FanPost

A Mid Tier Quarterback Defense.

A lot of talk this offseason has been made concerning the eventual, if not immediate replacement for Ryan Fitzpatrick. A lot have names have circled the wagons including the likes of Michael Vick, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith. If there is one fear that that should outweigh a desire to change quarterbacks based on the sheer frustration that comes from over a decade without a playoff appearance, it has to be the very real possibility of continuing the trend of mediocrity by just changing names and recycling faces for the sake of making this culture of losing tolerable. Installing hope with fresh bodies doesn't equal improvement. In fact, when one looks at the last five seasons of Bills football one consistency jumps out like a sore thumb, horrible defense.

Just what impact does defense have on your quarterback's performance? We all can assume the basics, shorter fields to work with, turnovers, ability to stay the course and not abandon game plans as defense dissolves. More importantly, let's investigate this obvious reactionary concept a little further not because of its groundbreaking nature but it's relevance to the discussion on quarterback replacements. In my theory, one of two things needs to happen before the Bills take the jump. Our defense needs to take a dramatic leap forward in production and efficiency and/or the Bills need to draft a truly elite quarterback. I believe that any one of these mid tier quarterbacks is essentially interchangeable to varying degrees when coupled with a bottom tier defense. The only real possibility in overcoming truly bad defense is the play of a more rare and elite status quarterback. Such stat bending household names include Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers. A brief investigation into the correlation between Total Quarterback Rating (ESPN) and Defensive Efficiency Ratings (Football Outsiders) yields some interesting results but a more thorough investigation would be useful in taking this theory even further. So let's look at the stat comparison.

Year

2010

2011

2012

Eli Manning

QBR

6

DER

3

QBR

15

DER

19

QBR

10

DER

16

Michael Vick

QBR

5

DER

11

QBR

8

DER

11

QBR

24

DER

26

Joe Flacco

QBR

12

DER

6

QBR

14

DER

1

QBR

25

DER

19

Alex Smith

QBR

28

DER

15

QBR

22

DER

3

QBR

7

DER

2

Matt Cassel

QBR

15

DER

20

QBR

13

DER

18

QBR

30

DER

32

Mark Sanchez

QBR

18

DER

5

QBR

30

DER

2

QBR

36

DER

9

Ryan Fitzpatrick

QBR

17

DER

28

QBR

19

DER

24

QBR

27

DER

28

I decided to look at a three year period and focus on teams that have made some type of drastic turn around for better or worse either rankings wise per unit; or record wise in general to further emphasize the effects of the defensive relationship. The choice of quarterbacks represents what I believe to be mid tier quarterbacks of varying degrees. What initially jumps off the page in my opinion is the absolute freefall quarterbacks like Vick and Cassel take to their QBR as their defense tanks. In the opposite direction, a quarterback like Alex Smith who is near bottom enters the top ten as his defense rises to second in the league. More mild results show Eli Manning enjoying his best QBR in relationship to the best NY defense of the period as well as Flacco showing his worst QBR as the Ravens defense fell to 19 in efficiency. Mark Sanchez was the absolute worst in comparison to his defense posting a mild QBR during the height of Jets defense and plummeting to pretty much dead last as they bordered the top ten. Looking at Fitzpatrick's average QBR numbers which steadily decline until bottoming out in 2012, it stands out that over this three year period no quarterback on this list has seen even remotely close to the level of incompetence on defense over that same time frame. This point is almost irrelevant because it's to be expected. I assume Buddy Nix knew full well Fitzpatrick's limitations.

His plan for the organization stemmed from a complete focus on improving his defense with the lion's share of draft picks and free agent investment hoping that like many other average quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick's production would increase as his defense performed better. Unfortunately for everyone, most notably fans of the Buffalo Bills, the plan backfired drastically. Coming into the New Year and looking at the future of this franchise I do not see swapping mid level QB's at this stage as anything more than a lateral move. If this franchise continues to post dismal defensive numbers our best case scenario would be to bottom out entirely in 2013 and look towards the possibility of real elite status QB play that defies the need for the symbiotic relationships mid level quarterbacks seem to share with their defensive companions. No QB in 2013 draft class has even close to the talent level of Andrew Luck. When looking over statistics, Luck's 31th ranked DER up against his 11th ranked QBR in his rookie year screams elite potenital. You will find no staggering evidence that mid level draftees like Ryan Tannehill, Christian Ponder, or even the trendy "read option" quarterback's like Colin Kaepernick, have the same type of elite potential when posting average numbers or simply being the benefactors of optimal situations which may have exaggerated initial talent and production. All this of course, is speculation and predicated on being able to view quarterbacks in the early career stages go through the fluctuations of defensive production with the same severity Luck has seen early in his tenure.

So Rumblers, what do you think? Do we again draft heavily on defense in 2013 while simultaneously grabbing a developmental QB to battle it out with whatever veterans end up on the roster. Do you disagree entirely and feel that the "mid level" QB varies at a much more substantial degree then I give credit for, ultimately feeling that drafting a few shades below elite still improves the position enough where one may end up making just enough difference in the overall fate of the team year in and out. Or are you just wishing fate would shine upon us just once so we end up being the worst team in the league in a year where the "can't miss" elite prospect is coming out of college.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of BuffaloRumblings.com.

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