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The question is not whether Saquon Barkley is the best running back in this draft class. The question is whether any running back, even one as good as Barkley, warrants a top-five draft selection in the NFL in 2018.

21 Jul 2008

Fifth Anniversary Special: Best and Worst QB Seasons 95-07

In honor of our fifth anniversary, we're running a series of articles looking at the best and worst players in the history of our advanced stats, DVOA and DYAR. Our first article last week looked at the best and worst individual games by quarterbacks. Now we'll take a look at the best and worst seasons, as well as the best and worst quarterbacks in total career value between 1995 and 2007. If you are unfamiliar with our advanced stats -- perhaps you are a new reader visiting our website for the first time after picking up a copy of Pro Football Prospectus 2008 -- you can read all about them here.

My original plan was to run two lists for top DVOA seasons, one with a minimum of 100 passes and one with a minimum of 300 passes. However, only two players (Boomer Esiason in 1997 and Elvis Grbac in 1995) make one list and not the other, so here is the list of the top twelve seasons in DVOA with those two players shaded to point out they are below 300 passes:

Top 10 QB Seasons by Passing DVOA, 1995-2007, 300+ (or 100+) Passes
Player Year Team DVOA VOA DYAR Passes Yards TD INT FUM
Peyton Manning 2004 IND 60.9% 61.6% 2,497 519 4,608 49 10 5
Tom Brady 2007 NE 56.9% 54.7% 2,788 606 4,760 50 8 4
Boomer Esiason 1997 CIN 53.5% 54.6% 819 197 1,507 13 2 1
Peyton Manning 2006 IND 51.0% 50.5% 2,308 571 4,381 31 9 2
Randall Cunningham 1998 MIN 42.8% 49.2% 1,532 455 3,808 34 10 1
Peyton Manning 2007 IND 40.6% 36.0% 1,841 542 4,033 31 13 5
Chad Pennington 2002 NYJ 40.6% 43.2% 1,414 423 3,041 22 5 2
Peyton Manning 2005 IND 40.4% 46.3% 1,598 475 3,689 28 10 3
Vinny Testaverde 1998 NYJ 39.8% 36.6% 1,461 450 3,247 29 6 7
Elvis Grbac 1995 SF 38.9% 37.3% 598 188 1,425 8 5 2
David Garrard 2007 JAC 37.4% 32.9% 1,086 350 2,442 18 3 3
John Elway 1998 DEN 37.3% 32.7% 1,139 379 2,705 22 10 5

As you might imagine, one man dominates the list of the best seasons, and his name is not "Eli." Peyton Manning's 2000 and 2003 seasons also rank in the DVOA top 20 (minimum 100 passes). In the endless, irrational arguments about Brady and Manning, one thing has always been clear: except in 2007, Manning always had the better statistics. If you want to argue about that further, make sure to use the Irrational Brady-Manning Thread and don't bother the rest of us. (Scary thought: according to the new, improved opponent adjustments, both Brady and Manning faced an above-average set of pass defenses last year.)

If you were to make a list of seasons that don't make any sense in terms of a player's overall career path, Boomer Esiason's 1997 half-season might be number one. Esiason had a terrible year with the 1995 Jets (-25.1% DVOA) and then a reasonable year with the 1996 Cardinals (3.6% DVOA). Although he considered retiring at that point, he decided to play one more season at age 36 and returned to Cincinnati, backing up Jeff Blake. He looked good when he did play (7-for-10 with two touchdowns against Indianapolis in Week 11, for example) and the Bengals benched Blake for Esiason after Week 12. Look at what Boomer Esiason and Jeff Blake did with the same set of teammates:

Player Year Team DVOA DYAR Passes Yards C% TD INT FUM
Jeff Blake 1997 CIN -9.2% 43 360 2,003 58.0% 8 7 6
Boomer Esiason 1997 CIN 53.5% 819 197 1,507 63.4% 13 2 1

Then, having rediscovered the fountain of youth, Esiason chose ABC over the Bengals and retired from the NFL, taking over Frank Gifford's spot on the broadcast team for Monday Night Football.

Elway also comes out with one of the top ratings in DVOA history in his final year, but there are some big differences between him and Esiason. I have a feeling when we eventually have DVOA all the way back into the eighties, Elway's career record will be a bit better than Esiason's. On the other hand, Elway's strong DVOA had a lot more to do with his teammates. After all, when he missed some games with injury in 1998, Bubby Brister put up a 24.7% DVOA. As you will see in a bit, Brister wasn't quite that good before he got to Denver.

