Friday, August 10, 2007

Lies and Statistics

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has a great article on the history that Anthony Morelli and Chad Henne share. I'm slowly convincing myself that Anthony Morelli is a better quarterback then I previously thought and I'm creating a delusional fantasy that he's on the verge of having a record breaking year (at least from a Penn State perspective). I, like most of you, have a decidedly fuzzy, negative memory of Morelli from last year but when we start to examine the stats I think that memory is a tad misleading. Most of us would consider Chad Henne a "quality" or "good" quarterback and I think we can safely assume that a comparison to him would define what we can consider an acceptable level of accomplishment. But when we do a head to head comparison the numbers are kind of stunning.


















The first (negative) thing that jumps out at you is the 11 touchdown difference and yes I remember the struggles the Penn State offense had in the red zone last season. But can we place all the blame on Anthony Morelli? Nittany nation loves to beat on Jay Paterno and his sophomoric play calling and certainly the wide receivers did a fine job of dropping passes when Morelli did get them there and the offense had a flair for shooting itself in the foot with penalties. So I think it's safe to say that, yes Morelli should share some of the blame but certainly not all.

Forget the touchdown disparity for a moment and look at the rest of the stats. Anthony had more completions (a Penn State single season record I might add) and just 84 less yards. They threw the same number of interceptions and while some of the Int's were Morelli's fault I distinctly remember a few passes bouncing off the chests of intended targets and caroming into the arms of defenders.

Where it gets really interesting is when we consider the offensive line. There isn't a sane football fan in the world that would consider Penn State's 2006 line superior to Michigan's. Looking ahead to 2007, Michigan loses two offensive line starters and Penn State only loses one. We can optimistically believe that the gap in offensive line performance between the two teams will at least wane a bit. Before you go all Alan Branch-is-a-future-first-rounder on me, let me ask you this: how did having a bona fide first rounder help Penn State out last season?

Michigan returns scary crazy good deep threat Mario Manningham but that's it. PSU returns all three wide receivers, and a better tight end – at least in the pass catching department. Another wildcard in the Penn State offense is Chris Bell who's getting rave reviews.* Bell brings to the plate something that was sorely lacking last season – a Mario Manningham-esque deep threat. I fully believe that if Penn State's offense is having trouble moving the ball, Bell can provide a shot in the arm and Morelli can do his best Sex Cannon* impression and heave a jump ball for Bell to go get.

Now before I get all the spiteful hate mail I'm not suggesting that Penn State's offense is going to be better than Michigan's. The Wolverine's offense is going to be scary good. My point is simple: Henne's name is spoken with All-American status while Morelli's is a running joke. Is a 62% completion percentage that much better than a 54%? Does 12.4 yards per completion get everyone fired up but 11.6 cause you to turn in disgust? These two guys were not that far apart, statistically speaking, yet the sports world categorizes them on completely different ends of the spectrum and I for one think a lot of people are wrong. Going into the 2002 season I told everyone that would listen that Larry Johnson would be the talk of the Big Ten before the season was over, he had all the pieces in place to succeed and I knew he was a quality running back. This year I think Morelli is in the same position and I think he will turn some heads as well.

*HT: Run Up The Score


JB said...

Good write up. First, I thought the line "we have vaguely fuzzy, negative memories of Morelli's performance (paraphrased) was great because there were a couple of games where I don't think anthnoy's memory was much better. The man took some hits last year!

BillyBob said...

Some good points in there. I've always thought that there should be a stat for "receiver caused ints" assessed when the ball hits hands/chest and bounces to a defender. It's really not all that subjective and would make for a much clearer picture of what a QB did. Dropped passes is more subjective in terms of whose fault it is but I'd like to see that kind of stat as well.

Galen said...

I agree billybob, WR should have a dropped ball stat next to their catches, but I would only include the obvious drops. Hey if we can have an official scorer decide what is and what isn't an error in baseball we could easily to the same for dropped balls in football.

