Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

04 Feb 2013

Are Super Bowl QBs Getting Worse?

Joe Flacco just won the Super Bowl despite being just 17th in QB DYAR during the season. Eli Manning won it back in 2007 even though he was 40th in DYAR. What happened to only the best quarterbacks winning Super Bowls? Neil Paine points out that this really isn't any different from the rest of Super Bowl history.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 04 Feb 2013

30 comments, Last at 07 Feb 2013, 6:51pm by The Ninjalectual


by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 2:19pm

Super Bowl QBs aren't getting worse. The fog of time causes us to forget that guys like Jim McMahon, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, and even Phil Simms, really weren't all that special.

by Cro-Mags :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 2:41pm

Mark Rypien's career as a whole wasn't all that hot, but the year he put together when he won the SB was nothing to scoff at.

by andrew :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 11:06pm

Agreed.. the REdskins I think were one of if not the top DVOA all time that year, and Rypien was just on the entire year especially on his dragon throws.

Then he held out, missed training camp next year and was never the same again.

by Wilsonia (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 12:32am

Was Dilfer all that great during the Ravens' first run? My admittedly hazy memory tells me that he didn't really do much, most of the points were scored by Jamal Lewis or superior defense and special teams.

by Lance :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 12:58am

My memory is hazy, too, but I lived in Baltimore at the time and my impression was that during that run Baltimore's offense was something of a joke. At one point they went through a three gam stretch losing games 10-3, 14-6, and 9-6. Dilfer only started 8 games, completing 59% of passes with 12 TDs and 11 INTs. Not dazzling.

So, yes, Dilfer wasn't great. It was largely Defense (and all-time great by most standards) and the Lewis-Holmes rushing combo.

by Jericho (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 1:46pm

Dilfer was not a good QB. He also did not start most of the year. Tony Banks was the starter until the Titans loss (11th game - second match-up with Tennessee that year). The Ravens actually went five (5!) consecutive games without touchdown (but somehow won two of them).

After the season, Dilfer was allowed to walk as a free agent and Elvis Grbac was signed.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 6:51pm

The Ravens had a 5game stretch that year without an offensive touchdown

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 9:53am

True about Rypien. But the point I was going for was simply that not all Super Bowl QBs are Joe Montana. Many folks think that great QBs win the Super Bowl, and so therefore QBs who win the Super Bowl are great. Reality is that often times, it's just a flash in the pan (Rypien), or not even a flash at all (Dilfer).

by Guido Merkens :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 2:22pm

I think the amazing thing is that they aren't getting better. In the 70s, a team could be very good or even great with mediocre QB play. But in the modern era, even run-oriented teams must depend heavily on having a quality passing game. Flacco and Eli Manning might not be on the same level as Montana or Elway, but they're much better than early-career Terry Bradshaw or Jim Plunkett.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 2:45pm

Sorry, but I hate the structure of this article. It starts out with a strawman argument (Super Bowl QBs are getting worse) that is never established to be a wide-held belief and then proceeds to "prove" that isn't the case. A bit like "Is the sun rising in the west now? No, see it isn't."

by Anony (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 3:02pm

Yes, I hate the scientific method (define a question -> form a hypothesis -> test the hypothesis -> draw conclusions) too.

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 3:19pm

Dare I say you're putting forth a strawman argument? No one's questioning the validity of the scientific method. (Not here anyway...)

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 4:39pm

Where was scientific method used to define the question here? The closest it comes to that is using Flacco's regular season DVOA. Unfortunately, in the same sentence it does that it also tries to paint Eli Manning as being somehow unworthy, despite the fact he's had some very good DVOA numbers over the last few seasons.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 1:26pm

You're forgetting the part of the scientific method where the questions formed are based on prior observations.

by Anony (not verified) :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 3:32pm

You mean observations like very mediocre regular season qbs winning the superbowl in 2007 and 2012?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 2:59pm

Flacco's playoff DYAR - 626.

That's almost twice as high as his regular season DYAR. What happened for both Eli and Flacco was they stopped turning the ball over in the playoffs.

Also, 2007 Eli and 2012 Flacco were both deep chuckers whom DYAR/DVOA hates with a fiery passion. It's going to be fun watching DVOA cope with the 70s and all those great QBs whom it will despise.

