Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

15 Nov 2007

Busting the Bad QB Myth

It seems a developing storyline this year is about how bad quarterback play is in the league. I was skeptical of that assessment and decided to undertake a comprehensive study of the issue. Two weeks later, my study is not started, but Peter Schrager does some quick work by comparing passer ratings across the past 15 years. Anybody who grew up in Indianapolis during the Mike Pagel, Jack Trudeau, Jeff George years is not surprised by the results.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 15 Nov 2007

53 comments, Last at 19 Nov 2007, 4:01am by Jerry


by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 9:39pm

How can you make an argument based on QBs 22-30 (and to a lesser extent 6-16) when the then number of teams vary between years?

Between 92 and 2007 7 teams joined the league. Currently the 16th best QB is at the median of QB ratings; but in 1992 he was 3 spots below the median. So clearly you would expect him to be worse than 2007, assuming the distribution of QB play is the same and we now have 32 random samples from it instead of 25.

The whole thing needs to be recast relative to league size to be mathematically defensible.

by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 9:52pm


I kind of see where you're coming from, but I'm not sure I agree. The article doesn't seem to be saying the #16 qb is the median guy in all years, just that he is the 16th best QB in the league. One could make the argument that, for equivalent talent pools, the 16th guy in the league one year should be just as good as the 16th guy in the leage the next, regardless of whether there are a total of 16 teams, 32 teams, or 300 teams.

In fact, maybe this reveals part of the reason why the media seems to think QB's are bad recently. The talent pool is roughly the same as in the past, but now the 29th - 32nd best QB's in the world get to start, when they wouldn't have ten years ago (and maybe the 33rd - 35th best QB's as well, given injuries and poor talent evaluations). Same number of 'good" QB's, four or more "bad QB's" and the average level of QB play goes down.

I also wonder if improving defenses have anything to do with it. Back in the "Glory Days" of QB's, Drew Bledsoe could chuck the ball 60 yards downfield fifteen times a game, get like five long completions, two PI penalties, and maybe only one or two interceptions. That won't cut it now--CB's and pass rushers have gotten so good that probably five of those fifteen plays may end in sacks or INT's. So QB's are forced to play better and be smarter, checking down and moving the chains, which gives them as good or better QB ratings, but isn't as flashy to the media.

by Jimmy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:01pm

I agree with #2 (I think) the modern QB sheck the ball down a lot more, backs are all required to catch the ball and completion percentages have improved. I remember reading a rant by Dr Z about how the passer rating is far too heavily based around completion percentage, he seemed convinced.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:08pm


We don't agree on the definition of "bad qb play," then.

If there are 32 QBs, they all contribute equally to "average qb play," right? So if you're going to talk about average QB play, you have to account for all of the QBs in the league.

Imagine if D1 college football combined with the NFL and now the best 151 (32+119) QBs in the world played ever Sunday. The average viewer would turn on the tv and see a crappy QB most of the time, and think that QB play declined. The rebuttal to that (according to you, if I read it right) is, "well, there are still 16 good QBs out there so qb play hasn't declined, you just don't see it."

We can argue about the definition of "quaterback play in the league" but I think most people would define it as the average quality of a starting qb.

by ebongreen (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:11pm

If only there were some statistical standard from the last decade comparing the league's quarterbacks to some average replacement player - why, someone could do some analysis using that statistic instead of passer rating!

by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:17pm

HEY! Jack Trudeau was awesome!

Trudeau to Brooks!

by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:24pm

*Game Linked on my Name*

Colts Top Patriots On Trudeau Passes

Jack Trudeau passed for 239 yards and a touchdown and Donnell Thompson, a defensive end, returned a fumble 28 yards for another touchdown today as the Indianapolis Colts beat the New England Patriots, 30-16.

Jack Trudeau passed for 239 yards and a touchdown and Donnell Thompson, a defensive end, returned a fumble 28 yards for another touchdown today as the Indianapolis Colts beat the New England Patriots, 30-16.

