be made about it by me and others. Some people have written that the numbers don't support Smith's view of when Newton threw for his yardage and others semi-suggested Smith's 2011 numbers were a mirage compared to the rest of his career. As nice of a guy as Smith seems to be, his analysis was wrong and he isn't the most shining example of a quarterback who has won plenty of NFL games. Maybe no one should expect Alex Smith to have done research and made his comments with a fully knowledgeable point of view about when Newton accumulated his statistics for the 2011 season. Smith has had a tough offseason, what with the 49ers openly trying to replace him and all, so he was just defending his six year record by using the one year he actually posted a winning record as a starting quarterback as proof he just wins games.

(For the record, I don't give two shits what Smith thinks about Cam Newton. I do think it is hilarious a quarterback who has had one winning season out of six seasons starts talking about how wins are the only thing that count in judging a quarterback.)

Clark Judge wants us all to know this isn't a fantasy league, so statistics don't matter, but only wins matter. All Clark cares about is wins...and Backup QB Jets is a great example of a guy who just wins games.

We all know an excellent quarterback is the best way to have an excellent team. I thought I'd play a little game and see what the team record of the Top 10 passers (in terms of passing yards) was for 2011. I am only doing this for the 2011 season, but hopefully this will show us all that wins are fantastic, but quarterbacks who rack up passing yards were generally on more successful teams during the 2011 season. It will show that truly great quarterbacks manage to rack up passing yards AND win games.

Top 10 quarterbacks in passing

1. Drew Brees: 13-3
2. Tom Brady: 13-3
3. Matthew Stafford: 10-6
4. Eli Manning: 9-7
5. Aaron Rodgers: 15-1
6. Phillip Rivers: 8-8
7. Tony Romo: 8-8
8. Matt Ryan: 10-6
9. Ben Roethlisberger: 12-4
10. Cam Newton: 6-10

As you can see, Newton is the only quarterback in the Top 10 of the NFL in passing yards whose team had a losing record. So it has been proven previously (by others) that Cam Newton didn't throw for more passing yards in "garbage time," but we can also see the leaders in the NFL passing yards mostly played for teams with winning they probably didn't accumulate these yards while trying to catch up in "garbage time" at the end of games either. So there probably is some correlation between a quarterback who can throw for 300 yards and his team's record.

Let's see what Clark Judge has to say...

San Francisco's Alex Smith says he doesn't care about yards per game, which, I guess, means he doesn't care about stats, period. Well, good for him. That's easy to say when you don't have them. Except there's one thing we're forgetting here.

There seems to be a strong correlation between a quarterback's statistics and the success of his team?

And it's that Alex Smith is right. He shouldn't care about stats, nor should other quarterbacks.

The only statistic a quarterback should care about is "wins." That's all that matters. Did that quarterback win games or not. Who cares what his statistics are? Amirightorwhat?

Of course quarterbacks SHOULD worry about their stats, specifically if you are the quarterback of a team and the stats show that you are indeed the weak link in the team (paging Mark Sanchez). So it's all well and good to not care about statistics, but statistics are fairly effective at measuring how competent a quarterback's performance. Yes, statistics can be misleading. Sacks aren't the sole best measure of a pass rusher's ability, just like passing yards aren't the sole best measure of a quarterback's ability, but over a 16 game NFL season if Drew Brees throws for 5000 yards I can assume he's a pretty damn good quarterback.

It might be the era of the 5,000-yard passer or the 400-yard game, but he doesn't give a rip, and let's hear it for Alex Smith.

Good job Alex Smith. You don't care about your statistics. Let's see if your teammates care about your statistics when your performance dips down to pre-2011 levels and the 49ers start losing games 14-10.

Smith told 49ers Rapid Reporter Kyle Bonagura. "I think that is a totally overblown stat because if you're losing games in the second half, guess what, you're like the Carolina Panthers and you're going no-huddle the entire second half. Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games.

"That's great. You're not winning, though."

