Everett Golson's start to 2015 for Florida State simply average

Kirk Herbstreit's Gameplan Breakdown

Kirk Herbstreit breaks down the rivalry game Saturday night between Miami (FL) and No. 12 Florida State on ABC.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Through four games, Florida State quarterback Everett Golson has been average. The on-field evaluations support that, and statistics bear the same finding.

How many Seminoles fans would have taken average before the season with a 4-0 record and no offensive turnovers to boot? Anyone assuming the Golson who threw for 313 yards in Doak Campbell Stadium as Notre Dame’s quarterback would be what Florida State was getting wasn’t looking at this transfer within the scope of reality.

Golson is talented but flawed. His first on-field session with coach Jimbo Fisher came a month before the season began, and he’s working with an unfamiliar offensive line and receiving corps that are playing ... well ... average.

"To manage the game and first take care of the football, which he’s doing a great job, win football games and lead his team," Fisher said Tuesday of his expectations for Golson. "He’s doing well. ... He’s making great progress in what we’re doing and we’re winning football games. It’s not about offense or defense. It’s about what kind of team you have and how they play together."

This isn’t an apologist’s post for Golson. He needs to play better for No. 12 Florida State to beat Miami on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC) and give the Seminoles a chance to win the ACC.

But at the moment he is playing average, which is something many FSU supporters would have taken in May considering the Seminoles also have Dalvin Cook and a talented defense to lean on.

Of the 127 bowl-eligible FBS teams, Golson ranks 65th in QBR at 56.5. That puts him ahead of players such as Christian Hackenberg, Cardale Jones and Vernon Adams, but behind such players as Texas’ Jerrod Heard. However, the ball hasn’t been in Golson’s hands as much, as he ranks 94th out of 118 qualifying quarterbacks in action plays (143).

He is completing a respectable 64 percent of his passes, although the Seminoles have thrown a number of passes in the backfield this season. This season, 34 percent of FSU’s throws have been at or behind the line of scrimmage, which ranks 87th. The national average is 25.7, and last season Jameis Winston threw only one-fifth of his passes in the backfield.

Winston, and the quarterbacks who preceded him under Fisher, don’t help Golson’s cause much either. Three first-round picks at quarterback have redefined the expectations for a Seminoles quarterback. Golson’s numbers are for the most part below Winston’s in every category, unsurprisingly.

One area they are similar in is the percentage of attempts downfield. Golson is right around the national average of 24 percent of throws 15 or more yards downfield and 16 percent of attempts of at least 20 yards. Winston was at 23 and 11 percent, respectively, in 2014. However, Golson’s nine completions of 20 yards falls way below the 2015 average of 13.6, so he isn’t connecting on as many downfield throws.

Eliminating Winston and comparing Golson to just the 2015 quarterback field, he still has the look of a statistically average quarterback.

He is at the national average for first downs per attempt, percentage of completions for a first down/touchdown and completions of 10 yards or more. The Seminoles’ red zone touchdown percentage of 61.5 is at the national average, as is their goal-to-go touchdown percentage of 80 percent. They are average in three-and-out rate at 29.8.

Golson has seen more pressure and been hit more than most quarterbacks. That is part his fault and part on an offensive line that is still seeking stability. He’s been sacked 10 times and has been sacked on 8.6 percent of dropbacks. The national average is 7.5 sacks and a 5.5 sack rate. He’s been blitzed 44 times, 20th most nationally. Defenses are blitzing him on a little more than one-third of his dropbacks and the national average is about a blitz on one in every four. His pressure rate is 23.2, a little more than three percentage points above the average.

The receivers are 80th nationally in drops per target at 5.7 percent.

Fisher has called the offense efficient on several occasions, and the offense has qualified as such. A big reason for that is Cook, who leads the ACC in rushing. Golson’s protection of the football has played a big role, too.

They are second nationally in inside-the-40 scoring percentage at 89.5 percent, and Golson is third nationally in third-down conversion percentage. The Seminoles are 27th in touchdowns per drive (34 percent), 34th in score percentage (42.6) and 30th in points per drive (2.64 points). They are 40th in yards per drive at 34.1 and around the national average in percentage of possible yards gained per drive.

"Just patience," Fisher said when asked what’s impressed him about Golson. "He's showed his maturity, and just growing into what's there, making sure his team is in positions to win games, taking advantage of opportunities in the red zone."

Far from perfect or even good, Golson has been average, so say the statistics. That’s been good enough for now, which a number of fans would have taken in the preseason. It likely won’t be good enough for long, so Golson will certainly need to improve as the season continues.