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FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

by Danny Tuccitto

Pop quiz, hot shot!

1. Which quarterback owns the record for highest pass DVOA in a single season? What season was it?
2. Which quarterback owns the record for highest pass DYAR in a single season? What season was it?
3. Which quarterback owns the record for highest rush DYAR in a single season? What season was it?
4. Which quarterback owns the record for highest pass DYAR in a single game? What game was it?
5. Which quarterback owns the record for highest rush DYAR in a single game? What game was it?
6. Among quarterbacks who debuted after 1990, who owns the record for highest pass DYAR over the course of his career?
7. Among quarterbacks who debuted after 1990, who owns the record for highest rush DYAR over the course of his career?
8. Among quarterbacks who debuted after 1990, who owns the record for highest total DYAR over the course of his career?

Before reading the rest of this article, write down your answers. And for any cheaters out there, today's special guest proctor is Mr. Selig. His punishments may not be swift, but they can be ruthless enough to make a grown man feign emotion. Consider yourself warned.

Done yet? OK, good.

Moving on, you may be aware that FO is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary. Today's festivities involve a look at the best quarterback performances in Football Outsiders stats, which currently date back to 1991. (1989-1990 are hopefully coming before we start the 2013 season, but we don't have them ready yet.) All of the season stats you'll see are freely available on various pages of the site, and Vince Verhei's weekly "Quick Reads" column details our stats for each game during the season. In short, you could have put most of these lists together yourself.* But seeing as how you probably have a life while I clearly do not, I've gone ahead and done the heavy lifting. You're welcome. And as an infamous "Brain" once said, "You won't offend me with cash."

(*Ed. Note: Actually, if you put the lists together yourself, they would look slightly different because of an error that has misvalued roughly 6-8 interceptions per season. This article contains fixed numbers, which haven't yet been added to our stats pages or the player pages.)

Without further ado, below is the shocking answer to our first question.

Best Pass DVOA, Season, 1991-2012
(min. 100 passes)
Year Player Team DVOA
1992 Wade Wilson ATL 62.3%
2004 Peyton Manning IND 58.9%
1997 Boomer Esiason CIN 58.0%
2007 Tom Brady NE 54.1%
2006 Peyton Manning IND 51.3%
2010 Tom Brady NE 46.7%
2011 Aaron Rodgers GB 46.6%
1992 Steve Young SF 45.1%
1998 Randall Cunningham MIN 45.1%
1998 Vinny Testaverde NYJ 42.2%

As I was watching the Hall of Fame game the other night, and the Cowboys quarterbacks coach got a fleeting moment of camera time, little did I know I was face to face with the single-season record holder for pass DVOA. Now, we can crack wise here in any number of ways, but considering that few of us have contemplated Wade Wilson's career over the past decade, this actually seems like a great time to stroll down memory lane. Outside of Vikings fans and NFL history buffs, who remembers that he led the league in completion percentage and made the Pro Bowl with Minnesota in 1988? Me neither. DVOA doesn't go back that far yet, but just from knowing a little bit about how other advanced stats relate to DVOA, I'm pretty confident in guessing that Wilson's DVOA in 1988 won't be as good as the one in the table; and that makes me start to wonder if I should have appreciated his talent more when I was a kid. (So much for not cracking wise.)

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In all seriousness though, it seemed obvious at first that Wilson's spot at the top was simply a byproduct of FO having a lower-than-standard qualifying threshold for attempts: His 169 pass plays in 1992 were more than 100, but less than 224. Yes, if we bump up the threshold, both he and Boomer Esiason drop out of the top 10, replaced by Mark Rypien's 41.9% DVOA for the best team ever (so far) and Philip Rivers' 41.7% DVOA in 2009. However, consider the reverse. If we drop the NFL's threshold to 100, Wilson would have finished 1992 ranked first in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), eking out the win over another member of our list, Steve Young. (Do you remember that Wilson was the Vikings starting quarterback in 1987 when Minnesota scored one of the biggest upsets in playoff history? I had forgotten, and would have preferred it to remain that way.)

If we look at all quarterback seasons from 1991-2012 using the 100-pass threshold, Wilson's 8.12 ANY/A in 1992 ranks 16th. In the end, I may not agree that Wade Wilson's nine-game exploits in 1992 represented the most efficient passing season of the past 22 years, but I do think it provides a nice diversion on a Wednesday afternoon.

