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Today’s guest post comes from Damon Gulczynski, a longtime reader, Seattle sports fan, and part-time writer. He also wrote this book on baseball names. As always, we thank our guest posters for contributing.


A journeyman quarterback appears here

When the New York Jets exercised an option to void the contract of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in February, they paved the way for yet another stop on his already lengthy tour through the cities of the NFL.  If the hirsute Harvardian plays in at least one game this upcoming season with a new team, it will mark the seventh time he has done so.  To my knowledge, this would tie the all-time record among NFL quarterbacks.  That is, unless his replacement in New York takes a snap before him.  Josh McCown has already played with seven different NFL teams; the Jets will be his eighth.

At this point, both McCown and Fitzpatrick have surely already attained the venerated title of “journeyman,” but it goes beyond this.  I contend that by the end of the 2017 NFL season, McCown and Fitzpatrick will be the two journeyman-est quarterbacks in NFL history.  To support this contention, I introduce a new metric I developed called Journeyman Score (JM score). [click to continue…]

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The Broncos thought they had found their heir apparent.

The Giants, Saints, Steelers, and Chargers all have older franchise quarterbacks, leading many to speculate that one or more of those teams will spend an early pick on a quarterback. That could even include a first round pick, which made me wonder: how often do teams do that?

I looked at all teams since 1967 that:

  • Used a first round pick on a quarterback;
  • Had a QB on the roster the year before and that upcoming season who was at least 32 years old in the upcoming season;
  • That QB threw at least 100 passing touchdowns with that team.

There are 15 examples that fit those specific criteria.  Let’s review: [click to continue…]

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In 1973, the 14 AFC teams housed 8 Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The AFC East had Joe Namath and Bob Griese with the Jets and Dolphins, the AFC Central had Pittsburgh’s Terry Bradshaw, and the AFC West had five HOF QBs: Len Dawson was with the Chiefs, while the Chargers had a first-year Dan Fouts and a last-year Johnny Unitas. The Raiders? They had Ken Stabler and George Blanda. And in the NFC, Sonny Jurgensen and Roger Staubach were the signal callers for Washington and Dallas, while Fran Tarkenton was the Vikings quarterback. That means the ’73 NFL (along with the ’70 and ’71 versions, which didn’t have Fouts but did have Bart Starr) housed 11 future Hall of Fame passers. And that excludes Ken Anderson, of course, who entered the league in ’71.

Meanwhile, in ’81 and ’82 — at a time, I’ll note, when Ken Anderson was doing pretty darn well — there were just four active HOF QBs. Stabler, who finally made it as a seniors’ nominee last year, Fouts, Bradshaw, and Joe Montana. On average, there have been about 7-8 active HOF quarterbacks at any one time. [click to continue…]

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Today’s guest post comes from James “Four Touchdowns” Hanson, a relative new reader to the site. As always, we thank our guest posters for contributing.

[Editor’s note: There were a couple of minor bugs in the original data. This post has now been updated.]


There may be no two quarterbacks more often measured against each other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. One simply has to do a Google search of the topic to see that fans and sports writers have compared the two numerous times, using a vast array of criteria from the simple counting of championships to using advanced analytics to make their case.

So it’s surprising to me that I still haven’t come across a comparison of Manning and Brady against the same defenses. It’s an idea that occurred to me when Manning critics pointed out that much of his record-breaking 2013 season came against the mediocre teams of the 2013 NFC East and AFC South, while Tom Brady’s record-breaking 2007 was against a tougher strength-of-schedule.1 If we’re genuinely after the fairest assessment possible – which is why I assume fans of advanced analytics prefer to measure individual players by their own production rather than team results like wins and championships – what better way to measure each player than by how they performed against the same competition?

So I decided to take a look at the seasons in which Manning and Brady were both active and played against the same teams in the same season. Of course, like any statistical analysis, this one comes with its own set of flaws. When the two quarterbacks play each other’s divisions or one plays the same team in the regular season and the playoffs, one of them may have played the same team twice or even three times in a single season while the other has played them only once.

This can be good or bad for the player’s results – sometimes it allows the opposing defense to learn from the first encounter and make life difficult for the passer the second time around. One example is Peyton Manning’s encounters with the Steelers in 2005; he defeated Pittsburgh with a 102.9 rating and 8.67 ANY/A during the regular season, only to see his performance suffer the second time around during the post-season with a 90.9 rating and 6.21 ANY/A in a loss. Meanwhile, Tom Brady’s single game against the Steelers, where he won with a 92.7 rating and 6.84 ANY/A, stands alone – could he have done better or worse in a second encounter? We’ll never know.

Other times, it can allow the quarterback another opportunity to do well against that defense. When Brady played the Jets for the first time in 2010, he earned a mediocre 72.9 rating and 5.11 ANY/A in a loss. He bounced back to win with an extraordinary 148.9 rating and 12.00 ANY/A in their second meeting and then fell somewhere in between when they met in the playoffs, losing with an 89 passer rating and 5.08 ANY/A. Meanwhile, Manning met the Jets just once in the post-season, where he suffered a loss despite earning a 108.7 rating and 8.85 ANY/A in his last game wearing a Colts uniform. How would he have done if he played the Jets three times? Again, we’ll never know.

