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Predictions in Review: NFC North

During the 2013 offseason, I wrote 32 articles under the RPO 2013 tag. In my Predictions in Review series, I review those preview articles with the benefit of hindsight. Previously, I reviewed the AFC West, the NFC West, the AFC South, the NFC South, and the AFC North. Today, the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions will win more games in 2013, June 21, 2013

In 2012, Detroit finished 4-12, but they seemed like an obvious pick to have a rebound season. The Lions went 3-9 in games decided by 8 or fewer points that year, which was the worst mark in the league. Since such a poor record is usually a sign of bad luck rather than bad skill, Detroit wouldn’t need to do much to improve on their 4-win season. The Lions had 6.4 Pythagorean wins, and no team fell as far short of their Pythagorean record in 2012 as Detroit. There was one other reason I highlighted as to why Detroit would win more games in 2013: the Lions recovered only 33% of all fumbles that occurred in Detroit games. As a result, the team recovered 7.6 fewer fumbles than expected.

Of course, none of this was a surprise: Vegas pegged Detroit as an average team entering the season. And even though the Lions did finish 7-9, a three-win improvement wasn’t enough to save Jim Schwartz’ job. After a 3-9 record the year before, the 2013 Lions went 4-6 in games decided by 8 or fewer points, which included losses in the team’s final three games.  Detroit did improve when it came to fumble recoveries, but only slightly: the Lions recovered 42.6% of all fumbles in their games in 2013, which was 3.6 recoveries fewer than expected.

What can we learn: When it comes to records in close games and fumble recovery rates, we should expect regression to the mean.  Last year, the Colts (6-1) and Jets (5-1) had the best records in close games; Andrew Luck has been doing this for two years now, but no such benefit of the doubt should be given to the Jets. Meanwhile, Houston (2-9) and Washington (2-7) had the worst records in close games. All else being equal, we would expect both of those teams to improve on their wins total in 2014 (for the 2-14 Texans, it will take some work not to win more games in 2014; and, of course, such rebound seasons are already baked into the Vegas lines).

As far as fumble recovery rates, well, that’s one area where the Jets are hoping for some regression to the mean.

The 2012 Chicago Bears had the Least Strange Season Ever, August 2, 2013

Here’s what I wrote about the 2012 Bears:

The 2012 Bears played two terrible teams, the Titans and the Jaguars. Those were the two biggest blowouts of the season for Chicago. The Bears had five games against really good teams (Seattle, San Francisco, Houston, and the Packers twice): those were the five biggest losses of the season. Chicago had one other loss, which came on the road against the next best team the Bears played, Minnesota.

But the Bears didn’t just have a predictable season. That -0.89 correlation coefficient [between Chicago's opponent's rating and location-adjusted margin of victory] is the lowest for any 16-game season in NFL history. In other words, Chicago just had the least strange season of the modern era.

This post was not about predicting Chicago’s 2013 season but analyzing a quirky fact I discovered. The Bears struggled against the best teams in 2012, and that cost Lovie Smith his job. In 2013, Chicago’s season was much more normal; in fact, the Bears had a slightly “stranger” season than the average team.

The Bears did manage to defeat the Bengals and Packers (without Aaron Rodgers), but Chicago still finished below .500 against playoff teams thanks to losses to New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Green Bay (with Aaron Rodgers). After a 2-6 performance against playoff teams in 2012, I suppose a 2-3 record is an improvement. But the irony is that the reason Chicago’s season was less normal in 2013 wasn’t due to better play against the best teams, but because Chicago lost to Minnesota and Washington. In the first year post-Lovie, the Bears missed the playoffs because they lost to two of the worst teams in the league, causing them to miss out on the division title by one half-game. Here’s one stat I bet Lovie Smith knows: from 2005 to 2012, Chicago went 30-0 against teams that finished the season with fewer than six wins. As for which teams had the strangest and least strangest seasons in 2013? Check back tomorrow.

Can Adrian Peterson break Emmitt Smith’s rushing record?, August 3, 2013

What a difference a year makes. Eight months ago, the debate regarding whether Adrian Peterson could break Smith’s record was a legitimate talking point. After a “down” season with 1,266 yards in 14 games, nobody is asking that question anymore. Of course, Peterson never had much of a chance of breaking the record anyway, which was the point of my post. Not only had Smith outgained him Peterson through each of their first six seasons, and not only did Smith enter the league a year earlier than Peterson, but Emmitt Smith was also the leader in career rushing yards after a player’s first six seasons.

Peterson just turned 29 years old. He ranks sixth in career rushing yards through age 28, but Smith has a 1,119 yard advantage when it comes to rushing yards through age 28. Barry Sanders has them both beat, of course, but he retired after his age 30 season. The problem for Peterson? He needs to run for 8,241 yards during his age 29+ seasons to break Smith’s record. The career leader in yards after turning 29 is Smith with 7,121 yards.

What can we learn: Unless Peterson finds the fountain of youth, Smith’s record won’t be challenged for a long, long time.

Witnesses to Greatness: Aaron Rodgers Edition, August 30, 2013

In late August, I wondered if we had taken Rodgers’ dominance for granted. After all, he had a career passer rating of 104.9, the best ever. Then in 2013, he produced a passer rating of … 104.9, the fifth best mark among qualifying passers.

