Pittsburg Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger

Quick Reads Decade in Review: QB Games

Longtime Football Outsiders readers will be familiar Quick Reads, our regular in-season feature that runs down the best (and, just as fun, the worst!) passers, runners, and receivers of every week. That's 210 columns since 2010 covering each week's results, but aside from the occasional year in review piece, we rarely look at things in the big picture. That changes today!

Welcome to the Quick Reads Decade in Review! Today we're going to look at the most remarkable quarterbacks of the 2010s (20-teens?) with the best and worst games of the past 10 years. Later this week, we'll examine the best and worst players in total value and separate looks at passing and rushing production and efficiency. Then in the coming weeks, we'll be back with a similar look at running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends.

Best Games

Since 2010, there were 98 quarterback games (including the postseason) with at least 220 DYAR. That total comes with an asterisk, because it includes Drew Brees' performance against Carolina in the 2017 playoffs, which was actually 219.9 DYAR. We'll allow it, however, because rounding up gives Brees 18 games of 220-plus DYAR, breaking a tie with the 17 of Tom Brady for the most big games of the decade. Brees and Brady are followed in that department by Aaron Rodgers (10), Peyton Manning (eight), and Ben Roethlisberger (five).

The following table lists the 20 best games of the 2010s. We're including the original comments that ran in Quick Reads at the time, written by myself or by my predecessor Bill Barnwell, along with notes with current updates or observations where relevant. (Remember that opponent adjustments will have changed since these games were covered at midseason.) We've also added the pass defense DVOA of each opponent so you can see which games came against stout units, and which were dominant performances against bad teams. Playoff games are highlighted in blue.

