Maybe you should compare Teddy to Ponder…

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Note: Give this a shot…

Or rather, their second seasons and the implications therein.

Fellow purplePTSD writer DrawingDead00 recently wrote a piece titled “Stop Comparing Christian Ponder to Teddy Bridgewater”, and made some great points as to why he believes that that comparison is essentially null and void. Considering I’ve compared Teddy’s 2015 to Ponder’s 2012, I figured I’d respond.

Now. I need to preface this article for the fervent Teddy supporters and my friends over on Reddit.com/r/MinnesotaVikings/My homepage.

1. I do NOT think that Teddy and Ponder are equal quarterbacks.
2. I DO believe in Teddy.
3. I WANT Teddy to succeed.
4. I am mainly showing that there are multiple similarities between Teddy’s 2015 and Ponder’s 2012. Not that they’re the same quarterback or that Teddy is going to be a bust. My goal is simply to show that Teddy needs to improve greatly in 2016, and that I do believe he can and will.
5. Lastly, I am simply stating facts (as I see them) in response to fellow purplePTSD.com writer and current best friend candidate DrawingDead’s assertions:

“You can take pretty much any efficiency stat, or metric designed to isolate QB performance against the people around him, and Teddy wins unanimously.”

and:

“A quiet majority of fans understand that Teddy and Ponder have very little in common. The rest of you need to stop.”

First, I want to acknowledge that DrawingDead made a great argument and backed it up with thorough, in-depth stats. However, I don’t agree on the conclusion that was based on those (or other) stats. There are also some stats that weren’t explicitly covered (although they did contribute to other stats/numbers) that prove that Teddy’s 2015 was not only not very good, but it was actually was similar enough to Ponder’s 2012 that we should temper our expectations for Bridgewater and maybe even… Worry (I can believe in him but also worry at the same time, it’s essentially how I enter every season).

I decided to look through the numbers that DrawingDead provided, and really came to a different conclusion. To make things easier, I’ve numbered each similarity between Bridgewater and Ponder, as a way to essentially show that Teddy and Ponder do have more in common than some people want to admit and to address the assertion above that people who think Teddy and Ponder have things in common need to “stop”.

It is true that Teddy bested Ponder in each of the stats DrawingDead provided, however a deeper look shows that those “wins” are mostly negligible. The unfortunate thing that they show is that sure, he did mostly have better stats than Ponder, but you will see that essentially the point is that thus far in his career Teddy has played slightly better than one of the biggest busts in Vikings history (statistically).

I say statistically because Teddy does FEEL different than Ponder did. I was (surprise!) not a fan of Ponder. He never once played a game like Teddy played against Denver, Chicago, New York or Arizona in 2015. We never got the ball with less than 2 – 4 minutes left on the clock, down by 3/7/10 and actually came back. I never had confidence that he could run a two minute drill. I have that faith in Teddy. I believe that at times he plays like an elite quarterback, since he’s young those flashes are something that I’m hoping will manifest as he matures. I never once said or thought that about Ponder. Even after that Packers game.

With all of that nearly paranoid prefacing and pre-apologizing behind me. Let’s look at the numbers that Dead shared. He did not compare overall yardage, TD rates and INTs. At least as we’re traditionally used to (they were included in other stats that he did share). He did so because sheer numbers don’t take context into account, so he found stats that did/do and they show that Ponder’s 2012 and Bridgewater’s 2015 are eerily similar.

Here are the numbers Dead shared:

  • Y/A: Teddy 7.2; Ponder 6.1
  • Completion %: Teddy 65.3; Ponder 62.1
  • INT %: Teddy 2.0, Ponder 2.5
  • ANY/A: Teddy 5.70; Ponder 4.99
  • Passer Rating: Teddy 88.7; Ponder 81.2
  • ESPN QBR: Teddy 62.7; Ponder 51.6
  • FO DYAR: Teddy, +185; Ponder +173

For the sake of reference, here are numbers that I shared in my original article that compare Ponders’ 2012 numbers with Teddy’s first 12 games of 2015 (as they were sourced from a Reddit post that occured during week 14).

uccw7rv

Teddy did go on a tear over the last 4 games of the season, having back to back career games against Arizona and The Bears.

Instead of including the above numbers, Dead shared a new-ish (at least to me) stat called DYAR from Football Outsiders. Essentially those numbers take things into account, like the opponent quality, garbage time yards/touchdown’s, etc. So, Teddy’s amazing game against Chicago may not look at great as his game against the Cardinals, despite the fact that Teddy had 4 touchdowns against the Bears because the Cardinals were a better team. I will go into DYAR a bit more later.

Before then, let’s break this down by each stat to see what’s really going on:

Yards per Attempt

  • Y/A: Teddy 7.2; Ponder 6.1

In his article Dead said: 

Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater ran two starkly different offenses. Ponder worked under Bill Musgrave in a bootleg heavy, east-west style offense that utilized Percy Harvin’s athleticism and a magical 2,000 yard Adrian Peterson season. Teddy Bridgewater runs a vertical offense that relies on deeper versions of typical in, out and crossing routes with speedy receivers.