(I'm just begging for an irrational Trudeau/Tony Eason Thread)

by Nathan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:26pm

That other paste was going to be,

The Colts got the ball back three plays later when the Patriots' quarterback, Tony Eason, was sacked by Duane Bickett and fumbled.

by Youppi (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 10:58pm

I understand that more teams = worse players are going to have to start. But I also assume that the overall pool of players is very steadily improving as the population (and thus the number of people who play football) grows. The top 20 QBs of today should be better than the top 20 QBs of 15 years ago because there is a larger pool from which to draw star QBs from.

by B (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 11:01pm

8: Eason sucks, put in Grogan. Sorry, I just channeled the 80s Pats fan for a second there. And for the record, I didn't need to read your post to know how the next series was going to go.

by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 11:08pm

We can argue about the definition of “quaterback play in the league� but I think most people would define it as the average quality of a starting qb.

I don't understand this argument at all. The difference between the QBs in a league with 32 teams and a league with 30 teams are the bottom two QBs. That's all. In the league with 30 teams, the bottom 2 QBs simply aren't playing.

The fact that "average QB play" in a smaller league (assuming the teams select from the top down, obviously) is going to be better than in a larger league if all else is equal is obviously true.

But if league B, with 32 teams, has better QB play from QBs #22-30 than league A, with 30 teams, from #22-30, it's hard to argue that league B could possibly have worse QB play than league A - league A had a boost (by not having to play 2 even-crappier QBs) and still was worse.

So in short, yeah, there's a bias, but it goes opposite the direction of interest. Since it showed that QB play isn't actually worse, then it's not really important.

by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 11/15/2007 - 11:25pm


Alright, I guess we just disagree on what's being quantified here.

To me, Joe Fan says "Hey, Qb's aren't as good as they were back in the day," and this article is trying to refute this. Ok, so where does Joe Fan gets his perception of QB's from? Probably from a random sampling of NFL teams he watches.

If you want to tell Joe Fan he's wrong, why not take the average QB rating from each season and show that it's increasing? Or show that the middle 50% of QBs now have a higher rating now than 15 years ago?

To throw out the worst 2 qbs from 2007 and then say "look, play isn't declining" -- how does that make sense?

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:19am


Well if you had today's QB's play back then then average play wouldn't be down. But the only reason it is down is because you have more teams, which should be obvious.

Like if you were to all of the sudden shrink the league down to six teams, and only had Brady, Manning, Romo, Farve, and Big Ben (I won't try to spell his name!) as starters, then you wouldn't actually make QB's better, you would just only have the top six playing.

If there was some way to put a ranking on all of the QB's and then match them up like #1 1990 vs #1 today, #2 1990 vs #2 today, etc. all the way down they would all be equal theoretically. The only difference is the ones in a smaller league don't get to play. So no QB's back then weren't better, you just saw a bigger range. So if yo made the league 1000 teams, obviously you have to keep using worse QB's, thats the only difference.

by Briguy16 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:47am

I have one serious question regarding this article:

Why the Britney Spears dig? Was that really necessary? Hasn't she gotten to the point where we no longer take shots at her in articles that have nothing to do with her?

by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:58am

The problem with using average joe perception is memory is faulty. We don't remember the lousy qbs that were playing 5, 10, 15 years ago. We remember the great ones. And we see the lousy QBs of today playing every weekend. Of course, we also remember the lousy QB playing for our favorite team, but that's the memory of just one lousy player.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:18am

#15: Or indellibly bad QBs. Most people remember Akili Smith. I will always have Rex Grossman.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:33am


Seconded. Let's end the whole refer to meaningless celebrities in completely difference topics thing. It's done.

No more mentioning that one girl, or that other girl, or that one dude.

We don't care. We don't think it's a valuable piece of anyone's time, and we would prefer the whole thing to go away.

