Friday, July 13, 2012

Six Possible QB Depth Charts

Recently, a "math" friend and I have been playing with probability questions that go against intuition. Probably the most famous is the Monty Hall Problem, based on the Let's Make a Deal TV show with doors numbered one, two, and three...

Let's say one of the three doors is a winner and the other two are "zonks". You pick a door at random, say door number three. Now the host reveals that one of the unpicked doors, say door number one, is a zonk and he offers you the chance to switch to the remaining door, door number two. Should you switch?

Most people feel that the odds are the same, or even better, sticking with door number three. Bzzt. Wrong answer. The odds when you picked door number three were 1 in 3. That doesn't change when the host reveals that door number one is a zonk. That means that the odds of door number two having the winner is now 2 in 3, given that a closed set of probabilities always add up to 1. So given the choice, always switch!

It doesn't make intuitive sense, but the math proves it out. They even tested it on Myth Busters, and practice matches theory. Hey, if Myth Busters proved it, it has to be true!

So that brings us to the Seahawk's quarterback situation. Who is behind doors number one, two, and three? More importantly, what does the organization do after they announce the starter?

So... there are six possible combinations. Using "F" as shorthand for Flynn, "J" for Jackson, and "W" for Wilson, we have FJW, FWJ, JFW, JWF, WFJ, and WJF. We can guess that FJW is the most likely: Flynn makes the most money and has experience behind the league's best QB, Jackson has the most experience but a limited ceiling, and Wilson doesn't just lack height; he lacks experience too. But the fact of the matter is that we fans have no idea. We haven't seen all three in meeting rooms, on the practice field, or in game situations with this offense. It's virtually even-steven, so I'm not going to put odds on who starts.

The more interesting thing is to look at who ends up in third place. That's what will determine the organizational moves.

Let's say it's FJW or JFW. Wilson is in last place. The (unbiased) odds are 1 in 3. If so, Flynn/Jackson end up as the starter and backup combo. According to Schneider, Wilson was a "must get" in the draft. That leaves Portis as the odd man out. He's either cut or put on the practice squad from which he will likely get snatched up by another team. Wilson is kept on the 53 man roster to keep him from being lost and to develop as a future starter/backup.

So far, Portis has a 1 in 3 chance of not being a Seahawk.

Next, lets assume that Jackson ends up in last place with FWJ or WFJ. If that happens, TJack gets cut. He would have no future. Portis is put on the 53 to protect him, since Portis would have more future upside than dead-end Jackson.

Now we can add a 1 in 3 chance that Jackson is gone.

Finally, we have Flynn tanking with JWF or WJF. This is a tough call. The team must either cut Flynn or lose Portis. With Portis as the #4 and all that guaranteed money to Flynn, I think Portis is gone and Flynn stays on the 53 as we try to improve his game. If Flynn doesn't improve, he could get cut the next year. If Flynn is on the bottom of the totem pole this year, I say there's a 50/50 chance he gets cut the following year.

So, given unbiased odds, I've got a 2 of 3 chance that Portis walks, and a 1 in 3 chance that Jackson is gone this year. We also have something like a 1 in 6 chance that Flynn is cut the following year.

The interesting thing is that I don't have any scenario where Wilson is cut in the near future. He's the only guy with job security. Portis, on the other hand, shouldn't buy a new house in Seattle and might think about a pre-move yard sale. His only chance to stay is if TJack fails.

The thing is, when Carroll announces the starter, he will be mum on who "placed" and who "showed." The way we will figure out the order of the number two and three spots will be based on contract moves from Schneider's office.

If there's a moral to the story, it's this: When you want to be the prize on Let's Make a Deal, don't stand behind door number four. Also, when you have the most experience, don't dare come in third place.


  1. Great angle, Jon.

    I'll even take it a step further: Jackson is the only QB on this roster with any appreciable gameday experience. A backup QB who's a veteran and can manage games to the tune of .500 is a commodity a lot of teams would pay for.

    Which means that frankly I don't see Portis sticking around at all. Nor am I concerned, since we've got two far more projectible QB's on the roster already.

    1. I hope some other team pays for his services then.

  2. I agree. A backup who gives you a 50/50 chance of winning is critically important. You can almost bet on the backup starting a couple of games in this league.

    But if Wilson solidly beats TJack for the #2 spot, then TJack isn't the backup. Wilson is. There's no value in keeping TJack as a #3.

    The #3 guy virtually never plays. The #3 guy should be your young, development guy. He's not expected to win any games. If called to duty, he just needs to survive to the end of the game so the fans don't riot because of a forfeit.