Passer rating stinks, as we all know, but Rodgers is dominant in nearly every metric. If we break passer rating down into its four parts we see:

  • Entering 2013, Rodgers was the career leader in completion percentage. Drew Brees now holds a 0.1% edge over Rodgers in this category. Rodgers completed 66.6% of his passes last year, the 5th best mark of 2013.
  • Rodgers was the career leader in interception rate entering 2013, and still holds that crown. Believe it or not, his 2.1% interception rate last year ranked only 12th.
  • With a 5.9% touchdown rate in 2013 (5th best), he remains the active leader in touchdown percentage. Everyone ahead of him on the career list began their career before 1960.
  • Rodgers was the active leader in yards/attempt prior to 2013, and then he had another dominant year by producing an 8.7 average (2nd best). He’s now widened his lead in this metric and should remain the active leader for the foreseeable future.

What can we learn: That Rodgers is the man? Of course, this year we got to see that first-hand. The Packers went 6-3 in Rodgers’ 9 starts and 2-4-1 without him, but remember, he threw just two passes in his Bears start, which the Packers lost. Count that as a non-Rodgers game, and Green Bay went 6-2 with him and 2-5-1 without him. From there, one might infer that he added 3.5 wins to the Packers last year, tied for the 4th most ever from a quarterback relative to his backups.

The only area where Rodgers struggles is with sacks, and it’s worth remembering that all of his other rate stats are slightly inflated because they do not include sacks in the denominator. He’s still the man, of course, but sacks, era adjustments, and the fact that he isn’t done producing top seasons is why he “only” ranked 12th and 14th on these lists.

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The Packers had a rough Movember without this guy

The Packers had a rough Movember without this guy..

Green Bay started the season 5-2 and seemed on its way to another playoff berth. But in the first quarter of the team’s eighth game, Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. The Packers lost that game (technically on Rodgers’ ledger as the starter), and have struggled ever since. In his stead, Seneca Wallace went 0-1, Scott Tolzien went 0-1-1, and then Matt Flynn got a chance to lose on Thanksgiving against the Lions before salvaging a win against the Falcons last Sunday.

Unsurprisingly, Green Bay is much worse without Rodgers. Using his .625 winning percentage as a starter this year, we might presume that the Packers would have won 3.125 out of the team’s five games that he’s missed. Instead, Green Bay has won 1.5 out of five games; that means Rodgers would have provided 1.625 Wins Above the Other QBs on the roster. (If we did not count the Bears game as a Rodgers game, then Rodgers would have provided 2.79 Wins Above the Other QBs.) Rodgers has been ruled out for the Packers’ pivotal week 15 showdown with the Cowboys; a loss there would bring Rodgers’ value up to 2.25 Wins Above the Other Green Bay QBs.

Where does that rank all time? The biggest discrepancy belongs to the 2002 Rams. The Rams started 0-4 under reigning NFL AP MVP Kurt Warner, and then lost the team’s next game when Jamie Martin started in relief of an injured Warner. For the sixth game, the team turned to Marc Bulger, who led the 0-5 team on a five game winning streak before suffering a finger injury just as the starting quarterback was ready to return. Warner started games 11 and 12, but another injury forced Martin started game 13; St. Louis lost all three games. Bulger then returned and won his 14th start. At that point in the year, St. Louis was 6-0 under Bulger and 0-8 under everyone else. In game 15 against Seattle, Bulger was hurt on the St. Louis’ fourth play from scrimmage; Martin came in and the team lost 30-10. The final game of the year was a meaningless one and started by Scott Covington, although Martin took most of the snaps in a victory over the 49ers.

All told, St. Louis went 6-1 in Bulger starts (including the Seahawks game), while the other Rams quarterbacks posted a 1-8 record. Since we would project a 1-8 team to win just 0.78 out of 7 games, Bulger is given credit for being 5.22 Wins Above the Other QBs for the team.

The table below shows all quarterbacks from 1950 to 2013 to produce at least 2 Wins Above the Other QBs for their team. The formula to calculate WAOQBs is simply the difference between the winning percentages with and without the starting quarterback multiplied by the number of starts by the quarterback or by the other quarterbacks on the team, whichever number is smaller. [click to continue…]

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Leader in Fu Manchus among active quarterbacks (sorry, Mark)

Leader in Fu Manchus among active quarterbacks (sorry, Mark).

Let’s be honest: we all know Aaron Rodgers is great, so we don’t spend much time talking about him. Debating his ability is pointless, so we instead spend countless hours discussing Tony Romo’s intangibles, Tim Tebow’s throwing motion, Colin Kaepernick’s tattoos, and Joe Flacco’s eliteness. Talk radio dies when it discusses Aaron Rodgers: debating the Packers quarterback is as fun as watching paint dry and as illuminating as asking if water is wet.

But we’re doing a disservice to us all when we ignore how great Rodgers is. I mean, we spend lots of time chronicling the feats of Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson — why not Rodgers?

One way to measure Rodgers’ greatness is to look at passer rating. Now we know that passer rating is wildly overrated, so perhaps you shouldn’t be too impressed to hear that Rodgers has the highest passer rating in history. But consider: Rodgers has a career 104.9 passer rating, well ahead of Steve Young, who is second at 96.8. Chad Pennington sits at #13 on the career passer rating list (an example of why this metric is one I don’t use), but Young is closer to Pennington (90.1) than he is to Rodgers. But there’s an even better way to show Rodgers’ dominance in this statistic.

