Reassessing The Value Of Breno Giacomini


December 16, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams (94) against Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle Breno Giacomini (68) at the Rogers Centre. Seattle defeated Buffalo 50-17. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll admit that the number people commenting on this site the last few days in support of Breno Giacomini greatly surprised me. I’ve become used to a generally level of unabashed Breno-hate on the web. I had come to believe I was one of his “supporters” simply because I didn’t want him run out of town on the first available bus.

Views on Breno are obviously disparate. My views land on the side that he’s fairly mediocre and should be replaced as a starter if the team can find a suitable player. I’m also not always right (obviously!), and am willing examine the possibility that I’ve been selling Giacomini’s ability and performance short.

Since I didn’t have 48+ hours (or about 16 if I watched the condensed versions) available to go through all of the Seahawks tape while writing this, I decided to use the data available from Pro Football Focus. They grade every player on every play, so their performance ratings are very comprehensive. I’ve found that their player grades are the best of the advanced metrics that are out there.

Here is a snapshot Giacomini’s performance from 2012 according to PFF. I also compared him to the other full time offensive tackles. (43 qualifying players who played at least 75% of their team’s offensive snaps)

CategoryValuePlayers worse
QB Hurries367
QB Sacks518
PFF Ratings  
Run Blocking-1.911
Pass Blocking-5.35
Pass Block Efficiency934

I have to say, the data here is pretty clear. There weren’t a lot of offensive tackles that played worse than he did in 2012. It wasn’t just penalties either. Giacomini wasn’t very good in any aspect of the game. If anything, my view that he was a little below average may have been giving him too much credit.

So lets get this over with. Time to dispel some myths:

Myth 1: He’s a road grader in the running game.

He’s not. Giacomini ended the year with a negative performance rating in run blocking. He was also 32st of 43 full time offensive tackles in run blocking. If you remove the left tackles from the list (which are usually there for their pass blocking) it looks even worse. There were only four right tackles in the NFL that ended the season with a worse performance rating for run blocking.

While run blocking might be his strength, he’s still in the bottom 25% in the NFL.

Myth 2: His pass blocking isn’t that bad for a right tackle.

The above data is pretty clear. He’s among the worst pass blockers in the entire NFL. Even if you look at only right tackles (which are usually not as good as left tackles in terms of pass blocking) it’s still bad. Only two starting right tackles finished with lower pass blocking performance ratings.

Myth 3: His penalty problems got better over the course of the season.

The data doesn’t support this. He had seven penalties in the first half, and five in the second half. He had a negative performance score for penalties in five games in the first half, and four in the second half. That sounds like improvement, but it isn’t statistically significant (which means that the change isn’t enough that it can’t be distinguished from random variance).

The real change was the number of penalty yards given up. Instead of 15 yard personal foul penalties, he was giving up 10 yard holding penalties and 5 yard false start penalties. This leads to the perception that the penalty situation is improved much more than it might have been.

Is Giacomini improving?

This is an interesting question. If he is, then dealing with his shortcomings becomes easier because we can expect better things from him in the future. In this case, the data is fairly inconclusive.

The thing that jumps out to me is that he was more consistent, and had more aspects of his game that were positive in the second half. That suggests improvement. He also had his second worst game of the season in week 17, which suggests otherwise.

The difficult part in trying to learn anything meaningful from the data is that the talent of the opposing team isn’t included. That stretch of generally positive results for Giacomini came during the “soft” part of the Seahawk’s schedule. Did he actually play better? Or was this simply the case of looking better because he played against inferior defenders? I’m not sure.

Like I said above, the data is inconclusive. I think most people will look at that chart and see whatever they thought before looking at the data. It’s called confirmation bias. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Back to whether or not he’s improving. We are talking about a guy who has been in the league for five years. Few players ever improve significantly this far into their career. There is also no discernible change from his 2011 performance data. Both of these facts suggest that even if he does improve for 2013, it would be unreasonable to expect drastic improvement. It could happen, but logic and history suggest it’s exceedingly unlikely.

But what about attitude/intangibles?

This is where Giacomini has the edge. He’s a full-effort guy. He’s mean. He blocks through (and sometimes past) the whistle. These are good things. I like the “edge” that he brings. His demeanor and attitude are a good fit for the running game.

But is that enough?

One thing that I keep hearing about is the positive things that Pete Carroll and Tom Cable said about Breno last season.  I honestly think people are reading too much into those statements. You have to take into account the context of what was going on.

Carroll and Cable were getting pounded by questions about Giacomini’s negative performance. Of course they’re going to be positive. That’s their job. They aren’t going to throw one of their starters under the bus. That isn’t how the NFL works. It’s what we like to call “coach speak,” and Carroll is a master of it.

Also, if you look at the quotes, Carroll praised Breno’s attitude and effort, but not his play. Cable said that Giacomini was the one guy he’d want in a street fight with him, but since when does street fighting correlate to being an NFL tackle?

I think people are reading too much into these quotes, but that’s just my opinion

So what does this all mean?

I think the take-away from all of this is that the Seahawks need to find a long-term solution at the position. Giacomini simply isn’t a quality NFL offensive tackle. There isn’t a nicer way for me to put it.

The Seahawks also know what they have in Breno. They know they can win even if he continues to play at a low level. There’s trust there. I believe that this is why he’s still on the roster. If an upgrade can’t be found, they know they can roll with him at right tackle for another year.

He’s also entering the final year of his contract, and is due significantly more than his play would indicate. The Seahawks need to free up some cap room, and could generate $3.5 million in cap room by replacing him with a rookie or cheap veteran. So while Breno is safe now, that doesn’t mean he’ll remain so.

Ultimately, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Giacomini not make the 53 man roster. As long as there is someone who can replace his production (which the above data suggests shouldn’t be hard to find), then there’s no reason to keep his inflated contract on the books.