The QB position is fascinating. Besides being the most important position in sports, it gives us viral plays, film breakdowns, video game numbers, draft debates, intriguing matchups, league-altering injuries, underdog stories and more on a weekly basis.
Here's a look at 10 of my QB observations heading into Week 12. Where do we start? Where else ... injuries.
1. QB carousel update
Let's welcome Jake Browning and Tim Boyle to the party! They will be the 49th and 50th different starting QBs this season. We've seen 13 teams use multiple starting QBs and 33 starting QB changes.
Unfortunately, Browning's first career start comes as the result of Joe Burrow's season-ending wrist injury. There's been a season-ending injury to a quarterback in each of the last four weeks, between Kirk Cousins, Daniel Jones, Deshaun Watson and Burrow. Hopefully that's where the streak stops. Cody Benjamin ranked the most devastating QB injuries this year.
|Starting QB Sequence This Season
Kirk Cousins > Jaren Hall > Josh Dobbs
Justin Fields > Tyson Bagent > Justin Fields
Aaron Rodgers > Zach Wilson > Tim Boyle
Desmond Ridder > Taylor Heinicke > Desmond Ridder
Ryan Tannehill > Will Levis
Joe Burrow > Jake Browning
2. 2021 QB class
A lot of the QB talk this week centers around the 2021 QB draft class. Zach Wilson got benched for Tim Boyle and could have thrown his last pass as a Jet. It looks like Mac Jones will be starting for the Patriots, although Bill Belichick wasn't tipping his hand earlier this week.
I can hardly blame Jones for struggling in New England, who has one of the worst offensive lines and group of pass catchers in the league. He went from the best possible setup at Alabama to the worst possible setup on the Patriots, especially after they screwed him up without a viable offensive coordinator last year. I'm not saying he would have succeeded with a better environment, but I don't see how he can be accurately judged with this one. As for Zach Wilson, he will likely be the first QB in NFL history to finish last in the league in passer rating in three straight seasons. He could also be the first QB to ever finish last in completion rate in three straight years. It just wasn't working.
This draft class continues to exemplify how tough it is to evaluate QBs. Roughly 40 percent of first-round QBs drafted in the 2010s signed a second contract with their draft team. The chance of drafting a successful QB isn't even a coin flip. That trend looks like it'll continue with this draft class. Three of the five first-round QBs could be considered failures up to this point for a different reason.
- Zach Wilson (No. 2 pick): Impressive upside but did not produce on the field
- Trey Lance (No. 3 pick): Inexperienced QB whose development was stunted by injuries
- Mac Jones (No. 15 pick): Struggled after rookie season based on environment around him
Justin Fields could be the fourth on his way out, too. He has six games left to convince the Bears to keep him and not use one of the two projected top five picks on a QB.
3. Jordan Love is coming alive in November
Jordan Love picked up a signature win on Thanksgiving, throwing three touchdown passes and no picks in a 29-22 win vs. the previously 8-2 Lions. It continues a breakout November where Love ranks top five in yards per attempt and passer rating after ranking bottom 10 in each category entering the month. Poised would be one way to describe Love's play. He leads the NFL in yards per attempt when pressured in November, and he's doing it all with the most inexperienced WR room in the league.
The toughest test up to this point in his career will come next Sunday night when the Packers host the Chiefs and their No. 2 scoring defense. We'll have a better idea of how real Love's breakout is after his three wins this month came against defenses ranking in the bottom half of the league in the Rams, Chargers and Lions. Another upset win could have Green Bay right in the middle of the playoff hunt. They are currently one game behind the Vikings and Seahawks for the final NFC playoff spot.
4. Will firing Matt Canada help Kenny Pickett?
When asked if these next seven games are crucial to Pickett's development, Mike Tomlin responded, "I'm focused on this week in terms of the development of Kenny. We're not urinating on the fire, man."
I'm not sure what that means, but I do know Pickett's play hasn't been up to par. He is 22 starts into his career and has just 13 touchdown passes on 670 attempts, good for the lowest TD pct (1.9%) of any QB since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger (minimum 500 attempts). Tommy DeVito has more career games with multiple Pass TD (2) than Pickett (1).