Ironhead Hayward was an amazing full back. Any chance for the hall of fame?

by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 3:03am

Wow, using passer rating is so easy! I never even realized Matt Schaub was better than Johnny Unitas!

by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 3:07am

Unfortunately, guys, if you want to use passer rating as your metric of choice, as the author does here, only 30 passers from 2007 qualify for a passer rating (14 passes/game). Only 25 in 1992. So obviously, passer rating isn't a great way to measure quarterback player. But anyway, here are the means and Medians:

1992: 77.11 mean, 79.9 median, 2.52 standard deviation
1997: 78.91 mean, 78.55 median, 1.83 standard deviation
2002: 81.40 mean, 84.6 median, 1.71 standard deviation
2007: 85.56 mean, 84.9 median, 2.69 standard deviation

I have all the years on my computer from something I was looking at before, but this space is limited in formatting so I just included the years the author used.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 3:29am

Just an undeveloped thought on why perception always makes "now" a down time.

When we look back to any given year, we see names we recognize as good QBs. But in that given year, some of those recognizable QBs might be in their first few seasons (and possibly struggling), some could be toward the end of their careers (and possibly struggling), and some could be having down years. So if we just look at the names, we say, "Hey, there were a lot of good QBs in 1978" or whatever year. If we really looked at the numbers, we'd see that all those recognizable QBs weren't necessarily good in that particular year. 20 years from now some rube is going to complain about the state of contemporary quarterbacking, look back at 2007, and recognize names of a lot of good QBs (some of which, right now, we don't even think of as good), and think this must be a golden age of great quarterbacking.

by TNT (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 5:02am

A few other perception changers of the modern era.

Stat accessibility and the increase in types of stats. When I was young there were what three stats for QB (TDs, Interceptions, and Yards). And you got them from the newspaper.

Cable football packages. Now you can see every QB play, every week, rather than your hometeams QB and whatever game was on the networks.

Fantasy football. Before fantasy the only thing that mattered is if the QB's team won or not.

by thepeepshow (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 7:12am

"Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and Matt Hasselbeck -- thought to be top-tier quarterbacks before the season -- are each having down years for mediocre,
underperforming teams."

Not to be picky, but ...
How is the 9th ranked team in DVOA considered "mediocre" and "underperforming" even if their strength this year isn’t offence?

Hasselbeck is on pace for over 4k yards this season which would be a carrier high for him. Ok, he may not be as consistent as in years past, but one could make the argument that having to pass more to compensate for a very VERY poor running game means he has more opportunities to make mistakes.

Since his value is tied to his WR’s (similarly to RB’s to the Offensive line), where the two starters have been out for more than their fair share of games couldn’t the argument be made that a combination of circumstances could not only account for, but also increase his value? He had a similar situation last year as he did this year … and low and behold he’s actually doing BETTER this year.

You certainly can’t make the claim that D. Jackson’s decrease this year is due to him suddenly losing his skills. Quarterback maybe?

I love FO stats and live by them, but there are flaws. They don’t take into account coaching or system dynamics. They only look at the black and white dynamics of football as if they can be fit into an equation (which ill reluctantly say they can for the most part).
I’d like to see a coaching DVOA. I’d like to see both a stronger justification AND detachment from associative components in the formula (OL and RB, WR and QB, QB and OL) that justify basic statistics that the NFL and others hold so dearly too. All the mathematicians that I know acknowledge that there is some truth to common statistics.

BTW I hate math ... love FO and the site.

by masocc (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 11:19am

Actually peep, yes, I will make that claim. The 'Hawks didn't *just* trade Jackson because he's an arse. Something ain't right with him after his injuries.

by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 11:41am


Now that's what I'm talking about!

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:00pm

Given a QB's importance to winning, I've often wondered why winning isn't part of the ratings formula?

I understand the objection would be that winning is a result of team play; so if it were me, I'd add to the rating system only those games decided by 7 points or less. My thinking is just that, while blowouts in either direction would generally be the result of team-wide disparity, the outcome of a close game could be said to (usually) mirror the decision-making and performance by either QB on a dozen or so critical plays.

I'd also make this a small percentage of the rating, like maybe 10 per cent or something.

Yes, this seems arbitrary, but aren't TD passes kind of arbitrary too (as in, Manning throws 5 yarder to Addai who zigs and zags for 80 yards, etc.)?

