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The QB Roulette Wheel - The Phinsider Experiment

Earlier this week, we asked a question posed by ESPN - "Would you spin a QB Roulette Wheel to get a new QB, or would you stay with your current one"? Today, we turn that question into reality.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this week, we asked for your opinion on a question that ESPN had posed to NFL fans, "If you had a chance to replace your starting QB by spinning a QB Roulette Wheel of all 32 starting quarterbacks, would you spin it?".

While many would think that Dolphins fans would look to upgrade their fifth year quarterback with a career 29-35 record, the question was asked by Kevin Nogle on Friday, and a majority of Dolphins fans (79% of them!) voted that they wouldn't take the risk and that they would stay with Tannehill at QB.

So I decided to set up an experiment (a Phinsider exclusive experiment, ahem) to see what the NFL would look like if we turned the league upside down and let every team get a crack at the NFL Quarterback Roulette Wheel...

The Rules:

The rules are simple. Teams will be numbered in last years draft order, 1-32. One by one, each team will go down the list and I will choose whether that franchise wants to spin the wheel or not. For those that do choose to give it a spin, I will number all the quarterbacks and use a random number generator to select a new quarterback for the franchise. The kicker is, if another team has previously claimed your quarterback, you would need to spin the wheel to select a new quarterback for your franchise. This is the case only so that there are no duplicates and so that each team has a different 2016 starting quarterback under center.

The Hypothesis:

I have a few thoughts I expected would happen before this experiment proceeded:

  • All in all, I'd expect everything to even out. Just as many teams will get better as have gotten worse.
  • The majority of teams won't choose to spin the wheel.
  • The majority of the bottom half of the league will spin the wheel. Crappier records usually indicate sub-par QB play.
  • The top teams are going to be screwed. By the time they are up near the bottom of the draft there is a good chance that their QB will be selected and they will typically end up with a worse quarterback on average.
  • The Patriots will find a way to cheat somehow.
  • The Dolphins, at pick 8, would probably spin the wheel.

The Experiment:

Below is a chart of how the experiment turned out. As you can see, teams were ordered in their 2015 draft order, from worst to best record (Note: New England was added considering that even I am more fair than Roger Goodell and I allowed them to participate). In the NEW QB column, GREEN indicates that the team decided to stay put and not spin the wheel. ORANGE indicates that the franchise has decided to spin the wheel. YELLOW indicates that the franchise's QB had been previously selected and they have no choice, they need to spin the wheel to select a random QB still remaining.

phinsider qb roulette results
[Editor's Note: The Kansas City quarterback should have been Stafford, not Tannehill. According to Brian Naidus, as noted in the comments below, the change of Tannehill to Stafford does not impact the results.]


Looking at the change column, GREEN indicates a team got better (8 teams), RED indicates a team got worse (7 teams), BLUE indicates a team essentially stayed the same talent-wise (3 teams) and GREY indicates the team stayed with their original QB and there is no change to report (14 teams).

So let's look a bit deeper shall we? Tennessee is on the clock to start the draft, and they play it safe and keep Mariota as their starter. Cleveland is the first to spin the wheel and hilariously enough, Kirk Cousins replaces RGIII yet again, this time taking his job in Cleveland. You can't make this up! San Diego stands pat with Rivers before Dallas is on the clock. Interestingly enough, the Cowboys look to move on from Romo and find their QB of the future. They end up with Tyrod Taylor, who is a downgrade at first glance, but in that offense and behind that line, might end up doing not all that bad! Bortles and Flacco stay put before San Francisco strikes gold with possibly the biggest upgrade of the entire experiment, upgrading Kaepernick or Gabbert (honestly, does it matter?) with Big Ben. Miami sees this and starts to get excited at the possibilities. The Dolphins are on the clock. What would you do?

Miami decides to take the risk and for the sake of the experiment- they spin the wheel. They catch a nice break and end up with Super Bowl champ Russell Wilson, from the same 2012 draft class as Tannehill. While many have Wilson ranked all over the place, you can't argue that his success has dwarfed Tannehill's in his first four years. I'll take it.

Neither the Bucs or Giants decide to spin the wheel, meaning that in the top 10 picks, 6 teams stay put and 4 teams spin the wheel. Of the four, three got immediately better, and even Dallas didn't end up too bad, all things considered.

In the end, 18 of the 32 teams spin the wheel and end up with a new starting quarterback. 7 teams choose to spin, and 11 have to considering their QB was already selected.

