Josh McCown will succeed in Tampa Bay


(Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Every offseason players change teams, but when a quarterback does it, there are immediate questions as to how well he can perform in his new surroundings: Who are his receivers? How good is his offensive line? Is there a decent running game? What’s the coaching staff like?

The most interesting change of scenery could be that of Josh McCown, who leaves the Chicago Bears for a two-year, $10 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It’s a fun time of year, just going to camp,” said McCown. “It’s always the same feeling. You get a little bit of butterflies, nerves and anxiousness just to get started. But for me, being in my 13th year, it’s humbling just to able to do this so I’m very thankful for the opporuntity. It’s very cool.”

His production last season as Jay Cutler’s backup was also very cool. McCown threw for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns but just one interception while leading the league in ESPN’s Total QBR, which incorporates the contexts and details of those throws and what they mean for wins.

But how much of that will transfer to the Bucs?

Jason Lisk took a look at the following five performance stats for all quarterbacks from 1970 to 2009, between ages 25 and 35, who threw 14 or more attempts per team game in consecutive seasons, but did so for a different team in year two:

  1. Yards per attempt
  2. Completion percentage
  3. Touchdown percentage
  4. Interception percentage
  5. Sack percentage

What he found was that sack percentage and completion percentage were most likely to convey to the new team while interception percentage, “the one the general public uses to judge a quarterback the most,” is the least consistent. This seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which often suggests that sacks are more a function of the offensive line than the quarterback’s ability to avoid them. Not convinced? Here are the sack rates (sacks as a percentage of passing attempts) for quarterbacks on the same team who did not start all the games for their squad last season:

McCown was sacked 11 times during his 224 passing attempts (4.9 percent) but is going to a team that let up 47 sacks on their QB’s 514 passing attempts. If history is any guide, we can expect McCown to help bring that number down.

As far as completions, McCown was successful on 66.5 percent of this throws last season, and that too has a good chance of carrying over to his 2014 performance.

So should winning. Tampa Bay won just four games in 2013, but have a winning quarterback in McCown. Despite just eight games of work, the 35-year-old quarterback was credited with the ninth highest Win Probability Added (2.76), which means he did more to increase his team’s chance of winning than Tony Romo (2.49), Nick Foles (2.36) and even Super Bowl winner Russell Wilson (2.02).

“I’m really excited to see what happens with our offense. They have so many dynamic players on that side of the ball,” All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “I’m excited to see how the O-line comes together. I don’t know how much people really know how good Josh McCown is. I think a lot of people are about to see how good he really is.”

 

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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Neil Greenberg · July 25