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

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

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

QuarterbackStartsEarly RecEarly Win%ROC RecROC Win%Early AdjW%ROC AdjW%Diff
Marc Bulger9528-110.71813-430.2320.6440.303-0.341
Mike Livingston7513-20.86718-41-10.3080.6570.356-0.301
Roman Gabriel15773-34-60.67313-30-10.3070.6470.367-0.279
Marc Wilson6031-160.6601-120.0770.6120.333-0.279
Bert Jones9642-260.6185-230.1790.5910.313-0.278
Matt Ryan12656-210.72718-310.3670.6800.406-0.275
Jack Kemp10559-23-30.7126-140.3000.6710.400-0.271
Daunte Culpepper10011-20.84630-570.3450.6360.374-0.263
Doug Flutie6635-160.6863-120.2000.6340.371-0.262
Kurt Warner11534-80.81032-410.4380.7100.452-0.258
Mark Rypien7842-180.7005-130.2780.6500.395-0.255
Donovan McNabb16196-52-10.6482-100.1670.6300.375-0.255
Johnny Unitas186116-56-40.6702-80.2000.6530.400-0.253
Joe Kapp4823-11-30.6621-100.0910.6050.355-0.250
Milt Plum10344-18-20.70312-23-40.3590.6550.407-0.248
Bobby Hebert10053-310.6313-130.1880.6060.361-0.245
Danny White9259-230.7203-70.3000.6760.433-0.243
Rex Grossman4717-50.7738-170.3200.6430.400-0.243
Bernie Kosar10840-23-10.63313-310.2950.6010.359-0.242
Steve Spurrier3813-10-10.5630-140.0000.5340.294-0.240
Colin Kaepernick4724-100.7063-100.2310.6300.394-0.236
George Blanda10442-24-10.63411-260.2970.6030.368-0.235
Len Dawson15990-46-80.6534-110.2670.6340.400-0.234
Chad Henne537-30.70011-320.2560.5670.333-0.233
Danny Kanell248-2-10.7732-110.1540.5970.364-0.233
Philip Rivers16087-530.6215-150.2500.6060.375-0.231
Kyle Orton8227-120.69215-280.3490.6270.397-0.230
Ken Stabler14682-31-10.72414-180.4380.6900.462-0.229
Zeke Bratkowski479-50.6437-25-10.2270.5590.330-0.229
Y.A. Tittle13577-44-30.6331-8-20.1820.6150.387-0.227
Mike Tomczak7319-30.86423-280.4510.6900.465-0.226
Pat Haden5529-9-10.7566-100.3750.6690.444-0.225
Jim Hart18069-47-50.59118-410.3050.5780.354-0.224
Tom Brady223166-470.7796-40.6000.7550.533-0.222
Bob Avellini5021-140.6002-130.1330.5640.343-0.221
Jon Kitna12411-40.73339-700.3580.6000.380-0.220
Bart Starr15780-36-50.68214-21-10.4030.6560.438-0.219
Jay Fiedler6034-150.6943-80.2730.6380.419-0.218
Ron Jaworski14349-270.64524-42-10.3660.6150.397-0.218
Joe Namath12958-45-40.5614-180.1820.5510.333-0.218
Steve Bono4224-70.7744-70.3640.6670.452-0.215
Vince Ferragamo5324-140.6323-120.2000.5860.371-0.215
Jim Everett15330-200.60034-690.3300.5710.358-0.214
Kyle Boller4720-160.5560-110.0000.5360.323-0.213
Aaron Brooks9036-340.5142-180.1000.5110.300-0.211
Trent Edwards3310-50.6674-140.2220.5710.368-0.203
Aaron Rodgers11976-330.6974-60.4000.6670.467-0.200
Mark Brunell15144-230.65734-500.4050.6210.423-0.198
John Hadl16777-59-90.5625-170.2270.5550.357-0.197
James Harris4120-70.7415-90.3570.6380.441-0.197

Also of note: Matt Ryan checks in at #6 in this study,1 thanks to a 18-31 record after starting his career at 56-21.

Now let’s look at things the other way,2, where Steve Young will be our guiding force. The Hall of Fame quarterback began his career for the Bucs with a 3-16 record; he then lost his first start with San Francisco, too. At that point, he had a 0.150 career winning percentage, and an adjusted winning percentage of 0.325. But for the rest of his career, he went 91-32, for a 0.740 winning percentage and a 0.706 adjusted winning percentage. That’s an improvement of 0.381 adjusted winning percentage points, the most ever.

