Yesterday, there was an entertaining back and forth on the site after a fun little article was posted about Blaine Gabbert and a play in the Falcons game in which he threw short to the running back who was double covered on a 3rd and 5.
It was a bit of a setup by… well me.
You see, last week Football Outsiders began to go through all their quarterback information and look at really intriguing quarterback stats.
When I tweeted out that I didn't understand the decision made by Gabbert, it was a bit tongue in cheek, as he is notoriously the most conservative quarterback in the NFL not named Alex Smith.
In fact, there is now a stat called ALEX that Football Outsiders uses to measure how often a quarterback throws short of the necessary yardage on third down.
From the article:
Inspired by conservative passer Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs, ALEX measures the average difference between how far a quarterback threw a pass (air yards) and how many yards he needed for a first down. If a quarterback throws a 3-yard pass on third-and-10, then that would be minus-7 ALEX. The best application of ALEX is to look at third down, when it's really crucial to get 100 percent of the needed yards to extend the drive.
In 2016, Gabbert improved his ALEX a ton from 2015, his best season as a quarterback statistically, but still finished second in the league:
2. Blaine Gabbert, San Francisco 49ers
2016 ALEX: minus-1.2
Next to Alex Smith, Gabbert is the poster child for throwing short of the sticks on third down. He did so 64.9 percent of the time in 2015, the highest seasonal rate by a QB since 2006. That rate dropped to 50.0 percent in 2016, but Gabbert still ranked next-to-last in third-down conversion rate (26.0 percent) and should not be given another starting quarterback gig in the NFL any time soon.
You see, Gabbert has looked good in Arizona, but breaking tendencies that have been built in since his rookie season, that is tough. That's one of the biggest obstacles to overcome for Gabbert, is his conservative style of play.
Bruce Arians wants his quarterbacks to push the ball down the field, not just on third down, but on early downs, middle downs, late in games… all the time. That's what Arians Love's in a quarterback.
While I may not agree with the final assessment from FO, Gabbert definitely has earned an extended look, his career tendencies have to be changed.
Can he do that? That's the question we won't have an answer for until next year.