Best Quarterback Games, Total DYAR, 2010-2019

Year Player Team CP/AT Yds TD Int Sacks Total
Wk Def Pass
2014 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 40/49 526 6 0 0 385 391 -6 8 IND 1.1%
Even in the red zone, fewer than one-quarter of all NFL pass plays result in touchdowns. In the red zone Roethlisberger went 7-of-8 for 59 yards with five touchdowns and another first down. Up the middle, he went 11-of-12 for 161 yards and eight first downs.
2011 Drew Brees NO 33/43 466 3 0 2 359 356 4 WC DET -10.8%
Brees’ completion rate was 77 percent. That’s good. Even more impressive: He had exactly one "failed completion" on the day, a 2-yard toss to Pierre Thomas on first-and-10. Throw in a couple of sacks and a DPI call, and his success rate was 71 percent, which stretches the limits of believability. He had 21 first downs, including the three touchdowns. (This was the best playoff game for any quarterback this decade.)
2017 Tom Brady NE 30/39 447 3 0 2 303 302 1 2 NO -11.3%
Brady would have made the top five this week based on his first 15 minutes alone. In the first quarter, he went 11-of-15 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. He was nearly perfect on deep passes, going 5-of-6 for 156 yards with two scores. He got off to a hot start on third downs (first quarter: 5-of-5, 101 yards, five conversions, including two touchdowns) , but quickly cooled way off (rest of game: 1-of-2, 6 yards, no conversions, two sacks) .
2018 Jared Goff LAR 26/33 466 5 0 1 303 301 2 4 MIN -9.7%
Goff had one stretch over the second and third quarters where he picked up first downs on six straight throws, gaining 151 yards and two touchdowns in the process. Then he had first downs on seven straight throws over the third and fourth quarters, gaining 123 yards and a touchdown. Each of those 13 throws gained at least 11 yards.   
2019 Deshaun Watson HOU 28/33 426 5 0 0 295 297 -3 5 ATL 17.0%
The Texans eventually won this game by 21 points, but for most of the time it was much closer than that -- none of Watson's passes came with a lead of more than nine points. Watson was at his best late in the game -- on Houston's last three drives, he went 11-of-12 for 184 yards and three touchdowns. On third downs, he went 9-of-10 for 187 yards and seven conversions, including two touchdowns.
2017 Philip Rivers LAC 27/33 434 3 0 0 294 294 0 12 DAL 12.9%
This was the second-best game for a quarterback this year, behind Tom Brady's game against New Orleans in Week 2, which now stands at 295 DYAR. (Obviously, end-of-season opponent adjustments pushed Brady's game to the top of the pile, that season.) Rivers was practically unstoppable in the second half, going 12-of-14 for 215 yards and three touchdowns. A 15th throw resulted in 10 more yards on a DPI. He had seven third-down dropbacks in the second half, and converted all of them, gaining 152 yards in the process.
2019 Drew Brees NO 29/40 349 5 0 0 291 281 10 14 SF -26.3%
Brees gains 92 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. (By the end of the season, that opponent boost had dropped to 70 DYAR. Also, this was the best performance in a loss by a quarterback this decade.) Brees threw 11 passes inside the San Francisco 26-yard line. One was incomplete. One resulted in the 6-yard DPI. The other nine were complete for a total of 82 yards and four touchdowns. Four of Brees' touchdowns came on throws to his left, where he went 14-of-20 for 150 yards.
2011 Drew Brees NO 32/40 412 5 0 0 291 290 1 15 MIN 22.9%
Brees' game against the Vikings was the best game for any quarterback this season. Before opponent adjustments, it worked out to 346 YAR, but Brees is penalized for playing a flimsy Vikings defense that has now given up the most touchdown passes in the league (26) while tying for the fewest interceptions (six) . Brees now leads the league with 2,159 passing DYAR on the season, ahead of both Tom Brady (2,022) and Aaron Rodgers (1,999) . However, Brees also has more than 50 pass plays more than Brady, and nearly 100 more than Rodgers, and Rodgers is still the league's top quarterback in DVOA. (This was the best game of the regular season in 2011, but Brees himself topped it in the wild-card round against Detroit. Based on full-season baselines, the Vikings game was worth 326 YAR, losing 35 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. Brees finished the year first in passing DYAR, though Rodgers won the DVOA crown.)
2017 Tom Brady NE 28/46 505 3 0 1 291 294 2 SB PHI -6.9%
Brady's totals include -5 DYAR receiving for his one target, an incomplete pass on third down. Counting the playoffs, there were six games this season with at least 250 passing DYAR. Brady had three of them: in Week 2 against New Orleans, in the AFC Championship Game against Jacksonville, and now in the Super Bowl. By DYAR, this was the best playoff game of Brady's career, surpassing his six-touchdown game against Denver in the divisional round of the 2011 season. His AFC title game against Jacksonville is third-best, so yes, at age 40, Brady is quite literally playing better than ever before. Against Philadelphia, his best performance came in the third quarter, when he went 7-of-9 for 128 yards. All seven of those completions went for first downs, including two scores. On third/fourth downs, he went 6-of-10 for 125 yards and six conversions. By his standards, he didn't complete an especially high percentage of his passes, but he made those completions count -- 23 of 28 went for first downs, and only two (a 3-yard gain on second-and-6 and a 2-yard gain on second-and-10) were failed completions. The one area he was ineffective was throwing over the middle, where he went 4-of-8 for 44 yards. (This was the best Super Bowl for any quarterback this decade, and the best performance in a postseason defeat.)
2018 Ryan Fitzpatrick TB 21/28 417 4 0 0 289 260 28 1 NO 10.6%
Deep passes are supposed to produce big plays, of course, but they're supposed to be low-percentage, high-risk throws too. Fitzpatrick went 8-of-9 for 286 yards and three touchdowns on deep passes. As a result, he finished with 14.9 yards per attempt. He's the first player to do that on 20 or more passes since Carson Palmer in 2011; he's the first to do it on 28 or more passes since James Harris in NINETEEN SEVENTY-SIX. (Specifically, October 3, 1976. I know most of you had not been born yet, but I celebrated my first birthday exactly one week later.) We don't have play-by-play for that game, but it's likely Harris hit even more deep balls against the Dolphins than Fitzpatrick did against the Saints. He averaged 25.6 yards per completion, even higher than Fitzpatrick's 19.9-yard mark.
Year Player Team CP/AT Yds TD Int Sacks Total
Wk Def Pass
2017 Nick Foles PHI 26/33 352 3 0 1 289 289 0 CCG MIN -11.8%
