NFL Stat Oddity: Week 5

Sunday in the NFL lasted just over 15 hours from the first snap in London to the last snap in Kansas City after a weather delay. If that wasn’t the longest day of action in NFL history, then I don’t know what else could be.

It was a day of ugly field goal kicking, yet the Vikings somehow pulled off a 54-yard game-winning kick. Of course, Detroit helped by making its incredible 10-point comeback (helped by an Alexander Mattison fumble) a 1-point lead by going for two with 37 seconds left. That was too much time with the Vikings having two timeouts. I know Kirk Cousins kind of sucks at comebacks and his kickers are not reliable, but that was a bad decision to go for two there. Play for overtime after holding down the Vikings from scoring much all day. Instead, the Vikings got a drive together because they had to and won the game on a 54-yard field goal that Greg Joseph actually made despite being an employee of the Vikings. At least it gave us this moment:

It was a day of close games as we had 10 comeback opportunities in Week 5, outdoing the previous high of any week this season (eight). Let’s quickly hit on three of them since I need to wrap this up after getting a late start.

49ers at Cardinals: Trey Lance made his starting debut, but he couldn’t keep the rocket launcher under wraps when the 49ers just needed a simple scoring drive in a 17-10 loss to the now 5-0 Cardinals, who apparently are not going to score 31-plus every week this season. Kyle Shanahan loses another close game? Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle out with injuries again? Who could have imagined?

Patriots at Texans: The Patriots came through with a comeback win over the Houston Texans after Davis Mills had maybe the most absurd stat line yet for a rookie against a Bill Belichick-coached defense. Mills just had an early contender for worst game of the decade against Buffalo last week, but now he has the ninth game on record where a QB lost with a passer rating of at least 140.0 (min. 25 passes). I guess the Patriots can still win games where their quarterback was not the best one on the field.

Bears at Raiders: Finally, Jon Gruden’s Raiders had their “but his emails” loss at home to the Bears. Maybe it was too much of a distraction, and maybe he just showed his true colors. All I know is once you blow some smoke up his ass, this is the kind of performance you can count on in the next game. The last two sentences are about Derek Carr, by the way.

But the only game that came close to pulling off instant classic status came in the late afternoon slate instead of the prime-time matchup between the Bills and Chiefs. Browns-Chargers was the Shawn Michaels vs. Razor Ramon Ladder Match in WrestleMania X of Week 5 in the NFL, but I have to start with the perception-changing game that played out in Kansas City.

This season in Stat Oddity:

Bills at Chiefs: About That Dynasty…

About the last thing I want to do is write an obituary for the 2021 Chiefs after Week 5 and after a ridiculously tough schedule where the Browns, Ravens, Chargers, and now Bills all gave them their best shot. But there is no denying that the Chiefs failed three of those tests from their key AFC challengers and barely escaped the Browns in Arrowhead in Week 1. The offense has too many turnovers and the defense is going for historic levels of suck. The 2021 Chiefs are the fourth team in NFL history to allow more than 28 points in each of the first five games, joining the 1954 Cardinals, 2012 Titans, and 2013 Giants. It’s like watching the 2000 Rams, the forgotten little defense-less brother to the 1999 and 2001 Super Bowl teams in St. Louis.

But through four weeks, the defense could be excused to a point as the offense was scoring a touchdown on 50% of its drives and converting on third down at a record rate. If not for a fumble in Baltimore, this team could easily be 3-1.

But that took a hit Sunday night as the Bills came in to avenge their two losses from 2020 and wiped the floor with the Chiefs, 38-20, despite a long weather delay at halftime. Getting blown out at home is just another layer of invincibility ripped away from the Chiefs in the Patrick Mahomes era. While the stakes were not as high, the 18-point loss looked worse than the team’s 31-9 loss in Super Bowl 55 to Tampa Bay. At least on that night the reshuffled offensive line was a built-in excuse for the poor pass protection. The Chiefs just couldn’t come down with any of Mahomes’ miracle passes and the defense was stumped by simple play-action throws.

This was more of a beatdown. Mahomes played the first truly awful game of his NFL career, missing often on throws regardless of pressure or an open receiver. He completed 33-of-54 passes for 272 yards and had three turnovers, including a pick-six, a red-zone pick after another tipped ball, and a fumbled snap in the rain to end things. The bounces? They’re no longer going Kansas City’s way and that was predictable.

