Jimmy Garoppolo is a problem.
He always kinda has been, but San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was able to mitigate his inability to throw downfield and penchant for tossing wild, interceptable passes on short routes by surrounding him with playmakers. With guys like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk on the roster he was able to help push the Niners to three conference title games in four years.
The Las Vegas Raiders tried to replicate that success, knowing it had a specific ceiling but understanding fully the struggle of landing a franchise quarterback on the open market. It had a ready-made crutch for Garoppolo’s worst throws in Davante Adams, who is about as good a bailout artist as you’ll find in the NFL.
But Adams, through no fault of his own, has just 14 catches in his last four weeks, forced to watch a near-sighted passer throw well outside his field of vision. Las Vegas is 2-2 in these games, but that’s more a function of having played the two-win Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots in back-to-back weeks. Before getting rolled by the Detroit Lions — a game where Adams had seven targets and one catch — the Raiders also snuck in an 18-point loss to Tyson Bagent and the Chicago Bears.
Garoppolo didn’t play against Chicago (and he won’t against the New York Giants in Week 9, because he’s been benched), but he averaged just 165 passing yards per game in the other three contests. He threw more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) and lost 70 yards via sack. His expected points added (EPA) in that span is -0.201 per play — worse than any other starter but Joshua Dobbs and Zach Wilson. Advanced stats paint him as one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL this fall. And that’s what the Raiders, now coach-less after (justifiably) firing Josh McDaniels, owe $11 million — and a $28 million salary cap — to in 2024.
Let’s talk about those stats. Expected points added (EPA) is a concept that’s been around since 1970. It’s effectively a comparison between what an average quarterback could be expected to do on a certain down and what he actually did — and how it increased his team’s chances of scoring. The model we use comes from The Athletic’s Ben Baldwin and his RBSDM.com website, which is both wildly useful AND includes adjusted EPA, which accounts for defensive strength. It considers the impact of penalties and does not negatively impact passers for fumbles after a completion.
The other piece of the puzzle is completion percentage over expected (CPOE), which is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a comparison of all the completions a quarterback would be expected to make versus the ones he actually did. Like EPA, it can veer into the negatives and higher is better. So if you chart all 32 primary quarterbacks — the ones who played at least 128 snaps in eight weeks — you get a chart that looks like this:
Top right hand corner is good. Bottom left corner is bad. Try splitting those passers into tiers and you get an imperfect seven-layer system that looks like this:
These rankings are sorted by a composite of adjusted EPA and CPOE to better understand who has brought the most — and the least — value to their teams across the small sample size. It’s not a full exploration of a player’s value, but it’s a viable starting point. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers: 0.191 EPA+CPOE composite
2. Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills: 0.186
3. Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins: 0.175
4. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: 0.160
Everyone in this group backslid in Week 8, leading to upset losses for the Niners and Chiefs. Purdy continues to excel in advanced stats, even if he’s been much less impressive on the field lately. One hot streak from Allen or Tagovailoa could swing this race in their favor, as 2023 has been a bit disappointing when it comes to passing offenses.
5. Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles: 0.148 EPA+CPOE composite
6. Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: 0.134
7. Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: 0.130
8. Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers: 0.122
Hurts jumped way up with a 319-yard, four touchdown performance in Week 8 and now stands on the precipice of joining the elite. Cousins is, sadly, stuck here after a resurgent season ended prematurely due to a torn Achilles. Prescott and Herbert exist on the edge of the circle of trust, being done zero favors by their head coaches.
9. Jared Goff, Detroit Lions: 0.117 EPA+CPOE composite
10. Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens: 0.112
11. Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos: 0.111
Wilson slipped out of the top 10 despite beating Kansas City thanks to a light lift in that home win. Jackson slipped as well after having a muted impact against an undermanned Arizona defense. Goff made some mistakes that ultimately kept the Raiders in a Monday night showdown longer than expected, but did enough to help get Josh McDaniels fired after all.