Onto the answers for Question 2 and Question 3, which you'll find in the tables below:

Best Pass DYAR, Season, 1991-2012
(min. 100 Passes)
Year Player Team DYAR
2007 Tom Brady NE 2,674
2004 Peyton Manning IND 2,434
2006 Peyton Manning IND 2,317
2011 Drew Brees NO 2,259
2011 Aaron Rodgers GB 2,059
2012 Tom Brady NE 2,035
2009 Tom Brady NE 2,021
2011 Tom Brady NE 1,994
2010 Tom Brady NE 1,909
2003 Peyton Manning IND 1,891
Best Rush DYAR, Season, 1991-2012
(min. 8 Rushes)
Year Player Team DYAR
2006 Michael Vick ATL 261
2004 Michael Vick ATL 241
1998 Steve McNair TEN 214
2000 Daunte Culpepper MIN 209
2002 Donovan McNabb PHI 200
2010 Michael Vick PHI 192
2000 Rich Gannon OAK 189
2011 Cam Newton CAR 188
1991 Steve Young SF 186
2000 Donovan McNabb PHI 183

No Wilson-esque surprises here. In this sea of predictable results, one thing may stand out to some readers: Football Outsiders is biased in favor of the New England Patriots. Of course, an alternative explanation of Tom Brady's dominance in pass DYAR over the past six seasons could be simply that it's one of the greatest stretches of valuable quarterback play in NFL history. With a ragtag receiving corps at his disposal this upcoming season, the proof of that clam chowder will be in the eating. Regardless, it's still quite a feat that Brady set the pass DYAR record in 2007, lost 2008 to a shredded knee, and then proceeded to rattle off four more of the top 10 seasons ever upon returning. (Nod to Colts and Broncos fans: Yes, Peyton Manning's comeback season in 2012 was also quite a feat as well.)

Meanwhile, Michael Vick has been the Tom Brady of quarterback rushing value over the past decade or so, but there's a far more interesting conversation to be had once we look at the right side of the next table, which gives you the answers to Question 4 and Question 5.

(UPDATE: For your convenience, I've added links to the PFR box score for each game. If you want to reminisce or see what the quarterback's standard stats looked like, just click on the week associated with that performance in the table.)

Best Pass DYAR, Game, 1991-2012
Year Week Player Team DYAR
1998 5 Randall Cunningham MIN 332
2002 4 Trent Green KC 327
2002 10 Marc Bulger STL 309
2009 15 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 300
2007 11 Tom Brady NE 299
1995 13 Scott Mitchell DET 298
2009 6 Drew Brees NO 294
2009 6 Tom Brady NE 294
2011 15 Drew Brees NO 290
2007 7 Tom Brady NE 290
Best Rush DYAR, Game, 1991-2012
Year Week Player Team DYAR
2002 13 Michael Vick ATL 82
2000 1 Daunte Culpepper MIN 68
2012 6 Robert Griffin WAS 66
2010 15 Michael Vick PHI 57
2006 2 Michael Vick ATL 54
2011 14 Joe Webb MIN 53
2001 8 Steve McNair TEN 52
2001 5 Daunte Culpepper MIN 50
2010 10 Michael Vick PHI 49
2012 15 Russell Wilson SEA 46

As Vince discussed after Week 6 of last year, there have been only eight games of 50 rush DYAR or more by a quarterback. Vick produced three of them, along with four of the top 10 games since 1991. You know who has produced five of the top 10? The Minnesota Vikings, and their repeated appearances on these lists is really starting to freak me out. There's Daunte Culpepper running twice through the okra patch. There's Joe Webb, another forgettable Vikings backup destined to be rediscovered by some intrepid FO writer 10 years from now. Vick's crowning achievement came against the Vikings in 2002. As did the performance by [Redacted] rookie Robert Griffin in Week 6. (Not yet in the table is Steve Young's performance against the 1988 Vikings, which produced this iconic run. Seriously, what's up with Minnesota's run defense against quarterbacks?)