On second-and-10 at his own 47 with 1:25 to go in the first half, Foles threw an incomplete pass to Mack Hollins. That is notable, because it was his last incomplete pass of the day. His very next pass was a 53-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery, and he never looked back after that. He started off going 11-of-18 for 95 yards and a sack; he finished up going 15-of-15 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. At one point he picked up first downs on eight straight dropbacks. On third downs -- against a defense that had limited opponents to a historically low third-down conversion rate this year -- he went 10-of-11 for 159 yards and nine conversions (including two touchdowns) , with one sack. In the regular season, the Vikings never allowed more than six third-down conversions on pass plays in a single game. On deep passes, Foles went 4-of-7 for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
2010 Aaron Rodgers GB 31/36 366 3 0 2 287 273 14 Div ATL 0.8%
Was Rodgers' performance better than the numbers? Perhaps. The numbers don't see how he makes the plays, and not all plays are created equally. How many third downs did Rodgers convert after ducking a free pass-rusher, only to scramble out of the pocket and hit his receiver in stride? Rodgers had better numbers as a passer whilst scrambling than anyone outside of Michael Vick this year. Of course, he didn't always need to scramble. Rodgers converted seven of the first eight third downs he faced, and the only one he didn't get was the one where Greg Jennings fumbled after 30 yards, which is hardly Rodgers's fault.
2011 Tom Brady NE 24/34 361 3 0 1 283 271 13 12 PHI -3.4%
Over the course of the season, the best quarterback in football has been Aaron Rodgers. However, Rodgers at his best still can't touch Brady when the Patriots quarterback is on a roll. Brady's 272-DYAR day against Philadelphia was the best game for any passer this season. Brady also has the third-best game with 252 DYAR against San Diego (423 yards, three touchdowns) in Week 2; the fourth-best game with 234 DYAR against the Jets (329 yards, three touchdowns) in Week 10; and the sixth-best game with 224 DYAR against Miami (517 yards, four touchdowns) in Week 1. The fifth-best game was Michael Vick's 491-total yard day against San Francisco in Week 4. Can you guess who's in second place? We'll reveal the answer soon! (There was a lot of shuffling in the top games of 2011 by the end of the year, but when all was said and done Drew Brees finished in first and second place. Vick's performance didn't even make the top 12.)
2010 Tom Brady NE 31/43 350 3 0 0 279 271 8 10 PIT -15.7%
Brady was devastating when the Patriots threw downfield against the Steelers; on passes thrown 15 yards past the line of scrimmage or more, Brady was 5-of-7 for 132 yards and two scores. Before Sunday, the Steelers had 53 such passes thrown against them and allowed just 28 completions. They were also yet to go more than 32 dropbacks without sacking the opposing quarterback; Brady took 43 snaps without going down once. He also did it while spending a fair amount of the night in a power set that lined up with his two blocking tight ends, rookie Rob Gronkowski and bulky veteran Alge Crumpler. (Yes, you may all alert Freezing Cold Takes -- we dismissed rookie Rob Gronkowski as a "blocking tight end." This will be even funnier when we get to our tight ends article.) Somehow, Gronkowski and Crumpler caught all six of the passes thrown to them (including three touchdown catches for the embattled Gronkowski) , while hotshot pass-catching tight end Aaron Hernandez (Well that's an unfortunate choice of words.) was 0-for-2 on his targets.
2017 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 44/64 506 2 0 3 278 276 3 14 BAL -15.4%
This is now the best game a quarterback has had this season, surpassing Tom Brady's game against New Orleans in Week 2. That is largely due to opponent adjustments; Roethlisberger's value would have topped out just below 200 DYAR if we had not factored in that he was playing the Ravens, who had been the league's best overall defense coming into the week. It also helps that he had 69 dropbacks (including two DPIs) -- DYAR is a counting stat, and more plays means more opportunity to rack up value. Given all that action, it's hard to narrow down a specific split where Roethlisberger was perfect, but he did have a big day on third downs, going 9-of-14 for 173 yards and eight conversions. (Brady's game against the Saints was eventually the best game of 2017, because the New Orleans defense improved radically throughout the year. Roethlisberger's game -- in which he benefited from 75 DYAR in opponent adjustments -- finished in fifth place including the playoffs.)
2013 Peyton Manning DEN 33/42 414 4 1 0 275 270 5 5 DAL 20.7%
Manning has now ranked first, fourth, first, second, and first in Quick Reads in the last five weeks. Here's how far Manning has separated himself from the rest of the field. Going into Monday night, his DVOA on the season was 71.6%. That's more than double the DVOA of any other quarterback with at least 100 plays. The second-ranked passer, Philip Rivers, is closer to No. 14 Terrelle Pryor, than he is to Manning. On third downs against Dallas, he went 6-of-7 for 69 yards with a touchdown and four other first downs, plus another play that would have been a first down if Eric Decker hadn't fumbled the ball away. (By season's end, Manning was in first, second, sixth, 10th, 15th, and 17th in the top games list. He led the league in both DYAR and DVOA in one of his best seasons.)
2013 Peyton Manning DEN 27/42 462 7 0 3 275 275 0 1 BAL -4.8%
DYAR by quarter: -2, 62, 81, 99. He went 5-of-9 in the first for 44 yards, but twice failed to convert third downs with 4 yards or less to go. (We covered Manning's game against the Ravens in more detail in the main essay of Quick Reads that week.)
2017 Ben Roethlisberger PIT 38/58 469 5 1 2 273 267 7 Div JAX -27.6%
Roethlisberger gets a boost of 122 DYAR for playing the best defense in the league. Before Sunday, the Jaguars had not allowed more than 271 passing yards or three touchdowns (both by Russell Wilson). Roethlisberger's fourth-down numbers were ridiculous: 4-of-5 for 95 yards and four conversions, including three touchdowns. That's more fourth-down yards and touchdowns in one game than any other player had in 16 games in the regular season. (Kirk Cousins had 94 yards, but no touchdowns; Andy Dalton and Carson Wentz each had a pair of fourth-down touchdowns.)
2013 Drew Brees NO 30/39 413 4 0 2 271 270 1 4 MIA 0.2%
(This was a Monday night game, and so it did not get a comment in Quick Reads that week. Brees shredded the Dolphins on deep passes, going 4-of-5 for 136 yards and two touchdowns.)
2010 Aaron Rodgers GB 25/37 404 4 0 2 270 257 13 16 NYG -15.8%
Rodgers threw for a first down or a touchdown on 19 of his 39 dropbacks while taking just two sacks, fumbling once. He had seven plays of 20 yards or more, including the 80-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that got things started. He saved something special for each down. On first down, he had five of those 20-plus yard plays. On second down, he had ten first downs or touchdowns in 16 dropbacks. On third down, he converted four of his first six attempts, with another one coming off the board when Jordy Nelson fumbled as he reached for the sticks.

