QB Fumbles; Providing some Context

The reaction to yesterday’s post was pretty strong, not here really, but over at BGN.  I realize that type of breakdown is far from perfect, but I thought it was a good illustration of the overall point I was trying to make (after seeing the data):

Yes, Vick is “inconsistent”. However, a lot of QBs that are considered “good” are also just as inconsistent if not more.  I hope to take a look at the standard deviation of performances to get a better sense of things, but the fact is, QBs, in general, have many more bad games than most fans realize.  Case in point:

Tom Brady, over his career, has recorded a passer rating of less than 80 in 31% of his starts.  Consider that for a moment.  Tom Brady is one of the best QBs of all time (if not THE best).  Still, nearly one of every three starts of his can be considered a “poor” performance (Rating less than 80).

Among the most often cited counterpoints to yesterday was the issue of Vick’s propensity to fumble.  That’s a fair point, so today I took a look at the data.  Again, it will surprise you (in a good way).

Here are the active leaders in QB Fumbles (besides Peyton Manning, who’s not included for reasons that aren’t really important here):

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 10.34.35 AM

Vick, as expected, leads everyone with 87 fumbles (stats are from Pro-Football-Reference.com and, I think, only represent Fumbles Lost, not all fumbles).  However, look at the complete rushing stats.

In context, things look a lot better for Vick.  Yes, he’s fumbled more than anyone else.  However, he has also provided a LOT of additional production on the ground.  Looking at the stats a little differently, we can see the differences more clearly:

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 10.47.10 AMThis is an admittedly simplistic view of things, but it provides necessary context for the whole “Vick fumbles so much” debate.  I feel like I need to remind everyone here that I’m far from a #TeamVick member.  I still think Foles makes more sense.  However, the Vick-Haters have gone too far.  As you can see above, Vick’s fumbles, while damaging, are not necessarily “worse” than any other QB’s.  In his career, he has run a LOT more than almost any other QB in NFL history and provided a lot of offensive production with his legs.  AS a result, he should be expected to fumble more.

We can certainly argue over how much “production” is necessary to counteract the negative value of a fumble.  Unfortunately, our data isn’t nearly as granular as it needs to be to provide a definitive answer in that respect.

What happens, though, when we view it purely in terms of TDs and TOs?

Again, simplistic but informative.  Here is a table showing a selection of QBs with their Rushing TDs, Passing TDs, INTs, and Fumbles.  I’ve also totaled the TDs and TOs and provided an overall TD/TO ratio.

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 11.02.04 AM

I included McNabb just to remind everyone how good he actually was.  We’re concerned with the active players though.

Vick does, in fact, come in at the bottom of the list.  However, look at his ratio (right-most column) compared to guys like Cutler and Manning.  My sense is that a lot of Vick-haters would jump at the opportunity to trade him for Eli Manning or Jay Cutler.  I wouldn’t.  In fact, the more a did into QB stats, the worse Eli Manning looks.

The point, of course, is that complaining about Vick’s fumbles may sound right, but if we put it in context, his “problem” isn’t really that bad.  He runs more than any other QB, he should be expected to fumble more.  His fumbling rate is higher than most QBs, but he also produces a lot more rushing production; perhaps we should judge his fumbling rate as though he were a RB.

Also, consider the following points:

– Vick’s TD/TO ratio with the Eagles is 1.05, the same exact ratio as Joe Flacco.

– Vick’s more than 5500 rushing yards presumably led his team to a number of field goals, meaning there’s additional upside to his rushing that isn’t accounted for here.

Hopefully that shed some light on the whole “fumble problem”.  Yes, Vick fumbles a lot.  However, focusing on that without accounting for the corresponding rushing production is an incomplete (and unfair) view.

Vick isn’t a great QB.  It does appear, though, that he’s good enough.

Finally, no posts for the rest of the week (school orientation).  4th Preseason game should be fun, but relatively inconsequential as far as the team’s 2013 performance goes.  Things to watch:  Nick Foles (of course), Matt Barkley, and the DBs.


12 thoughts on “QB Fumbles; Providing some Context

  1. Read your post about Vick’s “inconsistency” on BGN yesterday, I was one of the folks who pointed out not taking into account sacks and fumbles was a major issue with such a study, so I’m glad you went back and tried to evaluate that, well half of it at least. That said, I don’t agree with your conclusion at all. Vick’s rushing yards don’t counteract or negate fumbles, period. There is nothing bigger than a turnover. A turnover can create a 14-point swing on the scoreboard. If Vick wants to be a running back, then yes, you should treat him like one, and running backs with fumbling problems usually wind up on the bench regardless of talent. Just look at Bryce Brown. You think Chip Kelly is going to trust him if the fumbles continue to pile up? In fact, you would probably be hard-pressed to find an active RB who puts the ball on the carpet at the rate Vick does. I think when you take all three factors — the inconsistency in the passing game, which may not be worse than all but the elite passers, but does exist; the fumbles which are enormous; and the drive-killing sacks you still haven’t explored, which he is one of the worst offenders of — then take into account injuries and look at his record as a starter (3 playoff trips, 2 postseason wins in 8 years as a full-time starter), I don’t know how we get to “he’s good enough,” at least in the past tense. I realize you didn’t begin by trying to make a case for Vick, but right now I feel like you’re basing conclusions on incomplete portraits. One by one we can say, well this isn’t so bad compared to this, and this is the way it is because of that. It’s when you put all of the pieces together you realize he’s not been great in any of the areas that truly matter for a QB, but he’s been wretched in quite a few of the areas that are of the utmost importance. I’m not anti-Vick for 2013. He earned the job. But I am anti-revisionist history of his career, which to date is not as good as most would have us believe.

  2. How are you gonna compare different length of careers? Doing ratios mean absolutely nothing because each QB has not played the same exact amount of games. The only thing you can conclude is Vick likes to run. Great.

    • I used ratios precisely BECAUSE each QB has played a different amount of games. That’s the only way to compare them. The absolute numbers don’t mean very much.

      • But you can’t do that in statistics. You can’t compare ratios with different sample sizes.

  3. I think another telling stat would be rushing attempts per fumble. Just eye balling the data, it seems like Vick has about double the rushing attempts but is “in the pack” for number of total fumbles. I realize not all fumbles come from rushes, many come from sacks as well. But overall it seems to me that Vick may not fumble at a higher rate then other QBs. He may just get more overall touches so he ends up fumbling more. That to me suggests he does not have a fumbling “problem”

  4. the hater logic is “but Vick is terrible, he sponsored dog fights” no matter how you parse the data and present facts, they will object. I think he is a solid starter at this point in his career and he will be above average as long as we keep the run/pass ratio near even. Not the Andy Reid-esqe halves with 26 passes and 5 runs. That ratio is only made for great passers like Brady, Marino, Moon, Warner, etc

    • I should have seperated the Vick-Haters from the Vick-Dogfighting-Haters. You’re right that some people will just never root for him or support him. a heavier run game will definitely help him (as it helps every QB)

  5. Good luck with law school!

    btw take the legal writing classes seriously.

    Also, I highly recommend the website Core Grammar for Lawyers. It helps with both with grammar and legal citations. I know it’s boring, but damn is that thing worth it (at least it was for me).

  6. This IS valuable information on the QBs’ careers, and though I am a fan of Mike Vick, I have to say that the last two seasons are what concern me regarding turnovers. It’d be a lot of work, but can you break down the stats above using just the last two seasons? I’m pretty sure it’d expose a QB on the decline (like Vick) compared to those either still performing well or on the rise.

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