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Andy Dalton among least gamescript-dependent quarterbacks in NFL

A closer look shows that Dalton’s productions stays consistent, regardless of the score.

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

How does a gamescript effect a quarterback’s production? Does a quarterback play differently when his team is ahead, as opposed to when his team is trailing?

Pro Football Focus’ Scott Barrett set out to answer this question. He took a look at each quarterback’s number of snaps when ahead and when trailing, then compared it to their fantasy PPR values.

The most common trend was for a quarterback to have better production when his team was trailing than when his team was leading. This makes sense, because since when a team needs to score points, they will try to pass more to put up points more quickly. When the team is already ahead, coaches like to run the ball to milk the clock and reduce the chance that they will give the ball away.

Of all 31 quarterbacks Barrett measured, 25 of them passed less often when leading, quantified with a negative leading differential. Twenty-six of the quarterbacks passed more when trailing, netting a positive trailing differential.

For example, Alex Smith, who is the most extreme example of this trend, lost 11 percent of his production while leading, giving him a leading differential of -11 percent. His production increased by 14 percent while trailing, giving him a trailing differential of +14 percent.

There were only three quarterbacks that had neither a negative leading differential nor a positive trailing differential: Case Keenum, Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton.

Dalton’s leading differential was zero and his trailing differential was -2 percent. In other words, his production was mostly the same regardless of whether the Bengals were ahead or trailing.

While most “game manager” quarterbacks will predictably alter their production based on the gamescript, Dalton doesn’t fit into that category. However, this may have been because the run game was so abysmal in 2017. The Bengals couldn’t count on the running backs to run down the clock like most other teams, so they called on Dalton more during both leading and trailing situations.