Commentary

Al Saunders' method of measuring QBs

How the Raiders' offensive coordinator will measure Jason Campbell's progress

Originally Published: June 10, 2011
By Seth Wickersham | ESPN Insider
Al SaundersDilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesAl Saunders' method of measuring QBs should help Jason Campbell in Oakland.

The genius of my buddy Bruce Feldman ripples in many directions. It stretches from bookstores to his favorite Mexican restaurants to trivia (on command, he can name where most NBA players not only attended college but also high school). A few months ago, Bruce originated "Stats That Matter," a look at how college football coaches evaluate players. Our bosses loved it so much, they asked for similar stuff from the NFL.

And that's where I come in. I interviewed two offensive coordinators on this topic, one from each conference, each a believer in different methods. Today we'll learn how the new Oakland Raiders staff will use internal stats to try to improve Jason Campbell. Next Friday, we'll look at how the Philadelphia Eagles smartly use public numbers that comprise passer ratings.

Coaches tend to judge QBs on one thing: Everything that happens on offense. But within that broad measure are specific points of analysis. Generally speaking, there are two categories: Private stats, proprietary stuff which bears little resemblance to anything you'd find in sports pages, and public stats, available to the masses but scrutinized differently by experts.

Oakland offensive coordinator Al Saunders operated the league's top offense for four straight years last decade with the Chiefs. After stops at the Rams, Redskins and Ravens, he's now charged with turning Campbell into an elite passer. I've known Al for 10 years. Though he sometimes takes heat for his shoebox-sized playbook, he's an expert at condensing the complexities of football into a digestible science. So a few weeks ago, when I asked him which stats matter, I wasn't surprised when he cited something I'd never heard before.

"I look at the SHAPE," he said.

Turns out, SHAPE isn't a stat. It's an acronym, with stats layered in it. It goes like this:

Seth Wickersham | email

ESPN The Magazine senior writer
Seth Wickersham joined ESPN The Magazine after graduating from the University of Missouri. Although he primarily covers the NFL, his assignments also have taken him to the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.