Passer rating is made up of four metrics. Let’s take a look at how Rodgers ranks in those four categories:
[click to continue…]

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I was on vacation last week, so I provided just a bare bones set of NFL playoff predictions. Technically, my picks went 4-0 on Wildcard Weekend, but that doesn’t count for much when you pick the favorite in every game. With a little more time on my hands, here’s an in-depth preview of Saturday’s games. Tomorrow I’ll be previewing Sunday’s action.

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) (+9.5) at Denver Broncos (13-3), Saturday 4:30PM ET

Manning looks for to win another Super Bowl

Manning points to his glove dealer.

Most of the signs in this game point squarely in the favor of Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Baltimore has wildly underachieved on the road the last few seasons, and in Denver does not seem like the optimal place for that trend to reverse itself. From 2002 to 2010, Manning went 8-0 against the Ravens, including a 2-0 mark in playoff games. If you double his numbers in those games (to approximate a 16-game season), Manning would have thrown for 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions, while averaging 7.8 Y/A and 7.9 AY/A to go with a 65.6% completion rate and a 97.7 passer rating. Manning was similarly lethal in Denver’s win over the Ravens in Baltimore earlier this year.
[click to continue…]

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Is this a thinly-veiled Brady/Manning post?

Is this a thinly-veiled Brady/Manning post?

Last weekend, I looked at career rushing stats in wins and losses; today I will do the same but for quarterbacks.

I looked at all games, including playoffs, from 1960 to 2011, for all quarterbacks with at least 5,000 career passing yards over that time period. The table below lists the following information for each passer:

– His first year (or 1960, if he played before 1960) and his last year (or 2011, if still active)
– All the franchises he played for (which you can search for in the search box)
– His number of career wins, and his touchdown rate, interception rate, yards per attempt and Adjusted Yards per Attempt (which includes a 20-yard bonus for touchdown passes and a 45-yard penalty for interceptions) in wins1
– His number of career losses, and his touchdown rate, interception rate, yards per attempt and Adjusted Yards per Attempt in losses

The table is sorted by AY/A in wins; unsurprisingly, Aaron Rodgers — who is the career leader in that metric — tops this table, too. In fact, Rodgers is also the leader in AY/A in losses. Note that this table includes all games played by the quarterback, not just his starts.

