≡ Menu

On average, passing yards is a pretty meaningless measure of quarterback play.  Consider that the winning team and the losing team in a game both generally throw for about the same number of yards. Last year, for example, winning teams averaged 258 gross passing yards per game, while losing teams averaged 259. In 2013, it was 253 for the winners, 251 for the losers. In 2012, it was 246 for the winners, 248 for the losers. Since 2000, winning teams have averaged about 5 more passing yards per game, thanks mostly to 2009 (244 for winning teams, 222 for losing) and 2014 (261/242) as big outliers.

Joe Flacco, for example, has averaged 233 passing yards per game in wins and 231 in losses. But just because the averages are close together doesn’t mean every quarterback follows this same formula. And two of the best examples of that are Nick Foles and Blake Bortles.

Foles has lost 17 games where he was the starting quarterback; in those games, his average stat line was 21/38 for 214 passing yards, 0.7 TDs and 1.1 INTs. He also has started and won 19 games; in those games, his average stat line was 19/30, for 258 passing yards, 2.1 TDs, and 0.4 INTs. That paints the picture of a guy who is much better in wins than losses, which makes a lot of sense.  (Also, 7 of his 17 losses have come during his ugly time with the Rams, compared to just 4 of 19 wins.)

But just when you think quarterbacks might have better stats in wins, you get someone like Bortles. In 21 losses, he’s 23/38 for 262 yards, with 1.5 TDs and 1.3 INTs. That’s a lot of yards for someone who is losing games — it’s more than Foles has in his wins! But in 8 wins, Bortles is 18/32 for just 200 yards with 1.6 TDs and 0.8 INTs. In 29 career starts, Bortles is 5-5 when throwing for less than 200 yards, 3-6 when throwing for 200-274 yards, and 0-10 when throwing for 275+ yards. That’s decidedly unFolesian. Of course, Bortles is throwing more because of negative Game Scripts.

For fantasy football purposes, you may want to try to find the quarterback who will accumulate the most stats.  In some ways, it might feel like you want guys like Bortles, who have to throw because of Game Script.  It’s easy to think that quarterbacks are always padding stats in losses, but that’s not as common as you think.

The table below shows the average gross passing yards by the winning and losing teams in each game since 1970:

YearPass Yds in WinsPass Yds in LossesDiff
2015258259-1
201426124219
20132532513
2012246248-1
20112502437
2010235238-4
200924422221
200823121814
20072312265
20062202191
2005215221-6
2004225228-3
20032182127
200223322212
20012232185
20002212201
19992292263
19982232212
1997215223-8
19962242185
1995235237-2
1994228229-1
19932182171
19922112028
19912162142
19902152096
19892322275
1988217219-3
19872282226
1986223227-4
19852252241
19842302264
1983212239-26
19822252213
1981217229-11
19802142140
1979196202-6
19781791781
1977162163-1
19761781699
19751871808
1974168174-6
1973158159-1
1972167168-1
19711741740
19701831785
Avg216.4214.71.7

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Quinton

    My first thought is that the sample size is really small. 8 wins for Bortles, especially stretched out over two years where he played pretty substantially different, it seems hard to draw any conclusions. I will be interested to see if tis trend holds over the course of the next few years, especially if the Jags start to win more

  • Adam

    “It’s easy to think that quarterbacks are always padding stats in losses, but that’s not as common as you think.”

    I’m not sure you can draw that conclusion from this data. It’s entirely possible that the passing yardage margin between the winning and losing team is far greater after 3 quarters, and the losing QB is padding his stats just to get close to even.

  • Phil

    “For fantasy football purposes, you may want to try to find the quarterback who will accumulate the most stats. In some ways, it might feel like you want guys like Bortles, who have to throw because of Game Script”

    I’d think about it the other way, you want guys like Bortles in real life,

    when you’re winning, things are going well, better QB play in that situation is probably relatively extraneous

    when you’re losing, things are going poorly, QB play is more vital

    ———-

    it’d probably be interesting to check and see whether good QB play in losses is more repeatable than good QB play in wins

    ———–

    I have this model in my head from Jordan’s career, if you charted the games where he had high teens to low 20s in points, they’d win comfortably, but whenever they’d lose, he’d have 40+ points

    I don’t think the answer that he was making them worse by scoring more is the correct one, but rather, when things were going worse, he was working off a model that it was more imperative to assert himself

    I imagine that a similar model is at work here, when your up, the need to press the issue isn’t that great, when you’re down, you need the QB to assert himself

  • Richie

    I’ve had plenty of times where my QB is on the losing end, and just can’t do anything. Can’t get first downs. Obviously can’t throw a TD. It’s excrutiating!