Rumors of Landry Jones’ demise

What to think of Landry Jones?  Entering his fourth season as the starting QB for the Oklahoma Sooners, some think he is a stud QB, while others question which way his arrow is pointing.  Let’s investigate.

In 2009 he was thrown to the wolves as a Freshman after defending Heisman trophy winner (and highest graded quarterback in the history of my database) Sam Bradford was injured in the season opener.  Jones handled himself relatively well and guided the team to an 8-5 record, with four of those losses coming by a touchdown or less.  Things had to get better in 2010 and they did.

In 2010, it was Landry’s show.  Bradford was off to the NFL and the reigns belonged to Mr. Jones (great song).  Oklahoma was back to normal; back in the BCS.

In 2011, the Sooners raced out to an 8-1 start.  They were ranked #5, coming off a bye week, and headed to Waco, Texas to face the buzzy Baylor Bears.  Despite the one loss, they appeared to be in control of their BCS destiny with two of their final three games against topped ranked opponents (Baylor and Oklahoma State).  Things were great in Norman, Oklahoma, except for one thing:  Ryan Broyles tore his ACL in their 9th game of the season.  Those final three regular season games–two against top teams– would be played without stud WR Ryan Broyles.  To understand how profound of a loss this was consider that in 22 games Broyles played with Jones as his QB from September 2010 to November 2011, Broyles caught 214 of Jones’ passes.  Yea!  WOW!  Also, consider that Ryan Broyles is the ALL-TIME-RECEPTIONS-LEADER-IN-NCAA-HISTORY.  Naturally, the Sooners’ offense and Jones tailed off a bit in their last four games without him.

To understand things more concretely, notice the progression of Jones and the Sooner offense from 2009 through 2011, noting the disparity in the 2011 numbers without

2009:  31.1 pts/game.  8 wins. 5 losses.  Landry’s grade in my system: 73.8

2010: 37.2 pts/game. 12 wins. 2 losses. Landry’s grade in my system: 97.9  (anything above a 95 signifies a a potentially elite prospect)

2011: 45.4 pts/game.  8 wins.  1 loss.  Landry’s grade in my system: 102.2  (9 games WITH Broyles)

2011  39.5 pts/game.  10 wins. 3 losses.  Landry’s grade in my system: 87.9  (all 13 games, including 4 without Broyles)

When analyzing Jones’ performance from 2009 to 2010 to–the first nine games of–2011, it’s clear that he was making progress.  As a team, the Sooners were scoring more points, winning more frequently, and Jones was playing increasingly better.  If you isolate Jones’ advanced passing metrics, he made a huge jump across the board from 2009 to 2010.  From 2010 to 2011, the numbers were holding steady except for two things: he was completing a higher % of his passes and completing them further down field, both marks of a maturing player.

Rumors of Landry Jones’ demise are pre-mature.  He has an outstanding track record, has been making notable progress, and has the potential to be an NFL quarterback.  My view of him is unchanged by the last four games of 2011.  Imagine Michael Jordan losing Scottie Pippen.  His play fell off.

NOW, what I’m really interested to see is how he rebounds in 2012.  Through two cupcake games, he has performed as expected.  This Saturday night the bright lights go on and the competition ramps up.  If Landry Jones is the QB I think he is, he will perform phenomenally and begin his march toward becoming a 1st round draft pick next April.

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