QBs Blaine Gabbert and Matt Ryan: A Comparison

Originally, I wasn't going to make this into a Fan Post, but it finally grew large enough to where I figured it was worhty of one.

Several weeks ago, James brought up a point that has been really bugging me.  Matt Ryan, the man we wanted to trade up and draft, was graded 84/100 in one particular scouting report.  At the same time, Blaine Gabbert grades out to be an 85/100, an eerily similar grade.  So why was Matt Ryan considered a lock at the top, but people question whether or not Gabbert should be one?  Well, for one thing there was no competition for Ryan really.  The closest QB to him was Joe Flacco, whose stock rose only after combines and pro-days (similar to some of the other lower ranked QBs in this draft). 


But that wasn't enough for me.  I finally scratched that itch in their comparisons:

Cold Hard Stats

Matt Ryan

2006 262 425 2939 61.6 6.92 79 15 10 20 126.67
2007 388 654 4507 59.3 6.89 71 31 19 21 127.04


Blaine Gabbert

2009 262 445 3593
8.07 84
2010 301 475


First thing that popped out to me:  their QB rating.  It's almost identical despite the fact that Ryan threw for 10 more INTs than Gabbert did.  Obviously, it's because he threw for 15 more TDs than Gabbert did that year, but nevertheless I was surprised by the similarity.  But let's look at that a little more closely.  In the previous year, it was Gabbert who threw for more TDs than Ryan (24 to 15).  Not only that, but Gabbert was just an all-around better player in 2009 than 2010.  I think I can shed some light on as to why this is the case.

The Running Game

I'm going to say that the reason Gabbert threw less touchdowns this year is because instead of opting to throw the football, the Tigers ran it instead when they were in the goal line.  We'll get into the "why" of this later, but first the quick and dirty:

Boston College:

2007:  17 Rushing TDs, 31 Passing TDs
2006:  20 Rushing TDs, 16 Passing TDs

Missouri Tigers:
2010:  28 Rushing TDs, 16 Passing TDs
2009:  15 Rushing TDs, 26 Passing TDs

Their totals, over that two year span, are strikingly similar.  Mizzou ran for 43 TDs to BC's 37, and BC threw for 47 TDs to Mizzou's 42.  So why such a discrepancy between the two years?  Clearly, you can make the case that Matt Ryan got better from 2006 to 2007 and in general players do tend to get better, not worse.  However, I think there's another element at work here...

The Wide Recievers

In 2007, Matt Ryan three targets that caught 5 or more passes:  Rich Gunnell (7), Brandon Robinson (5), and Kevin Challenger (5) for a total of 17 of 31 TDs.  In 2006 though, his two top targets were Tony Gonzalez (5) and Kevin Challenger (5).  Brandon Robinson and Rich Gunnell had 1 TD between them.  So it could be said that in 2007, it was as much these two players stepping to the plate in the departure of Gonzalez as much as it was Matt Ryan's natural development as a quarterback.

The reverse, I believe, is true for Blaine Gabbert.  In 2009, Gabbert threw 14 TDs to Danario Alexander and another 6 TDs to Jared Perry, both of whom departed the following year.  In their absence, it was T.J. Moe who caught 6 TDs and Michael Egnew with 5 TDs, 11 of Gabbert's 16 TDs.  So where Ryan had two WRs step up, Gabbert really didn't have anyone.  I believe this is what caused a disparity in the Tiger's running game near the endzone, and is probably why Gabbert's attempts didn't jump nearly as high in his final year as Ryan's did.

Now, this is a large, winding path of cause-effect-cause-effect connections.  And I certainly am not about to say that Gabbert is going to be as successful as Matt Ryan, or that their play styles are similar, or that their mechanics or similar, or anything like that.  I am simply satisfying my curiosity:  an 84/100 graded QB in Matt Ryan was acceptable to take in the top 5 picks of the draft, but 85/100 graded QB in Blaine Gabbert is not.  To me, he is.

(Also, Matt Ryan had a pretty terrible completion % coming out of college.  Never realized that.  How's it workin for you Falcons Fans?)

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