But this was not another blown lead in the fourth quarter like Baltimore and Los Angeles. The Chiefs led 10-7 early in the second quarter and never led again. The best they could do was make it 31-20 in the fourth quarter. But after Josh Allen seemingly threw an interception from his own end zone, the Chiefs were flagged for roughing the passer. It was a weak call, but it was also in a series of calls on both teams that made me question what roughing the passer and pass interference are in this league anymore. The refs had a bad night, but they didn’t decide this game.

That roughing call stands out the most just because it killed any chance for an exciting finish. Allen was still at his own 23 after that call. The Chiefs could have stopped the Bills, but instead they watched them march 77 more yards for a game-clinching touchdown to go up 38-20.

Maybe that Buffalo defense is for real as this was not a matter of beating up on a wounded offense like in the first four weeks of the season. They smacked the Chiefs around in Arrowhead. I asked in the offseason what really changed to improve this Buffalo defense from the mediocre unit it was a year ago that had no real hope of winning a Super Bowl? Well, one name I underestimated was first-round pick Gregory Roussea. The defensive end did his best J.J. Watt impersonation and tipped a Mahomes pass at the line to himself for a big red-zone pick in the third quarter. The Bills reportedly did not even blitz Mahomes once in this game, choosing to rush four and play Cover 2 to take away the big plays.

The Chiefs had just two plays that gained more than 17 yards in the game, a shockingly low figure for this offense. One was a 23-yard scramble by Mahomes too. This was a big difference in the meetings last year when the Chiefs did what they wanted, and Allen’s offense couldn’t get anything big. On Sunday night, the Bills had seven plays of 20-plus yards, including four completions of 35-plus yards (two for touchdowns).

Allen had 315 yards on 15 completions. Other than a slow third quarter after the 70-plus minute halftime delay, the Bills were just about unstoppable on offense. Combine that with a defense capable of playing the Chiefs like this and it’s a championship combination. The Bills may only be an underdog one more time this season when they play in Tampa Bay. It seems rather likely that this team will be the favorite for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

The Chiefs may be fortunate just to get a wild card at this point if things don’t tighten up on both sides of the ball but especially on defense.

With the Bills and Ravens stepping up this season against the Chiefs as well as the two teams I’m writing about next (Browns and Chargers), the AFC might be just fine going forward as a super competitive conference where any one of these teams can advance each year. It’s not going to be a runaway for Mahomes and the Chiefs to keep hosting AFC Championship Games and going to the Super Bowl. They had that window for three years and turned it into one championship while the rest of the teams were figuring themselves out.

If 2021 is any indication, those teams have figured out the Chiefs too.

Browns at Chargers: 47-42 Part Deux

What a whacky, fun game with huge plays, terrible tackling, six fourth down attempts (and then some negated by penalty), and 41 points in the fourth quarter alone. Of course, the Browns ended up on the wrong side of history again.

We may need to start calling Baker Mayfield the “Score 42 and Lose” QB after it happened to him for a third time. He lost his first career start, 45-42, to the Raiders in 2018. He lost 47-42 to the Ravens last year after Lamar Jackson returned from taking a shit. Now he’s lost 47-42 again to the Chargers in the second 47-42 game in NFL history. Mayfield is somehow 2-3 when he leads his team to at least 42 points while the rest of the NFL is 69-2 since 2018. The Browns (four times) have broken their tie with Washington and the Chiefs (three each) for the most losses in NFL history after scoring at least 42 points.

None of this is to say that Mayfield is the reason Cleveland loses these games. He was great on Sunday at playing through a torn labrum after some struggles in recent weeks. The offense was fantastic, but it is hard to win on the road when you allow five touchdowns on six second-half drives like the Browns did.

This thing was back and forth and not even a failed game-tying extra point by the Chargers with 3:15 left could derail it. That actually ended up helping the Chargers since the Browns did not go all out in a tied 42-42 game. Instead with a 42-41 lead, they ran on first down and on third-and-9 and let the Chargers get the ball back with plenty of time. Justin Herbert only needed one pass to get into field-goal range. After Austin Ekeler slid down at the Cleveland 3 with 1:38 left, the Browns called their final timeout. That slide tells me the Chargers were content with kicking the field goal to win 44-42 at the buzzer. A smart move even if you are shaky about it given the team’s historic struggles on special teams in crunch time.