Those are startling numbers for the 2022 first-round pick. Firing Matt Canada could spark the Steelers offense, but the way Pickett is playing, I'm not sure it will help as Pickett has been very inconsistent. He has the second-highest off-target rate in the NFL this season despite a very conservative approach, the seventh-shortest average pass length. That's the opposite of what you want in a quarterback. The only other QB in his territory this year (upper left of chart below) is Bryce Young.
If he's going to turn it around, he'll take more shots downfield and use the middle of the field. He has the lowest percent of passes over the middle this year of any qualified QB.
5. First matchup between Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts
Speaking of new offensive coordinators … Josh Allen finally got the best of the Jets in Week 11 in his first game with new OC Joe Brady. Allen was 20 of 32 passing for 275 yards, three touchdowns and one meaningless end-of-half Hail-Mary interception. One noticeable change was Buffalo using motion at its highest rate in a game (56 percent) since 2019.
This gives Allen some momentum going into his first ever matchup with Jalen Hurts in what should be billed as one of the best dual-threat QB matchups ever. Check out the paces for each player this season:
17-game pace this season
- Jalen Hurts: 4,244 Pass yds, 25 Pass TD, 586 Rush yds, 15 Rush TD
- Josh Allen: 4,443 Pass yds, 34 Pass TD, 403 Rush yds, 11 Rush TD
No QB in NFL history has had 4,000 Pass yards, 25 Pass TD and 10 Rush TD in a season. Both Hurts and Allen are on pace to hit those numbers this season. I fully expect to see each quarterback throwing deep balls and trucking their way into the end zone on Sunday.
6. Brock Purdy and the most valuable QB contracts this century
Brock Purdy leads the NFL in pretty much every imaginable efficiency measure this season. Completion rate, yards per attempt, passer rating, EPA per play, ESPN's Total QBR, Pro Football Reference's ANY/A+, you name it.
He has a case for NFL MVP this year, and most valuable QB contract ever. He's doing this as Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick of the 2022 draft who makes $870K in cash this year, the 76th-highest paid QB, unfathomable. No QB on record has ranked that low in cash earned while leading the NFL in passer rating.
If you look at what he's already made in terms of game checks this year, he's cost only $73K per win and $31K per touchdown pass. That's an all-time great bang for your buck. It's also a lot better than the $46M per win and $23M per touchdown pass the Giants got from Daniel Jones in 2023.
Purdy's is among the most cost efficient deals ever. I went full nerd and looked at QB contracts over the last 25 seasons from overthecap.com to see where Purdy stacked up. Since a dollar in 1999 is not the same as a dollar in 2023, I prorated every QBs cash value with the 2023 salary cap.
Purdy's $73K per win is the best by any QB in the last 25 seasons, ahead of Russell Wilson's $74K per win in 2013, when he won the Super Bowl. He was the 69th-highest paid QB that year after getting drafted 75th overall in 2012. You'll also notice Dak Prescott on the list and 2019 Lamar Jackson, who won unanimous MVP making less than $1M in cash.
|Fewest $ Per QB Win
|Last 25 Seasons
Brock Purdy (2023)
Russell Wilson (2013)
Dak Prescott (2018)
Dak Prescott (2017)
Lamar Jackson (2019)
Purdy's $31K per Pass TD is the second-best rate by any QB in the last 25 seasons, behind Lamar Jackson in 2019.
|Fewest $ Per Touchdown Pass
|Last 25 Seasons
Lamar Jackson (2019)
Brock Purdy (2023)
Patrick Mahomes (2018)
Derek Anderson (2007)
Sam Howell (2023)
Not on either list, 1999 Kurt Warner and 2001 Tom Brady, to which all the best bang-for-your buck contracts need to be measured. Warner made prorated amounts of $226K per win and $71K per Pass TD in 1999. Brady made prorated amounts of $99K per win and $61K per Pass TD in 2001. Purdy is on track to beat both those marks, but I'm sure all he really wants is the Super Bowls they won.
7. Lamar Jackson needs OBJ and Zay, what do you say?
They could really make defenses pay, down by the bay, they just may. Happy Gilmore references aside, the Ravens finally got some talent around Lamar Jackson this offseason after a collective groan from the football world for the last couple of years. The two big moves, outside of new OC Todd Monken, was drafting WR Zay Flowers in the first round and signing Odell Beckham Jr. to a one-year deal worth up to $18 million.
