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What to Expect from Marcus Mariota in 2018

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Another Review of Matt LaFleur’s Coaching Influences

Divisional Round - Tennessee Titans v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

After exploring receiver production in Shanahan/Gruden/McVay schemes last week, I decided to do an offshoot article detailing QB production in the same context. This time, however, I broadened the parameters beyond the first year install of each system. Every year in which Kyle Shanahan, Jay Gruden, and Sean McVay designed a team’s offense either as head coach or offensive coordinator was included. This way, we can not only get a feel for probable year one results for Marcus Mariota, but also project what his trajectory may look like as long as Matt LaFleur (or a disciple of this style of offense) remains in place.

Below is a table which includes all of the data I collected. If you’re viewing it on a smartphone, it’s probably going to be clunky due to the width of the table. My apologies. You’re welcome to dig in deep and play with the numbers yourself—just make sure to comment with any additional findings/relevant projections. If you don’t want to drown in a sea of statistics, feel free to jump ahead and check out what I came away with.

Note: In any seasons in which more than one QB threw 10 or more passes, a composite stat line is also included. This essentially produces a single QB season out of the multiple partial seasons, with averages weighted to the passing attempt share of each QB.

Shanahan/Gruden/McVay QB Stats Reference

Line Item Coach Year Year # Team QB Attempts Completions Comp. % Yards/Att. TD % Int % QB Rating DYAR DVOA
Line Item Coach Year Year # Team QB Attempts Completions Comp. % Yards/Att. TD % Int % QB Rating DYAR DVOA
1 Kyle Shanahan 2008 1 Texans Matt Schaub 380 251 66.1 8 3.9 2.6 92.7 767 18
2 Kyle Shanahan 2008 1 Texans Sage Rosenfels 174 116 66.7 8.2 3.4 5.7 79.5 131 -0.7
3 Kyle Shanahan 2008 1 Texans 554 367 66.2 8.1 3.8 3.6 88.6 898 12.1
4 Kyle Shanahan 2009 2 Texans Matt Schaub 583 396 67.9 8.2 5 2.6 98.6 1624 29.3
5 Kyle Shanahan 2010 1 Redskins Donovan McNabb 472 275 58.3 7.2 3 3.2 77.1 133 -6.9
6 Kyle Shanahan 2010 1 Redskins Rex Grossman 133 74 55.6 6.6 5.3 3 81.2 -129 -24.7
7 Kyle Shanahan 2010 1 Redskins 605 349 57.7 7 3.5 3.1 78 4 -10.8
8 Kyle Shanahan 2011 2 Redskins Rex Grossman 458 265 57.9 6.9 3.5 4.4 72.4 96 -8
9 Kyle Shanahan 2011 2 Redskins John Beck 132 80 60.6 6.5 1.5 3 72.1 -143 -26.1
10 Kyle Shanahan 2011 2 Redskins 590 345 58.5 6.8 3.1 4.1 72.3 -47 -12.1
11 Kyle Shanahan 2012 3 Redskins Robert Griffin III 393 258 65.6 8.1 5.1 1.3 102.4 727 16.6
12 Kyle Shanahan 2012 3 Redskins Kirk Cousins 48 33 68.8 9.7 8.3 6.3 101.6 59 6.4
13 Kyle Shanahan 2012 3 Redskins 441 291 66 8.3 5.4 1.8 102.3 786 15.5
14 Kyle Shanahan 2013 4 Redskins Robert Griffin III 456 274 60.1 7 3.5 2.6 82.2 -60 -13.1
15 Kyle Shanahan 2013 4 Redskins Kirk Cousins 155 81 52.3 5.5 2.6 4.5 58.4 -314 -42.6
16 Kyle Shanahan 2013 4 Redskins 611 355 58.1 6.6 3.3 3.1 76.1 -374 -20.6
17 Kyle Shanahan 2014 1 Browns Brian Hoyer 438 242 55.3 7.6 2.7 3 76.5 166 -5.3
18 Kyle Shanahan 2014 1 Browns Johnny Manziel 35 18 51.4 5 0 5.7 42 -144 -73.2
19 Kyle Shanahan 2014 1 Browns Connor Shaw 28 14 50 6.3 0 3.6 55.2 -68 -44.2
