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 How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks 
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Post How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
ESPN.com wrote:
How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks

August, 1, 2011 19:30AM
By Mike Sando


The late Don Smith never claimed his passer-rating formula was perfect.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

"Some people call it a quarterback rating system, but that really is not what it is," Smith told me during a 2002 interview. "It’s simply a passing statistic."

I've actually defended Smith's rating system because the quarterbacks with the highest ratings -- Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers led the way last season -- usually are the best quarterbacks. But there's so much more to quarterbacking than passing stats for touchdowns, interceptions, attempts, completions and yardage.

Game situations should count for something, and now they do.

With input from football people, including ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, our statistical analysts have developed a 100-point ratings scale for quarterbacks taking into account advanced stats, game situations and relevant non-passing stats, including fumbles and sacks, to evaluate quarterbacks far more thoroughly. The methodology is complex -- one of the formula's key algorithms spans some 10,000 lines -- but the resulting "Total Quarterback Rating" (QBR for short) beats the old passer rating in every conceivable fashion. The ratings scale will debut this season.

According to an outline for the rating system, Tom Brady would fall in the "top tier" category.I've been bugging the Stats & Information team for a sneak peak ever since learning former NBA statistical analyst Dean Oliver had joined our production analytics unit and was playing a prominent role in QBR development. Oliver, a Caltech grad with a Ph.D. in statistical applications, revolutionized how NBA teams use advanced statistics. Menlo College professor Ben Alamar, who has consulted with the San Francisco 49ers, is also part of the team.

Our stats team has been using game video to track stats relating to pressure, personnel, formation, game situation and more since 2008. The QBR stat represents a significant leap in harnessing those statistics for something more.

The old formula Smith created treated stats the same regardless of circumstance. A touchdown pass thrown against a prevent defense during a blowout defeat equals one thrown against pressure to win the game. A 5-yard completion on third-and-4 counts the same as a 5-yarder on third-and-15. A critical quarterback scramble, sack or fumble doesn't even factor.

"There is no way to statistically say how effective a guy is under fire," Smith lamented during our 2002 conversation. "None of that can be put into something like this."

Now it can, along with a whole lot more.

The QBR formula takes into account down, distance, field position, time remaining, rushing, passing sacks, fumbles, interceptions, how far each pass travels in the air, from where on the field the ball was thrown, yards after the catch, dropped balls, defensed balls, whether the quarterback was hit, whether he threw away the ball to avoid a sack, whether the pass was thrown accurately, etc. Each play carries "clutch weight" based on its importance to game outcome, as determined by analyzing those 60,000 plays since 2008. The stats adjust for quarterbacks facing an unusually high number of these situations.

"If it is a running clock late in the game, maybe you only get a few yards here or there, that is the right football play to make," Jeff Bennett, senior director of ESPN's production analytics team, said Sunday. "We spent a month learning about ratings to make sure quarterbacks couldn’t game the system, so they're not afraid to throw that deep pass at the end of the first half and risk an interception."

I've seen an outline for the rating system breaking down 2010 quarterbacks into six general categories, from top tier to poor. Precise rating numbers were not yet available. The quarterbacks under consideration broke down as follows:

Top tier: Brady, Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Rodgers and Drew Brees.

Well above average: Josh Freeman, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers.

Above average: Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, David Garrard and Kerry Collins.

Around average: Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, Colt McCoy, Kyle Orton and Jon Kitna.

Below average: Shaun Hill, Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, Matt Hasselbeck, Chad Henne, Donovan McNabb, Sam Bradford and Alex Smith.

Poor: Derek Anderson, Brett Favre and Jimmy Clausen.

ESPN plans to enlist several quarterbacks when introducing the stat during an hour-long "SportsCenter" special Friday at 8 p.m. ET. We'll be referencing the stat on the blogs and elsewhere. Bennett said he's allocating enough manpower to produce ratings on game days, a huge help for those of us analyzing player performances shortly after games.

"We want to reward a good football play," Bennett said.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/ ... arterbacks



Personally I think it's about time. I don't entirely understand HOW they're doing this but I like the fact that they are.

It does seem that there are to many flaws in the current system and no one will completely agree with whatever the 'weighting' factors are in this new QBR, but I'm pleased that someone is taking a stab at tweaking this. There's no doubt that a QB benefits from a stout O-line vs one that has to manage a game behind an inferior one. There's dozens of variables that the current system doesn't consider, so I'm more than happy to entertain a new one.

What are your thoughts?

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August 1st, 2011, 11:04 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
I agree it's about time. I've never liked the fact that a QB gets nailed for a dropped pass, or that he gets credit for an 80 yard TD pass, when he only threw the ball 6 yards and the receiver did the rest of the work.

