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

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

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

The table below contains raw passing and rushing stats and is presented in alphabetical order. Read it thus: Aaron Rodgers has attempted 153 passes (excluding spikes) on 161 dropbacks. He has gained 1,236 yards and thrown 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He has taken 8 sacks for 52 yards, and his passes have picked up 53 first downs. He has carried the ball 23 times for 150 yards (excluding kneels and their attendant yardage losses), 0 touchdowns, and 9 first downs. Between pass and rush plays, he has 1 fumble.

Aaron RodgersGNB15316112361328525323150091
Alex SmithKC173194129153211195623112082
Andrew LuckIND11612175357518371069062
Andy DaltonCIN1601661518112632621861261
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT8994912425353900000
Blake BortlesJAX187201129910414626513113082
Brandon WeedenDAL981067392286235534030
Brian HoyerHOU951007805253738114011
Cam NewtonCAR1211288097275045372012171
Carson PalmerARI146153131613373563316012
Colin KaepernickSF15116798945169847322211124
Derek CarrOAK16216911718374956232012
Drew BreesNOR170184130463141045413004
Eli ManningNYG19720114171024566542033
Jameis WinstonTB1521631174771182551864173
Jay CutlerCHI13213987863731461171063
Joe FlaccoBAL1932011262658525374233
Josh McCownCLE149162120361138452635133
Kirk CousinsWAS1851911224566316932122
Marcus MariotaTEN1291431015831486531072043
Matt HasselbeckIND7679495303162414001
Matt RyanATL18519414566495573648021
Matthew StaffordDET19520212056873463522021
Nick FolesSTL1401499566596043724124
Peyton ManningDEN18920112346712796200000
Philip RiversSD189203161410514867515002
Russell WilsonSEA1491711192632212455312050112
Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ1451479247628441156061
Ryan MallettHOU1471517703441342312120
Ryan TannehillMIA170180108075109848629004
Sam BradfordPHI19019712818675258525011
Teddy BridgewaterMIN1151287742213113391162181
Tom BradyNE1601711387110116269610152
Tony RomoDAL72755513231830112011
Tyrod TaylorBUF137151109794141004925194273

Despite nursing an injured, old shoulder, Drew Brees leads the league in dropbacks per game (46.0 through five weeks). It would be nice to take some pressure off Brees, but his inept defense all but guarantees the Saints will be involved in high scoring affairs.

Despite having Lamar Miller on the roster, Ryan Tannehill ranks second in the league with 45.0 dropbacks per game. If you adjust for average Game Script, the Dolphins rate as the third pass-happiest team in the league.4

Tom Brady leads the most pass-happy offense in the league, but I’d rather talk about his rushing. If you look at his official statistics, you’ll see 10 carries for 4 yards and a touchdown (he also has 2 fumbles, but they both came on pass plays). Brady has kneeled 4 times, losing 6 yards in the process, so it’s fairer to say Brady has 6 carries for 10 yards. That’s doesn’t look very impressive until you break it down further. On those six carries, Brady has picked up a touchdown and 4 non-TD first downs. His only failed carry was a 2-yard tote on first and 10 versus the Cowboys.

The combination of Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett has dropped back to pass 251 times (50.2 per game). The tandem of Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky has dropped back 240 times (48.0 per game). I don’t know how fans of Houston or Detroit can feel good about teams so reliant on Bryan Mallyer and Mathan Staffovsky.

Basic Rate Stats

This table contains some basic passing rate stats and is sorted by adjusted net passing yards per dropback (ANY/A). All numbers are calculated with spikes removed from the denominator.5 I imagine you know what most of these mean, so I’ll explain the potentially ambiguous columns: Andy Dalton throws for a first down on 38.8% of his attempts and 57.4% of his completions. His average completion gains 14.1 yards, and he completes passes on 65.1% of his dropbacks. His passer rating is 115.6, and his Passing Equivalency Rating is 98.76.

