Weeden should worry Browns

Rookie's low QBR doesn't bode well for his future success

Originally Published: September 12, 2012
By Peter Keating | ESPN Insider
Brandon Weeden David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images)Brandon Weeden had an atrocious performance against a good Eagles defense on Sunday.

Amid all the hype surrounding the start of an NFL season, you can usually count on statheads to stay calm. Analytically sound decisions require big sample sizes, and if you rush to see patterns in a handful of plays, whether they're in the red zone or against postseason opponents or just early in the year, you're likely to buy high and sell low. Regression to the mean is a powerful force, and you usually need to let it take effect before you make judgments about NFL players (or, really, anything else in life).

Sometimes, though, a single performance is so extreme that, all by itself, it can tell us what to expect in the future. Think of this as the Poison Soup Rule: Typically, you need to taste a few spoonfuls to see if a pot of soup is properly seasoned -- unless the soup is made of cyanide.

Which brings us to Brandon Weeden.

On Sunday, in an atrociously played game kept exciting by Michael Vick's gaffes, the Browns rookie completed barely one-third of his passes, throwing for just 3.4 yards per attempt, no TDs and four picks. His QBR for the day: 1.2, worst in the league and the lowest by any quarterback making his first career start over the past five seasons. (For newbies: QBR, or Total Quarterback Rating, allocates the expected points added by every play in a game to the players involved, weights each play by its contribution to a team's chances of winning and converts the results for quarterbacks to a 0-100 scale. You can find a deeper explanation here.) And his was just one of more than half a dozen far-out stat lines for QBs in Week 1. Ryan Tannehill (6.1 YPA, zero TDs, 3 INTs) had the second-lowest QBR (3.1) of any quarterback making his first start in the past five years. Conversely, if you watched Joe Flacco or Robert Griffin III or Mark Sanchez -- or Peyton Manning -- you had to be asking yourself if their outstanding efforts could signal things to come. Do these one-game spoonfuls mean anything?


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Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.