QuarterbackStartsEarly RecEarly Win%ROC RecROC Win%Early AdjW%ROC AdjW%Diff
Steve Young1433-170.15091-320.7400.3250.7060.381
Peyton Manning2653-130.188183-660.7350.3610.7170.356
Bart Starr1573-16-10.17591-41-50.6820.3380.6590.322
Troy Aikman1653-180.14391-530.6320.3170.6160.299
Joe Montana1643-80.273114-390.7450.4190.7170.297
Billy Kilmer11411-290.27550-23-10.6820.3500.6440.294
Dan Pastorini1175-270.15651-340.6000.2880.5810.292
Jim Kelly1604-130.23597-460.6780.3780.6560.278
Bob Griese1518-19-20.31084-37-10.6930.3880.6650.278
Jake Plummer13630-520.36639-150.7220.3920.6620.270
Cam Newton789-190.32136-13-10.7300.3960.6640.268
Steve DeBerg14024-67-10.26629-190.6040.3080.5740.265
Earl Morrall10230-32-20.48433-4-10.8820.4880.7500.262
Warren Moon2038-310.20594-700.5730.3050.5650.260
Jim McMahon975-90.35762-210.7470.4410.6990.258
Aaron Rodgers1195-100.33375-290.7210.4290.6850.257
Terry Bradshaw1588-130.38199-380.7230.4390.6940.255
Carson Palmer15957-710.44526-50.8390.4530.7060.253
Fran Tarkenton23962-86-40.42162-23-20.7240.4300.6820.252
Alex Smith12118-310.36750-21-10.7010.4060.6580.252
Dan Fouts1713-20-10.14683-640.5650.3070.5570.250
Bill Nelsen742-110.15438-20-30.6480.3640.6110.247
Tom Flores677-200.25924-12-40.6500.3620.6000.238
Don Meredith859-17-20.35739-16-20.7020.4170.6490.233
Jim Plunkett14429-490.37243-230.6520.3980.6160.218
Tobin Rote11534-58-30.37414-5-10.7250.3960.6130.217
Y.A. Tittle1352-80.20076-44-50.6280.4000.6100.210
Bert Jones963-150.16744-340.5640.3420.5510.209
Sonny Jurgensen14956-71-70.44413-20.8670.4510.6570.206
Randall Cunningham1352-7-10.25080-450.6400.4170.6210.204
Jeff Garcia1164-160.20054-420.5630.3500.5520.202
Phil Simms1599-160.36086-480.6420.4220.6230.201
Tony Banks7813-290.31022-140.6110.3710.5710.200
Joe Theismann12431-320.49246-150.7540.4940.6910.197
Jack Trudeau490-120.00019-180.5140.3130.5090.196
Bubby Brister751-100.09136-280.5630.3550.5480.193
Gus Frerotte9330-42-10.41815-50.7500.4350.6250.190
Babe Parilli1025-150.25044-31-70.5790.3750.5640.189
Ryan Fitzpatrick10525-49-10.34018-120.6000.3740.5600.186
Frank Ryan877-8-20.47150-19-10.7210.4860.6720.186
Tom Brady2237-30.700165-480.7750.5670.7510.184
Trent Dilfer1138-190.29650-360.5810.3830.5660.183
Drew Brees2169-170.346115-750.6050.4130.5950.182
Bill Munson667-20-40.29020-14-10.5860.3730.5550.182
Gary Cuozzo402-80.20019-110.6330.4000.5800.180
John Friesz387-210.2506-40.6000.3540.5330.179
John Elway2314-60.400144-76-10.6540.4670.6410.174
John Hadl1671-90.10081-67-90.5450.3670.5400.173
Lynn Dickey11116-38-20.30429-25-10.5360.3550.5270.171
Brian Griese832-80.20043-300.5890.4000.5700.170

What do you think? Is 20 games of .500 play the right number? And, whether it is or isn’t, what stands out to you?

  1. Minimum 10 games in both the early and rest-of-career stretches. []
  2. Subject to that same 10-game minimum for each stretch. []
  • 20 games feels rather small–it’s letting some small sample swings look more dramatic than they probably should.

    I love Tom Brady’s presence on the declines list because of his horrendous 6-4 finish. 🙂

    Plus Jack Trudeau on the biggest improvements! He has the lowest early win% AND ROC win% of anyone on the list.

  • Richie

    It’s always fun when names I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen before, come at the top of these lists. I don’t remember hearing of Mike Livingston before.

    • Yeah, I have seen him only in the context of the ’69 Chiefs. He wound up playing as much as Dawson, and actually had a better ANY/A (though worse NY/A) due to a very good INT rate for that era. I don’t know anything about him, but I suspect he was thought of as one of the best backup QBs of his era. I mean, entering the ’72 season, he had a career record of 9-0 and had been in the NFL for four years.

      • Richie
        • Richie

          Is it just my age, or were football cards in the 1970s the best? I started collecting cards around 1982-1983, so those were the cards I was first exposed to. After spending many hours going through those cards, my mom found a box of cards for sale at a garage sale. It was a ton of stuff from 1975-1980. Going through all those cards was one of the most memorable things of my childhood. So many years mixed together. There were thousands of cards. I spent weeks sorting them into their correct year and number sequence.

          I miss collecting cards. I tried getting into it again a couple years ago, but it just wasn’t as fun as I remembered.

          • sacramento gold miners

            The weird part about collecting Topps football cards in the 70s which the lack of team logos on the helmets. That’s why you see so many shots of players like Mike Livingston without a helmet. Topps and the NFL couldn’t come to a licensing agreement until the early 1980s, and that’s when normalcy returned.

            • Richie

              Yes! In fact, that caused me to assume that the actual NFL helmets had no logos for a few years in the late 70’s.

          • I think it’s exposure-related as much as anything. My father had bunches of cards from the ’80s when I was a kid but I rarely saw newer cards, so ’70s cards look old and dopey to me while newer cards look like they’re trying too hard. I would bet that if I had grown up collecting, I would have thought that his ’80s cards looked old and dopey and ’90s cards were the best.

            I did collect baseball cards much more–way more stats. 😉

      • Richie
  • Roger Kirk

    Didja notice Brady made both lists? He was among the most improved comparing his latest 213 games to his paltry 7-3 start and among the most diminished (well, “unimproved” isn’t the right word) comparing his latest 6-4 to his first 213 games.