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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.

RkTmOff ANY/AOff RkDef ANY/ADef RkDiffWin %
1Atlanta Falcons9.0116.31182.700.688
2New England Patriots8.4625.7892.680.875
3Denver Broncos5.89224.3811.500.563
4Dallas Cowboys7.5636.37221.190.813
5Washington Redskins7.4946.36201.130.531
6Minnesota Vikings6.41165.3331.080.500
7Cincinnati Bengals6.53145.5550.980.406
8Pittsburgh Steelers6.7995.89110.900.688
9Kansas City Chiefs6.51155.7680.740.750
10Seattle Seahawks6.64105.94120.700.656
11Miami Dolphins6.64116.02130.620.625
12New York Giants5.93205.3440.590.688
13San Diego Chargers6.35175.85100.500.313
14Tennessee Titans6.8286.32190.490.563
15Arizona Cardinals5.72235.3020.420.469
16Green Bay Packers7.0866.85250.240.625
17Oakland Raiders7.0376.96260.070.750
18New Orleans Saints7.3657.3831-0.020.438
19Tampa Bay Buccaneers6.03186.3621-0.330.563
20Buffalo Bills5.89216.2217-0.340.438
21Baltimore Ravens5.31265.707-0.400.500
22Indianapolis Colts6.64127.1227-0.490.500
23Chicago Bears5.95196.4924-0.530.188
24Detroit Lions6.56137.2830-0.720.563
25Carolina Panthers5.43246.1716-0.740.375
26Jacksonville Jaguars5.28276.0414-0.760.188
27Philadelphia Eagles5.10286.1515-1.050.438
28Houston Texans4.48315.666-1.180.563
29San Francisco 49ers5.36257.2228-1.860.125
30Los Angeles Rams3.98326.4023-2.410.250
31New York Jets4.55307.2329-2.690.313
32Cleveland Browns4.64297.5032-2.860.063

The Browns, Jets, and Rams rank in the bottom 3 of ANY/A differential, far behind the rest of the league. And while the Texans have justifiably been mocked for making the playoffs despite being so bad — and they are 28th here — note that the Lions aren’t too far behind, at 24th.

Other notes: the top three defenses, and four of the top five, all missed the playoffs. 2016 was a weird year.

The R^2 between ANY/A differential and winning percentage this year was 0.53. The big “overacheivers” were the Raiders and Cowboys, who had perhaps the two best offensive lines in football, and the Texans, who were probably the luckiest team in the NFL. On the other side, the Bears, Chargers, Jaguars, and Bengals were big underachievers.

Passing Value Leaders

How good was Matt Ryan’s 2016 season? The Atlanta quarterback averaged 9.03 ANY/A this year, while the league average was 6.22, slightly below the 2015 mark.  That means Ryan was 2.81 ANY/A above average this year, and he produced at such a level over a whopping 571 dropbacks.  Multiply those two numbers, and it means that Ryan produced 1,604 Adjusted Net Yards of Value over league average, easily the most in the league (and notable as one of the better seasons of all time).