In fact, the sometimes vast difference in which each QB has performed against the same defense in the same season should encourage us to take these results with a grain of salt – in-game conditions, game plans from coaches, the play from supporting casts, how one team’s strengths and weaknesses match differently with an opponent, playing at home or away, key injuries on either side, etc. can all effect a player’s performance in any given game.

And there’s always the possibility that Brady or Manning just had a bad day and their performance isn’t indicative of their true abilities: the small sample size of a football season made even smaller by singling out common opponents isn’t ideal in determining a fair and scientific measurement for how good each player actually is. On the other hand, it’s the only evidence we have available, so we’ll have to roll with it.

I bring this up because I don’t intend this to be a definitive attempt at determining which player is better – most people already have made up their minds (and I personally tend to rate quarterback on tiers anyway). Some say Manning would have more championships if he had Belichick and the Patriots organization at his side, while others say Brady would have bigger numbers if he had the receiving talent Manning had during his career. I think both can be true.

I’d also like to mention that I pulled this list manually and despite several reviews, there still may be errors in the data – this is unintentional and I welcome any corrections.

So without further ado, here’s a list of the common opponents they faced in each season, with both 2008 (Brady played one game) and 2011 (Manning was inactive) removed as both players weren’t active during those seasons:

• 2001: Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Raiders, Saints, Falcons, Broncos, Rams
• 2002: Dolphins, Jets, Steelers, Titans, Broncos
• 2003: Dolphins, Jets, Bills, Browns, Broncos, Jags, Texans, Titans, Panthers
• 2004: Ravens, Chiefs
• 2005: Steelers, Jaguars, Chargers
• 2006: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Titans, Jags, Texans, Broncos, Bengals, Bears
• 2007: Chargers, Ravens, Jaguars
• 2009: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Titans, Jags, Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Saints
• 2010: Chargers, Jets, Bengals
• 2012: Texans, Ravens
• 2013: Colts, Ravens
• 2014: Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers, Colts, Bengals, Seahawks
• 2015: Colts, Steelers, Chiefs

And here are their career averages against common opponents from 189 total regular season and playoff games played (93 Manning, 96 Brady):

Except for interception percentage, Manning seems to have a slight advantage across the board. Most differences are so small that I personally consider them basically even in most categories. The biggest differences seem to be that Manning’s interception rate is substantially higher, while Brady’s sack numbers are substantially higher – and in Brad Oremland’s TSP and Career Value metrics, where Manning holds a commanding lead.

To delve a little further into the numbers, let’s look at the advanced stats of each player by season. The highlights indicate which player did better that year in each metric, while the bolded numbers indicate that season’s number marks a career best (against common opponents) –

The leader in both ANY/A and Passer Rating match in every season, with Manning’s rates beating Brady’s in 8 of the 13 seasons compared. QBR results are also is very similar, with the only difference being Brady having the edge in 2014, putting them even at 4-4.

Interestingly, it seems that for most seasons, one player clearly played better against common opponents by a substantial amount – in Passer Rating, the two only play at a similar level in 2001 and 2007, while the rest of the time the winner often beats the other by ten points or more! What’s really surprising to me is that Manning surpasses Brady in every metric for 2007, which was when Brady led perhaps the greatest offense of all time to a record-breaking season and an AFC Championship.

I also wanted to compare their performances against common opponents in each season by TSP but since it’s a raw sum instead of an average like the other advanced stats, I needed to take each season’s statistical averages and multiply them to get 16 games worth of production. The results were –

The first thing that jumps out at you is Manning’s preposterous 2013 prorated across 16 games – over 6,500 yards and 75 TDs with only 5 INTs. That alone tells us to take these results with a grain of salt.

But accepting the numbers for what they are, we see that the leader in TSP for each season matches the leader in Passer Rating and ANY/A. We also see that Manning’s highs and lows are quite extreme in comparison to Brady’s – Brady doesn’t have a season that matches Manning’s 2004 and 2013, but Brady’s TSP never dips into negative numbers as Manning’s does in 2002 and 2015.

And again, Manning’s 2007 results manage to top Brady’s numbers for his most legendary statistical season (though that probably means nothing since the sample size we’re working with is so small).

So what does this all prove? Well, nothing really. As said, I think the majority of people already have their opinions set for these players – this is just for fun. Hope you enjoyed!

