Shea Patterson vs. Jolton O'Peters, for the record. . .

Submitted by dragonchild on October 24th, 2018 at 10:03 AM

This isn't any sort of Earth-shaking revelation, but I felt this needed to be said.

As observed by Brian, stephenrjking and others around here, Shea is risk averse, especially against zone coverage.  If he doesn't like what he sees, he won't throw it, and if he feels uncomfortable he'll bug out of the pocket.  This has been frustrating to watch, I ain't refuting that.  I get it; we have a conservative QB.

However, I don't think enough, if anything at all, has been made of the upside.  I apologize for the not-safe-for-lunch image but here's the stat line from Jolton O'Peters, last year's three-headed monster at QB:

185/346, 53.5%, 6.4YPA, 9TD, 10 INT

DSRs were 70, 64, 64, 63, 75, 60, 44, 65, 77, 75, 69, 50.  (Average: 64.7)

This is Shea so far:

123/183, 67.2%, 8.3YPA, 12TD, 3 INT

DSRs (pre-MSU UFR) - 77, 77, 74, 79, 68, 87, 68 (Average: 75.7)

The ones he throws are more often sure things, and the YPA is way up, but these are sort of expected with his approach.  We're also missing some of the nuances, such as the fact that last year's QBs were hardly fearless.  Nevertheless, the takeaway is the TD:INT going from 50-50 to 4:1.  Shea's thrown only one pick in conference play and that was off a deflection.  He's on pace to finish around 18:4 or so.  Also, while it hardly needs to be said that he's an upgrade, "not throwing" is arguably a Bad Read yet Shea's DSR average of 75.7 is comparable to the best QB performances of last season.  He's tentative but he'll pass up opportunities to avoid disasters, and that shows in his grades.

I get the feeling Harbaugh has been relying on Shea as little as possible while he works on getting him more comfortable instead of trying to re-write his instincts.  If that means leaving some of his potential on the shelf for now, so be it, as long as the ball doesn't go back to the other team.  The only thing I'd change in the short term is adding a "two outs" baseball mentality.  I for one don't want to see Shea go all gunslinger and start torching possessions, but if it's third and long, as Brian says that's basically a make-it-or-punt situation so that's when he should turn his limiter off and throw it up for grabs -- especially since we apparently aren't converting those anyway.

Still, we should give credit where credit's due; Shea's conservative play has more often than not kept the offense on the field.  Just, Poor Damn Donovan Peoples-Jones (JPDDPJ) is something we're going to have to live with, but yay palindromes.



October 24th, 2018 at 10:25 AM ^

What's the cutoffs for [GOAT/ great/ good/ avg/ bad/ terrible/ O'Korn] on the DSR percentage? Seems like there should be a larger percentage gap between Shea and the triple threat from last year than 11 percentage points.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:40 AM ^

Dunno.  The thing about DSR is that (as I understand it) it's purely a QB metric so just looking at the number doesn't tell you the story of how a QB got there.  A DSR of 90 could involve little production because the QB was under constant siege, whereas another might've had a DSR of 50 but four of the throws were TDs, though these outliers should be rare.  My point was that while a pass not thrown won't show up in a QB's raw stats, Brian will grade an open receiver not thrown to as a Bad Read, which should ding Shea's DSR.

FWIW I came away from this remembering we gave our 2017 QBs some unearned scorn.  They weren't universally bad.  They had good games, but lost some due to inconsistency.  The story of the 2017 offense is that it almost never had all cylinders firing.  Various units had good days but it was almost always accompanied by some others on the team having bad days be it QB, WR, RB, O-line. . .

Shea has benefited from a much more cohesive offense, though there's plenty of room for improvement.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:26 AM ^

Don't get me wrong, I am fairly thrilled with Shea this year, but I do wish he would trust his jumpy or giant jumpy people down field. Collins and Gentry are going to be able to high point just about anyone, and DPJ regularly gets open by a few yards.

The 3rd and 3 from around the MSU 20 sticks out in my mind where DPJ had the sideline to Shea's throwing side but he wouldn't throw it and took a sack instead (and I think that was when Nordin biffed the kick). Seems like Shea either doesn't trust himself or has been coached to just eat it if he's in doubt. Maybe with a top 1-3 defense, Harbaugh's been coaching him to live for another drive.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:08 AM ^

I'm sure they've been working on it for a while but I doubt this is as easy as saying, "You should've done this."  Shea'll be able to see that for himself watching the tape.  It's more a job for the QB whisperer to figure out what Shea saw that spooked him so next time he can make the throw with confidence.