Chad Pennington, I suppose, is the opposite of Boomer Esiason. Pennington had thrown only 25 passes in his first two years, then led the NFL in DVOA, completion percentage, and passer rating in 2002. That may have been the only fully healthy season of his career -- he played the whole season in 2006, but by then shoulder injuries had really limited his ability to throw deep. One interesting fact about Pennington: since 2002, he has alternated between a positive DVOA and a negative DVOA every year.

Here's the list of the top seasons by DYAR instead of DVOA. For a ranking of DYAR, I've added together both passing and rushing value. As I noted in the article introducing the new advanced stats, I sometimes feel uncomfortable doing this because we're not exactly sure if a passing "yard above replacement" is equivalent to the same amount of quarterback value as a rushing "yard above replacement" -- each action depends on teammates in a different way -- but it gives us an interesting view of the top three quarterbacks of 1995. That's also why I've expanded this list by two additional seasons.

Top 12 QB Seasons by Total DYAR, 1995-2007
Player Year Team Total
Passes Yards TD INT FUM Pass
Runs RuYd TD Run
Tom Brady 2007 NE 2,813 606 4,760 50 8 5 56.9% 2,788 24 112 2 3.7% 25
Peyton Manning 2004 IND 2,504 519 4,608 49 10 5 60.9% 2,497 8 53 0 4.1% 8
Peyton Manning 2006 IND 2,350 571 4,381 31 9 2 51.0% 2,308 10 54 4 48.2% 42
Daunte Culpepper 2004 MIN 2,011 603 4,648 39 11 9 36.4% 1,930 70 418 2 7.3% 80
Peyton Manning 2007 IND 1,857 542 4,033 31 13 5 40.6% 1,841 6 12 3 17.3% 16
Peyton Manning 2000 IND 1,818 597 4,378 33 15 5 35.1% 1,766 20 130 1 36.5% 52
Peyton Manning 2003 IND 1,717 597 4,249 29 10 6 33.5% 1,756 13 39 0 -69.6% -39
Kurt Warner 2001 STL 1,689 590 4,706 36 22 10 33.2% 1,671 11 77 0 25.0% 19
Jeff Garcia 2000 SF 1,672 590 4,227 31 10 6 29.4% 1,553 60 422 4 27.9% 119
Brett Favre 1995 GB 1,657 600 4,287 38 14 7 29.6% 1,581 23 193 3 44.1% 76
Scott Mitchell 1995 DET 1,617 631 4,430 32 12 8 28.1% 1,611 29 110 4 -8.8% 6
Erik Kramer 1995 CHI 1,609 544 3,861 29 10 6 33.2% 1,603 21 52 1 -8.2% 6

This list looks pretty similar to the first list, but of course players with more opportunity will do better in a total stat than a rate stat. That gives Tom Brady the most valuable quarterback season of the DVOA Era. Adding in rushing value also boosts Jeff Garcia's 2000 season and Daunte Culpepper's 2004 season, and puts Brett Favre back ahead of Scott Mitchell and Erik Kramer as the most valuable quarterback of 1995. (You may remember that the upgrades to the individual stats dropped Favre from first to third in passing value that season.)

The list of quarterbacks with the most rushing value in a season includes all the names you would expect. It is led by Michael Vick in 2006 (275 DYAR) and 2004 (243 DYAR). Vick's four full seasons hold four of the top dozen spots, and the only other quarterbacks above 200 DYAR are Donovan McNabb in 2002 (205 DYAR) and Daunte Culpepper in 2000 (203 DYAR). Steve McNair also appears high on the list numerous times, along with Rich Gannon, Jeff Garcia, Doug Flutie, and Kordell Stewart. Steve Young isn't that high, but that's probably because we haven't gotten to his younger years yet.

For those wondering why fumble numbers may differ from table to table, the DYAR table includes both passing and rushing fumbles, the DVOA table only passing fumbles. And for those wondering why I'm not listing the top seasons by the new "Equivalent Yards (EqYds)" metric, there are two reasons. First, "Equivalent Yards (EqYds)" was always meant to help a wider audience understand our advanced stats, but if you are looking for a raw measure of total player value, DYAR is much more accurate. Second, I still haven't decided if I'm changing the name of "Equivalent Yards (EqYds)" to something else yet.

