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Recently, I posted a quick and dirty method to measure quarterback career value above average and above replacement. I used Adjusted Yards per Pass Attempt as the foundational stat because its inputs (yards, touchdowns, interceptions, and attempts) are on record back to 1932.

Today, I wanted to use the same model with Adjusted Net Yards per Dropback (ANY/A) as the base metric. I believe ANY/A is a more accurate reflection of quarterback production, but it does have the downside of only being recorded back to 1969 in Pro Football Reference’s database.

Thus, while the previous post covered every passer in the official stat era, this post will only cover value added since 1969. This means greats like Sammy Baugh and Sid Luckman are completely overlooked, while legends like Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath only have their worst years included (an unfortunate byproduct of this study’s limitations, to be sure).

In case you didn’t want to click back through the previous article to see the details of the formula, I’ll briefly cover the basics here: [click to continue…]

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Over the last week, I’ve looked at the biggest quarterback declines and quarterback turnarounds when it comes to career records. But there were some limitations in those studies, so today, I want to use a new method.

I assigned 20 games of .500 play — i.e., a 10-10 record — to each quarterback’s record after every start of his career. Then I checked to see which quarterbacks had the biggest declines/improvements in record/rest-of-career record using these metrics.

Let’s take Marc Bulger as an example. He started 95 games in his career. At one point, he was 28-11, which is a 0.718 winning percentage. For the rest of his career, he went 13-43, for a 0.232 winning percentage. If we add 20 games of .500 play to his first stint, that makes him 38-21, which translates to a 0.644 winning percentage. For his rest of career, his record would go down as 23-53, a 0.303 adjusted winning percentage. That’s an adjusted winning percentage decline of 0.341, the most of any quarterback in history. [click to continue…]

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Friend of the program Bryan Frye is back for another guest post. As regular readers know, Bryan operates his own fantastic site, http://www.thegridfe.com. You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts here, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


Floating around the internet, there are copious metrics for measuring quarterback performance. Some are very basic (passing yards, completion rate), while others are quite complex (EPA, WPA). Some are open-source (passer rating, ANY/A), while others are proprietary (DVOA, Total QBR). It seems there is a stat to cover just about every aspect of QB play, so the last thing we need is another useless number.

Well, I didn’t get that memo.

Today, I’m going to look at a somewhat abstract measurement for career value, based on adjusted yards per attempt relative to league average. I prefer ANY/A and my own TAY/P (and the different iterations of both metrics), but gaps in the record books mean we can only go so far with either.1 With AY/A, we can go back to 1932, the very first season of the “official stat” era in the NFL.

The methodology is simple and straightforward. I took Pro Football Reference’s AY/A Index Scores for every quarterback with at least 1500 career pass attempts. If you are familiar with PFR’s advanced passing stats, you know they are based on three seasons’ worth of data (years n-1, n, and n+1), and a score of 100 represents league average output.2 To find the AY/A+ score itself, you simply multiply a player’s z-score by fifteen and add the product to 100. Using this knowledge, I reverse engineered the passing Index Scores in order to find the number of standard deviations above or below average each quarterback’s AY/A was. I then multiply that number by pass attempts to come up with an abstract career value metric. I also did this for replacement level, using one standard deviation below average as the baseline for replacement play.

The formulas:

Value over average = [(AY/A Index Score – 100)/15]*Attempts

Value over replacement = [(AY/A Index Score – 85)/15]*Attempts

Like I said, this isn’t forking any lightning in the realm of quarterback analysis. It’s just a quick and dirty way to approximate career productivity based on a well-known metric.

The Results

The table below shows the abstract career value of the 182 quarterbacks who met the 1000 attempt threshold. Read it thus: Peyton Manning played 266 career games and had 9380 pass attempts. His career AY/A+ score was 116. This gives him a total value of 10005 above average and 19385 above replacement (this is the metric by which the table is sorted). Note that the table below does list all 182 quarterbacks, but for ease of scrolling, only the top 25 are displayed by default. You can change that using the dropdown arrow on the left, or you can search for your favorite passer.