Actually, quarterbacks who had a lot of 300-yard games did win games last year. Cam Newton was the outlier which proved the point that quarterbacks who threw for 300-yards in a game during the 2011 season played for teams which had winning records. The 2011 team records for the Top 10 quarterbacks in passing yards reflect this.

It might be the era of the 5,000-yard passer or the 400-yard game, but he doesn't give a rip, and let's hear it for Alex Smith.

This exact sentence has been written twice. I'm not sure if this was done for emphasis or is just a mistake on the part of Clark Judge. Actually, it doesn't matter if Clark Judge wrote this column with some amount of skill or not. The question is did Clark Judge win this column? That's all that matters.

Newton is an extraordinary talent who passed and threw for a gazillion yards, had 35 touchdowns rushing and passing and was named the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year. In short, he was every bit "the icon" he said he wanted to be.

But he was also 6-10.

The Carolina Panthers were 6-10.

I'm not saying that record is his fault.

No, but you are ignoring his statistics and simply judging Newton based on his team's win-loss record. This isn't blaming him for the Panthers record, but it also isn't looking at Newton's performance independent of the Panthers performance as a team. You aren't blaming Newton for the Panthers being 6-10, but just like you are giving credit to Alex Smith for the San Francisco 49ers going 13-3, you are not giving Newton much credit based on his team being 6-10. You are using a team statistic to determine how much individual credit a player should get for this team statistic, while not using individual statistics at all to measure that player's performance at quarterback.

But I am saying that I care more about that won-loss record than I do how many 300- or 400-yard games the guy produced.

And everyone else cares about the win-loss record as well. That's the name of the game. To say, "QB X threw for 300 yards and his team lost a lot of games" as a reason why passing yards are overrated or don't really matter is boiling a team's victory or defeat down to one variable and ignoring the other dozen variables that determine whether a team wins or loses. I hope you see the stupidity in this. I'm not sure anyone is saying throwing for more yards is more important than winning football games, but Alex Smith isn't correct in saying Newton's passing yards don't really matter because his team was 6-10. Those passing yards are one of the variables that do matter when comparing Newton to other quarterbacks in the NFL.

I guess what confuses me is if Alex Smith thinks Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers accumulated most of their passing yards in the second half when their respective team was trying to catch up? Most likely he doesn't believe this because these quarterbacks led teams who had winning records. Isn't it possible Newton didn't accumulate those yards in blowout games too, it is just his team didn't have a winning record for reasons that didn't deal with Cam Newton? Maybe I'm thinking about this more than Alex Smith did.

Now, before we go further, let's make something clear: That's not a knock on Newton. It's a knock on fantasy-football numbers.

Except for the fact most quarterbacks who put up fantasy-football numbers played for a team with a good record last year. So knock the numbers all you want, but in 2011 it led to regular season success.

Because, ultimately, the measure of a quarterback is success. If you can't win, nothing else matters.

You are arguing a point that isn't even in contention. Most everyone thinks a quarterback is ultimately judged in one way or another by his success. He is also judged by his personal performance in his team's success though. So Alex Smith isn't right to say "Quarterback X threw for more yards than me because his team was behind most of the game," while indicating stats like passing yards are for losers. He can't do this because more goes into a team's success than passing yards. Alex Smith is a perfect example of this. You can't boil a team's success down to just one variable.

Case in point: I was at a New England-Philadelphia game last year when Vince Young threw for 400 yards in a 38-20 defeat that caused some people to think about reassessing Young.

Except he stunk.

"To prove my point I'm going to bring up this one time a quarterback really was behind for most of the game and then use that as credible evidence how passing yards are overrated in all cases."

Just as a note, Tom Brady was 24-34 for 361 yards in this game and his team won. See how Brady had a 70% completion percentage and 361 yards and this was a really good performance compared to Vince Young's 26-48 400 yard performance? Tom Brady only threw for 39 less yards than Young and his team won the game. How did that happen? Most intelligent people know you can't simply judge a quarterback based on one statistic.

