Still frustrated by all this talk about the Cardinals desperately needing a QB, I went out blogging for other guys thoughts on the situation. All the ones I read had the same phrases in them: the Cardinals need a new QB badly, QB is the top priority this offseason, the Cardinals suck, and I miss Kurt Warner. O.K., I agree with the latter two. But the very fiber of my being opposes the first two statements, which are essentially the same idea. The Cardinals absolutely do not, I repeat do not, need to go get a new QB as a top priority. I can even make an argument that they could have gone to the playoffs last year with D.A. starting every game. But let me focus in on the idea that the Cards desperately need a new QB. I'm a stats guy so let me state my position by hitting the numbers.
The 2010 Cards threw four QBs at us: Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, and some guy that backed up Daunte Culpepper in the UFL). Since none of them really stood out that much, let's lump all their stats into one. Yes, that's one awful QB. And for discussion's sake, if I mention another team I'm going by team stats rather than one individual.
The first stat that makes me want to vomit is the total percentage of pass plays. Since there's only two types of plays on offense (pass and run), the two numbers have to equal 100%. (I'm sure someone will call me out on this, but whatever). The Cardinals threw the ball 64% of the time and ran the ball 36% of the time. Let's just focus on that 64 passing percentage. To put this in perspective the Superbowl Champs, Green Bay, threw it 56% and the Pittsburgh Steelers 50%. New England: 54% Indi: 63% New Orleans: 63% That means the Cardinals threw the ball 8% more than the pass happy Packers. If G.B. is pass happy then what does that make Indi and N.O.? And the Cards actually threw more than they did. Also, those five teams have at least one thing in common: a really good QB. It makes sense that they'd throw as much as they do then. So maybe Big Ben doesn't belong in there. Fine. Maybe thats why the Steelers throw the ball less than the other four. Now if those teams have stars at QB and the Cards have less than squat, why do the Cards throw more than them? Wouldn't it make sense for the Cards to throw less than any of these teams? Even Pittsburgh. If they throw the ball 50% for Big Ben how much should the Cardinals throw with what they've got? Coach Whiz asked his QB's to throw like the other superstars in the league and then when they didn't he threw them under the bus saying, well they didn't execute. That's like telling Josh Childress to shoot most of the jump shots for the Suns and then reaming him because he didn't execute. Well no crap he didn't execute. He can't shoot. You're a moron for asking him to. I don't blame the Cards QB's for the rediculous percentage of pass plays. That's on coach Whiz.
Now let's compare the Cards to some other successful teams that didn't throw the ball very well. The Raiders went 8-8 last year and surprised the crud out of me. I thought for sure they were gonna win only 2. The Chiefs, another major surprise, went 10-6 and had a good sniff of the playoffs. The Jets went 11-5 and are looking like anything less then the Superbowl is a dissapointment. All these teams had one stat in common: pass completion percentage. They were all in the bottom ten: K.C at 58% ranked 24th, Oakland at 57% ranked 28th, and the Jets at 55% ranked 30th. The Cardinals were 51% and dead last in the rankings. And worse, they were a full 2% points behind Carolina (yes, that Carolina). In statistics, you might call the Cards an outlier. Kinda like the planet Pluto. All these teams had bad things happening at QB this year. K.C. and the Jets at least had the same guy look bad. Oakland was similar to Az. when they ran out Campbell, and Gratkowski. Yet this is the thing that blows me away about those three other teams. Going back to the percent of rushing plays from the second paragraph: K.C. ran the ball 54% of the time, Oakland 64%, and the Jets a whopping 65%. Compare that to the Cards 36%. You see, those teams get it. When your QB sucks, don't throw. Instead of trying to fit a bad QB into a system designed for a Hall of Famer, just hand the ball off and let your line do the work. And don't try to sell me that those three teams had studs at RB to start the season. Only Shonn Green was supposed to be good and he sucked so bad he almost single handedly destroyed my FFB season. (Ironically, Jamaal Charles and D. McFadden saved it). I love that these three teams take the ball out of the QB's hands and give it to the RB behind the O line. At worst you run the clock down and beat up their Defense while resting yours. At best you set up play action and give your bad QB a chance to throw to someone open downfield. Coach Whiz refused to help his QB's out with run support. Instead he just tried to force his players into his offense, rather than make an offense that compliments his players. That's either stubborn or stupid. And that'll win you 5 games in the leagues worst division.
