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Who Are You Callin’ A Backup Quarterback?

Brian Beaudry
Tuesday July 5, 2016


When we started the 2016 season, everyone was excited about Nathan Stanley in Los Angeles and Cleveland was ready to start the year with Chris Dieker under center. Randy Hippeard was coming off a good season and played very well to start this season.

Of course, as it happens every year across the AFL for quarterbacks not named Davila, Grady, and Raudabaugh, injuries felled signal-callers and their teams have recently been piloted by “backup” quarterbacks.

Here’s the problem with calling these guys backups: All of them are leading their offenses more successfully than the starters they replaced.

 

Drives

Successful

Success Rate

Improvement

CLE without Nelson

32

19

59.3

 

CLE with Nelson

90

67.5

75.0

+15.7

In Cleveland, Arvell Nelson was supposed to be the team’s jack linebacker. When Dieker went down, the team brought in the pigtailed Dennis Havrilla, keeping Nelson from the starting position for a couple more weeks. That decision probably cost them their game against the KISS. Nelson has come in and scored on roughly 75% of his drives while helming the Gladiators’ offense, as opposed to the 59.3% success rate the “starters” were converting.

In fact, Nelson’s worst success rate in a game is better than Cleveland’s offensive success rate in any game started by any other player.

 

Drives

Successful

Success Rate

Improvement

ORL without Morris

104

82

78.8

 

ORL with Morris

17

16

94.1

+15.3

Meanwhile, in Orlando, our other ArenaFan friends like to suggest that Bernard Morris’s limitations will likely cost the Predators a game here or there, but there’s no evidence to support that this season. The Predators have scored on 16 of Morris’s 17 drives as a starter. Granted, it’s a small sample size against mostly bad teams, but that 94.1% success rate is phenomenal. It may look ugly, but when he’s playing, the Predators score.

 

Drives

Successful

Success Rate

Improvement

LA without Thomas

62

38

61.3

 

LA with Thomas

56

38

67.9

+6.6

In Los Angeles, Pete Thomas took over for an injured Nathan Stanley and has produced the same number of touchdowns (38) in six fewer drives than Stanley did. Stanley is back and it’s presumed that he’ll start after the Independence Day bye, but why rush?

There’s also a couple of quarterbacks who missed the beginning of the season in Shane Austin and Jason Boltus. Have they improved their teams as much as these backups have?

 

Drives

Successful

Success Rate

Improvement

PDX without Austin

58

22.5

38.8

 

PDX with Austin

78

44.5

57.0

+18.2

Austin has definitely outperformed his predecessors in Portland, though a caveat has to be made – Danny Southwick had a success rate of about 51% with two of his three games coming against by far the best two defenses in the AFL. Austin has only slightly improved the offense beyond that. Kasey Peters and Darron Thomas were dreadful in their two starts (and a quarter), converting on just 7 of 27 drives.

 

Drives

Successful

Success Rate

Improvement

TB without Boltus

37

14

37.8

 

TB with Boltus

81

44

54.3

+16.5

Tampa Bay basically had the equivalent of Peters’ and Thomas’ performance without any decent games to save them before Boltus took over. Like Austin, he hasn’t really done much either, but both represent a dramatic improvement over the inexperienced guys they replaced.

Thus far, Nelson and Morris have been the same boons to their teams’ drive success than talented veterans replacing the absolute worst performances the league has to offer. Let’s do everyone a favor and stop treating them as though they’re backups.


 
Brian Beaudry has been both an intern and a Director of Communications within the AFL and occasionally provides analysis of the league and the Portland Thunder as an Oregon resident. He maintains a blog, Wrong Way Sports, and you can reach him with research or graphic design suggestions on Twitter at @BeaudryPDX.
The opinions expressed in the article above are only those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, opinions, or official stance of ArenaFan Online or its staff, or the Arena Football League, or any AFL or af2 teams.
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