So, the fact that Bridgewater’s yard per attempt was 1.1 yards higher than Ponders’ makes sense as he was helming an offense that depending on deeper routes, more seven step drops. That fact also does at least contribute to the reason that Teddy was pressured on just under 50% of his drop-backs. While Ponder was running more quick passes and bootlegs, which obviously lends itself less pressure. That doesn’t negate the fact that the line was bad in 2015, but it has something to do with it.

What’s more important that YPA is Yards Per Completion (as attempts are just that, attempts) and Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. You can see from the later that the difference between Teddy’s ANY/A and Ponders is negligible at 0. 71 yards per (similarity number 1). Yards per Completion is compiled by the site TeamRankings.com, and the Vikings ranked dead last in 2015 with 9.8 yards per (the only team in single digits) completion in 2015. In 2012 they were second to last, with 9.4 yards per completion (Similarity number 2).

Completion Percentage

  • Completion %: Teddy 65.3; Ponder 62.1

Both Teddy and Ponder had good completion percentages at Teddy with 65.3% vs. Ponders 62.1%. DrawingDead mentions an article by fellow purplePTSD writer, Justicht, that essentially extrapolates the 2014 QB draft classes numbers as if they threw as much as league leader in attempts, Philip Rivers did in 2015.

Justicht said:

In 2015, Bridgewater only managed to rank #22 in active quarterbacks in yardage, with 3132 yards. In fact, as many will point out, he only threw for about 200 yards more than Christian Ponder did in 2012 (2915 yards). However, if everyone threw as many passes as Rivers, Teddy creeps up to the #8 spot of active quarterbacks. As you can see in these rankings, that is much better than the 3687 scale yards from Ponder.

What this ignores is similarity number 3. That according to this scale Teddy would’ve had 21 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while Ponder would’ve had 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Hmm…

It also ignores the premise of Football Outsiders’ view. In 2012 Ponder was playing aside, or underneath, Adrian Peterson on a tear. So, the fact that he had less yardage in this theoretical assessment (or in the season) makes complete sense. When your running back brings in over 2,000 yards and 22 attempts a game and 12 touchdowns, you don’t need to throw for as many yards or don’t have the opportunity to. However, despite the fact that Peterson had 12 touchdown’s in 2012 vs. 11 in 2015, Ponder has 2 more touchdowns in this example.

Interception Percentage

  • INT %: Teddy 2.0, Ponder 2.5

This speaks for itself. Half a point is nothing to sneeze at, but still. Pretty close. But I won’t chalk this up as a similarity, however.
Adjusted Net Yards per Passing Attempt

  • ANY/A: Teddy 5.70; Ponder 4.99

This is the closest stat shared where Teddy’s number is 5.7 yards and Ponders was 4.99 yards.

If you’re a math whiz, like I used to be before I traded my TI-83 plus for a bottle of Karkov Vodka, here’s the formula that they use to get the above numbers: (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown)

Essentially, these numbers make more sense than just yards per attempt, or even yards per completion (as described above). The reason that Teddy and Ponder ended up having super similar numbers (similarity number 4!) is that Ponder had more Touchdown’s than Teddy, while Teddy had more yards.

Passer Rating and QBR

I figured I’d combine both of these into the same article, for the sake of saving space (I’m an environmentalist) and also because they’re essentially attempting to do the same thing. Attach a number and/or rating to quarterback play.

Their passer ratings

According to subtly named TeamRankings.com, Teddy was the 21st ranked QB in 2015 (according to his Passer Rating). Ponder in 2012? … Get ready for similarity number 5… was 22nd.

While that doesn’t mean everything, it does mean that they were relatively similar in terms of their quality as quarterbacks vs. the competition during the years that they played. While I do believe that Teddy is a better quarterback then Ponder, the fact that he ranked 21st in the league last year (as part of the 31st ranked passing offense) does show that he isn’t some solidified starter and that as compared to the other quarterbacks in the league, the Vikings still have a quarterback who ranks in the low 20’s.

That’s the point, the most important point. Not necessarily that Teddy is Ponder “2.0”, but rather that while he has shown more flashes of excellence than Ponder ever did, he still isn’t where he should be. That he is on the precipice of a make or break season, and that he has a ton of room for improvement.

No one can say that 2015 wasn’t a disappointing season for Bridgewater, or that we’re happy with his ranking. After he ended 2014 on a tear, many people expected Teddy to have the breakthrough season in 2015 that fellow 2014 draftee Derek Carr had. However, he was ranked 13th according to ESPN’s concoction, QBR. Ponder? 15th. While the numbers differ more than any other statistic that Dead shared, QBR is all relative and also the provider of yet another similarity.