It's actually a nice bit of symmetry that both Vick and Griffin have had their best rush DYAR against the same opponent because they might be the only two quarterbacks who populate the 2023 version of the table. Griffin may only have one game among the best 10 ever (so far), but as a rookie he also amassed at least 35 rush DYAR in Week 2 (45), Week 3 (40), and Week 17 (37). Of course, the real problem for Vick keeping this record for very much longer is that, unlike when he seemed to be the only dog in the fight 10 years ago, today's NFL includes more than just Griffin. Russell Wilson also made the best-ever (so far) table in his first season, while Gang of Four compatriot Colin Kaepernick almost made it in his first half as San Francisco's No. 1 quarterback (37 rush DYAR in Week 10). Elder statesman Cam Newton also just missed the table with 38 rush DYAR in Week 14 last year.

Other than noting that Brady has three of the 10 games in addition to five of the top 10 seasons (so far), I'll leave discussion about single-game pass DYARs to the comments section. Between another Vikings quarterback ranking No. 1 and two of the other games coming against Minnesota's defense (Scott Mitchell's in 1995 and Drew Brees' in 2011), I would really like to finish writing this article without needing a despojo shortly thereafter.

So, let's move on to the best careers since 1991 according to pass DYAR and rush DYAR. It's gotta be Brady and Vick at the top, right? Below are the answers to Question 6 and Question 7. (An asterisk means the quarterback is still active.)

Best Pass DYAR, Career
(Debuted 1991 or Later)
Player No. Years DYAR
Peyton Manning 14* 22,728
Tom Brady 13* 16,291
Brett Favre 20 14,898
Drew Brees 12* 12,950
Kurt Warner 12 7,172
Ben Roethlisbger 9* 7,093
Philip Rivers 9* 7,031
Tony Romo 7* 6,858
Steve McNair 13 6,621
Aaron Rodgers 8* 6,445
Player No. Years DYAR
Trent Green 11 6,357
Carson Palmer 9* 6,150
Jeff Garcia 11 5,827
Mark Brunell 16 5,506
Donovan McNabb 13 5,388
Matt Ryan 5* 5,153
Drew Bledsoe 14 5,043
Eli Manning 9* 5,002
Matt Schaub 9* 4,980
Brad Johnson 15 4,966
Chad Pennington 11 4,472
Daunte Culpepper 11 4,199
Best Rush DYAR, Career
(Debuted 1991 or Later)
Player No. Years DYAR
Michael Vick 10* 1,341
Steve McNair 13 1,143
Donovan McNabb 13 841
Daunte Culpepper 11 719
Kordell Stewart 10 663
Jeff Garcia 11 577
Mark Brunell 16 540
Jeff Blake 13 509
Aaron Rodgers 8* 485
David Garrard 9 446
Player No. Years DYAR
Jake Plummer 10 435
Cam Newton 2* 337
Aaron Brooks 7 291
Matt Hasselbeck 14* 274
Ben Roethlisberger 9* 273
Trent Green 11 248
Rob Johnson 8 247
Josh Freeman 4* 243
Tom Brady 13* 232
Brett Favre 20 231
David Carr 10* 223
Ryan Fitzpatrick 7* 220

Personally, I would have given half-credit for answering that trick question with "Tom Brady," but Mr. Selig overruled me. His exact words were, "Kid, close only counts in horseshoes and Doug Eddings' strike zone."

By virtue of having a two-year head start, and Tom Brady not becoming ROBO-QUARTERBACK until his fifth season in the league, Peyton Manning currently holds the career pass DYAR record. To wit, since 2004, they've played the same number of seasons and are virtually tied: 14,637 pass DYAR for Manning; 14,339 for Brady. Add in the man who retires more often than a pit crew, and you basically have the three individuals that have dominated NFL conversation over the past two decades. I don't think that's a coincidence.

The rest of the pass DYAR rankings are an equal mix of quarterbacks who began applying their skills to NFL football around the same time FO did, and the ghosts of 90s playoff teams. (Also, four former members of the Minnesota Vikings; but I digress.) The most striking thing about this group, however, is that none of them seem to have a legitimate shot at overtaking Manning (or maybe Brady) one day. Tony Romo is over 15,000 pass DYAR behind and on the wrong side of the quarterback aging curve. Ditto Aaron Rodgers, although he's a "young" 30 years old in terms of NFL wear and tear. Even Matt Ryan, who's currently sitting at the peak of the curve, probably needs to average something absurd like 2,000 pass DYAR over the next 10 years. Two problems with that: (1) His career high is 750 pass DYAR less than that; and (2) It assumes Manning and Brady end their careers around 25,000.