I'd like to see ratings stats like this for other positions, like receiver and running backs. Take into account for receivers things like passes dropped, difficulty of catch, adjustments to poor passes, preventing interceptions, breaking off routes when the QB is scrambling, yards after catch, tackles broken, even downfield blocks that spring a long gain on the ground.

For a running back take into account tackles broken, yards after initial contact, yards after handoff, blocks missed, blitzes picked up, and all receiver stats if they are catching the ball. I know it would be a lot to take into account, but I think these are things that determine a good running back, not just carries and yards rushed beyond the line of scrimmage. Some of Barry's best runs were only four or five yard gains, but he was hit a millisecond after he got the ball in his hands.

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August 2nd, 2011, 9:37 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
I like the effort, but not the results. I simply feel that you can't judge a QB by the statistics and trying to do so only causes problems in other areas. Is this better? Maybe, but I have a hard time thinking Cutler is a below average QB on anyone's ranking as well as Ben Roth. I think Cutler gets dinged for a bad o-line and Ben get's dinged for being so tough.

Again, they likely only looked at last season... but with the old system it was "close" as well.

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August 2nd, 2011, 9:52 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
FWIW:
Quote:
2011 Regular Season NFL Leaders
RK PLAYER PASS EPA RUN EPA SACK EPA PENALTY EPA TOTAL EPA ACT PLAYS CW AVG TOTAL QBR
1 Aaron Rodgers, GB 118.0 10.9 -19.2 7.1 116.8 681 0.9 85.2
2 Drew Brees, NO 147.3 0.7 -15.2 2.6 135.4 755 1.0 84.0
3 Tom Brady, NE 133.4 -2.8 -23.0 3.3 110.9 763 1.1 74.2
4 Tony Romo, DAL 114.3 -1.3 -26.1 -1.5 85.4 641 1.1 70.1
5 Matt Ryan, ATL 84.7 -0.3 -19.5 9.6 74.6 699 1.0 67.5
6 Matt Schaub, HOU 50.1 -2.9 -9.5 0.7 38.4 352 1.0 66.7
7 Matthew Stafford, DET 102.0 -3.5 -22.4 2.7 78.8 800 1.0 65.1
8 Philip Rivers, SD 83.3 -3.3 -18.0 6.1 68.1 702 1.0 64.3
9 Ben Roethlisberger, PIT 84.1 -4.5 -23.1 4.1 60.7 654 0.9 63.3
10 Michael Vick, PHI 60.3 5.9 -11.7 -1.3 53.3 575 1.0 63.2

Quote:
2011 Postseason NFL Leaders
RK PLAYER PASS EPA RUN EPA SACK EPA PENALTY EPA TOTAL EPA ACT PLAYS CW AVG TOTAL QBR
1 Tom Brady, NE 6.3 -0.3 0.0 0.1 6.1 38 0.6 95.1
2 Matthew Stafford, DET 10.4 1.0 0.0 -0.4 11.0 47 1.0 91.1
3 Eli Manning, NYG 15.8 1.3 -1.3 -0.1 15.7 79 1.0 84.9
4 Tim Tebow, DEN 8.8 1.2 -1.4 0.9 9.6 73 0.7 84.2
5 Alex Smith, SF 9.6 4.2 -3.9 -0.3 9.6 49 1.3 78.1
6 Drew Brees, NO 23.1 -1.9 -4.6 2.4 19.0 125 1.1 74.3
7 Aaron Rodgers, GB 6.2 4.0 -3.2 0.1 7.1 61 1.1 66.9
8 Matt Ryan, ATL 4.5 -3.0 -0.8 -0.2 0.6 48 0.9 36.9
9 T.J. Yates, HOU 1.3 -0.5 -1.0 -0.3 -0.5 61 1.1 30.9
10 Andy Dalton, CIN -0.7 -0.4 -2.6 2.5 -1.2 53 0.9 26.8


Not too bad for his first full season :wink:

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January 20th, 2012, 10:43 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
QBR is great imo, but it still doesn't measure the other intangibles like time spent in film room, or time spent after practice doing extra throws, etc.

How is Matt Ryan so high up on the list? I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

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January 21st, 2012, 1:38 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
49ers wrote:
QBR is great imo, but it still doesn't measure the other intangibles like time spent in film room, or time spent after practice doing extra throws, etc.