So, why wouldn’t Herbert just take a series of knees to bleed the clock and kick the field goal? Head coach Brandon Staley is getting a ton of buzz for his embrace of analytics despite being a defensive coach, but he bungled the end of the Chiefs game by scoring a touchdown and giving Mahomes a shot to answer, and it happened again here. Ekeler got the carry and while he tried to not score, the Browns did the smart thing and pulled his ass into the end zone for the score with 91 seconds left.

Wow, just typing “91 seconds” really sells how much of a mistake this was. They gave a hot offense they couldn’t stop all day plenty of time to answer. It could have been an even more delicious addition to Chargers BINGO given the offense came up short on the two-point conversion and only led 47-42. Now the Browns could win it with a touchdown in regulation.

But it took 50 seconds for Mayfield to move the offense 11 yards as he only made short throws. That was piss-poor execution in that moment. After getting to the Cleveland 46, the Browns could not gain another yard and Mayfield’s Hail Mary fell incomplete with players bumping into each other.

Behind Staley and Herbert, the CHARGERS are leading the league with three game-winning drives. The CHARGERS are 4-1 in close games and lead the league with four defensive holds of a one-score lead.

Staley is far from perfect. His defense just gave up 42 points to a team that scored 14 last week. He’s mismanaged two of the last three finishes. He’s inherited an incredible young quarterback in Herbert who is making strides in his second season. But there is no denying that Staley is pushing this team to aggressively get leads and hold onto them once they have them. The Chargers of old would never be 4-1 right now and that is a credit to this new coach.

The Browns may still be the “good enough to get beat close” team in the AFC, which is still a huge step up from the pre-Mayfield era. But for a change, the Chargers just may have the potential to be closers and real contenders this season. That sounds like the setup for an incoming beatdown in Baltimore next Sunday, but what if this team is just finally different?

Packers at Bengals: Kicking Woes

Weird things always happen when Aaron Rodgers plays the Bengals, but this game takes the cake. If you wanted to script an overtime tie, apparently you have to get the Packers or Bengals involved. I thought for sure this one was headed there after the two kickers combined to miss five go-ahead field goals in a span of six drives.

Fortunately, we got a winner. Fortunately, it was the right winner too as Green Bay should have put this game away multiple times in the fourth quarter and again to start overtime.

Would I have been happy if Rodgers got credit for a game-winning drive after Aaron Jones ripped off a 57-yard run and he threw two incomplete passes? No, but Mason Crosby has to hit that 36-yard field goal after a streak of 27 straight makes. Would I have said Rodgers was unlucky had he lost after his kicker missed from 36 and Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson hit from 57? Yes, absolutely. But the Bengals called a run on third-and-2 instead of letting Joe Burrow deliver a dagger throw to set up a higher-percentage kick. Shame on them.

Would I have been fine with Rodgers getting a game-winning drive after a 20-yard pass to Davante Adams, who shined with 206 yards, to set up Crosby from 51? Sure, that’s another one-minute drill for him this season. But Crosby was wide left to set up overtime.

Would I have been amused had Rodgers lost another overtime game without touching the ball? Probably. But Burrow seemed to erase any chance of that with an instant pick to start overtime.

Would I have been pissed if Rodgers got credit for a game-winning drive in overtime for losing 5 yards on two Jones runs and watching Crosby hit from 40? Damn right. But the kicker missed again. At least it spared us a crap game-winning drive.

Burrow hit a pass for 21 yards to the Green Bay 41 again, but did they learn anything from the previous mistake? No, they ran the ball three times again and settled for a 49-yard field goal by a no-name kicker. He missed wide left too.

Finally, Rodgers hit passes of 20 and 15 yards to put this one to an end after Crosby finally connected from 49 yards out with 1:55 left. I am content with that being the game-winning drive in this one.

At least it had a winner, because I can’t remember ever seeing a clutch kicking display this bad.

Broncos at Steelers: The Standard Improved?

Last week in Green Bay, the Steelers showed they can score an opening-drive touchdown, and they did it again on Sunday after a beautiful 50-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson again gave the Steelers the early lead. Last week, the Steelers showed some offensive line improvement and a running game that actually could get gains of 3-4 yards instead of seeing Najee Harris get hit in the backfield immediately. This continued against Denver with Harris rushing for 122 yards to finally snap the team’s 11-game streak of not rushing for 90 yards.