Now, onto the list of the worst seasons. This one needs two separate tables depending on the minimum, because nobody with more than 300 passes would appear on the list of worst DVOA seasons with a minimum of 100 passes. Shockingly, the list is not topped by someone from the Chicago Bears!

Bottom 10 QB Seasons by Passing DVOA, 1995-2007, 100+ Passes
Player Year Team DVOA VOA DYAR Passes Yards TD INT FUM
Alex Smith 2005 SF -89.4% -91.7% -880 196 720 1 11 10
Craig Krenzel 2004 CHI -83.8% -74.8% -662 152 576 3 6 7
Spergon Wynn 2001 MIN -75.1% -78.3% -422 108 338 1 6 3
Bobby Hoying 1998 PHI -71.4% -68.8% -1,017 269 819 0 9 6
Rick Mirer 1997 CHI -68.9% -73.8% -453 121 329 0 6 4
Jon Quinn 2004 CHI -64.5% -65.7% -364 114 330 1 3 2
Bubby Brister 1995 NYJ -63.4% -59.8% -584 187 616 4 7 4
Kurt Kittner 2003 ATL -57.3% -58.1% -336 120 398 2 6 0
Donovan McNabb 1999 PHI -56.4% -56.7% -707 250 825 8 7 8
Heath Shuler 1997 NO -55.0% -54.4% -577 229 1,176 2 14 6

The good news for Alex Smith is that this horrific season was only his rookie year. The bad news is that he hasn't really gotten that much better since. In addition, Donovan McNabb is really the only quarterback to have a rookie year anywhere near that bad and still develop into a Pro Bowl level player. Notice Bubby Brister, by the way, three years before he was only slightly worse than John Elway as the backup in Denver.

Bottom 10 QB Seasons by Passing DVOA, 1995-2007, 300+ Passes
Player Year Team DVOA VOA DYAR Passes Yards TD INT FUM
Akili Smith 2000 CIN -54.3% -56.9% -750 307 1,053 3 6 10
David Carr 2002 HOU -46.9% -44.0% -1,114 538 2,290 9 15 18
Andrew Walter 2006 OAK -44.2% -42.2% -629 328 1,424 3 11 10
Ryan Leaf 2000 SD -40.9% -41.1% -660 363 1,768 11 18 9
Kordell Stewart 1999 PIT -36.1% -27.6% -479 301 1,377 6 10 3
Tim Couch 1999 CLE -35.5% -34.3% -683 464 2,174 15 13 12
Tony Banks 1996 STL -35.0% -33.7% -616 429 2,262 15 15 19
Craig Whelihan 1998 SD -34.8% -31.9% -494 338 1,747 8 17 6
Kyle Orton 2005 CHI -33.8% -34.9% -594 412 1,805 9 13 10
Danny Kanell 1998 NYG -32.2% -29.3% -419 326 1,483 11 9 5

One lesson here: Try not to get drafted by an expansion team. Yikes. A lot of these guys were stuck behind some really bad offensive lines, but what's Kordell Stewart's excuse? Maybe he was out partying the night before each game, which is a popular theory about Kyle Orton.

Bottom 10 QB Seasons by Total DYAR, 1995-2007
Player Year Team Total
Passes Yards TD INT FUM Pass
Runs RuYd TD Run
David Carr 2002 HOU -1,076 538 2,290 9 15 21 -46.9% -1,114 45 293 3 6.0% 39
Bobby Hoying 1998 PHI -1,028 269 819 0 9 7 -71.4% -1,017 17 89 0 -25.8% -11
Alex Smith 2005 SF -910 196 720 1 11 11 -89.4% -880 27 103 0 -39.9% 30
Akili Smith 2000 CIN -733 307 1,053 3 6 14 -54.3% -750 37 224 0 -2.3% 17
Ryan Leaf 2000 SD -707 363 1,768 11 18 11 -40.9% -660 18 58 0 -61.0% -47
Ryan Leaf 1998 SD -686 272 1,192 2 15 8 -53.8% -692 15 87 0 -4.5% 6
Andrew Walter 2006 OAK -671 328 1,424 3 11 13 -44.2% -629 9 30 0 -101.5% -42
Craig Krenzel 2004 CHI -670 152 576 3 6 7 -83.8% -662 11 45 0 -26.5% -9
Donovan McNabb 1999 PHI -657 250 825 8 7 8 -56.4% -707 38 319 0 15.3% 50
Trent Dilfer 2007 SF -655 245 1,000 7 11 6 -52.2% -632 6 14 0 -98.6% -22

Weird fact about a season that just missed this list: In 2001, Chris Weinke had a -28.8% passing DVOA but somehow scored six rushing touchdowns. Chris Weinke? Seriously?