You heard me. He missed open receivers. He couldn't convert critical downs. And he was as culpable as an inept DeSean Jackson or a porous Eagles pass defense for blowing an early 10-0 lead.

Only the numbers didn't reflect it.

That takes me back to my favorite subject, which is Tim Tebow and the 2011 Denver Broncos.

Speaking of "missing open receivers" and being inept at the quarterback position, let's do talk about Backup QB Jets. I'd love to hear how Vince Young's 400 yard 54% completion percentage was a terrible showing yet a 200 yard 50% completion percentage is "just winning games."

What I don't understand is how you can ignore the facts, and the facts are these -- the Broncos were 8-5 with him at quarterback and beat the defending conference champion in the playoffs.

Good coaching. A certain amount of luck. Quality quarterback play when it counted, but otherwise was pretty mediocre. A Broncos defense that stepped up and played well. These are facts as well.

What else are facts is the fact Backup QB Jets threw for a low completion percentage and regularly missed open receivers, which is something Clark Judge was just criticizing Vince Young for doing. The difference is the Eagles were 1-2 with Young at quarterback and the Broncos were 8-5 with Backup QB Jets as quarterback.

At the very least, Alex Smith had zero room to talk about himself as a winner since the 49ers are 32-34 in Smith's career when he is a starter. If we were so cruel as to take away last year, he has a 19-31 record as a starter. Statistics and passing yards are for losers and Alex Smith isn't a winning quarterback anyway. So at the very least he should shut up and not call out other quarterbacks who have more passing yards than him, but fewer team wins, and then state football is really about winning games. Alex Smith doesn't have the passing yards and he traditionally hasn't won football games either until last year.

More specifically, they beat the Pittsburgh Frickin' Steelers, the league's No. 1-ranked defense and the league's No. 1-ranked pass defense, and they beat them with Tebow launching an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime.

It was a 10-yard freaking slant. Backup QB Jets did not "launch" this touchdown pass. He threw an accurate slant pass to a receiver who managed to outrun all Steelers defenders. He in no way launched this pass and the very wording that Clark Judge uses to describe this pass tells me he isn't afraid to exaggerate in an effort to prove his point. The fact I know Clark Judge is willing to exaggerate to prove a point causes me to question whether he is allowing his emotions about this discussion trump reason.

I don't care that he didn't complete 50 percent of his passes that day. I don't care that he threw for a career-high 316 yards, either. I just care that he won.

It is about winning...but the very next week Backup QB Jets lost to the Patriots. Tom Brady put up 363 yards, most of which came in the first half, and the Broncos lost by 35 points. Those passing yards are for losers though, so I'm sure they really don't matter. The fact Tebow completed 9 passes for 136 yards probably had nothing to do with the Broncos loss.

Now let's move on to Alex Smith. In 2011, he produced the best season of his career, yet some persons complain because he's not Joe Montana or Steve Young. Well, sorry; he's not. But he was 13-3 last year, and, sure, a lot of that had to do with a terrific 49ers defense,

I was cheering for Alex Smith to play well last year because I thought he got a bad rap in San Francisco. That was the past. Now I see he takes one year of success and turns into a member of the "it's all about winning games so don't pay attention to my statistics" club and I find him to slightly be a little bit whiny.

Smith played well last year, but even Clark Judge has to admit the 49ers defense was the major reason they won games. Smith just didn't need to make mistakes and come through when the time came. He was able to do both of these things. Credit goes to him for that.

He threw a career-low five interceptions and played with a poise, a confidence and a strength that stats can't measure.

Some of the historical data I showed earlier in this post suggests Smith won't pull this low interception rate off again this season.

Brady doesn't have the talent of some of his contemporaries. But he does have an insatiable drive to succeed that has taken him to five Super Bowls. Brady knows how to win, and it's that quality -- not his arm strength or his speed -- that makes him special.