Worst Games

As for bad performances, we found 70 quarterback games of the decade at -175 DYAR or worse. The list of players with multiple appearances on that list is short, because players who routinely play this badly don't tend to last long in the NFL. Three quarterbacks appear on the list three times: Sam Darnold (in only 13 starts!), Josh Rosen (16), and Mark Sanchez (58 -- this does not include Sanchez' rookie year in 2009). Ten other players -- Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Joe Flacco, Nick Foles, Brian Hoyer, Case Keenum, Eli Manning, Brock Osweiler, and Jameis Winston -- had two each.

The following table lists the worst quarterback games of the 2010s.


Worst Quarterback Games, Total DYAR, 2010-2019

Year Player Team CP/AT Yds TD Int Sacks Total DYAR Pass DYAR Rush DYAR Wk Def Pass DVOA
2016 Ryan Fitzpatrick NYJ 20/44 188 0 6 0 -300 -291 -9 3 KC -4.2%
(Good games get plenty of coverage everywhere else, so bad games tend to take up most of the coverage in Quick Reads. And since those bad games are often the focus of the main essay in Quick Reads, the comments on those games in the tables can be, well, spartan. For example, when Ryan Fitzpatrick became Ryan Fitz-Six-Picks (Ryan Six-Picks-Trick?) against Kansas City, his comment was exactly 28 words long, linking to an article of GIFs that no longer exists. The main essay, however, went into great detail about Fitzpatrick's game, including a possibility that it might be the worst DYAR game on record. In hindsight, it was not. It is the second-worst DYAR game on record, behind the -302 DYAR of David Klingler's three-interception, seven-sack outing against the Houston Oilers in 1994.)
2019 Kyle Allen CAR 32/50 325 0 4 5 -285 -288 2 11 ATL 17.0%
Behold the power of opponent adjustments, Part IX: Allen loses 70 DYAR due to playing the Falcons. Allen threw eight passes inside the Atlanta 25-yard line, and completed more of them to the Falcons (three) than to the Panthers (one, a 4-yard gain on third-and-4 from the 20). Allen also struggled in short yardage: with 5 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 6-of-14 for 70 yards with three interceptions, three sacks, and an intentional grounding. Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff, and Baker Mayfield are the only other quarterbacks to throw so many interceptions with so few yards to go this season. (Obviously, this was written in 2019, when opponent adjustments in Quick Reads went bonzo gonzo. In the end, Allen only lost 43 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. We had a lot more to say about Allen in the main essay that week.)
2018 Josh Allen BUF 16/33 151 0 2 7 -275 -253 -22 4 GB 20.1%
Where to begin? From the Buffalo 49 to the goal line, Allen went 3-of-11 for 20 yards with one first down, two interceptions, and three sacks. That includes an interception on his only red zone play. He had seven first downs; five of them came with Buffalo down by at least 19 points in the second half. At one point he was sacked on four consecutive dropbacks, which may be a first. On third downs, he went 3-of-10 for 61 yards with three conversions, two interceptions, and three sacks. He had six third downs with 5 yards or less to go for a first down; they resulted in two incompletions, an interception, and three sacks. Throwing to his right, he went 4-of-14 for 23 yards and only two first downs. We could go on, but instead we'll just point you to this thread by our old buddy Cian Fahey showing many of Allen's gaffes one GIF at a time. (That thread has also disappeared into the Internet ether.)
2012 Brandon Weeden CLE 12/35 118 0 4 2 -274 -284 10 1 PHI 24.1%
How bad was it? Without opponent adjustments, only 56 games have been worse than -221 YAR. With opponent adjustments, that number falls to 31. Since we don't know how good or bad the Eagles defense is, and won't know precisely until the end of the season, we can't adjust Weeden's numbers at this point. Suffice to say it was very, very bad. (Worst game ever, by the way: David Klingler's -302 DYAR on a 10-30-115, zero-TD, 3-INT, 7-sack game against the Houston Oilers in 1994.) (As it turns out, Philadelphia's defense was the worst in the league in 2012, and Weeden's game is the eighth-worst on record.) Needless to say, Weeden had some miserable splits in this game. His second quarter was hardly any better than [Michael] Vick's -- this game must have been a real treat for the fans in attendance. For now, we'll go with Weeden's first down numbers: 2-of-11 with an interception, plus two sacks and a bad snap, for no first downs, only one successful play (A 4-yard gain on first-and-5. Go nuts.), and -8 (that's minus-eight) total yards.
2019 Luke Falk NYJ 15/26 120 0 2 9 -270 -270 0 5 PHI 5.6%
(Our main essay at the time covered how Falk was basically set up to fail by the Jets and then cast aside; he has barely been heard from since. Our comment for Falk that week consisted entirely of the following Tweets.)