When it comes to career rush DYAR, the amazing thing about Vick is obviously not that he's the best ever (so far). No, it's that the No. 2 active player, Aaron Rodgers, is nearly 900 rush DYAR behind him. Granted, Newton (or Griffin or Wilson or Kaepernick) could probably sleepwalk his way to the record by the time we write "FO 20th Anniversary Stats" in 2023, but it's still pretty impressive that Vick has such a lead with one foot in the Daunte Culpepper Commemorative Scoring Tent sponsored by Al and Alma's.

The other deceptively quick thing I'll say about our career rush DYAR rankings is that they certainly have an Ernest Thomason-esque quality to them. When a great like Tom Brady is only the 19th-most valuable running quarterback of the past 22 years, it's definitely time for the CQBAA to start a petition -- which happens to provide a nice segue to this column's final act.

You may have noticed that, in addition to FO's Fleet-Footed Foxboro Flame, nine other quarterbacks in the top 22 for career pass DYAR also appear in the top 22 for career rush DYAR. It seems that, even before the recent trend represented by professional football's Gang of Four, the most valuable quarterbacks weren't just elite passers. Aaron Rodgers ranks among the top 10 in both categories, and he's been Green Bay's starter since 2008. Steve McNair's rankings are even more impressive, to the point of considering whether the public vastly underrated his career. (Not to Wade Wilson levels, mind you, but still.)

This raises one final extra-credit essay question for today's pop quiz: How will the rankings change when we combine pass DYAR and rush DYAR into an aggregate value we'll call "total DYAR?" Intuitively, you probably wouldn't, given that the former is greater than the latter by a factor of 10. In that case, let me make the question a little tougher.

As readers of FO, you're almost certainly familiar with our friends at Pro Football Reference. Five years ago, Doug Drinen saw a glitch in the matrix when he produced all-time rankings based on the total approximate value (AV) players had amassed over the course of their careers: It doubled as a list of who played the longest. To strike a balance between performance and longevity, rather than simply adding up a player's yearly AVs, he instead gave the player 100 percent credit for his best year, 95 percent credit for his second-best year, 90 percent credit for his third-best year, and so on. In Drinen's system, a shorter-career, higher-peak player will have a higher weighted career AV than a longer-career, lower-peak player even if their unweighted career AVs are similar. For instance, Mark Brunell (120 AV) had a slightly more valuable career than Kurt Warner (113 AV) if you just add up their yearly AVs . With weighting, however, the gap completely disappears because Warner climbed two stratospheric peaks in 12 years while Brunell hung on like grim death long after his most valuable years were behind him.

A short time later, Drinen's PFR colleague, Neil Paine, took a different approach in the specific context of ranking quarterback careers. Namely, instead of applying Drinen's weights, he just took the average value produced by a quarterback in his best six seasons. (Those with five or fewer seasons got zeroes plugged in for missing seasons.) The best part: Paine used DYAR's defenseless cousin YAR where possible, and used PFR's other advanced stats to estimate seasonal YAR prior to 1994.

So now the extra-credit question is, "How will the rankings change when we look at career total DYAR and how will they change when we also look at two additional measures of career value: (1) weighted career total DYAR and (2) average DYAR in the player's best six seasons? Quickly write down your answers -- Mr. Selig is running late for his yoga class -- and consult the table below to see how you did.

