Last week, Nick Eatman posted an interesting article detailing five reasons the Cowboys should sign former Texas quarterback Vince Young. Bryan Broaddus followed that up with a scout’s view of the situation. So here I am to break down the potential acquisition from a statistical standpoint.
Like Nick and Bryan, I believe signing Young would be a smart move for Dallas. He’s a high-upside player who can beat defenses a variety of ways, and he’ll come cheaply; if things don’t work out in camp, the Cowboys can cut him without any strings attached. That’s important. Take a look at four numbers I believe demonstrate Young’s fit in Dallas.
6.8: Robert Griffin III’s YPC as a rookie – the highest mark in the NFL by nearly a yard.
Why would RGIII’s rushing prowess affect the Cowboys’ quarterback decisions? As Nick and Bryan pointed out, Young can give the defense a unique look in practice. With Griffin and possibly Michael Vick set to run read-option, the Cowboys need to be prepared to defend it. In RGIII’s first game against Dallas, he completed 19 of 27 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns, and you can bet that much of that passing success was generated indirectly through Griffin’s ability to take off on the ground. Young can imitate Griffin and Vick in practice in a way that
6.9: Young’s net-YPA during his final two years in Tennessee.
Young struggled with interceptions during his lone season in Philadelphia, but he was quietly really effective in 2009 and 2010 in Tennessee. Net-YPA is a stat that factors sack yards into a quarterback’s yards per attempt. Even though Young has taken too many sacks during his career, including on 7.7 percent of his passes in 2010, he’s still been very efficient as a passer.
A year after finishing in the top 12 in net-YPA in 2009, Young checked in at sixth in 2010. He also tossed 20 touchdowns to only 10 picks during that time, a ratio superior to
7.7: The average number of rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys since 2010.
The Cowboys obviously need to get better near the goal line and in short-yardage situations. Running is statistically superior to passing near the goal line and on third-and-short, so it’s important for Dallas to be able to pick up those tough yards.
The most common explanation for the Cowboys’ short-yardage woes is poor offensive line play. That idea is merited, but the easiest way to help them out might be to give the offense another blocker. Since Young can run the football, the offense wouldn’t need to “waste” a potential blocker because no one needs to hand it off. In effect, Young’s rushing ability results in the simplest mathematical explanation you’ll ever see me write: 10 blockers is better than nine blockers.
Now, I’m not saying Young should repeatedly come in to replace Romo, nor do I think the Wildcat formation should be a regular part of the Cowboys’ offense. But in short-yardage situations when the defense “knows” the offense is going to run anyway, it could be advantageous to bring in an extra lineman (one more even than what’s in the offense’s normal “Jumbo” package), a luxury the offense can’t afford with Romo handing off the ball.
45.9: Percentage of Young’s games with a 95.0 passer rating or rushing touchdown
Young has historically been a volatile player; he’s either really on or completely off. That’s not necessarily something you want in a starting quarterback, but the trait is more valuable in a backup. The reason is that when most teams’ starting quarterbacks get injured, the team is dramatically worse; most backups simply aren’t capable of long-term success. That means knowing exactly what you’ll get from your backup can be bad; if he doesn’t at least have the upside to play like a starter at times, that hurts. You actually want up-and-down play from your backup because his median production probably won’t be good enough to consistently win.
Despite a career passer rating of just 74.4, Young has posted at least a 95.0 rating or a rushing touchdown in nearly half of his 61 career games. That’s a high mark for someone you’re asking to come in and be your backup. He’s versatile enough to beat defenses with his arm or legs, and the high ceiling that creates is exactly what you want if your starter goes down.