Andy DaltonCIN67.5%9.496.9%1.3%3.6%38.8%57.4%14.165.1%115.698.768.9510.309.73
Ben RoethlisbergerPIT75.3%10.254.5%2.3%5.3%43.8%58.2%13.671.3%
Carson PalmerARI65.8%9.018.9%2.1%4.6%43.2%65.6%13.762.8%115.695.418.379.879.19
Tom BradyNE72.5%8.676.9%0%6.4%43.1%59.5%12.067.8%121.5111.217.7510.049.04
Aaron RodgersGNB70.6%8.088.5%1.3%5%34.6%49.1%11.467.1%117.4101.017.359.198.41
Eli ManningNYG66.5%7.195.1%1%2%33.5%50.4%10.865.2%100.283.817.027.757.57
Brian HoyerHOU62.1%8.215.3%2.1%5%40%64.4%13.259%96.874.907.438.327.53
Philip RiversSD71.4%8.545.3%2.7%6.9%39.7%55.6%12.066.5%103.879.097.538.417.40
Josh McCownCLE67.8%8.074%0.7%8%34.9%51.5%11.962.4%102.887.846.918.587.37
Matt RyanATL64.9%7.873.2%2.2%4.6%39.5%60.8%12.161.9%90.767.677.227.556.91
Matt HasselbeckIND63.2%6.514%0%3.8%31.6%50%10.360.8%95.083.466.067.306.82
Derek CarrOAK63.6%7.234.9%1.9%4.1%34.6%54.4%11.461%93.973.186.647.386.79
Tony RomoDAL75%7.654.2%2.8%4%41.7%55.6%10.272%98.872.917.117.246.71
Marcus MariotaTEN63.6%7.876.2%2.3%9.8%41.1%64.6%12.457.3%98.876.156.508.066.67
Tyrod TaylorBUF70.1%8.016.6%2.9%9.3%35.8%51%11.463.6%103.677.976.608.016.60
Drew BreesNOR66.5%7.673.5%1.8%7.6%31.8%47.8%11.561.4%93.972.966.527.586.44
Cam NewtonCAR55.4%6.695.8%1.7%5.5%37.2%67.2%12.152.3%88.569.125.937.106.32
Blake BortlesJAX57.8%6.955.4%2.1%7%34.8%60.2%12.053.7%
Russell WilsonSEA71.1%8.004%2%12.9%36.9%51.9%11.362%99.777.776.257.906.16
Jay CutlerCHI60.6%6.654.6%2.3%5%34.9%57.5%11.057.6%86.062.896.096.545.99
Brandon WeedenDAL72.5%7.542%2%7.6%35.7%49.3%10.467%
Alex SmithKC63%7.462.9%1.7%10.8%32.4%51.4%11.856.2%
Sam BradfordPHI63.2%6.744.2%3.2%3.6%30.5%48.3%10.760.9%83.755.866.246.165.68
Jameis WinstonTB56.6%7.724.6%4.6%6.8%36.2%64%13.752.8%77.645.906.706.575.63
Joe FlaccoBAL62.7%6.543.1%2.6%4%27.5%43.8%10.460.2%81.155.806.025.995.50
Kirk CousinsWAS68.1%6.622.7%3.2%3.1%37.3%54.8%9.766%81.953.006.255.705.36
Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ60.7%6.374.8%4.1%1.4%30.3%50%10.559.9%78.145.416.235.485.35
Nick FolesSTL57.9%6.834.3%3.6%6%30.7%53.1%11.854.4%
Ryan TannehillMIA57.1%6.354.1%2.9%5.6%28.2%49.5%11.153.9%77.650.835.465.854.98
Peyton ManningDEN63.5%6.533.2%3.7%6%32.8%51.7%10.359.7%77.446.265.755.504.78
Teddy BridgewaterMIN67%6.731.7%1.7%10.2%33.9%50.7%10.160.2%84.562.975.166.304.77
Matthew StaffordDET64.6%6.183.1%4.1%3.5%32.3%50%9.662.4%74.841.645.804.954.61
Colin KaepernickSF62.9%6.552.7%3.3%9.6%31.1%49.5%10.456.9%76.847.565.345.594.47
Andrew LuckIND56%6.494.3%6%4.1%31.9%56.9%11.653.7%
Ryan MallettHOU53.1%5.242%2.7%2.7%28.6%53.9%9.951.7%63.637.125.014.424.22

The dropoff from Ben Roethlisberger to Michael Vick was a significant one. The sample size is small, but Roethlisberger was on his way to contending for his first MVP award. Cincinnati may be too far ahead of the pack for the Steelers to win the division, but Big Ben’s return (in concert with a surprisingly not bad defense) could mean a wild card spot and a chance to terrify a home team with a dynamic offense.

I keep waiting for Andy Dalton to turn back into a tiger-striped pumpkin, but each week he keeps playing at an MVP level. He is at or near the league lead in most important passing categories. Perhaps Josh McCown is the only pumpkin in the AFC North patch this year.