Best Total DYAR, Career
(Debuted 1991 or Later)
Player Years DYAR
Peyton Manning 14* 22,854
Tom Brady 13* 16,523
Brett Favre 20 15,129
Drew Brees 12* 13,090
Steve McNair 13 7,764
Ben Roethlisberger 9* 7,366
Kurt Warner 12 7,151
Philip Rivers 9* 6,979
Tony Romo 7* 6,954
Aaron Rodgers 8* 6,930
Player Years DYAR
Trent Green 11 6,606
Jeff Garcia 11 6,404
Carson Palmer 9* 6,236
Donovan McNabb 13 6,229
Mark Brunell 16 6,046
Matt Ryan 5* 5,234
Brad Johnson 15 5,116
Drew Bledsoe 14 5,078
Eli Manning 9* 5,061
Matt Schaub 9* 5,000
Daunte Culpepper 11 4,919
Chad Pennington 11 4,581
Best Total DYAR, Weighted Career
(Debuted 1991 or Later)
Player Years DYAR
Peyton Manning 14* 16,669
Tom Brady 13* 13,541
Brett Favre 20 10,872
Drew Brees 12* 10,864
Steve McNair 13 6,533
Kurt Warner 12 6,507
Aaron Rodgers 8* 6,413
Philip Rivers 9* 6,323
Ben Roethlisberger 9* 6,231
Tony Romo 7* 6,168
Player Years DYAR
Trent Green 11 5,976
Jeff Garcia 11 5,662
Carson Palmer 9* 5,520
Donovan McNabb 13 5,275
Mark Brunell 16 5,237
Daunte Culpepper 11 4,827
Matt Ryan 5* 4,772
Brad Johnson 15 4,623
Matt Schaub 9* 4,577
Eli Manning 9* 4,519
Drew Bledsoe 14 4,360
Matt Hasselbeck 11* 4,321
Best Total DYAR, Six-Year Average
(Debuted 1991 or Later)
Player Years DYAR
Tom Brady 6* 2,035
Peyton Manning 6* 2,022
Drew Brees 6* 1,617
Brett Favre 6 1,348
Aaron Rodgers 6* 1,184
Philip Rivers 6* 1,157
Kurt Warner 6 1,156
Tony Romo 6* 1,100
Trent Green 6 1,061
Steve McNair 6 993
Player Years DYAR
Ben Roethlisberger 6* 986
Jeff Garcia 6 936
Carson Palmer 6* 931
Daunte Culpepper 6 922
Matt Ryan 5* 872
Matt Hasselbeck 6* 865
Matt Schaub 6* 838
Eli Manning 6* 817
Mark Brunell 6 796
Donovan McNabb 6 772
Chad Pennington 6 766
Brad Johnson 6 760

As you can see, when we aggregate up to total DYAR (i.e., the table on the left), McNair climbs four spots from where he was in the pass DYAR rankings shown earlier. Three other quarterbacks who ranked highly in rush DYAR earlier move up one spot here (Jeff Garcia, McNabb, and Culpepper), while four statues move down one spot (Warner, Drew Bledsoe, Eli Manning, and Matt Schaub). Otherwise, the total DYAR table's basically the same as the pass DYAR table. In fact, the same 22 quarterbacks appear in both.

Similarly, when we apply the weighting system (i.e., the table in the middle), total DYARs drop but the rankings remain almost identical to the unweighted table on the left. To my eyes, there are only four significant changes, all of which are related to "peak vs. longevity." First, the gap between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady shrinks significantly; Brady's last six years have been that sick. Second, Brett Favre rightly gets penalized for dragging us through multiple retirement sagas. Third, Rodgers essentially switches places with Ben Roethlisberger because his higher peak more than makes up for a slightly shorter career. Finally, Culpepper's big bang of a career allows him to cruise up five rows.

The big changes show up when we average a quarterback's six best seasons to judge the total value of his career (i.e., the table on the right). Brady just barely leapfrogs Manning into first place. More importantly, though, he clearly separates himself from this column's third wheel, Drew Brees. Meanwhile, Rodgers and Roethlisberger continue to go in opposite directions. Considering that none of these systems know how many Super Bowls they've won, this makes perfect sense. And regardless of whether we're weighing better seasons more than worse seasons or focusing only on the best six seasons, I think we end up with a more accurate ranking in this case than when we simply add up yearly DYARs.

Finally, here are two Titans-related observations before class ends. Moving from left to right, Matt Hasselbeck goes from "just off the list" at 23rd to "on the list" at 22nd to "near the middle of the list" at 16th. I guess that trajectory is due to his deceptive speed and having five good seasons in a 14-year career. On the other end of the spectrum, Paine's six-year average really doesn't like Steve McNair, to the point that I think it makes Drinen's weighting system the best method here. Over the course of a 13-year career, McNair finished in the top half of the total DYAR rankings nine times. To me, that's above-average performance and above-average longevity.

And with that, Mr. Selig has informed me that, as much as he'd like to watch us keep batting this around forever, time has expired. Please turn in your quizzes. We'll see you later this week, when the topic will shift to "worst quarterback performances since 1991." There may or may not be a quiz.


125 comments, Last at 29 Nov 2013, 10:33am

1 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

In the past, we have speculated that a hypothetical hybrid QB (named "PeyTom Branning") created from the best parts of the two current (at that time) best QBs, would be the best QB ever assembled.

