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Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Ryan Tannehill On Deep Passing Accuracy In 2018

NFL: Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Fitzpatrick now projected to be the starting quarterback of the 2019 Miami Dolphins, the so called “Fitzmagic” will have started for three of the four teams in the AFC East. That is the real magic of Fitz.

And with Ryan Tannehill traded to the Tennessee Titans, Fitzpatrick will steer the ship of a rebuilding Dolphins squad, or perhaps hold down the fort until a draft prospect is ready to take the helm. Who knows, but one thing is for certain; The Dolphins have a quarterback that loves to throw the ball deep. For more on that, let’s take a look at how Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill did on downfield accuracy in the 2018 season.

For those unfamiliar with my work on The Deep Ball Project—which is where this information comes from—the numbers used at the top half of the two charts measure the distance of air yards each deep pass was thrown to. Passes have to go 21+ air yards to qualify for The Deep Ball Project, hence each of the distances measure how many air yards the ball travelled. Left, middle, and right of course measure the area the ball was thrown to.

Meanwhile, “Clean” looks at passes where the quarterback threw in a clean pocket, while “Pressure” is self explanatory. O. Window means “Open Window,” and this looks at plays where the receiver provides a clear window to throw to. T. Window (Tight Window) looks at throws where the windows are a lot smaller and require little or zero margin for error.

Finally, at the bottom of the charts we begin with Air Yards and YAC (Yards After The Catch). Accurate Incompletions (ACC INCMP) look at plays where the pass wasn't caught but the throw from the quarterback was accurate. This includes straight up drops, sideline throws where the receiver couldn’t get two feet in, contested plays at the catch point, some Hail Marys, plays where the receiver caught the ball in play after stepping out of bounds, etc. Inaccurate Completions (INACC CMP) look at plays where the passes were completed but the receiver bailed out the accuracy of the throw.

Passes Defensed (PD) look at interceptions, dropped interceptions, and break ups as a whole. Passes not included in The Deep Ball Project include throwaways, miscommunications, plays offset by penalty (plays on declined penalties count), and tipped passes at the line of scrimmage.

Anyway, as you can see Fitzpatrick’s deep accuracy (not to be confused with completion percentage) was superior to Tannehill’s in 2018. In Tannehill’s previous season—2016, he was the fifth most accurate deep passer, so seeing hims second last (out of 35 quarterbacks) is a massive disappointment. Meanwhile Fitzpatrick’s deep accuracy with the Jets in 2016 was 21st, so his #24 ranking in Accuracy Percentage in 2018 was around that area.

The numbers in parentheses next to each Accuracy Percentage split represent the quarterbacks’ rankings out of 35 that were charted for the 2018-19 Deep Ball Project. For instance, Fitzpatrick was second out of 35 quarterbacks in accuracy into open windows, while Tannehill was seventh in the same category. As a whole, Fitzpatrick has the edge in the individual categories, hence his higher ranking.

Now let’s take a look at each of the rankings in raw statistics.

Passing Yards (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

Touchdowns (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

Interceptions (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

Air Yards (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

Yards After The Catch (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

Accurate Incompletions (Winner: Tannehill)

Inaccurate Completions (Winner: Tannehill)

Passes Defensed (Winner: Tannehill)

Dropped Interceptions (Winner: Fitzpatrick)

So as you can see, Fitzpatrick also ranked superior in most of that raw statistical categories. Now, I don’t think he’s the answer at quarterback for Miami by any means. His processing of the field is bad in comparison to starting level quarterbacks, and much of his success is defined by easily defined reads, which was given to him in Tampa Bay thanks to the receiving corps and the scheme of then offensive coordinator Todd Monken. But as far as stop gaps or backups go, he’s not a bad option for teams looking for someone to hold the fort for their young quarterback.