So, I'm no coach but I get the feeling they're addressing these issues by improving Shea's vision, not directly trying to get him to play more aggressively.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:17 AM ^

When I saw the play live, I thought, ARGHHHHHHH!!! Watching the replay, I know why Shea didn't pull the trigger. There were two levels of defenders between Shea and the end-zone. Throwing a low bullet stood a good chance of being batted in the air or even picked off. Putting a little loft on it to get over the two guys between Shea and the end-zone would have allowed the trailing CB, who was in a position to undercut the route, the ability to get the interception.

I still wish he would have thrown it away instead of take the sack, but Shea was trying to make sure Michigan walked away with 3 points instead of nothing. You can't be upset about that in a game which easily could have been a one score game. 


October 24th, 2018 at 11:03 AM ^

Ditto.  I'm ehhh on 3rd and 3 in the red zone (the downside is those scary deflection-INTs) but for 3rd and long, shucks, even if they're super-shy about throwing picks send Nico, Zentry and DPJ in three-verts where someone's going to be one-on-one and if it's someone down the sideline, Shea unleashes the dragon so the only three possible outcomes are long completion, PI, or the ball sails out-of-bounds.  If it's high enough that only our ents can get to it then a trailing DB doesn't have a shot at picking it off, and few people are going to beat DPJ in a footrace.

That's not to say it'll be a high-percentage play, but converting third-and-long isn't easy anyway and these guys have the talent to make that a low-risk, high-upside play.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:29 AM ^

If Poor Damn DPJ is the price we have to pay for Risk-Averse Shea... I got a trophy in Schembechler Hall that says that it ain't exactly the worst burden to bear.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:30 AM ^

We lost to MSU due to 5 interceptions last year. We lost to OSU in large part to an awful pick 6 in 2016. 

I’m not buying the “Shea is conservative” story at all. I think it’s 100% by design. Harbaugh knows that this team is good enough to win the B1G if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, but not good enough to do so if we turn over the ball a bunch. 


October 24th, 2018 at 10:57 AM ^

It's true. He came in looking like "John O'Korn but much more talented and level-headed" based on his Ole Miss film. 

Now he's morphed into an elite game manager who makes a few really great throws a game while getting critical first downs (or more) with his legs. The change is dramatic and pretty clearly by design. 


October 24th, 2018 at 10:59 AM ^

I agree with JPC and corundum, with the defense playing this well it seems highly likely that the staff is coaching him to avoid risk / turnovers.  In my opinion, they're being a little too conservative, but it's hard to argue with the results - with this defense, erring on the side of being too careful is probably right.

However, I still hope he can turn it loose a bit more and still avoid the turnovers.  We'll probably need that in some of the upcoming games.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:16 AM ^

I didn't know that.  So, Harbaugh coached him to err on the side of caution and has since been working him slowly back toward the middle of the spectrum.

In any case, I think Shea's head is in the right place.  We've lost sooooo many games over the Dark Times due to picks.

But, credit to Shea as well for buying in.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:59 AM ^

Bingo.  Someone gets it.  Don't shoot ourselves in the foot, and we win.  Because this defense is damn elite.


Shea has done much better this year than i thought he would. I figured he would be a 15 TD, 12 INT gunslinger like Bret Favre and lose us a game we have no business losing.  I think Harbaugh should get a lot of credit for coaching him not to make a ton of mistakes, because he sure the hell did at Ole Miss.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:06 AM ^

Shea taking a sack instead of throwing the ball to DPJ in the endzone on third down is not conservative or what Harbaugh is coaching. Shea handing it off to Higdon instead of pulling and scoring a touchdown is not conservative or what Harbaugh is coaching.

Those are just blown reads.


October 24th, 2018 at 12:04 PM ^

I’m not “demanding perfection.” I’m just saying that those plays are not “coached conservatism,” they are simply blown reads.

Shea is light years ahead of last year’s motley crew, but he has also left a ton of points on the field from simple missed reads.

I also don't necessarily agree that he's been making fewer mistakes, as last week didn't look much different than Northwestern or Wisconsin.

That being said, he's still relatively new to this system and has all the tools to to take a Rudock level leap. With his talent and this offense, that could make the team a real national championship contender.


October 24th, 2018 at 2:20 PM ^

Bill C fancy stats found that Michigan was expected to beat MSU by 25. Give Patterson another 50 all purpose yards and 2 extra touchdowns and those are elite stats.

Don't know what the fancy stats say but against Wisconsin there was also an extra touchdown or two left on the field in the first half.

