How well did Mike White and Josh Johnson perform against the Indianapolis Colts beyond the box score?
Throughout the 2021 season, I will be running a weekly series of breakdowns in which I analyze the performance of the New York Jets’ quarterback(s) by grading every single one of their plays on a 0-to-10 scale.
My goal with this grading system is to capture the true quality of the quarterback’s performance. Box score statistics can be misleading, as they do not account for a variety of factors that determine whether a quarterback performed well or poorly on a given play.
After re-watching each play on the All-22 film, I grade them on a 0-to-10 scale and then take the average of all plays to form a 0-to-100 overall score with 50 being approximately league-average (based on my studying of numerous other quarterback performances across the league).
Here are just a handful of the primary factors that are taken into account in the grading of each play, and a basic description of what I’m looking for:
- Decision-making (Did the QB choose the best available option or did he leave a better play on the field?)
- Throw difficulty (Clean pocket or pressured? Wide open or tight window? Stationary or on the move? More difficult throws are more valuable.)
- Accuracy/placement (Even if the pass is completed, was the ball placed in the best possible spot or did the receiver have to make an extra effort to catch it?)
- Game situation – score, time, field position, down and distance (Good decisions based on the clock/situation are crucial. Playing the sticks is also important – it is not a good play to throw a 5-yard out on third-and-10 while a 15-yard dig is open, but a 5-yard out on third-and-2 is good.)
Ultimately, it’s all about context. Not all 40-yard completions are created equal. Not all interceptions are created equal. You need to watch a play to understand whether the quarterback did a good or bad job. The raw result of a play cannot give you that answer.
When we analyze every play on film multiple times and grade the quarterback’s individual effort independent of his surroundings or the on-paper outcome of the play, we get a much better estimation of how well he actually played.
Of course, keep in mind that these grades are subjective. They are but one man’s opinion and are not gospel. Feel free to let me know your takes on my grades for these performances.
Let’s dig into everything that went into my 0-to-100 grade for Mike White and Josh Johnson’s performances against the Indianapolis Colts.
For each performance, I include a few metrics that help explain how Wilson arrived at his final grade.
These are some of the metrics I will break down for every Wilson outing.
Overall grade: 0-to-100 grade based on the average score of all plays analyzed. An estimation of individual performance quality.
Positive plays: Number of plays graded above 5.0: above-average efforts.
Negative plays: Number of plays graded below 5.0: below-average efforts.
Neutral plays: Number of plays graded as a 5.0: plays that are not noticeably good or bad. These are typically lost plays or plays in which the QB can hardly be evaluated: screens, batted passes, miscommunications, and unavoidable sacks are commonly graded as a 5.0.
Positive/negative ratio: Ratio of positive plays to negative plays. Defines the quarterback’s consistency level.
Average positive score: The average score of all positive plays. An indicator of how high the quarterback’s peaks were — a higher score indicates his best plays were typically highlight-reel-worthy while a lower score indicates that his best plays got the job done, but were typically unspectacular.
Average negative score: The average score of all negative plays. An indicator of how low the quarterback’s valleys were — a higher score indicates his mistakes were typically minor while a lower score indicates that his mistakes were typically brutal.
Wow Factor: Combination of average positive and average negative. An indicator of the combined ability to avoid big mistakes and produce jaw-dropping moments.
7+ plays: Number of plays graded 7.0 or better: elite moments.
≤3 plays: Number of plays graded 3.0 or worse: brutal moments.
Mike White vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Actual stats: 7/11 for 95 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT (8.6 Y/A, 121.4 QB rating). 0 sacks.
- Overall grade: 52.0 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Bad: <30)
- Plays graded: 11
- Neutral plays: 1
- Positive plays: 7 (63.6%) – (Average: 50%, Phenomenal: >60%, Poor: <40%)
- Negative plays: 3 (27.3%) – (Average: 30%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 2.33 – (Average: 1.70, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 5.91 – (Average: 5.90, Phenomenal: 6.00+, Poor: <5.80)
- Average negative: 3.25 – (Average: 3.80, Phenomenal: 4.00+, Poor: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 9.16 – (Average: 9.70, Phenomenal: 10.00+, Poor: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 1 (9.1%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 1 (9.1%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
I scored White with a respectable grade of 52.0 for his short performance against the Colts. It was an above-average performance, but he had yet to get into a rhythm quite as strong as the one he got into against the Bengals (65.0).
White made one killer mistake that tanks his grade in a short 11-play appearance. On their opening drive, the Jets ran a trick play in which White tossed the ball to Michael Carter before Carter threw it back to White, who attempted a pass to Ryan Griffin.
Griffin was wide open a crossing route for a gain of at least 15 yards. He had about five yards of separation from the nearest defender. It was a great call and should have been an easy chunk gain.
White missed the throw badly – not only that, he underthrew it so severely that it hit the two hands of Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin, who dropped a gift-wrapped interception opportunity. Franklin also had nobody between him and the end zone if he caught the pick.
The one other noticeable mistake by White was a throw to Keelan Cole on an out route in which White missed to the inside by a lot, forcing Cole to halt his momentum and contort back to the ball for a difficult leaping catch. Cole came through and made the play, but if he failed to pluck the ball out of the air, it was headed straight for a defender who was waiting behind Cole to pick it off and punish White for the miss. Not all completed passes are good throws.