Rk
Player
Years
Teams
PYD
Win
TD%_W
INT%_W
Y/A_W
AY/A_W
Loss
TD%_L
INT%_L
Y/A_L
AY/A_L
1Aaron Rodgers2005--2011gnb19147497.6%1.3%8.78.3274.3%2.5%7.46.4
2Matt Schaub2004--2011atl-htx17936485.3%1.7%8.78.1533.5%3.3%7.25.8
3Tony Romo2005--2011dal21666606.6%2.1%8.77.9434.3%3.4%75.5
4Kurt Warner1998--2009ram-nyg-crd36296816.8%2.2%8.77.8573.3%4.4%7.25.3
5Daunte Culpepper1999--2009min-mia-rai-det25133457.1%2.2%8.77.8643.3%4%6.95.1
6Bob Berry1965--1975min-atl9197327.4%2.3%8.67.7364.2%7.4%7.13.8
7Steve Young1985--1999tam-sfo364501256.8%1.7%8.37.6602.9%4.2%7.25.3
8Philip Rivers2004--2011sdg26105696.2%2.3%8.57.6394%3.1%7.36
9Ben Roethlisberger2004--2011pit29729905.7%2.2%8.47.6383.7%4.9%7.25
10John Friesz1990--2000sdg-was-sea-nwe8699195%1%7.87.5382.6%4%5.84
11Bart Starr1960--1971gnb22810996.6%2.9%8.67.5412.4%5.9%6.74.1
12Don Meredith1960--1968dal17750518.5%3.3%8.87.5503.5%6%6.23.6
13Drew Brees2001--2011sdg-nor43722976.5%1.7%87.4663.4%3.7%6.75.1
14Ken O'Brien1984--1993nyj-phi25598565.8%1.7%87.4722.1%3.6%6.34.7
15J.P. Losman2004--2011buf-rai-mia6271175.8%1.5%7.97.4282.5%4.4%6.14.1
16Trent Green1997--2008was-ram-kan-mia28794595.3%2.1%8.27.3633.6%3.8%7.15.5
17Rob Johnson1995--2003jax-buf-tam-was-rai5947204.8%1.5%7.97.3252.8%3.6%6.75.1
18Chad Pennington2000--2010nyj-mia19241465.1%1.2%7.77.3493.2%4.1%6.64.9
19Boomer Esiason1984--1997cin-nyj-crd38520896.6%2.4%8.27.31033.3%4.4%6.54.6
20Neil Lomax1981--1988crd23156486.4%2.1%8.17.3593%3.3%6.65.2
21David Garrard2002--2010jax16489455.3%1.4%7.87.3442.7%3.4%6.44.9
22Matthew Stafford2009--2011det8220138.1%1.8%7.97.2173.4%4.4%6.34.4
23Joe Montana1979--1994sfo-kan463231406.4%2.2%8.17.2602.7%3.4%6.34.9
24Eddie LeBaron1960--1963dal53311112.5%5.5%9.47.2314.7%8.7%7.13.3
25Peyton Manning1998--2010clt602171506.3%1.9%87.2773.9%4.1%6.95.2
26Ed Brown1960--1965chi-pit-clt7723357.7%5.8%9.77.2332.9%8.8%6.52.6
27Wade Wilson1981--1998min-atl-nor-dal-rai18605666.1%2.6%8.37.2632.4%5.3%6.23.9
28Jay Cutler2006--2011den-chi18637426.6%2.2%8.17.2382.7%4.6%6.54.5
29Josh Freeman2009--2011tam8898175.6%1.8%7.97.2242.8%4.6%6.14.1
30Tom Brady2000--2011nwe452641406.1%1.6%7.87.2433.6%4.2%6.34.5
31Matt Moore2007--2011car-mia5137176.2%1.8%7.87.1192.8%5%6.24
32Chris Chandler1988--2004clt-tam-crd-ram-oti-atl-chi29212725.9%2.6%8.27.11053.1%4.4%6.44.4
33Len Dawson1960--1975cle-kan301121058.7%3.6%8.67.1643.2%6.3%6.63.8
34Joe Flacco2008--2011rav15348494.6%1.2%7.67.1243%4.4%5.94
35Trent Edwards2007--2010buf-jax6019144%1.6%7.77.1222%4.3%5.73.8
36Jeff Garcia1999--2009sfo-cle-det-phi-tam26894635.4%1.3%7.57.1683.4%3.1%6.45.1
37Ken Anderson1971--1986cin341591006.2%2.4%87.1922.7%4.7%6.74.7
38Rudy Bukich1960--1968pit-chi7865307.5%3.5%8.57353.5%8.6%62.3
39Troy Aikman1989--2000dal367911054.8%2.1%7.97762.1%4.1%64.2
40Damon Huard1998--2008mia-nwe-kan6349204.9%1.1%7.47242%4.3%5.84
41Jim Everett1986--1997ram-nor-sdg35957665.7%2.6%8.17973.2%4.2%6.54.6
42Roger Staubach1969--1979dal254911066.1%2.5%87443.5%6.3%6.73.9
43Bert Jones1973--1982clt-ram18589476.4%3.1%8.27583.6%4.6%6.34.3
44Frank Reich1985--1998buf-car-nyj-det6858398.8%2.1%7.77393.3%4.3%6.34.4
45Jeff Hostetler1986--1997nyg-rai-was17464705.5%1.9%7.77402.3%4.1%6.34.5
46Dan Fouts1973--1987sdg45165915.9%3.2%8.36.9953.1%5.5%7.14.7
47Bill Kenney1980--1988kan17374375.9%2.5%86.9493.2%4.2%6.54.6
48Y.A. Tittle1960--1964sfo-nyg11542408.9%4.3%8.76.9232.5%6.9%5.72.7
49Mark Brunell1994--2011gnb-jax-was-nor-nyj33905994.8%1.8%7.66.9913.2%2.9%6.24.9
50Aaron Brooks2000--2006nor-rai20822415.8%1.6%7.56.9543.3%4.1%6.44.7
51Patrick Ramsey2002--2008was-nyj-den5929165.2%2.3%7.86.9243.1%3.8%5.84.2
52Scott Mitchell1992--2001mia-det-rav-cin15925406%2.1%7.76.9452.6%4.6%5.93.9
53Randy Wright1984--1988gnb7106125.4%3.4%8.36.9332.2%5.5%5.93.5
54Rich Gannon1987--2004min-was-kan-rai30434915.5%1.5%7.46.9713%3.6%6.24.6
55Earl Morrall1960--1976det-nyg-clt-mia17529927.9%4.8%8.96.9444.2%6.9%6.63.6
56Sonny Jurgensen1960--1974phi-was31546747.7%3.9%8.46.9794.5%4.9%6.84.7
57Steve DeBerg1978--1998sfo-den-tam-kan-mia-atl34752725.4%2.3%7.86.91143.2%4.9%6.44.2
58Steve Beuerlein1988--2003rai-dal-crd-jax-car-den24317645.6%2.3%7.86.8663.4%4.2%6.85