RkQuarterbackTmAgeAttYdsTDIntSkYdsANY/AVALUE
1Matt RyanATL315344944387372359.031604
2Tom BradyNWE39432355428215878.811158
3Dak PrescottDAL234593667234251437.86795
4Kirk CousinsWAS2860649172512231907.45776
5Drew BreesNOR3767352083715271847.27737
6Aaron RodgersGNB336104428407352467.24657
7Derek CarrOAK25560393728616797.20567
8Marcus MariotaTEN234513426269231567.14438
9Ben RoethlisbergerPIT3450938192913171416.98403
10Andrew LuckIND2754542403113412686.84364
11Matthew StaffordDET2859443272410372166.56218
12Russell WilsonSEA2854642192111412936.56201
13Andy DaltonCIN295634206188412646.53187
14Sam BradfordMIN295523877205372766.41114
15Philip RiversSDG3557843863321361886.3796
16Alex SmithKAN324893502158281406.3988
17Ryan TannehillMIA2838929951912292166.2720
18Tyrod TaylorBUF274363023176421926.07-71
19Trevor SiemianDEN2448634011810311876.04-90
20Colin KaepernickSFO293312241164362075.92-108
21Carson PalmerARI3759742332614402816.03-118
22Jameis WinstonTAM2256740902818352395.98-142
23Eli ManningNYG3559840272616211425.95-164
24Case KeenumLAR283222201911231405.06-399
25Cam NewtonCAR2751035091914362775.46-413
26Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ344032710121719814.99-520
27Joe FlaccoBAL3167243172015332435.39-584
28Blake BortlesJAX2462539052316341975.23-649
29Carson WentzPHI2460737821614332135.09-720
30Brock OsweilerHOU2651029571516272064.34-1008

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Jared Goff didn’t have enough attempts to qualify, but he finished with an anemic 2.82 ANY/A and a Value of -784. That has to be in the running for worst rookie seasons ever. He is very lucky he didn’t get 19 more attempts, or otherwise he’d always make these leaderboards.

    • NNL

      I will be interested to see who else besides Goff is on the list of worst rookie seasons ever. There’s the argument that “c’mon, you can’t judge a rookie QB playing behind a horrendous o-line and with no weapons”, but anecdotally it seems very rare to have a QB who pans out who is so historically bad early on. Let’s see how Aikman and Bradshaw’s rookie seasons compare when adjusted for era.

      • sacramento gold miners

        At least Aikman and Bradshaw had stability in the area of head coaching, the next Rams HC may not have the confidence in Goff. Way too early to bail on Goff, he was also hurt by Todd Gurley’s disappointing season.

      • Check back tomorrow, my friend.

        • Josh Sanford

          In some ways, it’s very fair to compare number one overall picks from year to year because they almost all come to teams with very seriously flawed offensive lines and below-average skill position players.

    • Adam

      By ANY/A+, Goff had the worst rookie season since the merger (min. 150 attempts). Worse than Alex Smith and Ryan Leaf, yikes!

    • Adam

      The first two picks of the 2016 draft produced a combined -1504 in ANY/A value. Let this be a cautionary tale to not reach for questionable prospects.

  • Adam

    That Broncos pass D was unbelievable in 2016. Almost a full yard per play better than the second best team.

  • John

    Without Gronk on the field Brady has thrown 16 tds to 1 pick. If he can keep this up throughout the playoffs with a win that will be a nice feather in his cap

    • Adam

      While true, this neglects the more important point that Brady has lost a hefty 1.6 Y/A since Gronk went on injured reserve. Brady doesn’t have to take risks because his defense is stout and he almost always plays with the lead, hence his very low INT%.

      • John

        But He’s always had low INT%. He simply protects the football well. Only Rodgers Carr and Kaep are lower all time

        • Adam

          He does protect the ball well, there’s no doubting that. But he’s also played virtually his entire career with good / great defenses and special teams, so he’s rarely been under pressure to force throws while playing from behind. If Brady had to compensate for a 27th ranked scoring defense like Ryan has this year, it’s extremely likely that he’d throw more INT’s.

          • Yeah, no doubt. Luck and Game Script play a huge role in INT%.

          • WR

            “If Brady had to compensate for a 27th ranked scoring defense like Ryan has this year, it’s extremely likely that he’d throw more INT’s.”

            The problem with this statement is that Ryan didn’t really have a high INT rate, either. If you take Ryan’s interception rate and apply it to Brady’s number of attempts, it suggest the NE QB would finish with 5-6 interceptions.

        • Josh Sanford

          After yesterday, Brady has a 3:1 career Td:Int ratio.

          • WR

            Josh, that is really amazing, since he’s maintained it for more than 8,200 attempts. Rodgers is probably even more impressive, at 4.12 in 4,600 attempts.