Onto our final lists: the best and worst careers according to DYAR. Since the DVOA Era currently captures just the tail end of many great careers -- John Elway, Dan Marino, Steve Young, and so forth -- we've got two lists. One measures the best quarterbacks in total DYAR. The other measures DYAR per season for any quarterback with at least four seasons of at least 10 pass attempts since 1995. (The count of "seasons" does not include seasons below 10 pass attempts.) Obviously, given how many seasons he has in the overall top 20, both lists are going to be led by Peyton Manning.

Top 10 Quarterbacks in Total DYAR,

Player Seasons Pass
Peyton Manning 10 15,684 152 15,836
Brett Favre 13 11,130 156 11,287
Tom Brady 7 8,291 126 8,417
Steve McNair 13 6,011 1,082 7,093
Trent Green 9 6,214 237 6,452
Rich Gannon 10 5,079 534 5,613
Jeff Garcia 9 5,050 522 5,572
Mark Brunell 12 5,004 495 5,499
Daunte Culpepper 8 4,401 719 5,120
Drew Brees 7 4,802 72 4,875

Top 10 Quarterbacks in DYAR/Season,
1995-2007 (4+ Seasons)

Player Seasons Pass
Peyton Manning 10 1,568 15 1,584
Tom Brady 7 1,184 18 1,202
Carson Palmer 4 1,086 7 1,093
John Elway 4 908 33 942
Steve Young 5 790 83 873
Brett Favre 13 856 12 868
Ben Roethlisberger 4 790 39 829
Trent Green 9 690 26 717
Drew Brees 7 686 10 696
Dan Marino 5 702 -8 694

The power of Daunte Culpepper's tenure in Minnesota is demonstrated by his place in the top 10 despite the way he crashed and burned over the past three seasons. Culpepper averaged 1,078 DYAR per season from 2000 through 2004, but has averaged -91 DYAR per season since 2005.

Those who say Tom Brady never put up stats to match Peyton Manning before 2007 are correct, but those who say Tom Brady never put up great stats at all until 2007 are dead wrong. Even if we take out 2007, Brady averaged 934 DYAR each season from 2001 through 2006, which would rank fourth on the list of DYAR per season behind Manning and two quarterbacks who barely qualify for the four-season minimum, Carson Palmer and John Elway.

The list of the worst career quarterbacks definitely needs to be split into two lists, because "worst quarterbacks ever" don't get to play for a decade like the Pro Bowlers on our "best careers list" -- with one glaring exception.

Bottom 10 Quarterbacks in Total DYAR,

Player Seasons Pass
Ryan Leaf 3 -1,556 -62 -1,618
Alex Smith 3 -1.514 -4 -1,518
David Carr 6 -1,457 211 -1,246
Trent Dilfer 12 -1,367 127 -1,239
Rick Mirer 6 -1,316 101 -1,216
Tim Couch 5 -1,290 119 -1,171
Craig Whelihan 2 -1,003 -55 -1,058
Bobby Hoying 2 -993 -17 -1,010
Tony Banks 8 -989 16 -974
Chad Hutchinson 2 -941 -6 -947

Bottom 10 Quarterbacks in DYAR/Season,
1995-2007 (4+ Seasons)

Player Seasons Pass
Tim Couch 5 -258 24 -234
David Carr 6 -243 35 -208
Rick Mirer 6 -219 17 -203
Chris Weinke 5 -188 4 -184
Danny Wuerffel 4 -190 7 -183
Josh McCown 5 -186 8 -179
Anthony Wright 4 -157 -1 -158
Mike McMahon 5 -155 4 -152
Doug Pederson 5 -131 -10 -141
Danny Kanell 6 -129 -2 -130

It isn't even close -- Trent Dilfer has by far the worst numbers of any quarterback who has played more than just a handful of seasons in the DVOA Era. He hasn't exactly been playing for the best teams, but he does have a habit of putting up worse numbers than the other quarterbacks on his team. Yes, that includes 2000, when Tony Banks had -134 DYAR and -18.3% DVOA, while Dilfer had -217 DYAR and -24.6% DVOA. The three quarterbacks with a worse DVOA than Dilfer on the same team, since 1999: Eric Zeier on the 1999 Bucs, Matt Hasselbeck on the 2001 Seahawks, and Charlie Frye on the 2006 Browns.