According to ESPN, QBR was created to “measure the degree to which a quarterback contributed to scoring points for the team, and also to a win by the team”. That’s important, and surprising, as the 2015 Vikings went 11-5, where as the 2012 Vikings went 10-6. Considering that the Vikings won one less game in 2012, and seemingly relied on Adrian Peterson far more than they did in 2015, his similar ranking is actually impressive (this also explains why he was 11.1 points under Bridgewater in 2015). Considering a “score” 50 is average, we apparently had two above average quarterbacks in 2012 and 2015 by that ranking, but not by general passer rating.

Take your pick. Either way there are similarities.

Football Outsider’s  Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (FO DYAR)

  • FO DYAR: Teddy, +185; Ponder +173

I was not familiar with FootballOutsider’s DYAR system, but now am in love with it. For those of you not familiar, Football Outsiders uses a main statistic, DVOA, to try to find a more comprehensive numerical rating for football players. DVOA stands for Defense Adjusted Over Average, while DYAR stands for Defense Adjusted Yards Above Replacement (the replacement being a different standard than the league average). DYAR is a total (number), while is a rate (percentage).

Here is an overall comparison of Bridgewater and Ponders FO numbers:

DYAR_DVOA

While DrawingDead didn’t discuss DVOA, I figured I would as it is directly related to DYAR. The main statistic used on Football Outsiders, DVOA “breaks down the entire season play-by-play, comparing success on each play to the league average based on a number of variables including down, distance, location on field, current score gap, quarter, and opponent quality.”

1. Bridgewater’s DVOA/VOA is -5.1%/-8.1% respectively, Ponder’s was -6.1%/9.2%.

2. That’s on a scale in 2015 of +34.5/+36% to -28%/-31.5%

3. A scale of +35.1/+32.3% and -29.4%/25.9% in 2012.

So, on a scale of 63.9 Teddy and Ponder are only 1 point away from one another. A 1% difference (Similarity… 6? 7? I forget where we are). Meaning that both played UNDER the league average (another similarity, a weak one but still my main overall point).

Teddy’s DYAR in 2015 was +185. Ponder’s (in 2012) was +173. Considering the scale of these numbers, that number is remarkably close (and dare I say… A similarity?). For example, the leading DYAR’er in 2015 was Carson Palmer, his score was 1,702. The lowest rated quarterback, Nick Foles, scored a -355. That’s a 2,057 scale in which Teddy and Ponder were 12 points apart (a half of a percentage difference). If that’s not a clear sign that the comparison is valid I’m not sure what is. Both Ponder and Bridgewater were the 21st ranked QB’s for their respective seasons (by DYAR)(Similarity 8).

The two quarterbacks that were closest to Teddy weren’t even as close as Ponder (score-wise), with Brian Hoyer besting him (never a good sign) with a score of 205 and Brock Osweiller lagging behind him at 153. With Ponder only being 12 points underneath him, he essentially had the same season all things considered (at least by this rating system, which is relatively comprehensive).

Which was Dead’s original point, that Ponder and Bridgewater played under different systems, and that Ponder played worse even with a lot of advantages. While that it technically true, the difference is almost negligible and boils down to saying that Teddy only played slightly better than a bust.

Conclusion

There are things that can’t be measured, even by Football Outsiders’ super in-depth system, like poise and potential. I do believe that Bridgewater has shown enough of both for me to feel like he will be, and is most likely, the quarterback of the future. However, I don’t think that that’s as much of a foregone conclusion as some people say. I wrote more about this in my article (2016: A Make or Break Year for Bridgewater?), but I do believe that the team agrees with that sentiment wholly and is pulling out all the stops to ensure that that does happen.

Despite this 10 or so similarities to Ponder’s 2012, I actually am excited for the 2016 season. Truly. That’s not fan-service (if I had fans). My point is to show that there are comparisons between these two seasons to show that Bridgewater does need to improve in ’16. People don’t seem to remember that back in 2012 there was a semi-large contingent of Ponder backers, too. I think a lot of those people simply ignored the fact that Ponder did flame out, and just moved on to Bridgewater with the same zest and angry pride. Considering, the idea that back in 2012 people unanimously realized that Ponder was a bust and thus it’s laughable that Bridgewater’s underwhelming 2015 be compared to his 2012, is kinda strange.

So. I will let you draw your own conclusions as to what this means for 2016, although I do believe that if Bridgewater’s 2016 plays out like Ponders 2013 people will simply blame the wide receivers. Not to say that the “excuse” that was the 2015 offensive line isn’t valid, it is. However, the when it comes to the RESULTS, they are similar to what Ponder did in 2012. That’s the point of this. Not whether or not Teddy is a better quarterback than Ponder (he is), but whether or not he is in a similar position at this point in his career after posting similar results in his full career as a Vikings quarterback.

He is.

I look forward to your death threats.

 

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