    Seattle has never(* - asterisk) had a 3rd QB start more one game. I believe the exception* would be 1988, when Jeff Kemp was the #2, played poorly replacing an injured Krieg, and Stouffer got promoted until Krieg came back. But this wasn't due to the #2 getting injured.

    But like I say, when Carroll announces the starter, he'll be mum on who won the #2 spot.

    Then again, when the season starts, we will get to see who is on the 45-man active list and who isn't. I don't expect Wilson to be active and TJack inactive. If Flynn and Wilson are both active, TJack will either be inactive due to injury or gone.

  3. I can envision Wilson ending up #3 no matter how he looks, because Pete wants to protect him for later. That'll annoy some people, but it's consistent with Pete's wariness of rookies.

  4. It's correct that Pete [i]was[/i] wary of rookies. Just ask Sanchez. At the end of the season, however, he said that his views are changing. He mentioned that some QBs have taken thousands of snaps before they get to the NFL, have been through top camps and clinics - and have played tons of Madden - so that they are much more prepared than they used to be. Today, he would be willing to start a rookie, if it's the right guy.

    All indications are that Wilson has had the kind of preparation that Pete was talking about. I'm not saying that he [i]will[/i] be the number one or two, but that it's possible. If it weren't possible, I doubt that Pete would be splitting reps three ways.

    Still, conventional wisdom would point to Flynn, Jackson, and then Wilson - followed by an uncomfortable call to Portis. Then again, PCJS isn't always conventional.

    1. With the exception of 1st round picks and Moffit, Pete Carroll's policy on rookies has generally seemed to be break them in slowly with a few plays in the first few games and then adjust accordingly. I don't think he's afraid to play them, but I think he's also very careful about exposing them too soon.

      If Wilson is right there in the competition for #1 coming out of preseason, I could see a scenario where he doesn't start but does get a series or two in the first couple games as sort of an extended tryout for the job and an acclimation. If he's that close I don't think it will be any secret that he's the future and not Flynn or Jackson.

  5. CROW - will be the main dish for supper for a lot of y'all that think Russell Wilson isn't going to tear up the preseason and show everyone that he is tall enough to play very well in the NFL. PC knows this or he wouldn't have made it a 3 way competition to begin with. Flynn will make a good back up, T-Jack, not so much and Portis needs further development.

    People that say Wilson is inexperienced need to know that he started 50 consecutive games and holds several NCAA alltime records. Flynn, by comparison was a 1 year starter in college and since he's been in the NFL he's started 2 lousy games. Flynn perhaps benefited slightly from playing behind Rogers, but you know he didn't get very many practice snaps, so for real, live, for the record football starts, Wilson has a vast amount of gameday experience over Flynn.

    For the preseason games, PC has stated that his goal was to keep the snaps even and a level table for all 3 QB's. The first 2 games have 8 quarters total, and the 3-rd games 1-st quarter makes it 9 quarters total. If each QB gets to play 3 quarters during the first 2.25 games, PC should have enough data to declare the winner (IMO- Wilson) and that QB can finish off the majority of the other 2 games of the preseason and start the regular season. All QB problems are then solved for years to come.

    T-Jack should be traded for a 7th round draft choice to a dumb team if possible, otherwise, buy him a bus ticket.

  6. If you're right and Wilson gets the starting role, then TJack needs to show that he's clearly the best choice for the #2 role. Otherwise he's toast.

    It's not impossible that happens. Wilson tilts the room and probably has the best combination of arm strength and accuracy. And TJack might show himself to be way above Flynn. TJack beat Charlie so bad that the team liked an injured Jackson better than a healthy Whitehurst. If Flynn is at Charlie's level, TJack stays - and Portis is the odd man out as we try to save face on Flynn.

    For the record, I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if Wilson starts on Week 1. He has everything a rookie can bring except height.

  7. Have any of you guys that actually support Tarvaris gone back and watched the games again? I did, and I came away with an even lesser opinion of his abilities. Tarvaris is awful. The ONLY reason the Seahawks won 7 games last year was their defense. Tarvaris will be around just long enough to show EVERYONE that he lost the job fair and square. He will not be a backup for Seattle unless he takes a 75% pay cut. Even with the pay cut, he would be being overpaid.

  8. Any combination of QB's on the Seahawk roster will not include the initials TJ. He will be gone.

  9. that so? 75% cut is too much for his performance.. let's just all hope that seahawks' next drafts would become better- better pick, better performance who's worthy for the TF.