Kevin Kolb: Schaub-like or Feeley-ish?

| May 13, 2011

As I’ve stated elsewhere, I was a fan of the Atlanta Falcons trading the farm to pick up a guy they thought would make them a better team. I can get behind that ethos, even though I haven’t seen Julio Jones play in the NFL (my PFF contract includes a “no college football” clause as I’m chained to the desk watching the NFL).

So then it may surprise people how much I’m against the idea of a team swapping a first round pick for Kevin Kolb. Simply put, it would amaze me to see a team pass on the potential of a top draft selection in favor of the more proven Kolb, who has seven career starts to his name. When you really break him down, there’s nothing about the way he has played to suggest he’ll be any more Matt Schaub than A.J. Feeley.

Pretty big statement, allow me to try and back it up.

There’s no better place to start than looking at his less-than-stellar career numbers:

Kevin Kolb, 2008 to 2010

Year
Att.
Comp
Comp %
Yds
TD
INT
Sk
DP
NFL Rating
2008341750.00%144040221.8
2009966264.58%741434388.9
201018911560.85%118677161175.8
Total31919460.82%20711114201673.02

A few things immediately jump out. First, it’s the seeming regression from 2009 to 2010 when he was given more of an opportunity to play. Up went his ratio of interceptions to attempts and percentage of plays he was sacked, and down went his completion percentage, touchdowns per attempt, and QB rating. In fairness, some of this can be attributed to playing with the backups in Week 17 (something we’ll look at in greater detail later), but it’s startling that when handed the opportunity in 2010, he failed to take hold of it.

What’s worse is how he hamstrung the Philadelphia passing attack. While you can say a lot of negative things about DeSean Jackson (and we often do), you can’t question his ability as possibly the league’s premier deep threat. The Eagles relied on Jackson and his quick strike ability to keep safeties away from the line of scrimmage and expose match-ups if proper deep ball respect wasn’t given. Michael Vick knew this and made it work. Kevin Kolb didn’t. Here’s a look at what Kolb has done in the past three years with his deep ball.

Kevin Kolb, Deep Passing

Year
Att.
Comp.
Comp %
Yds
TD
INT
2008300.00%001
20097114.29%7111
201026830.77%31925
Total36925.00%39037

Even the improvement to 30.77% isn’t anything to be particularly proud about. Out of 36 quarterbacks who attempted at least 25 passes over 20 yards, only 10 had a lower completion percentage than Kolb – and none of those ten had a weapon like DeSean Jackson at their disposal. More noteworthy is the stark difference between Kolb and Vick. There’s some merit to scheme being a big factor in a quarterback’s completion percentage when throwing deep (it’s why Kerry Collins and Vince Young both had such success). The gap between Vick and Kolb, however, is so big it probably indicates the 30.77% figure is a little bit flattering because of the makeup of the Eagles offense.

Here’s a look at how the deep ball numbers for the two QB’s compared in 2010:

Comparing Kolb and Vick, Deep Passing in 2010

Player
Att.
Comp.
Comp %
Yds
TD
INT
Michael Vick652741.54%98085
Kevin Kolb26830.77%31925

Now it is a little unfair to compare Kolb to Vick, with the former Falcon having an arm and skill set perfectly suited to taking advantage of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. You can’t expect Kolb to compete with Vick, but it’s the huge disparity between the two that should be a concern. There aren’t many offenses that aren’t going to ask you to throw deep at some point, and Kolb has proven issues doing so (the 19.23% of deep balls he threw that resulted in interceptions further that point).

Yet it’s not just deep balls. You break it down to the more intermediate passes and the struggles are still evident. Now he’s not as bad in this range, but he’s hardly putting in the kind of performances (even in a small sample size) to make you think he could be the missing piece for a franchise.

Kevin Kolb, Intermediate Passing (10-19 yards)

Year
Att.
Comp.
Comp %
Yds
TD
INT
20087342.86%4200
2009181266.67%25410
2010301550.00%25411
Total553054.55%55021

That 2010 completion percentage had Kolb finish 39th out of 52 quarterbacks, and worse still, he showed no progress on a far more encouraging 2009. Even his short range passing between 0 and 9 yards isn’t that great, with him finishing a modest 26th out of 52. Behind Michael Vick in all categories, it wasn’t just a case of the Eagles’ personnel bringing him down.

So I ask again, what is all the fuss about?

Determined to get to the bottom of it, I figured forget how far they are throwing it. Let’s look at how accurate the quarterbacks are when the pressure is on. Some of the places that have been mentioned as possible destinations for Kolb have terrible protection, so he better be good when it comes to handling it.

And finally I get something to work with …  yes, the sample size is small, but completing 59.18% of passes when pressured is the third highest mark in the league. The only problem is those numbers are slightly misleading. You see, Kolb completed 29 of 49 passes when pressured, but he was pressured on 69 drop backs. He ran for the hills on five plays, but more worryingly, he took 16 sacks.  You won’t be surprised to hear that at the bottom of that list of who let pressure turn into sacks is a certain Peyton Manning, with Drew Brees not too far off.

Arizona has among the worst lines in the league and are rumored to be potential suitors for Kolb. Have they learned nothing from Derek Anderson?