59Fran Tarkenton1961--1978min-nyg488061316.8%2.8%86.81173.6%5.5%6.54.1
60John Brodie1960--1973sfo30783786.7%3.3%8.26.8793.3%6%6.13.5
61Doug Flutie1986--2005chi-nwe-buf-sdg15209485.2%2.4%7.86.8452.9%3.9%64.3
62Johnny Unitas1960--1973clt-sdg323351076.3%3.8%8.46.8592.7%7.3%6.53.2
63Joe Namath1965--1977nyj-ram28299686.4%4%8.56.8713.3%6.8%6.53.5
64Matt Ryan2008--2011atl14832436.1%1.9%7.56.8222.4%3%6.14.8
65Craig Erickson1992--1997tam-clt-mia7625184.8%2.7%7.96.8343.2%3.9%6.54.8
66Marc Bulger2002--2009ram23758424.9%2.6%7.86.8573.1%3.3%6.85.4
67Matt Cassel2005--2011nwe-kan11769425.1%2%7.66.8303.5%3.3%5.74.3
68Tom Flores1960--1969rai-buf-kan11960408.3%3.8%8.36.8442.8%6.7%5.72.8
69Phil Simms1979--1993nyg351411025.3%2.5%7.76.7723%4.3%6.44.6
70Derek Anderson2006--2011cle-crd-car9148215.5%2.4%7.76.7322.7%4.6%5.73.6
71Michael Vick2001--2011atl-phi18889655.8%2.4%7.76.7512.8%3.4%6.34.9
72Brett Favre1991--2010atl-gnb-nyj-min776932016.3%2.2%7.66.71253.2%4.9%6.44.3
73Craig Morton1965--1982dal-nyg-den291431186.7%3.7%8.26.7822.6%6.5%6.23.4
74Steve Pelluer1985--1990dal-kan6870173.3%2.2%7.66.7262.9%4.7%6.94.8
75Dan Marino1983--1999mia658711555.7%2.4%7.76.71054.1%3.9%6.85.1
76Donovan McNabb1999--2011phi-was-min408591065.4%2%7.46.7742.9%2.6%6.15
77Dave Krieg1980--1998sea-kan-det-crd-chi-oti400421136.7%3%7.96.7983%4.4%6.54.5
78Warren Moon1984--2000oti-min-sea-kan521951085.5%2.6%7.76.61103.1%4.2%6.84.9
79Jim Kelly1986--1996buf393301106.1%3.2%86.6673.1%4.6%6.64.6
80John Hadl1962--1977sdg-ram-gnb-oti339411037%3.7%8.26.6923.3%7.8%6.12.7
81Bernie Kosar1985--1996cle-dal-mia25254674.8%1.9%7.46.6663.1%3.4%6.65.1
82Jake Delhomme1999--2011nor-car-cle-htx22822655.5%2.9%7.86.6453.1%4.2%6.64.8
83Vince Evans1977--1995chi-rai9511377.1%3.8%8.26.6572.4%6%6.33.6
84John Elway1983--1998den564391635%2.6%7.76.6922.8%3.9%6.34.6
85Drew Bledsoe1993--2006nwe-buf-dal459461025.1%1.9%7.46.6992.4%4.2%5.94
86Jason Campbell2006--2011was-rai14417323.8%1.7%7.36.6393.3%2.7%6.45.3
87Pete Liske1964--1972nyj-den-phi5170167%2.6%7.66.6232.2%8.2%5.92.3
88Jeff George1990--2001clt-atl-rai-min-was28603485.5%2.7%7.76.6853.2%2.9%6.65.4
89Alex Smith2005--2011sfo13038334.4%1.1%76.6392.9%4.3%64.1
90Jim Zorn1976--1987sea-gnb-tam21249524.9%2.9%7.86.6682.8%5.4%6.13.7
91Lynn Dickey1971--1985oti-gnb23914526.5%4.4%8.46.6763.5%6.6%74.1
92Jon Kitna1997--2011sea-cin-det-dal30104565.7%2%7.46.6862.8%4.7%6.34.3
93Eric Hipple1981--1989det11009306.3%3%7.86.6361.8%5.5%6.44
94Bob Griese1967--1980mia265591087.4%3.9%8.16.5623.5%6.4%6.43.5
95Chris Miller1987--1999atl-ram-den19789375.7%2.4%7.56.5633.6%4.2%6.34.5
96Gus Frerotte1994--2008was-det-den-cin-min-mia-ram21666585.1%2.7%7.66.5602.5%4.1%6.24.4
97Matt Hasselbeck1999--2011gnb-sea-oti35891915.1%2.4%7.56.5803%3.4%6.34.8
98Tarvaris Jackson2006--2011min-sea7239274.5%3.1%7.86.5232.8%3.4%5.84.3
99Jeff Blake1992--2005nyj-cin-nor-rav-crd-phi-chi21711425.1%2.1%7.46.5773.6%3.6%6.34.7
100Tony Eason1983--1990nwe-nyj11703355.1%2.8%7.76.5313.3%3.4%6.75.2
101Jim Harbaugh1987--2000chi-clt-rav-sdg27194784.8%2.1%7.36.5932.3%3.6%6.24.6
102Don Majkowski1987--1996gnb-clt-det12906344.8%2.8%7.76.5432.6%4.2%64.2
103Gary Hogeboom1982--1989dal-clt-crd9598315.1%2.6%7.56.5282.7%6.1%6.74
104Joe Theismann1974--1985was26988956%2.8%7.66.5592.4%5.1%6.34.1
105Randall Cunningham1985--2001phi-min-dal-rav32405986.1%2.6%7.66.5733.1%3.6%6.34.7
106Byron Leftwich2003--2010jax-atl-pit-tam10439305%1.6%7.16.5312.6%3.5%6.24.7
107Tony Banks1996--2005ram-rav-was-htx15315435.2%2.2%7.46.5522%3.7%5.94.3
108Bobby Hebert1985--1996nor-atl22331635.2%3%7.76.5553.5%5%6.24.1
109Greg Landry1968--1984det-clt-chi16100556.7%3.9%8.16.5652.5%4.7%6.34.2
110Eli Manning2004--2011nyg30095775.5%2.2%7.36.4543.7%4.5%6.74.7
111Jay Fiedler1998--2005min-jax-mia-nyj12499505%2.6%7.56.4292.5%5.9%63.4
112Stan Humphries1989--1997was-sdg18538554.4%2.3%7.46.4392.2%5.1%5.93.7
113Jim Plunkett1971--1986nwe-sfo-rai28175855.6%3.4%7.96.4823.2%7.1%6.43.2
114Elvis Grbac1994--2001sfo-kan-rav17492614.8%2.4%7.46.4393.1%4.4%6.24.3
115Richard Todd1976--1985nyj-nor21636515.2%3.6%7.96.4703.2%7%6.23.1