Dare I say, the Steelers showed offensive improvement for the second week in a row? The other problem last week was inaccuracy from Roethlisberger. He was sharp in this game, especially early and especially on third down where the Steelers finished 7/12 compared to Denver going 2/12 on third down (but ¾ on fourth down). One week after a concussion, I was not impressed with Teddy Bridgewater or this Denver offense at all until he started to mount a 24-6 comeback in the fourth quarter. The game got a bit tight at 27-19, but he eventually struggled in the red zone again and threw an interception in the final seconds to end it.

While far from dominant, this was much closer to a classic game from the Steelers where both units played well for much of the game and they were able to win at home. Can they stack another one against the Geno Smith-led Seahawks next week? We’ll see, but if this offense shows up in prime time against that Seattle defense, then it may not be such an ugly display of football from Pittsburgh like in recent times. I was not surprised by the win, but that says more about my thoughts on how legit Denver was. But I can see actual improvement from the Pittsburgh offense in the last two weeks compared to the first three.

Eagles at Panthers: Pumpkins and Pretenders

What the fvck were these teams doing?

Jalen Hurts had nine failed completions in the first half, but none in the second as the offense finally started making plays that gained more than 10 yards. He also got his legs involved as the passing in this game was just atrocious for both teams. At least the Panthers got Chuba Hubbard to rush for 101 yards in Christian McCaffrey’s absence. The Eagles once again barely handed the ball off to their backs until very late in the game.

Sam Darnold had three interceptions and may have turned back into a pumpkin just in time for Halloween. But it was a blocked punt that set the Eagles up at the Carolina 27 for their game-winning drive. Darnold then threw his third pick and the Eagles ran out the clock.

Obviously, the transitive property never has and never will mean a thing in the NFL. If you just judged Carolina and Philadelphia by how they played against the Cowboys, then you wouldn’t have expected the Panthers to blow this one. But they did after leading 15-3 early.

Is either team going anywhere this season? I doubt it, but this was some low-key horrific offensive football.

Top 100 NFL Quarterbacks of the 21st Century: Part I (100-87)

As I get ready for the 2021 NFL season, an update to my largest database – stats on every game since 2001 – gave me an opportunity to write about a perfect collection of round numbers.

Including the playoffs, there are 100 quarterbacks who have started at least 30 games in the last 20 seasons (2001-20). If you love top 100 lists, the central limit theorem, or the 21st century, then there is something there for you. As we near the 20-year anniversary of 9/11, I thought this would be a good time before final predictions to reflect on these two decades of football given that 2001 was the first season where I really became a die-hard viewer of all things NFL. It was the season where I started watching far more than just the Steelers game and the occasional Monday Night Football game and the Super Bowl.

So, how about a ranking of those 100 quarterbacks? This is an exercise I like to do every few years to test where my values are in analyzing quarterback play. How does one weigh a career like Josh Allen’s after he blew up in his third season to someone like Matt Schaub, who had several years of solid play (2007-12) but never up to the level of Allen’s 2020?

What really stood out to me about this process was just how difficult it was to sort the quarterbacks ranked 18-86. The top and bottom of the list came together rather easily, but in between there was a lot of mediocrity and tough calls.

But right now, this first part is focusing on the bottom 14 quarterbacks. Remember, a player had to start at least 30 games to make the list. I have seen plenty of worse quarterbacks play in the NFL in the last 20 years: Nathan Peterman, Ryan Lindley, Curtis Painter, Caleb Hanie, JaMarcus Russell, Cody Pickett, Jeff Tuel, etc. Who said you need experience to suck so good? (I can make that joke since being the host of Jeopardy! is not in my future.)

On to the list…

100. Blaine Gabbert

It pains me to see that Blaine Gabbert has more Super Bowl rings than Dan Marino and Andrew Luck (and many others) combined. Even more painful than Cecil Shorts in 2012 (Colts fans know that one). But seriously, Gabbert may be the worst quarterback in NFL history who got to play this many games. By getting in a game against Detroit and throwing two touchdowns so that Tom Brady would not get all the stat-padding, Gabbert broke the 1,500-attempt mark that day to officially qualify for NFL rate stats. His 72.3 passer rating is hardly the worst of all time because the era we are in will not allow it. But his ANY/A+ at Pro Football Reference, which does adjust for sacks and era, is 77, beating out Rick Mirer (80) and Kyle Boller (82) for the lowest among all passers with at least 1,500 attempts.

