Of the twelve teams that made the 2012 NFL Playoffs, four of them entered the season with a new starting quarterback (3 drafted, 1 free agent). Over the course of the season, we've heard a lot about the star rookie quarterbacks (Luck, Wilson, Griffin) and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. There has been an ongoing debate on which of these young QB's should win Offensive Rookie of the Year, while at the same time Peyton Manning is going head to head with Adrian Peterson for the NFL MVP award.
That's all fine and dandy, but what I haven't seen is someone comparing all four of these QB's.
In this blog, I will take a (statistical) look at the impact each of them had on their new team. The obvious is that all four of them guided their teams to the playoffs (only the Broncos qualified the previous season), but these statistics tell a very interesting story. Let's get started.
Manning took over the only team that made the playoffs the previous season. The Broncos improved by five wins and clinched home field advantage (#1 seed) for the playoffs. Manning helped the Broncos become the 2nd highest scoring team in the NFL this season. Their points per game increased by 10.8 (tops among these four QB's). He also helped reduce the turnovers at the position by 8.
Robert Griffin III lived up to expectations and then some. The Redskins offense went from being 26th in scoring last season, to finishing 2012 as the 4th highest scoring team in the league. What's even more mind-boggling than that, is the reduction in turnovers at the QB position (20 fewer turnovers than 2011).
While Russell Wilson doesn't stand out in any one of these categories, Seattle did improve in every area. He reduced the turnovers at the position while helping to increase their scoring by just under 6 points.
Luck and the Colts had a massive increase in time of possession (4:33). In fact, they went from 32nd in the NFL (ToP/G) in 2011, to a very respectable 13th by the end of this season. The 102 additional first downs certainly contributed to the increase in ToP/G. The Colts finished the 2012 season ranked 7th in 3rd down conversion percentage after a 23rd ranked finish in 2011.
The Broncos had a modest increase in time of possession, due in large part to a run heavy scheme in 2011. That said. Manning blew away the other three QB's in 3rd down conversion percentage (improvement) and he was significantly better than Luck and Wilson in redzone scoring percentage. The improvement in 1st downs was also very impressive.
The ridiculous increase to the Redskins redzone touchdown percentage just reinforces how dangerous RGIII really is. Some will argue that fellow rookie Alfred Morris contributed to that as well, and to a certain extent I agree. The decrease in 3rd down conversion percentage is somewhat shocking to me. With all the improvements this offense made, this is clearly an area they need to address this off-season.
Seattle had the highest ToP of this group, while seeing the second biggest increase at 2 minutes 52 seconds. Similar to the last set of statistics, Wilson was very solid across the board while not having the largest increase in any specific category.
I was curious as to what impact these players may have had on their defenses. By having increased time of possession by the offense, I thought the defense would be fresher over the coarse a game and the season. Also, I thought the added scoring by each of these teams would improve their defense by allowing them to play with more leads.
Three out of the four defenses allowed fewer points than the previous season, while only two allowed fewer total yards.
The Redskins' increase in points allowed could be a result of significant injuries on defense. In week 2 of the 2012 season, they lost both star outside linebacker Brain Orakpo and starting defensive end Adam Carriker to season ending injuries.
Denver had the biggest improvement on defense. Having the 2nd highest scoring offense allowed them to play with many large leads. The core of the 2012 defense was very much the same as the 2011 team.
Seattle also returned much of the same personnel on defense in 2012. The most significant additions were starting rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and rookie pass rusher Bruce Irvin. During the second half of the season, the Seattle offense was piling up the points and it allowed the defense to play with some very large leads.
The Colts made the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense in 2012. They still have personnel issues that need to be addressed this off season. Both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis switched to outside linebacker with mixed results. A scheme change is no easy process; I would expect the Colts defense to make even more progress next season.
You can tie much of the defensive success to the success of the QB (and offense). Of course, a great defense also assists the offense by getting them back on the field. The relationship between the offense and the defense is great example of symbiosis.
Which of these off-season additions had the biggest impact in your opinion?
I have to go with Andrew Luck. The Colts were a horrible team just 12 months ago, with little to no hope to make the playoffs this season. The only negative to Luck are the turnovers, but he and the Colts managed to overcome those throughout the season.
If you are still on the fence, consider the number of game winning drives by each of these QB's (2012):
Luck (7, tied with Matt Ryan for 1st in the NFL)
Wilson (5, tied with Tony Romo for 2nd in the NFL)
Tomorrow night at 9pm EST (6pm PST), CBS will air the NFL Honors Awards Show. Although I'm a die-hard Seahawk fan, I would have to give my vote of Offensive Rookie of the Year to Andrew Luck. Of course, I would not be surprised to see any of these three rookies win the award.
As for Peyton Manning, I think he's fortunate that the MVP votes are cast prior to the playoffs. There is no question he had an outstanding season, but having the #1 seed in the AFC only to end up one and done leaves an awful taste in one's mouth.
Honestly, I think a strong case could be made for Andrew Luck to be the MVP as well. Just look at where the the Colts were in 2011 and where they are now.
In the end, I believe all four of these players will receive MVP votes in the following order:
Take care and thank you for following my blog.