In my college composition class this fall, we are all writing a paper on a topic that has been researched but not to its fullest. My topic is the impact of statistics on the NFL community and how they perceive the game of football.
The idea is simple; I want to see conclusions or declarations made by "experts", analysts and journalists that involve statistics, especially if they are skewed or incorrect. The beginning of this naturally lies with two major perceptions about Denver that we all know to well - Kyle Orton is an average quarterback and now without Marshall, he will struggle without a "big-time" threat.
I will address Orton after the jump.
First I will discuss the statistical analysis that I found after Week 1. When I look at the passer rating, I feel it gives quarterbacks too much credit when they succeed and too much blame when they fail. With that said, I created a complete Quarterback Rating that hinges on not only a quarterbacks accuracy, but his touchdown percentage, turnover percentage (including fumbles), sacks per game and finally yards per attempt.
The idea is, a quarterback can be the best passer in the league, but if he was sacked 6 times and lost 2 fumbles, he was equally ineffective because his offensive line struggled to keep him upright. Here is where we get a better picture of Orton and the Broncos offense.
Kyle Orton Quarterback Rating
2009 Regular Season - 69.7
Week 1 Vs. JAC - 67.9
So Orton did worse this past week than last year? Actually, Orton played well, but the interception at the end killed his rating, and the 3 sacks also hurt. If we take this and look at his passer rating used by the rest of the NFL community, here is how he compared to last year.
Kyle Orton Passer Rating
2009 Regular Season - 86.8
Week 1 Vs. JAC - 89.8
So it appears he is maybe a little better, just an average quarterback. No one takes into account he lacks a solid (read healthy) offensive line, or that a wide receiver picked in the first round was not there, nor did he have any healthy running backs.
Here is where I will make a comparison that has happened all too often, but here it will be for a different reason. When he got traded, most in the NFL community (fans, execs, players and journalists) stated Denver lost a Pro-Bowl caliber player in Jay Cutler. I am going to make two statements here that are completely unrelated to the other.
First, Jay Cutler is not as good as he was made out and will struggle like all quarterbacks if he lacks a solid offensive line and running game.
Second, Kyle Orton is better than he was made out to be but will struggle like all quarterbacks if he lacks a solid offensive line and running game.
I believe Jay Cutler is a solid quarterback and capable of putting up good numbers and making throws few quarterbacks can. I also believe he needs more help from his receivers and offensive line. The point is, while most declared Chicago to win 3-4 more games simply because they had Cutler over Orton failed to look at stats correctly. In an article written a little after Chicago played Denver in the preseason last year, it mentioned how NBC flashed Cutler's stats from 2008 that showed he had broke Elway's records for yards (~ 4500), completions (~380) and had eight 300-yard games that year. (He had 25 touchdowns to 18 interceptions).
The problem was NBC failed to mention his touchdown ratio and turnover ratio. They simply misused stats and made a comparison between Cutler and Elway on prime-time TV that wasn't as truthful as they made it seem. They also did this at the expense of Orton.
The truth is, here are the most important stats from 2008 regarding Cutler, and then Orton's in 2009 will be later on.
Cutler 2008: ACC (62.3) TD %(4.06) INT %(2.92) YPA(7.3)
From these stats, Cutler looks sort of like a Pro-Bowl quarterback. Maybe. Actually, I am not so sure. The striking thing is, I left out one of the important stats in my QB rating. He was sacked only 11 times, or 1.75% of the time. He had a great offensive line that year and clearly benefited from it. Everyone talked about how good he was. What happened in Chicago in 2009?
Well here is what happened (27 TDs, 26 INTs, 35 Sacks).
Cutler 2009: ACC (60.5) TD %(4.86) INT %(4.68) YPA(6.6)
Passer Rating: 76.8 (-9.2 from 2008)
Quarterback Rating: 66.5
To give you an idea of how mediocre that QB rating is, 16 quarterbacks performed better this past weekend. To have pro-bowl numbers, this QB rating will give you an 80+ number. Last year, he was far from whom the NFL community thought he was. Lesson number one - Cutler is not as good as he has been made out to be and in fact struggled without the solid line play he had in Denver in 2008 and only an average rushing attack.
On to Kyle Orton. He certainly played well at times and not so well during others in Chicago. When he came to Denver last year, expectations were all over the place. Here is how he performed in a new system.
Orton: ACC(62.1) TD %(3.88) INT %(2.22) YPA(7.0) [He had 21 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, 2 fumbles]
His numbers look very similar to Cutler's, who was deemed a pro-bowl QB. He had less touchdowns, but was more careful and turned the ball over less as well. I guess pick which you want more.
Passer Rating: 86.8
Quarterback Rating: 72.3
What is amazing about this number is, he would have had pro-bowl type numbers if he was healthy the whole year, and his line did not allow him to get sacked 29 times. The numbers, however, do not lie. Orton in 2009 outplayed most of the expectations held by the NFL community. Lesson number two - Orton performed well despite a banged up line, average rushing attack and a new system.
What can we learn from this? Instead of letting analysts and journalists use false stats to portray the picture they want, always look for the truth and measure a person for who they are and what they have accomplished. So far, Cutler is not as good as he has been made out to be. So far, Orton is better than he has been out to be. So far, both have struggled when they lack poor line play and a solid rushing attack.
What needs to happen for Orton to have a pro-bowl performance? It's Simple. Lead the offense. Get protection from the offensive line. Throw with accuracy. Get help from the defense and special teams. Improve his touchdown/interception ratio by making plays and limiting mistakes. In that order.
Finally, no he doesn't need Brandon Marshall. But that doesn't mean Marshall is bad football player, or couldn't have helped Denver (I will save that argument for another day).