Will he take a big step up in his second year?
The Pittsburgh Steelers were 1 and 4 when Kenny Pickett threw the ball more than 30 times. The game they won was the lowest scoring victory of the season, a 13-10 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. When Pickett threw 30 times or less the Steelers were undefeated with a 6-0 record. (only counting games Pickett started and threw at least two passes)
You can look at that information several ways, from an argument that the Steelers didn’t need Kenny Pickett to win games, that Kenny Pickett couldn’t deliver when the Steelers needed him, even the very basic fact that teams throw more when trailing and throw less when winning is a factor here. So what can we take away from Pickett’s 1-4 record when throwing the ball more?
To get a good idea of whether it is concerning or not, let’s take a look at other young quarterbacks since 2010 and how their teams fared when throwing the ball more than 30 times in a game.
Since 2010, 114 quarterbacks have thrown more than thirty passes in a game in the first two seasons of their NFL career. Thirty-seven of those quarterbacks failed to win even one of those games, 32% of the quarterbacks lost every game they threw 31+ times. Eighteen of those 37, and 25 of the 114 only had one game with more than thirty throws. If we cut the list to just the quarterbacks with 5+ games of more than thirty passes, the list shrinks to just under half the size, with 65 players qualifying. Kenny Pickett is one of the worst in the group with his 1-4 record, but again, the list contains first and second year games, and there’s a reason for that, that we will get to shortly.
Here’s the best records from our list of quarterbacks:
John Skelton: 5-2
Patrick Mahomes: 9-4
Andrew Luck: 16-8
Lamar Jackson: 3-2
Mason Rudolph: 3-2
Andy Dalton: 10-9
Carson Wentz: 11-10
Four good starting quarterbacks who threw a lot early in their careers, Lamar Jackson who was much more of a runner than passer in the Ravens offense, and two guys that started with strong records but couldn’t hold a starting job. Those are the only ones to throw more than thirty times in at least 5 games their first two seasons and have a winning record. Seven out of the 65 who qualified. In fact, of the 65 who qualified, almost one half (32 of them) won 25% or less of these games.
But lets look deeper into it, here’s those same players records from just their rookie season:
John Skelton: 1-1 (the win a blowout with 6 forced turnovers and over 200 yards rushing)
Patrick Mahomes: 1-0
Andrew Luck: 8-4
Lamar Jackson: 0-0
Mason Rudolph: 0-0
Andy Dalton: 6-4
Carson Wentz: 5-8
Andrew Luck was a unicorn, a rare prospect that was incredibly talented and NFL ready from Week 1 of his rookie season. Andy Dalton was NFL ready with a much lower ceiling, his record actually was worse his second season. Most didn’t throw much in their first season. Carson Wentz embodies the more common situation for good young quarterbacks, going from a losing record his first season to a winning record in his second season.
Here’s some of the other more famous quarterbacks in the NFL right now and their rookie and second year record when throwing the ball more than 30 times.
Justin Hebert: 5-8 (R), 10-8 (2)
Trevor Lawrence: 2-10 (R), 7-6 (2)
Josh Allen: 0-5 (R), 4-3 (2)
Joe Burrow: 2-6-1 (R), 4-5 (2)
Derek Carr: 2-11 (R), 6-7 (2)
Ryan Tannehill: 0-7 (R), 7-7 (2)
Baker Mayfield: 3-7 (R), 4-8 (2)
Andy Dalton: 6-4 (R), 5-5 (2)
Dak Prescott: 5-2 (R), 2-5 (2)
Most good quarterbacks make a substantial leap in win/loss record when relied on to throw the ball more in their second season. This data tells us that we can’t judge too much by Kenny Pickett’s rookie season record when throwing the ball more than thirty times, but that if that record doesn’t improve a good bit in his second season, then he likely isn’t going to be the long term answer for the Steelers at quarterback. It would be great for him to take a Joe Burrow or Derek Carr step forward, but we don’t want to see him in the same category as Baker Mayfield, a quarterback just good enough to hold the job but not good enough to lead your team to greatness.