A QB Update: Inconsistency Plagued Bercovici’s Game Against the Iron

Credit: AP Photo

Credit: Fleet

This past weekend I embarked on something new and unique to the AAF writing community: charting quarterback play.

Every quarterback was subject to my discerning eye, from Peter Pujals to Mike Bercovici. It started as an attempt to learn how accurate a quarterback was during their game so it included simple things. It was simply charting whether a pass attempt was accurate or inaccurate and the distance of the attempt. But after a trial run featuring Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray, I discovered that much more would be needed to accurately chart these quarterbacks. 

That’s when it expanded into what it is now: an in-depth breakdown of every passing snap the quarterback has. I began charting where pressure was coming from (outside vs. inside) if there was a pressure on the play and how the quarterback reacted to the said pressure. I charted if the receiver dropped a catchable ball and if a defensive player dropped a possible interception. That expanded into turnover-worthy plays and scoring plays. With the unexpected growth of my original idea, it was decided to take it one step further and write about the findings from these charts. This article will focus on San Diego Fleet quarterback Mike Bercovici. 

Since this is the first article where these stats are being used, an explanation is necessary to explain the premise of them.

True Accuracy is a stat I created (but probably am not the first to think of it) that measures how many of a quarterback’s passes are accurate. It doesn’t matter if they are caught, as not all caught balls are accurate and not all incompletions are inaccurate.

Turnover-Worthy Plays account for every play that could possibly become a turnover. This includes dropped interceptions, actual interceptions, and all fumbles (even if recovered by the offense).

Pressures (Outside and Inside) include any play where a pass rusher affects a quarterbacks ability to throw. This includes plays that force a quarterback to leave the pocket, be sacked, hurried, or hit.

Catchable Dropped Passes include any pass that hits both receivers hands. These catchable passes don’t have to be accurate or easy catches, but if it hits both of the receivers hands it is deemed a catchable ball.

Before we get into the breakdown, there is one last thing that must be addressed. These stats include every pass attempt and passing snap, even the ones deducted due to penalty. This was the best way to get a realistic view of how a quarterback played on any given day. Every pass attempt is important, even when deducted by penalty.

So without further delay, let’s get started.

Mike Bercovici’s Raw Stats

  • True Short Accuracy=55%
  • True Medium Accuracy=74%
  • True Deep Accuracy=34%
  • True Checkdown/Screen Accuracy=100%
  • Dropped Catchable Passes: 8
  • Turnover-Worthy Plays=5
  • Pressure Percentage=31%

Let’s start with clearing the air and saying that Bercovici wasn’t terrible against the Birmingham Iron. His 311 yards passing was second in the league this week, and he tied for first with three touchdown passes. He would have had four touchdown passes if not for a Marcus Baugh drop early in the first quarter. Bercovici led quite a few successful drives that had to solely rely on his arm due to the fact that San Diego’s running game was non-existent for the second week in a row. He is not the only person to blame for this loss.

But Bercovici isn’t absolved from blame either. He only had two interceptions on the day, but it could have easily been four thanks to two dropped interceptions. Bercovici has always been labeled a gunslinger, but four possible interceptions are three too many. Most quarterbacks end up with at least one turnover worthy play and minimizing those is one of the most important tasks of a quarterback. Bercovici hasn’t been able to limit those during his time at quarterback, as he’s thrown at least one interception in every game he has started.

On this play, Bercovici makes a bad decision. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, he works left and makes a throw into double coverage. If Bercovici had stepped up and surveyed the field, he would have seen the right side receiver come open half a second later. Instead, Bercovici throws to Francis Owusu, who is double covered. No matter where Bercovici throws this football, it probably isn’t ending up in Owusu’s hands.

His turnover-worthy plays weren’t the only problem. Bercovici’s True Accuracy was the seventh worst in the AAF at 63% and even worse on his shorter pass attempts. He was only accurate on 55% of throws within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Throwing short passes accurately is a huge part of any quarterbacks game and any game where you are only accurate on a little over half of your throws is bad. It’s simply a drive killer. For example, on this third and two early in the second quarter, Bercovici just misses Nelson Spruce on an out route. While his timing is messed up because of Terrell Watson running right in front of him to block a guy two yards past Bercovici, simply putting this ball towards the sideline in front of Spruce almost guarantees a first down. Instead, Bercovici lofts it over Spruce’s head and it results in an incompletion and punt.

He threw six total incompletions on third downs with six or fewer yards to go, with three of them being inaccurate short pass attempts. His short passing wasn’t the only part of his game that was subpar. He was tied for seventh in the league in deep passing accuracy, only completing a third of his deep passing attempts. The only way the Fleet was able to gain chunk yardage was when Dontez Ford took an intermediate pass an extra 20-30 yards. Bercovici really struggled to throw the deep ball, only having one accurate attempt out of three.

In this example, Bercovici shouldn’t have even thrown this pass. Laquivonte Gonzalez is double covered, leaving the right outside receiver wide open. But Bercovici throws it anyway, putting it too close to the sideline and giving it too much air, resulting in an easy interception for Birmingham.

The one part of Bercovici’s game that stood out was his ball placement on intermediate routes. He consistently gave his receivers a chance to make plays on the ball, throwing 11 of his 15 intermediate passes accurately. This was good for second in the league, throwing accurately on 74% of his attempts. Bercovici’s accuracy on intermediate throws allowed him to make plays on longer passing downs and also get his receivers in space. Without this accuracy, the Fleet would not have been able to move the ball at all against the Iron.

This throw to Gavin Escobar is exquisite. Bercovici sees that the Iron defender has inside leverage on Escobar, blocking the easier throw. Bercovici decides to put the ball where only his guy can get it, high and outside. Escobar does just that, making a great play on the ball. This results in a clutch fourth-down conversion that led to a touchdown.

While this throw may look routine, it’s another example of the day Bercovici had on intermediate throws. He throws the perfect ball to Dontez Ford, dropping it over the head of the defender and allowing Ford to take advantage of the field in front of him. It’s a simple but perfect throw that allows Dontez Ford to make the most of his opportunity.

Bercovici’s inconsistent day wasn’t all his fault. Drops by usually consistent targets hurt him early and often, as eight catchable passes were dropped, including this potential touchdown pass to Marcus Baugh. This is a great pass by Bercovici that has to be caught by Baugh. This drive that could have ended with eight points on the board ended with just a field goal.

Bercovici also faced a good amount of pressure, getting pressured on 31% of his dropbacks. While this disrupts a quarterbacks rhythm and can mess with their mental clock, his accuracy issues weren’t really affected by either the drops or pressure.

Bercovici has struggled with accuracy since his time in college, and I am beginning to wonder if that will change. While the former ASU product has the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks on the Fleet, he has a tendency of shortening his throwing motion on when faced with pressure, often resulting in inaccurate passes. Not much is going to change throughout the season, so expect the same accuracy issues to continue throughout the season.

As mentioned earlier, Bercovici wasn’t bad. He showed good arm strength and an ability to get the ball to his playmakers. But his game isn’t without flaws, namely his accuracy and turnover problems. His inconsistency is hurting him, but one good outing could get Bercovici on track and set him up for success down the road.

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