New York Jets: Geno Smith’s 2014 Stats In Context

Edward Gorelik breaks down Geno Smith’s 2014 season with context stats

We all knew it would come to this point. There’s no way to create an article about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stats in context without also making one for Geno Smith. Well, now everyone’s getting their wish. It’s important to look at players within the context of their situation to separate their issues and strengths from their teams. While stats never tell the full story, adding a numerical value lets us remove the emotional highs and lows to fully process what occurred. It also allows us to quantify events in order to battle narratives and myths…

This second helping of Context Stats has evolved from the first, so some things have changed.

But first, let’s add the background. Outside of Eric Decker, the 2014 teams most often used players were generally limited talents. David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley, Greg Salas, and Jeff Cumberland offered little in saving inaccurate passes or even gaining separation. Salas however was a magician when it came to YAC, so he had a saving grace. Somehow despite that he was seldom used in favor of David Nelson, who offered nothing. Jace Amaro was barely used throughout the year as the Jets favored Cumberland over him. Eventually, Percy Harvin joined the team and brought a much needed full field threat who was actually skilled.

This all occurred behind a shaky offensive line that would sometimes demand Cumberland face elite edge rushers one on one (Seriously). Marty Morwhinweg’s offense tried to do what it could with this team but lacking resources didn’t help. Given a choice to save the OL or the WRs, he chose to save neither. The WRs were placed in stressful situations to get themselves open on longer developing routes while the OL was stressed with longer protections. This put even more stress on the QB.

This article will look at Geno Smith’s context stats alone, not in comparison to Ryan Fitzpatrick. That will come at another time.

Let me explain how the context stats work. The “%” column looks at success from the QBs perspective, not completion percentage. Drops and defensive penalties are removed from the equation and the QB isn’t penalized. So, 4/7 with 1 drop and 1 DPI is actually 6/7. YPA and QB rating ignore them entirely, turning that 4/7 to 4/5. INTable measures whether or not a pass could have been intercepted regardless of whether it was finished. However, it requires that the QB throw the ball under his own power there, so a ball that is tipped and then intercepted doesn’t count, unless the tip itself was interceptable. Drops also take account difficulty of catch, so an off target throw that the WR fails to save isn’t a drop.

Not included in these stats are touchdowns lost. Geno Smith lost four in total, including the Green Bay timeout fiasco. Geno’s rushing isn’t quantified either, this focuses strictly on passing performance.

Geno Smith’s Reads

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Reads

The reads table looks at Geno Smith’s success rate through different situations. If you’ve seen the Ryan Fitzpatrick context stats, you’ll notice this looks a little different. As the context stats continue they’ll be evolving. Screens and Goal line fades have been removed from the table to see how the QB performs when he’s asked to make decisions.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Single Full

For round 2 of the context stats, the read were split into Single Side and Full Field. A player being able to look off their first read is nice but when that read is just underneath their first, it has less value. On the other hand, it being on any other part of the field (like from the left side to the middle or right) shows a players mental acumen.

This is where I should talk about the Morwhinweg offense. To put it simply, it lacked rhyme or reason. Motions were in regular use but wouldn’t combine into meaningful routes combinations. For the most part, receivers were left out to get open on their own. The offense depended on Geno’s streaks of high quality accuracy to be the momentum of the passing game, which would be fine on a better rostered team.

Geno Smith had a high completion % and YPA when throwing to either read as is but had a significant drop in ball security when switching from one side of the field to another. On single side reads, Geno threw an interceptable once every 19.8 throws, practically one per game on non-designed passes. However, on full field that number jumps to 1 every 10 throws. But he still managed to improve in Yards Per Attempt (YPA) without sacrificing success rate, showing that he’s a danger to both himself and defenses.

That interceptable jump stems from Geno’s habit of throwing blind, including this near interception against the Chicago Bears. The Bears defense is playing a cover-3 and Geno starts off looking on the left side. The Bears inside linebacker on the right passes the seam route to the safety and is watching Geno. When pressure arrives, Geno turns and immediately throws. It’s a very lucky drop.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Bad Play

The After Bad Play row looks at any throw after a sack, lost fumble, or interceptable pass (caught or not). Unsurprisingly for someone who’s returned from an in-season benching to outperform his previous play, he was exceptionally better after a bad play. A massive 13.10 YPA with 69% completion and 0 interceptables for the season when bouncing back from a mistake.

Geno Smith Against Situations

Geno Smth Context Stats 2014 - Situation

Screens and Goal Line fades are still out of the equation. Playactions aren’t counted in Blitz and No Blitz because defenders caught by the run fake become blitzers by default. They aren’t included in no-pressure either because of the opportunity for defenders to get caught by the run fake. However, they are included in pressure since a defender would’ve had to recognize the fake.