  1. While I am a Peyton Manning fan, I feel the point is valid and logical. We compare stats so often but don’t always take into account that most of those numbers were earned against different teams of varying quality – after all, it’s not fair to compare passing numbers if one guy is going up against the 2002 Bucs while the other is playing the 2015 Saints, right? []
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On Thursday, I looked at quarterbacks from 2016 who started at least 8 games and threw at least 150 passes. For those passers, I calculated how many standard deviations above average they were in Relative ANY/A (i.e., how much better they were, statistically, than average) and in winning percentage. I sorted the list by the difference between the two, to find the quarterbacks whose stats and winning percentages diverged by the largest amounts. And yesterday, I looked at the quarterbacks whose passing stats most greatly exceeded their winning percentage in any given season.

Today, the reverse: the quarterbacks whose winning percentages were much more impressive than their passing numbers. And the 1973 season had by Terry Bradshaw stands out as the most extreme example. In ’73, Bradshaw went 8-1, despite passing stats that were bad even by 1973 standards: he threw 10 TDs, 15 interceptions, and averaged just 4.89 NY/A. Bradshaw ranked 21st in ANY/A at just 2.56 out of 24 qualifying passers. [click to continue…]

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Manning didn’t have much help during his career

Yesterday, I looked at quarterbacks from 2016 who started at least 8 games and threw at least 150 passes. For those passers, I calculated how many standard deviations above average they were in Relative ANY/A (i.e., how much better they were, statistically, than average) and in winning percentage. I sorted the list by the difference between the two, to find the quarterbacks whose stats and winning percentages diverged by the largest amounts.

What about historically? I performed the same study going back to 1970. And the season that stands out the most is Archie Manning’s 1980 season. That year the Saints were the worst team in the league: New Orleans went 1-15, and every other team won at least 4 games.1 Manning started every game for the team because he actually had a strong season, at least statistically: he ranked 9th out of 30 qualifying passers in ANY/A, and had a Relative ANY/A of +0.53. That, of course, is pretty unusual given his team’s 1-15 record.

That stands out as the biggest example of a divergence of stats being more impressive than team record. The best 100 seasons (although by default, the table only lists the top 20) are below: [click to continue…]

  1. The Saints’ troubles continued into the draft; New Orleans selected George Rogers first overall, when two of the top four, and three of the top eight players went on to be Hall of Famers. []
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Kessler in a losing effort.

In 2016, Browns rookie quarterback Cody Kessler had an uneven year. He went 0-8, but he ranked 24th in ANY/A out of the 31 quarterbacks who started at least 8 games and threw at least 150 passes. His stats weren’t great, but they weren’t 0-8 bad, either. In PFR’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt Index, which attempts to adjust for era, Kessler ranked 15th out of the 43 rookie passers to meet the 8 start/150 attempt threshold. It was a pretty good rookie season that came with an 0-8 record.

And then there was Brock Osweiler.  The Texans quarterback — now on the Browns — was dead last with a pitiful 4.34 ANY/A average last season.  But for the second year in a row, Osweiler produced a winning record despite poor play; Houston went 8-6 with Osweiler under center.

I calculated the winning percentage and Relative ANY/A (i.e., ANY/A adjusted for era) for each passer since 1970 to meet the 8 start/150 attempt threshold.  I then calculated the standard deviations above/below average each passer was in each category.  Here are the results for 2016, and here’s how to read the Kessler line: he started 8 games for the Browns and had a 0.000 winning percentage.  His Relative ANY/A was -0.34, so just a hair below league average.  He was 2.53 standard deviations below average in winning percentage, but only 0.28 standard deviations below average in RANY/A.  As a result, he was 2.24 standard deviations better in RANY/A than he was in winning percentage; that was the highest number on the list.  Passers at the top had much better stats than wins; passers at the bottom (highlighted by Osweiler) had better wins than stats. [click to continue…]

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Adam Steele is back to recap his Wisdom of Crowds work. As always, we thank him for that. Football Perspective wouldn’t be what it is without contributions like this from folks like Adam.


I’d like to thank everyone who voted in this year’s Wisdom of the Crowds, and I also appreciate your patience in waiting for the long overdue recap article. I’m not much for small talk, so let’s get right to it.

Originally, my plan was to simply tally the scores and use the totals for the QB ranking. However, it quickly became evident that this wasn’t going to work, as we had very large discrepancies in how voters allocated their points. Some people awarded 25 points to their pick for best ever, while others didn’t give any QB more than six points. It would be just plain wrong for one voter’s GOAT to be weighted four times more than the next voter. My solution (helmet knock to commenter hscer1, since he came up with it) is to tabulate points in proportion to the highest score on each ballot. Thus, a QB who scores five points on a ballot with a 25 maximum receives 0.2 ranking points, while a five-pointer on a ballot with a maximum of six is awarded 0.83 ranking points. This levels the playing field for all ballots, and in my opinion yields a far more honest result than the simple tally method. Since the abstract concept of ranking points is tough to put in proper context, I’ve translated them into Share %, which is the percentage of possible points earned. We had 51 legal ballots submitted this year, so Share % = ranking points / 51.