So what if you put D.A. on the Raiders. Would they be much worse? I bet they'd be about the same. Gratkowski and Campbell probably won't be in the league much longer. Maybe the Chiefs and Jets would be worse, but I don't think by that much.
Question: who would you rather have at QB: a) Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch, or b) Derek Anderson and Max Hall? If you answered c) Neither, then you answered correctly. However, Pittsburgh in their first four games were without Big Ben due to a suspension for being an idiot. So they ran Dixon and Batch out as fill in. Steeler fans were hoping to at least go 1-3 and then try to recover the season when Ben got back. In game one of the season they ran the ball 57% of the time against a 13-3 Atlanta team and won. The second game they ran 65% against the Titans and won. Game 3 they ran 65% against the 10-6 Bucs and won. In game 4 they ran against the staunch 12-4 Ravens 54% and they lost. (They only lost because Jeff Reed missed two 40+ FG's towards the end) With two bad QB's the Steelers game plan was to run the football behind that line and let the QB's throw some to maintain some balance. Lo and behold Batch and Dixon get the Steelers to 3-1 without Ben. Does that mean the Cardinals need to run out and get those two guys? They'd probably be dumb enough to do that.(Actually, there were rumors about getting Batch) Obviously it means that if a team like the Steelers can put the offensive game squarely on the shoulders of the RB's and the O-line then why couldn't the Cards? You might argue that they don't nearly have the talent that Pitt does. O.K. but is that because they are less talented or because they never got the opportunity to run that offense? Even if they weren't as talented as the Steelers, I bet you they're better than Oakland or K.C. At the beginning of the season everyone was raving that this offensive line is the deepest and one of the more talented ones in the league. But then they threw the ball 64% and told them to play against their strengths. (I feel bad for Alan Faneca. Man did he pick the wrong team to come to. We forced him to retire.)
So the question remains, do the Cards desperately need a new QB? If they are going to throw the ball 64% of the time then I say a resounding YES. But who's out there that can succeed throwing that much? Kolb? Bulger? Hasselbeck? Orton? Hill? (I might go for Carson Palmer, but he sure hasn't looked good for a while.) C'mon. Not even Peyton Manning or Drew Brees threw that much. Now, let's say they wised up and modeled their team after one of the aforementioned teams and ran the ball 55% or more. Well then, and let me be bold in this statement. If they had done that in 2010 with all the same players and Derek Anderson at QB, even then I say they win the division and make a third straight playoff appearance. And I'm not saying much, because that division is considered the worst in the history of football. They only needed to win essentially 2 more games. And if they had, what would we be talking about? Here you go, we'd be saying how smart coach Whiz was to modify the system to play to the strengths of his players. Sure, we'd also be saying that they need to improve the QB position, but without the intense desperation.
So what should the Cards do? Simple. Coach Whiz needs to change his offensive philosophy to a more conventional run oriented one. (that he ironically ran before Kurt Warner) He needs to build an offensive line that fits that run orientation. (4 out of the 5 starters last year would be considered a more run oriented type of lineman anyway) Then go lowball one of those veteran QB's and start him till they think Skelton is ready. While running the ball this takes the pressure away from that position and gives Skelton a chance to ease into the role. They certainly don't need to fret so much if Larry Fitzgerald doesn't get a ton of catches. I don't see Hines Ward complaining about his Hall of Fame career in Pittsburgh. Now that they've committed to Ryan Williams they need to run him between the tackles and hope he hangs on to the football. (ahem Timmy and Beanie) And this hopefully rests the defense and gives them new life after the dreadful year they had last year. (in which I fully blame Bill Davis) Will they then be an amazing football team? No. Well, maybe no. At best they have a chance to be like the Chiefs or Jets, which is pretty darn good. But it would be a far cry better than what they did last year. And it won't take a drastic change at QB. But it will take a drastic change from a very good head coach.
*A couple of other interesting stats I found:
The Cards four highest percentage of run plays were 50% against the Raiders, 47% against Denver, 46% against Dallas, and 45% against the Saints. All four games the Cardinals won. Their only other win was against the Rams; they ran 33% of the time. In that game Derek Anderson played well and Sam Bradford played like it was his first start ever. (It was).
They went 3-2 in games when the QB threw no interceptions.