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Young as a Yuck

Steve Young went 91-33 as a starting quarterback for the 49ers, a 0.734 winning percentage. He also went 3-16 as the quarterback of all other teams (which, in this case, is just the Bucs), for a 0.158 winning percentage. That’s remarkable, but is it as remarkable as say, what Jake Plummer did? With the Broncos, Plummer went 39-15 (0.722), but he was 30-52 (0.366) with all other teams (here, just the Cardinals).  Young has a larger differential, but he started just 19 games in Tampa Bay; Plummer started over 50 games with both teams.

One way to “deal” with this is to add X number of games of .500 play to both sides.  I’ve used 40 games before, which is probably within the range of reasonable.  This helps smooth out small sample sizes: Young would therefore be 111-53 with the 49ers (0.677) and 23-36 (.390) outside of San Francisco.  As you can see, his 49ers adjusted winning percentage only changes by about 6% by adding 40 games of .500 play, but his Tampa Bay adjusted winning percentage rises by 23% because of the small sample size.  That’s the point.   Now, Young has a 29% better adjusted winning percentage in San Francisco than outside of San Francisco.

Plummer? His Denver record would become 59-35 (.628), while his non-Broncos record would be 50-72 (.410), giving him a 22% better adjusted winning in Denver.

I did this for every quarterback in NFL history (prior to 2017) and checked to see which passers had the biggest differentials in terms of adjusted winning percentage as quarterback of one team (minimum 10 starts) versus the rest of their career. Young was in fact the leader by this metric, with Plummer coming in at #4. Steve DeBerg was 2nd: he was 21 games under .500 in Tampa Bay and 21 games under .500 in San Francisco, and he also went 7-9 in his starts in Denver, Miami, and Atlanta. On the other hand, he was 31-20-1 as the starter with Kansas City. As a result, his adjusted winning percentage was 23% higher with the Chiefs than it was outside of Kansas City.

Billy Kilmer went an impressive 50-23-1 later in his career as a Redskins starter, but just 11-28 with the Saints (and 0-1 with the 49ers) at the beginning of his career.  In other words, he was a 1970s Plummer. Here’s how to read the table below, using Jim Plunkett — who was 19 games above .500 with the Raiders, and 19 games under .500 when not with the Raiders as an example. Plunkett went 38-19 with the Raiders for a 0.667 winning percentage and a 0.598 adjusted winning percentage (after adding 40 games of .500 play). When not with the Raiders, Plunkett was 34-53 for a 0.391 winning percentage that jumps to 0.425 after adding 40 games of .500 play. Plunkett’s actual difference in winning percentage was 0.276, but just difference in adjusted winning percentage was 0.173, the 10th largest on the list.

