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Patterson v. Fields: By the Numbers

To be brutally honest, I don't particularly care whether Perry Patterson or Joe Fields is given the right to take snaps for the Orange this season. Neither of these guys has a skill set that would make you believe that when either walks onto the field, the team has a better chance for victory.

To put this situation into its proper context, I submit the following analogy for review: it's like having to choose between eating tuna and peanut butter on wheat for lunch instead of tuna and ketchup on rye.

It's going to suck. And you know it. But you need to eat.

Instead of engaging in a subjective critique of each quarterback, I've decided to simply present some hard data on each passer and draw some conclusions from that. There are enough outlets on the web and in the traditional print media where subjective critiques of each quarterback have been made. There is no reason to contribute more of the same clutter to the debate.

To paint a proper potrait of a passer, a slew of data should be considered. Included in this data sample is, unfortunately, passer rating. Passer rating, as I have alluded to in previous essays, is a method for quantifying production that I am not totally satisfied with because of some of the inherent flaws in the formula. If you are curious with why I'm anti-passer rating, consider the following:

  • Plays having the quarterback being sacked are not considered when compiling the rating. Sacks, in their very nature, are model tools of inefficiency, and any formula that attempts to value efficiency should take into consideration loss yardage due to sacks.

  • Another problem with the formula is that rushing yards gained or lost by a quarterback do not result in a rise or fall in passer rating. Considering the value a scrambling quarterback can have on an offense's ability to move the football and avoid sacks, compiled rushing yards should be implemented into the calculation. This problem could be resolved by replacing yards per attempt with yards per play as one of the rating's components. By counting sacks and rushing attempts (in addition to passes actually thrown) as plays, a clearer portrait of production can be illustrated.

Anyways, back to things that aren't located on a tangent.

While neither Patterson or Fields has accumulated a large pool of data to draw some concrete conclusions, they have provided enough statistical output to at least forecast the overall productive value of each passer.

The data below originates from the 2004 season. This is for two reasons: a) Fields wasn't on the team in 2003; and b) Patterson never attempted a pass in 2003.

Quarterback Comparison - Fields v. Patterson
J. Fields29131921344.8286.6213.448.20710.34591.131
P. Patterson289168185171058.1316.4052.422.1453.460113.005

The first thing that comes to mind when looking at these numbers is something along the lines of "these guys play division 1-A football?" If these guys were appearing at the Apollo Theater, that clown with the broom would've made an entrance a long time ago.

The second thing that comes mind is that even though Patterson and Fields are almost equally bad, the numbers appear to lean toward Patterson.

The most important thing for a quarterback to be in any system (but especially in a west coast system) is efficient. Statistics that are emblematic of efficiency are: completion percentage, interception percentage, and points per attempt. Quarterbacks that tend to excel in each of these categories will, more often than not, create longer drives for an offense allowing for the maximization of scoring potential.

In all but points per attempt, Patterson was the clear favorite over Fields. While Fields did not lag far behind in completion percentage, his fate was sealed with his terrible interception percentage value.

The very nature of interceptions is inefficient - they instantly stop an offense's ability to score. Interceptions yield yards-gained meaningless because they did not generate any points. Thus, the best way for an offense to be successful is to trot out a quarterback less prone to throwing interceptions. Therefore, Perry Patterson must be the obvious choice over Fields.

As for things that drop coins into Fields' jar, some comments regarding points per pass attempt are in order.

Fields' .207 points per pass attempt was by no means spectacular. However, it was better than Patterson's output, and when one considers that the more points each pass attempt generates is better for an offense's chances for success, Fields' ability cannot be denied. Unfortunately, I believe that Fields' value is deceiving and can be reasoned away.

Since Fields' statistics were derived from such a small data pool, a full picture of production is difficult to create. Looking at Fields' and Patterson's yards per attempt, completion percentage, and interception percentage values, I believe that had Fields generated more passing attempts, his points per attempt may have declined to the same level of Patterson.

Essentially, there's no way Fields could have kept up with his touchdown rate with the number of interceptions he was projected to throw as well as the number of incompletions he would have tossed had Pasqualoni let him continue to flush the 2004 season down the drain.

There is one other thing that needs to be discussed that is directly related to efficiency but not depicted in the above data - the ability to run the football. In 2004, Fields had 22 rushing attempts for -8 yards and no touchdowns; Patterson had 72 attempts for 143 yards and 3 scores. It doesn't take a genius to realize that -8 yards per rush is not attractive from a production standpoint. Advantage: Patterson.

As I noted in the preface to this essay, no inquiry would be made as to the subjective values of each quarterback. I was concerned only with productive output, not the ability to throw a 12-yard slant or how comfortable a quarterback looks in the pocket. Clearly, these are important things to consider when choosing which passer should take snaps this season.

However, with respect to the numbers provided above, I think there is no question that Patterson should be the starting quarterback over Fields when SU laces 'em up on September 4th in the Dome.

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