If you are really bad, you don't even get four years in the league; half of the ten worst quarterbacks didn't even have four seasons with at least 10 pass attempts.

All 13 seasons of quarterback statistics are now available in the Just the Stats section of our website. Click here to see last year's numbers, and use the quarterback pull-down menu to review any season since 1995.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 21 Jul 2008

45 comments, Last at 24 Jul 2008, 10:29am by Temo


by Barry Lutz (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 1:26pm

So the real reason behind the switch to DYAR reveals itself: Pats fan Schatz was looking for a way to make Brady's 2007 look better than Manning's 2004.


by Waverly (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 1:40pm

You still have "DPAR" in your finger memory: two table headers still say "DPAR" instead of "DYAR".

I'm glad there's no cluttering of the tables with "True Yards".

by Paging Roger Cossack (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 1:46pm

32 INTs for Kurt Warner in 2001? Methinks I smell a typooooooooooo.

by dbt (Bears fan) (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:02pm

We may not have the worst individual season, but we have 3 of the top 6, two alone from that godawful 2004 season.

*stares at 2008 Grossman/Orton battle to start, claws out eyes*

by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:02pm

Question, do seasonal stats include playoffs?

I'm very amazed at the dichotomy between some of the seasons in the top ten dvoa. pennington, garrard were incredibly efficient, but neither put up gaudy stat lines like the others on the list. I think that supports your work.

It also leads to the question, was January 17, 1999 the greatest showcase of single season QB talent in league history?

by Quentin (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:04pm

It is led by Michael Vick in 2006 (275 DYAR)

I think Vick breaks the system here. I don't think that 700+ yards should be the definition of replacement level, even in a system designed around bootlegs.

by admin :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:06pm

Whoops! What is marked "INT" is actually turnovers, INT + FUM. I'm going to fix it now.

by Waverly (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:09pm

It would be nice to see a table of QBs sorted by variance for DYAR per year or per game. Actually, graphs of DYAR per year might show interesting trends regarding rise and fall of productivity over a career.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:11pm

What stands out to me is the total absence of Joey Harrington from the bottom QB's. I was at the University of Oregon when Harrington took over and played well, and I hoped he would do better in the NFL, but I was almost sure he'd be a lock for the Bottom 10 lists.

by Boesy (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:15pm

Re: #3

You are correct. According to profootball reference, Kurt threw 22 picks that year.

by MC2 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:34pm

Hey, Dilfer may have put up bad numbers, but who cares?

He was a WINNER, damnit!!!

by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:39pm

I think Vick breaks the system here. I don’t think that 700+ yards should be the definition of replacement level, even in a system designed around bootlegs.

DYAR isn't adjusted for offensive system, so being in a system designed around bootlegs has nothing to do with it. He "only" had 275 DYAR because he had 119 runs. A replacement level QB would average around 6 or 7 yards/carry in the situations Vick ran in, so he was only about 2 yards above replacement per carry. He still had the highest rushing DYAR of the DVOA era because he had so many carries.

by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:53pm

It also leads to the question, was January 17, 1999 the greatest showcase of single season QB talent in league history?

In the playoffs, maybe, but November 4, 2007 probably wins out in terms of total QB talent. Interestingly, neither game was particularly high scoring, despite the fact that all four teams involved had top 5 offenses led by elite QBs.

by MC2 (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 2:54pm

"A replacement level QB would average around 6 or 7 yards/carry in the situations Vick ran in, so he was only about 2 yards above replacement per carry."

While this may be technically true, in reality, a replacement level QB would not be able to maintain that 6 or 7 ypc average over the number of attempts that Vick had, since defenses would adjust. Most QBs are able to maintain relatively high ypc numbers, in large part because of the element of surprise.