2014 Teddy Bridgewater MIN 23/37 188 0 3 8 -250 -257 7 6 DET -3.0%
Bridgewater picked up a first down eight times, or one for each time he was sacked. On Detroit's side of the field, he went 6-of-9 for 43 yards with one first down and two interceptions.
2015 Nick Foles STL 11/29 141 1 4 3 -244 -244 0 5 GB -6.8%
Hoo boy. If opponent adjustments and league baselines hold steady, this will be one of the 25 worst games we've ever measured, and the worst since Teddy Bridgewater's eight-sack day against Detroit in Week 6 last year. (It was not quite as bad as Bridgewater's game, but it was the 26th-worst game on record.) The Rams seemed to know he was in for a bad day; they only asked him to pass four times on first down, and only once in the first half. Eventually though, they got to third down, and then Foles was screwed. All four of his interceptions came on third downs, and all with 7 to 9 yards to go for a conversion. And they weren't on deep balls either -- all four were thrown to receivers within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage. Two of them came in the red zone in the fourth quarter.
2010 Todd Collins CHI 6/16 32 0 4 2 -244 -244 0 5 CAR -0.2%
Collins had one of the worst performances in a win you'll see. Before Sunday, starting quarterbacks who tossed four picks in the DVOA Era were 9-133, for a winning percentage of just over six percent. Those nine winners threw an average of 42 attempts per game while getting those four picks. Collins threw his four in 16 attempts. The -5.8 fantasy points he accrued during the win amount to the worst performance by a winning quarterback during that stretch, just narrowly beating out the -5.5 gathered by Rex Grossman in the legendary "Crown 'em" Monday Night game against the Cardinals in 2006. Finally, his -235 DYAR rate as the 17th-worst performance by any quarterback in the 17 years and counting we have DYAR calculated for. Grossman's -285 DYAR in that Cardinals game ranks second-worst. The only reason why Collins didn't head even lower is that he was benched for Caleb Hanie in the second half. Collins and [Jimmy] Clausen combined for -439 DYAR, a colossally bad figure that should rate as the worst performance by a set of starting quarterbacks in a game during the DVOA Era by the time the season is over. (Well, Bill left us with a lot to unpack and update in this one. The DVOA Era now runs from 1985 to 2019. In that time, quarterbacks with exactly four interceptions have gone 20-274 in the regular season, a winning rate of just under 7%. Rex Grossman's notorious game against Arizona is the sixth-worst game we have ever measured; Collins' game against Carolina is 27th-worst.)
2017 Andy Dalton CIN 16/31 170 0 4 5 -242 -244 2 1 BAL -15.4%
I mean, "four interceptions, five sacks, and a fumble" pretty much says it all, right? No? Then should I talk about Dalton's third-quarter numbers (4-of-6, 20 yards, one fumble-sack)? Or his fourth-quarter stats (5-of-11, 78 yards, one interception, two sacks)? How about his red zone performance (2-of-5, 12 yards, two sacks, one fumble, one interception)? His numbers to the left (5-of-11, 63 yards, two interceptions), or to the right (7-of-13, 47 yards, one interception)? We can slice this pizza any way you like, it's still going to be moldy and cold. (We had a lot more to say about Dalton's game in our main essay that week.)
2013 Geno Smith NYJ 8/23 103 0 3 4 -241 -226 -15 11 BUF -22.8%
A 33-yard gain on first-and-10 in the first quarter; a 38-yard gain on third-and-13 in the third; and a 17-yard gain on first-and-10, also in the third. Those were the only first downs Smith threw for all game. Otherwise, he went 5-of-20 for 15 yards with three interceptions, four sacks, and a fumble. This was the worst passing DYAR in any game thus far in 2013, 65 DYAR worse than anyone else, and Smith didn't play a down in the fourth quarter. (Yes, this was the worst game of 2013, but only 21 DYAR worse than EJ Manuel's game against Tampa Bay in Week 14.)
2017 Trevor Siemian DEN 19/41 200 0 3 3 -234 -238 4 13 MIA 24.6%
Sieimian is the first quarterback to throw multiple interceptions in a game against the Dolphins this year. On deep passes, he went 1-of-7 for 23 yards. Up the middle, he went 4-of-8 for just 15 yards and an interception. (A week later, Tom Brady of all people threw two interceptions in a 27-20 loss in Miami.)
2015 Peyton Manning DEN 6/20 35 0 4 2 -233 -233 0 10 KC -8.8%
On passes that traveled 3 or more yards past the line of scrimmage, Manning went 1-of-15 for 17 yards with four picks. I know I have made some errors in this column this year, but I promise you that sentence is 100 percent accurate. He did not throw a pass on Kansas City's side of the field; from right on the 50, he went 0-for-2 with an interception. He did not complete a pass on third down, going 0-for-7 with two interceptions. (We had a lot more to say about Manning in our main essay that week. This was the game in which Manning was benched for Brock Osweiler, and we gave our endorsement for Osweiler to start the rest of the year. Manning did not return to the starting lineup until the postseason, where he won three starts, including the Super Bowl.)
2017 Kirk Cousins WAS 20/37 158 0 3 3 -230 -242 12 17 NYG 13.0%
(This game was in Week 17, when we ran our tables without comments. Cousins only had eight dropbacks in Giants territory, going 4-of-6 for 30 yards with two sacks. On third downs, he went 4-of-11 for 28 yards with one first down, one interception, and one sack.)
2015 Brian Hoyer HOU 15/34 136 0 4 3 -229 -229 0 WC KC -8.8%
(There were 70 quarterback games this decade with -175 total DYAR or worse. Only two of those games came in the playoffs: this one, and Houston's next quarterback, Brock Osweiler, one year later. We covered Hoyer's terrible game in our main essay that week; his comment consisted of the following Tweets.)
2012 Nick Foles PHI 21/46 204 0 2 4 -228 -228 0 11 WAS 4.4%
Two interceptions, three fumbles, and four sacks will get you at the bottom of this list pretty much every time. Inside the Washington 40, Foles went 2-of-6 with a sack-fumble, and those two completions were a 3-yard loss on second-and-5 and a 12-yard gain on second-and-16. The Eagles gave him plenty of chances to throw on first down, and he proceeded to go 4-of-14 for 22 yards with one sack, one botched snap, and no first downs. In one stretch over the third and fourth quarters, he went 3-of-10 for 22 yards and no first downs with a botched snap and three sacks. You get the idea.
2010 Jay Cutler CHI 8/11 42 0 1 9 -226 -226 0 4 NYG -15.8%
Cutler's -220-DYAR day ranks as the 28th-worst game of the DVOA Era. He's just about tied with Rick Mirer, who went 10-of-25 for 68 yards with two picks and four sacks in a game against the Steelers in 2003. Of course, Cutler did all his damage in one half, and while we don't have half-by-half data available for DYAR, it's hard to think of a player who did so much damage in such little work. The best example might be Ryan Leaf, whose third start as a pro was one of the most devastating performances in league history: 1-of-15 for 4 yards with two interceptions and two sacks. You don't want to be in a boat with both those guys, but that's exactly where Cutler ended up on Sunday. (This is now the 48th-worst game on record. Bill wrote a lot more about it in his main essay that week.)
2018 Josh Rosen ARI 21/39 194 1 3 6 -225 -230 6 7 DEN -10.6%
In the first half, Rosen went 8-of-17 for 60 yards with more sacks and pick-sixes (two of each) than first downs (one). He did throw for eight first downs in the second half, but all of them came with Arizona down by at least 32 points. The few good plays Rosen did have almost all came up the middle; to the left and right sides, he went 12-of-25 for 73 yards, two first downs, and all three interceptions. Inside the Denver 40, he went 1-of-8 for 4 yards with one touchdown and one interception. (We had a lot more to say about Rosen in the main essay that week.)
2017 Kevin Hogan CLE 21/37 140 1 3 4 -225 -234 9 6 HOU 19.1%
It has come crashing down, and it hurts inside. Believe it or not, Hogan had positive DYAR in the first quarter, which largely balanced out his bad-but-not-that-bad performance in the second half. He's mostly in this spot because he had the second quarter from Hell: 6-of-14 for 35 yards with one DPI for 6 more yards, two sacks, and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. And then there's third downs, where Hogan had ten dropbacks, no conversions, no completions, two interceptions, two sacks, one fumble, and an intentional grounding penalty for a safety. It is nearly impossible to find a game where a quarterback played worse on third downs... (That comment ended in a segue into Brett Hundley's game against Minnesota, which scored worse than Hogan's game at the time, but looked much better with the benefit of full-season opponent adjustments.)
2016 Case Keenum LAR 17/35 130 0 2 2 -224 -223 -1 1 SF 21.7%
Keenum didn't even get to attempt a pass in the red zone. On the 49ers' half of the field, he went 2-of-10 for 20 yards (hey, at least they both went for first downs), with an interception. On third downs, he went 5-of-12 for 38 yards with three first downs and two sacks. And as bad as Los Angeles' wide receivers are (foreshadowing!), their running backs and tight ends might be even worse, at least in the passing game. Throwing to his backs and tight ends, Keenum went 6-of-12 for 27 yards with no first downs and two interceptions. (That comment about foreshadowing was a reference to the worst wide receiver of the week, a player who we will talk about in great detail in due time. Yes, this editor's note is itself an example of foreshadowing.)
2019 Ryan Finley CIN 13/31 115 0 1 5 -224 -244 21 11 OAK 30.2%
Finley's rushing numbers: three carries for 47 yards. He only threw for six first downs all day, and only two of those came in Oakland territory, where he went 7-of-17 for 30 yards with two sacks.


