“QB Wins” Stat Applies to Cousins – but Not Deshaun Watson

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Whether it is the Minnesota Vikings or any NFL team’s signal-caller, football enthusiasts relish utilizing “Quarterback Wins” as a statistic to adjudicate a player’s success or failure. It is probably derived from MLB pitchers as those athletes are assigned a win-loss record based on how the baseball team – as a whole – performs.

Just as pitchers are judged by wins and losses as an individual metric, quarterbacks get the same treatment. “How many games has Baker Mayfield won for Cleveland Browns?” – is the type of narrative that swirls in sports circles while wholly dismissing accountability for a middle linebacker of free safety. Have you ever heard, “What is Aaron Donald’s DT record?”

No, you have not. Why? Because games are not singularly won on the back of a defensive tackle just as quarterbacks do not singlehandedly control the outcome of games. Both positions heavily influence wins and losses – along with 52 of their peers on a Sunday, Monday, or Thursday. But professional football is not like professional tennis where the setup is one-on-one.

The common sense of it all is overlooked. It is marketable to pit Tom Brady vs. Russell Wilson because a mono-e-mono vibe is established. Think of the methods that David Stern used to market Michael Jordan in the NBA 30 years ago – “Jordan vs. Bird” or “Magic vs. Bird” or “Jordan vs. Magic.” It sells tickets and puts eyeballs on television screens.

But “quarterback wins” is a flawed metric that is blatantly too simplistic to attach to a single football player.

Cousins 7-9 with NFL’s 29th Ranked Defense

This requires elementary logic – NFL teams with bad defenses seldom end seasons with winning records. In 2020, the Vikings capped the pandemic season with the league’s 4th-worst defense via points allowed. Conversely, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense engineered the 11th-best offense in points scored. That offensive ranking is not otherworldly, but it is on par with a team that should probably reach the postseason given an average or decent defense.

But the Vikings didn’t have that in 2020.

Mike Zimmer’s bunch struggled with creating pocket pressure, tackling, forcing turnovers, 4th Down efficiency, etc. The unit was flat-out poor. If the blame-game is mandatory, the Vikings are at home this January because of defense. The offense boasted a Top 10 quarterback as graded by Pro Football Focus, the NFL’s second-leading rusher in Dalvin Cook, and a possible Offensive Rookie of the Year recipient in Justin Jefferson. Are you not entertained?

QB Wins is a lousy stat because it makes absolutely no mention of the defense or special teams that accompanies the quarterback’s team. Nevertheless, Cousins takes heat for failing to use gridiron bootstraps to levitate the Vikings to the playoffs.

Watson 4-12 with NFL’s 27h Ranked Defense

The absurdity of tapping QB Wins as the stat of choice is not limited to Kirk Cousins. It applies to all quarterbacks.

Since Deshaun Watson entered the NFL, “his” win-loss record is 28-25 (.528). Watson has played with the Houston Texans the entire time and has yet to make a significant playoff push with his team. During the same timeframe, since 2017, Alex Smith is 20-11 (.645). With a straight face, can Smith be declared as Watson’s superior? Let’s hope not.

This season has been particularly sorrowful for Watson and the Texans. To measure quarterbacks by a QB-Wins metric in 2020 – is to declare that Watson is awful. His QB record is 4-12. Why hasn’t Watson dragged his team to a winning record? His passer rating is second-best in the business, after all. The Clemson alumnus was deprived of DeAndre Hopkins after a miserable trade by the Texans with the Cardinals. Then, his WR corps went to hell with suspensions. Oh, and his team’s defense ranks 27th in points allowed.

Watson has not circumvented his team’s lackluster tendencies because Watson is a single human. 52 other men play alongside him. One must evaluate teams and head coaches by wins and losses – not individual players immersed in a team sport.

And, the sentiment surrounding Watson is chiefly one of empathy. It is not “poor Kirk Cousins with that defense in Minnesota,” but it is “poor Deshaun Watson down there in Houston.”

Why is that?

Rodgers vs. Trubisky Lunacy

Before the Packers and Bears hooked up in Week 17 of 2020, a juicy stat circulated the internet. Indeed, the stat is accurate, but it vivifies the lunacy of QB Wins. Through each man’s 49th career start at the quarterback position, Rodgers and Trubisky held the same win-loss quarterback record – 29-20 (.592).

What is learned from this stat? The Bears and Packers franchises were equally as successful in regular-season win percentage through the first 49 career starts by Rodgers and Trubisky respectively. That’s it.

Trubisky is not equitable with Rodgers in terms of talent or production. But the QB Wins stats imply that the men are identical bedfellows. It’s why the stat metric is laughable and misleading.