Gabbert is also such a chickenshit quarterback that he makes Alex Smith look like Aaron Rodgers when it comes to throwing past the sticks on third down. I may have called the stat BLAINE instead of ALEX had I known better. Behind Line Attempts Is Nurturing Existence. It just doesn’t flow as well.

99. Joey Harrington

Yikes, what a draft class in 2002. David Carr went No. 1 to expansion Houston and couldn’t stop taking sacks. Joey Harrington went No. 3 to Detroit and couldn’t get rid of the ball quicker. He wanted no part of that smoke. Harrington still has two of the top 10 seasons in lowest sack% in NFL history. Unfortunately, it made him lead ineffective offenses. Harrington was 1-11 when he threw for at least 255 yards. He was 1-34 as a starter when his team allowed more than 21 points.

My top memory of him was in 2004, his best season. He threw for a season-high 361 yards and what should have been a game-tying touchdown to force overtime with the Vikings. But the Lions botched the extra point and lost 28-27. Harrington looked crushed on the sideline. At least he got some revenge with three touchdowns on Detroit as a member of the Dolphins in 2006. But in six seasons as a starter, Harrington never cracked 6.5 YPA in any season. His 5.79 YPA is still the lowest in NFL history, and if you know how much I like that stat, then you know he was going to rank near the bottom of this list.

98. Kyle Boller

This may be stretching the truth, but let’s go with the alleged story that Brian Billick and the Ravens drafted Boller in the first round because he could throw a football 70 yards from his knees. That sure came in handy as he struggled to throw for 70 yards in the first half of games. But that night in 2007 when this bust nearly upset the unbeaten Patriots was when I knew that team would not go undefeated. Not when you should have lost to Kyle Boller a week after A.J. Feeley gave you a scare.

I did not plan this, but my first three quarterbacks have the lowest YPA of any quarterbacks to enter the league this century and throw at least 1,500 passes. Harrington (5.79) and Boller (5.88) did not even crack 6.0 YPA, but Gabbert (6.08) actually looks worse if you adjust for era.

97. Trent Edwards

Any quarterback known as “Captain Checkdown” will be on my shit list. Oddly enough, Edwards was probably still better in the pros as a third-round pick than JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn were in that 2007 class. But I gave up any hope for him after that 2009 opener against the Patriots when the Bills literally coughed up a 24-13 lead by fumbling a kickoff in between touchdowns. All Edwards had to do was lead a game-winning field goal drive, but he took two sacks and that was that. Not sure I ever watched another game from him.

96. Colt McCoy

Fun fact: McCoy has the worst record as a starter against the spread (9-20-1, .317) of any of the quarterbacks in this top 100.

My memories of McCoy are from college when it was so sad to see him injured at the start of a national championship game. In the NFL, I definitely saw his first start against the Steelers in 2010, a 28-10 loss where he was not that bad given the circumstances. Then the Browns upset the Saints and Patriots, but those games were more about the defense and making a Madden cover star out of Peyton Hillis than anything McCoy did.  Sounds like the Seattle upset last year he started for the Giants. He threw for just 105 yards in that one. He is still in the league (Cardinals), but if I had to venture a guess at something McCoy is actually good at, I would go with standing for the national anthem.

95. Christian Ponder

I never believed in Ponder, but it would have been nice if he got to start that 2012 NFC wild card game in Green Bay instead of Joe Webb. Especially since the Vikings beat the Packers in Week 17 with Ponder having arguably the best game of his career. But he was someone who had to be carried by a running game (Adrian Peterson). Ponder had 136.8 rushing yards per start to support him in his career. The only other quarterback in this top 100 with more than 130 yards per game is Jimmy Garoppolo (139.2), but we know Ponder never had a season like Garoppolo had in 2019. He never had a five-game run like Garoppolo did when he joined the 49ers either.

94. Rex Grossman

The Sex Cannon himself. It is still hard to believe the 2006 Bears got to the Super Bowl with this guy. He may have started the “will good [QB name] or bad [QB name] show up today?” with his play being so erratic that year. His performance against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football that year gave us the great Denny Green meme that will live in infamy, and it’s also the worst quarterback performance you will ever see during a 20-point comeback win.