Geno Smith 2014 Context Stats - Blitz and Pressure

Geno had little issue dealing with Blitzes and was even good against it throughout the season. He could diagnose them easily and take advantage of space that rushers vacated without a problem. However, the same can not be said of when he was pressured. You’d expect Geno’s stats to take a massive drop when under physical duress but the rate at which he would throw interceptables was far too high at every 8.6 throws. A lot of that comes off of Geno rushing through his motion or throwing off-balance. Plays like the one below against New England show him shortening his follow-through and underthrowing as a result.

Geno Smith Context Stats - Movement

Movement off Spot is similar to pressure but not quite. There’s some situations where a QB isn’t under actual pressure but faces the chance of the pocket collapsing, so they leave. The play below shows one such positive example. However, movement off spot also included plays where pressure forced movement out of the pocket.

The same trend as pressure appears in movement. Geno’s already an aggressive quarterback and when he leaves pockets he sees an opportunity to take chances, thus the increase of interceptables (to one every 10.5) and YPA but decrease in %. Geno rolls out on the play below and tries to hit Greg Salas between two defenders, getting another lucky drop.

When you remove pressure and look at plays where Geno solely escaped tight pockets, the numbers get surprisingly worse. The Interceptables barely change but completion percentage and YPA take massive dips. Unfortunately without context of other young QBs, it’s hard to know how bad this really is.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - 3rd Down %

Third downs show the same thing as Blitz, Geno is good against mental pressure. When facing difficulty from situation instead of from physical presence, he can work. Smith improved his YPA, Interceptables per attempt (to 19.3), and threw most of his touchdowns for the entire season on 3rd downs. Smith converted around 47% of his total third downs that he passed on, nearing the 50% mark against short and long 3rd downs. Below is one of Geno’s best third down plays, he’s able to completely tune out all the forms of pressure around him and make a precise throw to Decker.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Coverage

Finally, the coverage. This should be no surprise except for those believing Geno Smith is unable to read defenses. Geno’s stats against zone seem to be exceptionally good for the context stats so far. With nearly 80% completion, 9.3 YPA, and only 1 interceptable every 22.2 throws; Geno Smith was comfortable tearing through zone defenses all season long.

Meanwhile, man coverage showed much worse despite most of his touchdowns coming against it. Man puts more stress on the receivers to win their battles than Zone, and the receivers on the 2014 Jets were the biggest problem on the offense. However, it’s not as if Geno didn’t have his own issues. Recognizing CB leverage was a common problem that led to questionable passes. The chart below shows Geno’s production to each receiver vs Man Coverage in detail.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Receivers vs Man

Geno’s main struggles when throwing against man coverage came when throwing at Nelson, Kerley, and Cumberland. All three posted sub 7.0 YPA (even when ignoring drops) while having less than 60% success rates and had 1 interceptable per 11 or 12 targets. Amaro, for as much potential as he shows, didn’t show much success against Man either but as a rookie that’s expected.

Geno Smith by Targets

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Player

Important to remember here that this only looks at production from the QBs perspective, so drops are removed from the equation. Screens and Goal line fades are still not a part of this chart.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - WRs

Geno Smith’s receivers are Eric Decker, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Kerley and a group of forgettable players. However, Harvin doesn’t even arrive until later in the season and Kerley is more of a Jets favorite than good. Geno had an outstanding efficiency throwing at Eric Decker despite having one interceptable every 15.2 throws his way. Otherwise, only Harvin and Salas were effective players for Geno and for some reason Salas was rarely used in the Jets offense, instead opting for the completely ineffective Nelson. Smith had trouble keeping the ball safe when throwing towards players like Nelson and Kerley because both players struggled to get separation throughout the year. As explained before, Smith had no issue mentally beating defenses but suffered greatly against man coverage where receivers had more stress on them to perform.

Starting two replacement level talents like Kerley and Nelson was a major part of that. Why the Jets didn’t replace Nelson with Salas is hard to understand. When looking at their numbers side by side it’s obvious that Salas was the better option. Salas stats have 3 drops on them leaving a blemish, but Geno was more consistent in throwing accurately in his direction and had 7.4 more YPA on the same amount of targets. That’s because Salas is a massive athletic target who can gain separation and YAC. The play below was one of his best and made it easy to forget his drops.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - RBs

More confusion appears with the Jets mishandling of the running backs. These coaches did not show an understanding of their own players limitations as the seldom used Bilal Powell nearly doubled Chris Johnson’s efficiency in the passing game. Guess who played more though? On a small sample size for each back, Geno showed the best efficiency when throwing at Powell by being nearly perfect in his direction. His 2015 breakout shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who saw him doing the same things in the two years prior.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - TEs

Finally, the TEs show a more difficult story. Geno was great targeting Amaro with 85% successes, 9.56 YPA, and only 1 interceptable on 33 non-design targets. Cumberland has touchdowns to boast about but a significantly worse INTable rate along with a 2 YPA drop. Like many of the other receivers, they both struggled against Man but Amaro at least added size/YAC to the field. The Jets still chose to have Cumberland on the field more often than Amaro, facts withstanding. That may have been the result of Amaro’s many drops.