116Steve Grogan1975--1990nwe27457806.7%4.3%8.26.4713.5%7.2%6.83.6
117Frank Ryan1960--1970ram-cle-was15833669.3%4.4%8.26.4424%6.1%6.63.9
118Carson Palmer2004--2011cin-rai25659505.9%2.9%7.66.4593.8%3.5%6.95.3
119Shaun Hill2005--2011min-sfo-det6209185.5%1.8%7.16.4163.2%2.8%6.35.1
120Mark Rypien1988--2001was-cle-ram-phi-clt20249585.7%3.3%7.76.4472.9%3.6%6.54.9
121Bubby Brister1986--2000pit-phi-nyj-den-min14801475.7%2.3%7.36.4511.9%4.3%5.93.9
122Kerry Collins1995--2011car-nor-nyg-rai-oti-clt42478924.4%2.1%7.26.41132.7%4%6.14.3
123Steve McNair1995--2007oti-rav330681004.6%2.1%7.26.4722.6%3.4%6.44.9
124Charlie Batch1998--2011det-pit10610405.2%2.8%7.56.3373.1%3.4%6.65.1
125Bill Nelsen1963--1972pit-cle15004466.5%4.1%86.3433%7.2%6.53.4
126Charley Johnson1961--1975crd-oti-den24410687.3%4.7%8.36.3703%5.9%6.33.6
127Steve Bartkowski1975--1986atl-ram24916605.9%3.1%7.66.3733.5%5.2%6.54.3
128Sam Bradford2010--2011ram567684.1%1.5%6.96.3181.9%2.5%5.64.5
129Gary Danielson1977--1988det-cle14000424.9%2.9%7.56.3433.5%5.3%6.74.4
130Brian Sipe1974--1983cle23896606%3.2%7.66.3623%5.4%6.23.8
131Jay Schroeder1985--1994was-rai-cin-crd20854715.2%2.7%7.46.3502.7%5.3%6.64.3
132Virgil Carter1968--1976chi-cin-sdg5127215.7%3%7.56.3242.1%4.7%5.63.5
133Tommy Kramer1977--1990min-nor25651645.9%2.8%7.46.3662.9%5.7%6.23.7
134Brad Johnson1994--2008min-was-tam-dal304571024.6%2.1%7.16.2702.9%3.9%6.24.5
135Kelly Holcomb1995--2007tam-clt-cle-buf-min645395.5%3.4%7.76.2294%4.5%6.54.6
136Quincy Carter2001--2004dal-nyj6491204.7%2.2%7.16.2181.8%5.3%5.93.5
137Ryan Fitzpatrick2005--2011ram-cin-buf10936226.2%2.4%7.26.2342.9%4.5%5.93.9
138Neil O'Donnell1991--2003pit-nyj-cin-oti23399725%2%76.2582.5%2.3%6.35.4
139James Harris1969--1979buf-ram-sdg8479445.8%4.2%86.2341.8%6.6%63.1
140Brian Griese1998--2008den-mia-tam-chi19440535.2%2.8%7.46.2403.3%4.2%6.64.7
141Terry Bradshaw1970--1983pit318221257%4.3%86.2623%7.3%6.12.9
142Bill Munson1964--1979ram-det-sea-sdg-buf12940416.4%2.6%7.26.2582.8%5%6.13.9
143Steve Tensi1966--1970sdg-den5558158.5%4.4%86.1293.5%5.7%5.83.3
144Jeff Kemp1981--1991ram-sfo-sea-phi6403286.7%2.9%7.36.1261.9%5.5%6.33.8
145Ty Detmer1993--2001gnb-phi-sfo-cle-det6499184.9%2.5%7.16.1242.7%4.6%6.54.4
146Billy Wade1960--1966ram-chi11390346.1%3.5%7.66.1333.8%6.3%6.43.7
147Dave M. Brown1992--2000nyg-crd10304294.1%2.5%7.26.1421.9%4.2%5.84
148Mark Sanchez2009--2011nyj10364305.1%2%6.96.1222.9%5%6.24
149Joe Ferguson1973--1990buf-det-tam-clt30631836.4%3.1%7.46.11073%5.8%6.13.5
150Norm Snead1961--1976was-phi-min-nyg-sfo30797576.9%4.3%7.96.11143.5%6.7%6.73.7
151Dennis Shaw1970--1975buf-crd6347125.9%5.3%8.46.1342.8%8.1%6.52.9
152Vince Ferragamo1977--1986ram-buf-gnb12564357.1%3.7%7.66.1422.9%7.1%6.53.4
153Jake Plummer1997--2006crd-den30593744.7%2.5%7.16.1752.9%4.8%6.44.3
154Tommy Maddox1992--2005den-ram-nyg-pit8754275.9%3.2%7.46.1282.6%5.3%6.13.7
155Daryle Lamonica1963--1974buf-rai210821047.8%4.6%86.1373%7.3%62.8
156Kyle Orton2005--2011chi-den-kan14532364.5%1.9%6.86.1353%3.1%6.45
157Roman Gabriel1962--1977ram-phi29780875.7%2.6%7.16.1793.2%4%5.84.1
158Bob Lee1969--1980min-atl-ram5416605.9%4.8%8.16.1241.2%6.2%52.3
159David Carr2002--2010htx-car-nyg-sfo14433323.4%2.2%76.1612.7%3.4%6.24.7
160Jack Trudeau1986--1995clt-nyj-car10494253.2%2.4%7.16432.3%5.2%5.83.5
161Steve Fuller1979--1986kan-chi7454334%3.5%7.56291.9%4%6.24.5
162Danny White1976--1988dal242431245.8%4%7.76594%5.3%6.74.4
163Archie Manning1971--1984nor-oti-min23911374.4%3.2%7.461103.1%5.1%6.34.1
164Ken Stabler1970--1984rai-oti-nor305791106.6%4.6%7.96643%7.3%6.53.3
165Doug Williams1978--1989tam-was18108495.4%2.8%7.26453.1%4.8%6.54.4
166Joe Pisarcik1977--1984nyg-phi5552254.6%4.1%7.86322.1%5.7%5.73.1
167Jim McMahon1982--1996chi-sdg-phi-min-crd-gnb19260864.5%3.3%7.46402.6%3.8%6.44.8
168Milt Plum1960--1969cle-det-ram-nyg13335466.9%4.9%8.16403.1%6%6.33.7
169Ron Jaworski1974--1989ram-phi-mia-kan29859895.4%2.9%7.26793.4%4.8%6.54.4
170Rodney Peete1989--2004det-dal-phi-was-car16636554.3%3.4%7.56482.2%4.3%6.54.6
171Vinny Testaverde1987--2007tam-cle-rav-nyj-dal-nwe-car475531025.3%3.1%7.361373.3%4.5%6.74.7
172Billy Kilmer1961--1978sfo-nor-was21555886.7%3.7%7.56813.3%5.9%6.13.5
