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Dalton was scary bad last night.

Dalton was scary bad last night.

Last night, Andy Dalton was not very good. completed 10 of 33 passes for 86 yards, while throwing 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Add in his two sacks for 14 yards, and Dalton averaged -1.80 ANY/A. That’s terrible, of course, but how bad does that measure historically? Let’s use the same methodology we did when calculating how good Ben Roethlisberger was against the Colts. Against every other passer this year, the Browns had allowed 5.58 ANY/A to opposing players. As a result, Dalton finished 7.38 ANY/A below expectation.

Over the course of his 35 dropbacks, that means Dalton provided -258 adjusted net yards of value relative to expectation. That’s bad — really bad — but it only ranks as the 83rd worst performance since the merger. The table below shows the 150 worst games since 1970, although for 2014, I have only included Dalton’s game (so Geno Smith and his bad performances could make the list, but I didn’t have time to calculate — feel free to do so in the comments!). [click to continue…]

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Adam Steele is back for his third guest post in his Marginal YAC series.


In my two previous two posts, I introduced Marginal YAC and Marginal Air Yards. Today, I’m posting the career mYAC and mAir for the 96 quarterbacks with at least 1,000 pass attempts from 1992-2013. There’s a lot of data here, so I’ll let the readers do most of the commentary.

Here is a table of career Marginal YAC. The “Per 300” column is the rate of mYAC per 300 completions, or roughly equivalent to one full season. And on a “per season” basis, no quarterback benefited more from YAC than Steve Young, who also had four top-40 seasons. [click to continue…]

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It was criminal how good Ben was on Sunday

It was criminal how good Ben was on Sunday

Against Indianapolis in week 8, Ben Roethlisberger was close to perfect. He completed 40 of 49 passes for 522 yards. He threw six touchdowns, and didn’t throw an interception or take a sack. That’s a magnificent performance: in fact, among players with an 80% completion percentage in a game, he set a record for completions. It goes without saying that 500+ yard games are rare, and 6+ TD games are rare, and the combination of both are really rare.

But was it the best passing game ever? Not so fast. Let’s start by calculating his Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, which gives a 20-yard bonus for touchdown passes, a 45-yard penalty for interceptions, and deducts sack yardage from the numerator (and adds sacks to the denominator). Roethlisberger averaged 13.10 ANY/A, a sparkling number. That’s an outstanding number that needs no qualifier, but it’s even more impressive when you consider the opponent. Entering the day, the Colts were allowing just 5.52 ANY/A to opposing passers.

Therefore, the Steelers star averaged 7.58 more ANY/A against the Colts than the average passer in 2014. Over the course of 49 dropbacks, this means Roethlisberger produced a whopping 372 Adjusted Net Yards above average, with average being defined as what all other passers did against Indianapolis.

That number may not mean much in the abstract. But if the Colts defense continues to allow just 5.52 ANY/A to all other passers year, that would give Roethlisberger the 7th best passing game since 1960. [click to continue…]

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Passing Kings, From Friedman to Manning

Friend-of-the-program Bryan Frye has contributed a fantastic guest post for us today. Bryan lives in Yorktown, Virginia, and operates his own great site at nflsgreatest.co.nf, where he focuses on NFL stats and history. Be sure to check out Bryan’s site, and let him know your thoughts on today’s posts in the comments.


Last Sunday, Peyton Manning broke the record for career touchdown passes. You may have heard about it. Rather than add more flotsam and jetsam to the vast sea of internet articles dedicated to Manning, I thought I would instead focus on the rich history of the record itself.

[click to continue…]

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In early September, Adam Steele, a longtime reader and commenter known by the username “Red” introduced us to his concept of Marginal Yards after the Catch. Today is Part II to that post. Adam lives in Superior, Colorado and enjoys digging beneath quarterback narratives to discover the truth; hey, who can blame him?


Introducing Marginal Air Yards

There are three components of Y/A: Completion %, Air Yards/Completion, and YAC/Completion. In my last post I looked at YAC, so today, let’s look at the other two components. By multiplying completion percentage and air yards per completion, we get air yards per attempt, which we can then modify to create Marginal Air Yards (mAir):

mAir = (Air Yards/Attempt – LgAvg Air Yards/Attempt)*Attempts

Here are the yearly Air Yard rates since 1992, with the table sorted by Air Yards per Attempt:: [click to continue…]

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Eli Manning and the Hall of Fame

Let’s worry about axes and labels later. For now, take a look at the graph below. The red dots represent Hall of Fame quarterbacks (or players not yet eligible but very likely to wind up in Canton). The blue dots represent non-HOF quarterbacks. The black dot? That’s Eli Manning.

hof

Okay, so what the heck is this chart? What it’s *not*, is the most sophisticated way to measure the value of a quarterback. Instead, it’s a quick-and-dirty method I calculated to measure quarterback dominance.

  • Step 1) Calculate each quarterback’s ANY/A for each season of his career where he had enough pass attempts to qualify for the passing title (14 attempts per team game). ANY/A, of course, is calculated as follows: (Passing Yards + PassTDs * 20 – INTs * 45 – Sack Yards Lost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks).
  • Step 2) For each quarterback, award him 10 points if he led the league1 in ANY/A, 9 points if he finished 2nd, 8 points if he finished 3rd, … and 1 point if he finished 10th. A quarterback receives 0 points if he does not finish in the top 10 in ANY/A or does not have enough pass attempts to qualify.
  • Step 3) For each quarterback, add his “points” from each season to produce a career grade.

[click to continue…]

  1. For purposes of this post, I have excluded AAFC stats, but combined the AFL and NFL as one league. []
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In the third quarter on Monday night, I texted my Patriots fan buddy Matt, “Is it possible that we suck? Maybe the run is finally over.” Bill Barnwell mused on this, and Aaron Schatz also wrote about it. It was hard not to think that, given the way the Patriots were manhandled by a mediocre team playing without several key players. It looked every bit as bad as the 41-14 score and maybe worse.

I remember the last time I wondered if the Pats were done. In a 34-14 loss to the Browns in 2010, the Patriots looked pretty impotent. In that game, as in the Chiefs one, the Pats had just under 300 yards of offense. Peyton Hillis ran over the Patriots. Of course, that wasn’t the end. Maybe this time is different, though. If anything the Chiefs game was even worse, so it’s possible this time really is the end.1

Will the Patriots offense be good later this year? To provide a little insight into this, I went back and looked at performance trends for quarterbacks who have had long careers. The first table looks at quarterbacks since 1969 who have the biggest single-season drops in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) from the previous five year trend. I look just at quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts in a season and I weight by the number of attempts when calculating the average ANY/A over the previous five years.

[click to continue…]

  1. And those Pats were 6-1 at the time of the loss to the Browns. []
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Guest Post: Introducing Equivalency Rating

Just above these words, it says “posted by Chase.” And it was literally posted by Chase, but the words below the line belong to Bryan Frye, a longtime reader and commenter who has agreed to write this guest post for us. And I thank him for it. Bryan lives in Yorktown, Virginia, and operates his own great site at nflsgreatest.co.nf, where he focuses on NFL stats and history.