Results

In order to qualify for a WOC ranking, a quarterback had to be listed on a minimum of three ballots, leaving us with 36 qualifying QB’s. The table below lists the quarterbacks’ Share %, ballot appearances, “pantheon” appearances (ballots where he received at least 0.5 ranking points), and ballots where he received the highest score (including ties). I also included the ranking each QB earned in the 2015 edition of this exercise, as well as the number of positions gained or lost from 2015 to 2017. [click to continue…]

  1. I highly encourage you to check out hscer’s collection of Sporcle quizzes. []
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TD/INT Ratio Leaders

Touchdown/Interception ratio isn’t an official statistic, so here’s something you probably didn’t know. Among qualifying passers (minimum 14 pass attempts per team game), either Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers has led the league in this category in 6 of the last 7 seasons. The one exception? Nick Foles in 2013.

Brady has lead the NFL in TD/INT ratio four times: 2007, 2010, 2015, and 2016. That’s tied for the most in football history, with Roger Staubach and Charlie Conerly. The table below shows the leaders in pro football (combining the AAFC and AFL with the NFL) in each year since 1946:

[click to continue…]

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Last year, Tyrod Taylor led all quarterbacks with 580 rushing yards. Colin Kaepernick, in 12 games, ranked 2nd with 468 rushing yards, and no other quarterback had even 400 rushing yards. But Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, and Andrew Luck all had at least 300 rushing yards, so 7 out of 32 teams had a quarterback with at least that many yards.

How does that compare historically? Two years ago, in one of my favorite posts/methodologies, I looked at how to measure quarterback rushing yards. Here’s what I did.

1) Calculate the percentage of league-wide passing yards by each player in each season. For example, Tyrod Taylor was responsible for 2.3% of all passing yards in 2016.

2) Calculate the weighted average league-wide rushing yards for each season. So we take the result in step 1 and multiply that by each player’s number of rushing yards. For Taylor, this means multiplying 2.3% by 580 for a result of 13.4 rushing yards. Perform this calculation for each player in each season and sum the results to obtain a league-wide total. For 2016, this total was 150.9 rushing yards (obviously Taylor was the biggest contributor among quarterbacks).

3) For non-16 game seasons, pro-rate to 16 games.

Perform this calculation for each season since 1950, and you get the following results: [click to continue…]

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Ben Roethlisberger takes a lot of sacks. Since entering the league in 2004, he has nearly 100 more sacks than any other quarterback. I thought it would be interesting to look at the leaders in sacks taken over rolling 5-year periods.

Over the last 5 years, the most sacked quarterback is Ryan Tannehill, who may be going down a Roethlisberger-like path. Tannehill has surprisingly only missed 3 games in his 5-year career, but I’d say the odds of him continuing to take sacks at a high rate and playing 16 game seasons is pretty low.

As for Roethlisberger, he had the most sacks taken from ’04 to ’08, ’05 to ’09, ’06 to ’10, ’07 to ’11, and ’09 to ’13; he was 2nd from ’08 to ’12, just four sacks behind Aaron Rodgers. That was the only thing stopping Ben from leading for a whopping 6 straight 5-year periods.

Here’s a list of the leader for every 5-year period beginning in 1969, which is as far back as PFR’s sack data goes: [click to continue…]

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Brad Oremland is a longtime commenter and a fellow football historian. Brad is also a senior NFL writer at Sports Central. There are few who have given as much thought to the history of quarterbacks and quarterback ranking systems as Brad has over the years. What follows is Brad’s latest work on quarterback statistical production.

Author’s Note: This is a very long post, but I discourage you from skimming it. Wait to read it until you can go over it without feeling distracted.

Two years ago, I wrote an exhaustive series on the greatest quarterbacks of all time. That was a subjective ranking, but I also discussed the formula for Quarterback Total Statistical Production, QB-TSP. This post concerns that stat, QB-TSP, so you may want to read that link if you haven’t already.

I’ve made three minor adjustments to the formula since that writing: [click to continue…]

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For his career, Jay Cutler is 68-71, which would put him just a hair below .500. He’s also 1-1 in the playoffs.

For his career, Jay Cutler has averaged 5.88 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, while the league average over that span has been 5.85 ANY/A, putting him just a hair above average.

Cutler wasn’t drafted to be league average, and he’s been a polarizing player for much of his career. He hasn’t quite fulfilled the high potential he had as a prospect, but he’s also been a bit better than the critics suggest, too. He’s not great, he’s not bad, he’s… average.

One thing that’s kind of interesting: his record hasn’t really correlated with his passing efficiency numbers. The correlation coefficient between his Relative ANY/A — that is, his ANY/A minus league average — and his winning percentage is just 0.21. [click to continue…]

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With the 2nd pick in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft, the Cowboys drafted Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith at 34th overall.  Smith tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, but Dallas was willing to take the risk with by giving Smith a redshirt season.

With the 41st pick, Buffalo traded up for linebacker Reggie Ragland, who wound up missing his entire rookie season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in training camp. With the 50th pick, Houston drafted offensive lineman Nick Martin, who also was injured in training camp and wound up missing his entire rookie year.