PlayerTmRec w/ TmAct Win%Adj Win%Rec w/o TmAct Win%Adj Win%Act W% DiffAdj Win% Diff
Steve Youngsfo91-330.7340.6773-160.1580.390.5760.287
Steve DeBergkan31-20-10.6060.5622-660.250.3280.3560.232
Billy Kilmerwas50-23-10.6820.61811-290.2750.3880.4070.231
Jake Plummerden39-150.7220.62830-520.3660.410.3560.218
Roman Gabrielram74-39-60.6470.6112-25-10.3290.4170.3180.193
Bobby Hebertnor49-260.6530.67-180.280.4150.3730.185
Jeff Georgemin8-20.80.5638-760.3330.3770.4670.183
Donovan McNabbphi92-49-10.6510.6186-130.3160.4410.3360.177
Zeke Bratkowskichi11-50.6880.5547-25-10.2270.3770.460.177
Jim Plunkettrai38-190.6670.59834-530.3910.4250.2760.173
Bill Nelsencle34-16-10.6760.5996-15-20.3040.4290.3720.17
James Harrisram21-60.7780.6124-100.2860.4440.4920.168
Gary Cuozzomin16-50.7620.595-140.2630.4240.4990.166
Vinny Testaverdenyj35-260.5740.54555-97-10.3630.3910.2110.154
Johnny Unitasclt117-60-40.6570.6291-30.250.4770.4070.152
Joe Kappmin23-12-30.6450.5711-90.10.420.5450.151
Marc Wilsonrai31-190.620.5671-90.10.420.520.147
Lamar McHangnb7-40.6360.52917-40-20.3050.3840.3310.145
Tobin Rotesdg13-6-10.6750.55835-58-30.380.4150.2950.143
Daryle Lamonicarai62-16-60.7740.6854-010.545-0.2260.14
Carson Palmercrd35-17-10.670.59754-670.4460.460.2240.137
Ken Stablerrai69-26-10.7240.65827-230.540.5220.1840.136
Frank Ryancle52-22-20.6970.6295-5-10.50.50.1970.129
Jason Campbellrai11-70.6110.53421-400.3440.4060.2670.128
Neil O'Donnellpit39-220.6390.58416-230.410.4560.2290.128
Jeff Blakenor7-40.6360.52932-570.360.4030.2770.126
Josh McCowncrd10-120.4550.4848-300.2110.3590.2440.125
Jon Kitnasea18-150.5450.52132-590.3520.3970.1940.124
Steve Spurriersfo13-12-10.5190.5080-1200.3850.5190.123
Kurt Warnerram35-150.70.61132-340.4850.4910.2150.12
Vince Ferragamoram26-180.5910.5481-80.1110.4290.480.119
Babe Parillinwe44-32-70.5720.5495-130.2780.4310.2950.118
Jim McMahonchi46-150.7540.65321-150.5830.5390.1710.114
Billy Joe Tolliveratl5-50.50.510-270.270.390.230.11
Earl Morrallclt22-3-10.8650.64441-33-20.5530.5340.3130.11
Tommy O'Connellcle10-3-10.750.5651-5-10.2140.4570.5360.108
Matt Casselnwe10-50.6670.54526-390.40.4380.2670.107
Norm Sneadnyg11-14-10.4420.47741-86-60.3310.370.1110.107
John Frieszsea6-50.5450.517-200.2590.4030.2860.107
Kordell Stewartpit46-290.6130.5742-50.2860.4680.3280.106
Billy Wadechi27-20-20.5710.53913-230.3610.4340.210.105
Milt Plumcle33-16-20.6670.59323-25-40.4810.4890.1860.104
John Hadlram15-40.7890.59367-71-90.4860.4890.3030.104
Gus Frerottemin10-30.7690.56635-44-10.4440.4630.3250.104
Bill Munsondet24-21-30.5310.5173-13-20.2220.4140.3090.103
Mark Rypienwas45-270.6250.582-40.3330.4780.2920.102
Joe Montanasfo100-390.7190.6717-80.680.5690.0390.101
Kyle Ortonchi21-120.6360.56221-280.4290.4610.2080.101
Trent Greenkan48-400.5450.5318-170.320.4310.2250.1
Daunte Culpeppermin38-420.4750.4833-170.150.3830.3250.1
Joey Harringtonmia5-60.4550.4921-440.3230.390.1310.1
Erik Kramerdet10-50.6670.54521-310.4040.4460.2630.099
Craig Mortondal32-14-10.6910.60349-480.5050.5040.1860.099
Doug Flutiebuf21-90.70.58617-190.4720.4870.2280.099
Chris Chandlerclt10-60.6250.53657-790.4190.4380.2060.099
Alex Smithkan41-200.6720.60438-36-10.5130.5090.1590.095

What stands out to you?

Also, we can look at this from the other direction as well — seeing which quarterbacks had the worst records with one team (minimum 10 games) versus the rest of their career. While this is in many ways just the opposite of the early chart — Tampa Bay Young, New Orleans Kilmer, and Arizona Plummer rank in the top four — it does bring in a few other names. Perhaps most notable? Craig Morton, who had a remarkable three-team split: he was 18 games over .500 as the Cowboys starting quarterback in the late ’60s and early ’70s, 17 games under .500 with the Giants in the mid-’70s, and then 18 games above .500 with the Broncos at the back end of his career. That’s just…. weird.