49 comments, Last at 18 Jun 2020, 6:55pm

1 defensive adjustments based on entire season...

I see a lot of comments on how opponent adjustments increase or decrease based on how that defesne does later in the year.  But is that always fair?  If, for example, a defense has a rash of injuries at defensive back after a game and then sucks the rest of the year, does that really lessen how well a quarterback did versus that defense when it was healthy?  and conversely, if a player returns from injury, or a unit just somehow starts clicking later, does that really elevate how well a quarterback did versus that unit before it figured things out?   I know to some degree you can't disregard the rest of the season, but I wonder if you could perhaps plot a curve of the defensive trend to kind of rate how the defense was in general at that time, and use that for your adjustments?


2 Nick Foles has to have one…

Nick Foles has to have one of the strangest careers in NFL history.  He's one of only two QBs on both the best games and worst games list (Fitzpatrick is the other), and he also had a 7-TD game (which I'm guessing missed the cut due to lack of volume and opponent adjustments for an awful Raiders pass defense).   But other than 2013 (one of the better passing seasons in league history) and the 2017 playoffs, he's been mediocre at best and often downright bad.

9 If you want to look at bad QBs with 7 TD games...

Joe Kapp was a tough leader who had trouble throwing the ball, as noted in some of his highlight interviews, most quarterbacks use the laces to help put a spiral on the ball... and he did not.  His passes wobbled ominously, but for one season, 1969, through whatever combination of factors, his passes found their marks a lot, and in one game against the (sort of) defending NFL champion Colts, who had beat him up bad with all man blitz packages in the playoffs last year, he came out and was reay for that blitz and threw 5 touchdowns to mostly uncovered receivers, they put his backup in, they blitzed him and broke his nose IIRC, so they put Kapp back in and he thew another TD, then put in the 3rd string, whom the Colts promptly injured so he went back out and threw a 7th TD in what was a revenge game for last year (they won 52-14, so no need to keep throwing.

Then after losing the superbowl, he held out, and the Vikings decided they would rather pay money to a practicing dentist who could throw spirals, so they shipped him off to an awful Patriots team and he was absolutely atrocious there, eventually getting benched and never got another starting gig.  

Even in 1969,  his best year, when he was 12-1 as a starter, his qb rating was below 80, he threw 19 touchdowns all year vs 13 picks (so outside of that game he was 12 and 12).   With the Patriots he went 1-9, completed less than 45% of his throws for.. uh, 1.8 yards per attempt, threw 3 touchdowns and 17 picks. 

Still most vikings fans wonder what would have happened if they had paid him.   Yeah, Tarkenton was a better QB once he came back, but that wasn't until they had wasted some incredible defenses in 70 an 71.    FWIW, that Dentist (who was one of the two quarterbacks knocked out that day against the Colts, and also was a few years earlier the backup Colts Quarterback who got also hurt forcing the Colts to use Tom Matte at QB in a game involving a field goal controversy} lost the gig in 1972 and retired to establish a dentistry practice that survives to this day in New Jersey.

23 Gary Cuozzo

Cuozzo in his first start apparently threw five touchdowns (for the Colts, vs the Vikings), in 1965 when Unitas was hurt.   At least one article I found claimed that was the best debut game by a quarterback ever, not sure what metric they used, it was 16-26, 5 tds, 0 picks, 208 yards.    I would think even by the standards of those days someone would have surpassed it.

27 That 7 td game by Kapp was…

That 7 td game by Kapp was the 1st Vikings game I ever attended. The one I remember was a goal line completion, when a running play was called, but when Gene Washington split out wide, no Colt went out with him, so Kapp just threw it to him.

Man, '70&'71, crushing defenses, terrific o-line play, but old running backs and the revolving suck of Cuozzo, Bobby Lee, and Norm Snead at qb.


31 FitzMagic and no Foles

They included a 2018 Fitzpatrick game that actually had less volume than Foles’ performance.


Fitzpatrick, 09-09-2018: 21 for 28, 417 yards (14.89 yards/attempt), 4 TD passes, 0 INTs, 156.2 rating.

He also ran for a TD.


Foles, 11-03-2013: 22 for 28, 406 yards (14.5 yards/attempt), 7 TD passes, 0 INTs, 158.3 rating.

Foles did lose a yard on a sack, though, and Fitz didn’t take a sack.


So maybe that swayed the judges.

35 I can't tell if you're…

I can't tell if you're joking, but... there are no judges.

Most likely the difference between these 2 games comes down to opponent adjustments. That's usually what it is. Let's see:

Fitzpatrick played against NO, 10.6% pass def DVOA, ranked 22nd.

Foles played against OAK, 21.7% pass def DVOA, ranked 29th.

So Foles's opponent was significantly weaker than Fitz (positive DVOA means bad defense).

40 Biggest difference between…

Biggest difference between those two games: Foles converted 3 of 7 third downs against Oakland. Fitzpatrick converted 9 of 12 third downs (not counting a kneeldown) against New Orleans. 

Fitzpatrick's Bucs only punted once. Foles' Eagles punted six times.

44 Good guesses, but ...

While his DYAR was 278 after three quarters, he got pulled after two plays in the fourth.

He finished with 32 total plays, which apparently wasn’t enough for his DYAR to make the best-of-2010s list:



13 DYAR doesn't agree with the…

In reply to by Aaron Brooks G…

DYAR doesn't agree with the eye test, but the first game of the 2018 season (against the Ravens) was actually worse than this one - at least some of the passes against the Chargers actually hit the receiver he was throwing at, even if making tough catches was asking a lot of that team's skill players.

Josh Allen - who looked incredibly lost, even by rookie standards - STILL looked better in the second half of that game.

Peterman has to be the greatest practice/preseason QB in history. When it's an actual NFL game that counts, though, ugh...

4 Man, some of these all…

Man, some of these all decade games came against defenses that might have been ok to good during the season, but were just plain clueless that day. 

I suffered through that Roethlisberger skewering. Taking nothing away from how Ben played, the defense was beyond abhorrent and the whole thing was sickening. They had no ability to cover receivers any time, just coverage bust after coverage bust. I am kind of amazed that the pass defense finished only slightly below average considering they had plenty of really high profiled disasters that season(I think Romo had a near career day against them as well). 

Some other notables. Jared Goff's skewering of a normally competent Vikings defense was strange indeed. That one also featured coverage bust after coverage bust. Tom Brady's evisceration of the saints wasn't as much coverage busts as it was Alex Anzalone getting exposed in the middle of the field play after play. 

11 Saints D that year

Those first two games the defense was HORRIBLE. Then they benched one of the CB's after that Patriots game, beat the Panthers then pitched a shutout against Miami in London, and their defense quickly improved. That was team that got bounced out on the Minneapolis miracle.

Obviously, Brady & Gronk against the rookie Anzalone that day was not going to end well for the rookie. James White and Rex Burkhead also had good receiving games. 