Of course, DVOA is the best system for rating QBs, so what I'm suggesting is just a way for the NFL itself to improve its peculiar rating system (as the league will never adopt DVOA, unless of course a "Math Craze" sweeps our nation's young people.)

by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:16pm

I see this kind of argument occasionally, about how the QB play is so much worse now, or there are so many horrible offenses compared to the past. And one thing that never seems to make it into those articles is that maybe, just maybe, defenses today might be better than the ones of yesteryear. There are at least two reasons to think so:

1) The talent disparity between offense and defense is gone, if not in the defense's favor now. Maybe this is just my perception, but in the past a great athlete, when forced to choose one side to play on, would most often land on offense. Now, it seems like more great athletes are heading to defense - CB instead of WR, LB instead of RB, etc. More college teams see the value of having great athletes playing D (most HS's still have them play both ways), and the best players are as likely to be assigned to defense as offense. This carries over to the NFL, and you get more defensive talent than the 80's QBs ever had to face.

2) The defensive schemes are so much more complicated now, it's like comparing calculus to the multiplication table. I may be off on this timeline slightly, but I believe the first zone blitz Montana ever saw was from the NBC studio show. I would bet a lot that the QB's who look so confused and incompetent out there today would only need to look at about ten minutes of 80's defensive film, say "That's it? They only have two coverages and three blitzes for the entire season?", and go out and shred them. The complexity of defenses in those days, it's what college teams run now. Bad college teams. The kinds that these incompetent QB's put up monstrous numbers against in order to get drafted highly.

I don't think the QB play has gotten worse. In fact, with the massive upgrades in defensive quality, I think it's amazing that the QB play has even been able to tread water.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:51pm

Trogdor, you can add to that argument the overall increase in the speed of today's players. I don't think anyone would argue that today's players aren't faster than in years past. At first you may think that since this applies to both the defensive players and the offensive players that it would cancel each other out. But that'd only be true if the size of the field increased proportionally to the increase in average speed.

In essence, the field is shrinking. Defensive players today can cover much more ground then they could years ago. And this is only exacerbated by your other two points on the talent shift and increased complexity of today's defenses.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 1:35pm

he problem with using average joe perception is memory is faulty. We don’t remember the lousy qbs that were playing 5, 10, 15 years ago. We remember the great ones.


there's ALWAYS been horseshit QB play in the NFL

pick a year, any year--let's say 1975

yeah, you had Staubach, you had Bradshaw

but you also has (as starters) Steve Ramsey, Gary Huff, Steve Spurrier (!), Mike Livingston, a washed up John Hadl, a washed up Craig Morton, a washed up Roman Gabriel

QB play today spans the same spectrum of quality that it always has

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 1:39pm

oh (almost forgot) and Mike Phipps

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 1:42pm

I think QBs face more challenging defensive schemes today, and here's why: information technology.

The databases every NFL team uses today to break down tendencies has a disproportionate benefit to the defense. This is because defensive play traditionally involves trying to anticipate what the offense is going to call; since databases and tendency-mapping makes predicting an opponent's playcalling more accurate, defenses benefit.

Yes, the same could be said for offenses, to a degree, but since the critical issue on a given play is usually whether the defense guesses correctly (while offenses always have the slight edge in that they know what they'll do) the impact has been of greater benefit to the tacklin' side of the game.

by Trust Doesn\'t Rust (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:04pm

it seems the problem here is that modern offenses are more tailored to the types of numbers that get a high passer rating-- the emphasis on short passes driving up completion percentages, and more red zone passing leading to more passing touchdowns. these days, it seems like your typical 'bad quarterback' is the david carr, joey harrington, tavares jackson type who throws a lot of meaningless passes underneath the zone, has poor pocket presence, can't put together sustained drives, and generally plays like his coaches are constantly yelling in his ear telling him what to do. if you look at the bad list from 15 yeras ago, you had guys who weren't afraid to throw the ball around the field (george, esiason, nagle, gelbaugh), but who were less accurate overall and seemed to get the rep of stupid rather than today's rep of timid. the current bad list, with bulger the exception, are all guys who are apt to throw more meaningless completions, and earn nicknames like "captain checkdown." for instance, brian griese has a 62% completion percentage, with his '92 counterpart jeff george only at 55%. boller/mcnair average 62% completions in the same offense, while their '92 counterpart browning nagle is at 49%. huard 62%, esiason 52%. i would bet the stats for yards per completion would trend more towards the '92 guys.