The big winners in this experiment are:
  • San Francisco - Kaepernick to Big Ben
  • New York Jets - Fitz to Brady (THIS should be interesting!)
  • Carolina - SOMEHOW Cam Newton was still available at pick #31 and they get to keep their 2015 MVP.
  • Miami  - Tannehill to Wilson
  • Denver - Sanchez to Romo (they would have been winners either way for getting rid of Sanchez)
Let's look at the biggest losers:
  • Green Bay. They were likely going to take a hit any way by losing Rodgers but they ended up with Mark Sanchez. No team got screwed the way that Green Bay did in this experiment. Not even close. RIP Packers.
  • Pittsburgh - Big Ben > RGIII. RGIII would be fun to watch in that offense, but that's still a major downgrade any way you slice it.
  • Cincinnati - Dalton > Kaepernick. This is a downgrade, but who knows what Colin can do with a change of scenery. He HAS won more playoff games than Andy Dalton, so there's that.
  • New England - Cutler could do some things with the best coach in football, but he's no Tom Brady.
  • Houston - Osweiler > Fitzpatrick. So much for getting their young signal-caller to a big contract! Not a huge downgrade, but Houston can't be happy here.


All in all, a few things surprised me about this experiment. Let's go back to my original hypotheses...
  • EVERYTHING WILL EVEN OUT - FALSE. While things for the most part appear even, I'd surprisingly say that somehow, more teams got better than got worse! 8 teams appeared to get better, while 7 were ranked worse. And despite the Green Bay Packers getting the worst luck in the entire experiment, the other "losers" didn't seem to suffer as bad luck as much as the "winners" had upgraded. Look at the 'losers' above if you don't believe me. While GB and PIT undoubtedly lost, Kaepernick may be able to salvage something on a good Bengals team and Cutler has atleast 5 more years than Brady and could develop nicely in New England. Even Houston is an unknown, considering we don't know if Osweiler will perform any better than Fitzpatrick will next year. On the other hand, the winners- San Francisco, New York, Denver and Miami got significantly better, while Carolina just got very lucky. This data shows me that so called "crappy quarterbacks" might not be all that bad on good playoff teams or with good coaches, when given a chance. Having a good team matters and can elevate or totally dismiss how we view a handful of young quarterbacks. Ryan Tannehill is a very good example of this being true. If a team like the Seahawks or Broncos had Ryan Tannehill would THEY spin the wheel?
  • THE MAJORITY OF THE TEAMS WILL NOT SPIN THE WHEEL- TRUE. 14 teams chose to NOT spin the wheel at all. 11 teams had no choice. Only 7 teams decided to spin the wheel, and I think 5 got better, 1 got worse and 1 stayed about the same (Tannehill over Stafford in Detroit is essentially a wash). So the odds show that teams that decided to spin the wheel seemed to make the right decision.
  • THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE LEAGUE WILL SPIN THE WHEEL - FALSE. Of the 16 bottom teams, only 7 spun the wheel and one of those teams (Oakland) had no choice. Alot of the worse teams have been rebuilding recently and have drafted a quarterback within the last few years. In fact, looking at the rankings, we see alot more 'middle of the pack' 8-8 teams would probably spin the wheel if given a chance.
  • THE TOP TEAMS WILL BE SCREWED - TRUE. There was nothing I could do about this as this was the nature of the game. The Seahawks got lucky and replaced Russell Wilson with Aaron Rodgers (PS. the Seahawks would be pretty damn good in this scenario) and even the two Super Bowl teams lucked out (neither got worse). However, of the top 16 teams, 5 got worse, while only 4 seemed to get better. All in all though, that's still not even that bad and as skewed as I thought it would be!
  • THE PATRIOTS WILL FIND A WAY TO CHEAT - UNDECIDED. It appears on the surface that this is not true, as swapping Brady for Cutler doesn't seem to be in their favor... but..... they have to be up to something here. I think in this scenario Cutler was secretly injected with Brady's DNA in an underground lair and programmed to not throw dumbass interceptions by Belicheck's top scientists. Yes, that has to be it. I'm onto you guys....
  • As for the last hypothesis.... you tell me? Will the Dolphins spin the wheel? Look at the board up top again and think about it closely before answering the poll question below.

Hope you enjoyed the post guys. Besides, whether it's Ryan Tannehill or Russell Wilson... I don't think we care so long as they are able to help us win football games!