Over the course of years writing about football, and watching football, and talking about football, I have made friends through these avenues of football watching. One of the friends I have made is my friend Greg, who will send questions for the podcast, and we will talk about the Houston Texans, and football statistics, and data analytics, and topics that branch out from these three things.
Last week Greg sent me a great question:
Question for the BRB brains trust: what’s par for Davis Mills this season? What is the key success metric and target?
This is the question for this week’s groupthink. These are our responses. Thank you again Greg.
This is so hard because he’s better than the quarterback that started the first five or six games and not as good as the guy that finished the season. Honestly, if you take his numbers and project it over 17 games I’d be happy. That probably ends up at 24 touchdowns and around 15 interceptions. I don’t see him hitting either number because I see us running it more.
I just don’t see him as a long term starter on a good football team. He might be a Chad Henne, Casey Keenum, Gardner Minshew type. They are either currently solid backups or were during their prime. Occasionally they put together really good games but are usually okay. I guess for a third rounder that should be okay. I’m rooting for them to take their QB of the future with their first 2023 pick.
Par for Davis Mills? Well, the fact that he was competent enough to not force the Texans, in theory, to overreach for a quarterback prospect in a quarterback poor draft is like getting through Amen Corner at the Masters at even par. He is done the minimum for the franchise.
As for shooting par for playing on the field? I think that if he plays like he did the last few games and not like he did at the start and the Texans are competitive in the majority of his starts. I am not foreseeing a Joe Montana-like jump his second season, so he won’t be winning the NFL’s version of a major (i.e. getting the Texans in playoff position). However, if he is a competent starter and can be a quality backup for whomever is the next franchise quarterback or whichever team employs him next, then it will be as if he made the cut at a major…and that in of itself would be a significant achievement.
For my money, par for Davis Mills is that he’s better than 30th by DYAR for all quarterbacks, not just those qualifying. That means he needs to be better than standouts such as Taylor Heinicke, Brian Hoyer, and Colt McCoy.
Like previously mentioned, Mills probably isn’t as bad as he was for the first part of the season, but he definitely isn’t as good as he was at the end.
Par for Mills is just improvement. The team around isn’t the best, but if he can show visible strides and improvement that’s all you can really ask for from a quarterback on a franchise with a serious talent problem.
I’m a firm believer in the fact that situation is key for a young quarterback. Even though the Texans situation isn’t great if Mills can show that he can mask some of those flaws with his play thats a good starting point.
Par for the course on Davis Mills will be an a 4:3 TD to Interception ratio. He had a 8:5 ratio last year (16 TDs to 10 INTs) in 2021. Most average quarterbacks in one season have around 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions on the season, which would be perfect for this par. I simply want him to be average, that’s the best I can expect out of him.
Many are high on Mills, which I am less than not. It won’t help that he has a bucket of bolts to throw the ball to, but in thirteen games of play I did not see the composite of skill and precision throwing the football to expect anything excessive out of him. For Mills, based on what I’ve seen, a mediocre season is a passing grade. C’s get degrees when it comes to the 2022 season.
Wins and losses will not be the grading rubric for Mills. And to be honest touchdowns and interceptions are too radical of an occasion for us to evaluate his performance. Instead, I recommend three stats for various reasons. First, number of passes over 20 yards. These indicate big plays where Mills delivered a ball downfield against the defense. This will illustrate his ability to read defenses, find the open man, and make the right decision.
Second, Redzone percentage. How often teams score when they get into the redzone is a pure offensive competence calculation. The more often a team scores touchdowns in the redzone, the more often they win games. Even if the Texans have few trips to the redzone, it’s about capitalizing on those opportunities.
Third, and this is less of a stat, but completion rate when under pressure. There’s legitimate argument over Mill’s mobility. Some believe he’s immobile as a statue and some clamor that he ran a faster 40 yard dash than Watson. Either way, Mills will be under pressure throughout the season, and his ability to handle that pressure will indicate his success not only this season but for his career.
This one is a tough one because so often a quarterback’s success is directly tied to team success overall. If the Texans only win five to six games, does the fan base and media place blame on Mills? Does he get labeled as “non-franchise quarterback” after just year two? It’s hard to think the Texans will win more than that number this year, so I worry that regardless of Mills’ performance, he could get shelled come the 2023 offseason.
As far as numbers go, I want Mills to hit a 4,000-yard passing season, 20+ touchdowns, and less than 15 interceptions. Not the highest bar, but we’re talking about “par for the course” here. The key metric overall for me is improvement. If Mills can take a decent step across the board in stats, wins, and leadership, I’ll be happy.
Ultimately the par for Davis Mills will be wins. A large talking point amongst fans was how Mills/Taylor were able to muster up the same record Watson did with much of the same surrounding cast. With a mostly run back roster aside from some potential impact rookies, people are eager to see progress in the personnel translate to the win column. In terms of key metrics I think a better sack rate would be a bigger indicator for his improved pocket awareness. It’s safe to expect the stats to go up with an increased opportunity but ultimately everything is going to come down to the record.
1) I need his deep ball rate to go up successfully. His raw numbers were good enough to fool some people into repeating that he’s good at throwing deep last year, but I think the actual throws usually weren’t impressive. Need to see more of them and more of them that are well-placed.
2) I need his pre-snap reads to take another evolution. They went from horrendous to “not bad” towards the end of the year. I need to see some more good drops against zone coverage where he anticipates the lanes.
3) He’s got to speed it up another step and take fewer sacks. 7.3% sack rate last year ... there were some dropbacks where he looked really slow to move on from a read. Again, better towards the end of the season, but I would like to see that number meaningfully cut.