by AmbiantDonkey (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:11pm

As a Bears fan I always remember the lousy QBs.

At least Rex is better than Alex Smith.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:14pm

Interesting observations in the article and on the board. Somebody else already touched on it but its worth expounding on - the game has changed significantly from 1992 to 2007, and whats been expected of quarterbacks has changed as well, enough I would say to make passer rating an ineffective comparison. John Clayton was just the other day talking about a watershed moment in offensive scheming, with the new pass-wacky offenses supplanting more traditional balanced attacks (which may be true to a degree).

Temo - thanks for the stat. The size of the standard deviation between 92 and 07 does not seem too different. I suppose more importantly is the difference in standard dev among all 4 years of the sample significant? It would appear to all be within a point. I wonder if you can track a trend in standard dev between 92 and 07?

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:16pm

I'm just thinking that if you intend to use passer rating as your means of comparison then standard deviation is the most effective way to investigate the quality of play.

by Herm? (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:49pm

OMG Nathan! Tony Eason was clearly better than Jack Trudeau! Actually...you'll get no such argument here...poor Eason never had a chance - being drafted in 1983 before a few guys you may have heard of, coupled with the fact that Steve Grogan was a local fan favorite, and you have the makings of a tough career. You also have to factor in the underachieving Patriots and their drug problems and wives stabbing them. Were the 80's as big a blur to anyone else as they were to me?

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 2:52pm

#31: I like your assessment of what "bad" quarterbacking means in the context of today's game.

I think what we have is something the NFL has tried to design: bad offenses today still feature, for the most part, passing games that fail.

In the dead-ball late 1960s/early 1970s, bad offenses were basically teams that couldn't run the ball worth squat. The effect of rules changes (and the development of strategy) has been to create, at least, failures that are more interesting or fun to watch, at least probably for most fans.

Watching teams go off-tackle for one or two yards a pop is a lot less interesting than watching the Joey Harringtons of the league today.

by David (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 3:02pm

Wow, for all its flaws, that wasn't nearly as bad an article as I expected from Schrager trying his hand at mathmatical analysis. I think there's a chance that all of us who have found the light of FO.com are a bit spoiled when it comes to cogent arguments and good statistical analysis. AS much as I applaud Schrager for trying, he should probably stick to overreacting to each game on his power rankings, the whole 'thinking things through' thing is not really his bag.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:28pm

Why doesn't FO link to Paul Zimmerman's articles on si.com? He's better than Peter King, but also a confirmed crackpot.

Zimmerman hates the NFL QB Rating system, but I believe his reasoning is off the mark and he's a crackpot. He says it relies too heavily on completion percentage, saying it factors into three of the four categories. I disagree, but perhaps only semantically.

The one point he has, but fails to deliver very well, is that the ratings of today cannot accurately be compared to ratings of the past. The benchmarks have not changed since the system was introduce in the early 1970's. They should re-benchmark it every year, the way baseball does ERA+ and OPS+.

So Temo makes the most valid point here, and the article is wrong and pointless.

How do the Football Outsiders feel about the NFL QB rating system? I know they have their own stats, but where do they stand on this one?

by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:45pm

Azibuck- The thing about it is that ERA+ and OPS+ basically tell you how much better a player is in his current time. So in that way, yes, a qbrating+ system would have its uses.
But the question is are QBs as a WHOLE better or worse than QBs a whole from another time period. A + benchmark system wouldn't get you that.

Personally, I'd say you could just look at yards/play, since the ultimate goal of any QB passing the ball is to gain as many yards as he can.