Those three players, and Bengals first round pick William Jackson (who tore his pec in August), were four of the five players selected in the first two rounds of the 2016 Draft who failed to see the field. Jets second round pick, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, was the fifth.

That makes Hackenberg the 17th quarterback since the common draft (1967) to fail to make the field as a rookie despite being drafted in the first or second round. For the most part, that’s because those quarterbacks were behind entrenched starters. [click to continue…]

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Wisdom of Crowds: Quarterback Edition (2017)

Adam Steele is back with some Wisdom of Crowds work. As always, we thank him for that.


 

In 2015 we ran a pair of Wisdom of the Crowd exercises, one for quarterbacks and one for running backs. Participation was high and the ensuing discussions were plentiful, so I decided to bring the idea back this year. First up are quarterbacks, but there will be new rules this time around. The previous edition asked voters to rank their quarterbacks 1-25, with points scored in linear fashion based on the ranking from each ballot. While that method was simple, it left a lot to be desired. Most notably, voters weren’t able to indicate the magnitude of difference between the QB’s on their lists, so the difference between 24th and 25th was worth the same as the difference between 1st and 2nd. That’s just plain wrong.

New Rules

1) Each voter will be allotted 100 Greatness Points to distribute to quarterbacks as he or she wishes, with a few caveats.

2) The maximum points given to a single QB may not exceed 25.

3) Ballots must include a minimum of ten quarterbacks, with a maximum of 40.

4) Points must be assigned as whole numbers.

Just as before, you are free to use whatever definition of Greatness you see fit. If you have trouble getting started, it’s helpful to list every quarterback that you consider Great, then distribute points based on the relative standing among the quarterback you listed. In order for this exercise to work properly, please submit your ballot before reading anyone else’s; we want each opinion to be as independent as possible. Your ballot will not be counted if the points don’t add up to exactly 100, although I will let you know and give you a chance for revision. Here is an example of how I’d like your ballot to look (of course yours may include more quarterbacks): [click to continue…]

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Today’s guest post/contest comes from Thomas McDermott, a licensed land surveyor in the State of California, a music theory instructor at Loyola Marymount University, and an NFL history enthusiast. As always, we thank him for his hard work. You can view all of his work at Football Perspective here.


I wrote this article last year, when I generated the statistics and then ranked all starting quarterbacks in 2015 based on how well they played in “clutch”1 situations. I used a simple definition: if it occurred in the 4th quarter or overtime, when the game was tied or the quarterback’s team was trailing by as much as one score (8 points), then it was a clutch situation.

The main metric used was Bryan Frye’s Total Adjusted Yards per Play, and today we’ll use the same methodology2 to find the 2016 Clutch Value Leader as well as the single season leaders since 1994. Here’s Bryan’s TAY/P formula, which Chase supports as an all-encompassing basic measure of quarterback performance:

(passing & rushing yards + (touchdowns * 20) – (interceptions * 45) – (fumbles lost * 25) – ( sack yards)) / (pass attempts + rush attempts + sacks)3

The other change I’m making from the previous post, is that I’ll be using a 3-year rolling league average, as opposed to a single year league average, when adjusting for era. Thanks to Bryan (through his great website GridFe) for providing me with that information.

So let’s get to it. Below are the quarterbacks in 2016 who had at least 30 clutch action plays,4 and here’s how to read the table: [click to continue…]

  1. Note that throughout this post, anything that happens within this situation is termed “clutch”; as in “clutch yards”, “clutch plays”, “clutch touchdown”, etc. []
  2. In my post last year, I included a 2-point conversion bonus of 15 yards which I’m going to leave out for now. Besides not really adding much to the study, when I started collecting the data for the single season and career leaders in this metric, I found that the data on 2-point conversions is somewhat spotty before 2005; in fact, in most cases before 1998, the players involved aren’t even mentioned. So, for those of you who read the last post, taking away that conversion bonus means Eli Manning is at the top for 2015 and not Jay Cutler. []
  3. Note that Bryan uses a 25-yard penalty for all fumbles (lost or recovered) while this study uses that penalty for lost fumbles only (which are the only ones being counted here). []
  4. For 2015, I used 24 actions plays as the cutoff, after looking at the numbers more when doing the single-season rankings, 30 seemed more appropriate. []
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The Packers won every home playoff game for over 60 years. Green Bay was 13-0 at home in playoff games until Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons won as 6.5-point underdogs at the end of the 2002 season. Since that 13-0 start, the Packers are a much less intimidating 5-4 in the postseason. Below is the points differential in every playoff game in Green Bay in NFL history:

[click to continue…]

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Nobody wants to be compared to Ryan Leaf, so it tells you all you need to know about Jared Goff‘s rookie season that such a headline doubles as a legitimate question. Let’s start with the raw stats, even though we know the passing environment has changed significantly since 1998:

Passing Rushing
Rk Player Year G QBrec Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Rate Lng Int Sk Yds Y/A AY/A NY/A ANY/A Att Yds TD Y/A Lng
1 Jared Goff 2016 8 0-7-0 112 205 54.6 1089 5 63.6 66 7 26 222 5.3 4.26 3.75 2.82 8 16 1 2.0 6
2 Ryan Leaf 1998 10 3-6-0 111 245 45.3 1289 2 39.0 67 15 22 140 5.3 2.67 4.30 1.93 27 80 0 3.0 20

[click to continue…]

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With the 2016 season in the books, let’s take a look at the final ANY/A differential numbers. As regular readers know, ANY/A is simply yards per attempt that includes sack data and has a 20-yard bonus for passing touchdowns and a 45-yard penalty for interceptions.