Of course Brady also throws for a tremendous amount of passing yards. This is naturally something Clark Judge will stay away from mentioning since any acknowledgement of a quarterback who wins games AND throws for a ton of yards is off-limits during this current discussion. Clark Judge prefers to make it seem like a team has to choose between a quarterback who wins games or a quarterback who throws for a lot of yardage. To point out a quarterback could indeed do both would make a person question why Alex Smith can't do both.

I was reminded when Robert Griffin III ripped off a 4.35 40 at the NFL combine. Griffin's time created a buzz and was perceived as another signal of how astounding he is and will be at the next level. And maybe he will. But keep this in mind: When Brady ran a 40 at the 2000 combine, he checked in at a leisurely 5.28.

Then look what happened.

Robert Griffin won a lot of games at Baylor. So he was a winner! Why doesn't Clark Judge seem to like Griffin?

I guess that's why I welcome what Alex Smith had to say about numbers and winning.

Alex Smith had no deep thoughts about numbers and winning. He merely picked the only NFL quarterback in the Top 10 in passing yards whose team had a losing record and used him as an example of why passing yards mean nothing, while ignoring the other nine quarterbacks who made up the Top 10 in passing yards whose teams were all 8-8 or better.

All I know is Newton gained a lot more attention last season than Andy Dalton, yet all Dalton did was lead lowly Cincinnati to the playoffs.

And he did it playing 10 top-10 defenses.

It's because Newton had more spectacular highlights than Dalton, generally played at a higher level, was the #1 overall pick in the draft and Newton has more endorsement deals than Dalton. I'm not saying it is right, but I think it was generally recognized the Bengals had a better team than the Panthers did. Dalton played great last year and deserves some more recognition.

Dalton played eleven (including the playoffs) Top 10 defenses last year (actually he played 10 games against Top-10 defenses...there is a difference in the wording used. I think Clark Judge's wording indicates 10 games against 10 different Top 10 teams when this isn't the case) and went 4-7 against these teams.

Alex Smith won a lot of games last year. That matters.

Yes, it does matter. Still the 49ers tried to replace him with Peyton Manning and then signed Josh Johnson. It may mean nothing, but Alex Smith didn't win a lot of games prior to last year.

He didn't throw for a lot of yards. That doesn't.

It doesn't matter unless Alex Smith's team doesn't have a great defense and doesn't need him to score 28 points per game. I would say throwing for a lot of yards helped quite a few other teams win games during 2011.

What's so hard to understand?

That's what I'm asking you. Why do you insist on ignoring the fact nine out of ten quarterbacks with the most passing yards in the NFL played for teams who had a record of 8-8 or better? Passing yards aren't the end-all-be-all to determine a quarterback's ability, but using a team statistic like "wins" to determine how a quarterback performed during the season isn't an effective way to measure a quarterback's ability either.


ivn said...

that caused some people to think about reassessing Young.

[citation needed]

beat the defending conference champion in the playoffs.

thanks to a stupid rule that allowed the 8-8 champion of a weak division to host a team that went 12-4. if that game is played in Pittsburgh than there's no way the Broncos win.

Robert Griffin won a lot of games at Baylor. So he was a winner!

I almost don't think he gets enough credit for what he did in college. Baylor was nothing when he showed up. I know we all suffer from a recency bias, but he might be the best/most important player in the history of the program.

and it's also unfair to point to a 40 yard dash time as a reason people were excited about him. from what I can tell, pretty much everything about Griffin except for his small-ish size had people buzzing.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, I don't particularly like that rule either. I think the team with the better overall record should get the home playoff game. At least the reasoning for a team who won their division to get a home playoff game is defensible, seeing as how they won their division, but I'm still not a huge fan of it.

I don't want you to think I was knocking Griffin also. I think he probably is the most important player in that program's history. He helped to put that football program back on the map in Texas. I think Clark Judge does Griffin a disservice by pointing out how his 40 time is what had people excited. I think it was more than that. Griffin was a great college football player.