RkQuarterbackGAttAY/A+ValRepl
1Peyton Manning26693801161000519385
2Tom Brady2257792115779215584
3Dan Marino2428358112668615044
4Drew Brees2178085112646814553
5Brett Favre30210169106406814237
6Joe Montana1925391118646911860
7Steve Young1694149125691511064
8Fran Tarkenton2466467110431110778
9Aaron Rodgers1264047124647510522
10Ben Roethlisberger1715423114506110484
11Dan Fouts1815604113485710461
12John Elway2347250106290010150
13Warren Moon2086823107318410007
14Philip Rivers164533911346279966
15Johnny Unitas211518611138038989
16Tony Romo155433111646208951
17Kurt Warner124407011643418411
18Ken Anderson192447511338788353
19Jim Kelly160477911031867965
20Donovan McNabb167537410725087882
21Len Dawson211374111639907731
22Otto Graham126262612950777703
23Boomer Esiason187520510724297634
24Sonny Jurgensen218426211131257387
25Roger Staubach131295812243387296
26Carson Palmer160544310518147257
27Dave Krieg213531110517707081
28Y.A. Tittle204439510926377032
29Phil Simms164464710721696816
30Mark Brunell193464010721656805
31Trent Green120374011229926732
32Sammy Baugh165299511835946589
33Roman Gabriel183449810617996297
34Eli Manning185622710006227
35Rich Gannon157420610719636169
36Steve McNair161454410515156059
37Craig Morton207378610922726058
38Randall Cunningham161428910617166005
39Troy Aikman165471510412575972
40Bob Griese161342911125155944
41John Hadl224468710412505937
42Jim Everett15849231039855908
43Jeff Garcia125367610922065882
44Drew Bledsoe194671798-8965821
45Vinny Testaverde233670198-8935808
46Matt Ryan126453010412085738
47Terry Bradshaw168390110718205721
48Bart Starr196314911225195668
49Norm Van Brocklin140289511427025597
50Jim Hart20150761013385414
51Daunte Culpepper105319911021335332
52Matt Hasselbeck209533010005330
53Neil Lomax108315311021025255
54Joe Theismann167360210614415043
55Jeff George131396710410585025
56Ron Jaworski18841171038234940
57Chris Chandler18040051038014806
58Ken O'Brien129360210512014803
59Matt Schaub141327110715264797
60John Brodie20144911012994790
61Joe Namath140376210410034765
62Bobby Layne17537001049874687
63Steve Beuerlein147332810613314659
64Jay Cutler13443541012904644
65Brad Johnson17743261012884614
66Steve Bartkowski129345610511524608
67Steve Grogan14935931049584551
68Neil O'Donnell125322910612924521
69Bernie Kosar126336510511224487
70Brian Sipe12534391049174356
71Steve DeBerg206502498-6704354
72Daryle Lamonica151260111017344335
73Danny White166295010713774327
74Earl Morrall255268910916134302
75Ken Stabler18437931025064299
76Bert Jones102255111017014252
77Marc Bulger96317110510574228
78Kerry Collins198626195-20874174
79Russell Wilson64173512124294164
80Sid Luckman128174412023254069
81Billy Kilmer17029841059953979
82Chad Pennington89247110914833954
83Jim Harbaugh177391810003918
84Charley Johnson16533921024523844
85Charlie Conerly16128331059443777
86Jim Plunkett157370110003701
87Michael Vick14332171024293646
88Joe Ferguson186451997-9043615
89Cam Newton78241910711293548
90Joe Flacco122407098-5433527
91Mark Rypien10426131058713484
92Norm Snead178435397-8713482
93George Blanda340400798-5343473
94Jeff Blake11932411012163457
95Matthew Stafford93369199-2463445
96Don Meredith104230810710773385
97Jay Schroeder11828081035623370
98Aaron Brooks9329631023953358
99Lynn Dickey15231251012083333
100Jake Delhomme10329321023913323
101Jeff Hostetler15223381069353273
102Frank Ryan126213310811383271
103Bill Kenney10624301058103240
104Greg Landry14623001069203220
105Tommy Kramer129365198-4873164
106Archie Manning151364298-4863156
107Alex Smith126361998-4833136
108Jim McMahon11925731035153088
109Brian Griese9327961011862982
110Jim Zorn140314999-2102939
111Bobby Hebert118312199-2082913
112Jake Plummer143435095-14502900
113Gus Frerotte147310699-2072899
114David Garrard8622811046082889
115Babe Parilli189333098-4442886
116Jack Kemp122307399-2052868
117Billy Wade12825231023362859
118Gary Danielson10119321067732705
119Doug Williams8825071011672674
120Bill Nelsen9019051067622667
121Jon Kitna141444294-17772665
122Andy Dalton7724971011662663
123Elvis Grbac10524451011632608
124Stan Humphries88251610002516
125Chris Miller98289298-3862506
126Wade Wilson125242810002428
127Milt Plum129241910002419
128Tom Flores10617151066862401
129Tobin Rote149290797-5812326
130Doug Flutie9221511011432294
131Bob Waterfield9116171066472264
132Frankie Albert9015641066262190
133Scott Mitchell99234699-1562190
134Erik Kramer83229999-1532146
135Ed Brown15419871011322119
136Bill Munson10719821011322114
137Tony Eason9015641055212085
138Jason Campbell90251897-5042014
139Kyle Orton87271296-7231989
140Richard Todd119296795-9891978
141Andrew Luck55210699-1401966
142Rodney Peete104234697-4691877
143Eddie LeBaron134179610001796
144Tony Banks96235696-6281728
145Ryan Tannehill64224896-5991649
146Cotton Davidson111175299-1171635
147Ryan Fitzpatrick113347392-18521621
148Charlie Batch81160410001604
149Jay Fiedler76171799-1141603
150Mike Livingston91175197-3501401
151Bubby Brister99221294-8851327
152Byron Leftwich60160597-3211284
153Don Majkowski90190595-6351270
154Steve Bono88170196-4541247
155Mike Tomczak185233793-10911246
156Matt Cassel100257492-13731201
157Marc Wilson126208193-9711110
158Sam Bradford63229292-12221070
159Josh McCown77195693-9131043
160Eric Hipple102154695-5151031
161Dan Pastorini140305590-20371018
162Vince Ferragamo75161594-646969
163Josh Freeman62204892-1092956
164Kordell Stewart125235891-1415943
165Trent Dilfer130317289-2326846
166Tim Couch62171492-914800
167David Carr94226790-1511756
168Mark Sanchez75226789-1662605
169Derek Anderson68154390-1029514
170Billy Joe Tolliver79170789-1252455
171Rex Grossman54156289-1145417
172Chad Henne64195488-1563391
173Frank Tripucka75174588-1396349
174Dave Brown73163488-1307327
175Mike Pagel132150986-1408101
176Kyle Boller67151983-1722-203
177Jack Trudeau67164483-1863-219
178Mike Phipps119179983-2039-240
179Mark Malone73164882-1978-330
180Joey Harrington81253882-3046-508
181Rick Mirer80204381-2588-545