ANY/A differential is one of the best measures of team play. This season, Atlanta very narrowly edged New England for the ANY/A differential crown.  No team finished in the top 8 of both offensive ANY/A and defensive ANY/A – a sign of how compressed the league was this season — but the Patriots were closest, ranking 2nd in offensive ANY/A and 9th in defensive ANY/A.  But because Atlanta had such a large lead in offensive ANY/A, the Falcons were number one in ANY/A differential even with the 18th best pass defense. [click to continue…]

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Matt Ryan Is Having A Historically Great Season

Matt Ryan leads the NFL in the following categories:

  • Touchdown Rate, at 6.8%
  • Yards per Attempt, at 9.3
  • Adjusted Yards per Attempt, at 10.0
  • Yards per Completion, at 13.3
  • Passer Rating, at 115.5
  • Net Yards per Attempt, at 8.21
  • Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, at 8.90

Ryan also ranks 3rd in passing yards and 3rd in passing touchdowns, despite leading in the rate versions of those categories, because Ryan only ranks 18th in pass attempts, and that’s despite not missing any games. The Falcons rank 27th in pass attempts.  The Falcons rank 12th in rushing attempts, but only rank 25th in total plays.

Why is that? Well, Atlanta only ranks 27th in offensive drives.  And why is that? One reason is that the Falcons defense isn’t good at getting off the field. The Falcons defense is allowing 6.1 plays per drive, at a 2:45 minute clip per drive, and resulting in 2.18 points per drive. All three of those metrics place Atlanta in the bottom quarter of the league, as does Atlanta’s 41.6% third down rate.  Even worse, the Falcons have the worst red zone defense in the league.

The Falcons have also scored 5 return touchdowns this year, which negated five potential possessions for the offense.  But there’s another reason Atlanta has so few drives and plays this year: the offense is really, really good. Just 55 drives have ended in a punt or turnover this year, the fewest in the league.  The Falcons are also the only team to have over half of its drives end in a score. If Atlanta had more three-and-outs, they’d have more drives and maybe more plays, but completed passes keep the clock running.

If the Falcons had a better defense, Ryan would probably have more pass attempts this year, and he might be producing some better raw numbers. If he had 5,200 passing yards, it would be clearer to the average fan that this is a historically great season. And because Atlanta tends to run near the goal line, the team ranks 3rd in rushing touchdowns, which depresses Ryan’s touchdown totals (though provides some assistance to his yards per attempt numbers). Instead, we have to focus on his rate numbers.  So, which league-leading rate number is the best? [click to continue…]

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Oakland is going to the playoffs, but the Raiders will do so without starting quarterback Derek Carr. The third-year quarterback had a breakout season, driven in large part by his ability to minimize bad plays: Carr leads the NFL with a 2.8% sack rate, and his 1.1% interception rate ranks 4th in the league. Oakland went 12-3 in games started by Carr, but after breaking his fibula in a win over the Colts, the Raiders are now turning to Matt McGloin to lead them in the postseason. [Update: With McGloin hurt, Connor Cook will now be making his first career NFL start in the playoffs, the first quarterback to do that since at least 1950.]

Oakland isn’t the only team switching quarterbacks as we enter January. Houston started massive bust Brock Osweiler for the first 14 games of the season, and were rewarded with the worst quarterback play in the NFL. The Texans turned to Tom Savage early in the Jaguars game last week; Savage led Houston to a come-from-behind victory to earn the starting job. He struggled against Cincinnati in his first start, but he’s going to be the guy in the playoffs despite starting just one or two games all year (Houston could, in theory, rest Savage this week, as the Texans are locked in to the 4 seed).

Finally, there are the Miami Dolphins. After years of “will he or won’t he?” play from Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins are finally going to the playoffs…. but maybe without Tannehill. The perennially on-the-verge-of-breaking-out quarterback sprained his ACL and MCL against Arizona three weeks ago, leading his status for the playoffs in doubt. But backup Matt Moore led a game-winning drive against the Cardinals, excelled against the Jets, and was up-and-down in an overtime win against Buffalo on Sunday.