Would the hypothetical hybrid QB of the future be named something like "RusCam Rodgperluck III?"

2 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

The best single games list doesn't include playoffs, right?

Could you give us a list of the five or 10 best playoff games by DYAR. I believe Aaron has said in the past that single game playoff DYAR isn't calculated all the way back like regular season DYAR, but it will be interesting to see what you have.

I say this because I remember reading after Kurt Warner's 2009 Wild Card Game surgery of Green Bay that it was the best game by DYAR that FO had counted.

42 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

I'm still confused though. Kaepernick seems to have 63 rushing DYAR in that game, good for 4th on the all-time QB rushing DYAR (single game) list. Does that mean this all-time list is constrained to the regular season?

edit: I really need to start reading the entire thread before commenting. Playoff stats not included.

9 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

"how do you catch 10 for 227 yards and NOT score?"

Tackled inside the 5 yard line a lot? Kind of like a microcosm of Calvin Johnson's season last year.

I was also struck by the fact that Steve Jordan had zero catches. Whenever I watched the late 80's Vikings, it always seemed like he caught every 3rd down conversion.

17 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

In case you're curious about A.C.'s game, this blog has a great re-cap:


He had a game like Steve Smith did against the Bears in the 2005 playoffs, supplying Minnesota's entire offense. Except whenever the Vikings got in the red zone, they would either run (and fail) or throw it to someone else.

18 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Amazingly, after that game there was a lot of talk in the SF press about how Jerry Rice wasn't clutch and couldn't get it done in the postseason, and how Carter had shown him what a real clutch receiver was.

The footnote to this game is that these two teams played again in the playoffs the next year, and the 49ers blew out the Vikings 34-9, with Rice catching 3 TDs from Montana in the first half.

7 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

The most striking thing about this group, however, is that none of them seem to have a legitimate shot at overtaking Manning (or maybe Brady) one day

I'm going to have to put an asterisk next to this assertion, because it ignores the possibility of things like an 18-game season, improved medical technology (i.e., better steroids/ways at evading drug tests), or rule changes (like making it illegal to tackle receivers).

12 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

I would not count out Joe Webb, because I do think he will return to QB. Despite everyone using his worst game against him, he's fundamentally not a dissimilar prospect to Kaepernick, and I do think this is understood in the league. Moreover, he is the QB with both the good top end speed and great wiggle necessary to accumulate great rushing days. Kaepernick and RG3 are pretty much straight line speed guys, which isn't really quite the quality you need. Cameron Newton probably will outdo both of those guys in the long run.

One thing that really strikes me about DYAR, particularly past the tenth dude, is how much it reflects the quality of the offense. Brad Johnson, for example, is not a particularly talented QB, he just played for some rather prolific offenses and good teams in general. Chris Miller, as an anonymous example, was a better QB, and Matt Hasselbeck is more or less equivalent.

14 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

I'm sorry, but I am counting out Joe Webb, and he is totally dissimilar to Kaepernick, when you take into account the ability to throw a football with consistent accuracy. You can call the Wildcard game an outlier if you want, but there's still enough data to put to bed the concept of Webb as an NFL quarterback.

25 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Would you have had the same attitude with Brett Favre when he was in Atlanta?

Anyways, no, I remember Kaepernick when he was a rookie during preseason, and Kaepernick was not exactly a great passer, especially when it came to touch. Anyways, they had similar college careers, and mildly similar playing styles. It's an easy comparison.

And seriously, exactly which data puts the concept of Webb to rest can you really point to? Before the WC game, his worst games were when he replaced TJack, and the two season finales, where everything is sloppy anyways. Put that against his best showings, particularly his dominant play against Washington in 2011, and well, there was a reason Tony Dungy was saying to give Webb a chance before that playoff game. Had Webb had his mechanics working from the start, then yeah, he would have been a pretty minimal drop-off, at a minimum. That's where you, well, need reps, chances to get chemistry, etc.

At the end of the day, there are a lot of teams now that really need passing talent. And next year probably will only have a couple of serious QB prospects

Webb has the arm, and when his mechanics are working, he definitely is capable of being accurate enough, and his mechanics probably would improve if he was getting starting reps day in and day out. Add to the fact that he's probably the best QB rusher today, and well, I think he will have suitors next year for backup QB at least. It's not as if his horrid passing performance (with zero notice, grant) in the WC round wasn't better than Andy Dalton's, you know...