I normally like to point out a few curiosities I notice in the data, but I’d rather just present the numbers and leave the comments to the readers. What sticks out to you? Oh, and one note: back in 2006, Chase did some back-of-the-envelope calculations that had Rick Mirer as the worst quarterback of all time. 10 years later, not much has changed.

  1. Pro-Football-Reference doesn’t have ANY/A prior to 1969. I don’t have TAY/P prior to 1991; even without including first down data, I can only go back to 1963 before I run out of complete sack data. []
  2. Except in 1932, when there is no year n-1, and the current year, when there is no n+1. []
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The Dallas Cowboys are rumored to be drafting a replacement for Tony Romo with the fourth pick in the first round. In general, teams with bad offenses are the ones that draft quarterbacks, and technically, the Cowboys would fit that mold given the team’s struggles last year. But, of course, the Cowboys expect to have a good offense in 2016 with a healthy Romo, so I was curious how unusual it would be for a good team to spend a first round pick on a quarterback.

The table below shows the offensive SRS grade and the number of wins1 for each team that has drafted a quarterback since 1971 in the year preceding such draft. For example, the 2014 Bucs and Titans had very bad offenses and went 2-14 before drafting quarterbacks with the first two picks. That’s how things typically go, but not always. [click to continue…]

  1. Pro-rated to 16 games for non-16 game seasons. []
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The under-appreciated Jim Hart

The under-appreciated Jim Hart

Yesterday, I noted that Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar had a 39-23-1 career record after the 1989 season, but actually finished his career with a losing record. That sounded pretty wild to me, so I wanted to investigate further.

Kosar’s Browns defeated the Steelers in the 1990 season opener, which brought his career record to 40-23-1, or 17 games over .500. But Kosar went just 13-31 over his final 44 games; after a 0.633 winning percentage in his first 64 games, he posted a 0.295 winning percentage for the remainder of his career.

So I wondered, among quarterbacks who finished their career with a .500 record or worse, does Kosar hold the record for most games above .500 at any one point? As it turns out, that honor goes to Jim Hart. Younger fans likely know very little about Hart, but he’s one of the better quarterbacks not in the Hall of Fame. He spent 18 years with the Cardinals, and made the Pro Bowl in four straight seasons from ’74 to ’77. By 1981, he ranked third all time in career passing yards and ninth in passing touchdowns. He made it into the top 50 on Brad Oremland’s list, and snuck into the top 30 on my list.

But if you look at the raw numbers, you’re likely to be unimpressed. That’s because the bulk of his career took place during the ’70s, but also because he retired with an 87-88-5 record. But as of November 20th, 1977, Hart had a 69-47-5 record, a 0.591 winning percentage. Of course, it was all downhill from there for Hart, who went just 18-41 (0.305) for the rest of his career. [click to continue…]

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Here is Colin Kaepernick’s ANY/A average in each of the last four years:

kaep decline

Kaepernick won't listen to comments about his declining ANY/A

Kaepernick won’t listen to comments about his declining ANY/A

That is not a very promising graph. Last year, I wrote about how Kaepernick, Cam Newton, and RG3 were a unique trio of young quarterbacks who had declined in two consecutive years. Well, 2015 was where those quarterbacks diverged: Newton won the MVP, Griffin did not take a single snap, and Kaepernick continued his decline.

Kaepernick’s 2012-2015 represents just the 44th instance where a quarterback saw his ANY/A decline in three straight seasons (minimum 100 pass attempts each year). But he’s even an outlier in this group. He was one of just six quarterbacks who was younger than 25 at the start of the first season, joined by Pat Haden, Jeff Blake, Bernie Kosar, Rick Mirer, and Ken O’Brien. And he and Aaron Brooks are the only two players to have a dropoff of at least 0.5 ANY/A in each season.

