The way I view young quarterbacks in the NFL is a bit different than the way most coaches, general managers and fans do. While the majority of people are willing to wait and give young, struggling signal-callers an opportunity to grow, I see that as a waste of time – when a quarterback is bad, a quarterback is bad.
That logic is backed by the fact that a rookie quarterback’s first-year performance can often times – will usually – predict his future. It’s also supported by a passer’s first two seasons as a significant starting quarterback in the NFL, as quarterbacks who start their careers poorly generally continue to perform along that below-average path.
As I’ve said time and time again, that’s not good news for Jets’ quarterback Geno Smith. You see, since 2000, we’ve witnessed 38 different quarterback seasons where the passer has thrown for a Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) score of -60.00 or worse (learn more about Net Expected Points here). In other words, 38 different signal-calling seasons have resulted in a quarterback losing 60 or more points for his team throughout a given season via the pass.
Geno Smith is part of this list. In 2013, the New York rookie posted a Passing NEP score of -68.55, which was the 28th-worst quarterback season – in terms of passing – we’ve seen since the year 2000. That’s not good.
And one of the big reasons that’s not good is because of what the other quarterbacks on this undesirable list have done throughout their NFL careers.
Of the 38 passing seasons, there are 34 unique quarterbacks, as some quarterbacks did this multiple times over the last decade and a half (*cough* Joey Harrington *cough*). And among the 34 unique passers – well, 33 since we can’t exactly count Geno Smith – only Jake Plummer, Drew Brees, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith and Kyle Orton have come back after their dreadful campaign to have a season with more than 15.00 Passing Net Expected Points. For context, in 2013, a 15.00 Passing NEP score would have ranked 22nd among all starting quarterbacks in the league.
And, as you may have guessed, only Jake Plummer and Drew Brees were able to shift their numbers all the way to the top 10 in a given season after making the list. Plummer did it twice, while Drew Brees now does it every year.
But that’s 2 out of 33 quarterbacks - about 6% - that have catapulted themselves into the league’s top 10 passers after accumulating a such a bad Passing Net Expected Points score. If you think those chances are good, then, well, I don’t want to know your definition of good.
In truth, the majority of the list of quarterbacks that fell through this -60.00 filter have done close to nothing in their NFL careers. And that’s not a subjective statement, either. Among these players, only Jake Plummer, Drew Brees, Drew Bledsoe, Trent Dilfer, Sam Bradford (benefit of the doubt due to injury), Alex Smith, Jeff Blake and Marc Bulger played as starters in the league (double-digit starts in a single season) for more than three years. Dilfer, Blake and Bledsoe each posted their bad season late in their careers, too, and trailed off after doing so.
The point is, not just through this analysis but the other two I've done previously on the topic as well (here and here), I think it's time we begin to realize that many quarterbacks don't always need "time". I know Smith didn't have weapons, and I understand that he does work with his legs as well. Those former is also an excuse many use to justify poor talent, and the latter doesn't add as much to a team's output as passing does. According to the modern era sample size, Smith has about a 15% chance of breaking through to being a top-20 passer in just one season in the league. And that doesn't even factor in doing it consistently, or actually being the top-10 quarterback so many teams need in order to win the Super Bowl.
Perhaps this is a reason the Jets signed Michael Vick. All I know is that the outlook already looks rather miserable for last year's second-round pick.