A Tale of Two Cities… in the Same State


“He’s my No. 1 quarterback, and to me he’s the one quarterback in the draft who, if you’ve got to bang the table for a franchise quarterback, he’s the guy.  The kid confirmed everything you want to see in a franchise quarterback. I thought he did as good as he could have. His footwork was real clean. His arm was real accurate, and his arm strength was great.”

— NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on Blaine Gabbert after his Pro Day

On April 19, a story got posted over on BleacherReport about something I’d been thinking about for a while: the relationship between Ryan Tannehill’s pre-draft journey and Blaine Gabbert’s.  The article compares the two quarterbacks in relation to the contexts around them – both their college performance and the NFL situation at play that year.  In this article, I’m going to delve a bit deeper into the two QBs whose experience, production, tools, and intangibles make them analogous prospects, at least on paper.


Ryan Tannehill, QB Texas A&M. Source: US Presswire

“Based just on film, Tannehill shouldn’t be a top-10 pick… He’s very raw. He had only 19 starts in college. However, because the NFL is so overheated right now when it comes to finding franchise quarterbacks, I think the kid is probably going to go higher than he should.”

— NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock on Ryan Tannehill after his Pro Day.

You’re not going to see p-values or multiple linear regressions, but I’m a stat-advocate, so I took a long look at the production of both quarterbacks in certain contexts and variables.  The statistics used, and the resulting analysis, may give you a biased impression because they’re based on the QB trait I value highest: crunch-time play.  Each of the measures used, in some fashion, denotes a situation in which the QB faces added pressure to make a play for the team and of course, the resulting production.  There are certain statistics I had to leave out due to very small sample sizes, including: Production against AP Ranked Teams, Production on 3rd/4th and Goal, and Production Inside the 10 Yard Line.  In addition, a few of the boxes in the tables below are blank for this same reason.


Overall   Stats
Ryan TannehillQB Rating (college measure)Completion %YdsTDsIntsAvg
Year 1 (7 games)137.065.016381367.0
Year 2133.261.6374429157.1
Blaine Gabbert
Year 1140.558.935932498.1
Year 2127.063.431861696.7
Detailed   Statistics
Ryan TannehillQB Rating (college measure)Completion %YPA
Year 1 (7 games)
Overall Stats137.065.07.0
Final Margin 0-7pts104.255.95.1
When Winning by 0-7125.460.46.1
When Tied119.066.76.2
When Losing by 0-7123.469.27.7
4th Quarter127.559.66.6
In the Redzone257.673.94.8
3rd Down144.755.98.3
On 3rd and <6 yds
Year 2
Overall Stats133.261.67.1
Final Margin 0-7pts115.259.05.8
When Winning by 0-7156.367.08.1
When Tied109.961.55.9
When Losing by 0-7110.051.66.1
4th Quarter122.759.46.4
In the Redzone209.763.54.3
3rd Down131.858.17.6
On 3rd and <6 yds119.965.35.6
Blaine Gabbert
Year 1
Overall Stats140.558.98.1
Final Margin 0-7pts125.458.16.42
When Winning by 0-7181.460.311.21
When Tied109.862.55.63
When Losing by 0-7130.455.28.83
4th Quarter108.256.36.37
In the Redzone91.532.43.12
3rd Down
On 3rd and <6 yds
Year 2
Overall Stats127.063.46.7
Final Margin 0-7pts111.258.76.38
When Winning by 0-7140.2656.9
When Tied118.967.16.16
When Losing by 0-7104.761.35.77
4th Quarter108.256.36.37
In the Redzone131.959.63.45
3rd Down94.244.34.92
On 3rd and <6 yds111.851.45.3


Honestly, the two QBs are far more similar than I imagined.  On a superficial level, you have two young guys that played in the Big 12, had limited experience as college QBs with moderate production, but have the physical tools and abilities to be prototypical NFL QBs.  On a deeper level though, you have two guys that struggle (mostly) and excel (less so) in the same areas of the game.  They are worse than usual at crunch time in basically all metrics that I gathered – particularly when the game is close and in the fourth quarter.  Both QBs, however, have at least a couple good crunch time statistics.  They both had pretty good production when they’re ahead, with Blaine being particularly good when holding on to a lead in close game, and Tannehill had excellent production in the red zone.

Now, some unaccounted for contexts will inflate/deflate statistics – Gabbert played in the spread more so than Tannehill did, which has the potential to inflate his completion % statistics and deflate his YPA. Other contexts may do the same.  For example, if you look at most college quarterbacks – and probably even NFL quarterbacks – they probably struggle more during crunch time than they do when the game is in hand.  Moreover, there are certain aspects about these contexts that lend themselves to worse stats – eg, not wanting to make a mistake during crunch time or in the red zone may drop completion percentage b/c QBs are more likely to throw the ball away if there’s no one open.  But there are some statistics you just don’t want to see from a prospect – like having a 44% completion percentage and averaging 4.9 YPA on 3rd down.

Both Gabbert and Tannehill have great arms, can make all the throws, are very mobile, and are natural throwers of the football.  However, based on their statistics in specific situations, I think it’s curious that Mike Mayock, the current hot trend in dependable NFL draftniks, thought of Gabbert and Tannehill very differently as prospects, which may serve one of two points: 1. Statistics can only tell you so much and game film  gives you crucial nuance about a college prospect and how his game translates to the NFL. and/or 2. It’s very hard to separate preconceived biases when one looks at game film, and this is a challenge for even the best of draftniks and scouts.

Based on this very brief production analysis of these two quarterbacks, I have to say that neither are elite QB prospects. By comparison, take at Andrew Luck’s and Robert Griffin’s split stats over their last two years during crunch time, which show why they’re elite QB prospects and why Luck particularly is a once in a generation type of prospect.  Now, Gabbert and Tannehill may be just under that elite prospect title – prospects that have the tools, the drive, and no character questions, but that don’t yet have the polish that an Andrew Luck has.  The question is, when do you take that kind of prospect, and at least in the last couple years, NFL teams are saying “in the Top Ten”.

However, at the end of the day, these statistics and analyses don’t say anything about the type of success a QB will have in the NFL.  They are simply predictors (my predictors) which have greater and lesser correlations with NFL success.  It takes the right situation, the right coaches, the right O-line, the right WRs, and the right RB, to go along with a QBs own patience, determination, and efforts that will determine the type of success a QB has in the NFL.  Here in Jackonsville, the situation wasn’t ideal last year, but this year – with a new owner, coach, WRs, and the same trusty running back, hopefully we have what it takes to help Blaine make the leap from a ‘Hill of a prospect to a Mountain(a) of an NFL QB.

— Zain Gowani