What does history tell us about the chances of Robert Griffin III having a bounce back season in 2015?
Griffin, of course, had a terrific rookie season in 2012, struggled in his second season, and was even worse in 2014. The pattern of a young quarterback having a good year followed by two seasons of decline is unusual but not unprecedented. The guys at FootballPerspective.com took a look.
For their metric the used ANY/A. It’s average net yards per attempt, which factors in interceptions, touchdown passes, and sacks into the simple yards/attempt stat (if you want the details look here). They then compare that to the league average in a given year in order to control for passing stats in different eras (this particular study goes back to 1970) to get the RANY/A.
In 2012 Griffin’s RANY/A was 1.53, so he was a yard and half better than the average quarterback in the league that year every time he dropped back to throw. Yes, that’s good. In 2013 he slipped to -0.30 and last year he was at sub-mediocre -0.97.
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Since 1970, 19 quarterbacks in their twenties had two straight years of declining RANY/A. Six of them lost their jobs so they did not get the opportunity to try to bounce back after sliding for two years. Three, Griffin, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton, had their declines the last two seasons so they will try to turn things around this season. That leaves 10 who got a chance to bounce back.
Half of the 10, Daunte Culpepper, Dave Krieg, Neil O’Donnell, Jon Kitna, and Mark Malone, reversed the slide and added a yard or more to their RANY/A stats. The others either improved by less than one yard or stayed roughly the same (see the table in the post for details).
Looking at the data, you can find some things that would make you think that Griffin can join the group that showed significant improvement and some factors that make one skeptical. In the latter category is how steep Griffin’s decline has been. He lost about 2.5 yards between his peak year and the third year. Of the five quarterbacks who turned things around, only Culpepper had declined that much.
But he also has a better starting point than all but one of the five who showed significant improvement. Only Culpepper bettered Griffin’s 1.53 RANY/A in his first year. If you believe that the fact that someone has done something before means that he can do it again, this looks good for Griffin.
This is interesting stuff but it should be noted that it’s a small sample size and, most importantly, that the quality of the teams surrounding these quarterbacks varied greatly. We’ll have to see how it works out with Griffin.