I remember when I was in high school, a friend of mine (who didn't understand basketball nearly as well as he thought he did) tried to tell me that since Jeff Hornacek had a higher shooting % than Michael Jordan, that if Hornacek took as many shots as Jordan did, then he would score more points than MJ. Of course, he actually would have scored far less, since his shooting percentage would have plummetted if he took that many shots.

by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 3:12pm

14. Or more accurately, Hornacek would not be left open nearly as often as he was if opponents noticed him taking a huge number of shots. Just like when a QB runs 119 times a season, defenses are far less likely to neglect keeping a spy or two on him.

by Mike (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 3:42pm

Wait, the future NFC North had the top three quarterbacks in 1995? Kelly...Young...Marino...Elway - what the hell happened to you guys?

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 3:51pm

Re: 13

The Jets-Broncos AFC Championship game was played in severe winds (up to 45 mph), which helped to keep scoring down. Testaverde had a pretty good game under the conditions, however - 31 of 52, 356 yards, 2 interceptions (both in the last 5 minutes).

The Jets were held to 10 points thanks to Curtis Martin (13 rushes, 14 yards), 3 lost fumbles in Denver territory, and a missed field goal.

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 3:52pm

On Vick's QB rushing DYAR:

It doesn't mean that a replacement level QB would rack up huge rushing totals. It essentially means that on running plays with Vick, he did the equivalent of 275 yards better than what average running plays would accomplish in the same situation. Keep in mind that Vick's raw totals are probably much better than his FO stats - QB scrambles are pretty boom-and-bust for a guy like Vick..

by Bobman (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 4:05pm

I'da thought Kurt Warner would have had two seasons up there (1999 also IIRC with GSOT v1.0), not just one. Hmmmm.

by Nate Dogg (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 4:11pm

Aaron -

I've got a question about how some of the numbers work out. Looking at the top two seasons Brady threw 1 more TD and tallied 150 more yards than Manning. He did this in just under 100 more attempts than Manning had. However, he also threw 2 less picks, and assuming FUM is fumbles lost, he turned it over a total of 3 less times with 93 more attempts.

Is there any added value that shows up from having more possesions and less turnovers? Obviously he's not losing as many success points, but does it offset at all the lesser production per attempt?

(The fact that this example is Manning v. Brady is purely coincidental, I'm just looking at numbers.)

by Felden (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 5:16pm

Re: 16.

I can't answer about the other guys, but since I charted San Francisco '95, I can tell you Young fell down because he was banged up--lots of time for Grbac that year.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 5:17pm

Re #20
The AdjYPA formula is that a TD is worth 10 yards and an INT is worth -45 yards. I'm pretty sure these are Hidden Game of Football numbers, but could be wrong. In terms of AdjYPA with the table numbers, Peyton comes out at 8.52 and Brady is 7.79. Throw in SOS and year-basis variations and the numbers make sense to me.

DVOA: rate stat, DYAR: counting stat. So, Brady gets more DYAR because he has more attempts. I have a hard time saying, though, that we should think of Brady as the better QB because he posted a slightly lower DVOA in 606 plays than Peyton did in 519. They're both NFL starting QBs who played most every game.

by Catfish (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 5:23pm

re: 19

I was kind of surprised by that too. If you check out the stats from that year, Warner was actually 2nd in DYAR to Manning after the Warner gets a huge negative adjustment for playing a cake schedule.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 5:28pm

Re #19
Check out the opponent adjustments from the 1999 season. Warner loses 9.0% of VOA and almost 300 YAR. Plus, he only had 533 plays that year-8 of the top 12 DYAR seasons had 590+.

by Nate Dogg (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 6:38pm

Re: #22

I wasn't trying to say the numbers were incorrect, I was just wondering how they work. I'm not familiar with all of the ins and outs, so I was curious if there was anything that factored in the lower turn over rate.

Also, not trying to say that Brady's year was better, it just happened that their numbers were an example of what I was asking about.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 6:56pm

Re #25
Another way to put it: every play has a value. Turnovers (I presume) have negative value. DVOA is a measure of the player's value per play over the course of the year, measured against a baseline and adjusted for opposing defense.

Ceteris paribus, Manning's 2004 DVOA would be higher if he turned the ball over at the rate Brady did in 2007 (less frequently). Ceteris paribus, Brady's 2007 DVOA would be lower if he turned the ball over at the rate Peyton did in 2004 (more frequently).

by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 10:29pm

Keep in mind that Vick’s raw totals are probably much better than his FO stats - QB scrambles are pretty boom-and-bust for a guy like Vick.