In August, I introduced a concept on my site to better adjust the NFL’s passer rating for the league passing environment. I love Pro Football Reference’s use of the Advanced Passing Index for passer rating (Rate+), but it still bothered me that the internal math of the NFL’s formula remained the same.

The NFL’s official passer rating formula is based on four variables: completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdown percentage, and interception rate. Each of those variables are then used to determine four different variables, as seen below:

A = (Cmp% – .3) * 5
B = (Y/A – 3) * .25
C = TD% * 20
D = 2.375 – Int% * 25

Passer rating is then calculated as follows, provided that each variable is capped at 2.375 and has a floor of zero:

(A + B + C + D)/(0.06)

For each component, a score of 1 represents the ideal average passer. Because the formula is based on a league average completion rate of 50%, modern passers significantly exceed that; pre-modern passers rarely reached it. Similarly, the NFL’s model is based on a 5.5% interception rate and a 5% touchdown rate. Thanks to a Greg Cook injury (and Bill Walsh’s genius reaction to it), those numbers have also changed significantly. Last year, the league interception and touchdown rates were 2.8% and 4.4%, respectively. [click to continue…]

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Week 1 Quarterback Comparison

Am I going to update my stock Fitzpatrick photo now that he's on Houston? What do you think?

Am I going to update my stock Fitzpatrick photo now that he's on Houston? What do you think?

Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 9.61 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt in week 1, good enough for the 4th best grade of the week. But the Houston signal caller — who went 14/22 for 206 yards with 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and 1 sack — was not a very good fantasy quarterback. Using the Footballguys.com standard scoring system of 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing, 4 points per touchdown pass, and -1 point per interception, Fitzpatrick had just 15.3 fantasy points (he rushed for 10 yards). That tied him for only the 25th best performance by a quarterback in week one.

Obviously there’s a big difference between ANY/A and fantasy points.  But while we use ANY/A as our main metric for lots of reasons, it’s always helpful to compare it to other statistics.  For example, RG3 ranked 17th in ANY/A in week 1, but only 27th in ESPN’s Total QBR. Why is that? Well, Griffin fumbled twice (losing one), and he completed a lot of very short throws (he had the third lowest air yards per throw and air yards per completion).  But another factor is that his third down performance was a bit misleading using conventional metrics, which is something Total QBR is good at identifying.

Griffin gained 75 net yards on 10 third down dropbacks in the game: that’s pretty good, but he only picked up first downs on 3 of 10 opportunities.   He had a 48-yard completion on a 3rd-and-7, which is great, but it also inflates his average gain; he also had a pair of 9 yard completions on third and very long that added little value.

We can also look at Football Outsiders’ main efficiency metric, DVOA, and compare that to other statistics.  Matt Cassel is an interesting player to analyze.  In DVOA, he ranked 5th.  In ANY/A, he ranked 10th.  In Total QBR, he was 15th, and in fantasy points, he was 21st!   So what gives?

As noted by Vince Verhei, Cassel’s “average pass traveled just 4.8 yards past the line of scrimmage, nearly a full yard shorter than the next shortest quarterback (Derek Carr, 5.6).” That would explain why QBR would be less high on Cassel than other statistics.  And since Cassel threw just 25 passes for only 170 yards, his fantasy value won’t be very high. Football Outsiders, on the other hand, gives Cassel credit for things like his a 9-yard pass on third-and-10 that created better field goal range.  Overall, comparing what Cassel did to the baseline, he looks really good according to FO, and just pretty good according to QBR.  As for ANY/A, it’s impressed by his 2 TD/0 INT ratio, but it’s hard to get a great ANY/A grade when you are averaging just 10.0 yards per completion.

The table below shows each quarterback’s stats in each metric.  For example, Matthew Stafford averaged 11.55 ANY/A in week 1, scored 31.5 fantasy points, had a Total QBR of 97.5, and a DVOA of 90.3%.  Those ratings, among the 33 quarterbacks in week 1 (curses, Rams!), ranked him 1st in ANY/A, 3rd in fantasy points, 1st in QBR, and 1st in DVOA, for an average rank of 1.5. [click to continue…]

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Just above these words, it says “posted by Chase.” And it was literally posted by Chase, but the words below the line belong to Adam Steele, a longtime reader and commenter known by the username “Red”. And I thank him for it. Adam lives in Superior, Colorado and enjoys digging beneath quarterback narratives to discover the truth; hey, who can blame him? One other house-keeping note: I normally provide guest posters with a chance to review my edits prior to posting. But due to time constraints (hey, projecting every quarterback in the NFL wasn’t going to write itself!), I wasn’t able to engage in the usual back and forth discussion with Adam that I’ve done with other guest posters. As a result, I’m apologizing in advance if Adam thinks my edits have changed the intent of his words. But in any event, sit back and get ready to read a very fun post on yards after the catch. When I envisioned guest submissions coming along, stuff like this is exactly what I had in mind.



Introducing Marginal YAC

A quarterback throws a two yard dump off pass to his running back, who proceeds to juke a couple defenders and run 78 yards into the endzone. Naturally, the quarterback deserves credit for an 80 yard pass. Wait, what? Sounds illogical, but that’s the way the NFL has been keeping records since 1932, when it first began recording individual player yardage totals. The inclusion of YAC — yards after the catch — in a quarterback’s passing yards total can really distort efficiency stats, which in turn may distort the way he is perceived.

In response, I created a metric called Marginal YAC (mYAC), which measures how much YAC a quarterback has benefited from compared to an average passer. Its calculation is very straightforward:

mYAC = (YAC/completion – LgAvg YAC/completion) * Completions

I have quarterback YAC data going back to 1992 for every quarterback season with at least 100 pass attempts.1 That gives us a healthy sample of 965 seasons to analyze, and includes the full careers of every contemporary quarterback. But first, let’s get a sense of what’s average here. The table below shows the league-wide YAC rates since 1992: [click to continue…]

  1. This data comes courtesy of sportingcharts.com. It’s obviously unofficial, but there doesn’t seem to be any noticeable biases from one team to another. Some unofficial stats, such as passes defensed or quarterback pressures, can vary wildly depending on the scorekeeper, but Sporting Charts’ YAC stats seem pretty fair, from what I can tell. Here is a link to the 2013 data. Chase note: I have not had the chance to compare these numbers to what is on NFLGSIS, but that’s a good idea. []
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Below are my 2014 projected quarterback rankings. Let me be very clear at the top of this post as to exactly what these rankings mean: they represent my projections of the order in which these quarterbacks will finish in my preferred measure of quarterback play. Everyone has their own measuring sticks when it comes to quarterbacks; for me, it’s Adjusted Net Yards provided above league-average. As a reminder, here is how we calculate that metric.

First, we start with Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, which is calculated as follows:

(Passing Yards + 20 * PassTDs – 45 * INTs – Sack Yards Lost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks)

Then, we take each quarterback’s ANY/A average, and subtract from that number the league average ANY/A metric, which should be around 5.9 ANY/A. Then, we multiply that difference by the quarterback’s number of dropbacks.

Last year, Peyton Manning led the league in this category, with 2,037 Adjusted Net Yards of value provided above average. The benefit to this approach to ranking passers is that the results are easy to test. At the end of the season, we can calculate the actual results, and then look back and laugh at this post.

So, ranking 1-32, here is how I project the top quarterback for each team to finish in 2014.