Still, numbers are just numbers. Let’s go beyond what the stats say. I looked at our grading of Kolb in 2010. That would provide some answers and allow me to sleep soundly knowing that people desperate for quarterback help weren’t about to get fleeced.

Only it didn’t.

We note each play on a scale from +2.0 to -2.0 in 0.5 increments and here’s what we came up with:

8   very good (+1.0) plays (3.79% of drop backs)

36 good (+0.5) plays (17.06%)

26 bad (-0.5) plays (12.32%)

13 very bad (-1.0) plays (6.16%)

1   extremely bad (-1.5) play (0.47%)

So he’s capable of making good throws, but just as much he’s capable of making some bad ones.  I tried to find a guy who we ranked similar and you know who I found? A player who we graded as having;

14 very good plays (4.7% of drop backs)

48 good plays (13.95%)

53 bad plays (15.41%)

9   very bad plays (2.61%)

2   extremely bad plays (0.58%)

The player I’m talking about is Jimmy Clausen. He wasn’t great as a rookie, and in just over a hundred fewer drop backs, Kolb was just as bad. It’s just Kolb played on a better team and was out of the lineup before it had a chance to really show up.

I’d be even more worried if he winds up with a team that plays outdoors. In Week 17, Kolb didn’t look like he could even throw a ball in the wet conditions. He was struggling to hit even the simplest of throws. Missing on hitch routes and quick outs, even hitting his own guard in the back of the head with one ball. It didn’t tell a good story of his ability to handle difficult conditions that the NFL throws up from time to time.

Of course, there are some other things to consider. A lot of Kolb’s time has been spent coming off the bench and his best performances have come when he’s had time to prepare. There’s nothing to say that with the full confidence of a team in him, and a season of starts under his belt, he won’t become the player some teams expect him to be. I tend to think that’s a bit optimistic and a convenient get out, when his body of work has been so wholly unconvincing.

Everywhere I look with Kolb there are big time question marks. He has handled the blitz well during his time in the NFL, but it doesn’t go anywhere near making up for the rest of what we’ve seen on the field in three years.

Maybe he goes somewhere that lets him develop with playing time, seeing him blossom like Matt Schaub has in Houston. But from what I’ve seen, I’m calling it. Whoever acquiesces to Andy Reid’s demands is going to regret it.

And if they don’t, well let’s just forget I said anything.

  • sleepy042

    How much did the loss of Ctr Jamaal Jackson in the season opener factor in? Kolb worked with him the entire training camp, got used to him then lost him. Facing the biggest 3-4 front in the season opener probably didnt help…how much interior pressure did GB bring after that point in the game?
    i’m not making excuses for Kolb here…i find it odd that he’s being shopped in a trade by a coach who’s closely followed him ever since he came to Houston in college. Reid used to specifically order his game tapes when Kolb started to watch him develop. Unless he’s going to hose another team like he did with McNabb to WAS last year…

  • http://www.profootballfocus.com Khaled Elsayed

    Hard to tell how much loss of Jackson affected him. But it’s something he should overcome. Josh Freeman lost Jeff Faine for most of the season, Eli Manning lost O’Hara. It happens and it’s not the easiest thing to deal with, but after a few years in the league I’d expect him to get it.

    As for the pressure, we’ve got Jackson down for giving up a sack and his replacement having a perfect day in pass pro. Can’t tell what impact the new guy had on the guys either side of him though.

  • osodallas

    I can understand how you could draw such a conclusion from an aggregate statistical point of view, but in a game by game breakdown I’m not sure the same story would be told by the numbers.

    When Kolb had a full line plus DeSean Jackson he did very well against the Falcons. Actually he didn’t do too poorly without Jackson against the Titans either.

    If the worst game he’s played was the Cowboys game when he was playing toss and catch with taxi squad players against Dallas’ first stringers, that’s not too shabby.

    The jury has to still be out on Kolb until he can play a full season. Having said that, Kolb hasn’t done all that bad considering the situations he’s been thrown into, including that half game against the Ravens when McNabb was benched.

    • Nathan Jahnke

      I agree the jury is out until he plays a full season, but from what we can tell now we don’t have that much reason to believe he will do very well, or will be worth what some teams will be willing to pay for him. However when we do a game by game look it doesn’t look good ether. He did do well against the Falcons, but I don’t agree about the two other games you bring up.

      In 2008 against the Ravens, he had 10 completions, 23 attempts, 73 yards and 2 interceptions. Doing any advanced analysis shows that it was not a good game as well. Yes it was the Ravens defense, but you’d like to complete at least half your passes, or get more then 3.2 yards per attempt.

      In 2010 against the Titans, I’m not seeing how that game can be considered a positive for him. 22 of his 26 completions were on passes of 10 yards or less, and he made some poor choices trying to throw deep. He was much worse this season in games against the Redskins and Packers. This year that puts him at one good game, one average, one below average and three a lot below average. Game by game that’s still not very good.

  • John Breitenbach

    Specifically here are Kolb’s numbers with a full week of practice with the starters compared to coming off the bench or playing with backups:
    Starting – +7.5
    Off the bench – -15.0

    As you can see, he’s far superior when he has time to prepare. I think the most we can say is that we don’t know.