It’s perfectly OK if you’re still in mourning.
After quarterback Sam Bradford re-tore his left ACL in the first quarter of the Rams’ preseason game against the Browns last Saturday, the promises that come with a new season, an offensive revival, and just maybe breaking that .500 win barrier look a bit flushed.
However, the show must still go on in Bradford’s absence, and the Rams will now turn to veteran Shaun Hill to lead their 2014 campaign. With that said, I decided to take a look at some key numbers to see where Hill’s career stands in comparison to that of Bradford and last season’s relief man, Kellen Clemens. For context’s sake, it has to be noted that Hill hasn’t received a ton of playing time since 2010 and got to throw to Calvin Johnson for a while, so take these numbers with a grain of salt. I do still feel that there is some weight to them and that there is reason for some optimism. I apologize in advance for all the jargon. Let’s get started.
- Kellen Clemens – In the three seasons where he received significant playing time (2007, 2011, 2013), his completion percentages read 52, 52.7, and 58.7. Outside of last season filling in for an injured Bradford, (eight starts, nine games played) Clemens’ lengthiest amount of playing time in a single season came in 2007 when he started eight games for the New York Jets and attempted 250 passes (compared to 91 in ’11, 242 in ’13). His career completion percentage prior to entering his starting turn with the Rams last season was 51.8% (196 completed on 378 career attempts), but he elevated his level of play in 2013 in completing 58.7%.
- Shaun Hill – In four seasons where he received significant time (2007-2010 in San Francisco and Detroit), he only dipped below a completion percentage of 60 once (2009 – 56.1%). His top percentage in a season where he saw significant action came in 2008, when he started nine games and completed 62.8% of his passes as a 49er. Factoring in all seasons – regardless of amount of playing time – Hill still only has that one sub-60% season to his name. Obviously some of those years saw him attempt only a handful of passes, but his career completion percentage as he heads into 2014 as the Rams starting quarterback sits at 61.9% (a full 10 percentage points higher than Clemens when entering the same role).
- Sam Bradford – Bradford has obviously had exponentially more career passing attempts than either Hill or Clemens, but hovered around the 60% mark in each of his first four seasons as the Rams starting quarterback.
- Clemens – A quarterback’s interception percentage is defined by Pro Football Reference as “the percentage of times intercepted when attempting to pass.” It’s no guarantee of future tendencies, but it’s a nice indicator of how often a quarterback tosses one to the other team (PFR also has a very similar “touchdown percentage” statistic, but it doesn’t seem like nearly as useful a number in evaluating a quarterback given the situational nature of throwing touchdowns). Clemens interception percentage is a career 3.2%, meaning every 3.2 of 100 pass attempts is taken the other way. His performance last season (seven INTs on 242 attempts) lowered that figure from the career 3.4% he held when entering 2013, for what it’s worth.
- Hill – This is another area where Hill enters the Rams starting role on a better foot than Clemens did. For his career, Hill enters with an interception percentage of 2.4% (23 INTs on 954 attempts), a full percentage point lower than Clemens did entering the same role. Take this number as you will (remember, Hill hasn’t seen significant playing time since 2010), but there’s no denying that football games are won along the margins.
- Bradford – For some context, Bradford’s career interception percentage is the lowest of the three. His 38 picks on 1,760 attempts land him right around 2.2%.
Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt
Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt is an advanced statistic that attempts to reward quarterbacks for performing well (emphasis on touchdowns) and detract from them for performing poorly (interceptions). The formula can be found here, but reads as (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing Touchdowns – 45 * Interceptions) divided by Pass Attempts. This has become a widely relied upon metric (further justification here) for its ability to add some context to the more basic “yards per attempt” statistic. By weighting touchdown throws and interceptions, it emphasizes the plays that ultimately make or break a quarterback.
- Clemens – As a Jet, Clemens managed an AY/A of 4.5, but brought his career number up to 5.4 by performing well enough in three seasons with the Rams. For further context, the 2013 league leader in AY/A was Philadelphia’s Nick Foles who finished the season at 10.54, while Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger rounded out the top 10 at 7.18.
- Hill – This is another area where Hill has outperformed Clemens and Bradford in his career. Hill’s AY/A stands at 6.5, a full two yards ahead of Clemens before he became a Ram. This speaks to both his higher career yards per attempt (6.7 to Clemens’ 6.4) as well as a much greater touchdown-to-interception ratio.
- Bradford – Bradford’s career AY/A falls a bit short of Hill’s at 6.3, while his basic yards per attempt were also lower at 6.0. There are those out there that believe playing in a horizontal Brian Schottenheimer offense stands to harm this metric, and I’ll admit that there is probably some merit to that. Still, the Rams will go run-heavy in 2014, and a quarterback in that type of offense must emphasize efficiency and not turning the ball over as a complement. In evaluating Hill’s key numbers, the Rams are looking at a quarterback who should at the very least be able to manage games as well as Bradford has done in his career.