Saturday, 14 February 2015

Can Crompton Be "The Guy" for Montreal?

The Montreal Alouettes have had a great offseason. They brought in Fred Stamps; re-signed the vast majority of their pending free agents, including S.J. Green; and upgraded some areas through free agency. But despite all that, there is still one question that lingers over the Alouettes and it is one that will likely decide where they finish in 2015:

Is Jonathan Crompton good enough to lead the Als back to the Grey Cup?

It is interesting to note that this happens to be the same question that many asked prior to the 2014 season, just with a different name. At the conclusion of 2013, Montreal appeared to have their heir apparent behind centre with Troy Smith, who looked capable of taking over the reins of from future Hall of Famer Anthony Calvillo. Well, we all know how that turned out as the former Heisman Trophy winner failed miserably at the start of 2014 and ultimately was replaced before the seventh game of the season.

General manager Jim Popp has done a superb job of retaining essential veterans that were to become free agents this February. He has also signed what many considered to be the top prospect from the 2011 CFL Draft in former Baylor Bear and Denver Bronco, Philip Blake. Add to that a trade with Edmonton that landed perennial all-star Fred Stamps, the acquisition of national receiver Samuel Giguère, and it is arguably the most productive offseason of activity by any team in the league.

Yet, questions still remain with respect to the pivotal signal calling position. Will the former Tennessee Volunteer falter like the former Buckeye or will he be a gem like the former Aggie from Utah State?

While it is nearly impossible to predict such an outcome, we can take a look back at what Crompton was able to accomplish last season once he took over at the helm of the Montreal offense.

Put simply, it improved. And it improved quite dramatically.

Touchdowns were up 167 per cent, while interceptions were down 25 per cent. Quarterback rating was up 57 per cent, while overall passing offense increased 26 per cent from the first eight games to the final 12, when they settled upon Crompton behind centre.

Not that any of these numbers would come as a surprise to anyone as they almost certainly had to go up from where they were under the misdirection of Troy Smith and Alex Brink.

I then decided to take a look at correlations – there’s that word again! – to see if the Montreal offense improved so much that it accounted significantly for their later season successes. The major factors that contributed to the turnaround in the Alouettes’ season from Labour Day Weekend onward were on the defensive side of the ball, takeaways being the major contributor. Now some of this can be attributed to the offense, as their own ball security and drive continuation obviously helps a defense.

So with these statistical analyses not providing much in the way of answers as far as whether we think Crompton can be “The Guy” to lead Montreal to the 103rd Grey Cup, I decided to simplify things and go a little old school.

Below is a ranking of the nine quarterbacks that took the majority of the snaps for their respective teams during the 2014 CFL season. I looked at all the statistics or factors that are commonly used to evaluate pivot performance. In order to level the playing field I broke the numbers down on a per start basis in order to look at things objectively.

As we can see, the hirsute wonder achieved a group-leading top ranking in the areas of passes for second down conversion, 30+ yard completions, sacks taken and sacks per drop back. He was ranked in the upper half of the quarterbacking class in the areas of pass attempts, passing yards, yards per pass attempt, touchdowns and touchdown percentage.

Crompton did however not rank well when it came to completions and completion percentage, as well as interceptions and touchdown-to-interception ratio. This obviously resulted in a bottom quartile ranking in terms of overall Quarterback Rating.

There were a few things that jumped out at me when looking at these numbers. The former five-star recruit from Tuscola High School was quite a bit better at converting when he was put into a passing situation on second down than I had thought. His ability to connect on long passes also came as a surprise to me.

Overall, at the end of this analysis I would have to conclude that Montreal is in good hands at the quarterbacking position going into the 2015 CFL season. He was better than I had thought once he was given the keys to driving the Alouette offense. A full training camp, stability in the coaching ranks and the tutelage of Turk Schonert will undoubtedly help the NFL-turned-CFL veteran.

The key to me is in the area of the short pass. His completion percentage should increase significantly if he can get the ball out of his and into the hands of playmakers like Green, Stamps, Rodgers, Giguère, and Gilyard. Instead of relying on the long ball as much, focusing more upon the short to mid-length pass will greatly improve his effectiveness and Montreal’s prospects for the upcoming CFL campaign.

Should Crompton continue do what he did well in 2014 and clean up a few little things in 2015, I have no doubt that he can be the guy to lead Montreal to the 103rd Grey Cup.

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