Andrew Luck’s Bad Day: Statistical Shortcomings


Before I get started, I’d like to point out that I’m a huge proponent of advanced statistics, particularly the great work that the team over at ProFootballFocus (PFF) puts together on a daily basis.

However, I read this PFF piece by Ben Stockwell a few days ago and couldn’t quite believe it:

"Andrew Luck, QB: -1.6Breakdown: The numbers look extremely impressive from Luck (four touchdowns, no interceptions) and there were certainly some very impressive throws last night but there were also a lot of missed throws which drag his grade down. This was Luck from previous years in a nut shell and not the one we saw earlier in the season, the excellent throws such as his touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne were met in balance and more by inaccurate throws that a quarterback of Luck’s (or any) standing shouldn’t be missing.Signature Stat: Accounted for 10 incompletions last night through inaccurate passes, more than he had in the first three weeks of the season combined."

Listen, if you objectively evaluate each respective throw and mark whether it’s accurate or inaccurate that’s fine, but in what real-game context? QB Andrew Luck was officially hit 11 times and sacked 1 on Monday Night Football. By all indications, he rarely if ever had much of a clean pocket and saw pressure on the majority of his throws.

By ProFootballFocus and Stockwell’s own admission, Giants’ OLB/DE Robert Ayers had a “J.J Watt-like” performance:

"Robert Ayers, DE: +12.9Breakdown: Continuing to work off the bench, Ayers channeled J.J. Watt last night, destroying the Colts’ interior offensive line in a stunning pass rushing display. A strip sack was paired with half a dozen hits and half a dozen hurries in comfortably the most productive game of his career, he only got nine more pressures in his entire rookie season (5 Ht, 17 Hu) than he did last night."

So which one is it?

Does any advanced statistic measure the quality of the pocket or whether it’s clean? QB Andrew Luck may have had a few errant throws, but wouldn’t any quarterback if they were constantly under durress and rarely ever able to step-up in the pocket?

INDIANAPOLIS – SEPTEMBER 17: Robert Mathis #98 of the Indianapolis Colts sacks David Carr #8 of the Houston Texans at the RCA Dome September 17, 2006 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Colts beat the Texans, 43-24. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Any quarterback who consistently gets hit, is going to have their internal “passing clock” sped up.

If you don’t think this is the case, then just ask David Carr, the former Houston Texans’ quarterback and 2002 #1 overall pick. Carr suffered an NFL all-time season sack high of 76 sacks during his rookie season in 2002 with the Houston Texans. Carr, of course, could never fully recover from the weekly beatings he took as the quarterback of the early-expansion Houston Texans, always showing “happy feet” in the pocket throughout his 11-year playing career.

At a certain point, advanced statistics have to meet the eyeball test, and that didn’t happen with this QB Andrew Luck evaluation. Until we can find a way to objectively quantify the quality of a passing pocket, looking at individual throws won’t cut it alone.  There’s more to the bigger picture than that. The part that one can only see and truly understand with the naked eye of the human condition.

According to ProFootballFocus, QB Andrew Luck was pressured on 52.1% of his throws against the Giants in 25 attempts. This was the 3rd highest percentage that any QB suffered last week behind Robert Griffin III and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Unlike the aforementioned quarterbacks, Luck was also in the Top 5 of shortest time allowed per throw at 2.51 seconds (PFF). Was this taken under consideration? 

Nov 3, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) attempts to pass before a hit by New York Giants defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, QB Andrew Luck made a few bad throws, but so did QB Peyton Manning as a young Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback. Every quarterback makes a few bad throws a game, particularly if they’re under siege. I’ve watched QB Peyton Manning make a few bad throws a game this season at the age of 38.

It’s an unfounded rumor that Sports Illustrated Monday Morning Quarterback’s Greg A. Bedard initially stirred up. This idea that QB Andrew Luck is somehow out of today’s NFL norm by making a few bad throws a game as a quarterback. One that I find absurd, as every quarterback misses on a few throws each game every week.

QB Andrew Luck completed 25 of 46 of his throws (54.3%) for 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions with 354 passing yards, while being pressured 52.1% of the time. If that’s a bad day, then what’s good?