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Just The Sports: 2009-03-22

Just The Sports

Friday, March 27, 2009

Quarterback Drafters Beware

A warning must be issued and restraint must be exercised. There are NFL draft pundits and experts who would have you believe that Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Freeman are all quarterback prospects who are worthy of first-round draft selections and first-round contracts. Ignore their words at all cost for they are sorely mistook. No quarterback this year deserves to be drafted in the first round because they have deficiencies that make investing so much money in them more risk than reward.

During this past college football season, every time I heard someone say Matthew Stafford of Georgia was a future first-round selection, I kept wondering who this other Matthew Stafford was who was so great since it was definitely not the one I saw suiting up for the Georgia Bulldogs. The one I saw was a mediocre college quarterback and to expect him to suddenly improve drastically and be a player a franchise can build around is ludicrous. For his career, he completed 57.1% of his passes in meaningful games (where he either attempted the most passes for his team or threw for the most amount of yardage). I have well documented how college completion percentages translate to the NFL stage and there is simply no place for a quarterback with such a low completion percentage. Even at Stafford's best, he will be a below average NFL quarterback, powerful arm strength or not. It does not matter if he can make all the throws if he will miss all the throws almost as often.

When it comes to Mark Sanchez, formerly of the USC Trojans, his is the story that is most tragic because he probably could have been a good NFL quarterback if he had just listened to head coach Pete Carroll who told him he is not ready for the NFL. Sanchez only attempted 476 meaningful passes in college with only one season as a full-time starter. While that may still be more than Vick threw during his years at Virginia Tech, it is not enough to determine what kind of quarterback a player will be at the highest level; his resume is lacking valuable experience and the NFL is not in the business of allowing first-round quarterbacks time to develop. Most likely, Sanchez will never get the repetitions he needs to be successful. Another year of completing 65.8% of his passes and Sanchez would have been worthy to be selected in the first round. As it stands now, he is unfortunately not.

Former Kansas State junior Josh Freeman's declaration for the draft is a head-scratcher by itself. The fact people are actually contemplating picking him in the first round is like a person taking a poison ivy bath followed by drying off with a poison oak towel. After one strips away his physical gifts and looks only at his quarterbacking numbers, what is left is someone with a 59.5% completion percentage, but with a completion percentage standard deviation of .130 so he is not a very consistent quarterback, either; to be inconsistent on top of being an erratic passer is the quarterback version of adding insult to injury. Consider Freeman another quarterback no franchise can depend upon to lead them anywhere but deep into mediocrity.

For Stafford and Freeman, the problem is their paltry completion percentages. For qualified NFL quarterbacks in 2008 (according to, the median completion percentage was 61.3%. The league is moving in the direction where a quarterback needs to be incredibly accurate to carry an offense. Neither Stafford nor Freeman is a quarterback like that. Sanchez, on the other hand, simply lacks the experience necessary to make the transition to the NFL unless he is given three or fours years in the same system to improve himself as a quarterback. The pressure of being a first-round selection will not afford him that opportunity. Even though the reasons might be different, none of these quarterbacks should be taken with the first thirty-two picks of the NFL draft come April 25th.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reality Check for Pat Summitt

The effects of a bruised ego are a terrible thing to behold and probably no one's ego is suffering more internal bleeding than Pat Summitt's. Summitt, who has the most victories of any active basketball coach in the NCAA, lost for the first time ever in the first round of an NCAA women's tournament, prompting her to force her team to practice when their season is undeniably over. What she hopes to accomplish is anyone's guess besides becoming a real life example of what happens when a person makes an assumption. The assumption in this case is that Tennessee should have won their game against Ball State. Reality says Ball State was the better team when the two colleges faced off.

Taking the season in its entirety, Tennessee possessed the better cumulative statistics. In the thirty-two games Tennessee played before facing Ball State, Tennessee was outscoring opponents by 9.2 points per 100 possessions. Ball State was only outscoring their foes by 5.8 points per 100 possessions. Perhaps that is why Summitt was so angry after losing by sixteen points to what she saw as an inferior opponent.

However, Ball State got off to a mediocre start at the beginning of their season, going 7-6 in their first thirteen games, before really kicking their play into high gear once conference play began where they went 17-2 over the last nineteen games. Tennessee was a respectable 11-2 in their first thirteen games before they entered their conference schedule. Then they faltered down the home stretch and into the tournament, going 11-8.

Once one compares the two teams after they got into the heart of their respective schedules, one finds out Ball State was playing better basketball than Tennessee. During Ball State's last nineteen games, they were beating their opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions, much higher than Tennessee's positive margin of 2.8 points per 100 possessions. Ball State was also shooting much better than the field from Tennessee (55.7 TS& to 49.4 TS%); so in actuality, before the game even began, it had all the markings of a victory for Ball State. They were quite simply playing a better brand of basketball and perhaps with a greater degree of confidence despite the fact they were only a twelve seed squaring off against a five seed.

The time for Pat Summitt to put her team through the paces is not now when there are no more opponents left on the schedule just because she chose not to give her opponent any credit. Instead, she should trust in the fact that her young team will improve next year due to roster stability. That, more than any sort of wind sprints or suicides she makes her team run, will ensure they do not suffer the same slump during the part of their schedule where they play teams from the SEC conference.