No, Peyton, you're the number one

No, Peyton, you're the number one.

1) Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

There’s a reason Manning is the heavy favorite to repeat as NFL MVP. The Broncos lost Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno, and Wes Welker’s concussion concerns only worsened this preseason. No matter: Manning remains the gold standard. Denver added Emmanuel Sanders in the offseason, and he caught five passes for 128 yards with two touchdowns against Houston in the preseason. Manning has led the NFL in sack rate in three of his last four seasons, and the return of Ryan Clady should make Manning even more difficult to sack in 2014. No need to over think this one: Manning is the clear favorite to again provide the most value of any quarterback in the league.

2) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

3) Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Choosing between Brees and Rodgers is tough, but the return of a healthy Randall Cobb and the departure of Darren Sproles is enough to tip the scales towards Rodgers for me. Green Bay tends to forget about the little things — Corey Linsley, a fourth round pick, will be the team’s starting center — but Rodgers has a way of curing all ills. Brees turns 36 in January, which is yet another reason to break ties in favor of Rodgers. Since ’09, Rodgers is the league-leader in ANY/A, while over that period, Brees has thrown the most touchdowns and gained the most yards. If Manning isn’t the king in 2014, it’s a good bet that either Rodgers or Brees took the crown. [click to continue…]

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A full one-quarter of all NFL teams have opening day starters who have won a Super Bowl: New England (Tom Brady), Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Denver (Peyton Manning), New York Giants (Eli Manning), Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers), New Orleans (Drew Brees) and Seattle (Russell Wilson) all sport Super Bowl winning passers.

That’s pretty rare. In 1991, Jeff Hostetler was the only quarterback starting in week 1 who had a Lombardi Trophy on his resume.1 From 1993 to 2012, an average of 4.0 week 1 starters had previously won a title. Having a Super Bowl winning quarterback is nice, but it doesn’t exactly make a team unique. At least not for 2014.

YearWk 1 SB QBsQuarterbacks
20148Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers; Joe Flacco; Russell Wilson
20137Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers; Joe Flacco
20126Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers
20115Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Eli Manning; Drew Brees; Aaron Rodgers
20105Brett Favre; Tom Brady; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning; Drew Brees
20096Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning
20086Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning; Eli Manning
20074Brett Favre; Tom Brady; Ben Roethlisberger; Peyton Manning
20064Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20054Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Trent Dilfer; Tom Brady
20044Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20034Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady; Brad Johnson
20023Brett Favre; Kurt Warner; Tom Brady
20012Brett Favre; Kurt Warner
20003Troy Aikman; Brett Favre; Kurt Warner
19993Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre
19984Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre; John Elway
19973Troy Aikman; Steve Young; Brett Favre
19962Troy Aikman; Steve Young
19953Jeff Hostetler; Troy Aikman; Steve Young
19943Joe Montana; Jeff Hostetler; Troy Aikman
19936Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms; Jeff Hostetler; Mark Rypien; Troy Aikman
19922Phil Simms; Mark Rypien
19911Jeff Hostetler
19902Joe Montana; Phil Simms
19893Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms
19884Joe Montana; Jim McMahon; Phil Simms; Doug Williams
19872Joe Montana; Phil Simms
19862Joe Montana; Jim McMahon
19853Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19843Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19834Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana; Joe Theismann
19824Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett; Joe Montana
19813Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler; Jim Plunkett
19803Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19794Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19783Roger Staubach; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19775Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw; Ken Stabler
19764Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw
19754Joe Namath; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese; Terry Bradshaw
19744Joe Namath; Len Dawson; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese
19734Joe Namath; Johnny Unitas; Roger Staubach; Bob Griese
19723Joe Namath; Len Dawson; Johnny Unitas
19711Len Dawson
19703Bart Starr; Joe Namath; Len Dawson
19692Bart Starr; Joe Namath
19681Bart Starr
19671Bart Starr
  1. Phil Simms was the team’s backup, Joe Montana missed the entire year with an elbow injury, Doug Williams had retired, Jim McMahon was the backup in Philadelphia, Jim Plunkett and Joe Theismann had long been retired, and that takes us all the way back to 1979. []
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Is Quarterback Stability on the Rise?

This time last year:

Brady will be the Patriots week 1 starting quarterback for the 13th year in a row.

Brady will be the Patriots week 1 starting quarterback for the 13th year in a row.

It’s easy to remember those times and think “man, life moves pretty fast.” But I’m going to take the opposite approach.

Twenty-five teams — twenty-five teams! — are bringing back the same week 1 starting quarterback from week 1, 2013. That, of course, doesn’t include Foles or Henne, who ended last year as starters. Last year, twenty-six teams had the same week one starter as they did in 2012. As it turns out, the past two seasons have seen the highest week 1 starting QB retention rate of any seasons since the merger. [click to continue…]

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Not Tim Couch

Not Tim Couch.

The preseason is meaningless, right? Well, as it turns out, it might give us a window into quarterback development, despite what you might think. The threshold for whether the preseason is useful is whether including that information tells us anything about a quarterback’s potential that we don’t already know from his draft position (or perhaps certain analytics). I have been putting together data from preseason box scores going back to 1997. The data show that, for some quarterbacks, the preseason is not quite meaningless.

Neil Paine showed some interesting evidence relating to this idea on Friday. Looking at team performance since 2009 for teams with new quarterbacks, Neil showed that preseason passing efficiency helps predict regular season passing efficiency. It’s important to note that part of this result may have been pretty predictable even before we watched those preseason games. The 2012 Redskins replaced Rex Grossman and John Beck with the #2 pick in the draft who would have been #1 in an average year. So we would expect a big improvement to come just by way of moving from Grossman to a healthy RGIII. [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, I looked at how long it took the best quarterbacks to break out. Today, I want to apply what we learned from that post to 15 current NFL quarterbacks with fewer than 50 starts, all of whom were 26 years old or younger during the 2013 season.

Bradford looks to check down

Bradford looks to check down.

Sam Bradford (49 career starts): Career Relative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt of -0.68.

Bradford was overrated after he put up good counting stats but weak efficiency numbers as a rookie; he posted a -1.0 RANY/A in 2010, a -1.4 average in 10 starts in 2011, was at -0.3 in 16 starts in 2012, and then +0.2 in seven starts last year. Yesterday, we noted that great quarterbacks who came to terrible teams (Warren Moon and Drew Brees, in addition to former number one picks like Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Vinny Testaverde, and Steve Young) struggled initially. Bradford would seem to fit that mold, although he’s now 49 starts into his career. Are there other reasons to give him a pass?

St. Louis had the third-youngest offense in the NFL last year, and the man who has gained the most yards from Bradford over the last four years is Brandon Gibson. The former first overall pick has received very little help, and been saddled with a revolving door of mediocre receivers.

On the other hand, Kellen Clemens posted better numbers than Bradford last year, at least when you adjust for strength of schedule. As Bill Barnwell pointed out last week, Bradford’s big problem is his inability to throw the ball down the field, which jives with some of the work I’ve done Bradford’s historically low yards per completion averages.  If not for Bradford’s first season of above-average work last year, I’d say his odds of ever being a franchise quarterback are very low.  But there has been some progression, and he does fit the mold of number one pick being saddled with bad teammates.  Of course, the presence of Brian Schottenheimer is enough to make me skeptical of Bradford’s ability to put it all together this year.  Perhaps the best case scenario is a Testaverde-like revival with another team years from now.