Here’s how to read the table below, using Philip Rivers as an example. His four-year stretch began at the age of 28 in 2009, when he had an ANY/A average of 8.3. Over the next three years, that dropped to 7.77, 6.64, and then 5.45. His lowest decline in any of those seasons was 0.53 ANY/A, and this is the column by which the table is sorted. His total decline from Year 1 to Year 4 was 2.85 ANY/A. Finally, in the next season — what would be 2016 for Kaepernick — Rivers rebounded with a 7.79 ANY/A average. For players who did not have 100 pass attempts (and for Kaepernick) in season N+4, that cell is blank. [click to continue…]

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The Eagles have resigned Sam Bradford, in a move that’s pretty hard to justify. In five different seasons, Bradford has thrown at least 250 pass attempts (he missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL). In those years, he has never ranked as a league-average quarterback as measured by Net Yards per Attempt. Based on PFR’s Advanced Passing Index ratings, Bradford had an 84 NY/A+ as a rookie, a 73 in year two, a 94 in 2012, an 89 in 2013, and a 98 last year.

In these ratings, 100 represents league average, 85 is one standard deviation below league average, and 70 is two standard deviations below league average. That’s five seasons of below-average — and often really below average — quarterbacking. And it now appears as though he’ll be given a sixth year, and you can imagine the smart money is on him once again falling short of league average.

I’m using NY/A instead of ANY/A because NY/A is a better predictive stat and less sensitive to outlier plays, and that arguably hurts Bradford in this analysis. He did post a 102 in ANY/A+ in 2013 because of an excellent interception rate, but the biggest criticism of Bradford is that he doesn’t take enough risks, as he generally throws very short passes. His average pass traveled just 7.04 yards downfield in 2015, which ranked 31st out of 34 qualifying quarterbacks. He ranked 34th out of 37 passers in this metric in 2013, 22nd out of 32 in 2012, 10th out of 33 in 2011, and 30th out of 31 in 2010. As a result, yes, Bradford does throw fewer interceptions, but I don’t think that’s a sign of anything other than conservative quarterback play.

I looked at all quarterbacks who had at least five seasons since 19701 with 250 pass attempts. Every season with a NY/A+ index of less than 100 was graded as “Bad” and every season with a NY/A+ index of 100 or better was “Good.” Bradford therefore goes down as 0/5, giving him a grade of -5. That’s pretty bad, although not the worst score in the group: [click to continue…]

  1. I have included quarterbacks who entered the league before 1970, but only counted their post-1969 seasons. []
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Guest Post: QB Playoff Support: Part II

Adam Steele is back, this time with some playoff support stats for eight more quarterbacks. You can view all of Adam’s posts here.


Two weeks ago, I published a study detailing the playoff supporting casts of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Today I’m going to look at eight more notable quarterbacks under the same microscope. Below are the career tables for each QB, in no particular order. [click to continue…]

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This pass probably wasn't completed.

This pass probably wasn’t completed.

In the NFC Championship Game, Carson Palmer was really bad.  He completed 23 of 40 passes for 235 yards, with three sacks that lost 8 yards.  That by itself is not very good — it translates to a 5.3 net yards per attempt average — but the real damage came when it comes to turnovers.  Palmer threw one touchdown againt four interceptions, giving him an Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average of just 1.56.  And even that inflates things a bit, as Palmer also fumbled twice, with both fumbles being recovered by Carolina. On the season, Carolina allowed 4.46 ANY/A to opposing passers, the best in the NFL, so that does mitigate things a bit.  As a result, Palmer’s game is considered -125 ANY below expectation, because he was 2.9 ANY/A below expectation over 43 dropbacks.

That’s bad, but nowhere near as bad as the worst performance from even this year’s playoffs (Brian Hoyer) or the last Cardinals playoff loss (thank you, Ryan Lindley).  But the reason Palmer’s performance appeared so bad was precisely because it came from someone like Carson Palmer, and not a Hoyer or a Lindley.  Palmer, after all, was arguably the best passer in the NFL this season.  He led the NFL in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, at 8.11, which was 2.14 ANY/A better than league average. [click to continue…]

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In 1974, Terry Bradshaw was not very good. He threw for just 785 yards on 148 pass attempts, while throwing only 7 touchdowns against 8 interceptions. That translates to a 2.92 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, which is terrible even for 1974. He ranked 25th in ANY/A among the 32 quarterbacks with at least 120 pass attempts. Given the league average of 3.91, that means Bradshaw finished the year with a Relative ANY/A of -0.99.

