Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An Interesting Statistic

Over the past twenty-five years, the NFL has continually changed its rules to open up the passing game. As a result of that, and also of tactical and strategic advances initiated by Bill Walsh, passing statistics have been improving across the board. Most of the rule changes have goverened how much defensive backs can hit receivers down field. These rules were strengthened after the New England Patriots beat up the Indianapolis Colts' wide receivers in a 20-3 win at Gilette Stadium.

Everybody knows that several of the best individual statistical seasons for quarterbacks and wide receivers have occurred in the past five years or so. What I wasn't prepared for was this statistic on the NFL's all-time leaders in quarterback rating.

Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the NFL's all-time leading passer, and eight of the top ten and 22 of the top 27 rated quarterbacks of all-time are currently active. Without question, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are two of the best quarterbacks every to play the game, but the greatness of this current crop of wide receivers and quarterbacks needs to be viewed in the context of the rules under which they played.

7 comments:

Mikey said...

Something interesting about the top three active passers (Rodgers, Romo, and Rivers) is that all of them are early in their careers, and were spared the down years that start most careers because they were backups. They managed to start in their primes with good teams, unlike even Peyton Manning.

A few down years, and they could all fall out of the 90s.

Mikey said...

Wow, looking down that list: Kordell Stewart and Terry Bradshaw have virtually the same QB rating.

Anonymous said...

rules are important, as are roles. for instance, much of bradshaw's passing was deep strikes to open up the running game and keep the defense "honest."

8yearoldsdude said...

you guys have it all wrong. Aaron Rodgers is the greatest passer in the history of the NFL.

Wade Garrett said...

The changes in passing statistics are different than those in baseball statistics. In baseball, you had a lot more home runs being hit, and some big years by fluky players, but you never had average players out-homering the best seasons of the all-time greats from previous generations. Let's say a slightly above average corner outfielder hit 30 home runs at the peak of the steroids era, and in the 70's or 80's a player of similar ability would have hit 20 home runs. Obviously, that's a big difference. But its not as if that corner outfielder from the steroids era was making the numbers of Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Willie Mays look paltry by comparison. But even the best quarterbacks of the 70's and 80's - Staubach, Bradshaw, Dan Fouts, Johnny Unitas - don't have passer ratings as good as those of Jeff Garcia and David Garrard. You can really only compare quarterbacks to their contemporaries - comparing today's quarterbacks to the quarterbacks of the Kelly/Marino/Elway is almost impossible, and those guys retired only ten or so years ago.

8yearoldsdude said...

is it possible that QB rating is a poor metric of quality?

Wade Garrett said...

Sure it is. Its far from perfect, its just a method to judge a quarterback's effectiveness in an easy-to-rank integer, like win shares in baseball, or PER in basketball. As with PER, the formula leaves a lot of stuff out, and adhering to the formula too strictly would be a mistake. But in some ways its handy.