If Patterson takes advantage of opportunities more consistently, there's room for a huge leap in production and utter domination by the offense.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:21 AM ^

Shea needs to just throw the ball away instead of losing yardage and potentially fumbling the ball on a sack. I don't mind him scrambling a bit hoping to find someone open but if he feels he cannot complete a pass downfield just throw the ball out of bounds. Taking sacks too often is my only complaint about his play but just having a good QB again may allow us to win the conference.


October 24th, 2018 at 11:09 AM ^

Agree. I think Shea's conservatism is all Harbaugh coaching. Coming in, some opinions of Patterson labeled him as the "gunslinger" type. You may get some big plays and you may get some INT's. I don't know if he was or wasn't one of those but he is definitely not that now at UM. 


October 24th, 2018 at 1:05 PM ^

There are far worse things to value in a QB.  I would also say that this would probably something instilled in Harbaugh by Bo and by his dad.  It's very old school, but it makes sense.

Yes, I hear the people who want the points, the right reads when they're there, but if the trade-off is missing out on some points while keeping the ball, I think I can live with it because of the defense.


October 24th, 2018 at 12:46 PM ^

A lot of Patterson's Ole Miss games were blowout losses.  Obviously you need to take risks when you're trying to come back from a large deficit.  I wonder how much of the "gunslinger" reputation was based on a truly risk-acceptant mentality as opposed to situation-based decisionmaking.

Space Coyote

October 24th, 2018 at 12:38 PM ^

I'll disagree here.

Patterson is not conservative by design. He has missed pulling the trigger multiple times this year when guys were open. A coach isn't designing for that. Harbaugh is stressing taking care of the ball, which Patterson does, but often times to a fault.

Now, he is conservative, which is better than reckless. Being more on the conservative side of the spectrum compared to last year is preferred (and one reason why Peters was preferred over JOK eventually). So yes, he's being coached to take care of the football. But being conservative also isn't the optimal balance between aggressive and conservative.

Patterson has room for improvement. He does need to read coverage quicker. He does need to get confidence in his reads of what is open and what is covered. It's ok to admit that and also consider him a superior alternative to what Michigan had last year, especially given the talent around him and on defense. Harbaugh would prefer that alternative, certainly, and stresses it more than other coaches, but he also wants to get him to the point where he's seeing and hitting those open targets down field. His conservatism, for one thing, is a major part of Michigan's lack of success on 3rd and long.


October 24th, 2018 at 1:21 PM ^

Room for improvement, yes, but he is performing at a very high level given what he is being asked to do.  In a conservative, run first ball control offense his QBR is still in the top 3 of the B1G (Shea 155, Blough 159, Haskins 174).  If we passed 15 more times each game, his QBR would likely be on par with Haskins or even better. 

Who was the last UM QB to post a QBR greater than Shea's 155 ?  

No one ! ... next closest 1989-Grbac at 148 and 1983-Harbaugh at 146.


October 24th, 2018 at 10:32 AM ^

Well Brian Griese was conservative and had 14 tds to 5 int. In 1997. If you have a good defense and a good run game, all you have to do is be smart and manage the game.

3rd and long, let Patterson roll...he does very well creating/extending with his legs.

He can throw the ball and is accurate most of the time, everyone can see that. If I had one complaint it would be to throw the ball away instead of taking a sack (which seems to have improved a bit as well).

I have a feeling that when Black is fully in play, with Collins and DPJ...we are going to see some serious shit against OSU!!! Go blue!

and just think...although DCaff is good and looks promising...if Shea comes back along with all the receivers and oline year could be very good too!!!

Gentleman Squirrels

October 24th, 2018 at 10:32 AM ^

With those numbers, I'm happy with a slightly more conservative QB in Shea. Though, I can see him exploding out of the bye week similar to how Rudock did in 2015. Also what those numbers don't show are Shea's runs and how that adds a completely new factor into the offensive game plan. 


October 24th, 2018 at 10:34 AM ^

When he doesn't throw it, he can sometimes get pretty good yardage with his feet, so it's not like it's a total loss either.  

Given the defense, i'm OK with the conservative play.  And even if he doesn't have gaudy stats, leading a team to the CFP with great efficiency should be plenty to catch the eyes of NFL scouts.  He's already shown he can put up 400 yard games at Ole Miss when asked to do so. 


October 24th, 2018 at 1:35 PM ^

Exactly - what you see is by design.  This is the vision of what Harbaugh wants his ultimate team to look like - elite defense, effective ball-control offense that is able to hit the deep ball when needed.  With Black back, we are going to be even more lethal with the deep ball.  Black runs excellent routes that gain better separation than either Nico or DPJ.  And if all three are on the field at the same time, look out for a higher rate of explosive plays.  Black is a damn good receiver.

Harbaugh has a plan for 2018 and it is starting to come together.  Go Blue !!!