Assuming Moore starts in the playoffs, he’ll be the third quarterback this season to start a playoff game despite fewer than six regular season starts. Here’s every example in NFL history where that happened: [click to continue…]

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Joe Flacco’s Career, My Graphic Novel

My favorite measure of quarterback play is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. For new readers, ANY/A is simply yards per attempt, but it includes sacks (both in the denominator and with those yards lost deducted from the numerator) and adjustments for touchdowns (20-yard bonus) and interceptions (45-yard penalty).

I am going to use a modified version of that formula today, by basing my formula around yards per dropback rather than yards per attempt. The only difference? Spikes are discarded, scrambles (and yards gained on scrambles) are included, but those are both improvements to the formula.

With that said, here is Joe Flacco‘s modified ANY/A average in every game of his career, plotted from his first game in week 1 of 2008 through week 7 of 2016.  I have made the data points that represent playoff games larger and in yellow.  The four dots next to each and relatively high on the graph represent, of course, his Super Bowl run in 2012.

flacco [click to continue…]

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Adam Steele is back for another guest post. You can view all of Adam’s posts here. As always, we thank him for contributing.


Previously, I introduced my new metric — Adjusted Points Per Drive — for measuring team offense. I thought it would be fun to apply the same methodology to quarterbacks, which I what I’m doing today. I highly encourage you to go back and read the previous post if you haven’t already, because I don’t want to clutter today’s post by repeating all of the calculation details.

Unfortunately, I don’t have drive stats for individual games, so there’s going to be some approximation here. To calculate a quarterback’s career Adjusted Points Per Drive (AjPPD), I simply take his team’s AjPPD from each of his playing seasons and weight those seasons by games started. This will give us a measure of a quarterback’s scoring efficiency, but it doesn’t account for volume or longevity. That’s where Adjusted Offensive Points (AjPts) comes in handy.

I assign each QB a portion of his teams’ Adjusted Points, then compare that to league average to calculate Points Over Average (POA). The formula for calculating a given season’s POA = (Tm AjPts – 315) * (GS / 16). The 315 figure is derived from multiplying my normalized baselines of 1.75 AjPPD by 180 drives per year, meaning the average team scores 315 Adjusted Points per season.

I’ll use Ben Roethlisberger’s 2015 season as an example: Pittsburgh scored 400 Adjusted Points and Ben started 11 games, so his 2015 campaign is worth (400 – 315) * (11 / 16) = 30 POA. Do this for every season and we have Career POA, which is the primary metric I’ll be using here. However, some people prefer to rank quarterbacks based on their peak years rather than their entire career, so I added the “Peak” column which is the sum of each quarterback’s three best POA seasons.

This study includes all QB’s who started their first game in 1997 or later, and made at least 40 starts between 1997 and 2015 (partial numbers from 2016 are not included). These criteria leaves us with 56 quarterbacks. Before we dig into the results, it’s worth noting that the correlation between Career POA and ANY/A+ is a healthy 0.92. We all know that the NFL is a passing league, but drive efficiency is even more dominated by the passing game than I thought. According to r2, 85% of the variance in Adjusted Points Per Drive is explained by a basic measure of passing efficiency. That doesn’t leave much room for the running game to have an impact. In fact, I’ll go as far to say that rushing efficiency has no appreciable impact on scoring for the majority of teams. That’s not to say running the ball is useless; offenses must run occasionally to keep the defense honest, and running comes in handy for converting short yardage and bleeding the clock. But, to quote Ron Jaworski, “Points come out of the passing game!”

Time for the rankings… [click to continue…]

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The 2010 Draft Class was not very good when it came to quarterbacks.  Take a look:

 
Rnd Pick Tm Player Pos Age To AP1 PB St CarAV DrAV G Cmp Att
Yds TD Int
1 1 STL Sam Bradford QB 22 2016 0 0 4 33 25 66 1444 2387 15509 82 52
3 85 CLE Colt McCoy QB 24 2015 0 0 2 12 10 34 508 842 5586 26 23
5 155 ARI John Skelton QB 22 2012 0 0 0 4 4 20 320 602 3707 15 25
2 48 CAR Jimmy Clausen QB 23 2015 0 0 1 3 0 22 255 472 2520 7 14
1 25 DEN Tim Tebow QB 23 2012 0 0 1 12 11 35 173 361 2422 17 9
6 176 TEN Rusty Smith QB 23 2012 0 0 0 1 1 3 23 45 234 0 4
4 122 PHI Mike Kafka QB 23 2011 0 0 0 0 0 4 11 16 107 0 2
6 204 CAR Tony Pike QB 24 2010 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 12 47 0 0
7 209 BUF Levi Brown QB 23 2010 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 3 24 0 1
5 168 SDG Jonathan Crompton QB 23 0 0 0
6 181 CHI Dan LeFevour QB 23 0 0 0
7 239 NOR Sean Canfield QB 24 0 0 0
7 250 NWE Zac Robinson QB 24 2012 0 0 0 0

So far this year, Bradford is the only quarterback from the 2010 Draft Class to throw a pass, tho McCoy is currently Washington’s backup.  The graph below shows the amount of passes so far this year in 2016 thrown by quarterbacks from each draft class: [click to continue…]

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538: What Is Wrong With Aaron Rodgers?