However, at the end of the year, that defense was playing pretty good--so it makes Brady's game look even better than it really was. Weeks 1 & 2 were the worst games for that defense all year.

30 Conversely, that…

Conversely, that Roethlesberger game against the Jags in the 2017 playoffs was just an incredible performance that gets overlooked since they didn't win, but he had something like 3 or 4 40-yard bombs into tight windows for touchdowns against great coverage in that game (at least a couple of them on 4th down).  Steelers really should have been blown out that day, but they just kept fighting 

32 LOL

“Steelers really should have been blown out that day,“

PIT had a DVOA double that of JAC, was playing at home, and the vaunted Jags defence missed the bus to the stadium. It was the Jags who “should” have been blown out.

43 I remember that game pretty…

In reply to by Raiderfan

I remember that game pretty well, Pittsburgh didn't have much going for them before Roethlisberger delivered that bomb to Bryant on 4th and 11 right before halftime. I didn't think the Steelers offense really broke through the Jags defense until the 4th quarter, and overall Roethlisberger and the receivers made a few great plays against pretty good coverage.

Late 2010s football can be weird in how a defensive unit can play pretty well most of the game, make a few big plays, and still finish up having allowed 40+ points. That was a very good Steelers team, too.

5 Aaron Rodgers' 2010 division…

Aaron Rodgers' 2010 division playoff game goes on a very short list of the greatest qb games I've ever seen. I don't think Atlanta's defense played poorly or covered poorly. Rodgers was just a monster, breaking tackles and rifling passes in the corner or just over the db's hands. It was ridiculous.



7 Public Service Announcement

Just a reminder that each and every one of these games is available for viewing on NFL Game Pass, which is now available for free and has every NFL game dating back to 2010.

10 What were games 99 and 100?

Since you’re willing to use something other than a round number as the cutoff, why not just do a  “top 100” games?

Who had #99 and #100? What were their DYARs?


15 I am kind of surprised Tim…

I am kind of surprised Tim Tebow didn't make the list. I guess he didn't throw enough to accumulate a high negative dyar and when he did throw, he was usually so inaccurate that even the dbs couldn't come down with the passes. But he did take a gazzillion sacks, lost a ton of yards in the process and fumbled quite a bit. That said, Tebow as a qb is far from the worst quarterback play I've seen this decade and that is really saying something.  


I am also mildly surprised Matt Schaub didn't make this list and that I suppose is because his career ended in such a comically awful way, that its coloring my view of his playing days. Peak Schaub was a pretty good qb. 

17 I'm glad that Josh Allen vs…

I'm glad that Josh Allen vs. the awful 2018 Packers defense has been properly memorialized here. I watched quite a few 2004-07 Bears games, so Allen's day might not be the worst performance I've ever seen from a QB, but it's a contender.

Late in the 4th quarter he managed to complete 5 consecutive passes for 40 yards and 3 first downs and I wonder if that was enough to avoid -300. Then again, he fumbled on a scramble at the end of that drive, so it was probably still a net negative in the end. As many problems as he still has, it does show you that Allen has come quite a ways...

18 Q&A

Thank you all for the feedback.

I see a lot of comments on how opponent adjustments increase or decrease based on how that defesne does later in the year.  But is that always fair?  If, for example, a defense has a rash of injuries at defensive back after a game and then sucks the rest of the year, does that really lessen how well a quarterback did versus that defense when it was healthy?  and conversely, if a player returns from injury, or a unit just somehow starts clicking later, does that really elevate how well a quarterback did versus that unit before it figured things out?   I know to some degree you can't disregard the rest of the season, but I wonder if you could perhaps plot a curve of the defensive trend to kind of rate how the defense was in general at that time, and use that for your adjustments?

You're right in that no defense is exactly the same for an entire season. But when you've only got 16 games to work with in the first place, once you start cutting that down into smaller chunks, you run into sample-size problems in a hurry. It's definitely a problem, but there's not a clear solution.

[Foles] is one of only two QBs on both the best games and worst games list (Fitzpatrick is the other), and he also had a 7-TD game (which I'm guessing missed the cut due to lack of volume and opponent adjustments for an awful Raiders pass defense)

268 DYAR, the 53rd-best game of the decade. Lost 26 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He'd be higher but he only converted 3 of his 7 dropbacks on third down.

Out of curiosity, where does Nathan Peterman's infamous "5 INTs on 14 attempts" game from Week 11 2017 end up? I found the original Quick Reads for that week that had him at -215 DYAR, but that doesn't have EoY adjustments (obviously).

-220 DYAR, 62nd-worst game of the decade. It was -233 without opponent adjustments.

Since you’re willing to use something other than a round number as the cutoff, why not just do a  “top 100” games?

Who had #99 and #100? What were their DYARs?

Because when we started compiling these lists a decade ago, 220 DYAR was the cutoff where we started collecting data. We have a list of every game over 220 DYAR, and we have a list of every game below -175 DYAR. We don't have a list of every game ever played so I can't answer your question.

I am kind of surprised Tim Tebow didn't make the list. I guess he didn't throw enough to accumulate a high negative dyar and when he did throw, he was usually so inaccurate that even the dbs couldn't come down with the passes. But he did take a gazzillion sacks, lost a ton of yards in the process and fumbled quite a bit. That said, Tebow as a qb is far from the worst quarterback play I've seen this decade and that is really saying something.  

Tebow did a lot wrong, but he never had a lot of interceptions. He threw three interceptions once and two interceptions once and one interception four times, and that's it. He never hit the -175-DYAR threshold needed to make the worst games list.

I am also mildly surprised Matt Schaub didn't make this list and that I suppose is because his career ended in such a comically awful way, that its coloring my view of his playing days. Peak Schaub was a pretty good qb. 

Schaub's best game was 232 DYAR against Cincinnati, but that was in 2009 and wouldn't have counted for this story anyway.

19 Quick question

In reply to by Vincent Verhei

Vince, why was DYAR used to rank these games, as opposed to DVOA? 