        • This is the lowest interception percentage era in football history by a good margin, which helps. If you era-adjust, then Kaepernick falls to 19th and Carr to 25th among players with over 1,000 career attempts. Brady winds up at 7th, behind Arnie Hebert, Sammy Baugh, Otto Graham, Roman Gabriel, Joe Montana, and Aaron Rodgers.

          I’d also wager that the percentage of Tom Brady’s pass attempts that came while his team was trailing is historically low, which matters because QBs are significantly more likely to throw interceptions while trailing. In fact, Benjamin Morris of 538 has written about how Aaron Rodgers’ poor record at 4th quarter comebacks might be related to his unwillingness to make the kind of risky throws that can lead to interceptions. See: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/skeptical-football-the-aaron-rodgers-enigma/

          See also:
          https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/2014-nfl-preview-great-players-and-gambling-problems-in-the-nfc-north/
          https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tony-romo-is-skeptical-footballs-gunslinger-of-the-year/

          • WR

            Kibbles failed to mention that Brady has one of the best int rates in history, and also the highest conversion rate of 4th quarter comebacks. So in Brady’s case, cautious play fails as an explanation.

            I don’t get why people like Kibbles are so resistant to the idea that Brady has achieved some historic and impressive things. It just seems like he wants to find a way to minimize the impact of all of his achievements.

            • I’m not the slightest bit resistant to that idea. I don’t know where I’d rank Brady if I ranked all QBs today, because his career is still ongoing. It’s hard to say for sure. But wherever I’m ranking him, it’s “really, really damn high”. Let’s say for the sake of argument I rank him 4th. Is this being “resistant to the idea that Brady has achieved some historic and impressive things”? I mean, the NFL has been around for 97 years, and I’d be saying that in those ninety-seven years of history only THREE players have ever been better at his position. That sounds like I’m doing an awfully terrible job of minimizing the impact of all of his achievements.

              Am I minimizing Brett Favre’s three straight league MVPs if I have him 8th? Minimizing the fact that he played with a rotating cast of garbage at WR and set records for durability that will never be matched? That he resuscitated a storied franchise that had fallen by the wayside and returned it to national prominence? Am I minimizing Dan Marino if he’s 3rd? Am I minimizing John Elway if he’s 6th? There’s a really long list of really great players, and a ton of them were not named Tom Brady. Suggesting that some of them might have existed and also been great is not minimizing Tom Brady, but ignoring the fact that they existed and some of them might have been better than Tom Brady sure as hell is minimizing those other all-time greats.

              If I’m minimizing Tom Brady by saying I have Peyton Manning comfortably ahead still, then aren’t you minimizing Peyton Manning by saying you don’t? Or is it possible that we just have a difference of opinion, and that mine might actually be a valid and impartial reading of the facts in front of me instead of some emotion-driven vendetta?

              Is greatness in football maybe not a zero-sum game? Is it possible for multiple players to be great, for the greatness of one to not take away in the slightest from the greatness of another?

          • eag97a

            Arguing that TB pass attempts are fewer when they are trailing is historically low hides the fact that his qb play helped that team be in the lead and maintain that lead. It’s a bit disingenuous.

            • No, because I’m not talking about how good Tom Brady is as a quarterback, I’m talking about how to interpret his interception rate. Quarterbacks have a higher interception rate while trailing than they do while leading. The best measure of a quarterback’s “true” interception rate, therefore, would take into account game script.

              (I’d also say that his QB play is not the only thing that helped that team be in the lead and maintain that lead. Playing on a team that ranked top 10 in scoring defense 13 times in 16 seasons since he took over as a starter, and never lower than 17th, probably played a factor, too. See also: Brees, Drew.)