Cam Newton (48 career starts): Career RANY/A of +0.30.

Not much to see here. Newton’s RANY/A has moved from +0.3 as a rookie to +0.7 in 2012 to -0.2 last year; it went under the radar because #QBWINZ, but Newton did have a down season in 2013.  It’s hard to find any reasons for optimism for the Panthers this year after a mass exodus in the offseason, but that doesn’t say much about Newton’s long-term prospects.   Add in his rushing ability, and Newton has shown enough to say that he’s still in contention (if he’s not already there) to go down as a franchise quarterback.

Andy Dalton (48 career starts): Career RANY/A of -0.01.

Look at that, Dalton is almost perfectly average! Bill Barnwell did a nice job profiling Dalton last week, and it does seem like what you see is what you will get from Dalton.  After posting slightly below-average RANY/A numbers in 2011 and 2012, he was above-average (+0.4) last year.  But the Bengals have one of the most talented offenses in the NFL if you exclude the quarterback position; at this point, you’d be hard-pressed to find many folks who believe Dalton will turn into a future star.

Of the 42 quarterbacks I looked at yesterday, 13 failed to be significantly above-average during any of their first three 16-game samples.  Dalton doesn’t really resemble any of them: Bradshaw/Testaverde/Elway/Vick were former number one picks; Brady/Favre/Krieg/Kelly were on the border of being good enough on to not make the list, and were certainly ahead of where Dalton is now; McNabb and Cunningham were running quarterbacks.  Moon played for a terrible team, and Gannon and Theismann sat for long stretches.  That’s the full thirteen. The best case scenario may be that Dalton turns into a Krieg or a poor man’s Jim Kelly.  Of course, he could also win a Super Bowl by riding the coattails of one of the more talented (and youngest) rosters in the league.

Christian Ponder (35 career starts): Career RANY/A of -1.19.

There are always excuses to be made for bad quarterbacks, and I’m sure that there are still some Vikings fans who believe in Ponder.  He produced a -1.7 RANY/A as a rookie, improved to -0.9 in 2012, but was back at -1.1 in nine starts last year.  Minnesota may not have a ton of talent at wide receiver, but Ponder’s failure to produce even with Greg Jennings is yet another strike against him. The Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round in the 2014 draft, which seems like the beginning of the end for the former Florida State star.

Wilson is watching game tape right now.

Wilson is watching game tape right now.

Russell Wilson (32 career starts): Career RANY/A of +1.15.

Franchise quarterback achievement badge mode: unlocked.

Ryan Tannehill (32 career starts): Career RANY/A of -0.80.

Tannehill was at -0.7 RANY/A in 2012 and at -0.9 RANY/A last year; neither of those numbers put his future prospects in a positive light.  There are excuses, to be sure: he was a raw prospect, the Dolphins offensive line was the worst in the NFL, he and Mike Wallace have the chemistry of a pair of tomatoes, etc., but the numbers are bleak enough to cast doubt on Tannehill’s future.  Unless the argument is that Tannehill landed on one of the very worst offenses in the league — which would allow you to lump him in with the Aikmans, Bradshaws, Breeses, and Testaverdes of the world — there is simply no precedent for a quarterback being this below average for this long and then turning into a franchise passer.1 Barnwell is a little (and only a little) more bullish on Tannehill than I am, but 2014 would appear to be Tannehill’s last chance to convince the Dolphins that he was not a wasted pick.  There are a couple of mitigating factors here — the running game has been terrible, and as an immediate starter, Tannehill is at a disadvantage relative to other quarterbacks on this list — but I’m not going to lose sleep over whether this prediction will look bad in a few years.

Andrew Luck (32 career starts): Career RANY/A of -0.06.

Since starting this site, Luck has been one of the quarterbacks I’ve profiled the most.  He wins without much help and is an ESPN QBR star, but he’s below average in ANY/A.  I’m inclined to grade Luck on a curve — after all, the Colts team he inherited didn’t look any better than the ’70 Steelers or ’89 Cowboys or ’87 Bucs.  On the other hand, Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton have given Luck some excellent targets, which has probably been enough to boost his ANY/A to league-average proportions.

Perhaps the best comparison will be to another quarterback drafted first overall by the Colts who had a magical history of producing comebacks: John Elway.  In any event, Luck’s already a franchise quarterback.

Can RG3 get up from a disastrous 2013?

Can RG3 get up from a disastrous 2013?

Robert Griffin III (29 career starts): Career RANY/A of +0.5.

Griffin’s career RANY/A is like measuring the temperature of a person with a foot in the freezer and a foot in a frying pan.  As a rookie, he had a RANY/A of +1.5; last year, it was -0.4, and that number doesn’t begin to explain how ugly things were in D.C.  The simplest explanation is that Griffin is a franchise quarterback who struggled last year as he recovered from ACL surgery and dealt with an ego-maniacal head coach.  But it’s hard to just assume Griffin is a franchise quarterback after 2013.  If Griffin one day turns into a Hall of Famer, we’ll remember that it was obvious from the start, as he had one of the greatest rookie seasons ever.  If he flames out, the first chapter of that book has already been written, too.

Blaine Gabbert (27 career starts): Career RANY/A of -2.15.

Spoiler alert: Gabbert is not a franchise quarterback.  He started at -2.2 RANY/A as a rookie on a team not dissimilar from the ’89 Cowboys; he’s followed that up, however, with a -1.2 RANY/A in 2012 and a -4.7 RANY/A over three starts last year. Suffice it to say if Gabbert turns into a franchise quarterback, it will have taken the greatest reclamation project in NFL history.

Colin Kaepernick (23 career starts): Career RANY/A of +1.06.

Kaepernick was mind-bogglingly efficient in 2012, producing a +1.6 RANY/A over 13 games and seven starts.  That number dropped to +0.8 RANY/A last year, but much of that is due to the loss of Michael Crabtree.  With an all-star crew of receivers set to take the field in 2014, I expect another very strong year out of Kaepernick. He may not be a finished product, but he already has the label (and contract) of a franchise quarterback.

Jake Locker (18 career starts): Career RANY/A of -0.25.

Maybe it’s because I’m a college football guy, too, but doesn’t it feel like Locker has already been around forever? I can’t believe he only has 18 career starts. And his RANY/A is nearly league-average, even if it doesn’t feel like Locker has been even that good.  I was not a fan of him as a prospect, but he has been better than I feared.  While we shouldn’t compare Locker’s first 18 starts to those of a quarterback who started immediately, I think Locker has shown enough that you can’t just write him off just yet.  On the other hand, his numbers last year were a bit inflated by one of the NFL’s easiest schedules. Like Tannehill, this is the crucial season for Locker, who also carries with him the injury prone label. But if Locker can stay healthy and produce strong numbers, Ken Whisenhunt may prove that he really is a quarterback whisperer (to the extent he’s not whispering to someone named Skelton, or Kolb, or Anderson, or Leinart, or Lindley, or Hall….)