But perhaps a better way is to use DVOA/DPAR, since I guess that was used in PFP 2006 to compare RB seasons from different years. Of course, that stuff only goes back to 1996 (soon to be 1996. Although that might be enough for the purposes of this specific question.

by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 6:53pm

Interestingly enough, the Yards/pass in 1992 and 2007 are nearly identical, and the same for 1997 and 2002.

Also the data for 2007 is heavily skewed to the right (Skewness=0.8999). But that's probably because it's only a half season worth of data. Obviously 9 games are not a great sample size.

by colin (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 7:53pm

Maybe it's not so much that QBs are worse, which I tend not to believe, but that the additional requirements on the qb position as offenses and defenses have evolved has more and more clearly separated the top qbs. Over the last few years we've seen some of the greatest qb seasons of all time. Maybe we're just biased because peyton manning is so freaking good that he and the other super-elite qbs have broken the ceiling on expectations. We have what, 5 elite QBs right now? How many years ago do we have to go where any of those guys would be the best qb in the league?

by doktarr (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 10:01pm


I think you're on the right track. The difference now is that the QB position is so incredibly important. It's always been important, of course. But two major factors have amped up the importance of the "fanchise" QB:

1) rule changes/re-emphasis/re-interpretation which allows the passing game to be more effective and keeps QBs from taking a beating, and

2) More complex offensive and defensive schemes and more athletic players requires faster and more complex decisions from the QB.

Combine those two factors, and the impact of an elite QB has never been greater.

by Shalimar (not verified) :: Fri, 11/16/2007 - 11:41pm

The person I have heard most making the argument that QB play sucks today is Steve Young. Troy Aikman is up there too in the games I have watched that he has done. Pardon me if I don't really care what Young and Aikman have to say about how much better the QBs were when they were QBs.

by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 1:25am

#42 -- rules changes certainly had an effect on offenses from 1978 onward.

Traditionally, the passing game favored long downfield passes. Having watched film of some of the "old-time" games, I was amazed at the absolute mugging wide receivers took. The punches and such simply strain one's credibility that the league allowed that egregious battery for as long as they did. It seemed like it took a while for receivers to force themselves open from the "bump and run" coverage they suffered under. Thus, slow developing, downfield passing plays were called for. After the WR's were allowed to run free, it didn't take too long for OC's to realize that short, quick developing pass plays could be the ultimate running game, taking 7-9 yards at a whack with little downside. Some of that still exists today, with obvious results in higher completion percentage.

Needless to say, my highly scientific basis for all this rambling is my eyes and my memory, so take it for what it's worth.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 1:51am

One other change, although it predates Schrager's timeframe, is the shift to coaches not named Paul Brown sending in plays from the sideline. A QB with a big arm but no brain was pretty useless thirty years ago; now coaches will be take the chance of training him to read a few keys once they've called a play.

by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 1:09pm

I think Drew Bledsoe is an interesting guy to ponder in relation to this. Sure, Bledsoe got old after 2000 and declined, but I think it was more than that. I think it was also partially that in 1993 Bledsoe entered a league in transition, particularly transition in defensive strategy. His first few years in the league, Bledsoe was gangbusters, because he was the practically perfect QB specimen, tall, BAZOOKA arm, able to scan the field.

But as defensive strategy very rapidly grew more complicated and creative, two things happened that undermined Drew Bledsoe:

1. The rapid growth of the zone blitz, Tampa-2 and similarly exotic coverage schemes designed to confuse the quarterback into a mistake, and

2. The shift to heavy reliance on speed-oriented pass rushers to pressure the quarterback.

Drew Bledsoe was ill-equipped to deal with these advancements in defense, and I wonder if that, plus the ever-increasing microanalysis of game film, didn't heavily contribute to Bledsoe's amazing ability to melt down in the second half of the season, year after year, especially later in his career.