If “Peyton Manning won his only Super Bowl with the Colts against Rex Grossman” is a diss, then maybe Drew Brees and the Saints shouldn’t have lost to them by 25 points in the damn NFC Championship Game. That one always bugs me. Amusingly, Grossman swept the 2011 Giants with Washington. Yep, the same Giants that swept the Patriots that year and won the Super Bowl.

The only positive thing I’ll say is that Grossman had that “fuck it, I’m throwing deep” mentality that is refreshing to see in a league where guys like Gabbert and Edwards play so scared. This is why Grossman is ranked a little higher because he could actually have some decent games. But his lows were also really god damn low.

93. J.P. Losman

If the 2004 quarterback class is compared to the 1983 quarterback class, then I guess Losman is the Todd Blackledge eyesore of the group. Go figure, Buffalo picked the rotten apple. But looking at his stats again, I am amused that he raised his completion percentage from 49.6% in 2005 to 62.5% in 2006, his best season. Wow, I thought only Josh Allen did that kind of increase?

Relax, #BillsMafia. Allen was much better in 2020 than Losman was in 2006, which proved to be fool’s gold as he never got better. But at least that 2006 season was better than anything Captain Checkdown Trent Edwards did for the team.

92. Chad Henne

Man, this guy went 0-4 against Ohio State only to get payback on the Browns in the playoffs 12 years after being drafted. F’n savage. Yes, Henne finally has a career moment after stepping in for an injured Patrick Mahomes last postseason. He scrambled unexpectedly for 13 yards on a third-and-14 before icing the game with a fourth-down completion to Tyreek Hill.

What else can I say about Henne? He is tied with John Elway and Steve McNair for the most seasons in NFL history (three) with no more than 15 touchdown passes on at least 450 pass attempts. Also, I don’t feel like updating this, but Henne has barely played since 2014 so the numbers probably are similar. Apparently, he has had some great fumble luck.

Finally, with the way the game is going statistically, it is very likely that Henne will be the last player who will ever have three seasons with more interceptions than touchdowns (min. 400 attempts).

91. Sam Darnold

I may be hedging a little that he will get better away from Adam Gase and the Jets, but so far, I am not buying anything Darnold is selling except that 46-yard touchdown run against the Broncos last year. That was a sweet play, but overall, he’s a sub-60% passer who takes an inordinate number of sacks and throws too many picks. He has also been trending in the wrong direction, but Carolina is a fresh start for him. Just sweep for ghosts first.

90. Geno Smith

Christ, do you see why the AFC East played out the way it did for two decades? I’m on my 11th quarterback, and so far, we have two draft picks by the Bills, one by the Dolphins, and two by the Jets. Believe it or not, Geno was once thought to be an option for the No. 1 pick to the Chiefs in that dreadful 2013 draft.

Smith led five game-winning drives as a 2013 rookie, but I know somewhere I wrote that they weren’t impressive ones. The one against the Patriots in overtime saw him complete just one 12-yard pass early in the drive. Everything else was a run. Geno just never sold me. He made modest statistical improvement in 2014, but the team got worse, and he only has started two games since. Just a brutal quarterback draft where Smith is in competition with Mike Glennon and EJ Manuel for best in class.

89. Quincy Carter

Carter last played for the Jets (2004), but he was supposed to still be Dallas’ starter that season. However, the team cut him in August after substance abuse problems. This actually saved Tony Romo’s roster spot that year as an undrafted player in his second year. But Carter was carried by the defense to the playoffs in 2003 and was never anything special. His most notable game, which was his only 300-yard game and his only high-scoring win, started with a pick-six actually against the Giants on MNF. The Cowboys won 35-32 in overtime, but just getting there took a 26-yard completion from Carter in the final seconds to tie the game.

To think, we may never have seen Romo do anything in this league if Carter was more professional in his youth.

88. David Carr

Once upon a time, Carr was only the third true rookie quarterback to start 16 games, joining Rick Mirer and Peyton Manning. We did not see this again until 2008 when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco flipped the script on starting rookies in Week 1. Now, we see it all the time, but it was a bit risky to do that to Carr on an expansion Texans team that was not good like the Panthers and Jaguars were in 1995.

Carr took a beating that first year and was sacked 76 times, an NFL record unlikely to be broken. His 68 sacks in his third season (2005) rank third all time. Carr’s career sack rate (10.54%) is the highest in NFL history by anyone not named Greg Landry.