20 Kyle Shanahan 2014 1 Browns 501 274 54.7 7.3 2.4 3.2 72.9 -46 -12.2
21 Kyle Shanahan 2015 1 Falcons Matt Ryan 614 407 66.3 7.5 3.4 2.6 89 389 -1.9
22 Kyle Shanahan 2016 2 Falcons Matt Ryan 534 373 69.9 9.3 7.1 1.3 117.1 1885 39.1
23 Kyle Shanahan 2017 1 49ers C.J. Beathard 224 123 54.9 6.4 1.8 2.7 69.2 -176 -23.1
24 Kyle Shanahan 2017 1 49ers Brian Hoyer 205 119 58 6.1 2 2 74.1 -80 -16.7
25 Kyle Shanahan 2017 1 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo 178 120 67.4 8.8 3.9 2.8 96.2 598 39.1
26 Kyle Shanahan 2017 1 49ers 607 362 59.6 7 2.5 2.5 78.8 342 -2.7
27 Jay Gruden 2011 1 Bengals Andy Dalton 516 300 58.1 6.6 3.9 2.5 80.4 575 5.6
28 Jay Gruden 2011 1 Bengals Bruce Gradkowski 18 8 44.4 6.1 5.6 5.6 59.7 -51 -58.5
29 Jay Gruden 2011 1 Bengals 534 308 57.7 6.6 3.9 2.6 79.7 524 3.4
30 Jay Gruden 2012 2 Bengals Andy Dalton 528 329 62.3 6.9 5.1 3 87.4 194 -5.9
31 Jay Gruden 2012 2 Bengals Bruce Gradkowski 11 5 45.5 5.9 0 0 64.6 -3 -14.9
32 Jay Gruden 2012 2 Bengals 539 334 62 6.9 5 3 86.9 191 -6.1
33 Jay Gruden 2013 3 Bengals Andy Dalton 586 363 61.9 7.3 5.6 3.4 88.8 541 2.3
34 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2014 1 Redskins Robert Griffin III 214 147 68.7 7.9 1.9 2.8 86.9 -374 -34.2
35 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2014 1 Redskins Kirk Cousins 204 126 61.8 8.4 4.9 4.4 86.4 223 4.6
36 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2014 1 Redskins Colt McCoy 128 91 71.1 8.3 3.1 2.3 96.4 -43 -15.9
37 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2014 1 Redskins 546 364 66.7 8.2 3.3 3.3 88.9 -194 -15.4
38 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2015 2 Redskins Kirk Cousins 543 379 69.8 7.7 5.3 2 101.6 1023 16.9
39 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2015 2 Redskins Colt McCoy 11 7 63.6 11.6 9.1 0 133.9 22 20.9
40 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2015 2 Redskins 554 386 69.7 7.8 5.4 2 102.2 1045 17
41 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2016 3 Redskins Kirk Cousins 606 406 67 8.1 4.1 2 97.2 1317 20.9
42 Jay Gruden/Sean McVay 2017 4 Redskins Kirk Cousins 540 347 64.3 7.6 5 2.4 93.9 395 -0.6
43 Sean McVay 2017 1 Rams Jared Goff 477 296 62.1 8 5.9 1.5 100.5 1125 24
44 Sean McVay 2017 1 Rams Sean Mannion 37 22 59.5 5 0 0 72.5 -141 -66.6
45 Sean McVay 2017 1 Rams 514 318 61.9 7.8 5.4 1.4 98.5 395 17.5
Mmm ... Delicious Numbers

With all that in mind, the fun can begin. What is Marcus Mariota likely to accomplish this season and beyond under LaFleur? Of course, there are near infinite ways to frame the data in order to attempt to answer that question. Here are a few scenarios that I thought were worth noting, realistic, or intriguing:

Average QB

An imaginary, generic QB that produced exactly average results based on 18 seasons worth of data on this scheme would:

Throw 559 passing attempts
Complete 63.1% of those attempts
Amass roughly 4250 passing yards (7.6 yards/attempt)
Throw 24 touchdowns (4.3 TD%)
Throw 15 interceptions (2.7 INT%)
Achieve a passer rating of 89.4
Produce +538 DYAR
Achieve +4.2% DVOA

Based on where most pundits tier Mariota league-wide, they should expect something in this range. What’s ironic is that, in all likelihood, a season of this caliber would earn him more respect from those same pundits even though he’d still have been “average”.

