How does Geno Smith's performance match up with other 1st-year starters from a statistical perspective? Is he on par with previous 1st-year QBs? What are the positive and negative statistical indicators compared with those QBs? I decided to write this post since we had a QB starting from game 1 of his rookie season for the 2nd time in the last 5 years, and my work schedule is light today. Keep in mind that we're only 7 games in to his first season, and things can obviously change (for better or worse) over the next 9 games.
From a historical perspective, there has not been a shortage of data to pull from, as many teams have started a rookie QB from the get-go in recent years, making this practice more of the norm rather than the exception.
REFERENCE: I queried 10 years of Pro Football Reference data for my stats. Here's the link to my query:
DISCLAIMER: I did not use every name from the queried list, since some QBs were not expected to be 1st-year starters (i.e. Gradkowski, Walter) and were thrown into the situation due to injury or poor play from the incumbent QB.
I. Positive Indicators (Geno Ranking)
Completion Percentage (9 of 23) - of the 23 QBs in the comparison, Geno ranks 9th at a respectable 58.3%. The names above Geno = Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, and Joe Flacco. Pretty decent company, don't you think?
Yards Per Attempt (6 of 23) - at 7.7 YPA, only Big Ben (8.9), RGIII (8.1), Wilson (7.9), Ryan (7.9), and Newton (7.8) are ahead of Geno in this category... again, this is the company you want to keep. Big plays help to offset mistakes (see below), so this is important. I have really liked what I have seen from Geno in converting 3rd and long situations. Against New England last week, this was extremely important to the ultimate outcome.
Yards Per Game Start (3 of 23) - at 246 YPG, only Andrew Luck (273) & Cam Newton (253) are better in this category. This, to me, is one of the most encouraging indicators. People compare Geno to lots of different QBs, some fairly/unfairly. I think Geno fits in the mold of a Brett Favre where he is going to sling it and make mistakes, but he will not be shy about throwing the ball to make plays. How many games did we watch Sanchez never go deep more than 1-2 times (seems like every game, honestly)?
II. Negative Indicators (Geno Ranking)
Interception Percentage (20 of 23) - at 4.9%, you knew this one was coming. Only Matthew Stafford (5.3) , Mark Sanchez (shocker!), and Josh Freeman rank lower than Geno in this category. If Geno keeps this pace, he will throw 18 TDs and 25 INTs. That's not a formula for long-term success. To be fair, Geno has faced some above-average pass defenses early on (Pitt, N.E twice, T.B., Tenn), but this is clearly an area that needs improvement. The worst part of the INTs is that several have come in opponent territory (at least 5 that I can recall offhand), taking possible points off the board and swinging momentum in the other team's favor.
Sacks (PROJECTED - 23 of 23) - this one isn't even close. If Geno keeps up the current pace, he will be sacked 57 times this season. Some of that is on his O-Line, but some is on Geno holding on to the ball too long. This is something we saw in preseason and is obviously something he will improve at. For his own health, he'd better. He has protected the ball better on his sacks in recent weeks since the Tennessee game, so hopefully that part keeps up.
III. Other Observations
One thing I have noticed about Geno is when he runs, he does not tuck the ball in the proper arm (i.e. nearest the sideline). He did this again 2x this past game against the Pats and this is something he needs to improve upon (goes with that overall ball protection concept from the Sacks section above).
In summary, it would appear that Geno has the tools to be special, if he can improve on the turnovers/ball control issues. His positive indicators are ones that would expect to at least remain consistent if not improve. His negative indicators can be improved with experience (all other factors being equal). From a pure watchability standpoint, he is compelling to watch and I am very excited about the rest of the season.
What do you think, my fellow Gang Green Nation? Plain and simple: is Geno the guy?