2nd Best QB in Steelers History is… Landry Jones??

This entry was posted by on Friday, 25 May, 2018 at

Okay, I’ll give you a minute to clear the cornflakes out of your sinuses after reading that headline. Nobody in their right mind would consider Landry Jones to be among the very best quarterbacks in Steelers history.

Yet, Landry does acquit himself surprisingly well in a statistical review. For most categories he gets middling results, which frankly is already a surprise given what most thought of him in his first couple of pro campaigns. In a couple of categories he does appear among the best, and even comes out tops in one category.


I know what you are going to say. Much of Landry’s on-field performance came against a woeful opponent, the Cleveland Browns, and that’s true. Three of his five career starts, all victories, came against the Browns. His other two starts, losses, came against a Kansas City team that ended up at 11-5 and in the playoffs, and a New England squad that went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl. But if we are going to be completely fair, we have to acknowledge that Landry’s last two starts against Cleveland have been season-ending affairs packed with second and third string players on offense and supported by a dubious defense on the Steelers’ side, while playing against the first string of a determined and desperate divisional foe. Besides, Cleveland is still a professional team. Well, kinda, sorta. I mean, they get paid.

Not only that, but because Ben and Landry split the four Cleveland games in the last two years, we can compare how Ben played with the first string versus how Landry played with the backups, against the same woeful opponent in the same seasons.

2016, Ben vs Cleveland: 63.9% completion, 74.7 rating, 0 TDs, 0 ints.
2016, Landry vs Cleveland: 64.6% completion, 103.1 rating, 3 TDs, 1 int.

2017, Ben vs Cleveland: 66.7% completion, 95 rating, 2 TDs, 1 int.
2017, Landry vs Cleveland: 85.1% completion, 99.3 rating, 1 TD, 1 int.

You read it correctly, folks. Landry outplayed Ben statistically against the same opponent, but supported by inferior talent and with nothing meaningful on the line for the Steelers other than avoiding the indignity of losing to Cleveland.

Now let’s take a look at the full Steelers QB history. To start off our stat review, let’s look at the whole shebang: (Note: click on the tables to enlarge)

This data comes from Pro Football Reference and includes all Steelers quarterbacks in their history with at least 50 attempted passes.

The table above is sorted by AV, or Approximate Value, which is the PFR magical computation for calculating the relative value of all players. Without digging into the specifics of PFR’s AV formula, I think the above table validates that it does a credible job of matching more or less what we would all assess as the relative value of these players. At the current state of Roethlisberger’s career, I think most people would concede that he is the all time best Steelers quarterback, having eclipsed Bradshaw in every conceivable category other than Super Bowl victories. If Roethlisberger is agreed to be at the top position, I would expect there to be no dispute that Bradshaw belongs solidly at number two, with a giant dropoff after those two, and that’s exactly what the AV scoring indicates. There may be some quibbles with the next grouping with Kordell Stewart, Neil O’Donnell, Bubby Brister, and on down the line, but probably not too much. Landry Jones comes out at #22 out of 36, behind Charlie Batch but ahead of Dennis Dixon, for example, and that seems right.

But what stands out to me in this table is the amount of “green” that Landry has, meaning categories where he is above or well above the average. The amount of green seems incongruent with his overall position. There is more green in the Landry row of the table than I would have expected, and in some pretty important categories.

For example, if we sort the table by Net Yards per Attempt, which is the average yardage gained per pass attempt, after sack yardage is subtracted, Landry comes out as the all time best by that measurement:

He comes out as second best in completion percentage, and also (gross) yards per attempt:

He also finishes second best in the not insignificant category of Quarterback Rating:

While I rather doubt that Landry could pull off a Nick Foles, at least it’s a good thing that he thinks he can. Any decent quarterback needs at least a little bit of irrational swagger. In any case, I think it’s safe to concede that steelerfan58, AKA Ricky, was right all along in his assessment that Landry Jones is better than we abusers have given credit, and maybe we should retire the nickname Laundry that I put on him four years ago. We can grant him some props given that this is likely his last season, and maybe his last few weeks, with the Steelers.

[Postscript: Before anyone points out the obvious, yes I acknowledge the difficulty in mixing QBs from different eras. Also I do realize the importance of intangibles such as performance under pressure, poise in the pocket, command of the huddle, etc. Even so, to give Jones credit (unlike the JV performance of his first two seasons), he did keep his head while playing from behind against the Browns due to defensive failures, and he led impressive clutch drives.]

7 Responses to “2nd Best QB in Steelers History is… Landry Jones??”

  1. TomPaulBillyBob TomPaulBillyBob

    Reading this made me remember that the Steelers had a QB named Dick Shiner …. man that sucks

    • copanut copanut

      LOL, all the times I’ve seen that name I never gave it a second thought.

  2. TomPaulBillyBob TomPaulBillyBob

    You’re right, Copa, on several counts here, that Landry has done–on the aggregate–what he was expected to do, which is be a serviceable back up, and the data you pulled together does illustrate that rather well. One counter to this, however, would be the Y/G metric, which would also enter into your ‘ain’t gonna be a Foles doppleganger anytime soon’ narrative …. serviceable back up, but if he were called upon to carry the load for any significant amount of time (6+ games), rest assured, the wheels would fall off

    • copanut copanut

      One interpretation would be “Landry is much better than we give him credit for”, but the other interpretation, I think more persuasive, is “My god the Steelers have a long and colorful history of bad quarterbacks.”

      In Ed Bouchette’s chat this week someone asked him who would be the four heads he would put on the Steelers QB Mt. Rushmore, if Ben and Bradshaw are the first two heads. Bouchette said he’s add Bobby Layne as the third head and there would be no fourth head.

      Considering the Steelers have been around for 85 years and are the most successful franchise by nearly every measure for the past 50, this says a lot about how hard it is to find a good quarterback. Makes it all the more amazing that the Rooneys passed on Marino and let go of Unitas.

      • TomPaulBillyBob TomPaulBillyBob

        That’s a fair point … there’s a very valid reason why all 6 Lombardi’s were acquired under the top 2 QBs on that list … although in spite of being only a back up in the B-n-G, the 4th would have to be Charlie Batch

    • copanut copanut

      TPBB, your point is well taken on the Y/G stat, however you have to bear in mind that as a backup many of his game appearances amounted to little more than taking a knee which would obviously kill his Y/G stats. A better stat would be yards per start rather than yards per game.

      If we look at his four meaningful starts (excluding a 2015 start where I believe he was injured after completing 3 of his first 4 passes), he averaged 251.5 yards per start. That would put him just a hair below Ben’s Y/G figure and second overall. No other QB was over 200 Y/G although I don’t know how many exceeded 200 Y/S.

  3. steelerfan58 steelerfan58

    I never doubted it for a moment 🙂

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