31 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Thing was, he did get better, and he did throw some very nice passes in the second half.

If he was the worst thing ever, do you think he'd have gotten a passing TD? How about 180 yards? Andy Dalton, in two tries, has not had a better postseason game than Webb's horrible game. Matt Cassel, that guy who's gonna be so much a better backup QB, had an infinitely worse game in the postseason. And remember, these two guys were *starters*. They got reps in practice and almost every Sunday. Joe Webb did not throw a pass in a live fire game since the end of the 2011 season. He had all of a couple of hours notice. How many QB really do all that well under the circumstances, with that meaning, better than Graham Harrell or Rex Grossman against Detroit?

Face it. Webb has the best excuse for looking like a bad QB. And people do generally know that, I think.

51 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Oh, for the love of Otto Graham, Ponder did not practice at all in the week before that playoff game. Webb had all the reps during the week, and he knew he'd be starting, unless Ponder all of a sudden regained the ability to throw the ball harder than a ninth grader, an hour before the game. Webb had been working as a qb since the 2010 season.

Face it. By NFL standards, he can't hit the ocean while standing on the beach. That's why they moved him back to receiver, and added Matt Cassell to the roster.

61 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Ok, so he got some yardage and a td, he's in the nfl. Being in the nfl itself means you're in the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the population. Compared to the rest of us, he's an awesome qb. If that's the standard you want to judge Joe webb, then so be it. But I prefer to judge him on the standard of what an average qb would be, let alone an effective one or a hall of famer. Given that context, I simply cannot see how webb figures at all. Im not going to rewatch that WC game just to prove a point, but if you really believe webb "showed something" in that game, please rewatch and tell me where and when. The overwhelming message that I got from that game, right from the start, was how abysmal webb was. Take away his running, and I don't think he's in the nfl at all frankly.

36 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks


So if you want to remove last year's Wildcard game as an outlier, then you have to do the same for his 2010 game against Philadelphia in Week 16. What you're left with is a QB rating that barely cracks the 50's and a yards/attempt in the high 4's. (And I don't think you can point to week 16 of 2011 against WAS as a dominant passing performance....when he attempted FIVE passes the whole game).

Don't get me wrong, I had a lot of fun watching him play (except when he played the Lions in 2011 and almost led a comeback win..that wasn't fun for me), but I just don't think he's a sustainable long-term starter.

But wildcat/gadget plays, on the other hand? There are some possibilities.

13 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Weird to see Jeff Garcia ranking ~12 on the best-of list in the DVOA era. Seems like the guy had to fight to be starter wherever he went. Palmer and Brunell also surprising -- guess I've never gotten to see them play much.

15 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Early career Palmer and Ochocinco were a great combination. So was Brunell and Jimmy Smith in Jacksonville in the late '90s. (And Brunell could really run, too...remember his signature run when they upset the Broncos in the '96 playoffs?)

Garcia never had the greatest arm, but he was smart in Pennington sort of way, and could also run.

21 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

QB rushing DYAR raises a question that's come up a few times before but to which I haven't yet seen an answer: where do the baselines come from? What's is replacement-level rushing for a QB and how is it determined?

41 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

The same way replacement-level passing for quarterbacks was determined:

"Our estimates of replacement level were re-done during the 2008 season and are computed differently for each position. For quarterbacks, we analyzed situations where two or more quarterbacks had played meaningful snaps for a team in the same season, then compared the overall DVOA of the original starters to the overall DVOA of the replacements. We did not include situations where the backup was actually a top prospect waiting his turn on the bench, since a first-round pick is by no means a "replacement-level" player."

44 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

So the replacement level for QB rushing is based off the performance of other QBs? How do you avoid sample size issues, since most QBs will have very few rushing attempts (e.g. Peyton Manning averages 23 rushing attempts/year, and a lot of those are probably kneel-downs)? Do you correct for selection bias, in that the QBs who are good at running will tend to run more? What do you do about the problem of widely varying skill sets, i.e., Joe Webb and Jason Campbell are both backup QBs and somewhere around the replacement level, but one is really good at rushing and the other is not?

22 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best [Regular Season] Quarterbacks

Why no playoff stats? They would be nice to round out the story here.

All of these have some equivalent for playoffs. We're (mostly) adults here, so we could understand about small sample sizes. No one's freaking out about Wade Wilson topping the season DVOA list, for example.

