Dropped Interceptions Matter

Dropped Interceptions Matter

by January 9, 2021 1 comment

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs made headlines in recent weeks for allegedly setting an NFL record with 16 dropped interceptions during the season. This is likely not a record as stats such as dropped interceptions have only recently been calculated, but it is an alarming trend for the quarterback that is considered the best quarterback in football.

This is not to say that Mahomes is bad, but it is a trend nonetheless.

The video of his 16 dropped interceptions is slightly misleading as many of the interceptions would have required extra effort from the defense. Not all dropped interceptions are equal. Some throws were clear and obvious dropped interceptions. Other throws were not quite as obvious. While these players are paid to make plays like that, they cannot simply be assumed as interceptions. Even if the number, 16, is incorrect, Mahomes putting the ball in disadvantageous positions is nothing new.

At Texas Tech, Mahomes was a gunslinger. To use Pro Football Focus lingo, he would have many big-time throws but also have many turnover-worthy plays. Check out big-time throw and turnover-worthy play analysis here. Mahomes had this almost reckless style of quarterbacking that would lead Texas Tech to many high-scoring games, but Mahomes’ interceptions cost the Red Raiders.

Luck Applies in Other Sports

In other sports, this could be seen as luck if a basketball player was taking horrendous shots but made them at an unlikely clip. Similarly, in baseball, a player that has too high of a batting average on balls in play might be due for regression.

Granted, many players consistently do the impossible, but it does trim the margin of error for that player. If Steph Curry is pulling up from 35 feet, that shot is less likely to go in than when Curry shoots from 25 feet. Similarly, if Mahomes is throwing into triple coverage, interceptions are more likely.

Again, not all dropped interceptions are the same. Some interceptions in the clip would have required a dive or a similarly spectacular play from the defensive back. Others hit defensive backs in stride. Mahomes’ six interceptions are misleading. The statistical line looks fantastic, but the tape is less appealing.

The plays don’t count. Who cares?

The plays do not count against the Chiefs or any other team. However, they are fundamental errors in a quarterback’s judgment. They could be used for growth moving forward. In the moment, it goes on tape as an error. Even if it does not result in an interception, one can be certain that Andy Reid told Mahomes “don’t make that throw again.” The eye test is a significant way to judge quarterbacks, and Mahomes should be fairly judged for consistently putting the ball in harm’s way. Many of the dropped interceptions stem from Mahomes play style, but he needs to clean up the errors as the Chiefs enter the playoffs.

Even if they dropped interceptions do not count against Mahomes, they are a clear flaw in his game at the moment, and it leaves the door open for the Chiefs to potentially lose a game.

Sure, AJ Terrell did not catch what would have been a game-sealing interception in Week 16. However, Chiefs fans could see a cornerback like Tre’Davious White, Marlon Humphrey, or Joe Haden end their season if Mahomes tries to make that throw again. The Chiefs eventually defeated the Falcons that day, but it did not need to be that close.

But they won? Who cares?

Yes, the Chiefs won. They finished as the best team in the NFL with 14 wins and only two losses. However, throws such as the ones Mahomes made to Terrell are dangerous. If they were to crop up in the future, the Chiefs could falter in the playoffs. Often, one play can be the difference between winning a championship and losing early in the playoffs. One dropped interception or caught interception could be the difference between the Chiefs lifting their second consecutive Lombardi or the Chiefs losing prematurely in the playoffs.

At the end of the day, quarterbacks that make more interceptable passes will put their teams in compromising positions. One mistake could cost the Chiefs a Super Bowl.

The Misnomer of Winning

Mahomes is a special case in that he can make so many spectacularly great plays that some of the dropped interceptions and poor passes are irrelevant. However, other quarterbacks in the NFL are judged on a throw-to-throw basis. There are smart people in the NFL community that will laugh at the Chicago Bears when they keep Mitchell Trubisky because they know the stats or misleading. Trubisky did not play any sort of spectacular football the last few weeks of the season; he just had an easier schedule with softer defenses. On a throw-to-throw basis, he was very similar to Nick Foles and even the early version of himself. The Bears won games despite Trubisky’s consistent inconsistency.

Alternatively, Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans only won four games in 2020. Watson was as consistent as any quarterback in the NFL. He routinely made some of the best throws each week while avoiding turnovers as much as possible. Experts judge Watson on a throw-to-throw basis, not winning. Most NFL teams would gladly replace their quarterback with Watson if they could.

At a certain point, consistent quality of throw matters.

Also, dropped interceptions apply to every quarterback. Social media has pointed out Mahomes, but almost every quarterback experiences some luck.

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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images

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