Nick Foles (16 career starts): Career RANY/A of +1.45

Foles had a rookie RANY/A of -0.8 before posting an absurd +3.3 RANY/A in 2013. Even the bigger Eagles homer would admit that much of Foles’ success was due to good fortune, the presence of Chip Kelly, or both.  Foles may not have arrived just yet as a franchise quarterback, but if he turns into one, nobody will ever question when we first saw a glimpse of that ability.

Geno Smith (16 career starts): Career RANY/A of -1.70.

Smith was bad — really bad — for long stretches as a rookie.  But he finished the season well, and terrible rookie numbers on a talent-deficient offense are not the death knell for a quarterback’s career.  The Jets need to see a lot more from him this year, though, and he’ll need to produce roughly league-average numbers to make the Jets think he’s not just another Mark Sanchez.

Mike Glennon (13 career starts): Career RANY/A of -0.9.

Glennon had a very different rookie campaign than Smith, but the acquisition of Josh McCown sends Glennon to the bench, at least for now.  We don’t know how he’ll fare in (or when he’ll see) his next three starts, but Glennon’s performance through 16 starts likely won’t be enough to write him off.

EJ Manuel (10 career starts): Career RANY/A of -1.0.

Manuel had a rough rookie year, especially when you consider how much worse he looked than Thaddeus Lewis. On the other hand, ten starts of bad (but not horrendous) play certainly isn’t enough to write off Manuel, not when Smith was worse for a longer stretch.  Still, as with Smith, this is a big year for Manuel, especially after the team went out and acquired Clemson’s Sammy Watkins.

  1. I suppose one could point to Phil Simms, but I’d object for a couple of reasons. For one, Simms didn’t crack my initial list, checking in at #86 in my GQBOAT series.  Then again, I’ve made the argument that Simms’ numbers underrate him because of his terrible receivers, so I would morally classify Simms as a franchise quarterback. However, the Giants teams of the late ’70s and early ’80s were so terrible that he really has more in common with the Aikmans of the world than someone like Tannehill. Here is how Simms fared compared to the other Giants quarterbacks during Simms’ first three years and 1978, the year before he came to New York. That’s U-G-L-Y. But if Dolphins fans want to point to Simms as a pro-Tannehill example, so be it. []
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A couple of years ago, I asked how long it should have taken the Jaguars to move on from Blaine Gabbert. Today I want to revisit that general idea, but look at how long it takes the best quarterbacks to identify themselves as top-tier players. A couple of months ago, I looked at the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Using the top 75 quarterbacks from that list, I removed any player whose career began before the merger; that left me with 42 passers.

First, I looked at how each quarterback fared in relative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt — i.e., ANY/A relative to league average — through their first 16 starts. Just over two-thirds of these passers were above average during their first 16 starts, with 1/3 of those quarterbacks being at least 1 ANY/A better than league average.  That group of fourteen quarterbacks — which Aaron Rodgers just falls shy of joining — can be categorized as above-average quarterbacks from the beginning. They are Kurt Warner, Dan Marino, Daunte Culpepper, Chad Pennington, Tony Romo, Mark Rypien, Jeff Garcia, Boomer Esiason, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Joe Montana, Steve McNair, and Ken Stabler. Obviously a number of those quarterbacks were not immediate starters in the NFL, but they did excel as soon as they became starters.

The graph below shows each of the 42 quarterbacks’ Relative ANY/A through their first 16 starts. The X-Axis represents the quarterback’s first year, and the Y-Axis shows their RANY/A value through 16 starts.

QB breakout 1

Now, let’s remove the 14 quarterbacks who had a RANY/A of at least +1.0 through their first sixteen starts. How did the other 28 quarterbacks fare in starts 17 through 32 in RANY/A? Eleven of them produced a RANY/A of at least +1.0 in their next sixteen starts: Bert Jones, Matt Schaub, Ken Anderson, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Brad Johnson, Carson Palmer, Jim Everett, Steve Young, Dan Fouts, and Steve Grogan.

[click to continue…]

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Quarterback Losses Trivia

Can you name the two quarterbacks with the most losses in a single season?

Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show

Click 'Show' for the Answer Show


What about the quarterback with the most losses during his rookie year?
Trivia hint 1 Show


Trivia hint 2 Show


Trivia hint 3 Show

[click to continue…]

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Smith struggled as a rookie; then again, so did many greats

Smith struggled as a rookie; then again, so did many greats.

In 2013, Geno Smith had the worst passer rating (66.5) in the NFL. The year before, Mark Sanchez had a passer rating of 66.9, which was very nearly the lowest in the league (Matt Cassel had a rating of 66.7). But while the Jets didn’t quite do it, a couple of teams have managed to have different quarterbacks in consecutive seasons finish with the lowest passer ratings in the NFL (minimum 14 attempts per game).

In 2000, a second-year Akili Smith was given the starting job and posted a miserable 52.8 passer rating. A year later, Jon Kitna took over for the Bengals, and his 61.1 rating was the worst among qualifying passers.

In 1993, Mark Rypien finished with the worst passer rating in the league two years after winning the Super Bowl. Washington drafted Heath Shuler the following year, and as a rookie, Shuler finished with the worst passer rating in the NFL.

The Seahawks almost pulled off this feat in the prior two years. In 1992, Stan Gelbaugh had the worst passer rating as part of the historically inept Seattle passing attack. In 1991, Jeff Kemp finished with the worst passer rating in the league. Kemp, the son of Jack , started the year with Seattle but finished it with Philadelphia. He didn’t have enough attempts with the Seahawks to qualify, so I probably wouldn’t include the ’91-’92 Seahawks in this category, although that may be pickin’ nits.

The table below shows the quarterbacks to finish with the lowest passer rating in the NFL in each year since the merger. For each passer, I’ve included his age as of September 1st of that season, his traditional metrics, and his passer rating. [click to continue…]

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One of my first posts at Football Perspective was one of my favorites: the top receivers and the men who threw it to them. I like referencing that post from time to time, so I decided to update the numbers through the 2013 season.

I looked at all regular season games since 19601, and calculated the percentage of passing yards produced from each quarterback. Then, I assigned that percentage to the number of receiving yards for each receiver. For example, in this Raiders game from 1995, Vince Evans threw for 75% of the Raiders passing yards, and Jeff Hostetler was responsible for the other 25%. Therefore, since Tim Brown gained 161 yards, 121 of those yards are assigned to the “Brown-Evans” pairing and 40 to the “Brown-Hostetler” pairing. Do this for every game since 1960, and you can then assign the percentage of career receiving yards each receiver gained from each quarterback.

For example, 32% of Brown’s yards came from Rich Gannon, 26% from Hostetler, 12% from Jeff George, and 9% from Jay Schroeder. That breakdown isn’t too unique: in fact, of the six receivers with the most receiving yards since 1960, all six (including Brown) gained between 29% and 37% of their career receiving yards from their top quarterback.

The table below lists the top 7 quarterbacks for each receiver, although I only included quarterbacks who were responsible for at least five percentage of the receiver’s yards. It includes the 200 players with the most receiving yards since 1960. [click to continue…]

  1. Sorry, Don Hutson. []
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Last off-season, I looked at passing performance on “third downs”, and I thought it would be fun to revisit that idea this summer. As before, I am putting that term in quotes because I’m including fourth down data in the analysis, but don’t want to write third and fourth down throughout this post.