Today at 538: What is wrong with Aaron Rodgers?

From 2008 to 2014, Rodgers averaged 7.34 yards per dropback,1 according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group. Rodgers’s rate was the second-best during that time period and just 0.01 yards per dropback behind Peyton Manning’s. That sort of dominant play earned Rodgers two MVP awards and helped the Packers win a Super Bowl.

Recently, things haven’t gone quite so well. Rodgers has averaged 5.79 yards per dropback since the start of 2015. Since November of last year, the Packers are just 5-7. And Rodgers is in the middle of a cold spell prolonged enough to prompt his coach to chip in with a vote of confidence — never a great sign. But what’s to blame for the decline — a change in scheme? Rodgers’s skills? The steady physical destruction of his most trusted receivers? That’s tough to untangle, but we can give it a try.

You can read the full article here.

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Sam Bradford, Career Passing By Game

On Sunday night, Sam Bradford had a great game in his first start with the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards, and while he was sacked 4 times (for -32 yards), he also threw for 11 first downs and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. That translates to an 8.40 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, giving 20 yards for every touchdown and deducting for sacks. If you also give him 9 yards for his other 9 first downs (remember, touchdowns are first downs), that means Bradford a 10.7 average.

Was that the best game of Bradford’s uneven career? I thought it might be up there, so I decided to run the numbers. Turns out, Bradford’s had more good games in his 65-game career than I had remembered.

  • In October 2013, Bradford had the most efficient game of his career: he went 12 of 16 for 117 yards with 3 TDs and 9 first downs, and no sacks or interceptions in a blowout over Houston. That gave him a career-high 13.8 ANY/A with the first down bonus included. (
  • As a rookie against the Broncos, Bradford might have had the best combination of quantity and quality in his career: He went 22 of 307 for 308 yards with 3 TDs with 16 first downs, and no interceptions or sack yards lost (he did take two sacks). That gave him a 12.4 ANY/A with the first down bonus, the second highest rate of his career.

The graph below shows all of Bradford’s games and how well he performed (using ANY/A with the first down bonus), in order, and color-coded to match the team he was playing for. I have also included a black line which represents league-average play that season. [click to continue…]

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Today at 538: Putting into context the fact that Dak Prescott, the 135th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, is going to be the Cowboys starting quarterback in week 1. And that Trevor Siemian, a 7th round pick last year who has never seen meaningful action in an NFL game, is going to be the Broncos starter.

This is rarely charted territory in modern history: In the last 30 years, only three rookie quarterbacks drafted outside of the top 100 picks started their team’s season opener: Orton, Chris Weinke in 2001 and Steve Beuerlein in 1988.1 You have to go all the way back to 1977 to find a quarterback not selected in the first 130 picks of the NFL draft who then went on start his team’s season opener as a rookie.

You can view the full article https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/dak-prescott-is-not-your-average-week-1-starting-quarterback/.

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Carson Palmer has had a very good career. He first started with the Bengals at age 25, and was a very good quarterback from ages 26 to 28. Over the next 3 years, his play declined to more solid levels, before holding out in Cincinnati and eventually being traded to Oakland. With the Raiders, Palmer was productive at ages 32 and 33, before moving on to Arizona. There, he was productive again at ages 34 and 35, with the latter season being cut short after six games due to a torn ACL. Then, at age 36, he had a career year, with an MVP-caliber season.

Palmer averaged 8.41 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt last year, which was even better before an ugly performance in a meaningless season finale. The league average was 6.26, and if you define replacement level as 80% of league average, then replacement was 5.01 ANY/A. Palmer had 562 dropbacks last year, and was 3.40 ANY/A above replacement; that translates to being 1908 Adjusted Net Yards above replacement. I used that methodology to chart every season of Palmer’s career; as you can see, 2015 was the best season of his career [click to continue…]

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For over two decades, the Green Bay Packers have been lucky to have a Hall of Fame quarterback. How good have things been? Well, last year was only the third time since 1994 that the Packers finished below league average in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. But in general, Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, and the return of Jordy Nelson should ensure another stellar year for Rodgers.

When discussing Green Bay’s passing attack in the days since the merger, you get a pretty stark split between the pre-Favre/Rodgers eras and the post-Favre/Rodgers eras.  The graph below shows the Packers Relative ANY/A — i.e., the team’s Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt minus the league average ANY/A — in every year since 1970: [click to continue…]

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Today at 538, a look at how no passing attack in the NFL was as reliant on two targets the way the Jets passing attack was last year.

Thought of another way, Marshall and Decker saw 305 targets last year, with all other Jets players combining for nearly an equal number: 297. Yet Marshall/Decker combined for 2,529 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns, and all other Jets combined for 1,641 receiving yards and just seven receiving touchdowns. Marshall and Decker together averaged 8.3 yards per target; all other Jets averaged only 5.5 yards per target.

You can read the full article here.

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