Jameis Winston is what happens when you trust Lovie Smith with a promising rookie quarterback. I am generally skeptical of quarterbacks from national championship winning college teams, but Winston is playing better than the traditional numbers indicate. His 13.65 yards per completion indicates the Bucs aren’t handling him with kid gloves in a dink and dunk offense; they’re trusting him to put those massive receivers to use.

Ryan Mallett and Matthew Stafford have two of the strongest arms in the NFL, so you would expect them to air it out regularly. However, they occupy two of the bottom three spots in yards per completed pass. Kirk Cousins is the only other qualifying passer under 10 yards in the metric.6

With a 22 sacks and a 12.87% sack rate through five games, Russell Wilson is on pace for just over 70 sacks. That would hold the dubious rank of third all time. Although he ranks sixth in the NFL with a 71.1% completion rate, his rank drops to fourteenth when you sort by completions per dropback.7 I’m not going out on a limb saying sacks are killing the Seattle offense.

Adjusted Stats

This table is based on Total Adjusted Yards (TAY) and is sorted by value over average. Read it thus: Andy Dalton has turned 184 action plays into 2,187 TAY at 11.89 per play. This is 3.37 TAY/P better than the average of the rest of the league, giving him (187 * 3.37 =) 620 marginal adjusted yards of value (124 per game).

1Andy DaltonCIN184218711.893.37620124
2Tom BradyNE177208311.773.24574144
3Carson PalmerARI156183111.743.20499100
4Ben RoethlisbergerPIT94118212.574.02378126
5Aaron RodgersGNB184192010.431.8734569
6Philip RiversSD204204310.011.4529559
7Matt RyanATL20019859.931.3527054
8Eli ManningNYG20620209.811.2325351
9Brian HoyerHOU101104810.381.7918160
10Josh McCownCLE16816069.560.9716341
11Derek CarrOAK17115709.180.589920
12Tony RomoDAL767429.761.168844
13Cam NewtonCAR16515029.100.508321
14Marcus MariotaTEN15313929.100.497619
15Tyrod TaylorBUF17615618.870.26469
16Blake BortlesJAX21418878.820.21459
17Brandon WeedenDAL1119858.870.26297
18Matt HasselbeckIND807078.840.22189
19Russell WilsonSEA20217488.650.0482
20Jay CutlerCHI15012428.28-0.34-52-13
21Drew BreesNOR18515208.22-0.41-76-19
22Kirk CousinsWAS19415808.14-0.49-95-19
23Teddy BridgewaterMIN13910647.65-0.98-137-34
24Alex SmithKC21717307.97-0.67-145-29
25Jameis WinstonTB18114127.80-0.84-152-30
26Ryan FitzpatrickNYJ15812047.62-1.02-161-40
27Sam BradfordPHI20215787.81-0.83-168-34
28Andrew LuckIND1318816.73-1.93-253-84
29Nick FolesSTL15610776.90-1.76-274-55
30Peyton ManningDEN20114647.28-1.38-277-55
31Joe FlaccoBAL20815067.24-1.42-296-59
32Ryan MallettHOU15410296.68-1.98-306-61
33Matthew StaffordDET20714597.05-1.62-336-67
34Colin KaepernickSF19913736.90-1.77-353-71
35Ryan TannehillMIA18611956.42-2.26-420-105

Brady, Dalton, Carson Palmer, and Aaron Rodgers are the frontrunners for league MVP right now. Dalton leads the league in total value, while Brady is tops in value per game. Palmer’s career resurgence is based on trusting both his coach’s scheme and his receivers to make plays. His high variance style has worked out thus far, and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his gaudy stats for the rest of the season. Rodgers has had to relearn how to play quarterback in the only offense he has ever known as a pro. With deep threat/preternatural route runner Jordy Nelson out of the lineup, Rodgers has had to focus on shorter routes. He has cut down on his once high sack rate while maintaining superb completion, touchdown, and interception rates, but his passes have not traveled nearly as far in the air as we’ve seen in previous years.

Cam Newton has his share of supporters as an early season MVP candidate, and not without reason. He is directly responsible for every offensive touchdown the Panthers have scored this season. He is producing decent stats even with a number one wideout who is tied for the league lead in drops.8

Blake Bortles and Derek Carr are not currently great NFL quarterbacks. However, this season they have shown me that I may soon have to eat my words for writing them off prior to the season.

