Back in May, our sibling site The Daily Norseman ran a piece using Pro Football Focus’s data to evaluate the rosters of the NFC North. Lester covered their surprising conclusion that the best roster in the division belonged to the Chicago Bears. This finding, justifiably, evoked a lot of criticism. After all, the Bears were in the basement of the NFC North last year, and have at least been standing by the cellar door of the entire
NFC NFL professional sports for far too long.
With that in mind, and with minicamps wrapping up, it’s time to evaluate the rosters in our division using means slightly more meaningful than PFF’s eye-test-disguised-as-metrics system, and the series is going to kick off with the easiest position to rank: quarterback (note that I said “rank”, not evaluate).
Here are some key stats from the four presumed starters in the NFC North:
NFC North QBs
Wow. I mean, it’s really easy to hate #12 from up north, isn’t it? Already, even this simple view confirms what most people already knew—that Aaron Rodgers guy footballs really well. Bradford and Glennon have some similarity in terms of overall passer rating, but in terms of experience and ANY/A, Glennon is clearly at the bottom. However, these numbers out of context are not enough to paint a complete picture of the NFC North starting quarterbacks. However, no matter how things are balanced out, the top three remain the same, and in the same order.
Football Outsiders looked at quarterback compensation by yards earned and snaps played, and they again found that Aaron Rodgers was one of the top values in the NFL last year (in 2015 he was the leader, but in 2016 he “fell” to fourth), with Stafford breaking the top ten and Bradford at about the middle (Glennon didn’t qualify, as he didn’t play 8 games). Of course, that only really reiterates the findings of their DVOA and DYAR metrics, which place the players in the exact same order at about the same absolute positions, as well. The last time Glennon qualified for that metric (2014), he was below Rodgers and Stafford. The only year that all four qualified (2013), they were in the exact same order listed above: Rodgers, Stafford, Bradford, and then Glennon.
However, there might be hope for the Beloved just yet, and it comes from the backup quarterback situation. Think of the likely backup quarterbacks for each of the teams in the NFC North. How many of them have played double-digit games, and how many of them have completed a dozen passes in the NFL?
After Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan. Hundley’s two NFL completions are two more than Callahan has made, and so the simple fact is that Green Bay seems likely to go as far as Aaron Rodgers will carry them. Unfortunately, that is likely pretty far.
The Lions have Jake Rudock and Brad Kaaya to fill in at quarterback behind Sam Bradford. Neither has completed a pass in the NFL, and it seems unlikely that either one is ready to step in should a backup be needed.
Finally, there is the Vikings situation. Shaun Hill did an admirable job of stepping in when the Vikings needed him to last year, and the 11-year veteran (on his fifth team) has a higher career passer rating and ANY/A than any quarterback on the Bears’ roster. However, Hill was essentially replaced by Case Keenum, who almost has a higher passer rating and ANY/A than any QB on the Bears’ roster (Glennon has a notably higher passer rating, while the reverse is true in ANY/A; Keenum outstrips Sanchez in both). As for Bridgewater, well—let’s hope the kid gets better out of human decency, but it seems likely he’ll be back on the field soon.
What about the Bears? An argument could be made that Sanchez’s greater experience, especially in higher-tension situations, makes up some ground. He is (probably, presuming he recovers) probably at least as good of a backup quarterback as Keenum. Trubisky is an unknown, and the organization seems intent on sitting him until 2018.
Therefore, the best that can be said is that while the Packers might lose some ground to the Lions in the backup quarterback situation, those two teams are comfortable 1-2. As for the Bears and the Vikings, Glennon would need to play the best football of his life to close the gap with Bradford, and the backups seem to be a wash.
This isn’t even close: at the most important position in football, the Bears seem to be last. Next up, though, it will be time to look at the receivers.