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Derek Anderson Wasn't Bad At Everything, But Was Wrong Fit For Cardinals

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Funny title, right? Of course Derek Anderson was the wrong fit for the team. He was wildly inconsistent and looked at times downright terrible. But do you know what? He was not the absolute worst quarterback in the league (I think Max Hall earned that in 2010). When he was signed by the Cardinals, he was described as a guy who can stretch the field and throw a great deep ball. He was also described as a guy with accuracy issues. 

He was exactly as advertised. He was also one of the better quarterbacks in the league in one positive statistic. We all remember the missed throws, but according to a statistical breakdown of deep passing on ProFootballFocus.com, Anderson was one of the better QBs in the league with throws of 20 yards or more. 

Anderson was ninth in the league in completion percentage...of passes thrown at least 20 yards. He was in the middle of the pack (15th) for the amount of his throws that were 20 yards or more. Lastly, he was in the bottom half of the league (19th) in interception percentage on deep throws. 

His overall line on deep throws was not bad. He was 19/47 for 543 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT and a QB rating of 64.4.

As a little bit of perspective, Kurt Warner in 2009 was 11/36 for 327 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT and a rating of 53.6 on throws of at least 20 yards. 

Another stat worth noting is that Anderson attempted 11 more deep throws than Warner did, but did so with almost 70 less offensive plays. The Cards ran 1052 offensive plays in '09 and only 983 in '10.

We could look at this a couple of ways. One is that the team should have taken more shots down the field last season to maximize Anderson's one strength. Or we could consider that maybe a strong-armed quarterback was a bad fit. I go with the latter.

Going in to 2010, Matt Leinart was expected to be the starter but was criticized for not being a guy who would throw the ball down the field. He was, though, considered by Denny Green as a quarterback, who, like Kurt Warner, exceeded in accuracy. 

Anderson was the opposite of this in reputation.

The issue was that, despite the prolific passing attack that the Cardinals had with Warner, it was not one predicated on the deep throw. As mentioned, there were only 36 such passing attempts all season. It was the short and intermediate passing game that was what fueled the Cardinals offense. Look at the breakdown of passing statistics by distance of Anderson in 2010 and Warner in 2009.

Name/Year 0-9 yards 10-19 yards 20+ yards
Derek Anderson/2010 90/140 727 yds, 5/4 TD/INT, 77.3 rating 38/91 652 yds, 0/2 TD/INT, 57.6 rating 19/47 543 yds,1/3 TD/INT, 64.4 rating
Kurt Warner/2009 199/255 1645 yds, 11/3 TD/INT, 103.0 rating 81/121 1445 yds, 11/5 TD/INT, 120.7 rating 11/36 327 yds, 3/4 TD/INT, 53.6 rating

Warner was obviously one of the elite QBs in the game and played at an amazingly high level. But when the team attempted to run the same type of offense, Anderson was the wrong guy. The 2009 offense was predicated on timing and short routes. Anderson is very bad at these.

Leinart was said to be much better at the short reads, not that he really was the answer necessarily. But based on what was known about the quarterbacks, Anderson was definitely not the guy most would have picked for the offense.

Now truthfully, most of us believed that the offense would look much different. We all believed that the team would shift to a ball-control offense based on running the ball and taking shots down the field. That would have been perfect for Anderson, as it plays to his strengths. The problem was that that did not happen and so that is how 2010 resulted offensively.

What do we learn from this? We learn that we need a different type of player to lead the offense if this is still the game plan. The team needs a guy who can deliver the ball accurately on short and medium throws. All he needs is the threat of the deep ball, but he has to be solid at the other throws to really make the Cardinals get down the field.

Who is that guy? I'll do another post to break that down, based on the breakdown of throws.