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Sam vs The Record Books: Week 9

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New York Jets v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Week 9 of our season long tracking of Sam Darnold’s progress brings more backtracking, as Darnold played the worst game of his young career, with ample help from his center and his receivers, in the New York Jets’ loss against the Miami Dolphins. Darnold continues to slide down the lists as his rookie year is slowly sinking into the abyss. We’ll be taking a couple of weeks off in the series, just like Darnold, after this week’s installment.

A few things to keep in mind. All rankings herein are limited to rookie quarterbacks with at least 250 passing attempts in their rookie seasons. Prior to the 2018 season there have been 72 rookie quarterbacks with 250 or more passing attempts in the post merger era. Rate stats (like completion %) reflect actual current numbers for Darnold. Counting stats (like touchdowns or yards) reflect prorated numbers for Darnold assuming he continues to perform at the same level all season.

Let’s get to it. Below are a bunch of quarterback metrics, listing the all time rookie leaders for each and showing where Sam Darnold fits assuming he plays at the same level all season.

Yards

  1. Andrew Luck 4374
  2. Cam Newton 4051
  3. Jameis Winston 4042
  4. Carson Wentz 3782
  5. Peyton Manning 3739

...

10. Sam Darnold 3438

Touchdowns

  1. Peyton Manning 26
  2. Russell Wilson 26 (Tie 1)
  3. Andrew Luck 23
  4. Dak Prescott 23 (Tie 3)
  5. Jameis Winston 22 (Tie 5)
  6. Jim Kelly 22 (Tie 5)

...

9. Sam Darnold 20 (Tie 9)

Interceptions

  1. Peyton Manning 28
  2. Jim Zorn 27
  3. Sam Darnold 25
  4. Terry Bradshaw 24
  5. Jeff Komlo 23

Passer Rating

  1. Dak Prescott 104.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 102.4
  3. Russell Wilson 100
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 98.1
  5. Dan Marino 96

...

42. Sam Darnold 68.3

Yards/Attempt

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 8.88
  2. Robert Griffin III 8.14
  3. Dak Prescott 7.99
  4. Russell Wilson 7.93
  5. Matt Ryan 7.93

...

29. Sam Darnold 6.69

Completion Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 67.8
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 66.4
  3. Robert Griffin III 65.7
  4. Teddy Bridgewater 64.4
  5. Russell Wilson 64.1

...

38. Sam Darnold 55.0

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Dan Marino 6.8
  2. Russell Wilson 6.6
  3. Jim Plunkett 5.8
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 5.8 (Tie 3)
  5. Steve Bartkowski 5.1
  6. Robert Griffin III 5.1 (Tie 5)
  7. Marcus Mariota 5.1 (Tie 5)
  8. Jake Plummer 5.1 (Tie 5)

...

16. Sam Darnold 3.8 (Tie 24)

Interception Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 0.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 1.3
  3. Nick Foles 1.9
  4. Charlie Batch 2.0
  5. Derek Carr 2.0 (Tie 4)

...

56. Sam Darnold 4.8

As the season wears on Darnold has taken a slow slide down the rankings. The counting numbers are still fairly high, but the rate numbers are now mostly below average compared to rookies throughout NFL post merger history.

To provide additional context, we’ll see how Sam stacks up against the 40 qualifying rookie quarterbacks of the past 15 years. The game and its rules have changed so much that comparisons of quarterbacks from 50 years ago to quarterbacks of today are of limited value. Quarterbacks of the last 15 years make for a comparison much closer to apples to apples so to speak. Here is how Sam stacks up against rookie quarterbacks of the last 15 years:

Yards

  1. Andrew Luck 4374
  2. Cam Newton 4051
  3. Jameis Winston 4042
  4. Carson Wentz 3782
  5. Dak Prescott 3667

...

8. Sam Darnold 3410

Touchdowns

  1. Russell Wilson 26
  2. Andrew Luck 23
  3. Dak Prescott 23 (Tie 2)
  4. Jameis Winston 22
  5. Cam Newton 21

...

7. Sam Darnold 20 (Tie 7)

Interceptions

  1. Sam Darnold 25
  2. Deshone Kizer 22
  3. Geno Smith 21
  4. Matthew Stafford 20 (Tie 4)
  5. Mark Sanchez 20 (Tie 4)

Passer Rating

  1. Dak Prescott 104.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 102.4
  3. Russell Wilson 100
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 98.1
  5. Marcus Mariota 91.5

...

29. Sam Darnold 68.3

Yards/Attempt

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 8.88
  2. Robert Griffin III 8.14
  3. Dak Prescott 7.99
  4. Russell Wilson 7.93
  5. Matt Ryan 7.93

...

18. Sam Darnold 6.69

Completion Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 67.8
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 66.4
  3. Robert Griffin III 65.7
  4. Teddy Bridgewater 64.4
  5. Russell Wilson 64.1

...

28. Sam Darnold 55.2

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Russell Wilson 6.6
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 5.8
  3. Robert Griffin III 5.1 (Tie 3)
  4. Marcus Mariota 5.1 (Tie 3)
  5. Dak Prescott 5.0

...

12. Sam Darnold 3.8 (Tie 12)

Interception Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 0.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 1.3
  3. Nick Foles 1.9
  4. Derek Carr 2.0
  5. Mitchell Trubisky 2.1

...

37. Sam Darnold 4.8

In comparison to his contemporary peers Darnold appears below average, in some cases near the bottom, in the rate stats, and above average in some of the counting stats. He is near the very bottom in interceptions, well below average in completion %, below average in passer rating, and above average in yards and touchdowns. A real mixed bag for Darnold compared to his contemporary peers

One thing that may be a bit concerning is that Darnold ranks below league average this year in every major category, and in many categories at or near league worst. Although rookies often struggle, most of the rookies that go on to have excellent NFL careers manage to be at or above league average in at least one major statistical category in their rookie years. It’s not a foolproof standard, there have been exceptions, but if Darnold does not manage to at least make it to league average in at least one major statistical category by year end it is not a particularly good omen for his career. Still plenty of time for things to change. We’ll track these numbers throughout the year and see how this unfolds.