Bleacher Report is one of the most enigmatic football websites on the internet, with a curious mix of actual journalism and lightweight fodder with little attention to detail. Following a recent article that appears to have forgotten about the very existence of Steven Nelson, another article now calls for the Pittsburgh Steelers to release quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and using shaky logic and statistics to make the case.
Author Brad Gagnon begins by arguing that Roethlisberger “looked tired and defeated” even before he season-ending injury, then added, without evidence, that he lacks a “health regimen like [Tom] Brady’s”, even though we already know, since we actually follow the team, that the quarterback has been more health-conscious than he has been pretty much at any other point in his career.
Perhaps the laziest of his bullet points was his citing of Roethlisberger’s career sack rate, which sits at 6.5 percent. He points out that this number is higher than other notable quarterbacks who have taken a lot of hits. He does not point out that his sack rate has decreased dramatically since 2013, and has not been above 3.6 since 2015. He has only taken a total of 84 sacks since 2015, over 59 games.
Much of the rest of the article consists of cherry-picking, noting that in 2018, Roethlisberger’s completion percentage on passes thrown 15 or more yards in the air, among those who attempted 75 or more such passes, was among the lowest in the league. He did not mention that he led the NFL in passing yards or that he set a new franchise record in touchdown passes, which happens to be the most important statistic for a quarterback.
Among the suggestions that Gagnon makes regarding Roethlisberger’s replacement is Jameis Winston, whom he notes is “a turnover machine” but who passed for over 5000 yards with 33 touchdown passes. That’s what Roethlisberger did in 2018, except with one more touchdown. So why is this better?
He also cited pretty much every possible quarterback who could move teams this year, from Ryan Tannehill and Teddy Bridgewater to Tom Brady and Philip Rivers, concluding that “all of the aforementioned quarterbacks arguably have higher ceilings than Roethlisberger, and none are substantially more likely to become liabilities than a quarterback who led the NFL in interceptions in 2018”.
Roethlisberger threw 16 interceptions in 2018. That is the fewest number of interceptions to league the league season Joe Ferguson threw 16 in a league-shortened, nine-game 1982 season. Failing that, the last time a quarterback led the league while throwing fewer than 16 interceptions was in, I shit you not, 1937. Sammy Baugh and Dave Smukler both tossed 14 that year. Neither reached 200 attempts.
Jameis Winston threw 30 interceptions last year.
“The spoiler here, of course, is that the Steelers won’t do it”, Gagnon whined. “They’ll stubbornly and pridefully stick with their washed-up quarterback, partly because they’re still not ready to let go of a franchise legend who is obviously popular with the fanbase, and partly because they’d be too embarrassed to admit that 2019 contract extension was an error”.
I wonder what it would take to get Gagnon to admit this article was an error, or at least full of errors.