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On Saturday, I noted that Matt Ryan and Tom Brady were the top two quarterbacks in ANY/A in 2016, setting up a rare Super Bowl matchup of the two leaders in that metric. The Falcons and Patriots offenses as a whole also rank 1st and 2nd in ANY/A: Matt Ryan averaged 9.03 ANY/A, and since he handled all but 3 of the Falcons pass attempts this year, you won’t be surprised to know that the Falcons offense averaged 9.01 ANY/A. Brady averaged 8.81 ANY/A, but of course missed four games due to a suspension; the Patriots team ANY/A was 8.46, still good enough for second-best in the NFL.

But as regular readers will remember, the Falcons and Patriots don’t just rank 1-2 in ANY/A; they rank first and second in ANY/A differential, too. Atlanta’s ANY/A differential was 2.70 (9.01 on offense, 6.31 on defense), just a hair ahead of New England (8.46, 5.78, net of 2.68). No other team was within 1 ANY/A of those two, making them the clear best teams in the NFL in ANY/A differential. [click to continue…]


2016 ANY/A Update

Matt Ryan is having a career year, in a not disimilar way from what Carson Palmer did last season. Thanks to a superstar receiver and an offensive coaching staff that is drawing rave reviews, Ryan is having the sort of once-in-a-career year expected from a top-3 pick.  In fact, Ryan is even ahead of Palmer’s pace from last year:

Rk Age Year Lg Tm G W L Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Sk Yds ANY/A
1 Matt Ryan 31 2016 NFL ATL 6 4 2 143 210 68.10 2075 15 3 117.9 15 98 9.52
2 Carson Palmer 35 2015 NFL CRD 6 4 2 125 193 64.77 1737 14 5 106.9 8 42 8.71

The Falcons ranked 17th in ANY/A last year, and 1st this year; Atlanta’s offensive ANY/A has jumped by 3.34 ANY/A, the biggest leap in the league. You might think the Jets — 14th in ANY/A last year, 32nd this year — would have the biggest decline, but New York’s dip is only the second worst. That’s because Palmer, who had a very lofty perch from which to fall, has been far below-average this season: [click to continue…]


Career RANY/A Rankings

Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is my preferred basic measurement of quarterback play. ANY/A is simply yards per attempt, but includes sacks and sack yardage lost, and provides a 20-yard bonus for touchdowns and a 45-yard penalty for interceptions.

RANY/A, or Relative ANY/A, measures a quarterback’s ANY/A average to league average. Let’s use Aaron Rodgers as an example. This past season, he threw 520 passes and gained 4,381 yards and 38 touchdowns, while throwing five interceptions and being sacked 28 times for 174 yards. That translates to an 8.65 ANY/A average, best in the NFL in 2014.

The league average rate in 2014 was a record-high 6.14 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt; as a result, this means that Rodgers averaged 2.52 ANY/A above average, or had a RANY/A of +2.52.1 But that is just for one season. To measure Rodgers’ career RANY/A, we need to do that for every season of his career, and weight his RANY/A in each season by his number of dropbacks.

For example, Rodgers had 14.7% of his career dropbacks come in 2014, which means 14.7% of his career RANY/A is based off of the number +2.52. During his other MVP season in 2011, Rodgers had a RANY/A of 3.49 on just 10 fewer dropbacks; as a result, 14.4% of his career RANY/A is based off of +3.49. If you multiply his RANY/A in each year by the percentage of dropbacks he had in that season relative to his entire career, and sum those results, you will get a player’s career RANY/A. Here, take a look: [click to continue…]

  1. Difference due to rounding. []

Super Bowl XLIX, and Thoughts on ANY/A

Let’s get something out of the way.

In the final minute of the game, the Seahawks had an 88% of winning Super Bowl XLIX. To make grandiose statements about the Patriots passing attack and football analytics based on New England winning the Super Bowl would be silly given the way the game ended.

