Context Stats: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs the Patriots

Edward Gorelik breaks down the context stats for Ryan Fitzpatrick against the New England Patriots

Statistics let us remove emotional stimuli and focus on the hard truth of what happens. But we need to place statistics into their environment to gain context and understand what’s really happening. Ryan Fitzpatrick having 60% accuracy doesn’t tell you any information, but 60% accuracy throwing against man coverage gives you something to work with. That’s the purpose of this season-long project.

Let’s get this out of the way, these numbers aren’t objective. There’s a lot of subjectivity involved with interceptables, drops, single vs full reads, and even what the coverage faced is. This is still a subjective analysis. It’s just adding numbers to that subjective analysis.

Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t why the Jets lost. I want him benched too, but he isn’t why they lost. He should be benched/cut because he’s not good and there’s no point of playing him, but i’ve seen people use the game ending sack fumble as a reason to say he’s why they lost. He isn’t.

Fitzpatrick actually played very well on Sunday. Visually, it’s as good as the Bills game from earlier in the season. However, that game was more high variance jump balls working in the Jets favor.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Context Stats 2016 NE vs NYJ - Reads
Sacks and attempts included in ATT, ANY/A and yardage totals. HIs performance was good.

Just like the Bills game, the efficiency boost all comes from a better performance throwing deep. Being able to push the ball downfield is a necessary part of highly efficient Quarterbacking. Alex Smith is not an efficient QB. Roethlisberger is.

If you can’t throw deep, you are forcing your QB to be a consistent executioner from down to down, over and over again. Imagine having to run drives of 14-20 plays every single time you wanted to get a touchdown. Contextualize that by knowing that the average plays per drive is 5.98 and the highest scoring team in the NFL has a play per drive count of 6.91 (The Cowboys). The only quarterbacks capable of consistently orchestrating short play after short play to get touchdowns are the ones that don’t need to.

Fitzpatrick didn’t need to do that this week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Context Stats 2016 NE vs NYJ - Reads

He didn’t have trouble connecting around the field like he has in past games. He still missed some reads of players running deep, but since he didn’t have issues connecting on the throws he made, the severity was lessened. It’s a spurt of high efficiency quarterbacking. It shouldn’t be a sign of anything real for Fitzpatrick.

We all know the Patriots are a good team but they were the 27th ranked passing defense in DVOA before this game. We know Fitzpatrick can beat up bad passing defenses, we saw it all of last year. It says that there isn’t much flukiness or anything to figure out with Fitzpatrick. He plays well against bottom barrel defenses almost as a given. Good defenses come around, he shrivels up and turns into a black hole of production.

But lets get back to this game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Context Stats 2016 NE vs NYJ - 3rd Downs
The Sub 50% conversion rate isn’t great, but he’s close. He also averaged high YPAs in both instances, at least attemping to convert instead of settling.

Fitzpatrick did what he was asked to nearly throughout and couldn’t be called a liability. He wasn’t taking the fullest advantage of the field, but that’s not always necessary. He played well enough to be a winning QB, just didn’t play well enough to win this time. For example:

Patriots are showing Cover-1 man. The safety is shaded towards the bottom, leaving Enunwa one on one on top. Fitzpatrick has always seen and taken advantage of these, so no surprise he does here. Enunwa is nearly a full two steps ahead of his man and instead of being led to keep running for a touchdown, the ball is thrown just under where it should be causing him to slow down. It’s an acceptable throw, don’t get me wrong. But it could’ve easily been a touchdown if thrown deeper. A lot of people were happy to see it wasn’t one of his usual complete misses, so this looks good in comparison to those; but in comparison to what this should be, it’s just okay.

A cover-2 man look, with the Patriots blitzing their entire front. The playaction is supposed to lead to throwing the slant, but Fitzpatrick opts not to take that, possibly out of panic. That’s a missed read, but unlike what normally happens; he actually makes up for this one. He scrambles, has Anderson improv towards the sideline, and throws right at him. Ultimately, Anderson fumbles, but this is good. It’s normal for players to miss reads in games, and it’s important to still be able to do something when you do.

Another cover-2 man look. This time Enunwa is in motion with a man following him. The empty middle of field triggers a read for Fitzpatrick up the seam. Enunwa runs a streak right up the line and breaks slightly inside reaching a wide open area. However, Fitzpatrick’s throw is entirely off and behind him. Look at the point Enunwa catches the ball and imagine what an in-stride throw could’ve accomplished there.

But i don’t think any (rational) Fitzpatrick fan went into this season expecting him to be an in-stride maximization passer. He wasn’t that in his career season, he was obviously not going to be that the year after in his 13th year in the league. What they were expecting though was what they got above and especially below: Him letting the WRs play.

Cover-4 in the redzone. Fitzpatrick knows what he wants and he’s just seeing if he has it on the outside in Enunwa. The safety on the right hash comes inside as a jets tight end nears him, and that’s all the opening Fitzpatrick needs. The ball is thrown up, and its on Enunwa to make a play. He does because he’s an adonis.

That’s what people expected from Fitzpatrick this year. Just giving the WRs chances. That’s also what I thought would happen after the Week 2 game against Buffalo. It’s what a replacement caliber QB who is having a win-now season would look like. Instead, we got to watch one of the biggest meltdown seasons possible. But if people were just hoping for a QB who gave their WRs a chance, nearly any QB in the league could’ve done that.

At least this game was entertaining. It ended on a bittersweet sack-fumble, but that’s a hard one to put blame on.

Patriots show all man and two deep safeties. They only rush three, but somehow they still get into Fitzpatrick. Maybe a better QB feels that pressure that’s behind him and steps up far earlier, but Fitzpatrick isn’t holding onto the ball too long or anything. I can’t say this is his fault, and ultimately the loss probably wasn’t.

But the Jets still need to move on.

Extra Stats

Ryan Fitzpatrick Context Stats 2016 NE vs NYJ - Defense
A pretty good day all around. None of the stats are bad, and almost all of them are way above the average expectation.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had two balls dropped for 20 yards. One was 25 yarder and the other was 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, which feels like something worth clearing up. He had six inaccurate passes on the day with zero caught. Two passes perfectly in stride and two more passes that beat the coverage on the receiver.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Context Stats 2016 NE vs NYJ - Win Probabilty
If you’ve missed previous explainations, win probability is a formula that checks the chances of the team winning before every play occurs. This is running each of Fitzpatrick’s dropbacks against win probability just to see how well he does when he’s ahead (>50%) vs when he’s behind (<50%).