John Idzik has been criticized by some great minds here on GGN, based on how he handled (or mishandled) Free Agency this offseason. There are many reasonable things to be unhappy about, such as coming out with possibly a below average Cornerback from arguably one of the best Cornerback markets in NFL history, completely ignoring Desean Jackson's availability both in Free Agency, and on the trading block, (If the Eagles let him go for nothing, then surely they would have accepted anything, even a conditional 7th rounder), disregarding the cap floor which in effect will leave the franchise in a "must spend" scenario come Free Agency the next 2 years (which although may sound exciting at first, is more likely to result in a product resembling the work of this years Oaklan Raiders, then of the Denver Broncos) and for essentialy downgrading the Right Tackle position, a position which will be the blindside of the quarterback that he also signed, should he start at all this year, in order to save about 2 million in cap space. (could be Brenno's just as good as Howard, but I've heard many say he's a much bigger liability in pass protection) But don't worry, this entry is not about what Idzik did wrong, my poll in a previous post informed me that 92% of all GGN members are pro Idzik, so no, rather this article is about one move that everyone agrees Idzik made right, this article is about Eric Decker.
In the mass chaos of speculation that ensued in the last few weeks leading up to Free Agency, it was generally accepted by intelligent jet fans, and writers all over the internet, including if I recall correctly, every single writer on GGN's knowledgeable staff, that Eric Decker could only be had for a Mike Wallaceish 9-12 million per year contract if at all. This was due to the fact that Decker was coming off two statistically outstanding seasons in Denver, the unusually higher then expected raise in the salary cap, and the lack of any Receiver options better then Eric available. In short, Eric Decker donning Green And White, for non superstar caliber money was a pipe dream. But then, out of nowhere, the Wizard Of Id pulled a miracle out of his hat, and brought in Eric Decker for 7 million. To be honest, I personally believe Idzik might have lucked out a little here, being that Eric reportedly may have come so willingly to NY in large part for his fiancé to be able to better advertise her singing career in the Big Apple. Also, I believe that Decker was never really going to get 12 million anyway, Desean Jackson went for 8 million, and Golden Tate went for 6 million. However, none of that matters anymore, what does, is that he's now a New York Jet.
Now, ever since Decker arrived in New York my ears have been tortured with the sickening phrase: "Decker is just a product of Payton Manning" day in, and day out. On the radio, in the cafeteria, on internet blogs, in the paper, in the gym, on the train, in public bathroom stalls, it's driving me up the wall! This mentality, is largely based on the assumption that the numbers Eric put up are the expected par for any decent Wideout to get with Manning under center, and being that the stereotypical number 2 Receiver is characterized as a "decent" Receiver, Eric Decker is merely a number 2 Receiver.
Therefore, this screams the question, if this is true then what would numbers put up by an elite Wideout under Payton Manning look like? Well, in order to determine this, lets look at the statistics put up by the greatest Receiver Manning ever had the pleasure of throwing to, Reggie Wayne.
I'm going to look at Wayne's 2 years with Indianapolis where Manning's Passer Rating was the closest to what it was with his 2 years in Denver, in order to more effectively put Reggie in Eric's shoes. Let's start with Payton's first year as a Bronco. In 2012, Payton had a Rating of 105.8. In 2005 with the Colts, he possessed a Rating of 104.1. In 2012, Decker had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards, and 13 Touchdowns. In 2005 Reggie Wayne had an almost identical 83 receptions for 1,055 yards, and 5 Touchdowns. Next, let's move on to Payton's historical 2013 where anyone who was lucky enough to draft him as their Quarterback for their Fantasy Team (myself among them) won a championship. In 2013 Horseface threw for a legendary Passer Rating of 115.1. The only year of his career where Payton topped this was where he achieved a career best 121.1 Passer Rating in 2004. In 2013 Decker caught 87 receptions for 1,288 yards, and 11 Touchdowns, while Wayne in 2004, bagged 77 receptions for 1,210 yards, and 12 Touchdowns. Again, Decker all but cloned Reggie's production.
Still not convinced? Perhaps Decker was thrown to way more then Reggie was? After all, Payton threw the football a hell of a lot this past season, maybe even though he had more targets to spread the ball to then almost any Quarterback in history, he still threw the ball so many times, that Decker had far more opportunities to boost his numbers then Wayne did? Let's find out. In light of the fact that there is no record of how many times Wayne was targeted in 2004, and 2005 I combined the targets Wayne received in all the years under Payton Manning that his targets were indeed noted, and calculated the average. These years were 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The average number of targets thrown Reggie's way per season was 149.4. It is reasonable to assume that in 2004 and 2005, the number of targets somewhat resembled this number. Eric Decker was targeted 123 times in 2012 and 137 times in 2013, so if we are to assume that anyone's statistics were inflated due to Payton forcing the ball down their throat, it would be Reggie Wayne, not Decker.
Okay, so now we are faced with 2 options, either we must conclude that Reggie Wayne is also a "product of Payton Manning", or extrapolate that Eric Decker is not. If you still wish to disagree with me, then by all means, welcome aboard the anti Reggie Wayne bandwagon. Let's see what Reggie put up with 39 year old Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter under center, in a season where many believe that the franchise tanked for Andrew Luck. Wayne pulled down 75 receptions, had 960 yards receiving, and 4 Touchdowns. Therefore it is quite rational to surmise that if Geno/Vick performs at least at a level equal to Painter/Collins standard (and if they don't we're screwed anyway) then 75, 960, and 4 is Eric's floor for the upcoming season.
In short, although it's expected that Decker would be more productive when he has a future Hall Of Fame Quarterback throwing him the football. It doesn't mean he's not an an elite Receiver. There has to be a cutoff point somewhere regarding how well one does under a good QB that separates him from average, even if that bar may be higher for a Wideout catching balls from Payton Manning. As we have demonstrated through our Reggie Wayne comparison, Decker far exceeded that bar.