Feel free to apply the following to whoever your favorite team might be.
If you follow the New York Jets, you may or may not know that the Jets had the 2nd highest red zone TD % in the NFL in 2011 behind just the Lions. In fact, only four teams last year had a TD % of over 65%, with the rest of the NFL all under 60%. Notice the trend with those four teams. They all had big-body targets with at least 8 TDs:
- Lions: Calvin Johnson, 6’5, 236, 16 TD
- Jets: Plaxico Burress, 6’5, 232, 8 TD
- Packers: Jordy Nelson, 6’3, 217, 15 TD, and Jermichael Finley, 6’5, 247, 8 TD
- Patriots: Rob Gronkowski, 6’6, 265, 17 TD
About a week ago, the Jets mentioned that they plan on utilizing Tim Tebow as a red zone QB this year. The people that follow the Jets met that news with derisive “LOL’s, haha’s, and smh’s,” since, as we mentioned above, the Jets’ red zone offense was actually a strength last season. However, and this is a very important point… the Jets employed Plaxico Burress last season. In the two previous seasons in which they did not employ Plaxico Burress, they finished 28th and 17th in red zone TD %. When predicting future success of a team, often times we get stuck in the fallacy of looking at areas in which a team was successful, and assuming that success will continue… just because. However, it is foolish to assume that the Jets are going to maintain a TD rate of 65% inside the red zone, especially since Burress is no longer on the team. The Jets recognized this, and are trying to come up with new ways of scoring up close. Whether that means utilizing Tim Tebow or other wacky shenanigans, the point here is that they know their red zone offense could be in trouble this season, and are trying to do something about it.
I went to the tape to see what Burress’ collection of TDs actually looked like. Seven of the eight were in the red zone, and seven of them (one outside the red zone) were plays in which Mark Sanchez simply threw the ball up high, an basically said “Go up and get it, big fella.” A quick pictorial look at those seven TDs (note the ball circled in red on some of the below stills):
Maybe teams around the league don’t want a 35 year old 4th WR that isn’t going to play special teams. Or maybe he’s a colossal asshole. I’ve never met him, so I’m in no position to have an opinion on his personality.
But let’s get two things clear: 7 > 3, and Plaxico Burress was a useful player last season.