Football: 2013 quarterback rankings suggest OUA teams may need to scout Finch more closely

It's been a few years that we've been ranking quarterbacks across CIS football, and lately it's been the Kyle Quinlan Show. He was unable to top the list this year, due to the small technicality of no longer playing in the league. But there are other standout performances to highlight, and maybe a debate (again) over the Hec Crighton winner.

Jordan Heather's outstanding season made him the first Gaiter winner of the player-of-the-year trophy. Depending on how you view a QB's contribution to his team, however, he could have been only the second-most valuable quarterback in the country during the regular season. Western's Will Finch, as part of the Mustangs' steamrolling disguised as a football season, topped Heather's totals with his passing game being estimated at 4.7 wins above a replacement-level quarterback, compared to Heather's 3.6. The implication there is if you swap the QBs, Western goes 7-1 instead of 8-0.

One could argue that Western was going to win regardless of whether Finch threw for 200 or 400, whereas Bishop's needed Heather to be otherwordly (and even then, half of their wins were by one point). But in my view that's the same hair-splitting over the definition of "valuable" that sadly pervades MVP discussion in baseball. Extend that argument and nothing Heather nor Finch does is valuable, since Laval and Western were going to win their respective conferences anyway.

In the end it doesn't much matter, as our rankings include the playoffs and bowl games, and Finch was much better there than Heather (who managed just 92 yards on 20 attempts in his only game), which kind of puts paid to the whole "Finch's stats were only good because the games didn't matter" idea.

To calculate wins above replacement, we use an admittedly crude method: the player's adjusted net yards per attempt, with a strength of schedule multiplier, then compare to what a replacement-level quarterback would do in the same amount of playing time. (A replacement-level quarterback, in a CIS context, is a QB without much value who can be added to the roster without much effort. You can just think of this as "any Waterloo quarterback.") We then convert yards to points, and points to wins.

It's Finch first at +5.1; then Manitoba's Jordan Yantz, "the B.C. junior league's top offensive player for three consecutive seasons" in case anyone forgot, at +4.0; Calgary's Andrew Buckley at +3.4, showing once again it is unwise to doubt Jim Mullin; Heather at +3.2; and Billy McPhee of Queen's with +3.2 as well. Both Finch and McPhee get a boost from strength of schedule; Heather experiences the opposite effect.

The full rankings for 2013:

Idle observations:

  • As noted last year (and in previous years), there are significant team effects at play, not to mention simple variation year-to-year. Last year, there was a Calgary QB ranked second, but it wasn't Buckley. Last year, Heather was 15th. And so on.

  • A rank of seventh has to be the lowest for an undefeated Vanier Cup winner in some time, though of course after watching them play for two minutes it's easy to figure out why Laval's offence doesn't have to be pass-focused.

  • Finch is fifth in QB WAR since 2009. You may notice that he hasn't played a majority of those seasons. So to you, Rest of OUA, we bid farewell until 2017. Ahead of him in the five-year rankings are Quinlan, the OUA's Forgotten Man (known to most as Austin Kennedy), Eric Dzwilewski, and Billy Greene.
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