The Matt Cassel era is over, and so begins an extended chance for Brady Quinn to reclaim his career. Cassel had nearly two interceptions and a fumble per game in his five starts, but Quinn didn’t fare much better in his start last week when he tossed two interceptions.
Quinn is simply not what the doctor ordered in Kansas City or the Chiefs would have made the change earlier. One of the biggest problems with Quinn is his questionable decision-making. Quinn has tossed 11 interceptions and only 10 touchdowns in 13 career starts.
Unlike Cassel, Quinn will get rid of the ball quickly, which comes at the expense of big plays. The benefit to getting the ball out quickly is fewer sacks and fumbles, but it also means Quinn will throw a lot of interceptions.
If you used career touchdown, interception and fumble percentages as predictive values, then Cassel would have roughly one more touchdown pass and one more fumble than Quinn going forward and the same number of interceptions. It’s a lose-lose decision.
You might think that Quinn’s interceptions last week were the result of errors by his receivers, a theme that was echoed at times when Cassel was the quarterback. While it’s true that the receivers have to make plays, the common denominator is the play of the quarterback.
Interception No. 1
Quinn’s first interception was on a pass intended for his tight end Steve Maneri. Quinn would deliver the ball slightly behind Maneri, and the defender would hit him and pop the ball into the air for an easy interception. It’s easy to blame Maneri for not being able to secure the ball and Quinn for an inaccurate pass, but it was the decision to throw to Maneri that made the interception possible.
Let’s take a look at that play again.
Maneri ran a typical out route for a tight end (blue) and the other receivers ran a combination of posts and outs (yellow). The defense appeared to be playing Cover 2, and the post-snap movement of the defense (red) confirmed Cover 2 Man, as the cornerbacks dropped deep.
Quinn had great protection, but he only read half the field and made a quick read and throw. The linebackers read Quinn’s eyes and were ready to react to any throw.
The quick read and throw to Maneri made Quinn miss two better options on the opposite side of the field. Dexter McCluster had a one-on-one with a linebacker and would have been open in the middle of the field thanks to the safety cheating toward Dwayne Bowe’s side. Quinn had plenty of protection to make this play possible.
Even a quick pass to Bowe on the left would have been a better option than throwing it to Maneri between two defenders. Bowe was given a lot of cushion, and a quick throw to his side would have yielded decent yardage on second down.
The result was an easy interception, as the linebackers closed on Maneri and in the collision the ball popped in the air. A better throw by Quinn would certainly have helped, but the bigger issue is that he missed two much better options on the play.
You can clearly see McCluster had broken free of the linebacker and was standing all alone in the middle of the field as the ball popped in the air. It’s surprising that Quinn would ignore a clear mismatch and not even check to see if Bowe was drawing the safety help before throwing to his worst option in the passing game.
In this case, a poor decision and poor throw resulted in an interception, but just as often, these decisions result in incomplete passes.
Interception No. 2
Quinn has the uncanny ability to make the worst possible decision in the face of pressure. The Buccaneers bring an overload blitz on the left side. McCluster is wide left, lined up on the line getting pressed by the cornerback. Jon Baldwin is in the slot and uncovered due to the blitz. Maneri and Bowe are lined up on the right.
In the face of an overload blitz like this, the quarterback has to know that his slot receiver (Baldwin) is open and a simple flip over the line of scrimmage will yield positive results. Another option would be the tight end (Maneri) depending on if he draws the coverage of the linebacker, or his outside receiver (Bowe) to his right that is both his No. 1 guy and drawing soft coverage.
Quinn never saw the blitz pre-snap. He looked at McCluster and, even though he was covered, threw him the ball. Again, Quinn had much better options in Baldwin and Maneri (who was actually being covered by a defensive end).
Ronde Barber made a great play on what normally would have been an incomplete pass, but the incomplete pass on third down would have been only slightly better than the interception returned for a touchdown the way the Chiefs have been playing.
The reality for the Chiefs is that Quinn isn’t much better than Cassel and might only be better because he gets rid of the ball quickly enough to avoid sacks and fumbles.
The Chiefs are averaging 36 pass attempts per game this season, which is six more attempts per game than Cassel averaged in 2010, when the Chiefs won 10 games and went to the playoffs. The path to success for the Chiefs is paved by the running game, good defense and as few attempts as possible for quarterbacks named Brady Quinn and Matt Cassel.