JG and Gannon

I don't like the idea of trade for a QB if it involves picks or players other than Carr. Brady's taken himself off the table, leaving a list of FA QB's we've all seen plenty of times already--I don't need to rehearse it here. Some are considered too expensive (Smith, Jackson, Rogers), others too much of a downgrade from Carr (Mayfield, Brissett). Some fans are chanting "tank with Stidham," while others think he is the in-house answer. Yet others want to trade the farm for the first pick of the draft and run with a rookie.

But then there's JimmyG. Shanahan just told the world JG won't be a 49er, so even with Purdy's bum elbow JG has just become a frontrunner to be the next QB for the Silver and Black. At first glance, JG seems like lateral move, one athletically gifted career under-achiever for another. But is that the case? They are hard to compare. While both entered the league in 2014, they have followed very different trajectories: Carr has been a starter for virtually all of his career and has missed almost no games to injury, while JG spent a good part of his career as a backup, first to Brady, then to Lance, and only had two years as a starter without significant time injured. And yet JG came within 5 minutes of winning a Superbowl, while Carr's never gotten past round one of the playoffs, and never won the division. With those caveats, we can extrapolate JG's numbers compared with Carr's if JG had attempted as many regular season passes as Carr has over their nine-year careers:

JG 3352 4958 67.6 41046 8.3 250 121 353
DC 3201 4958 64.6 35,222 7.1 217 99 264

JG beats Carr on total yards, because his average yards are better--years of Capt Checkdown hold Carr back here--but also his CMP% is better. JG has the edge in TDs (Carr's RZ problem is well documented, whatever the cause may be), but also leads in INTs by 20%, which is a lot. Interestingly, JG would have taken more sacks than Carr, perhaps because he's more inclined to try to run, and gets caught behind the line? In any case, it's clear why JG has the better overall career QB rating (99.6 vs 91.8).

So am I making the case to sign JimmyG based on this comparison? Not really. I'm more interested in a different comp, one better matched to JimmyG's career so far: Rich Gannon. Like JG, Gannon started as a backup, got an opportunity to start, but then found himself a backup again. His first nine years showed some promise but not a lot of real success. Here's a comparison of the first nine seasons for each, adjusted again to make pass attempts equal:

JG 1167 1726 67.6 14289 8.3 87 42 123
RG 977 1726 79.5 10826 8.8 69 62 143

You can see the numbers: JG was a far better QB in his first 9 seasons than Gannon was. Gannon was not signed by the Raiders as a FA until year 12, but even if we average in his seasons 10 and 11 numbers, the comparison stays pretty much the same. Gannon's QB rating in those years? 75.6.

So, why did Gannon suddenly become all-world when joined the Raiders in 1999? He was still the same guy, but his situation shifted: he found himself with a coach who could maximize his skills--Gru fit him into the version of the west coast offense he was running. He had Tim Brown to throw to, and later Rice as well. And we know the rest of that story.

What's the point of all this? I don't particularly want JimmyG to be the Raiders' starting QB, but that's mostly because I think jettisoning Carr without a plan to replace him is a great failing at many levels and at many points in time within the Raiders org, from Mark to Z to McD. (Note, I was fine with jettisoning Carr--the problem was a lack of a viable plan.) But we are where we are, with nothing but flawed solutions available for what should have been an avoidable problem.

Would JimmyG be the worst solution to that problem? He would cost zero draft picks. He would cost no players in trade. He knows McD and his system. He might be had at a non-astronomical salary, spread over time to minimize cap hits and to maximize the two-to-three year window we have with the current offensive weapons. He has guided a team to the Superbowl, and would have beaten the Chiefs if... well, we all saw the last 5 minutes of that game. He has done nothing but win his whole career.

Well, win and get injured. Will JG stay healthy? Past experience suggests no. That's a big problem if he's signed to a multi-year deal with any significant amount of guaranteed money. But you cannot base signings on injury history. (Players get injured all the time--if you were worried about that, you should have stayed with Carr!) Remember that Gannon's Raiders career ended after only a few years because of injury--no one would have preferred he was never signed based on that future. If the Raiders sign JG, nothing stops them from drafting the QB of the future this year or next, as they fall on the draft board.

So, this post is not to convince anyone that the Raiders should sign JG. It's mostly to convince myself that signing JimmyG, if it happens, has a potential upside, since we've seen this story before: mediocre team with a new coach signs a washed up free agent backup to throw to All-Pro receivers, and magic follows. Who knows--like Gannon, JG's best years may be in front of him.