To grade third down performance, I included sacks but discarded rushing data (again, just in the interest of time). 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 I calculated last year.

To GoPassesFirst DownsRateSmoothed Rate
130915851.1%50.8%
241520850.1%48.5%
348720742.5%46.2%
451222744.3%43.9%
555922640.4%41.6%
654122842.1%39.2%
752118134.7%36.8%
842614333.6%34.5%
936511631.8%32%
1072822030.2%29.6%
112137133.3%27.2%
121533925.5%24.7%
131352417.8%22.2%
141072220.6%19.7%
151432215.4%17.2%
166258.1%14.6%
17681217.6%12%
185036%9.5%
195335.7%6.8%
204836.3%5%

[click to continue…]

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The top passing game of 2013

The top passing game of 2013.

Yesterday, I analyzed the 2013 passing numbers for strength of schedule. Today, we look 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 Philadelphia’s Nick Foles, for his monstrous performance against Oakland. Foles threw for 406 yards and 7 touchdowns on just 28 pass attempts. Even including his one one-yard sack, Foles averaged a whopping 18.79 ANY/A in that game. The league-average last season was 5.86 ANY/A, which means Foles was 12.93 ANY/A above average. Now since the game came against the Raiders, we have to reduce that by -1.29, which was how many ANY/A the Raiders defense was below average. So that puts Foles at +11.64; multiply that by his 29 dropbacks, and he produced 337 adjusted net yards of value above average after adjusting for strength of schedule. That narrowly edges out the other seven-touchdown game of 2013, which came at the hands of Peyton Manning against Baltimore on opening night.

The third spot goes to Drew Brees in a week 17 performance against Tampa Bay. The 4th best game of 2013 was a bit more memorable: Tony Romo takes that prize in a losing effort, the insane week five shootout against Manning and the Broncos (Peyton’s performance checks in at #32). The table below shows the top 100 games of 2013, although for viewing purposes, it displays only the top 10 by default (all tables, as usual, are fully searchable, expandable, and sortable). [click to continue…]

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Adjusting for strength of schedule is important

Adjusting for strength of schedule is important.

Every year at Footballguys.com, I publish an article called Rearview QB, which adjusts the fantasy football statistics for quarterbacks (and defenses) for strength of schedule. I’ve also done the same thing for years (including last season) using ANY/A instead of fantasy points, which helps us fully understand the best and worst real life performances each year. Today I deliver the results from 2013.

Let’s start with the basics. Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is defined as (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing Touchdowns – 45 * Interceptions – Sack Yards Lost) divided by (Pass Attempts plus Sacks). ANY/A is my favorite explanatory passing statistic — it is very good at telling you the amount of value provided (or not provided) by a passer in a given game, season, or career.

Let’s start with some basic information. The league average ANY/A in 2013 was 5.86, a slight downgrade from 2012 (5.93). Nick Foles led the way with a 9.18 ANY/A average last year, the highest rate in the league among the 45 passers with at least 100 dropbacks. Since the Eagles quarterback had 317 pass attempts and 28 sacks in 2013, that means he was producing 3.32 ANY/A (i.e., his Relative ANY/A) over league average on 345 dropbacks. That means Foles is credited with 1,145 Adjusted Net Yards above average, a metric labeled “VALUE” in the table below. Of course, Peyton Manning led the league in that category last year, with a whopping 2,037 Adjusted Net Yards over Average.

RkNameTmCmpAttPydTDINTSkSkYdDBANY/AVALUE
1Peyton ManningDEN45065954775510181206778.872037
2Nick FolesPHI2033172891272281733459.181145
3Drew BreesNOR44665051623912372446877.511130
4Philip RiversSDG37854444783211301505747.791107
5Aaron RodgersGNB1932902536176211173118665
6Josh McCownCHI149224182913111372358.54629
7Russell WilsonSEA2574073357269442724517.1555
8Tony RomoDAL34253538283110352725706.54384
9Colin KaepernickSFO2434163197218392314556.65358
10Matthew StaffordDET37163446502919231686576.4355
11Andy DaltonCIN36358642933320291826156.29265
12Ben RoethlisbergerPIT37558442612814422826266.24238
13Tom BradyNWE38062843432511402566686.13175
14Michael VickPHI7714112155315991566.93166
15Jay CutlerCHI22435526211912191323746.23136
16Andrew LuckIND3435703822239322276026.06120
17Sam BradfordSTL159262168714415972776.166
18Alex SmithKAN3085083313237392105475.9441
19Matt McGloinOAK1182111547886532175.9622
20Jake LockerTEN111183125684161051995.68-36
21Matt CasselMIN153254180711916852705.69-46
22Brian HoyerCLE5796615536481025.22-66
23Cam NewtonCAR29247333792413433365165.69-88
24Thaddeus LewisBUF93157109243181001755.35-89
25Ryan FitzpatrickTEN21735024541412211093715.62-90
26Matt RyanATL43965145152617442986955.72-103
27Carson PalmerARI36257242742422412896135.67-119
28Matt FlynnGNB124200139285241352245.32-121
29Case KeenumHOU137253176096192012725.4-126
30Kellen ClemensSTL142242167387211382635.25-162
31Jason CampbellCLE1803172015118161043335.32-182
32Robert GriffinWAS27445632031612382744945.48-188
33Christian PonderMIN152239164879271192664.75-296
34EJ ManuelBUF1803061972119281593344.87-330
35Josh FreemanTAM63147761248611553.61-349
36Kirk CousinsWAS81155854475321603.67-351
37Brandon WeedenCLE141267173199271802944.51-398
38Mike GlennonTAM2474162608199403144564.98-405
39Matt SchaubHOU21935823101014211623794.53-504
40Terrelle PryorOAK1562721798711312033034.09-537
41Chad HenneJAX30550332411314382435414.86-544
42Ryan TannehillMIA35558839132417583996465-559
43Eli ManningNYG31755138181827392815904.53-788
44Geno SmithNYJ24744330461221433154864.17-824
45Joe FlaccoBAL36261439121922483246624.5-904

Manning paces in the field in Value over average, of course: that’s not surprising when the future Hall of Famer set the single-season record for passing yards and passing touchdowns. Foles, Drew Brees, and Philip Rivers formed the next tier of quarterbacks, far behind Manning but well ahead of the rest of the league.

And at the bottom of the list was the defending Super Bowl MVP, Joe Flacco. With a 4.50 ANY/A average, Flacco only edged out four other quarterbacks in that statistic, and none of the other passers came close to accumulating as many dropbacks as Flacco. After him comes the two New York quraterbacks, Geno Smith and Eli Manning.

But the point of today’s post is to adjust those numbers for strength of schedule. The solution is this post — a methodology I’ve labeled Rearview adjusted net yards per attempt, which adjusts those numbers for strength of schedule. The system is essentially the same as the one used in the Simple Rating System. Let’s look at Matt Ryan, who averaged 5.72 ANY/A last season, on 695 dropbacks. If we want to find Ryan’s SOS-adjusted rating, we need an equation that looks something like this: [click to continue…]

{ 24 comments }
One of the two greatest quarterbacks of the first half of the 20th century

One of the two greatest quarterbacks of the first half of the 20th century.

