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NFL Draft: Phil Simms & Boomer Esiason on Stats vs. the Eye Test

We’ve chronicled Blaine Gabbert’s meteoric rise up the draft boards. What we haven’t looked at is his recent slide as NFL pundits pick apart his numbers. Did you know only 61 of his 301 completions went for more than 15 yards? Were you aware that Blaine Gabbert was only a 44 percent passer on 3rd down? (Andrew Luck was 71%.) Of the many NFL topics I covered in a very free-flowing conversation with Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason, one of them was stats vs. the eye test.

Me: Peter King had a stat that Blaine Gabbert was only a 44% percent passer on 3rd down.

Simms: That means nothing. I could not care less. My face gets red thinking about that stat. WHO CARES! Well get him out of there on 3rd down! Keep him in on 1st and 2nd down! [Ed. I found Simms to be much more sarcastic and witty than I anticipated, as the previous quote illustrates.] You’re not drafting his college coach or his college team. You’re drafting Blaine Gabbert. These numbers … why do I need numbers? I’m going to let my eyes tell me the truth.

I had a great GM tell me once, ‘trust what your eye tells you.’ I just try to judge it between the tape and what I see on TV.

Football is not baseball. Don’t just sit there and tell me about the numbers. Don’t tell me about the college kids and their numbers. I really don’t care. It’s ridiculous. There are too many variables you just can’t judge. In baseball there’s batting – its just them. There are some variables, but it’s not anything like football. QBs have put up good numbers and I didn’t think they were good, but they were on great teams. Colt McCoy should have been the best player in the draft! He hit 78% of his passes in his junior year! He should have been the first player picked. Why aren’t Texas Tech kids drafted high? They are putting up unbelievable numbers. Kingsbury, whatever his name was … Graham Harrell.

What happened to Matt Ryan? Did he lead the nation as a senior with interceptions? How’d that work out? [Ed. Ryan had 19 interceptions as a senior at Boston College, which was tied for 2nd in the country.]

Me: So when you see the stat guys hammer Mark Sanchez for a low-completion percentage, and pump up the fact that he led the league in “dropped interceptions” ….

Esiason: All I can go by is what I see. I don’t worry about dropped interceptions. There are just as many dropped passes as dropped interceptions. Nobody seems to use that argument in favor of Mark. All I can tell you is that when you’re hitting big play after big play on the road in NE, road in Pitt, road in Indy when the game is on the line … that’s all I need to know. All of those guys who write about those stats have never been in that situation and can never truly understand the pressure that is associated with it.
When the pressure rises, he calms down and he seems like he’s in control.

Simms: The stat guys are idiots. I mean it very strongly … Believe what your eye tells you. I have never looked at one QB ever on tape through all the years and then when it’s done, I have never even thought, ‘what were his numbers?’ I never have. It has never even crossed my mind. Blaine Gabbert only completed 44 percent of his passes on 3rd down. Well geez, I better go back and watch all his tapes!

Me: Jake Locker is a guy who put up awful statistics last year at Washington.

Simms: It’s a funny thing … I keep hearing about the double standards when these [draft pundits] come in and talk. They like to say about quarterbacks they “he just knows how to win games.” Locker is an interesting anomaly because they didn’t win and he put up awful statistics. When it all comes down to it, [the stats are] not going to hurt him. I think he’s going in the first half of the first round.

Cris Collinsworth, Boomer Esiason, Nick Faldo, Howie Long, Cal Ripken and Phil Simms announced they would be working together in a series of digital and social media projects under the new name of The Experts Network (TXN). Today the group will announce the official launch of TXNSPORTS.com, which will become the new digital home of the group, providing commentary and behind-the-scenes access for baseball, golf and football. Big Lead Sports will work with the group on their launch event, an NFL Draft preview in New York on Monday night, April 25th. As a lead-in to the event and to draft week, The Big Lead has some exclusive access to Collinsworth, Esiason, Long and Simms to get their thoughts on the NFL Draft. We will be publishing those interviews in the coming weeks, and will be working with TXNSPORTS.com for additional content and special events in the future.

 

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