Kyle said...

You can't see the forest for the trees. Morelli's performance against tOSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, and to a lesser extent Purdue and ND are the problems.

Not racking up gaudy numbers against Akron...

Galen said...

That's all find and good Kyle but let's look at Henne's #'s head to head.

Henne 15-30 (50%) 196 yds 1TD 0 INT
Morelli 11-18 (61%) 133 yds 0TD 0INT

Considering Morelli got knocked out in the 3rd quarter and PSU threw a 43 yd TD later, you can't tell me Henne's numbers are any better than Morelli's. If you're going to chastise Morelli for playing poorly against a good defense the same must be said for Henne.

Brad said...

One note: Michigan's offense last year (and likely this year too) was heavily run-based with a steady rhythm of Mike Hart grinding. Michigan was rarely in a position to have to throw repeatedly (say in a comeback situation), and thus Henne's attempts and total yards are depressed statistically.

Watching both of them with my own eyes, Henne is better at this time because of his decision making. He took a big step forward last year whereas Morelli would often try to force throws into single or double coverage, especially under pressure. Maybe he'll improve that, I guess we'll see. He certainly has the potential to be the scariest QB Michigan will face, until the bowl game.

matt said...

I tend to disagree with your assessment. Just to let you know up front, I don't have a dog in this fight (I'm a Wake Forest football fan), but I think Henne was light years ahead of Morelli Last year. It's not just the yards per completion, completion precentage, and touchdowns, it's the fact that Henne averaged 7.65 yards per pass and Morelli averaged 6.28. That's darn close to a yard and a half more per pass. Did Michigan have more offensive talent than Penn State lst year? Sure, but it's not like Penn State had Sun Belt level offensive players. Finally here are the two quarterbacks numbers versus 'elite' teams.

Henne (vs ND, Wis, PSU, OSU, and USC): 93 com 153 att 1203 yards 10 td 5 int
60.8 com %, 7.86 yards per pass

Morelli (vs ND, Wis, Mich, OSU, and Tenn): 81 com 136 att 790 yards 2 td 5 int
59.6 com %, 5.82 yards per pass

Their completion percentages are roughly equalagainst elite foes, but while Henne's completions come nearly 13 yards down field, Morelli's average less than 10. That's an enormous difference. Dink and dunk.

Galen said...

I don't have a dog in this fight
You're a Mike Vick fan aren't you Matt? Thanks for the really detailed reply, I always encourage such debate. I'm impressed that being a Wake Forest fan you A) found this site and B) care enough about football to look those numbers up.

matt said...

You're a Mike Vick fan aren't you Matt?


As for the Wake Forest comment, I assume that was a mild insult at my expense. Anyway, I love trolling the blogosphere getting caught on the latest happenings in the NCAA. Nice blog.

Galen said...

I assume that was a mild insult at my expense

No, no, no. I meant that in the most flattering way. I meant no insult. I was amazed that a Wake Forest fan would go to such detail about a team that really means nothing in their scope of season. I was actually flattered that you come to my little blog and comment on something so meaningless to you.

M1EK said...

This year, Morelli loses Hunt; while Henne gets to keep Hart. That alone should get you to back off the crack a bit.

Galen said...

According to Paterno Austin Scott runs as good as Hunt. I agree as long as he doesn't dance too much in the hole which he didn't the last time we saw him. I will agree that Scott is nowhere near the blocker but PSU can use Hahn for that role. Again, I’m not saying Henne and Morelli are equal I just don’t think they are as far apart as people want to believe. I just think Morelli will have a great year provided the offensive line can be average.

M1EK said...

My comment is in contradiction to the implied claim that the two are headed in the same direction (or, even, that Morelli will close the gap). Ain't gonna happen; Scott isn't a tenth the help Hunt was, and neither is Hahn. And Hart is likely to be even better than last year.

Galen said...

Then like I said, I'll admit I'm wrong when I see it but I disagree. We'll soon find out.