Late Start QB Stat Visualizations


Note: I wrote this in January, before the playoffs were over, before GB was eliminated, before we signed Matt Flynn, after I did a small tape study & posted the results. I ended up never posting this, wasn't sure it was worth the ambiguous takeaway. Kenneth's comparison of other late start QBs compelled me to go head and put it out there for you guys to digest.

I went to Advanced NFL Stats QB Stat visualizations to graph some career comps. These are an absolutely cherry-picked selection of what I think are decent comps: late bloomers with average tools. By late bloomer, I mean they didn't perform well enough in college to be a better prospect. I included Tom Brady to provide better perspective of scale, though he was also a late bloomer to an extent, as well.

I also included Matt Schaub and Kevin Kolb, though they had prototypical tools and were more highly graded coming out of college. My hope is they help flesh out the perspective and provide a bit of contrast with the average tools guys, and having been recent backups performing well enough to earn a starting gig on a new team, they may give us insight into expectations of those situations.

Note that the metric is cumulative WPA. It's context-sensitive so there's no separation of the player from the whoe passing offense, but it's more accurately reflective of what was achieved than the future probability-focused EPA. Also, because it's cumulative, awful games can be masked by matching good games. So consistency is not measured here.

Unfortunately the datafeed is sorted & separated by jersey number, and not just name, so Jon Kitna and Kyle Orton's careers are split into chunks. Kitna's jersey #3 (green) tenure in Cincinnati & Detroit, is more lengthy & distinguishable. Kitna took a long time to become a capable downfield passer who never solved his ball control or pressure awareness problems. But note that his "breakout," to the extent that he did, which was very late, nonetheless briefly held a higher trajectory there than Flynn's (red) has in limited action thus far.

Schaub, a different kind of late-developing QB in that he always had the tools, broke out to become a franchise QB later, and the difference is stark. It's also in stark contrast to the average tool late bloomers, in time to take off and rate of trajectory. We also know the offensive talent around him took a similar time to develop.

Cassel (purple) is now playing as though Kitna's pinnacle is his ceiling. Average tools with suboptimal offense, amplifies the mistakes. We might yet be inclined to note that given the starting job, like Schaub, sometimes these guys figure it out late.

But Hasselbeck's graph speaks differently than our collective retrospective narrative does. We remember him struggling. We remember the team struggling. We remember it took until the end of 2002 to take off. And there were mistakes. Mostly it was poor response to pressure. His effectiveness was there, it was just difficult to see. Bad as the early 2000s Seahawks were, Hasselbeck from the beginning distinguished himself from these late round future-star backups.

What speaks in line to our collective retrospective narrative here is Hasselbeck's decline in Seattle. A cumulative stat, that sinks for 3 years with a modest uptick at the end.

Oh, and there Kevin Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson are, flummoxing away.

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