Geno Smith by Routes

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Routes

We’re at the first section that doesn’t exclude anything. Every route is broken down into it’s most simplest form. Checkdowns are a curl coming from any player who comes out of the backfield.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Vertical

Geno Smith was awful throwing deep in nearly every game in 2014. Some of that might be partly blamed on an offensive cast but most of it is on Geno’s tendency to underthrow. The end of the year tallied same amount of interceptables as completions for the vertical without a YPA or completion % that makes throwing it worthwhile. It was genuinely bad despite looking aesthetically prettier than the 2015 starter. The play below may be his worst as he underthrows Cumberland in the Buffalo meltdown.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Effective Route

Moving on, we find the area where he was actually effective. Chain-moving consistent plays that require attacking defenses in intermediate distances via mental recognition. At 8.8 YPA, 73% successes and only 1 interceptable every 25.7 passes; this was Geno’s domain for 2014. When his accuracy was really on point he even created massive YAC. That’s most shown on the In route, where Geno averaged a first down YPA, 81% success rate, and 1  interceptable on 53 attempts. The In was mainly used as a second or third read in the Jets offense which allowed Geno’s patience to shine. The play below shows one of those.

The Patriots show a pre-snap blitz that bails out. Geno’s seeing a Cover-1 robber and waiting for the primary In route to pull the robber away from Cumberland’s In route, who he hits for a huge gain.

Geno Smith by Distance

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Distance

Our final section looks at Geno Smith by distance. This measures how far the ball traveled from the LOS to the target, not from the QB’s arm.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Deep

One part of the Geno Smith story that’s been mythologized is how he’ll bring back the deep ball to the offense. While he’s slightly more effective than Fitzpatrick, he’s not exactly good at it. Geno threw only 2 more completions than interceptables when going deep and didn’t have the level of effectiveness that made it generally worth it. That is, unless he went really deep.

On throws of 30+ he isn’t nearly as bad. While 1 interceptable every 9 passes isn’t good, there’s some returns to be gotten out of there. That’s due to the 30+ ball being a “throw it as far as you can” type of pass instead of one requiring touch. The play below shows Geno throwing one of those to an open Decker against Miami. When Geno recognizes the cover-1 safety sitting lame in the middle of the field, he shoots the throw over to Decker for 40 yards.

However, you could not trust Geno to throw within the 20-29 range. While he’s safer than Fitzpatrick when going all the way deep, he’s actually worse here. Geno had 1 interceptable every 3.6 passes and didn’t even average a first down in YPA. It seems like Geno’s problem in this area is a lack of touch for the distance. The play below shows Geno’s issue with placement as he underthrows a very easily interceptable ball for future Jet Marcus Gilchrist, who isn’t looking.

Geno Smith Context Stats 2014 - Redzone

The 2014 Jets were not a good redzone offense in any way. Morwhinweg wasn’t a very good coordinator in this area either. However, despite Geno’s lack of ball security in the Redzone his other efficiencies don’t look too bad against his competition. But his indecisiveness in the redzone cost him at least three touchdowns on the year. There’s some good too though.

One of my favorite redzone moments showed off his best strength. On first and goal at the NE 9, the Jets run a Sail concept on the right side (flat+out+corner) that the Patriots have decently covered with too much traffic in the area. Geno takes his eyes off the designed read and moves into the middle of the field, where Kerley improvs on his vertical and cuts back towards the left corner of the endzone. Geno recognizes the change and is on time with his read and well placed with the throw. It doesn’t end up counting due to a holding call but it’s a good play nonetheless.

Conclusion

These numbers surprised me. I didn’t expect there would be a way for Geno Smith to have positive numbers when the seasons stats were so bleak. To me, this just shows more reason for optimism as two of his greatest weaknesses as a passer (dealing with pressure and man coverage) are something the Chan Gailey offenses are built to deal with. However, he does have a major glaring weakness that the Context Stats don’t capture. Geno has very bad pocket habits.

After collecting these stats and re-watching the games, the only issue that seems to be Geno Smith’s potential demise is a propensity for bad pocket movement. Fans will remember him backing up into infinity and assume that’s the focus, but it’s not. Although those are bad, most of them end up as throw aways and not sacks. The real issue for Geno has come in his wild, uncoordinated motions that he takes in the pocket leading to him throwing off-balance or shortening his motion. This is something the Gailey offense is built to fix but it’s a massive issue that also sees him run into sacks by over-extending his movements when avoiding pressure.

But the passing stats give optimism. There isn’t anything in here that says Geno can’t be a stopgap option, and in the next part of this series we’ll compare Fitz and Geno back to back.

Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com 

Author: Edward Gorelik

My cat is a better analyst than me, that's why he ghostwrites my posts.