173Tim Couch1999--2003cle11131225.5%3.2%7.36402.7%4.3%64.1
174Erik Kramer1987--1999atl-det-chi-sdg16336384.9%2.4%76483.4%4.1%6.54.7
175Trent Dilfer1994--2007tam-rav-sea-cle-sfo21489685.3%2.7%7.16652%5.1%63.7
176Mike Pagel1982--1993clt-cle-ram9593224.5%2.6%7.16532.9%4.9%63.8
177Kordell Stewart1995--2005pit-chi-rav15490763.5%2.1%6.85.9542.7%5.6%5.53
178Chad Henne2008--2011mia7114143.6%1.7%6.65.9202.4%4.6%6.74.7
179Jim Hart1966--1984crd-was35156935.7%4%7.65.91032.9%5.5%6.23.8
180Vince Young2006--2011oti-phi9102354.5%3%7.15.9272.2%4.9%6.54.3
181Josh McCown2002--2011crd-det-rai-car-chi6998154.2%1.6%6.55.9362.9%5.2%6.23.9
182Mark Malone1981--1989pit-sdg-nyj10733296.3%3%7.15.8442.3%5.9%5.83.2
183Babe Parilli1960--1969rai-nwe-nyj18778647.1%4.1%7.55.8473.2%7.5%5.92.5
184Don Strock1974--1988mia-cle5913377.1%3.6%7.35.8304.5%7.3%6.63.3
185Dick Wood1962--1966sdg-nyj-rai-mia7153177.1%3.4%7.25.8282.6%7.3%5.32.1
186Shaun King1999--2004tam-crd5057195.9%2.3%6.75.8161.1%4.1%5.53.7
187Pat Haden1976--1981ram10024414.4%2.9%75.8263.1%7.1%6.43.3
188Bobby Douglass1969--1978chi-sdg-nor-gnb6493166.2%3.5%7.25.8572.1%5.8%5.12.5
189Cotton Davidson1960--1968kan-rai11451306.5%4.1%7.55.7402.9%7.2%6.33.1
190Steve Bono1985--1999min-pit-sfo-kan-gnb-ram-car10576494.6%1.8%6.45.7262.5%3.7%5.74.1
191Marc Wilson1980--1990rai-nwe14526395.8%4%7.45.7422.8%5.8%6.53.9
192Billy Joe Tolliver1989--1999sdg-atl-oti-kan-nor10760245%2.6%6.85.7533%4.1%6.14.4
193Rick Mirer1993--2003sea-chi-nyj-sfo-rai11969273.9%2.4%6.65.6521.8%4.4%5.53.5
194Steve Ramsey1970--1976nor-den6437235.4%5.9%8.15.6282.4%6.5%6.33.4
195Jacky Lee1960--1969oti-den-kan6191309%7%8.55.5294%6.9%6.63.6
196Hugh Millen1987--1995ram-atl-nwe-den644082.3%4.2%7.45.5302.4%3.6%6.85.2
197Jim Ninowski1960--1969det-cle-was-nor6953334.3%4.5%7.55.5272.6%7.4%6.22.9
198Dave Wilson1981--1988nor7007164.2%5.2%7.85.5373.1%5.5%6.23.8
199Kyle Boller2003--2011rav-ram-rai8931304.1%1.7%6.25.5362.6%4.7%5.73.6
200Joey Harrington2002--2007det-mia-atl14693274.4%2.2%6.45.5552.5%3.8%5.53.9
201Todd Blackledge1983--1989kan-pit5366225.2%3.4%6.95.5221.7%5.2%5.32.9
202Mike Tomczak1985--1999chi-gnb-cle-pit16963793.8%3.9%7.15.5593.4%5.3%6.64.2
203Mike Livingston1968--1979kan11295374.4%3.2%6.85.5522.4%5.7%6.23.7
204Danny Kanell1996--2003nyg-atl-den5328145.3%2.5%6.55.5252.2%4%4.93.2
205Steve Dils1980--1988min-ram-atl5816183.5%2.6%6.55.4292.4%3.6%5.74.1
206Jack Thompson1979--1984cin-tam5329155.3%1.8%6.15.4303.5%6.2%6.33.6
207Kent Graham1992--2001nyg-crd-pit-was7801274.4%1.6%65.4331.8%3.1%5.74.3
208David Woodley1980--1985mia-pit9203384.4%3.5%6.95.4243%7.4%6.33.1
209Randy Johnson1966--1976atl-nyg-was-gnb8329147.8%4.4%7.25.4583.2%7.6%6.33
210Rex Grossman2003--2011chi-htx-was11015304.7%3.3%6.85.4272.3%4.3%6.24.3
211Jim Miller1995--2002pit-chi6410203.9%2.9%6.65.3183%3.2%5.64.3
212Dan Pastorini1971--1983oti-rai-ram-phi19469624.6%4.2%7.15.3812.5%6.1%5.42.7
213Paul McDonald1980--1984cle5550123.8%3.4%6.85.3232.8%5.1%74.7
214George Blanda1960--1975oti-rai220291428.4%6%7.85.3793.9%8%6.12.5
215Jack Kemp1960--1969sdg-buf22256714.6%5.2%7.55.2462.2%7.1%6.23
216David Whitehurst1977--1983gnb6205216.1%5.3%7.45.1301.1%5.4%5.73.3
217Zeke Bratkowski1960--1971chi-ram-gnb8005304.7%5.5%7.55.1453.5%8.9%6.62.7
218Steve Spurrier1967--1976sfo-tam6878486.4%4.9%7.15.1532.2%5.2%5.43.1
219Joe Kapp1967--1970min-nwe6746266.6%6.2%7.75.1262.2%8.1%5.72.1
220Bob Avellini1975--1984chi7288304.2%5.9%7.55362.3%6.8%5.72.7
221Frank Tripucka1960--1963den7676135.1%5.9%7.55293.3%6.7%5.22.3
222Pete Beathard1964--1973kan-oti-crd-ram8544404.5%5.3%7.24.9342.5%7.3%5.62.4
223Gary Cuozzo1963--1972clt-nor-min-crd7688474.6%3.9%6.54.9352.9%5.7%63.5
224Al Dorow1960--1962nyj-buf5732145.7%5%6.94.8184.7%8.5%5.82.1
225Steve Walsh1989--1999dal-nor-chi-ram-tam-clt8248273.9%3.2%6.24.8342.4%4.5%5.93.9
226Mike Phipps1970--1981cle-chi10806504.5%3.7%6.44.8511.7%8.4%5.31.6
227Scott Brunner1980--1985nyg-crd6843163.7%3.7%6.34.7293%5.8%6.23.6
228Jack Concannon1964--1975phi-chi-gnb-det6270274.6%4.3%6.54.6322.5%6.8%5.12.1
229Mike Taliaferro1964--1972nyj-nwe-buf5241198.2%4.7%6.34.4412.2%7.2%5.11.9