              • eag97a

                It still is disingenuous because talking about “true” interception rate, the low interception rates nowadays and the supposed low correlation of interception rates with good qb play buttress your arguments about Ryan vastly outperforming Brady from both rate and volume based qb measures this year. I vote for Ryan since he is better than Brady rates wise, volume wise and led the Falcons to a bye but the difference is not very large and arguing over it is the root of the debate.

              • eag97a

                Using the defense helped much more and using traditional scoring defense ranks while ignoring context like good qb play includes adhering to and helping with the overall game plan like maintaining possession in a ball-control plan is also glossing over the part the offense and the qb plays in winning games. Again I’m not arguing against Ryan here but the general thought about the supposed great divde between individual and team stats in football when the truth is all football stats are team stats.

                • Yes, this is exactly the point I am making. All QB stats are team stats.

                  Take INT%, for instance. A quarterback’s INT% is going to be heavily-tied to the game scripts that he faces. Quarterbacks who face more favorable game scripts tend to throw fewer interceptions. Tom Brady throws the fewest interceptions. Tom Brady faces the most favorable game scripts. These two facts are related to some degree, because all stats are team stats. How much of a role does the game scripts play in his interception%? I don’t know. I’d love to see someone tease that apart and create a game-script-adjusted-INT%. That would give a lot more context to the single INT% stat, which is all I’m shooting for here.

                  This is not a referendum on Tom Brady, or his greatness. Yes, he’s responsible for getting a lot of those favorable game scripts. He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, of course he is. But people are talking about his INT% in isolation from every single other aspect of his play. And all I’m saying is, if that’s what you want to do, fine, let’s do that. Let’s look at his INT% in isolation from every single other aspect of his play. And doing that requires acknowledging the role that game script plays in INT%.

                  Tom Brady throws for fewer INTs than Drew Brees. To what degree is that because Tom Brady is better at avoiding interceptions than Drew Brees, and to what degree is that because the Saints defense is a steaming heap of rubble? I don’t know. That’d be interesting data to have, right? And we could have that data and acknowledge it without it serving as a total referendum on Tom Brady vs. Drew Brees as players, right? We’re just evaluating one aspect of their play. (For the record: I think Tom Brady is a better quarterback than Drew Brees. But you’re damn right I’m curious how much of the INT% difference is a result of game scripts.)

                  • eag97a

                    When you say you are evaluating one aspect of qb play in isolation you are in effect trying to see if that aspect is the product of the individual and not the team (or at least you are trying to dismiss that metric as a team measure and not an individual measure). I say that like in quantum mechanics you can never disentangle individual contributions and team contributions. All we can say IMO is a certain qb led an offense with these numbers. That’s it. To rank them will introduce certain subjectivity in weighing what matters to you as important for successful qb play. I’d also broaden your observation that not just qb metrics but almost all position metrics are team stats and not a product of the individual.

      • Richie

        Brady attempted 43 passes this year in the second half/overtime while his team was tied or trailing by up to 21 points. (Neither of his interceptions came in that circumstance.) Only 18 of his pass attempts came while trailing by more than 3 points.

        Drew Brees had the most attempts in that situation (244), Bortles (238) second and Cousins (236) third. Dak Prescott was the regular starter with the next-fewest attempts to Brady, at 100.

        League average is 2.9% interceptions in the trailing by up to 21 in the second half group.

        All other pass attempts are intercepted at 1.9% rate.

        • Arin Franz

          After reading Sheil Kapadia’s pieces comparing Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, I did a similar review of pass attempts by game state. I haven’t had the chance to update with 2016 stats, but I was surprised by Luck’s % of attempts trailing by 9+.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e88a10782276a68b7137d46c2f38a6d8c8d0455b631f36a4dc39f46b4adaa09.png

        • That’s insane. Part of that is his efficiency and lack of INTs early in games. But damn, it’s not like Brees isn’t efficient either. Scheme is different probably, with Brady dinking and dunking, relying on YAC (which is less risky) while Brees is probably throwing downfield more. But again, it’s not like Brees can’t do this very well, at a HOF level in fact.

