This website has been pretty light on coverage of Colin Kaepernick, despite his name turning into a traffic boom for the rest of the football world. The last time Kaepernick’s name appeared in a headline was over a year ago, when I wrote about him declining for three straight years (that ended last season). In fact, Kaepernick’s name has appeared in the text of just three articles at FP in 2017, where his name was used in passing in each case.
And I’m not interested in getting into the usual Kaepernick debate. But there is something that Football Perspective is well-equipped to address: the citing of Kaepernick’s 16/4 TD/INT ratio as evidence of his productive play. Regular readers know that I’m not a fan of TD/INT ratio, and Kaepernick is a pretty good case study in why TD/INT ratio is a poor way to judge a quarterback. A 4.00 TD/INT ratio is very good, no doubt: but in the abstract, it doesn’t mean much. And what do I mean by the abstract?
For starters, it only tells us what happened on 5% of all dropbacks Kaepernick had last year. The much more predictive measure of passing performance is Net Yards per Attempt, and there, Kaepernick ranked 29th out of 30 qualifying passers.1 And, for what it’s worth, he has the worst NY/A average over the past two seasons among the 35 passers with at least 400 attempts since 2015.
So we have a pretty significant disconnect, with Kaepernick ranking 2nd from the bottom, ahead of only Brock Osweiler, in passing efficiency, but tied for 6th with Sam Bradford but in TD/INT ratio. The best thing to do, of course, is to combine the two metrics as we do in ANY/A. There, Kaepernick ranks 23rd out of the 30 qualifying passers. That’s bad, but not horrible, for a starting quarterback.
Anyway, the above is just background for the trivia search I wanted to run. Kaepernick supporters can point to his great TD/INT ratio, but we know that’s a misleading figure give his NY/A average. So the real question is, how unusual is it for a passer to rank 6th in TD/INT ratio but 2nd-to-last in NY/A? As it turns out, pretty unusual. Since the merger, it’s happened just 11 times, with Ken O’Brien being the most extreme example. In 1988, O’Brien had the 2nd-best TD/INT ratio (15/7) in the NFL behind Dave Krieg (18/8), but ranked 27th out of 28 qualifying passers in NY/A.
The table below shows the 11 passers since 1970 to rank in the top 6 in TD/INT Ratio, and in the top 6 in Net Yards per Attempt… if, you know, you sort in ascending order.
|year_id||Team||Quarterback||TD/INT Rk||NY/A Rk (Asc.)|
I have more thoughts on this — a lot more, actually. But those will come tomorrow. For now, I open it up to you in the comments.
- Neither the Bears nor Browns had a single passer finish with 224 attempts. [↩]