The comments to Parts I and II of this series have been great, so let me start with a thank you. One of the more difficult parts of this process is comparing players across eras not just for efficiency, but for gross volume. In 2013, teams averaged 38.0 pass attempts (including sacks) per game, compared to just 24.5 in 1956. A great quarterback will be above average in either era, but it’s easier for great quarterbacks to accumulate above-average value when they play in a high-dropback era.

So what’s the solution? Simply pro-rating the numbers feels a bit too dramatic; we got into a similar issue with True Receiving Yards, and our solution there was to take a (literal) middle ground approach. I thought it would be fun to apply the same philosophy here. Over the course of the 96 league seasons in this study, the average number of league-wide dropbacks per game was 26.1. If we were going to do a 1:1 adjustment, we would then multiply each quarterback’s value in 2013 by 0.687, since that’s the result of 26.1 divided by 38. Instead, I decided to split the baby, and take the average of 0.687 and 1.000, which means modifying the VALUE metric for each quarterback in 2013 by 84.4%. On the other hand, a quarterback in 1956 now gets his VALUE multiplied by 103%, and a passer in 1937 sees his score multiplied by 129.0%.

The table below shows the revised single-season leader list. Here’s how to read it, which will explain why Dan Marino climbs back ahead of Tom Brady into the top spot on the list.  Under the old system, Marino had a value of 2,267 yards above average, but with the modifier, he gets downgraded to an adjusted value of 1981; of course, Brady’s modifier is more severe, which is why Marino vaults him.  Meanwhile, thanks to a 110.3% modifier, Sid Luckman’s 1943 season1 jumps ahead of Peyton Manning’s 2004 season, which has a modifier of 88.1%.  The table below shows the top 200 single seasons using this formula. [click to continue…]

  1. Note that there is already a 25% deflation rate built into all seasons during World War II. Luckman’s numbers that year were insane. The Bears averaged 9.2 ANY/A, while the rest of the seven teams averaged just over two ANY/A. And even that understates things, as Luckman’s backup significantly deflated Chicago’s average. []
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These two men look important

The two best regular season quarterbacks of all time?

Yesterday, I explained the methodology behind the formula involved in ranking every quarterback season since 1960. Today, I’m going to present the career results. Converting season value to career value isn’t as simple as it might seem. Generally, we don’t want a player who was very good for 12 years to rank ahead of a quarterback who was elite for ten. Additionally, we don’t want to give significant penalties to players who struggled as rookies or hung around too long; we’re mostly concerned with the peak value of the player.

What I’ve historically done — and done here — is to give each quarterback 100% of his value or score from his best season, 95% of his score in his second best season, 90% of his score in his third best season, and so on. This rewards quarterbacks who played really well for a long time and doesn’t kill players with really poor rookie years or seasons late in their career. It also helps to prevent the quarterbacks who were compilers from dominating the top of the list. For visibility reasons, the table below displays only the top 25 quarterbacks initially, but you can change that number in the filter or click on the right arrow to see the remaining quarterbacks.1

Here’s how to read the table. Manning’s first year was in 1998, and his last in 2013. He’s had 8,740 “dropbacks” in his career, which include pass attempts, sacks, and rushing touchdowns. His career value — using the 100/95/90 formula2 is 12,769, putting him at number one. His strength of schedule has been perfectly average over his career; as a reminder, the SOS column is shown just for reference, as SOS is already incorporated into these numbers (so while Tom Brady has had a schedule that’s 0.25 ANY/A tougher than average, that’s already incorporated into his 10,063 grade). Manning is not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, of course, but I’ve listed the HOF status of each quarterback in the table. Note that I only have quarterback records going back to 1960; therefore, for quarterbacks who played before and during (or after) 1960, only their post-1960 record is displayed. In addition, SOS adjustments are only for the years beginning in 1960. [click to continue…]

  1. Note that while yesterday’s list was just from 1960 to 2013, the career list reflects every season in history, using the same methodology as used in GQBOAT IV. []
  2. And including negative seasons. []
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Can you spot the GOAT?

Can you spot the GOAT?

In 2006, I took a stab at ranking every quarterback in NFL history. Two years later, I acquired more data and made enough improvements to merit publishing an updated and more accurate list of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. In 2009, I tweaked the formula again, and published a set of career rankings, along with a set of strength of schedule, era and weather adjustments, and finally career rankings which include those adjustments and playoff performances.  And two years ago, I revised the formula and produced a new set of career rankings.

This time around, I’m not going to tweak the formula much (that’s for GQBOAT VI), but I do have one big change that I suspect will be well-received.  Let’s review the methodology.

Methodology

We start with plain old yards per attempt. I then incorporate sack data by removing sack yards from the numerator and adding sacks to the denominator.1 To include touchdowns and interceptions, I gave a quarterback 20 yards for each passing touchdown and subtracted 45 yards for each interception. This calculation — (Pass Yards + 20 * PTD – 45 * INT – Sack Yards Lost) / (Sacks + Pass Attempts) forms the basis for Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, one of the key metrics I use to evaluate quarterbacks. For purposes of this study, I did some further tweaking. I’m including rushing touchdowns, because our goal is to measure quarterbacks as players. There’s no reason to separate rushing and passing touchdowns from a value standpoint, so all passing and rushing touchdowns are worth 20 yards and are calculated in the numerator of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. To be consistent, I also include rushing touchdowns in the denominator of the equation. This won’t change anything for most quarterbacks, but feels right to me. A touchdown is a touchdown.

Now, here comes the twist.  In past year, I’ve compared each quarterback’s “ANY/A” — I put that term in quotes because what we’re really using is ANY/A with a rushing touchdowns modifier — and then calculated a value over average statistic after comparing that rate to the league average. For example, if a QB has an “ANY/A” of 7.0 and the NFL average “ANY/A” is 5.0, and the quarterback has 500 “dropbacks” — i.e., pass attempts plus sacks plus rushing touchdowns — then the quarterback gets credit for 1,000 yards above average. [click to continue…]

  1. I have individual game sack data for every quarterback back to 2008. For seasons between 1969 and 2007, I have season sack data and team game sack data, so I was able to derive best-fit estimates for each quarterback in each game. For seasons between 1960 and 1969, I gave each quarterback an approximate number of sacks, giving him the pro-rated portion of sacks allowed by the percentage of pass attempts he threw for the team. []
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Andrew Luck and Quarterback Help

Luck confuses defenders, statisticians

Luck confuses defenders, statisticians.

It’s no secret that Andrew Luck’s efficiency numbers aren’t quite up to par with his reputation. Over the past two seasons, Luck ranks just 18th in ANY/A, far behind some of the other young quarterbacks in the NFL. Nick Foles, Russell Wilson, and Colin Kaepernick rank in the top 6th in that metric, Robert Griffin is 11th, Cam Newton is 14th, and even Andy Dalton is 16th. Luck tends to fare much better in ESPN’s QBR than in ANY/A (and Andy Benoit wrote an interesting pro-Luck piece yesterday), but today I wanted to try to quantify another issue: quarterback help.

A quick disclaimer: there are probably a zillion different ways to quantify quarterback help. This is certainly not not not the best way, but it’s the way that was easiest and most intuitive to me. On the scale of “this feels right” to “rigorous quantitative analysis” this certainly falls closer to the former end of the scale. But it’s Friday and we’re having fun, so here’s what I did.

