Whither The Brandons? A Compare And Contrast Exercise

If you asked just about any knowledgeable Chiefs fan who the best cornerback on the team is, the overwhelming response would be, hands down, Brandon Flowers, right? After all, Flowers is the reason why Brandon Carr saw 105 targets to Flowers’ 97. Conventional thinking in the NFL seems to be that if you’re going to challenge Kansas City’s defense against the pass, targeting Carr will give you your greatest likelihood of success. But just how well does Carr match up to Flowers as a pass defender? If one or the other were to be injured or traded, how much of an impact might that have?

Suggested reading, further insights, intriguing stats, and maybe a popular assumption or two challenged beyond the jump.

Let me start off by stating that I really appreciate the work that Aaron Schatz does over at Football Outsiders. If you love football and enjoy getting well-reasoned evaluations of players and teams, FO is an excellent resource that warrants, at the very least, a weekly visit both during the season and off. Do it.

Anyway, back to the topic of Kansas City’s cornerbacks. Schatz not too long ago put together some stats which suggest that the difference between Flowers and Carr is not all that significant, and in a very important area of analysis, Pass Defense Success Rate, Carr in 2010 was a smidge better than Flowers. Surprised?

Just to clarify, here is Schatz’ definition of Success Rate – “the percentage of passes that don’t manage to get at least 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent of needed yards on second down, or 100 percent of needed on third down.” Any arguments with that? Schatz also excludes from his cornerback analyses anything falling under the headings of “Hail Mary, Hit in Motion, Tipped at the Line, or Thrown Away” which essentially eliminates passes that are either unpredictable or otherwise meaningless in assessing a cornerback’s pass defense capabilities. Fair Enough. He also chooses to ignore players with less than 40 targets which resulted in the such noteworthy exclusions as Nmandi Asomugha and Asante Samuel (best cornerback in the league in my opinion).

All considered, what Schatz’ numbers revealed is that Brandon Carr had a Success Rate of 61% (10th best in the league, with Antonio Cromartie ahead of him at 63%) to Brandon Flowers 60% (12th best in the league). An insignificant difference perhaps but not a meaningless stat because it tends to indicate, among other things, how effective a cornerback is at stifling a drive when they are the one being targeted in the QB’s gunsights. The 3 best cornerbacks in this category were Darrelle Revis, Antoine Winfield, and Stanford Routt. Joselio Hanson came in at #8. Not a slouch in the bunch frankly.

In another category, YAC, Flowers outperformed Carr. Flowers, with only 2.2 yards allowed, was ranked 4th best to Carr’s 4.2 yards at 58th. Now before you jump to the conclusion that this clearly validates why Flowers is the better corner, just be aware that Revis (4.7 yards) ranked 74th, Routt (4.9 yards) ranked 77th, and Winfield (3.4 yards) ranked 40th. Not exactly an open and shut case against Carr is it?

In the category of Yard per Pass, the Chiefs best cornerback was Javier Arenas who ranked 6th overall with 5.4 yards which is not particularly shocking considering he basically covers the slot. What make Arenas perhaps a little more interesting is that he ranked 14th in YAC with 2.6 yards allowed. Carr’s Yards/Pass were 7.1 which pegged him as 35th best while Flowers (6.3 yards) bettered that with an 18th ranking. Winfield (4.2 yards) and Hanson (4.4 yards) earned top honors respectively while Revis (5.6 yards) and Routt (5.7 yards) wound up at #11 and #13 respectively.

So who really was the Chiefs best cornerback in 2010? Perhaps more importantly, which of these two guys is most likely to be the better cornerback in 2011? Based on these statistics, I feel it’s close to a dead heat. But before any of us agree upon /argue against such an assessment, allow me to just toss out a little more statistical thought food for our collective mental digestion.

In a playoff analysis piece published ahead of the Chiefs – Ravens match up, Aaron Schatz drew additional attention to a trend regarding the Chiefs cornerback situation that was both compelling and a bit disconcerning. What he found was that Flowers stats were heavily skewed early on due to his eye-popping production in the 1st three weeks of the season and that those numbers fell dramatically off in weeks 5 through 15 (i.e., following the bye). Converserly, Carr started off very slow in weeks 1-3 but then made up for that as the season progressed. For what it’s worth, Arenas tracked similar to Flowers – strong start but seemingly slacking off as the season grinded along.

Here are the specifics, again as put together by Football Outsiders:

Does that change your thinking any? While you’re mulling your response, you might also want to consider that Brandon Carr’s contract expires this year and Brandon Flowers’ contract will expire in 2012. To that end, there’s been some talk coming from none other than Josh Looney about the possibility of putting Flowers on the trading block. Yeah, the official Chiefs blogger/PR man said that.

Personally, I think it’s fantastic that the Chiefs secondary is being manned by two of the finest corners in the league but ought we be concerned about Flowers future as Chief? Has Flowers perhaps hit his ceiling while Carr is still in ascendency? Might these stats offer some insight, possibly perculating within Scott Pioli’s inner sanctum, as to why there are rumors afloat concerning a Brandon Flowers trade and whether his contract will be extended?

With value pick Carr playing comparable to Flowers, is now the time to shop Flowers before his contract gets expensive? Would the Chiefs be wise to pick up another veteran cornerback via free agency?

If Pioli is mulling over a Flowers trade, what (or who) would you like to see the Chiefs get in return? Draft picks? Some sort of player swap?

I, of course, have my own crazy idea (one of many) on this – the Cardinals, who did not address their QB need in the draft could do a 3 way swap that sends one of their many talented receivers, who appears also to be a potential trading block candidate in a possible pre-emptive cost cutting measure to the Chiefs, the Chiefs send Brandon Flowers to the Lions (who did not address their glaring need at CB in this draft), and the Lions then send their promising backup QB Shaun Hill, plus maybe a receiver to the Cards? I’ll leave it to the experts to figure out what draft picks, if any, need to be involved. Yeah, I’m still working hard on the whole “how we get Fitz” thing.

That is my Double Take. Now let’s hear your takes Addicts?

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Tags: Brandon Carr Brandon Flowers Kansas City Chiefs Larry Fitzgerald Zac Robinson

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