Struggling Quarterbacks: Historical Comps for This Year's Seasons By Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer

Struggling Quarterbacks: Historical Comps for This Year's Seasons By Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer


Struggling Quarterbacks: Historical Comps for This Year's Seasons By Mark Sanchez, Christian Ponder, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer

I often like to look back at comparable seasons for a number of reasons. They are certainly not determinative. When plenty of good players had similar seasons, though, it might be a sign that it is too early to make judgments, and when none did, well, it makes it less likely the player will find future success. Teammates, injuries, all of that stuff comes into play as well.

Today, I’m just looking at one year comps for four different quarterbacks who have started every game this year: Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, Christian Ponder, and Philip Rivers. All have struggled for different reasons, and are different ages. Using league-environment adjusted numbers at pro-football-reference, I found similar seasons among all quarterbacks within one year of age, who threw at least 300 passes and started at least 10 games.

To come up with the similarities, I took the league adjusted score in the following categories: completion percentage, touchdown percentage, interception percentage, sack rate, and adjusted net yards per attempt. I found the  absolute difference between our QB in question and each other season, then squared those differences. I subtracted those totals from 2000 points , so that the closer to 2000, the more similar the player.


The Jets have a problem–they have too many good quarterbacks. Just kidding. The contract is unwieldy, and the excuses are plentiful. When I originally tried to come up with this, I had an error in one of the fields, and Rich Gannon (1990) showed up as the number one comp. With it corrected, he dropped to #14, and the list turned a little uglier. Looking beyond one year of comps, though, is the fact that Sanchez has not progressed and we are in year four. Yes, the personnel has declined. He is not a difference maker at all. They will probably bring him back because of the contract, but before they just hand him the job, they should probably read up on the concept of sunk costs.

Last year, Jeff Pearlman said that Mark Sanchez would be compared to Eric Hipple in ten years. It took until 2012, as Hipple shows up #2 on this list. The good news is this: one of these guys went on to become an all-pro. The bad news? He did it as a punter (Tom Tupa, 1999, with the Jets). Can Sanchez kick? Early returns say he has promise.


The thing about Carson Palmer is that he is 33 years old, and the Raiders have been at times dreadful in the first half of games offensively, then fall behind because of a porous defense. By the numbers, he is putting up near league average results.

His top comp is fittingly a former Bengals quarterback who changed teams and was part of a losing team elsewhere. Esiason would be worse at age 34 and then bounce around the league. #2 on the list, Testaverde, changed teams and was a pro bowler with the Jets the following season. The list is a hit or miss of veterans that never did much again, and some that went on to plenty of good seasons.


Ponder is only 24, and is coming off another dreadful performance when he squandered a huge game from Adrian Peterson with poor decisions. His yards per attempt is down to 6.0 without Percy Harvin on the field. His list of comps, though, is enough to say that some patience, at least into next year, is called for here. I’m not sure you can wait as long as the Jets are going to apparently give Sanchez, but you also need to allow for more than one non-rookie year.

By the way, two Drew Brees’ seasons, at age 23 and 24, also just miss this list.


Philip Rivers is struggling this year. Before the season, I had him as an “avoid”, suggesting people take Matt Ryan, who was going in a similar range in drafts.

He has struggled even more than I thought, though. To put it in perspective, look at that list of comps. Now, Rivers was better than most of those players before age 31, so we should expect some bounce back. That list, though shows a mixed bag of players who bounced back and some that did not.

[photo via USA Today Sports Media]

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