Now with Jackson's favorite target Mark Andrews likely done for the year, there will be more pressure on his new duo to fill the void. That'll be no easy task. Andrews has caught half of Lamar Jackson's touchdown passes (six of 12) this season and leads the team in red zone targets.
Zay Flowers has already been something of a security blanket for Jackson this season. He has 21 catches at or behind the line of scrimmage, tied with Tyreek Hill for the second-most in the league. Only Ja'Marr Chase (22) has more. He leads Baltimore in third-down targets, as well as when Jackson is pressured or blitzed.
Beckham Jr. could take over as the go-to receiver on critical downs and situations. He almost had the same number of third-down targets (28 vs. 30) as Cooper Kupp in a 10-game span from Week 12 to the NFC Championship in 2021. He also had five touchdown catches in the red zone in that span. While he got off to a slow start this year, he's coming on lately. Week 11 was his first 100-yard receiving game since the 2021 NFC Championship. He showed burst on a 40-yard touchdown reception in Week 10 and on a 51-yard catch on Sunday. He's nursing a shoulder injury, but when he's back on the field he looks like a source of explosive plays for the Ravens.
Jackson has already thrown for more yards to wide receivers this year (1,443) than his unanimous MVP season in 2019 (1,307). This is the most efficient Jackson has been targeting WRs (in terms of EPA per play) since 2019. This is also the Ravens best and most relied upon WR room with Jackson, much more equipped to handle an injury like Andrews than in years past.
8. The Tommy DeVito experience
Tommy DeVito is an anomaly so far. He's a 25-year old undrafted rookie that is now the starting QB of the New York Giants, who also lives at home with his parents. He has the same name as Joe Pesci's character in 'Goodfellas'. And he's bringing some spice to the Giants in the form of his touchdown celebration. His play is beautiful and ugly at the same time, while also costing the Giants valuable draft position. He's playing the role of a third-string QB perfectly and providing entertainment in an otherwise lost season for New York.
He's also a statistical outlier. You may have heard of a three-true outcome baseball player. Someone who either hits a home run, walks or strikes out. So far Tommy DeVito might be a two-true outcome QB. He got his first career win against the Commanders on Sunday and either threw a touchdown pass or got sacked on one third of his dropbacks.
- He was the first QB with three touchdown passes and nine sacks in a game since Rob Johnson in 1998.
- He has five touchdown passes and has been sacked 14 times in two career starts, the first QB to hit both numbers in a two-game span since Jake Plummer in 1997.
- David Carr (15) is the only player who has been sacked more than DeVito through two career starts.
His legend may only grow as the Giants play the Patriots on Sunday, in what could be one of the ugliest offensive games of the year between the two worst scoring offenses in football.
9. Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson now both top 10 all-time in game-winning drives
In a league full of young QBs, it's nice to see the veterans still slingin' it. Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson both made a few vintage plays on game-winning drives in Week 11. Stafford passed Brett Favre for the seventh-most game-winning drives ever. Wilson passed Johnny Unitas for the tenth-most.
|Most Game-Winning Drives in NFL History
1. Tom Brady
2. Peyton Manning
3. Drew Brees
3. Ben Roethlisberger
5. Dan Marino
6. Matt Ryan
7. Matthew Stafford
8. Brett Favre
9. John Elway
10. Russell Wilson
Stafford's game-winning drive was set up by this seed to Puka Nacua.
It’s obvious at this point, but Matt Stafford has such great chemistry and trust with rookie WR Puka Nacua.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 20, 2023
Great throw, and nice catch from Nacua keeping his concentration to kick off a potential game winning drive. pic.twitter.com/0z3wNC5ghe
Wilson moved up in this collapsing pocket to hook up with Courtland Sutton on this game-winner Sunday.
Well done, guys.
10. QB quirk of the week
I'll leave you with this incredible fact. Two starting QBs this week went to the same high school. That'd be Will Levis and Tim Boyle, who both attended Xavier high school in Middletown, Connecticut (h/t research director John Fisher). They aren't quite a QB factory like Westlake high school in Texas, which produced two Super Bowl MVP QBs (Drew Brees and Nick Foles), but this might take second place.