And in that, Bledsoe strikes me as a microcosm of the paradigm shift in defensive strategy and the corresponding changes it wrought in the requisite skills an NFL quarterback needs.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 2:45pm

Temo, minor quibble, but OPS+ and ERA+ reflect performance against the league average for that year. So a QBRating+ would allow you to compare eras.

In 1992, Favre and Marino had QB-ratings of 85. The mean that year was 77. Their ratings were 11% above average. So say that's a QB+ of 11. (I know that's not how it works, I'm just doing a quick and dirty thing). In 2007, the mean is 85 (so far). Matt Schaub's 85 would be a QB+ of 100.

So with the same rating, Favre and Marino were having much better years.

Any way you could email be your data? I'm curious enough now, and I like to stare at numbers.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 2:50pm

Up in Titletown, we've been pretty happy with quarterback play the past 15 years...

This caught my eye earlier this season and indicated to me how the QB Rating is skewed to completion percentage. In the big Patriot-Cowboy showdown week six, Brady threw for 5 TDs and 388 yards. He was 31 for 46, a bit over 66 percent completions. His QB rating was 129.6. No interceptions. A couple weeks later, Favre against Denver threw for 331 yards and 2 TDs, no picks, for a QB Rating of 142.4. The difference? Favre completed 21 of 27, or slightly more than 75 percent. Although in this game Favre completed 10 less passes for 3 less TDS and 57 less yards, the QB Rating system indicates that Favre played a better game, 142.4 rating to Brady's 129.6 rating.

So who really had the better game?

I think a big missing element to the QB rating is 3rd down conversion completions. Forget completion percentage in the ratings. I'd rather have a guy go 1-3 for 12 yards in a series than a guy go 3-3 for 8 yards.

Favre should win his 4th MVP this year!

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 3:44pm

this site:

has yearly QB ratings in the form of RAT+, corresponding to OPS+ or ERA+

so, e.g. in 1953, when Otto had a QB rating of 99.7, this gives an RAT+ of 186, while Steve Young, in his record-setting year had a RAT+ of 144

by Temo (not verified) :: Sat, 11/17/2007 - 8:59pm

48. Actually I suspect it's because Favre threw for about 50% more yards per pass attempt than Brady.

47. I thought that was the same definition of RAT+ that I gave. However, while that will enable you compare individual performances across different eras, it will not enable you say, for instance, that QBs as a WHOLE, as a collective, are better in 2007 than in 1992.
As for the stats, I just used the stats from the NFL site. Just go to the stats section of their site, get a listing that you want, highlight, copy, and paste it into Excel and you'll have exactly what I have. Then you can manipulate those figures as you wish. Oh, and when you're pasting in excel make sure to right click-> paste special-> unicode text. That should enable you to keep the data in separate columns.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 2:02pm

Thanks Temo. And thanks princeton73, that's just what I wanted. Nice site.

by stan (not verified) :: Sun, 11/18/2007 - 10:14pm

Some great points by Trogdor and the guy who followed him -- the emphasis on putting the best athletes on defense has made a huge difference. And the increased speed of the athletes makes the field relatively smaller.

Someone else makes a great point about faulty memory. [In such and such a year, all these great QBs were in the league. We don't have that many now.]

Let's look at Bradshaw. One of the Steeler super bowl years, he was benched for 5 games in favor of Joe Gilliam. He demanded to be traded. In 2007, people only think of him as a hall of famer playing back then. But back then, Chuck Noll didn't think he was better than a rookie with a drug problem from a small college, Tennessee St.

by Jerry (not verified) :: Mon, 11/19/2007 - 4:01am

Let’s look at Bradshaw. One of the Steeler super bowl years, he was benched for 5 games in favor of Joe Gilliam. He demanded to be traded. In 2007, people only think of him as a hall of famer playing back then. But back then, Chuck Noll didn’t think he was better than a rookie with a drug problem from a small college, Tennessee St.

Your underlying point about selective memory is correct, but it was 1974. Gilliam was in camp while Bradshaw was out on strike (Hanratty, too), and when Gilliam's play-calling was much more pass-happy than Noll could stand, he went back to Bradshaw, and the rest is history.