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Matt Ryan BETTER than Brees ESPN article


Art Vandalay
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Gawd you people are lazy :rolleyes:

:rolleyes: Matt Ryan has surpassed Drew Brees

As high a profile as quarterbacks command in the NFL, it is a still a position where very good players can end up overlooked.

History affords multiple examples of this. Ken Anderson, Cincinnati's superb quarterback from the 1970s and '80s, placed eighth in the league in passer rating in 1973 and led the league in that category in 1974. Neither of those were enough to get him Pro Bowl recognition. He didn't achieve that status until he repeated his league leading status in passer rating in 1975.

Dan Fouts went through much of the same when he was overlooked for Pro Bowl status in 1978 despite placing in the top five in the league in passer rating, touchdowns, completion percentage and yards per pass attempt. It wasn't until he became only the second quarterback in league history to throw for more than 4,000 yards in a season in 1979 that he finally started receiving the recognition he deserved as one of pro football's elite passers.

The NFL has a similar situation today in the case of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Despite his team being en route (potentially) to the No. 1 seed in the NFC, he would probably have trouble making the top-10 quarterbacks list of many, if not most, fans and media types. In fact, the vast majority of pundits might not even place him as the top quarterback in his division. The perception is that Drew Brees has that honor locked down.

At first glance it looks to be an accurate viewpoint, but after taking a closer look at the game tape and metrics for Ryan and Brees, it is clear there is a strong case to be made for considering Ryan the best NFC South quarterback of 2010.

Let's break this down by category. We'll start with passing productivity by route depth.

On short passes (aerials thrown up to 10 yards downfield), Brees has tallied a 5.8 yards per attempt (YPA) total this season versus Ryan's 5.6 mark. Brees gets a slight edge on this one. (Note: For all route depth comparisons, penalties such as pass interference, defensive holding, illegal contact, etc., are all included in the metrics.)

For medium passes (balls thrown 11-19 yards), Brees and Ryan both have posted 9.6 YPA totals in 2010.

Brees does have a significant edge on deep (20-29 yards) and bomb (30 or more yards) throws. His 14.9 YPA mark on deeps and 20.3 YPA mark on bombs easily top Ryan's 8.4 YPA on deeps and 14.5 YPA on bombs.

That final category gives Brees an edge in overall YPA as well, as his 7.3 mark is nearly one yard better than Ryan's 6.5 total.

The YPA totals show Brees has been more productive in one sense, but he gives up a lot of that lead because of his much higher interception rate. Brees (19) has 10 more picks than Ryan.

Many football statisticians say that the yardage cost of an interception is somewhere in the range of 40-50 yards. Including penalties, my charts have Brees as having gained exactly 4,200 yards in the air this year on 578 throws. Take away 400 yards (the 10 additional interceptions Brees has thrown, multiplied by the 40-yard penalty) and it would drop his YPA to 6.5. Take away 500 yards and it drops to 6.4. In either event, his YPA would then be identical to or slightly below Ryan's.

The biggest potential caveat to this? Interceptions are not always the fault of the quarterback. A tipped or dropped pass can also lead to picks that can make a field general's statistics look worse than they should.

The issue in applying that train of thought here is that it doesn't work in Brees' case. By my count, seven of Brees' picks have been the direct result of a bad decision on his part. That accounts for 41 percent of his interceptions. Ryan, on the other hand, has had four of his passes picked off due to bad decisions. That accounts for 44 percent of his picks, so they are essentially even here. (Note: A bad decision is defined as when a quarterback makes a mistake with a pass that leads either to a turnover or a near turnover such as a dropped interception. Common instances of this include locking in on receivers and forcing passes into coverage.)

Where they aren't even is in overall bad decision percentage. Brees has made 17 of these this season for a 2.9 percent bad decision rate; by contrast, Ryan has made only seven bad decisions and has a 1.3 percent bad decision rate. At these rates, Brees is making a mistake with the ball once every 33 passes versus Ryan's rate of once every 77 passes.

In other words, Brees will have an error about once per game -- and Ryan one in every two games. That extra risk-taking isn't paying off with enough additional productivity to offset the damage it causes, and it makes Ryan's passing game more valuable heading into the postseason, where one additional mistake can cost a team its season.

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