What If Teddy Bridgewater Was a Cleveland Brown?
You can do a lot with $100,000.
The Browns could have, too. Instead, they decided to ignore math. And you should never ignore math.
Cleveland's first-round selection? Johnny Manziel.
The odds that Cleveland made the right quarterback choice last year are slim to none. While Minnesota is looking to fill non-quarterback voids on their roster, Cleveland is looking forward to a season with a just-out-of-rehab Manziel and a what will be 36-year-old Josh McCown under center.
The Browns could have had Bridgewater. The Browns should have had Bridgewater. And that not only cost them in 2014, but it more than likely will moving forward, too.
If you're new to numberFire, you might not be completely aware about our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. In essence, NEP tells us how many points -- real points -- a player adds or loses for his team based on expectation. It helps remove the flaws of traditional statistics -- a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-15 is much less impactful than a 10-yard gain on 3rd-and-9, after all.
To read more about NEP, check out our glossary.
Predictably, things weren't great for Cleveland last year in the Net Expected Points department. As a team, they finished 26th in Adjusted Passing NEP -- the number of points added through the air, adjusted for strength of schedule. Brian Hoyer started the season off efficiently, but ended the year with just 20.60 Net Expected Points. That may seem alright, but his per drop back efficiency of 0.04 NEP was about half as effective as the league average rate.
And then there was Manziel, who, on 38 drop backs, accumulated -14.51 Passing NEP. The sample size isn't strong, but neither was Manziel's game.
Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater, who ended the year with a better-than-Hoyer 0.05 Passing NEP per drop back, totaled about 23 Passing Net Expected Points. According to our numbers, had Bridgewater played under center for the Browns, we would have expected Cleveland -- a team that was far worse than their end-of-season win-loss total showed -- to win an additional game.
Not bad for a rookie.
Bridgewater ended the 2014 season ranked 21st in Passing NEP among the 37 NFL quarterbacks who dropped back to pass at least 200 times. A below-average ranking, that score steadily increased as the year went on -- Bridgewater became a better passer with a little time.
He was also just a rookie, and first-year quarterbacks are logically not going to be top-notch passers right away. Comparing him to guys like Aaron Rodgers just isn't all that fair.
That's where things get interesting. Last January, I did a study looking at whether or not a quarterback's rookie season could predict his future. The results showed a pretty clear -- albeit not super mathematic -- correlation between first-year success in Passing NEP and general success later in a player's career.
In the article, I broke up the 40 200-plus attempt rookie passers since 2000 into four tiers. Tier 4 was for the losers, while Tier 1 was for the rookie champions.
Teddy Bridgewater is very firmly a Tier 1 rookie passer.
Since the turn of the century, only seven rookie quarterbacks totaled a Passing NEP as strong as Bridgewater's from last season: Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Marc Bulger and Andrew Luck.
And over the last 15 NFL seasons, we've seen 43 rookie quarterbacks drop back to pass at least 200 times. Meaning Teddy Bridgewater is at least in the 80th percentile when it comes to recent first-year quarterbacks.
Here's the kicker: since 2000, Cleveland has had 18 different quarterback seasons where one of their signal-callers hit the 200 drop back mark. Only Derek Anderson's 2007 season ranks better than Teddy Bridgewater's rookie one in terms of Passing NEP.
So not only is Teddy Bridgewater's arrow pointing way up given his rookie year performance, but that rookie year performance would have been the second best one Cleveland fans saw from one of their quarterbacks over the last 15 years.
Maybe next time the Browns will listen to what math is telling them. Maybe.