Is Vince Young better than Kevin Kolb?

Vince Young during a game the Redskins in 2010.

When it comes to the backup quarterback position, the Eagles just exchanged their old one for a promising cornerback and a second round draft pick. And now they may have picked up an even better one through free agency.

Yes, Vince Young has some personal issues he needs to work out — writer Mike Tanier describes him as “emo Michael Vick” — but on the actual football field, could you make the case that Young is better than the man he’s replacing?

Let’s look at some stats, conventional and otherwise.

As a caveat, we’re not going to compare the statistics brought up the most today: Young’s 30-17 record as a starter to Kolb’s 3-4. Everyone knows this but we still have to say it: Quarterback wins is a lousy stat too dependent on outside factors!

(Also, Kolb’s stats are a little less trustworthy, because of the small sample size. Nothing we can do about that!)

Passer rating: The pair are fairly evenly matched in terms of career passer rating, with Young at 75.7 and Kolb at 73.2. Not great for either of them! But that might not be an accurate assessment, including as it does Kolb’s “throw him into the fire” start against the Ravens in 2008 and Young’s rookie year when he was still getting adjusted. So let’s look at the last two years, when both QBs were getting pulled in and out of the starting lineup by the fickle hand of fate. In 2009, Young’s rating was 82.8 in 12 games, while Kolb’s was 88.9 in five games. In 2010, the places switched: Young put up a rating of 98.6 in nine games, while Kolb fell down to 76.1 in seven games.

Yards/Attempt: Yards/Attempt isn’t that much better of a stat than passer rating, but we want to spotlight something: In 2010, Vince Young put up a Y/A average of 8.0. (League leader Phillip Rivers put up 8.7.) Kolb, by comparison, put up 6.3 yards per attempt over the season. Of course, Kolb put up 7.7 in 2009, so we’re probably just cherry-picking.

But now let’s go to advanced stats! These are all going to be complicated and we won’t be able to explain them, but we might as well look!

Adjusted Net Yards/Attempt: This is Pro Football Reference’s efficiency stat that takes into account sacks, interceptions and touchdowns. It paints much of the same picture as passer rating does: Kolb was a little better than Young in 2009 (6.7 to 6.4), but a fair amount worse in 2010 (5.4 to 7.3).

DVOA: Let’s finish up with Football Outsider’s rate state, Defense-Adjusted Value over Average. DVOA compares a player’s success with the expected success of an average player at his position in the same situation. As a warning, even though DVOA loves the Eagles, it hates Kevin Kolb as a passer, rating him at 16% better than an average quarterback in 2009, and 3% worse than an average QB in 2010. Vince Young, by contrast, had a DVOA of 17% in 2009 and was up to nearly 27% in 2010. (This is only for passing; for rushing Young was a tad below average both years, while Kolb was slightly better than average in 2009 and way below in 2010. Like we said, small sample size.)

So, what have we learned? Most stats agree that both were about as good in 2009, but either Kolb regressed or Young took a step forward in 2010. Or a little of both! Give Young Kolb’s supporting cast and why couldn’t he be better?

Except: The lockout. Considering that Kolb had spent years in the Eagles system when he got his shot, while Young will likely have had only a few months, we think probably not. But that won’t stop us from hoping Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg can help Young eventually become Baby Mike Vick, a dual-threat quarterback with deadly deep accuracy.


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