How is Matt Ryan so high up on the list? I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

It's a ranking of the entire season, not a snapshot in time right now. I'll agree that Ryan is overrated and gets more credit than he deserves, but I don't think Smith has exactly played lights out either. Yes, he played great in his last game, but you have to consider his entire season and career. This year was Smith's best season ever, in nearly every category. he had his highest ever cmp%, yds, & rating, his 2nd highest ever TDs, & his 2nd lowest ever INTs. But, he also isn't asked to do too much. He doesn't pass very much relative to the rest of the league. Ryan does pass a lot. Ryan had the 7th most attempts. Smith had the 20th. That speaks to a team with a better defense and run game (SF ranked 4th in D & 8th in rushing; ATL 12th in D & 17th in rushing). That's not to say it's any kind of indictment or knock against Smith. It's just two very different situations.

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January 21st, 2012, 2:07 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
How is Romo on the list?


January 22nd, 2012, 12:41 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
49ers wrote:
Touchdown Jesus wrote:
How is Matt Ryan so high up on the list? I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

It's a ranking of the entire season, not a snapshot in time right now. I'll agree that Ryan is overrated and gets more credit than he deserves, but I don't think Smith has exactly played lights out either. Yes, he played great in his last game, but you have to consider his entire season and career. This year was Smith's best season ever, in nearly every category. he had his highest ever cmp%, yds, & rating, his 2nd highest ever TDs, & his 2nd lowest ever INTs. But, he also isn't asked to do too much. He doesn't pass very much relative to the rest of the league. Ryan does pass a lot. Ryan had the 7th most attempts. Smith had the 20th. That speaks to a team with a better defense and run game (SF ranked 4th in D & 8th in rushing; ATL 12th in D & 17th in rushing). That's not to say it's any kind of indictment or knock against Smith. It's just two very different situations.

Whoa whoa whoa..... I wasn't making the case for Smith. I wasn't even defending him. I was just stating that RIGHT NOW, Smith > Ryan. I think Ryan is vastly over-rated. He's like Flacco with more weapons to throw to, and he still can't get the job done. He's HORRID!

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January 22nd, 2012, 10:02 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
49ers wrote:
49ers wrote:
Touchdown Jesus wrote:
How is Matt Ryan so high up on the list? I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

It's a ranking of the entire season, not a snapshot in time right now. I'll agree that Ryan is overrated and gets more credit than he deserves, but I don't think Smith has exactly played lights out either. Yes, he played great in his last game, but you have to consider his entire season and career. This year was Smith's best season ever, in nearly every category. he had his highest ever cmp%, yds, & rating, his 2nd highest ever TDs, & his 2nd lowest ever INTs. But, he also isn't asked to do too much. He doesn't pass very much relative to the rest of the league. Ryan does pass a lot. Ryan had the 7th most attempts. Smith had the 20th. That speaks to a team with a better defense and run game (SF ranked 4th in D & 8th in rushing; ATL 12th in D & 17th in rushing). That's not to say it's any kind of indictment or knock against Smith. It's just two very different situations.

Whoa whoa whoa..... I wasn't making the case for Smith. I wasn't even defending him. I was just stating that RIGHT NOW, Smith > Ryan. I think Ryan is vastly over-rated. He's like Flacco with more weapons to throw to, and he still can't get the job done. He's HORRID!


Not sure if I agree with you on this. Ryan lead his team to the number 1 seed last year and has made the playoffs the past three years. Smith has made the playoffs once and did it with a great tight end and a former number 1 WR in Crabtree. The only case you have is Smith has a playoff win over Ryan, but one makes not a rule.


January 22nd, 2012, 10:14 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
aManNamedSuh wrote:
49ers wrote:
49ers wrote:
Touchdown Jesus wrote:
How is Matt Ryan so high up on the list? I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

It's a ranking of the entire season, not a snapshot in time right now. I'll agree that Ryan is overrated and gets more credit than he deserves, but I don't think Smith has exactly played lights out either. Yes, he played great in his last game, but you have to consider his entire season and career. This year was Smith's best season ever, in nearly every category. he had his highest ever cmp%, yds, & rating, his 2nd highest ever TDs, & his 2nd lowest ever INTs. But, he also isn't asked to do too much. He doesn't pass very much relative to the rest of the league. Ryan does pass a lot. Ryan had the 7th most attempts. Smith had the 20th. That speaks to a team with a better defense and run game (SF ranked 4th in D & 8th in rushing; ATL 12th in D & 17th in rushing). That's not to say it's any kind of indictment or knock against Smith. It's just two very different situations.

Whoa whoa whoa..... I wasn't making the case for Smith. I wasn't even defending him. I was just stating that RIGHT NOW, Smith > Ryan. I think Ryan is vastly over-rated. He's like Flacco with more weapons to throw to, and he still can't get the job done. He's HORRID!