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 5:10pm

No, because if we ever manage to get back into the 70s, the baselines will change to represent the game as it was played at the time.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 5:27pm

I do bet DVOA will love it some Ken Anderson

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 7:21pm

How far back do you think you can actually get?

You're already running up into the Falcons' lack of historical integrity, aren't you?

by Gus (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 6:14pm

That's a truly amazing stat. And it lines up with what I saw watching Flacco fling it this year - same old guy, perhaps regressing a bit - then, suddenly he had REALLY good protection, and he picked everyone apart for at least a couple quarters.

If nothing else, it validates the Ravens Football Product strategy of staying competitive 'til you win the big one, rather than going for a superstar QB-WR combo.

by DenverCheeze (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 6:26pm

If he was that good with such great protection...imagine how good Aaron Rodgers would be if he had protection. *sigh*

by Ulrik (not verified) :: Thu, 02/07/2013 - 5:19am

I would have thought one of the great things about the *really* good QBs (Manning, Rodgers, maybe Brady) is that they're great without protection, or are so good at avoiding sacks that they make their line look great?

by Mikey Benny :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 2:34pm

This is also the Steelers' strategy, which is pretty a propos of the rivalry if you ask me.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 6:28pm

I have yet to see any statistical ranking that doesn't "hate Flacco with a fiery passion" (which apparently saying he's average counts as). Literally everything I've seen says that Flacco is basically a perfectly average starting quarterback. Flacco's always had a bad completion percentage, a great interception rate and inconsistent touchdown and sack numbers, but he's been remarkably, consistently average. Until the last four weeks. I think any methodology that reflects this is realistic rather than failing to account for the unique brilliance of Audobon's finest. Same for 2007 Eli. Prove to me he was even average without resorting to "COUNT THA RINGZZZZ!"

I'm surprised no one's made the Flacco / 2003 Jake Delhomme comparison. Average, somewhat inconsistent deep chuckers who got ridiculously hot for a few weeks at the right time. Carolina spent the next six years thinking that 4 weeks was Delhomme's "real" talent level and paid for it.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 7:34pm

2003-2008 Jake Delhomme had almost identical production to 2003-2008 Ben Roethlisberger. Only in 2003 did he have two good receivers at the same time (Smith and Muhammad).

He wasn't as bad as your memory of his 2008 playoff implosion lead you to believe. His first six playoff games were pretty stellar QB work, too.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 3:33pm

I'm curious as to why he never put up the charts for the year they had when they won the SB. I understand wanting to look at the whole career, or career to that point, but it seemed an obvious thing to look at as well. Rypien didn't really have a great career, but the year he won the SB was a very solid year. I know he's got the data in the big table and I could pull it out, but I kept expecting it to be part of the analysis. Winning the SB during a career year, or at the start of a marked improvement (see Eli) would be interesting to see as well.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 4:50pm

It's a mess throughout. The lede calls out Flacco for being 17th in the rankings--fair enough (though the playoffs were a different story) but at the same time it's doing that it's perpetuating the myth that Eli is somehow lacking, despite the fact he was a top 10 QB by DVOA the last time he won the SB. When the numbers support what he wants they get used, but they're ignored when they go against what he wants to say.

by JonFrum :: Mon, 02/04/2013 - 3:53pm

A playoff run is a very small sample size. The smaller the size,the wider the variation you expect. With few exceptions, if a QB is good enough to get into the playoffs, his peak play is good enough to win the Super Bowl. If you think that career or even season statistics are going to tell you who will win a championship, you have a naive understanding of what statistics are good for.

by RickD :: Tue, 02/05/2013 - 1:31pm

It's not that small. Flacco played four games and had, what, 100-150 passes?

The play is the relevant unit here, not the game.

by Eggwasp (not verified) :: Wed, 02/06/2013 - 12:54pm

17th in DVOA doesnt mean 17th best QB either. It depends on the rest of the offense for a start - in terms of how the other 10+ players played and then also the offensive scheme.

Also DVOA may correlate with wins to a varying extent, but it doesn't mean that it correlates with Baltimore's gameplan to achieve wins - In many game situations, the best way to achieve a "W" may well not coincide with DVOA-maxing plays. Flacco/Ravens aim is to max the former, not the latter.