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For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

Checkdowns: Jason Lisk adds to the Sam Bradford discussion

Posted by Chase Stuart on August 20, 2011

Jason Lisk has started a series titled "A Thought about the ..." for each of the 32 teams in the league, as part of his NFL preview for the Big Lead. Today, he takes his thoughts to St. Louis, and cites my somewhat controversial article on Bradford from earlier this week.

Jason Lisk takes a different look at the Rams' success.

So, what I looked at for this is other teams where the defensive points allowed improved dramatically from one year to the next. The Rams last year went from next to last in 2009, 31st in points allowed, to 12th in the league. I found all teams since 1978 who improved at least 15 spots in their points allowed ranking in the league. I then went deeper into those teams, and isolated two different types. The first, we’ll call the “Bradford effects”, which found all teams that had a different QB (who had never been the main starter for that franchise prior) during the dramatic improvement season, and that same new QB was also the starter a year later. The second, we’ll call the “Manning effects”, since he shows up 3 times on the list, and this is for all teams that had a dramatic improvement from one year to the next, and the same QB was the starter before, during, and after the points allowed improvement.

Obviously, we don’t think Peyton Manning has an impact on his defenses–he’s played with good ones and bad ones and everything in between during his career. Same with Marino and Elway and Brady and Montana and all the other guys that show up on this list. If a team dramatically improves during the middle of a QB’s career, we are less likely to attribute that to the quarterback.

That’s not necessarily true of teams that have massive improvements in points allowed when a new quarterback. Us spreadsheet types just don’t get that the new quarterback must have imbued the team with moxie, momentum, confidence and a sense of purpose, causing the defenders to strive to play better for the new general. So, when a team like the Rams show large improvement, even if the “numbers” don’t show it was because of the offense or the quarterback, it’s because of those traits. 20 different cases fall within the “Bradford effects”, and interestingly, many of them in the last 4 years, including Flacco, Ryan, Sanchez, and Orton (that’s right, just 12 months ago, Orton had come in and totally turned around the Broncos defense because Cutler was such a non-leader).

By looking at what each of these types of dramatic improvements in points allowed did in the third season, I’m looking to see if there is any lasting effect to the new QB’s moxie or leadership. If the QB played some role in the defensive improvement, we should expect the “Bradford Effects” types to show less regression the next season than the “Manning Effects” types.

I’ve delayed long enough.

Lisk's incredibly shocking answer on the ability to empirically show how a quarterback's moxie and leadership can impact a defense is available in the full post.

Lisk also made a comment that I'd like to endorse:

I’ll also say that this doesn’t mean I, or Chase, believe that Bradford is a bust or will not be a quarterback. As is the tendency, though, with quarterbacks, there is to much praise when we see a team improve and it appears at cursory glance that the difference is a new quarterback.

If Troy Aikman or Terry Bradshaw can become HOF QBs following their disastrous rookie seasons, there's no reason to think Bradford can't become a great quarterback, too. But I thought Bradford might become the next great quarterback when he was taken with the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. For me, that notion wasn't particularly strengthened or weakened by his performance last year. How will Bradford do in 2011? I think a lot better (at least from a rate perspective), as does Chris Brown. As Chris writes over at, playing under Josh McDaniels should be a great boost for his development.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 20th, 2011 at 4:39 pm and is filed under Checkdowns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.