Okay, whew.  But I do want to talk about the Patriots offense, and more specifically, ANY/A.  As regular readers know, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt is calculated as follows:

(Gross Passing Yards + 20*PassTDs – 45*INTs -SkYdsLost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks)

ANY/A correlates very well with winning, and it’s my favorite basic metric of passing play.  But ANY/A, based around yards per attempt, is not perfect.  And I think SB XLIX provides a good example of that.  Tom Brady finished the day with 320 net passing yards, 4 TDs, and 2 INTs on 51 dropbacks, which translates to an ANY/A of 6.08.  Russell Wilson had 234 net passing yards, 2 TDs, and 1 very fateful INT on his 24 dropbacks; that translates to an ANY/A of 9.54. [click to continue…]


Quarterback Passing Value and First Downs

Nine days ago, I looked at the leaders in passing value, measured as the difference between each quarterback’s ANY/A average and league average, multiplied by such passer’s number of dropbacks. This is the conventional method I have used to measure passing value, but that doesn’t make it the best.

Over the summer, Brian Burke of Advanced Football Analytics fame, helped me determine the value of first down. His research concluded that a first down was worth about 9 marginal yards. I was short on time, so I didn’t have the chance to incorporate that into my formula last week. But I will rectify that today.

In addition, I will provide -30 yards for each “net fumble” — defined as fumbles minus fumbles recovered. And since last week I calculated the numbers relative to average, this time around I will compare player production to replacement value, defined as 80% of league average.1

Let’s use Aaron Rodgers as an example. The Packers star has thrown 458 times for 3,837 yards, 35 touchdowns (+700), with 5 interceptions (-225), 9 fumbles, and 5 fumble recoveries (-120). He has also been sacked 27 times and lost 166 yards on those plays. Finally, Rodgers has picked up 188 first downs (+1692), which means he has a total of 5,718 adjusted net yards. Over his 485 dropbacks, that gives him an average of 11.79 “ANY/A”, while the league average is 8.91. That means Rodgers has produced 1,397 yards of value over average, and 2,261 yards of value over replacement. [click to continue…]

  1. Customarily, I use 75%, but I think with the first down bonus, 80% makes more sense here. []

Rookie Quarterbacks: It Is Not 2012 Anymore

It's been a rough year for rookies like Blake Bortles

It’s been a rough year for rookies like Blake Bortles

Jets second-year quarterback Geno Smith has averaged 3.88 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt this year, which has resulted in him being benched for Michael Vick. That 3.88 ANY/A average is the worst of the 34 qualifying quarterbacks this season. In fact, only three other quarterbacks have averaged fewer than five Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt this year: Derek Carr (4.93), Teddy Bridgewater (4.75), and Blake Bortles (4.16). Those three, along with Johnny Manziel, were selected in the top 40 of the 2014 Draft. Since Manziel has been on the bench most of the season, and Zach Mettenberger does not yet have enough attempts to qualify, this means the only three rookie quarterbacks in the NFL this season have been terrible. With a capital T.

Which maybe isn’t too surprising. But it is a bit different. In 2008, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco played well as rookies, with Ryan posting outstanding numbers and Flacco making it to the AFC Championship Game. In 2009, Mark Sanchez made it to the AFC Championship Game, too. In 2010, Sam Bradford set some volume-based passing records, and helped St. Louis go from 1-15 to 7-9. In 2011, Cam Newton and Andy Dalton had varying degrees of success, and generally exceeded expectations. [click to continue…]


Week 1 Quarterback Comparison

Am I going to update my stock Fitzpatrick photo now that he's on Houston? What do you think?

Am I going to update my stock Fitzpatrick photo now that he's on Houston? What do you think?

Ryan Fitzpatrick averaged 9.61 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt in week 1, good enough for the 4th best grade of the week. But the Houston signal caller — who went 14/22 for 206 yards with 1 touchdown, no interceptions, and 1 sack — was not a very good fantasy quarterback. Using the Footballguys.com standard scoring system of 1 point per 20 yards passing, 1 point per 10 yards rushing, 4 points per touchdown pass, and -1 point per interception, Fitzpatrick had just 15.3 fantasy points (he rushed for 10 yards). That tied him for only the 25th best performance by a quarterback in week one.

Obviously there’s a big difference between ANY/A and fantasy points.  But while we use ANY/A as our main metric for lots of reasons, it’s always helpful to compare it to other statistics.  For example, RG3 ranked 17th in ANY/A in week 1, but only 27th in ESPN’s Total QBR. Why is that? Well, Griffin fumbled twice (losing one), and he completed a lot of very short throws (he had the third lowest air yards per throw and air yards per completion).  But another factor is that his third down performance was a bit misleading using conventional metrics, which is something Total QBR is good at identifying.

