Grading Oakland Raiders' Passing Game

By Carlton Chin
Denarius Moore
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As one of my fellow Rant Sports writers mentioned, the Oakland Raiders need more than just a quarterback to achieve an effective passing game. Simply put, one player throws the ball, and one player catches the ball.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will certainly attest to this fact. Some believe that 2013 was one of Brady’s better seasons because he led the Patriots to the AFC Championship without Wes Welker, without great receivers and with a generally weaker team.

Since football is a team sport, the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats” is meaningful. That is, a player’s statistics are influenced by the play of their teammates. Without Welker, one of Brady’s favorite targets, his statistics declined in 2013.

Brady’s quarterback rating declined to 87.3 from recent levels averaging 100, and his completion percentage declined to 60.5 percent from recent levels of around 65 percent. Although Brady is aging at age 36, the numbers are mainly a result of Welker’s departure and a generally weaker team.

Why talk about Brady when we’re studying the Raiders’ passing game?  I’m trying to make the point that it is difficult to rate a quarterback without rating receivers. Similarly, receivers need to be rated relative to the level of the quarterback. I will use the same approach I took in a previous article: applying WPA, or Win Probability Added, to study the game and players in more detail.

WPA computes the impact of each play on the probability of winning that game.  More specifically, WPA can be used to study player performance. Based on WPA, the passing game earned the following grades:

Quarterbacks: C
Receivers: B

Oakland quarterbacks Matt McGloin (QB rating of 76.1) and Terrelle Pryor (69.1) underperformed the league QB rating of 84.1. Both quarterbacks are young at age 24, so they might develop and improve. On the other hand, history and statistics show that many of the elite quarterbacks do not underperform for very long before developing into stars.

In general, Pryor has had more playing time than McGloin. McGloin has outperformed Pryor with his shorter tenure and currently seems to have better upside.

The Raiders’ receiving corps is led by 25-year-old Denarius Moore, a top quartile wide receiver based on WPA. Overall, the Raiders’ quarterback situation is weaker than their receiving situation. This has important draft and trade implications.  I will discuss this more in upcoming articles, but in a nutshell: the quarterback, as a single player, is more important than a single receiver.

Carlton Chin is a portfolio strategist, quantitative researcher, and sports analysis contributor at  Please follow him at Twitter @QuantFacts ,  “Like” him on Facebook  or add him to your Google network. 

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