That’s the worst of any quarterback who wound up winning the Super Bowl. But that doesn’t mean Bradshaw wasn’t a big part of why Pittsburgh won its first title. He was excellent in the team’s three playoff games, particularly in Pittsburgh’s first win. [click to continue…]

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Teddy Bridgewater and Quarterback Help

No offense has had it easier this year than the Denver Broncos. What do I mean by that? Denver ranks 4th in points allowed, at 276, but that’s a little misleading. The Broncos have thrown three pick sixes, all from Peyton Manning, and those have put 20 points on the scoreboard (one pick six was followed by a failed two-point attempt). In addition, Denver’s defense/special teams has scored six touchdowns. Those obviously go in the “Points Scored” column for Denver, but in terms of the offense, they didn’t earn those points. So instead, let’s subtract all non-offensive touchdowns scored by the Broncos by the points allowed by Denver. Do that, and the Broncos defense has allowed 214 net points, after excluding pick sixes and crediting the defense for non-offensive touchdowns.

That’s the fewest in the NFL. Last offseason, I wrote an article about Andrew Luck and quarterback help.  It was pretty basic, but I found it interesting enough to recreate today.  Here is the methodology: [click to continue…]

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Checkdowns: Carson Palmer and MVP Voting

Since twitter limits me to 140 characters, and I’m having fun debating with guys like Bryan Frye (@LaverneusDingle) and Adam Hartstad (@AdamHarstad), I thought I’d crunch some numbers here.

Is Carson Palmer the best choice for MVP this year? Let’s put aside the Cam Newton argument and just focus on Palmer’s place in post-merger history.   As Adam pointed out, 2015 Carson Palmer is currently 7th on the list of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt leaders, and the six players in front of him all won the AP MVP (that would be Peyton Manning 2004, Aaron Rodgers 2011, Dan Marino 1984, Tom Brady 2007, Manning 2013, and Rodgers 2014).

Of course, ANY/A is biased in favor of modern players, so let’s look at ANY/A+. Here, he doesn’t drop as far as you might think: Carson is still tied for the 11th best season since 1970, and a few non-AP MVPs sneak in there ahead of him (Mark Rypien 1991, Randall Cunningham 1998, and a quarterback who lost to another quarterback a having historic season: Montana ’84 and Ken Anderson 1981). [click to continue…]

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Cam waits for the 4th quarter to arrive

Cam waits for the 4th quarter to arrive

In the 4th quarter and in overtime this year, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been really, really good.  Newton has completed 54 of 83 passes for 733 yards with 6 touchdown throws and just one interception, along with five sacks for -35 yards.  Newton is therefore averaging an impressive 8.78 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt after 45 minutes have gone by in each game; among quarterbacks with at least 40 pass attempts this year, that’s the second best average in the league, a hair behind Tom Brady (8.81) and just ahead of Carson Palmer (8.59). (Although I will note that noted clutch quarterback Tony Romo is averaging 9.77 ANY/A on 21 4th quarter/overtime pass attempts this year.)

Below are the passing stats from every quarterback this year in the 4th quarter and overtime so far in 2015: [click to continue…]

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In my Washington Post article this week, I noted that Ryan Fitzpatrick was doing well as Jets quarterback in part because he was often playing with the lead. Fitzpatrick threw a whopping 58 times against the Eagles, and all but two of those plays came with the Jets trailing. In his other four games, Fitzpatrick threw just 18 passes while trailing. And, this year, Fitzpatrick has a 6.5 ANY/A average while throwing passes with the lead, and 4.8 ANY/A while throwing passes while trailing.1

But I thought it would be fun to see how every quarterback has fared this year while leading and then while trailing, with a minimum of 30 pass attempts in each situation. That’s what graphed below, and the two guys who really stand out are Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.  The Bengals quarterback has been outstanding this year in both situations, while the Panthers quarterback has been significantly more impressive this year while trailing.  In the graph below, the X-Axis shows ANY/A while leading; for Newton, that’s a pedestrian 5.5 ANY/A.  The Y-Axis shows ANY/A while trailing, which is an incredible 9.2. [click to continue…]

  1. Frankly, even that understates the split. Fitzpatrick was terrible in the Eagles game, which, admittedly, may have more to do with the Eagles defense than the Game Script. But Fitzpatrick averaged 2.98 ANY/A that day. In 13 passes against the Browns — all of which came in the 2nd quarter with the Jets trailing by 3 or 7 points — he averaged 7.1 ANY/A. And in 5 passes against Washington, Fitzpatrick averaged 20.2 ANY/A, which was largely the result of yards after the catch gained by his receivers. []
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Friend of the program Bryan Frye is back for another guest post. As regular readers know, Bryan operates his own fantastic site, http://www.thegridfe.com. You can view all of Bryan’s guest posts here, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


Five weeks of regular season football have come and gone. Those five weeks have seen quarterbacks attempt 5,470 passes and take 5,817 dropbacks. Throw in rushes, and quarterbacks have been involved in 6,184 action plays thus far.1 That seems like a large number, but it is only a fraction of the average 20,764 action plays quarterbacks have been involved in over the last two seasons.2 There are still 358 games left in the regular season (69.9% of the schedule), and we cannot know with epistemic certainty what is going to happen between now and January 3.

