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Value of Things: Houston Texans Blueprint to Victory Part One

How important is quarterback play in ultimate success?

NFL: Houston Texans Press Conference Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason affords us time to ask questions we would never spend time on during the season. Some of these things fall into the “well, duh” category of things, but there often are times where we assume things that just aren’t so. We will look at three phases of the game that most pundits link to ultimate success. We will start with the idea that a championship team has to have a franchise quarterback. Words matter and they might not matter any more than they do in this regard. It might be more accurate to suggest that the quarterback has to perform like a franchise quarterback in order to win.

Our methodology will be consistent for each of these phases. We will look at the 21 year (since the Houston Texans entered the NFL) season averages (both the mean and the median) for Super Bowl champion quarterbacks. We will compare those numbers with the quarterback that had the best record during the regular season. Finally, we will look at just the last ten years to see if expectations are evolving or if they are remaining stagnant.

Once we look at the aggregate we can look at some outliers to see if there is anything they might have in common and whether we can learn something from them. Without giving away the final punchline, I will just say that the Texans strategy over the past decade may have been based on some faulty assumptions.

The 21 Year Aggregate

We begin with the overall averages. Remember that in statistical terms we like to use both the mean and the median because statistical outliers often skew the mean. Often times the median is a lot more indicative of what we are looking for. As I indicated, the numbers likely won’t be earth shattering, but the outliers might be instructive.

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Mean Passing Yards: 3,838

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Median Passing Yards: 3,692

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Mean TD/INT: 28/11

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Median TD/INT: 28/11

Super Bowl Quarterback Mean Rating: 95.7

Super Bowl Quarterback Median Rating: 98.6

The obvious question when looking at these numbers is whether we think C.J. Stroud is capable of producing these numbers. Naturally, I think all of us would be overwhelmed if he came anywhere close to this in 2023, but if we expand that timeframe to 2025 or 2026 then these numbers don’t look out of whack at all.

Top Team Quarterback Mean Passing Yards: 4,081

Top Team Quarterback Median Passing Yards: 3,992

Top Team Quarterback Mean TD/INT: 33/9

Top Team Quarterback Median TD/INT: 35/9

Top Team Quarterback Mean Rating: 103.2

Top Team Quarterback Median Rating: 102.8

To say this is more attainable is a bit of a misnomer, but it is definitely more concrete. Unfortunately, the team with the best record (ties were broken based on margin of victory) have only won the Super Bowl five times in the last 21. So, it is not a path to ultimate success. Perhaps, a marker for success will become clear when we finish the whole series.

The Last Ten Years

Many observers have outlined the fact that the passing game has picked up steam in recent seasons. If that is true then the numbers below would reflect that for both Super Bowl winning quarterbacks and quarterbacks on the best teams. If it is true then these numbers would likely be a more accurate marker for Stroud to aspire to.

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Mean Passing Yards: 3,975

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Median Passing Yards: 4,072

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Mean TD/INT: 31/10

Super Bowl Quarterbacks Median TD/INT: 33/10

Super Bowl Quarterback Mean Rating: 99.4

Super Bowl Quarterback Median Rating: 102.1

These numbers are a little messy considering the addition of the 17th game. So, we would expect a slight spike in passing yards and touchdowns. However, quarterbacks collectively threw fewer interceptions and had considerably higher quarterback ratings. So, these numbers would be harder to achieve.

Top Team Quarterback Mean Passing Yards: 4,301

Top Team Quarterback Median Passing Yards: 4,196

Top Team Quarterback Mean TD/INT: 37/8

Top Team Quarterback Median TD/INT: 35/9

Top Team Quarterback Mean Rating: 106.3

Top Team Quarterback Median Rating: 105.5

These numbers are just stupid good. It should be pointed out that the great Tom Brady wasn’t this good more than a handful of times in a career that spanned over 20 years. of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here. This information becomes very interesting when we start looking at significant outliers.

The Outliers

We see a few significant outliers when we look at the last 21 years. Of course, we will focus on negative outliers since those are the ones fans love to cite when they argue against generalized statements like the important of a quarterback. We can focus on the ratings but I think you will immediately notice something.

2007 New York Giants: Eli Manning— 3,336 Pass Yards, 23 TD, 20 INT, 73.9 Rating

Manning had to go through the wild card round since he was so lackluster in the regular season. He threw for 854 yards with six touchdowns and one interception in those four wins. That was a playoff rating of 95.7. So, obviously he was considerably better in the playoffs than the regular season.

2008 Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger— 3,301 Pass Yards, 17 TD, 15 INT, 80.1 Rating

Roethlisberger played in three playoff games that season despite his pedestrian numbers in the regular season. He threw for 692 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He sported a 91.6 rating in those three games.

2012 Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco— 3,817 Pass Yards, 22 TD, 10 INT, 87.1 Rating

This is the classic example of capturing lightening in a bottle. He won four straight games with 1,140 yards passing, 11 touchdowns, and no interceptions. That got him a 117.2 rating. Flacco was paid based on those four games and he never approached those numbers in any four game stretch before or since. Serendipity is not a replicable model for winning.

2015 Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning— 2,249 Pass Yards, 9 TD, 17 INT, 67.9 Rating

Imagine shaping your mouth to say that Brock Osweiler was the hero of the regular season. Even in the playoffs, Manning only threw for 539 yards and two touchdowns. The key was the only one interception. The defense won this title.

The Takeaways

One key point will keep coming out as we go through each of these in the series. The Texans have been banking on outliers for much of the past decade. The Patriot Way is a way that has been unsustainable for even the Patriots. When you want to emulate success (which you should) then you emulate markers that are consistent with success. For our purposes here, that is having a quarterback that performs like an elite quarterbacks, having an elite wide receiver or tight end, and having an elite front seven defender.

We will get to the other positions in due time, but with the quarterback it would seem that 4,000 or more yards, 25 or more touchdowns, 10 or fewer interceptions, and a rating of 100 or greater are the markers we are looking for. Matt Schaub and [Name Redacted] 2.0 are the only quarterbacks worth mentioning in the past 21 year history of the franchise.

Schaub threw for 4,000 or more yards three times in Houston. Granted, those were the only seasons where he played in more than 11 games. He had 25 or more touchdowns only once and never had a rating of 100 or better. It should be noted that he had 90 or above from 2008 to 2012. So, he was a better quarterback than we give him credit for.

In four seasons in Houston, [Name Redacted] 2.0 had two seasons with 4,000 or more yards passing, three seasons with 25 or more touchdown passes, and all but one of those seasons came with fewer than ten interceptions. Three of the four seasons saw ratings above 100. The Texans had a franchise quarterback. Sadly, they don’t anymore, but we can hope C.J. Stroud turns into one.