Not sure if I agree with you on this. Ryan lead his team to the number 1 seed last year and has made the playoffs the past three years. Smith has made the playoffs once and did it with a great tight end and a former number 1 WR in Crabtree. The only case you have is Smith has a playoff win over Ryan, but one makes not a rule.


I agree with NamedSuh.

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January 22nd, 2012, 6:40 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
Saying Matt Ryan is horrid is just downright foolishness. He's barely had an offensive line worth noting to protect him. Is he over-rated? Yes, I think so. I think his rookie season gained him some fame that he probably didn't totally deserve, because Atlanta relied more on Michael Turner for their success. However, rookie QB and post-Michael Vick signal caller = Lead Story.

But c'mon. Alex Smith has one decent season, and suddenly he's gonna skyrocket up the "whose the better QB" charts? What this season should tell you is that Smith is strictly a system QB that is more game manager than game changer. He's been dealt a crummy hand since he's been in the NFL, but welcome to the big leagues fella. Up until now he hasn't helped the players around him be much better, it took the right coach with the right system to make that team play as a team.

Smith>Ryan?! I think NOT. Smith has a better o-line, comparable RB, maybe less accomplished receiving corps, but a MUCH better defense on his roster. That helps too.

Sorry, bud. Your argument doesn't fly with me.

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February 24th, 2012, 1:45 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
How come you guys always interpret what I say into something entirely different?

Matt Ryan is horrid. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Mike Turner... where the hell was the offense this year? Could you imagine Tom Brady with that crew? On turf no less!? Ryan should be doing more than he is.

49ers wrote:
I wouldn't trust him over Alex Smith right now.

TRUST! TRUST!!! Not "better than".

I then went on to say that "RIGHT NOW, Smith > Ryan", which was after a great playoff game by Alex Smith over the Saints. If you saw that game, then you saw Alex Smith lead not one, but two long drives to score a touchdown at the end of the 4th quarter in a HUGE game, while Ryan is at home because he couldn't muster any offense. The 49ers defense didn't save them. Gore wasn't getting any yards. That was all Smith (with sprinkled Vernon Davis). RIGHT THEN, I think Smith > Ryan.

That doesn't mean Alex is better. That doesn't even mean I think Smith is a good or great quarterback. It's even ridiculous to assume or argue such a notion. The Smith vs Ryan argument is like a the Toyota Yaris vs Nissan Versa argument. Two cheap cars that suck. Who cares?

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February 29th, 2012, 7:35 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
49ers wrote:
Matt Ryan is horrid. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Mike Turner... where the hell was the offense this year? Could you imagine Tom Brady with that crew? On turf no less!? Ryan should be doing more than he is.


How come you are completely ignoring the fact that Ryan's O-line is trash? And the fact is he led his team to a very respectable 10-6 record and got them into the playoffs. Why is that so terrible?

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February 29th, 2012, 11:20 pm
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
m2karateman wrote:
49ers wrote:
Matt Ryan is horrid. Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, and Mike Turner... where the hell was the offense this year? Could you imagine Tom Brady with that crew? On turf no less!? Ryan should be doing more than he is.


How come you are completely ignoring the fact that Ryan's O-line is trash? And the fact is he led his team to a very respectable 10-6 record and got them into the playoffs. Why is that so terrible?

Also, you asked where the offense was. I'm not sure what you're looking for, but their offense was pretty good. Here's their rankings in various offensive categories this year (SF's rankings in parentheses):

Total pts/g: 7 (11)
Total yds/g: 10 (26)
Rush yds/g: 17 (8)
Rush yds/att: 17 (8)
Pass yds/g: 8 (29)
Pass yds/att: 13 (16)

So in every offensive statistic except rushing, Atlanta is better. Since this is a discussion of QBs, how exactly is Smith better than Ryan right now? Ryan has performed better in every category.

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March 1st, 2012, 9:51 am
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Post Re: How to identify NFL's best quarterbacks
Atlanta's problem isn't offense. Its why I laughed hysterically for them mortgaging the farm for Julio Jones after just giving up 48 points to GB in the Wild Card Loss. They're front office is blind to the obvious. Building a defense that can outscore the opposition doesn't fix a defense that gives up a ton of points. Haven't we learned that lesson from watching our own team?

Ryan isn't the problem in Atlanta. The problem with that offense is that they felt inclined to go to JJ multiple times in a row and ignore the strength of their rushing game. When you become one dimensional, you become easier to stop.


March 1st, 2012, 12:15 pm
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