However, it is still fun to take the plays we have seen (and the stats those plays have produced) and use them to assess the quarterback landscape of this young season. The following tables present raw, rate, and adjusted stats for the 35 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 70 passes this season.3 I’ll provide some brief commentary, but I’d like to let Chase’s educated audience come up with their own points. Without further ado, here are the raw stats… [click to continue…]

  1. Keep in mind this was written before the Thursday night game featuring Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. []
  2. Quarterbacks are currently on pace for just over 21,000 plays, which would be the highest total in history by a small margin. []
  3. The NFL official requirement for rate stat qualification. []
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For most NFL fans, the book on Andy Dalton has been written in permanent ink.  But this week at the Washington Post, I write why 2015 may in fact be his breakout season.

So, through three weeks, it’s easy to dismiss the great numbers that Dalton has produced as the product of a small sample size. On 94 passing drop backs, he’s thrown for 866 yards and 8 touchdowns with just two sacks and one interception. That translates to a 10.32 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, the best in football through three weeks. But is there any reason that Dalton, who has had hot streaks before, can maintain this level of play?

You can read the full article here.

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Guest Post: Quarterback Tiers Based On Age and Talent

Today we have a guest post from James Deyerle, a longtime reader of this blog and the PFR blog, and who lives in Richmond, VA. As always, we thank our guests for contributing to the site.


If there’s one thing NFL fans can’t resist, it’s ranking quarterbacks, but while those conversations are often framed with stats, playoff success, awards, and more, it misses a big part of how fans and front offices treat quarterbacks. For example, despite similar stat lines in 2014 Vikings fans are justified in feeling very differently about Teddy Bridgewater than Bears fans feel about Jay Cutler.

One of the biggest reasons is age: Cutler was 31 and in his 9th season last year, while Bridgewater was only a 22 year old rookie, making him one of the youngest rookies in the past 15 years to see significant playing time. A collection of studies on quarterback aging from Chase, Neil Paine, and Brian Burke show that as a group, quarterbacks rapidly improve into their late 20s, peak for a few years, and then begin an accelerating decline throughout their 30s. This expected improvement lends promise to Bridgewater’s young career while the projected decline condemns Cutler’s, which informs our opinions and feelings on these quarterbacks. As such, I decided to create a system that more accurately reflects a team’s quarterback situation. [click to continue…]

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TTaylorTyrod Taylor was a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Since then, he’s thrown just 35 passes over four years, before signing with the Bills as a free agent in the 2015 offseason. Now, after beating out Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel in training camp, Taylor will be the Buffalo Bills opening day starter in 2015.

How rare is this? Taylor was in the NFL for at least four seasons and never started a game in his NFL career; now he’s his team’s opening day starter. Since 1970, there are just four other quarterbacks who meet that profile. In reverse order… [click to continue…]

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Data Dump: Quarterback/Coach Pairs

Reading 538’s NFC East preview got me thinking about head coach and quarterback pairs. The Giants are currently enjoying a very long stretch of quarterback/coach consistency, but New York’s franchise history is filled with that sort of commitment. Washington, meanwhile, has not had one quarterback/coach combination reach five years together in 30 seasons!

So today, a quick data dump. Below are all instances where one coach and one quarterback were together for at least five seasons for each franchise. A quarterback gets credit for a season if he led his team in passing yards that year. For each team, I’ve listed the number of years the coach/quarterback were together in parentheses. [click to continue…]

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On Monday, I looked at the SOS-adjusted Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt ratings of every quarterback and defense in the NFL in 2014. And just like last year, I want to follow that post by looking at the best and worst games of the year, from the perspectives of both the quarterbacks and the defenses.

Let’s start with the top 100 passing games from 2014. The top spot belongs to Ben Roethlisberger, for his scorched-earth performance against Indianapolis. The Steelers star threw for 522 yards and 6 touchdowns on just 49 pass attempts with no sacks or interceptions. For the game, that means Roethlisberger averaged 13.10 ANY/A. The league-average last season was 6.13 ANY/A, which means Roethlisberger was 6.97 ANY/A above average. Now since the game came against a Colts team that was 0.28 ANY/A worse than average last year, we have to reduce that by the same number. That puts Roethlisberger at 6.70 ANY/A above expectation; multiply that by his 49 dropbacks, and he produced 328 adjusted net yards of value above average after adjusting for strength of schedule. That was easily the top game of 2014. [click to continue…]

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Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site http://www.thegridfe.com, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


On Monday, I looked at which quarterbacks since 1960 helped or hurt their teams the most by taking or avoiding sacks. On Tuesday, I looked at the quarterbacks who gained the most or fewest yards through the air per attempt or dropback, and on Wednesday, we looked at completions relative to league average. Yesterday, the metric of the day was touchdown pass rate.

As promised, this article, “Dr. Safelove or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Fear the Bomb,” centers on interceptions. The methodology here is no different from before: Figure out each player’s rate stats relative to the average of the rest of the league minus that player (LMP) that year and multiply it by his attempts to find the marginal total.

