March 19, 2012

Can Peyton Manning Win With The Broncos?

     When I heard this morning that Peyton Manning was signing with the Broncos, my initial reaction was confusion.  Why would he sign with a team that already has the most polarizing quarterback in the league, plays in high altitude and cold weather, and was lucky to go 8-8 last year?  I realize he has his own priorities and I'm not going to criticize them, but to me it felt like a weird choice.  And now for some reason, people think Denver has suddenly turned into a contender for the AFC championship.  I know Peyton is good, but I think we're underestimating how bad that Broncos team really is.

     As in many cases when sports topics bother me, I decided to crunch some numbers.  My first issue was whether or not Peyton would still be a great quarterback after sitting out a year with an injury.  So I looked through a bunch of quarterbacks' numbers to find people who sat out a full season because of injuries.  I ended up finding only three:  Steve Beuerlein, Phil Simms, and Joe Montana.  Beuerlein's injury happened near the end of his career, and he never threw 150 passes in a season again.  Phil Simms did have some high-volume throwing seasons after his injury, but the missed season was very early in his career. 

     The only relevant case is Joe Montana's.  In 1990, his 12th NFL season, he suffered an elbow injury in the NFC Championship game, and sat out the 1991 season before playing one game in 1992 and getting sent to Kansas City for the '93 season.  Manning, after 13 NFL seasons, did not play in a game during the 2011 season and is also on a new team.  So how did Montana fare in his first season with the Chiefs?  His QB rating dipped from 89.0 in 1990 to 87.4 in 1993.  This means it's safe to assume that Manning will be his 2010 self this year for the Broncos.

     But will it make his team good enough to win the Super Bowl?  As the ESPN special on QBR told me, the traditional QB rating correlates pretty well with winning percentage.  (Though not as much "QBR" does, but it's so convoluted that they haven't gotten around to giving Montana any QBR numbers yet.  Way to disappoint, ESPN.)  Using a standard regression on 2011 team wins and QB rating, we find that raising the team QB rating by 5.1 points is equal to 1 win.

     You could compute the Broncos' expected record for 2012 a couple of ways.  Let's use the Broncos' 8 wins from 2011, and assume Peyton's QB rating will be the same as it was for 2010 (91.9).  The Broncos' QB rating in 2011 was 73.5, which means Peyton will raise it by 18.4 points.  This translates to 3.6 added wins, so the Broncos become a 12-4 team.

     Now, because I'm a pessimist, let me point out that given the number of points they scored and allowed (a better indicator of skill in my opinion), the 2011 Broncos should have only won 5.8 games.  Let's assume Peyton's 2012 QB rating will dip by the same percentage as Montana's 1993 rating, giving him a 90.2.  That's an increase of 16.7 over the Orton/Tebow combo of 2011, which means 3.3 added wins.  This puts the 2012 Broncos at 9-7, only one win better than last year.

     You can believe whichever method you want, though I think 9-7 sounds a lot more reasonable.  Just for fun, let's see how this formula would have worked for San Francisco, Arizona, Miami, Houston, Tennessee, and the Jets.

San Francisco:  The Optimist Method gives a 13-3 record, while the Pessimist Method gives a 12-4 record.

Arizona:  12-4 and 10-6.

Miami:  7-9 and 10-6.  (Matt Moore was a lot better last year than you'd think he would be.)

Houston:  10-6 both ways.

Tennessee:  10-6 and 9-7.

New York:  11-5 both ways.

No comments:

Post a Comment