  1. Keep in mind this was written before the Thursday night game featuring Matt Ryan and Drew Brees. []
  2. Quarterbacks are currently on pace for just over 21,000 plays, which would be the highest total in history by a small margin. []
  3. The NFL official requirement for rate stat qualification. []
  4. Chicken or egg? Would the Dolphins have a better Game Script if they weren’t so reliant on an inefficient passing game? []
  5. This doesn’t make a big difference right now, as Blake Bortles and Carson Palmer are the only quarterbacks with more than one spike, but it adds up over the course of a career. []
  6. I have seen the numbers, and I have watched the tape. I do not see how any sane person can start Mallett over Hoyer. []
  7. He also drops from tenth to eighteenth when you move from Y/A to NY/A. []
  8. Ted Ginn has 12 catches and 5 drops. If that sounds bad, it’s because it is bad. []
  • sacramento gold miners

    Good stuff, and I enjoyed the piece on CFB National Champion QBs in the NFL. I remember Matt Cavanaugh, and he was a very talented passer who was better suited as a backup in the NFL. Todd Blackledge was worse, had the deer in the headlights look. Winning will always be important for scouts to consider, and there were red flags about Geno Smith coming out of college when his West Virginia team imploded during his final year. I would say it’s still difficult to predict success in the pros for college football QBs, and 50 years from now, we’re likely to see many failures from NC winning QBs. Many of today’s college QBs have problems calling plays from a huddle, or taking a snap from center.

    For decades, college football was such a run based sport, pro scouts just didn’t have the number of plays to evaluate the prospects. National Title teams reflected this trend, and I’m not sure there were as many QBs on those older teams as interested in playing the same position in the pros. Also, college football was considered more of a different entity than it is today, and developing talent for the NFL wasn’t emphasized the way it is today. I’m watching the 1981 Orange Bowl right now, and there’s very little talk about how the seniors on either teams will translate their skill set to the NFL.

    • Thanks, SGM. I personally lament the fact that we never got to see what could have become of Pat Trammell as a pro. Vince Lombardi practically begged Bear Bryant to talk Trammell into playing for the Packers, and that was with Bart Starr on the roster. Sadly, Trammell had inoperable cancer that would have claimed his life regardless of the path he chose.

  • Thanks to Chase for letting me throw up some numbers here. And apologies to anyone viewing this on a phone. It’s quite a few columns, I know.

    • andy

      Thanks, Bryan. The Gridlife is pretty awesome. Even though you might be “wrong” about Bortles and Carr, it is still very early. I am not saying that we should “wish” these young qbs not to do well, but the fact of the matter is that, based from a historical trend, they won’t fare well in the future. But I guess there is always an exception. Let’s wait until the end of the season. But so far, they have played pretty well, especially w/ Carr.

      • Honestly, whenever I think that a player is going to fail I hope I am wrong about it. Sure, a player may play for a team I don’t particularly care for, but to wish for some guy fresh out of college to completely fail to realize the dream he’d been working his whole life to achieve….well that’s the mark of a sociopath if you ask me.

        From what little I watched of Bortles, Carr, Teddy, and Manziel in college (no fewer than 2 but no more than 4 games of any of them), Teddy was the only one I felt confident in. If they could all be great, I’d be happy about it, and I think it would be good for football. Really, I think it would be great if Manziel could keep up the “bad boy” act and also be a great player (a la Ken Stabler). He’d be the kind of villain the NFL needs (not like your Hardy/Hernandez types, who are actual, real life villains).

        • andy

          Agree. Regarding to the young qbs, I feel the same way about TB. Actually, I followed DC, TB, and JM pretty closely, especially TB. I saw most of his games and just like his demeanor, very poise, very calm. Doesn’t have all the physical attributes, but that mental toughness and calmness gets a good perspective from me. I saw lots of DC because I live here in the west coast. Of course, JM, it seemed he was on TV every week back then. Also, I am a strong believer in a qb’s learning curve, my “breaking point” is after his 4th year. After the 4th year, you can pretty much know what you are going to get. But today’s game has changed so much in the context of lots of money, lots of expectations, and no patience. I’d think it is the hardest position, in professional sports, to play and master it. Only a few can claim that “title”. Hopefully, these young guns can step up because the “old’ guns are getting up there.

  • Trepur

    What’s MAY?

    • It should probably be “marginal total adjusted yards,” but that’s a bit of a cumbersome read.

      • Trepur

        Thanks. I’d suggest maybe renaming it to TAYAA, since it’s a TAY above average stat. But that might be a bit cumbersome as well.