PlayerTmRec w/ TmAct Win%Adj Win%Rec w/o TmAct Win%Adj Win%Act W% DiffAdj Win% Diff
Steve Youngtam3-160.1580.3991-330.7340.677-0.576-0.287
Craig Mortonnyg8-250.2420.38473-37-10.6620.619-0.42-0.235
Billy Kilmernor11-280.2820.39250-24-10.6730.613-0.391-0.221
Jake Plummercrd30-520.3660.4139-150.7220.628-0.356-0.218
Roman Gabrielphi12-25-10.3290.41774-39-60.6470.61-0.318-0.193
Jim McMahonsdg4-70.3640.47163-230.7330.659-0.369-0.188
Zeke Bratkowskiram3-210.1250.35915-9-10.620.546-0.495-0.187
Bobby Hebertatl7-180.280.41549-260.6530.6-0.373-0.185
Bill Nelsenpit6-15-20.3040.42934-16-10.6760.599-0.372-0.17
Earl Morrallnyg8-12-10.4050.46755-24-20.6910.628-0.287-0.161
Joe Kappnwe1-90.10.4223-12-30.6450.571-0.545-0.151
Marc Wilsonnwe1-90.10.4231-190.620.567-0.52-0.147
Dave Kriegcrd4-120.250.42994-650.5910.573-0.341-0.144
Ken Stablernor11-110.50.585-38-10.690.643-0.19-0.143
Doug Flutiesdg8-140.3640.45230-140.6820.595-0.318-0.143
Tony Banksram14-290.3260.4121-140.60.547-0.274-0.137
Neil O'Donnellcin2-90.1820.43153-360.5960.566-0.414-0.135
Jim Plunkettnwe23-380.3770.42649-340.590.561-0.213-0.135
Donovan McNabbwas5-80.3850.47293-54-10.6320.604-0.247-0.132
Frank Ryanram5-5-10.50.552-22-20.6970.629-0.197-0.129
Kyle Ortonden12-210.3640.43830-190.6120.562-0.249-0.124
Steve Spurriertam0-1200.38513-12-10.5190.508-0.519-0.123
Babe Parillignb3-110.2140.42646-34-70.5690.547-0.355-0.121
Kurt Warnercrd27-300.4740.48540-190.6780.606-0.204-0.121
Earl Morrallpit6-70.4620.49157-29-30.6570.609-0.196-0.118
Chris Weinkecar2-170.1050.3730-100.4880.105-0.115
James Harrissdg4-70.3640.47121-90.70.586-0.336-0.115
David Carrhtx22-530.2930.3651-30.250.4770.043-0.112
Tobin Rotegnb26-46-10.3630.41222-18-30.5470.524-0.183-0.112
Ken Stableroti16-120.5710.52980-37-10.6820.636-0.111-0.107
Charley Johnsonoti3-110.2140.42656-46-80.5450.533-0.331-0.107
Billy Waderam13-230.3610.43427-20-20.5710.539-0.21-0.105
Milt Plumdet23-25-40.4810.48933-16-20.6670.593-0.186-0.104
Bill Munsonram3-13-20.2220.41424-21-30.5310.517-0.309-0.103
Joe Montanakan17-80.680.569100-390.7190.67-0.039-0.101

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • sacramento gold miners

    Steve Young didn’t want to go to Tampa Bay after the USFL folded, the Bucs were the Afghanistan of the NFL. In fact, the USFL Bandits outdrew the Bucs one season, that’s how bad it was.

    • Wolverine

      The only difference between Young and Bo Jackson is that Jackson had a baseball career to fall back on. Hugh Culverhouse was probably one of the worst owners in professional sports, so I always enjoy it when a player has leverage over a bad/greedy owner. Same situation with Elway and Bob Irsay’s Colts.

  • Joseph Holley

    I would only add a minimum of one season worth of games started (14 or 16, depending on era) for the either 2 or more different franchises, OR a cumulative number for several franchises–to pick up the type who has many games started for his main franchise, and then several games at other franchises as he finishes out the career. Matt Hasselbeck is one that comes to mind that fits that mold. I think Stabler & Namath did too, but maybe not enough games to qualify.

  • Wolverine

    The top of the leader board seems to be either:
    A)Good players stuck on bad teams, who then started winning when they went to good teams, or
    B)Very good to great quarterbacks who aged into average/below-average starters and went to another team at the ends of their careers, didn’t play well, causing them to lose. (Montana to the Chiefs is a notable exception)