White was off to a good start outside of those two accuracy-based blunders. He was back to his usual tricks of quickly making the best-available decision and delivering the ball out accurately on short throws. I thought White made the best possible choice on 10 of his 11 plays (there was one play where he did not see an open Tyler Kroft over the middle after completing his reads and entering improvisational mode).
White’s best play was a 26-yard toss to Elijah Moore. He patiently stayed in the pocket as Moore worked on a deep dig route. Once late pressure arrived, White subtly moved away from it to set himself and fire. White took a huge shot while throwing and still hit Moore in perfect stride between two defenders. To boot, White added a pump before his throw to get a linebacker to drop downhill and away from the passing lane.
The one mistake (the interceptable pass) was an enormous one and could have changed the course of White’s performance if capitalized upon by Franklin, but there was a lot of good from White otherwise. He seemed to be on track for another sound performance so long as he could avoid any more costly misfires.
Through three appearances, I have White’s grade on the season at 52.7. Zach Wilson is way down at 39.5.
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Josh Johnson vs. Indianapolis Colts
- Actual stats: 27/41 for 317 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT (7.7 Y/A, 103.4 QB rating). 2 sacks for 14 yards. 4 rushes for 18 yards.
- Overall grade: 66.7 – (Average: 50, Great: 60+, Elite: 70+, Poor: <40, Bad: <30)
- Plays graded: 47
- Neutral plays: 10
- Positive plays: 28 (59.6%) – (Average: 50%, Phenomenal: >60%, Poor: <40%)
- Negative plays: 9 (19.1%) – (Average: 30%, Phenomenal: <20%, Poor: >40%)
- Positive-negative ratio: 3.11 – (Average: 1.70, Phenomenal: 3.00+, Poor: <1.00)
- Average positive: 5.85 – (Average: 5.90, Phenomenal: 6.00+, Poor: <5.80)
- Average negative: 4.13 – (Average: 3.80, Phenomenal: 4.00+, Poor: <3.60)
- Wow factor: 9.98 – (Average: 9.70, Phenomenal: 10.00+, Poor: <9.40)
- 7+ plays: 3 (6.4%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: >12%, Poor: <4%)
- ≤3 plays: 2 (4.3%) – (Average: 8%, Phenomenal: <4%, Poor: >12%)
Johnson’s grade of 66.7 is the best one I have given to a Jets quarterback this year. It edges out White’s game against the Bengals (65.0) and is well ahead of Zach Wilson’s games against the Titans (53.6), Panthers (51.1), and Broncos (46.4), Falcons (23.0), and Patriots (22.6).
I came away from Johnson’s film in complete awe. Yeah, I thought he was that good. It is astounding how well Johnson managed the offense and threw the ball considering the difficulty of the situation he was placed in (on the road, momentum drain of losing the team-sparking White, struggling pass protection, third-string practice-squad quarterback).
After a shaky start, Johnson started looking like Drew Brees, constantly firing lasers with marvelous precision on slant routes, out routes, and other horizontally-breaking routes in the short-to-intermediate range. He completed one tight-window throw after another, with many of them coming under duress.
Johnson’s statistical production and eye-test output are both completely legitimate despite the Jets getting ripped to shreds on the scoreboard. Indianapolis did not start playing soft prevent defense until the final drive. Prior to that, the Colts were still throwing everything they had at Johnson.
And Johnson kept responding.
The most impressive aspect of Johnson’s performance was his accuracy on low-percentage throws. Johnson played an aggressive game, attacking numerous tightly-covered windows in the short-to-intermediate range, and he kept zipping bullets that traveled mere inches beyond the outstretched arms of defenders and landed into the hands of Jets receivers in perfect stride.
Prior to the Jets’ final garbage-time drive – in which Johnson racked up check-downs against the Colts’ prevent defense – the average score of Johnson’s positive plays (which exemplifies the height of his peaks) was an excellent 6.03, which showcases just how impressive his good plays tended to be.
The two biggest mistakes for Johnson were the two sacks he absorbed. He had multiple easy options available underneath on each play, but took a pair of sacks that could have easily been avoided. Both sacks were on second-and-long, so his blunders put the Jets into brutal third-down situations.
Other than the two sacks, Johnson’s mistakes were usually minor, which is evidenced by the average score of his negative plays: a very high mark of 4.13.
Most commonly, Johnson’s negatively-graded plays were misfires on low-percentage throws that did not crush his grade all that much. Johnson rarely made mental mistakes in regards to missing reads or failing to see open receivers, and he only had one ugly misfire (an out route to Braxton Berrios). Mental errors and awful accuracy are what tend to tank a quarterback’s grade, and Johnson did not make many of those egregious mistakes.
Johnson’s performance in Indy was very close in overall quality to White’s performance against the Bengals. The two quarterbacks just achieved their success in different ways.
White’s majesty was predicated upon incredible consistency at taking the easy stuff, but he didn’t have to make many difficult plays. Johnson was not quite as consistent as White (although he was still highly consistent), but he made a bevy of money throws to bail the team out in low-expectation situations.