The caveat for this article is a big one: it is mathematically impossible for modern players to rank highly on a per play basis. In 1945, Sammy Baugh threw interceptions at a rate 7.4% lower than his peers. Because the league average today is so low (about 2.5%), a current quarterback would have to throw negative interceptions to match a -7.4% relative pick rate. Even if a quarterback threw 700 passes without an interception, the best he could possibly do is about -2.5%. [click to continue…]

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Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site http://www.thegridfe.com, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


On Monday, I looked at which quarterbacks since 1960 helped or hurt their teams the most by taking or avoiding sacks. On Tuesday, I looked at the quarterbacks who gained the most or fewest yards through the air per attempt or dropback. And yesterday, we looked at completions relative to league average.

Today’s article, “Mile High Club or: Scoring through the Air,” is an examination of how often quarterbacks threw touchdowns.1

I have used the same methodology as before (similar to Chase’s model for Relative Adjusted Net Yards), and I have maintained the same minimum attempt cutoffs. That means we’ll only look at seasons with 224 or more attempts and careers with 1,000 or more attempts. Like before, I didn’t prorate for shorter seasons.2 [click to continue…]

  1. Note that I didn’t say “how well quarterbacks threw touchdowns.” A screen with 80 YAC, a bomb to a wide open speedster, and a missile into tight coverage all count for six on the stat sheets. []
  2. Feel free to copy the table and make your own spreadsheet if you’d like. Or don’t. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. []
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Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site http://www.thegridfe.com, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


On Monday, I looked at which quarterbacks since 1960 helped or hurt their teams the most by taking or avoiding sacks. Yesterday, I looked at the quarterbacks who gained the most or fewest yards through the air per attempt or dropback. As you may have guessed, I’m keeping the theme going today. This article, “Sharpshooters or: Quarterbacks who were Good at Completing Passes,” is an examination of how passers stacked up statistically against their peers in the not-super-important category of completion rate. [click to continue…]

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Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site http://www.thegridfe.com, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


Yesterday, I looked at which quarterbacks since 1960 helped or hurt their teams the most by taking or avoiding sacks. In this post, “Frequent Flyers or: Quarterbacks who Gained Yards through the Air,” I’ll do something similar but with passing yards instead of sacks.

Because we have the necessary passing stats dating back to 1932, I can take this study back nearly three decades further than the previous one. However, I will use Chase’s estimated sack statistics to examine net yards for all post-1960 quarterbacks.

The math is simple: for each player, subtract his individual raw totals from those of every other quarterback in the league to find the league minus player (LMP) Y/A or NY/A. Next, subtract the LMP rates from the individual player rates to find each player’s marginal rate stats. Last, multiply each quarterback’s marginal Y/A by his attempts (or marginal NY/A by his dropbacks) to find marginal yards (or marginal net yards).1

Enough explanation – Let’s look at some stats. The first table displays the 1,563 qualifying QB seasons, sorted by marginal yards. Read it thus: In 2001, Kurt Warner threw 546 passes for 4,830 yards, giving him 8.85 Y/A. The average of the rest of the league was 6.69, so Warner had a marginal Y/A of 2.15. This means his 2001 season is worth 1,176 yards above expectation. [click to continue…]

  1. It took as much time to explain as it did to set up in Excel. []
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Bryan Frye, owner and operator of the great site http://www.thegridfe.com, is back for another guest post. You can also view all of Bryan’s guest posts at Football Perspective at this link, and follow him on twitter @LaverneusDingle.


Last Wednesday, Chase unveiled his estimated sack numbers for 1960-1968.1 I already had this post planned, but I wanted to wait for the estimated stats before running the numbers, as doing so would allow me to go back to 1960 instead of 1969.

This article, “Upright Citizens (Quarterbacks who Avoided Sacks)” is a brief examination of those quarterbacks who saved their teams valuable field position by avoiding sacks. By extension, it is also an examination of those quarterbacks who did the opposite. When Chase presented his 1960-1968 data, he included everyone who threw a pass during that timeframe. Because I am only concerned with quarterbacks, I have removed all non-quarterback plays and recalculated the metrics. [click to continue…]

  1. I can neither confirm nor deny that he did this, at least in part, to give Joe Namath some love. []
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You remember the November 20th game between the Bears and Lions in 1960, right? If you look at the boxscore on PFR, you will see that Detroit quarterback Jim Ninowski was 10 for 26 for 121 yards with 0 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions. You’ll also see that the Lions as a team went 10 for 26 for 121 yards with 0 touchdown passes, 2 interceptions, and 12 sacks for 107 yards. But the PFR boxscore does not indicate how many sacks Ninowski took that game, because the individual game log data wasn’t kept on that metric.