That's what I thought at first, too, but Vick's "true" yards were actually higher than his conventional yards. He really was worth 1000+ rushing yards that year. Problem is, a replacement level QB averages about 6 or 7 yards, or the equivalent, on runs (QB scrambles are very effective). I guess the problem is that a replacement level QB would be unlikely to sustain that average if he ran 119 times per season, but I'm not sure how to quantify that effect, or even test whether it exists. Most QBs wouldn't benefit from scrambling that much because of injury concerns, and because most QBs are probably more effective passing than they are scrambling, even with the element of surprise that they generally have with the occasional run.

I took a quick look at Donovan McNabb's 2000 season, when he had 629 rushing yards, and tried to see whether his average yards/carry decreased as he ran more, both in terms of carries/game, and in terms of first half of season vs. second half. I graphed his YPC in each game against the number of carries in that game, and then against the week of the season, and I didn't see any clear pattern of decline in rushing average. He seemed to be able to sustain whatever rushing ability he had throughout the year, even though he was running a lot. Now, obviously, McNabb isn't a replacement level scrambler, but if we have to find a replacement level scrambler with 119 carries, I'm afraid we're out of luck.

In a quick check of McNabb and other QBs with seasons that had relatively high rushing totals, I didn't see any clear pattern in the YPC vs. number of carries. Vinny Testaverde, for instance, ran 38 times in 1990 (his career high), and averaged 7.4 YPC, one of the highest averages of his career. McNabb, in 2000, ran 86 times (his career high), and averaged 7.3 YPC (also a career high).

Now, there's obviously the problem of selection bias - QBs who are having a lot of success running will probably run more often, and then if they aren't as effective on the ground the next year, they'll run less. I don't see any easy way out of that problem, though. We can't just take a replacement level scrambler and tell his coach to have him run 120 times a year. Short of that, I don't see how we could answer the question of what a replacement level scrambler would do with that many carries. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure that they wouldn't put up 700+ yards.

by Temo (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 11:15pm

27. The only thing I can think of, off the top of my head, is to treat Vick like a RB. Surely defenses did not play Vick like a normal QB and instead defended against his running abilities to an extent, much as they would a RB. So his replacement value is lower than a normal QB, who does not receive this same treatment. However, surely his replacement value is not the same as a RB-- even the best of pass defenses must at least cover the receivers to guard against the pass threat, which they would not against a RB.

In the end, it is perhaps a moot point, since you could say the same for many other situations (say, a QB's pass DVOA suffers because he faces different defenses than most QBs due to his team's weak running game... much as Vick's rush DVOA suffers somewhat because he's running against different defensive looks than most QBs). That's just part of the team-oriented and multi-variate nature of the NFL and I don't know that anyone has come up with a way to fully isolate any player's performance.

by Sergio (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 11:34pm

"This list looks pretty similar to the first list, but of course players with more opportunity will do better in a total stat than a rate stat. That gives Tom Brady the most valuable quarterback season of the DVOA Era."

Most *productive* season. Most valuable would be Manning's 2004.

Or am I misunderstanding DVOA/DYAR?

by Catfish (not verified) :: Mon, 07/21/2008 - 11:51pm


Brady contributed more *total* value. Manning was more valuable per play. I'm not sure what distinction there would be between being valuable and being productive.

by D (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 12:15am

I still can not believe that in 1995 the top two QBs in the league played for the Lions and Bears and the universe did not implode in on itself.

by Arkaein (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 12:44am

Re 31: You probably shouldn't believe that, because the top QB in 95 played for GB.

Amazingly, neither Mitchell or Kramer made the pro bowl, with Aikman and Young both getting in on reputation. Also amazingly, throw in Warren Moon's numbers for Minny that year: 4228 yards, 33 TDs, 14 INTs. 4 out of 5 NFCN QBs had essentially MVP-caliber seasons, along with Emmitt Smith who had over 1700 yards and a then record 25 TDs.


by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 1:31pm

Re: 22, especially the comment that "They’re both NFL starting QBs who played most every game."

I don't know about Brady specifically, but I've charted Manning's 2004 season. He sat out 96:06 of gametime, effectively breaking the TD record and passer rating record in less than 14.5 games. The former record which required all 16 games, almost one hundred more passing attempts, and some 4th quarter stat-hounding by Brady to equal and then break.