1) Calculate how many standard deviations from average each team was in Points Allowed (negative means fewer points allowed).

2) Calculate how many standard deviations from average each team was in Pass Ratio (negative means more run-heavy).

3) Add the two standard deviations to see how much each team relied on each quarterback’s arm.

Here were the 2013 results. According to this, no quarterback was asked to do more than Matt Ryan. Here’s how to read the table below: The Falcons allowed 443 points last year, which was 1.05 standard deviations more than the average team. Atlanta also passed on 68.7% of all plays, which was 1.99 standard deviations above average. Add those together, and the Falcons get a grade of +3.04, the most in the NFL in 2013. [click to continue…]

{ 15 comments }

Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater were selected in the first round of the 2014 Draft. The Jaguars seem intent on giving Bortles a redshirt year, but it seems likely that the Browns and Vikings will hand their rookie quarterbacks the reins at some point early this fall.

From the first common draft in 1967, until 2013, there were 96 quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft.1 Today’s post looked at how long it took each quarterback to start his first game. For each quarterback, I assumed 16 game seasons for all seasons where the quarterback sat on the bench. Two quarterbacks, Jim Kelly and Aaron Rodgers, sat three full seasons before starting in week 1 of their 4th year; that means both players get an estimated first start of game 49.2 Twenty-eight quarterbacks (29% of our sample) started their team’s first game in the year they were drafted; as a result, those quarterbacks get an estimated first start of game 1. The graph below shows how long it took each quarterback to start his first game; the X-axis represents draft year, and the Y-axis estimated number of games.

QB starts [click to continue…]

  1. Ignoring Rich Campbell, the only quarterback in the study to never start a game, and all quarterbacks taken in supplemental drafts. []
  2. Of course, Kelly and Rodgers didn’t start for pretty different reasons: Kelly was in the USFL, while Rodgers was sitting behind Brett Favre. []
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Who is the Best Backup Quarterback Ever?

That's a pretty good backup.

That's a pretty good backup.

Determining the best backup quarterback ever is really complicated. Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers backed up Joe Montana and Brett Favre, respectively, but neither Young nor Rodgers morally feel like they belong in the discussion of best backup quarterbacks.

There are a couple of ways to measure how a backup quarterback fares. One way is on a game-by-game approach: i.e., the starter gets injured or pulled, and now the backup is in charge. That’s the sort of thing Frank Reich, at least anecdotally, excelled at.1 The more interesting, and easier question to analyze, is to take a season-by-season approach. If a quarterback does not start his team’s season opener, he’s a backup. If he does, he’s not.

Using that concept, the name that immediately jumps to mind is Earl Morrall.  After all, he led two teams to Super Bowls during seasons that began with him on the bench. But what do the numbers say?

Ironically, my proposed definition excludes what is undoubtedly the greatest season in backup quarterback history: Kurt Warner in 1999. That season may have been a top-three season in quarterback history, but it began with Warner second on the depth chart to Trent Green. When Rodney Harrison ended Green’s season in the preseason, Warner become the starter, which would exclude his ’99 season from this analysis.

And, uh, ironically again, Morrall’s best season is excluded, too.  His top year was in 1968 when he won the NFL MVP, but since Johnny Unitas was injured in the preseason, Morrall isn’t labeled a backup by this formula, either. But I do think that the Warner and Morrall examples are rare enough that we can proceed with minimal concern. [click to continue…]

  1. Post for another day (or another author): Which quarterbacks were the best off the bench? []
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The Evolution of Quarterbacks

Get your roll on 'Pepp

Get your roll on 'Pepp.

With the NFL draft approaching, you’ll hear a lot of statements about how the quarterback position is changing. Mobile quarterbacks are now “in”, which is a good thing for Johnny Manziel. A 6’4 frame is no longer required, which is a good thing for… well, Manziel, and negates some of the value of a player like Blake Bortles or Tom Savage. And, heck, do you even need to get a quarterback in the first round? If Teddy Bridgewater falls to the second round, how much of an outlier does that make him? What about say, Aaron Murray, who is both short and expected to be a late round pick?

I can’t tell you how any of the prospects in this year’s draft will turn out, but I can walk you through how the quarterback position has changed over the course of NFL history.

Methodology

For all three variables, I will be using the same methodology to measure “league average” in each season.  Each player in each year gets credit for his percentage of league-wide pass attempts in the season multiplied by his value in each variable.  For example, when calculating the 2013 league average, Peyton Manning’s [rushing numbers, height, draft position] was worth 3.6% of the league average, while in 1958, Johnny Unitas’s [rushing, height, draft position] was worth 6.7% of the league average. This gives us a weighted average for each variable, weighted by the number of pass attempts by that quarterback. [click to continue…]

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Luck's rushing ability makes him a QBR star

Luck's rushing ability makes him a QBR star.

A few weeks ago, I put ESPN’s Total QBR under the microscope. Today, I want to look at the quarterbacks whose passing statistics most differ from their QBR grades.

Total QBR grades go back to 2006, so to start, I ran a regression using Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt to predict Total QBR. The best-fit formula was:

Total QBR = -13.5 + 11.23 * ANY/A

For those curious, the R^2 was 0.80, indicating a very strong relationship between ANY/A and Total QBR. What this formula tells us is that a passer needs to average 5.65 ANY/A to be “projected” to have a QBR of 50; from there, every additional adjusted net yard per attempt is worth 11.2 points of QBR. Last year, Peyton Manning averaged 8.87 ANY/A, which projects to a QBR of 86.2. In reality, Manning had a QBR of “only” 82.9; this means Manning’s QBR says he wasn’t quite as amazing as his excellent efficiency numbers would indicate (to say nothing of his otherworldly gross numbers). One likely reason for this result is that Manning ranked 29th in average pass length in the air (according to NFLGSIS) and 6th in yards after the catch per completion; this matters because ESPN gives more credit to quarterbacks on the yards they accumulate through the air. (Throughout this post, we will be forced to deal with educated guesses, because Total QBR is a proprietary formula.)

As it turns out, Manning rating higher in actual QBR than projected QBR is a stark departure from prior years. In 2012, he finished 7.2 points higher in actual QBR than projected QBR, but that’s nothing compared to his time with the Colts. In five years in Indianapolis during the Total QBR era, Manning finished at least 10 points higher in actual QBR each season.

Along with Manning, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck are the two quarterbacks who are most likely to over-perform relative to their “projected” ratings. Let’s be careful about exactly what this means: whatever the ingredients that go into the QBR formula that don’t go into the ANY/A formula, Manning, Ryan, and Luck seem to have a lot of them.

Luck is a fascinating case. In 2012, he ranked just 20th in ANY/A, but 11th in QBR. I wrote several articles during Luck’s rookie season about how his QBR ratings surpassed his standard stats.1 Last year, he ranked 16th in ANY/A and 9th in QBR. Does this make Luck the quarterback most underrated (if you buy into QBR) by his traditional passing numbers (if you buy into ANY/A)? [click to continue…]

  1. Although now I can’t recall if his 2012 ratings were inflated because of his 4th quarter comebacks.  And I can’t check, because once ESPN decided to cap the clutch weight associated with each play, they retroactively applied the current formula across past years. []
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