Jack! Look at me when I'm talking to you! I'm...not...going...anywhere!
Alfie's post made me curious as to how rookie QBs have historically stacked up against David Garrard's 2010 or even past three years. With Jaguars fans pining for change at the QB position, running Garrard out of town is the most cathartic option; they can then blame the team's failures over the past several years on David. I posted some of this in Alfie's post, but wanted to add some to it and figured it was substantive enough for a post. Here's what I found:
Based on basic criteria, the chances of a rookie putting up as good of numbers next year as Garrard did this year are very low. If our rookie QB could put up 2734 yards on 64.5% passing with 23 TD/15 INT I think we’d all not only be stoked, but we’d be crowning him the "next big thing" like Rams fans are doing now with Sam Bradford. The fact is that most rookie QBs just can’t reach that level of performance. If playoffs are the goal, Garrard is probably the best option. Garrard may seem like he was the piece holding the team back, but if a rookie QB is more likely a step backward than a step forward from Garrard. Using very basic criteria, I searched pro-football-reference.com for rookie QB seasons with >60% passing and >15 TD (EIGHT less than Garrard threw this year). I came up with the following list:
That’s the entire list. Those are the ONLY seasons in the history of the NFL in which a rookie QB threw for 15 TD and completed 60+% of his passes. Garrard easily surpassed both number this past season and there’s no reason to think he can’t do it again. If I relax the criteria to >55% competion percentage, the list adds the following:
1999: Tim Couch
1998: Peyton Manning
1986: Jim Kelly
1985: Dieter Brock
1983: Dan Marino
1961: Fran Tarkenton
That’s still a total of only ten players, and those qualifiers yield a worse passing season than David Garrard just had.
For the record, there has never been a rookie QB that has passed for 20 TD with a 60+% completion percentage, numbers that Garrard surpassed in just 13 1/2 games. At first glance, it would appear to be safe to say that David Garrard is easily still a better option for this team at quarterback than a rookie would be.
Upon further review, I realized that the stats above are kind of cherry-picked; if the argument is that a QB that turns the ball over less will help the team more, that’s a valid viewpoint as well. Garrard has had 20, 24, and 26 turnovers the past three years; this past season he threw 15 INT and fumbled the ball 11 times in only 13 1/2 games. The list of rookie QB with as many interceptions and fumbles is as follows:
That’s nine rookie QB that have turned the ball over as much in a season as Garrard did this year. If the argument is that the Jaguars would benefit more in 2011 from a QB that does less positive offensively but also does less to hurt his team with turnovers, there’s a legitimate case for a rookie QB in 2011. I personally don’t think the negatives outweigh the positives, but it’s absolutely a valid discussion point.
Again after further review, I decided it would make more sense to use mean averages over the past three years (an extremely arbitrary time period; I chose not to go back further than three years because Garrard was seemingly a different player from 2008 to 2010 than he was in 2007, which appears to be a statistical outlier). Garrard's mean TD, completion %, interceptions, and fumbles the past three years are:
62.46% completion %
Using the interception and fumbles means, the list of rookie QB that surpassed these turnover numbers includes the nine listed above, plus the following:
The list is still only 14 players long, so a rookie QB would be expected to put up less turnovers than Garrard over the course of a season.
Using the TD and completion % means, the rookie QB with better TD and competion % than Garrard's means are:
That's the list. There has never been a rookie QB in NFL history that has had more TD and a better completion % than Garrard's means in those stats over the past three years.
Let's use yards per attempt instead of completion % and see what happens. Garrard's three-year mean yards per attempt is 7.1. Using that and his TD mean, we get the following list:
1988: Mark Rypien
1986: Jim Kelly
1983: Dan Marino
1961: Fran Tarkenton
1948: Charlie Conerly
Pretty lofty company. Expecting a rookie to exceed those numbers seems foolish at best.
This does NOT definitively say that a rookie would not be as good as Garrard; there is a lot of subjectivity involved in the statistics I used. For example, if I could make a list using Garrard's fumbles LOST over the past three years (3, 8, 4, mean of 5.0) versus total fumbles (7, 14, 11) from 2008 to 2010, I would do it, but Pro Football Reference doesn't have a search category for lost fumbles. You could make a case for using different means such as a five-year or two-year mean. You could argue that different offensive statistics matter more. The point is to think for yourself while keeping statistics in mind.
My overriding point is that an argument can easily be made on either side, but I would argue for the side that a rookie would most likely not perform as well as David Garrard in 2011, and if the goal is to make the playoffs as opposed to developing a rookie QB, Jack Del Rio would be wise to hitch his wagon to David Garrard once again.