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  1. Unfortunately, I excluded sack data from this study due to its general unavailability for most of the covered time period. []
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In 2006, I took a stab at ranking every quarterback in NFL history. Two years later, I acquired more data and made enough improvements to merit publishing an updated and more accurate list of the best quarterbacks the league has ever seen. In 2009, I tweaked the formula again, and published a set of career rankings, along with a set of strength of schedule, era and weather adjustments, and finally career rankings which include those adjustments and playoff performances.

If nothing else, that was three years ago, so the series was due for an update. I’ve also acquired more data, enabling me to tweak the formula to better reflect player performance. But let’s start today with an explanation of the methodology I’m using. To rank a group of players, you need to decide which metric you’re ordering the list by. I’ll get to all of the criteria I’m not using in a little bit, but the formula does use each of the following: pass attempts, passing touchdowns, passing yards, interceptions, sacks, sack yards lost, fumbles, fumbles recovered, rush attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Most importantly, the formula is adjusted for era and league.

Two of the best quarterbacks ever.

So where do we begin? We start with plain old yards per attempt. I then incorporate sack data by removing sack yards from the numerator and adding sacks to the denominator1. To include touchdowns and pass attempts, I gave a quarterback 20 yards for each passing touchdown and subtracted 45 yards for each interception. This calculation — (Pass Yards + 20 * PTD – 45 * INT – Sack Yards Lost) / (Sacks + Pass Attempts) forms the basis for Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, one of the key metrics I use to evaluate quarterbacks.

For purposes of this study, I did some further tweaking. I’m including rushing touchdowns, because our goal is to measure quarterbacks as players. There’s no reason to separate rushing and passing touchdowns from a value standpoint, so all passing and rushing touchdowns are worth 20 yards and are calculated in the numerator of Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt. To be consistent, I also include rushing touchdowns in the denominator of the equation. This won’t change anything for most quarterbacks, but feels right to me. A touchdown is a touchdown.
[click to continue…]

  1. I have individual sack data for every quarterback since 1969. For seasons before then, I have team sack data going back to 1949. For seasons before 1950, I ignored sacks; for seasons between 1950 and 1969, I gave each quarterback an approximate number of sacks, giving him the pro-rated portion of sacks allowed by the percentage of pass attempts he threw for the team. While imperfect, I thought this “fix” to be better than to ignore the data completely, especially for years where one quarterback was responsible for the vast majority of his team’s pass attempts. []
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