When are stats for quarterbacks absolutely misleading?
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been on the ugly end of injuries, watching his stats fall through the floor in 2013 and at the end of 2015 due to injuries all across the offense. It's not an indictment on Brady that he couldn't convert Austin Collie into wine; it's more of a statement about the overall roster.
And so with this in mind, let's take a look at Jacoby Brissett to see what the Patriots liked about him and why his numbers were so lackluster.
First, you can read this great article from the Herald's Karen Guregian, where she speaks with former Patriots coaches Bill Parcells and Charlie Weis, both of whom have had a close relationship with Brissett- Parcells as a mentor, Weis as the coach that initially recruited Brissett to Florida.
"He's a Curtis Martin, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown type player. That's the kind of guy he is. That's what New England is getting," Parcells gushed about Brissett to Guregian. "Those kinds, those Tedy Bruschi types, those players who've been successful- he's very similar in his personal life to those kinds of guys."
"I'm just really happy for the kid," Weis said. "He's in a place that's a really good fit for him. He's a dropback quarterback. A lot of times people get stereotyped. He's not a roll-out, gimmick quarterback. This kid is a big, physical kid that's a true dropback quarterback, and I think he fits their system great."
Weis also shares a few stories about Brissett's leadership ability and how players on every team would gravitate towards him (Brissett bakes snacks for his offensive linemen, too). Overall, Brissett seems like a very easy player to root for.
So where was his production on the field?
Brissett completed exactly 60% of his passes in his final year and according to Pro Football Focus data tracking, Brissett was the least accurate quarterback in the draft on passes more than 20+ yards down the field.
Pro Football Focus also had Brissett on the books for a throwaway on 5.74% of his dropbacks, the most of any quarterback in the draft with 300+ dropbacks (and the only one over 5%). Despite the throwaways, Brissett took still took sacks on 22.2% of his pressure situations, the 2nd highest rate in the draft class.
A lot of this poor production can be explained in Brady terms.
At the end of the 2015 season, Brady had lost running backs Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount, wide receiver Julian Edelman, and tight end Scott Chandler to injuries, while tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Danny Amendola were playing hurt. Brady's numbers naturally declined over the back half of the season due to all of the injuries.
The same thing happened to Brissett at N.C. State, but possibly even worse.
The Wolfpack's top offensive skill player, running back Shadrach Thornton was dismissed from the program at the end of September. Thornton's replacement, and the team's #2 returning offensive skill player Matt Dayes suffered a season-ending injury at the end of October. So by November, the team was down their top two running backs. Brady can empathize.
Additionally, the Wolfpack's top wide receiver in 2014, freshman Bo Hines, transferred to Yale prior to the 2015 season. If you look at N.C. State's top producers in 2014, it reads Thornton, Dayes, Hines, and then Brissett in 4th with 529 rushing yards. Brissett would have to put the team on his back in 2015 without any of its star players.
While Dayes finished the season as the team's leader in yards from scrimmage without playing the back half of the year, Brissett had to rely on the likes of fullback Jaylen Samuels to carry the offense, along with the 5'9 gadget freshman Nyheim Hines. Anytime your offense flows through a fullback and a slot receiver will seriously limit your production rates.
Prior to Dayes' injury, Brissett completed 65.5% of his passes with 13 touchdowns and 1 interception over 8 games. After the injury, Brissett's numbers fell to 52.9% completion, with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in 5 games.
Brissett, who had been growing as a pocket passer, ran for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns over those first eight games, but had to change course and start running the ball more when there were no other options. Over the final five games, Brissett's rushing numbers spiked to 261 yards and 4 touchdowns, nearly quadrupling his rushing output per game.
The N.C. State offense ground to a halt after the injuries, but that shouldn't be an indictment on Brissett. Brissett was under pressure the 4th most of all draftable quarterbacks because his teammates were incapable of getting open, and that can explain some of the sacks and throwaways.
While Brissett could have had better placement and technique on some passes- he has a tendency to throw off his back foot against pressure and sometimes just muscles the ball to the receiver- he flashed the tools necessary for a professional quarterback.
Watch Brissett throw 66.7% for 359 yards and 3 touchdowns (no interceptions), while adding 38 yards on the ground against the 2014 Florida State Seminoles that competed in the College Football Playoffs. Watch him pass for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns (no interceptions) against the 2015 Clemson Tigers that competed in the College Football Championship.
And then watch this play and see the can't quit attitude that the coaches will always love:
Brissett shakes two tacklers, avoids the pressure, resets himself and completes the touchdown pass. For all of the sacks and throwaways he has to take, just remember that he was playing with third-stringers that struggled to get open, just like the receivers Brady had to play with down the stretch of the 2015 season.
While box score scouting is frowned upon, Brissett's atypical situation absolutely warrants a look at his tape. He's not perfect, but he deserves a chance to prove himself when surrounded by NFL caliber players- and he seems to be the type of player that will actually benefit from learning in an NFL system.
"As a quarterback, you know, [I'm] just trying to be the best player on the field and make sure to leave no stones unturned ," Brissett said in his post-draft press conference. "Just constant hours of film trying to find ways to win games."
"You've got one of the greatest coaches of all time in Bill Belichick, and you've got Josh McDaniels who's a very good coach, and you've got Tom Brady who you can learn from in every aspect of your life, so I'm just excited to be a sponge in the room and get around those guys and learn from them."
Quarterback wasn't the best position for the Patriots to draft in order to win in 2016 (or 2017, really), but with Jimmy Garoppolo possibly a trade option, Brissett will absolutely be ready to play if necessary in 2017. Time will tell if the investment pays off.