Griffin gained 75 net yards on 10 third down dropbacks in the game: that’s pretty good, but he only picked up first downs on 3 of 10 opportunities.   He had a 48-yard completion on a 3rd-and-7, which is great, but it also inflates his average gain; he also had a pair of 9 yard completions on third and very long that added little value.

We can also look at Football Outsiders’ main efficiency metric, DVOA, and compare that to other statistics.  Matt Cassel is an interesting player to analyze.  In DVOA, he ranked 5th.  In ANY/A, he ranked 10th.  In Total QBR, he was 15th, and in fantasy points, he was 21st!   So what gives?

As noted by Vince Verhei, Cassel’s “average pass traveled just 4.8 yards past the line of scrimmage, nearly a full yard shorter than the next shortest quarterback (Derek Carr, 5.6).” That would explain why QBR would be less high on Cassel than other statistics.  And since Cassel threw just 25 passes for only 170 yards, his fantasy value won’t be very high. Football Outsiders, on the other hand, gives Cassel credit for things like his a 9-yard pass on third-and-10 that created better field goal range.  Overall, comparing what Cassel did to the baseline, he looks really good according to FO, and just pretty good according to QBR.  As for ANY/A, it’s impressed by his 2 TD/0 INT ratio, but it’s hard to get a great ANY/A grade when you are averaging just 10.0 yards per completion.

The table below shows each quarterback’s stats in each metric.  For example, Matthew Stafford averaged 11.55 ANY/A in week 1, scored 31.5 fantasy points, had a Total QBR of 97.5, and a DVOA of 90.3%.  Those ratings, among the 33 quarterbacks in week 1 (curses, Rams!), ranked him 1st in ANY/A, 3rd in fantasy points, 1st in QBR, and 1st in DVOA, for an average rank of 1.5. [click to continue…]

Sanchez tries to understand the formula for wins above expectation

Sanchez tries to understand the formula for wins above expectation.

On Friday, the Jets released Mark Sanchez. I don’t have much in the way of a post mortem, but it felt odd not to have at least some post on the subject. And despite watching every Sanchez start for four years, it still takes me by surprise when I see that his career record is 33-29. That winning record came despite Sanchez being one of the worst starters in the league for most of his career. Through five seasons, he has a career Relative Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average of -1.03. Among the 140 quarterbacks to enter the NFL since 1970 who have started 40 games, only one other passer (who will remain nameless for now) had a winning record with a worse RANY/A than Sanchez; the next worst quarterback with a winning record over that time frame is Trent Dilfer, who finished 58-55 with a career -0.85 RANY/A.

If you grade quarterbacks by #Winz, Sanchez is above-average. If you look at passing statistics — i.e., ANY/A — he’s one of the worst in the league. So I thought I would quantify that gulf and see if Sanchez was the quarterback with the largest disparity between winning percentage and passing statistics.

First, I ran a regression on team wins (pro-rated to 16 games) and Relative ANY/A for every year since 1970. The best fit formula was 8.00 + 1.756 * RANY/A. In other words, for every 1.00 ANY/A above league average, a team should expect to win 1.756 more games. For a team to expect to win 11 games, they need to finish 1.71 ANY/A better than average.

Next, I calculated the career RANY/A — i.e., the ANY/A relative to league average — for every quarterback to enter the league since 1970. For example, Sanchez has a RANY/A of -1.03. This means you would expect his teams to win 6.19 games every season, for a 0.387 winning percentage. In reality, Sanchez’s Jets have a 0.632 winning percentage, which means he has an actual winning percentage that is 0.146 higher than his expected winning percentage. As it turns out, that differential puts him in the top ten, but it is not the best mark.

That honor belongs to Mike Phipps. Here’s how to read the table below, which shows all 140 quarterbacks to enter the league since 1970 and start at least 40 games. Phipps entered the league in 1970 and last played in 1981, starting 71 games in his career. He finished with a career RANY/A of -1.52; as a result, he “should have” won only 23.6 games. In reality, he won 39 games, meaning he won 15.4 more games than expected. On a percentage basis, his RANY/A would imply a .333 expected winning percentage; his actual winning percentage was 0.549, and that difference of +0.216 is the highest in our sample. [click to continue…]


No, Peyton, you are #1

No, Peyton, you are #1.