Production Within the Top Third All-Time in This System

Let’s put a little ‘spect on MM8’s name and project that he’ll be slightly above average compared to all past QBs who’ve operated this scheme. What would it look like if he placed in the top third all-time in this system (calculated per metric)? I’m keeping the number of passing attempts “average” here, because we don’t yet know how pass happy LaFleur intends to be.

559 passing attempts
>66.3% completion rate
=/> 8.1 yards/attempt (>~4530 passing yards)
>5% TD rate (>~28 TDs)
<2.4% INT rate (<~13 INTS)
>97.2 QB Rating
>+786 DYAR
>+15.5% DVOA

It’s safe to say most of us would be pretty happy with this level of production.

“LaFleurenstein’s Monster”

By factoring in the tendencies of offenses Matt LaFleur has been directly associated with, as well as the current pieces on the Titans’ offense, I think it’s possible to filter the data set and arrive at a better estimate.

We can expect LaFleur’s Titans offense to target running backs way more often than Mike Mularkey’s/Terry Robiskie’s—something in the approximate range of 80-100 targets combined for Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry seems plausible. Both Henry and Lewis have averaged better than 4.0 yards per carry in every one of their pro seasons. We can use that fact to eliminate offenses that could not reliably run the ball and were forced to pass more often because of it. We also can likely assume that, barring injury, Corey Davis will be the WR1 in terms of target share, with Rishard Matthews serving as a complementary possession receiver and Taywan Taylor adding a speed element either from the slot or on the outside.

Using this logic, I pared down the number of reference points, arriving at 7 specific seasons that paralleled what we should expect to see from the Titans offense in 2018:

2010 Redskins
2013 Bengals
2015 Falcons
2016 Falcons
2016 Redskins
2017 Rams
2017 49ers

The average of these offenses gives us this as an estimated guess at Mariota’s stat line in 2018:

581 passing attempts
63.5% completion rate
~4475 passing yards (7.7 yards/attempt)
26 Touchdowns (4.5 TD%)
13 (2.3 INT%)
92.5 QB Rating
+696 DYAR
+9.2% DVOA

What I love about this projection is that it acknowledges the trends in past iterations of this offense while also staying true to numbers we’ve seen from Mariota previously. Put another way: outside of a noticeable increase in passing yards, which we should expect to see in this style of scheme, the rest of the metrics don’t stray too far from the ceiling set by MM8 three years into his career. A season like this would simultaneously be a return to form, a new ceiling, and an outstanding jumping off point for the future for Mariota.

That brings us to one final comparison ...

Year 1 vs. Year 2

I isolated scenarios in which a player was the unquestioned starter (i.e. no significant missed time, no QB by committee) in two consecutive years. Unfortunately, that left us only Andy Dalton (2011/2012), Kirk Cousins (2015/2016), and Matt Ryan (2015/2016). Here are their averages during year one vs. year two.

Year One:

558 Passing Attempts
64.7% completion rate
7.3 yards/attempt
4.2 TD%
2.4 INT%
90.3 QB rating
662 DYAR
+6.9% DVOA

Year Two:

556 Passing Attempts (2/3 passed more)
66.4% completion rate (2/3 improved)
8.1 yards/attempt (3/3 improved)
5.4 TD% (2/3 improved)
2.1 INT% (1 improved, 1 stayed the same, 1 regressed)
100.6 QB rating (2/3 improved)
1132 DYAR (2/3 improved)
+18.0% DVOA (2/3 improved)

Admittedly, this is a pretty small sample size. It’s bearing is also predicated on Marcus Mariota staying healthy for the grand majority of the next two seasons.

Still, it’s good to see that, overall, things trend upward in year two, corroborating what many wise football minds have suggested about this offense. For what it’s worth, both Matt Schaub and Robert Griffin III were the intended starters for their offenses two years in a row, but both lost too much time to injury, in my opinion, to qualify for this comparison. In their respective year twos, Schaub clearly improved while Griffin III clearly declined.

As always, thanks for reading!