Say what you want about Pro Football Focus’ quarterback rankings, but there is no denying their predictive abilities.
At this time last year, we found ourselves discussing Trubisky ranking among the seven lowest-rated starting quarterbacks, according to PFF’s grading standards. It was a jarring placement, especially since Trubisky originally ranked ahead of fellow rookie Deshaun Watson and was the highest-graded rookie signal caller at the end of their respective first seasons. Even with PFF’s surprisingly low ranking, the site offered up reasons to be optimistic moving forward.
Here’s what they wrote accompanying Trubisky’s grade prior to the 2018 season (emphasis mine):
“Trubisky graded at 66.4 as a rookie, good for 29th in the NFL. He wasn’t asked to do much in Chicago’s offensive scheme, though his No. 10 grade on third down is a reason for optimism moving forward. A new system is expected to accentuate Trubisky’s strengths which include his ability to throw on the run and throwing accurately in the short and intermediate game.”
I took the liberty of highlighting PFF’s projection for Trubisky because, well, that’s exactly what happened. Trubisky earned an 88.2 rushing grade last season, which was the best among quarterbacks. He also threw to a 104.1 passer rating on “short” attempts, which was the best in all of football.
It was all part of a season in which Trubisky completed 66.6 percent of his passes, threw for 3,223 yards, 24 touchdowns, and just 12 interceptions, while also adding 421 rushing yards and three ground scores. Trubisky notably improved upon his completion percentage, touchdown percentage, yards per attempt, average yards gained per pass, and net yards per attempt from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign.
In short, the system worked and PFF accurately predicted that Trubisky’s strengths would be highlighted.
And yet, Trubisky has the same preseason ranking in 2019 as he did in 2018. The reason? PFF calls it “a disconnect between Trubisky’s statistical output and his throw-by-throw performance last season.” And apparently, the disconnect is born in Trubisky going from one of the worst offensive situations to one of the best and noting it was a major reason for Trubisky’s statistical success.
That’s right … reasons Trubisky was projected to improve from his rookie season are now reasons his grade suffered. Huh?
Look, I understand that marrying the traditional analytics with the advanced numbers has never been easy at any level or for any sport. It is a battle that my first love baseball still fights to this day. But to suggest that a player will be better because of the system and players around him, then watch said player fulfill that prophecy, and to not credit him for doing so is mind-boggling. Frankly, it’s unfair.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think PFF has some sort of anti-Trubisky bias. HOWEVER, when there is such a drastic disconnect between statistical production and the analytical conclusions, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what gives.