While working on a different post, I needed to derive a quick-and-dirty formula to identify the top 100 or so quarterbacks in NFL history. Here is how I went about doing that:

1) Calculate the Relative ANY/A of each quarterback in every season since 1950. ANY/A, of course, is Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, defined as (Gross Pass Yards + 20*Pass_TDs – 45*INTs – Sack Yards Lost) divided by (Pass Attempts + Sacks). For quarterback seasons before 1969, we do not have sack data, so that part of the analysis is ignored (I could have used estimated sack data, but I being lazy).

2) For each quarterback season, multiply each quarterback’s number of dropbacks by his Relative ANY/A to derive a Passing Value over Average metric.

3) Pro-rate non-16 game seasons to 16 games.

4) Calculate a career grade for each quarterback based on the sum of his best five seasons.

Then I realized that this data, while background material for a separate post, was probably interesting to folks in its own right.  Hence today’s post. You should not be surprised to see that Peyton Manning is number one on this list. Here’s how to read his line. His best year came in 2004, when he produced 2113 Adjusted Net Yards over Average. Last year was his second best season — his gross numbers were more impressive, of course, but he produced “only” 2,031 ANY over average. Manning’s other three best years came in ’06, ’05, and ’03. Overall, he produced 8,115 Adjusted Net Yards over Average over his five best seasons, the best of any quarterback in this study (by a large margin). The table below shows the top 100 passers since 1950 (you can change the number of quarterbacks displayed in the dropdown box). [click to continue…]

I have to deal with Chip Kelly?

I have to deal with Chip Kelly?

Kansas City/Indianapolis Preview

New Orleans Saints (11-5) (+2.5) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-6), Saturday 8:10 PM ET

We’re fully immune to the Saints offense at this point. Drew Brees just threw for for 5,162 yards and 39 touchdowns and it didn’t even register on most radars. One reason for that: both of those numbers represent three-year lows for the Saints star. Jimmy Graham shook off early-season leg injuries to lead the league with 16 touchdowns, and rookie Kenny Stills led the NFL in yards per target. Both Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles topped 70 receptions — two of just five running backs this year to do so — and I didn’t even know that until five seconds ago. Pinball numbers are the expectation when dealing with the Saints offense.

But the real change is on defense, as the team just finished one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NFL history. Did you know that the Saints finished fourth in points allowed this year? That’s only the fourth time New Orleans has ranked in the top five in that statistic in franchise history, with the other three occurrences all coming during the Dome Patrol era. What makes New Orleans’ success even more remarkable is that the team ranked last in points allowed in 2012. New Orleans is the first team in NFL history to jump 27 spots in the points allowed rankings. Prior to this year, the 2011 Houston Texans (4th after ranking 29th) and 1993 New York Giants (1st after ranking 26th) had been the most improved defenses with 25-slot jumps. Now the Saints probably aren’t as good as their points allowed rank would imply (Football Outsiders has them 9th, Advanced NFL Stats ranks the unit 10th), but unparalleled feats remain astounding.

The main reason for the team’s improvement is the pass defense. The Saints ranked last in Net Yards per Attempt allowed last year, but 7th this season, another remarkable jump. In fact, only 10 teams have ever made a jump of 25 spots in the NY/A allowed rankings: [click to continue…]


No, Peyton, you are #1

No, Peyton, you are #1.

Back in March, Chase wrote a post investigating how quarterbacks age, finding that they peak at age 29 (with a generalized peak from 26-30) in terms of value over average. Today, I thought I’d quickly look at how quarterbacks age in terms of their performance rate — specifically, their Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt (ANY/A). For newer readers, ANY/A is based on the following formula: (Passing Yards + 20 * Passing TDs – 45 * INTs – Sack Yards Lost) / (Pass Attempts + Sacks).

First, I need to introduce a way of adjusting ANY/A for era: Relative ANY/A. Relative ANY/A is simply equal to:


The table below lists the 30 single-season leaders in Relative ANY/A since the merger. You won’t be too surprised to see the 2004 version of Peyton Manning at the top. That year, Manning averaged 9.8 ANY/A, while the league average was just 5.6 ANY/A. That means Manning gets a Relative ANY/A grade of +4.1 (with the difference due to rounding).
[click to continue…]