The first thing critics probably said after reading the title was probably something along the lines of “yeah but he can’t throw deep” or “he just checks down, those are easy throws.”
Well, this isn’t a rating based on completion percentage. In fact, this is more about what accuracy truly means outside of what we have grown to have it mean as a statistic.
Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus charted just how accurate each throw was by a quarterback from within nine yards of the line of scrimmage. What does that mean exactly?
Well, Palazzolo provides a pretty nice diagram in his article demonstrating proper ball location. On these throws underneath, you want your quarterback to be leading the receiver, so they can keep as much of their speed as possible. This eliminates throws that were behind the target that may have been completed in game.
The reason for that is because that kind of throw can often times stop a receiver in their tracks. That leads to the receiver often times getting stopped at the point of the catch or greatly reducing their chance at creating yards after the catch.
One important note that Palazzolo inserts as well is there are times a throw may end up in an undesired location, but if it is because he is throwing it away from coverage, then it still counts as accurate.
With that all in mind, Andy Dalton ranked fifth in the NFL with an accuracy percentage of 68.1. To give this some frame of reference he is among some good names as the four quarterbacks ahead of him include Tom Brady (74.9), Drew Brees (74.7), Jimmy Garoppolo (70.5), and Phillip Rivers (68.4).
Those names should help show the importance of this stat. Brady and Brees are two of the best in the league, and it looks like Garoppolo could be headed that way as well. Also when people think of these guys they may not realize how well they throw these passes underneath and how important that is.
It shouldn’t be that shocking to see Dalton this high. He ran a spread offense at TCU that emphasized these kinds of throws, and then in the NFL, he has run a version of the West Coast offense every year, which also utilizes a lot of underneath throws.
So often, fans want teams to take more chances down field, but the truth is these are the kinds of throws that ultimately make or break a game. The ball placement of one of these passes could be the difference between a receiver running for a first down or being stopped and having to punt.
Also, offensive coordinators have become so smart that these underneath throws can be almost unstoppable when run correctly with the defensive rules in the NFL.
The Bengals’ “new” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor would be smart to run quite a few of these plays to help the offense get in rhythm, get some easy yards and take advantage of Dalton’s accuracy in these areas.