Or just correct the title to say "Best Regular Season QBs". Because no sane discussion of great QBs fails to include playoff games. Although many sane people can disagree about how playoff games should be weighted in the discussion.

24 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

You know, one can't help but notice just how many modern(by that I mean, the last 10 years) qbs populate this list, both in terms of the best seasons and career. Now, dvoa and dyar are admittedly stuck(for now) at 1991, this is somewhat understandable. Still, the 1990s still encompassed nearly all of Aikmen and Steve Young's careers, not too mention big chunks of elways, marinos, and warren moons. All of these passers, reputationally, are way ahead of a player like Matt schaub and Jeff Garcia. Again, I recognize careers are longer now, but there are really only two other explanations you are left with. 1 - that the level of quality at qb is simply better now in every way than it was even 20 years ago and that a player like schaub IS bette than marino and elway were in the 1990s. OR, alternatively, we still haven't gotten a good era adjusting tool to gauge these metrics.

45 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

The grand total tables (as opposed to single season) are limited to players who debuted in 1991 or later; Favre just sneaks on, Aikman/Marino/Elway/Young are out.

As for the lack of an era-adjustment tool:

I added up Aikman's (no doubt both the weakest of the above, plus he only loses a couple seasons he'd like us to forget anyway before the cutoff) pass DYAR from 1991-2000 real quick by hand.

He doesn't make the single season leaderboard (1995's 1358 was his best).

The career total result is 8107, good enough for fifth place behind Manning, Brady, Favre, and Brees but closer to off the list than turning the "Big Four" into a "Big Five". That should ensure he finishes in the same place on the career total DYAR list barring incredibly awful rush DYAR, since he's got a fair bit of padding on each end.

On the "best six years" chart, his pass DYAR would be good for 9th, just below Romo and ahead of Green.

I can't do DVOA by hand, unfortunately, so this is what we got.

Aikman Pass DYAR
91: 866
92: 1237
93: 1234
94: 887
95: 1358
96: 821
97: 556
98: 781
99: 463
00: -96

27 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

Everyone asking about playoff game DYARs, we didn't post them for various reasons. The best we can do right now is give you the top 10 pass DYARs using the previous version of DYAR (i.e., v6.0) for playoff games from the '94 Super Bowl (i.e., SF over SD) through 2010. Here they are:

1) Kurt Warner, ARI, 2009 WC vs. GB, 385 pass DYAR
2) Peyton Manning, IND, 2004 WC vs. DEN, 323
3) Peyton Manning, IND, 2009 AFCCG vs. NYJ, 316
4) Peyton Manning, IND, 2003 WC vs. DEN, 284
5) Aaron Rodgers, GB, 2010 DIV @ ATL, 273
6) Kurt Warner, ARI, 2008 SB vs. PIT, 259
7) Jeff George, MIN, 1999 DIV @ STL, 249
8) Tom Brady, NE, 2007 DIV vs. JAC, 247
9) Kurt Warner, ARI, 2008 NFCCG vs. PHI, 242
10) Steve Young, 1994 SB vs. SD, 240

My commentary:

1) Seriously, another Vikings QB?
2) Peyton Manning, clutch performer.
3) Kurt Warner's playoff career in ARI: Not shabby.
4) Color me biased, but I think Young's SB performance was better than Warner's.

47 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

The #2 game was against the Broncos, although his '03 performance against the Chiefs in the divisional round was probably a ~150 EYAR as well (22/30 for 304 yards 3TDs, no picks).

I have no expectations of this getting answered, but was Manning's '03 Wild Card and Divisional wins the best back-to-back performance in NFL history? His passer rating combined for those two games is in the 150's (though not perfect). I guess by DYAR, Warner's '08 Title Game and Super Bowl would be tough to beat.

Also, only two lost their playoff game (Warner and George). In Jeff George's case, weren't teh Rams up like 49-17? Warner probably had a nice DYAR for that game too.

48 Re: FO 10th Anniversary: Best Quarterbacks

1) Fixed Manning.
2) As far as I can tell, those are the only 2 candidates, and 2008 Warner wins 501-494 over 2003 Manning. And by the way, Warner's #1 game came in ARI's WC game the following year, so I imagine he's probably got the best 3-game stretch too (886 pass DYAR).
3) Warner had 235 pass DYAR vs. MIN. It ranks 12th.