The graph below shows FPOP/attempt for three quarterbacks going back to 2003. Those three quarterbacks, Matt Ryan, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady have all been celebrated and criticized at times over the period shown in the graph. Recall that during the 2010 season Peyton Manning threw a number of pick sixes (he threw 17 total INTs that year). Tom Brady is certainly under fire for essentially making a few bad throws in the AFC Championship game, and that criticism came after probably the same people said that Brady could throw to pretty much anyone and be good.
If you look at the graph below you can see the impact that Julio Jones has had on Matt Ryan’s FPOP number. Ryan’s number spiked in 2011 and 2012 and then took a nosedive this year. You could look for an explanation more complex than the addition/subtraction of receivers, but it seems like receivers are a pretty good fit in terms of explaining the differences we’re seeing.
You can see the deteriorating FPOP number that followed Manning as he lost Marvin Harrison and then dealt with the declining effectiveness/health of Dallas Clark. Note that in 2010 Manning was throwing to Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon and yet he recorded his lowest FPOP number going back to 2002. Reggie Wayne plus Pierre Garcon is probably the perfect formula for lots of attempts and not a lot of efficiency. You can also see the rebound in Manning’s numbers when he started throwing to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both of those receivers were high market share receivers coming out of college.
Tom Brady’s graph is interesting because his 2013 doesn’t actually look visible because he put up ZERO FPOP this year. Aside from the partial game he played in 2008, he had never failed to record a positive FPOP number.
Again, you could look for an explanation more complex than the addition/subtraction of receivers, but that search for an explanation is probably unneeded.
Quarterbacks, even franchise record setting quarterbacks, need receivers. I should also probably clarify by saying that of course the QB is important too. I’m not saying they’re not. But they also aren’t 100% of the equation like most commentary would have you believe.