Breaking down performance in the moment can be a valuable thing. It allows us to compare what we saw with our own eyes with the numbers that come out after the fact. Prosecutors and police frequently complain about how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. So, we really can’t fully trust our own eyes all the time. Yet, the numbers sometimes miss something valuable as well. The best we can do is develop a combination of eye witness testimony along with statistical evidence.
One of the things I want to do this season is track certain numbers and certain conversations week to week to see how much of an impact they actually have on winning and losing (or tying). Sometimes, our assumptions and the things we’ve been taught don’t turn out to be true. Also, sometimes the numbers reveal something different.
Attitude of Gratitude
Admittedly, this is something I heard from the pew last night that I’m trying to incorporate into my every day life. Yesterday’s game is a perfect example. We had a 17 point lead in the fourth quarter. They kept making mistakes. We could have won in the end when we had the ball in their territory. All of these things point to the idea that the Houston Texans should have won the game. Yet, when we look at the normal markers for success we see something different.
Total Yards: 517 Colts, 299 Texans
Total Plays: 90 Colts, 68 Texans
Yards Per Play: 5.74 Colts, 4.40 Texans
Time of Possession: 39:37 Colts, 30:23 Texans
Rushing Yards: 177 Colts, 77 Texans
Passing Yards: 352 Colts, 240 Texans
Sacks: 3 Colts, 2 Texans
Turnovers Forced: 2 Texans, 1 Colts
Penalties: 7/89 Colts, 6/40 Texans
We might be able to call the last two the “Culley factor”. Culley seemed to believe if you won the turnover battle and made the fewest mistakes then you would win the football game. The Texans won the turnover battle and made the fewest mistakes. Yet, they were thoroughly beaten in that football game in every other conceivable way possible.
This is where the eyeball test comes into play. Three quarters of football would indicate that the Texans were at least keeping the Colts in check. Of course, a part of that could be due to head-scratching play calling and shoddy execution from the Colts. That’s where time of possession and total plays comes into play. You cannot expect your defense to be on the field for 90 plays and contain an NFL offense.
The Mills Report
Easily the most important and controversial week to week report will be the report of how Davis Mills is progressing at quarterback. That should probably be our main focus to start. It’s a progression. No one expects him to be Joe Montana immediately. However, the name of the game is progress from week to week and whether we universally believe he is capable of being a franchise quarterback.
Yards Per Attempt: 6.49
ESPN QBR: 46.3
Traditional QBR: 98.9 (11th)
You can interpret numbers any way you would like. I guess that’s kind of the whole point isn’t it? The third quarter flea flicker is probably the best example. Numbers tell us it was a 42 yard pass pay to Brandin Cooks. Our eyes told us it was a poorly thrown ball that could have been a touchdown if it were better positioned. Yet, you had two very good touchdown passes to O.J. Howard as well.
That’s the essence of Davis Mills right now. There were some very good throws and solid decision making. There were some bad throws and some shaky examples of lack of pocket awareness. Both of these exist at the same time. One can easily excuse the bad and focus on the good because of bad play calling, a lack of talent around him, and maybe some mistakes from offensive linemen in key moments. These things are all true and they all get wrapped up in the same package. Then, there is this:
Trevor Lawrence: 275 yards, 57.1%, 1 TD, 1 INT, 48.4 ESPN, 75.0 QBR
Trey Lance: 164 yards, 46.4%, 0 TD, 1 INT, 43.1 ESPN, 50.3 QBR
Justin Fields: 121 yards, 47.1%, 2 TD, 1 INT, 42.1 ESPN, 85.7 QBR
Mac Jones: 213 yards, 70.0%, 1 TD, 1 INT, 9.7 ESPN, 87.2 QBR
So, Mills was the only second year quarterback not to throw an interception, he led the class in traditional QBR and finished second to Lawrence in ESPN QBR. He was also second in total passing yards, tied for first in touchdown passes, and second in completion percentage as well. In other words, you can credibly claim that he was the best second year quarterback in the NFL and he was picked in the third round.
While these things are all true, none of them make him a franchise quarterback. None of them don’t make him a franchise quarterback. Simply put, being the best of 2021 is not the bar he has to meet. Being bested by a third round pick might be more of an indictment on those guys than it is a feather in Mills’ cap. Of course, that is just a matter of perspective.
In many respects, this is a seventeen round prize fight and Mills neither knocked out his opponent nor was knocked out in the first round. That was probably to be expected. If he puts up seventeen similar performances he likely will have better numbers than last year. He will also likely continue to be somewhere in the middle in terms of overall performance. Then, it will become an eye of the beholder thing. Is that good enough to be the long-term answer? It ultimately isn’t up to any of us now is it?