20 Because we rank games by…

In reply to by SportsPhan8

Because we rank games by DYAR every week in Quick Reads. There are pros and cons to both, but generally speaking we think DYAR does a better job of measuring both efficiency and volume. And the more passes you throw, the more difficult it is to maintain a high efficiency. It's also easier to combine rushing and passing data that way.

28 You still aren't using a database?

In reply to by Vincent Verhei

Because when we started compiling these lists a decade ago, 220 DYAR was the cutoff where we started collecting data. We have a list of every game over 220 DYAR, and we have a list of every game below -175 DYAR. We don't have a list of every game ever played so I can't answer your question.

I thought you guys had gotten someone to convert you from spreadsheets to a real database so that getting a list of the top 100 games or bottom 100 games would take about 15 seconds to write the SQL/NoSQL statements. Even all the play by play data is a small enough set that pretty much any db engine would be fine for it. I thought all that was part of the site overhaul. 

33 If the cutoff for your list…

If the cutoff for your list was 220 DYAR, how did you find the 219.9 DYAR game for Brees? Are you certain there aren’t more games that round to 220? I guess that depends on how/when you found that game.

Here’s hoping you figure out how to get all that data into a database you can query. It’s a shame you can’t do a top 100 QB games. So close. Well the coming season (whenever that is) might fix that.

39 We found the 219.9 DYAR game…

We found the 219.9 DYAR game for Brees because when we set that column to zero decimal points it displayed as "220." So we copied and pasted that game into our best games file. It's only when I clicked on the cell itself that the extra decimal points showed up in the window at the top of the screen.

37 There are already open…

There are already open sourced parsers for the play by play data so all of this can be stored as structured data so you don't necessarily even need NoSQL. Its not like you have to flatten a bunch of nasty jsons. 

I suspect all of this could be done in a weekend with a couple of scripts that write the excel files into a postgres db or something equivalent. 

38 Postgres would be my first…

Postgres would be my first choice. But then again I've been working with Oracle  DB's for the last 15 years in various capacities, from front end UI to back end big data analysis. I've built data warehouses andrand time reporting systems. I like relational data. Since Postgres started out as essentially open source modernized Oracle that didn't have to worry about backwards compatibility I'm a big fan of it too. 

I only mentioned nosql because that may be the expertise they have available, and it would work too. I don't think it would be the best option, but again this is a small data set (if you aren't talking about billions of records you're not talking about large datasets), so anything would work.

I get it still being a work in progress, it's not always as easy as people think, especially if you are converting an existing system that has to stay in production. I just thought it was already complete. I've got a feeling there will be a lot of fun stuff that can be done once it's properly organized and you can throw good tools at it to answer questions.

42 I should have been clearer…

I should have been clearer. Assuming the play by play data is all in excel, then getting that into a db is not that hard. I am not a backend engineer by training, but I've had to write scripts that ingest excel(or csv or tab) into a db. Its a pretty trivial task.


On the other hand, if you were to try and build DVOA into a web app lets say that serviced the results, that will undoubtedly take a bit longer, though not nearly that bad considering the scope of the project is pretty narrow and the data set by today's standards is a drop in the bucket. The DVOA part may or may not be complicated depending on what they are using, but then again, serving standalone ml models in a web app is faster than most people think. 

22 Mahomes

A bit surprised he wasn't on the best game list. He had the 6 TD game against Pittsburgh in 2018, and some other really good games later that year. I realize he must not have qualified according to the criteria, like I said, just surprised. Wonder where his best game does rank? 

26 Mahomes' best game was 268…

In reply to by barf

Mahomes' best game was 268 DYAR in the divisional win over Houston last year. It was 26th, so he just missed.

36 Interesting...

Thanks for the reply. He did throw 5 TDs in the game. I was there, went from agony (down 24-0 in the 1st quarter) to ecstasy pretty damn quickly. Thanks, BOB for everything you did to keep KC in the game. LOL

24 geno smith

i cant believe that game was the worst of the geno smith era.  heck it wasnt even the worst buffalo game of the geno smith era imo.  the next year he had like 3 picks in 10 passes, but he was benched so that might've prevented inclusion.  the jets also lost 38-3 to buffalo in Detroit.  ithought he started but it looks like he came in late

his games against Baltimore and Miami in 13 are also more memorable than that bills game

25 I remember a segment on Get…

In reply to by Jetspete

I remember a segment on Get Up where Rex Ryan was excoriating Adam Gase after losing to the then winless Miami Dolphins. He clamored in genuine rage, "At least my teams fought!"

I was tempted to call it intentionally selective memory, but I think Rex truly believed his words which is strange since he was the coach of many high profile disasters with the Jets. I guess he blamed it all on his quarterbacks. 

49 Wow!

Oh God I missed that segment. Off the top of my head I can name at least a dozen outright laughable quit jobs. And the more the I think I arguably get closer to 20. They also had a knack for quitting in nationally televised games (buttfumble being most famous)

34 Peyton Manning Sucks

I watched the bad Peyton Manning game against the Chiefs yesterday. He came into the game just two yards behind Brett Favre for the all-time lead in career passing yards, so the announcers were talking that up before the game, wondering if Manning would try to get the record on his very first play. Sure enough, Manning's first pass went directly into the hands of ... Marcus Peters of the Chiefs.

After a sack-fumble on the Broncos' second drive (a Denver OL recovered it), Manning finally got the record, on a four-yard failed-completion checkdown to a running back. The whole thing was so embarrassing.  


47 Big Ben 6 touchdown pass game ignored?

The very week after Ben threw 6 touchdowns without an interception on prime time TV he repeated the feat the following week against the Ravens. Only the 3rd time in NFL history a QB has thrown 6 or more TDS without a turnover. He was 25 of 37 for 340 yards 6 TDS 0 interceptions. Not a top 20 performance?

Y.A. Tittle was the only other QB to do it.

48 Indeed. We talked about it…

Indeed. We talked about it at the time, when it was "only" the best game of the week, but the biggest reason the Baltimore game didn't score as highly as you might think are that Roethlisberger was sacked three times, fumbling once, and only converted seven of his 13 third downs.