Ted Ginn has been lighting up OTAs and mini camp thus far. His ability as a deep threat, and pure burner is matched only by Steve Smith on the team -- something Carolina have lacked since drafting Cam Newton. While it's important to keep a measured approach to Ginn's recent success by understanding the talent deficiencies in the Panthers' secondary, it's also important to understand the quarterback problems he's dealt with since entering the league.
The quarterback-receiver relationship is more symbiotic than 'if one's good, the other will be'. The minutia comes into play when you have incomplete NFL players who can remain successful when paired with a complementary one. Guys like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald can be plugged into any system, but a quick-twitch receiver with poor straight-line speed will be far better in a West Coast Offense, for example.
Ginn's primary issue since entering the NFL is that he's been paired with poor down-field passers. In his most successful year he was tied to an accurate Chad Pennington, but recovering from shoulder surgery meant he couldn't get the ball deep with regularity.
This is a different course to players like Legedu Naanee, and even Domenik Hixon -- who were paired with excellent quarterbacks for their careers, but unable to do a lot. It shows that Ginn (provided he's healthy) has a much higher ceiling than he's given credit for, especially when plugged into this offense.
Ted Ginn vs. his quarterbacks
Miami Dolphins (2007)
Cleo Lemon (QB): 173/309 (56%), 1,773 yards (5.7 YPA), 6 TD, 6 INT -- 71.0 QB rating
Ted Ginn: 34 receptions, 420 yards (12.7% total passing offense), 2 TD
- Ginn was the second option behind Marty Booker his rookie year. Lemon had no business being an NFL QB, and the statistics showed that. However, despite these struggles Ginn managed to put forth an acceptable rookie season.
Miami Dolphins (2008)
Chad Pennington (QB): 321/476 (67.4%), 3,653 yards (7.7 YPA), 19 TD, 7 INT -- 97.4 QB rating
Ted Ginn: 56 receptions, 790 yards (21% total passing offense), 2 TD
- I'm a sucker for Chad Pennington, he was my favorite quarterback for a long time, but even I can recognize his shortcomings during this comeback season. His shoulder was reconstructed several times, and he lacked a reliable deep ball offense -- however, Ginn still managed to have his breakout season with the team.
Miami Dolphins (2009)
Chad Henne (QB): 274/451 (60.8%), 2,878 yards (6.4 YPA), 12 TD, 14 INT -- 75.2 QB rating
Ted Ginn: 38 receptions, 454 yards (15.8% total passing offense), 1 TD
- Pennington was effectively gone (single tear rolls down my cheek), and the Dolphins moved to Henne. Now he's known as a big-armed gunslinger, but his rookie season was decidedly average. He was charged with being a game manager, not a play maker -- and this killed Ginn's ability to make plays down field.
Why not the San Francisco years?
The 2009 season marked the last year Ginn would get any meaningful opportunities. His career in San Francisco was relegated to special teams, and while he got a few good opportunities during the regular season it's hard to use those to infer anything meaningful.
Extrapolation is a cruel mistress
Sometimes we can go a little crazy by using a small sample size to draw over-arching meaning, but in the case of Ginn's three years in Miami it's apropos. Granted, he was younger, faster, and healthy -- but we still could draw a few things.
Take into account his importance to the offense in relation to total passing yardage, and adjust his QB's YPA to better represent Cam Newton and here's what we have.
- 16.5% total passing offense (average)
- 8.4% increase due to adjusted QB YPA
- 10% yardage degradation due to injury (this is purely arbitrary, but I think it's fair to represent him losing a step).
Using these two factors we can infer that Ted Ginn on the 2012 Carolina Panthers could have had 622 receiving yards. It's impossible to rationalize receptions or touchdowns, because there's not enough data -- however, it shows that he would have been the third-most important wide receiver on the team.
What does it all mean?
Relying on Ted Ginn to be anything more than a special teams player is still a crapshoot. However, he is better than given credit for, largely because he's been stuck in some horrible situations.
The Panthers need another receiver who can get vertical quickly. It's what they've lacked while Cam Newton has been on the team. Ginn will never be a physical player, but there is a niche for him to run fly routes all game long -- especially if Carolina rely more on their passing offense branching out of play action.
This is a likely scenario with Mike Shula wanting to work more on a North-South running game, however it could accentuate Jonathan Stewart's absence if he's not healthy for the start of the season. This isn't supposed to devolve into another Williams vs. Stewart argument, however it's impossible to argue that D-Will is better when it comes to the very specific role of play action passing.
Will Ginn add nothing to the team? It's possible, but if you dig a little further into his history there are reasons to be a little excited. If nothing else he's a step up from Naanee and Louis Murphy.