A letter to Peter King, on Cutler and Orton

I know, I shouldn't let an idiot like Peter King raise my dander.  But his most recent illogical foray into statistics really got my goat, and I had to vent to him.  For those of you that missed it this past week,here's a quick synopsis:

The numbers, and the impact, don't lie.

In the NFL, a 20-game sample is enough to make a valid comparison. And on the basis of 20 games, it's hard to argue that Chicago got the better of the Jay Cutler-for-Kyle Orton deal. Forget the ancillary parts of the deal; Denver has not drafted well, and I'm not doing this item to get into the value of the two first-round picks and the third-rounder (which turned into Mike Wallace for the Steelers) acquired by Denver in the deal.

QB          W-L        Pct.        Yards     TD-Int   Yds/att Rating

Orton    10-9       .634        5,221     27-15     7.29        89.1

Cutler    10-10     .615        4,578     33-29     6.97        80.7

It's still very early, and we don't know if Orton can keep it up. He's going to have Tim Tebow breathing down his neck in a few months, I'd guess. But he's outplaying Cutler right now. When a quarterback is more accurate and has the better average per pass attempt, that means he's moving the chains and getting the ball downfield. Right now, Orton's better at both.

Here is my letter in response to King's shoddy statistical analysis.  I originally wrote one that was much more sarcastic, and then toned it down so there might be a snowball's chance in hell that he would use parts of it:


Question:  If you wrote reviews for an automobile magazine, and you tested one vehicle with great tires (O-Line), an experienced driver (O-Coordinator), on a smooth racetrack (quality of opponents), and then tested another with poor tires, an inexperienced driver, on a bumpy track – would anyone take your review the least bit seriously when you declared that the former automobile had performed better than the latter?   Well, that’s essentially what you did with your review of Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler this past week. 

If you had brought that analysis to my desk in a workplace situation, I would have told you that your analysis is meaningless.  You did not control for the effect of the offensive coordinator, the offensive line, the wide receivers, the quality of opponents faced by the two quarterbacks, etc.  For example, in four games this season, Cutler has faced three top-ten defenses, and Orton only one.  Are these situations truly equal?  By not controlling for this factor, nor even mentioning it or other assumptions, you are tacitly stating that yes, they are equal situations.

Here are some hints for you.  If you want to bring meaning to numbers, you should compare equal situations – i.e. you must CONTROL for certain factors.  If you want to use Jay Cutler’s first 20 games with the Bears as a measuring-stick, what does that have to do with Kyle Orton’s first 20 games as a Bronco?  A more meaningful comparison would be one against Kyle Orton’s last 20 games as a Bear.  Then you could control for the Bears’ offensive line and offensive coordinator - if not exactly, at least much more reasonably.  Orton played his last 20 games with Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza, etc.  Cutler has played his first 20 games with many of the same folks, although only 16 games with Turner and 4 with Martz.

In fact, you SHOULD have known this just by looking at the career numbers by season for Kyle Orton and Jay Cutler – for example, average yards per attempt.  Orton averaged 5.1, 6.0, and 6.4 with the Bears; then 7.0 and 8.1 with the Broncos.  Did Kyle Orton morph into a completely different player overnight, or might this have been due to the change in environment?  And how about Cutler:  7.3, 7.5, 7.3 with the Broncos; then 6.6 with Ron Turner, and 8.9 with Mike Martz.  Hmmm….notice anything now?

To save you the trouble and work that you obviously overlooked or didn’t want to perform in the first place, I’ve calculated the numbers for Orton’s last 20 games started for the Bears, and Cutler’s for 20 games started for the Bears:

Kyle Orton:  176 y/g, 56.7% comp, 6.2 y/a, 21 TD, 14 INT, 33 sacks, 37 passes 20+, 4 passes 40+

Jay Cutler:  229 y/g, 61.5% comp, 7.0 y/a, 33 TD, 29 INT, 42 sacks, 68 passes 20+, 8 passes 40+

Can you honestly write, after looking at these numbers, that Jay Cutler has performed WORSE for the Chicago Bears than Kyle Orton had?  Come on – it’s obvious that Cutler has been a much better QB for the Bears than Orton ever had.  Sure, he throws more INTs, but also more TDs for a higher average per pass and per game, and he stretches the defense with long passes far more often.  (And this analysis doesn’t take into account their running and scrambling abilities, which would again favor Cutler).

Comparing the statistics of these 2 QBs in different systems and environments has no meaning whatsoever, and only shows that you wanted to prove the point that Denver got the better of the deal before you ever started.  You cherry-picked stats that proved your point, apparently without realizing that the situations had absolutely nothing in common, other than the two players analyzed were involved in a trade together.

Oh, and as for the draft picks involved in the trade that were sent to Denver?  You also seem to have conveniently forgotten that the Bears received a 5th-rounder in the deal.  His name is Johnny Knox, and he’s pretty darn good.

<em>This FanPost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.</em>

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