However I'd actually rank Manning's 2006 season at the top of the list. I thought he was better in 2006 than in 2004, watching him carry the team to such efficiency, despite being saddled with one of the worst if not the worst run defenses in the history of the league. The 2004 season changed how teams played the Colts, forcing them to become much more patient.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 2:29pm

Great Article. I'd like to see previous years added in for a better comparison of Young, but that's about it.

The Vick thing, I just take it as fairly impossible to adequately take him into account. He broke the mold of what it is to be a running QB, and I can't think of any way to really put that into effect via statistics.

It's kind of like Barry Sanders to me. both Vick and Sanders caused the defenses to play in a different way based on their skill set. That radically changes a number of other factors that we don't have enough of comparative players to make any real concrete explaination of it.

We know defenses changed for both of them. I saw it with my own eyes. What that meant in relation to everything else going on was probably significant, but stats can't tell us how.

At least not yet.

Then again, other players can make that same claim. Offenses scheme for defensive players. Run packages to protect against good defenses.

But Sanders and Vick made the defense actually play differently. I'm sure there are other examples too, that's just what comes up in my head.

Then again, I guess you could say Bledsoe made defenses play differently, I.e. Rush like crazy at him because he can't move. :)

by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:32pm

33: You're just asking for a trip to the irrational thread, Richard.

by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:33pm

Couple of thoughts --

1) Scrambling QBs -- doesn't the NFL consider a tackle on a scramble to be a sack if behind the line of scrimmage? So the QB really gets a huge break from the NFL for scrambling. If he threw the ball away, it lowers his passing stats. But if he pulls it down and runs, it's a win, win, win (for him, if not the team). If tackled behind the line, it's not his fault (he was sacked). If he gets past the line, he's likely to have gotten past the pass rushers and will get some big yardage until the LBs can tackle him. Good for his running stats.

2) Does FO adjust for this bias?

3) re: replacement value -- in 2003, McNair had big numbers behind incredible pass pro. Volek and O'Donnell (coming out of retirement with a couple days practice) both played better QB for the Titans that year. If replacements were better than the starter when playing with the same teammates, does it impact the starter's DPAR? ;)

by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:35pm

I tried to turn it back to the topic by the end ...

by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:36pm


So give him a bonus for his running. And a big minus for his passing. Because the changes defenses made to stop his runs made it even easier for him to pass.

by stan (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:37pm


make that 34 regarding Vick and defensive changes.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 3:44pm

Ahh, the good ol' Bobby Hoying era. *shudders*

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 5:57pm

Re #36
1) I know we mark in game charting if a tackle on a pass play is a scramble, but I don't think it's incorporated into QB passing stats. Thus, the combined Pass + Rush DYAR totals.

3) If you're willing to accept that Craig Nall in 2004 was the best QB of the DVOA Era (92.4% DVOA!), I'll go along with that w/r/t Volek. O'Donnell, though, gets the "It's Week 17 and Nothing Matters" award.

by Stuart Fraser :: Tue, 07/22/2008 - 8:13pm

36, 41 - DVOA/DYAR are calculated from the NFL play-by-play (there's just no way we could plausibly get game charting data turned around that rapidly), so I assume this distinction isn't incorporated into QB rushing stats directly.

However, it is going to be addressed indirectly, through the comparison with replacement-level quarterback rushing, given that a replacement-level QB also gets the benefit of having his negative yardage runs turned into sacks.

by pressrow (not verified) :: Thu, 07/24/2008 - 12:21am

So you know what else this means? If a rookie QB is just awful, chances are he'll never get it. Look at the worst seasons of all time--it's littered with recent high-pick QB busts--players that always got the "he'll have great game experience and he'll get better" thing. Look at that group--Carr, Akili, Alex :( , Ryan Leaf, Andrew Walter, Orton--all guys that played right away and sucked. As Aaron pointed out, really, the only QB who was dreadful as a rookie (on this list) and did anything was McNabb.

I'd be curious to see such a list among rookie QBs. It looks like there's a point at which, if he performs poorer than that point as a rookie, then he just might not ever get it. Think of all the QBs that HAD to play as rookies that have panned out...Peyton, Cutler, Big Ben, Brees...they weren't great, but they were at least alright. Even guys like Eli, and Vick, and Vince--they were OK.

by Travis (not verified) :: Thu, 07/24/2008 - 9:37am

Re: 43

Brees played one game his rookie season. Walter didn't play at all.

by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 07/24/2008 - 10:29am

Troy Aikman's rookie season was terrible. I'd say he turned out ok.