  • Interesting to note that Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers outperformed Matt Ryan by about 13% in this metric.

    Not individually. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady combined produced about 13% more value than Matt Ryan did alone.

    • In many ways it’s very different, but at a high level, this is not dissimilar to last year’s MVP debate. Palmer was the clear top passer in the NFL, while Cam was on a team that went 15-1.

      • Yes, the Carson/Cam debate mirrors this one pretty closely, although as you said there are plenty of differences.

        I mentioned elsewhere that the most similar season to Brady’s ’16 I could find, after era-adjusting, was Brian Griese’s 2000. This prompted someone to ask me about the most similar season to Matt Ryan’s 2016. The best I could do was 1989 Joe Montana, minus the comp%, (which was similar overall, but inflated for Montana after era-adjusting because the rest of the league hadn’t adopted WCO concepts yet). Here’s the head-to-head (query generated using gerrymandered cutoffs to return just these two results for easy comparison): http://pfref.com/tiny/2eAJ1

        I find this comparison deliciously ironic, because the biggest argument for Brady uses Joe Montana 1989 as precedent, saying his rate stats were so eye-popping that voters could ignore that he didn’t play a full season. And this argument is deployed against Matt Ryan, a QB who has identically impressive rate stats but who *DID* play a full season.

        • WR

          If 1989 Joe Montana was competing with someone else who had a slightly better anypa that year, in 100 more pass attempts, Montana would not have won the MVP award. That doesn’t devalue the impact of Montana’s 1989 season.

          • What? Who’s talking about devaluing the impact of Joe Montana’s season? I’m simply pointing out that the best argument for voting for Brady as MVP (namely, that Joe Montana once won MVP in an abbreviated season on the strength of insane rate stats), is actually a better argument for voting for Ryan as MVP (namely, that Matt Ryan, not Tom Brady, is the guy with Montana-esque rate stats, and he didn’t play an abbreviated season to boot).

            • WR

              I think the key question here is, how highly do you rate Montana’s 1989 season? I suspect I rate it higher than you do, but Brady’s overall production this year was very close to that level. In 1989, Montana was at 141 anypa+ in 419 drop backs. Brady this year was at 140 anypa+ in 447 drop backs. So if you think Montana’s season was historic, you’d have to say the same about Brady in 2016, and he has also posted insane rate stats.

              I think the reason I have been so far apart from people like Kibbles and Oremland on some of these questions, is because we’re prioritizing different things. I’m generally more impressed by efficiency, and they focus more on volume. That’s fine, we’re just taking different approaches. So looking at Brady and Ryan in 2016, we agree that Ryan should be the MVP. But I disagree with their claims about the distance between the two. Here’s why.

              I start by looking at the rate stats, like ANYPA+, which puts Ryan at 143, and Brady at 140. That’s very close. But Ryan does have a big volume advantage of about 100 pass attempts. That’s significant, and can’t be discounted. But I recognize that like all volume stats, it reflects opportunity. It’s a reflection of circumstances that have nothing to do with play on the field. But if you start by looking at volume, Ryan has a big advantage. And the fact that he’s also ahead by rate stats, if I was putting greater emphasis on volume than efficiency, wouldn’t change my mind. I think this also explains why, for example, I rate Steve Young ahead of Brett Favre. By volume, Favre has Young dominated. But Young’s rate stats are far more impressive, and in my opinion, that’s more valuable, because I know that Favre’s totals are helped by some mediocre seasons where he compiled yards and TDs. That’s just how I choose to look at it.

              Basically, when I look at Brady’s season or Young’s career, I’m more impressed by the rate stats than I am discouraged by the low volume totals. I don’t think anyone is “wrong” for seeing it the other way. It just illustrates a difference in approach and outlook.

  • WR

    Hey Chase, could we get an update to your QB GOAT series? I’d like to see how far the active players have moved up the list.