But, you know, I’m a pretty smart guy. I have a feeling that Ninowski was probably sacked 12 times in that game for 107 yards. I could be wrong, of course — maybe a backup came in and took two dropbacks, and was sacked on both of them — but it seems like making a good faith effort here is better than ignoring it completely. [click to continue…]

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Through 48 starts, Russell Wilson has been pretty darn good. Since Wilson entered the league, he ranks 5th in ANY/A and tied for 2nd in wins. The idea of measuring quarterback by wins is a curious one, especially in the case of Wilson, who has benefited from a historically dominant defense. No, Wilson is not a great quarterback because his team has won 36 games over the last three years.

On the other hand, analysts can go too far in the other direction. For example, among the 31 quarterbacks to play in 24 games and throw 500 passes since 2012, Wilson ranks just 24th in passing yards per game. Some could use that statistic, or another variation, to argue that Wilson hasn’t been responsible for much of his team’s success. But that ignores that Wilson leads all quarterbacks in rushing yards since 2012, and ranks 3rd among those 31 quarterbacks in rushing yards per game. It also ignores the fact that Seattle has run the 5th fewest plays of any team over the last three years.

So how about this stat: over the last three years, Wilson has been responsible for two-thirds of all Seahawks yards. How does that compare to other quarterbacks through 48 starts? And how many wins did those quarterbacks have? [click to continue…]

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Passing By Uniform Number

Namath BearMost people know about quarterbacks and the number 12. Even if you didn’t know where it started — Al Dorow of the New York Titans made the Pro Bowl in ’61 wearing number 12, while Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals was the first #12 to throw for 3,000 yards, doing so in 1963 and 1964 — you can probably recite most of the history from there. John Brodie, who entered the NFL in 1957, was the first great #12, while Joe Namath took the number to iconic status in the late ’60s. It was popularized by Roger Staubach (who also wore 12 at Navy in the early ’60s), Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, and Ken Stabler in the ’70s.1 That means the Super Bowl winning quarterback wore #12 for nine straight years, beginning with Super Bowl VI. Doug Williams even wore it in Tampa Bay, although punter Steve Cox forced Williams to don #17 when in Washington.

Lynn Dickey wore it for the Packers in the early ’80s, while Randall Cunningham and Jim Kelly repped #12 later in the decade. Stan Humphries made it to the Super Bowl wearing #12 with the Chargers, while Erik Kramer set the still-standing franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season while wearing #12 for the Bears in 1995. The only time a Ravens quarterback threw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns was when Vinny Testaverde wore #12 in 1996. Chris Chandler took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 1998 wearing #12, while Rich Gannon became the second great Raiders quarterback to wear twelve a year later.

And since then, three guys you might have heard of have worn #12: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck.

Since 1950, players wearing #12 have thrown for 675,044 yards. No other number has yet to hit the 500,000-yard mark. But that brings us to today’s trivia: Which number has produced the second most passing yards since 1950? [click to continue…]

  1. And, sadly, not popularized by Greg Cook. []
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In 2012 and 2013, I looked at which passers were most effective on third and fourth downs; today, we examine those numbers for 2014. Throughout this article, when I refer to “third downs” or “third down performance”, note that such language is just shorthand for third and fourth downs.

To grade third down performance, I included sacks but discarded rushing data (in the interest of time, not because I thought that to be the better approach). The first step in evaluating third down performance is to calculate the league average conversion rate on third downs for each distance. Here were the conversion rates in 2014, along with the smoothed (linear) best-fit rates: [click to continue…]

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There are 23 quarterbacks who have won both a championship (as a starter) and a Most Valuable Player award in professional football history. Can you name them? First, let’s get to the fine print:

  • To determine championships, I began in 1936. I awarded half a ring to each of the championship quarterbacks in the AAFC and NFL from 1946 to 1949, and half a ring to the two championship quarterbacks in the AFL and NFL from 1960 to 1965. For purposes of this post, I am including all quarterbacks with “half a ring”, but when I list career totals, keep the half-ring idea in mind.
  • Based on sharing of quarterback duties, I awarded half-rings to the quarterbacks on the NFL champions in 1939, 1951, 1972, and 1990. For the NFL champion in 1970, I also awarded half a ring to that team’s top two quarterbacks, since the starter left while trailing in the Super Bowl. If you disagree with my awarding of half rings in this manner, don’t worry about.  I’ve spelled out the relevant information in the post below, so feel free to manipulate the system as you desire.  If so inclined, you can dismiss the early AFL years or give full credit to both MVPs in a particular season, for example.
  • For MVPs, I used the Joseph F. Carr award from ’38 to ’46. Then I used the UPI for the next ten years, or the Washington D.C. Touchdown Club award when the UPI didn’t name an MVP. Those years were 1947 (which, as it turns out, was one of the easiest seasons to identify), 1949, 1950, and 1952. Then I used the AP for every year since for simplicity’s sake (i.e., just using what is listed on PFR, not out of a misguided notion that the AP is the end-all, be-all source for MVP voting). I gave the AFL and NFL MVP half an award in each year from 1960 to 1969, and I also assigned only half credit to the shared MVPs in ’97 and ’03 (the award was also split in ’49).

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