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@Nate Dunlevy @ShannonSherrill @mgwchris @gbearrin Those articles all make interesting (and controversial) claims and arguments. But none of them support the statement you made in this thread: "Your mistake is assuming the line protects the quarterback. They don't." Your "sources" make claims like: elite linemen are overvalued, which may be true, but I would wager that most seasoned NFL scouts and execs would disagree, particularly when average positional salaries are factored in (which I found in my cursory review was not considered by the articles you posted); or QB play is a factor in sack rates (which I don't dispute, I merely dispute your claim that OL-play is not a factor); etc.
The articles all appear to have been written either by legitimate statisticians or hack statisticians, or something in between. I submit, however, that if you asked all NFL execs the hypothetical question I posited above (would .5 seconds less time on average to read the defense and throw the ball affect your QB's play), the answers would be unanimously "yes." And I submit that everyone of them would summarily reject your theory that the OL does not protect the QB (or, put another way, that the quality of the line has no bearing on the efficiency of the QB).
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@Nate Dunlevy @mgwchris @gbearrin I agree: what you're saying is utterly uncontroversial. Which is to say, it is unquestionably wrong. Anectdotally, and speaking as someone who is more than a casual football fan, I have never heard anyone with any credibility try to claim that OL-play is not a significant, if not the penultimate, factor in QB-protection. Are there other factors? Of course, and they include the QB's intelligence. But to utterly discount pass-protection as a factor is one of the most innane comments I have ever heard. Perhaps you and your blogger friends share these esoteric theories among yourselves, but I have never heard any respected football writer make such an outlandish claim.
Data on sack rates is not really dispositive. Protecting the QB is not just about avoiding sacks; it is about keeping you're QB upright and uninjured, and, just as important, it's about increasing the efficiency and flexibility of you're passing game.
I don't think the point is necessarily that "more time = better QB-play." But it is certainly true that less time = more QB hurries, knockdowns, hits, and sacks (and therefore likely decreased offensive efficiency and a more predictable passing game). In other words, less time = greater likelihood of poorer QB-play. I imagine that if you surveyed every NFL QB and asked whether they thought they would play better if they averaged an extra .5 seconds to read the defense and throw the ball, I think the result of that survey would be unanimous, including Peyton.
Or, consider the opposite: would an average of .5 seconds less time per dropback negatively impact Peyton's game? You bet it would, and he would be the first to say so. It is telling that last season Peyton had the best OL of his career and had the second-best statistical performance of his career, despite the fact that he was playing with a new team, new players, new coaches, in a different (albeit similar) system, without full arm-strength, and at 35 years old. I understand that correlation does not equal causation, but commons sense suggests that the OL matters in QB performance.