But I feel like Carr’s career is a good case study in QB statistics. I was in high school when he came into the league, and given all the historic sack numbers he was taking, this led naïve, inexperienced me to believe that sacks are an offensive line stat. It’s all on the line to protect the quarterback. Of course, as I gained experience in studying the game, I saw that sacks are much more of a quarterback stat. He must get rid of the ball in a timely fashion or else you get pressure and sacks. The line obviously still shares some of the responsibility, and quick sacks can be utilized to place proper blame, but overall this is more reflective of the quarterback’s performance than the line’s.

While Houston was absolutely weak in the OL department in Carr’s career, note that he went to Carolina in 2007 and still had a sack rate of 8.7%. I think if we had the advanced metrics for Carr’s Houston career, we would have seen a quarterback who did his line few favors.

Then there is completion percentage. Carr’s 2006 season under new coach Gary Kubiak always felt so fishy to me because he led the league in completion percentage at 68.3%, which was one of the highest seasons ever at the time. But he was 24th in DVOA, 21st in QBR, threw more picks than touchdowns, and the offense was still 20th in yards per drive and 23rd in points per drive. Carr’s other numbers were just bad. It was a lot of dinking and dunking to cut down on sacks and boost that completion percentage. This season felt like a blueprint for Sam Bradford to follow years later and make completion percentage a meaningless metric when depth of target is not taken into account.

So, Carr had a pretty shit career and I think he would have been a bust in any city. With that said, do you think this tweet had anything to do with all three Carr brothers blocking me on Twitter?

Truthfully, I think I was already blocked before it. I’ve pulled no punches in saying that this is the softest family in football. These guys do not handle criticism well at all, and now we see David showing a lot of favoritism for his brother as a media analyst.

So, why even rank him this high? His 2004 season is probably the best season by any of the quarterbacks listed so far. He was not carried to team success like a Ponder or Grossman or Carter. It actually seemed like Carr turned the corner, and despite still taking a league-high 49 sacks, he cut his percentage down and the Texans had somewhat of a functioning offense (14th in yards per drive, 21st in points per drive). This was Andre Johnson’s second year on the team, and there is nothing wrong with giving your young quarterback a legit No. 1 receiver.

Of course, we learned that playing the defenses of the 2004 AFC South and NFC North were very beneficial to putting up great numbers that year, one where all offensive numbers were up after the NFL reminded officials that illegal contact after five yards is still a rule. If that schedule boost helped produce career years for Peyton Manning and Daunte Culpepper, it could also work for Carr and Joey Harrington as both peaked that season and never came close to repeating it.

If Carr was “broken” by his 2002 rookie situation, then 2004 never should have been possible, right? This is why I will never buy into the idea that you can “ruin” a quarterback by playing him too early. The only way that happens is if you physically break him, which is something that could happen in Joe Burrow’s case with Cincinnati’s offensive line. But I’m not even sure we got to October last year before I could confidently say that Burrow will be better in the NFL than this original Carr brother was.

87. Brock Osweiler

If Robert Pattinson was six inches taller and had no discernible talent, he would be Brock Osweiler. This is a hard one since I know that 2016 season in Houston was awful, and the playoff win against the Raiders was some Connor Cook’d up bullshit. But unlike the first 13 players here, Osweiler did serve a role in helping a team win a Super Bowl, and helped my favorite player retire as a champion again.

While I always rejected the notion that Osweiler should have continued to start over Peyton Manning for Denver that year, I do not see an injured Manning getting those pivotal wins against the Patriots and Bengals that helped the Broncos secure the No. 1 seed and homefield in the playoffs.

Still, John Elway’s Tall QB fetish likely cost the Broncos a better shot at a dynasty by drafting Osweiler over Russell Wilson in 2012. He gave rise to a Seattle team that beat the Broncos convincingly in 2013 while screwing with the future of the team in the post-Peyton years. Imagine if Wilson got to step in there once Manning retired, which could have come sooner if 2013 ended with him on top after breaking multiple records that year. But nope, the Broncos won one ring, and when Osweiler came back in 2017, he failed to win a start for the team.

But I have to say his existence in this timeline came with some personal benefits.

Part II: Some of your favorite journeymen and one-year wonders coming soon (#86-51)