May 20, 2013

Will Brinson of CBSSports.com ranks the quarterbacks incorrectly

The erroneous article is here, and is an affront to all right-thinking people everywhere.  For one thing it ignores park effects and...oops, wrong sport.

I may have mentioned at one time or another, that football teams tend to win more games when their quarterbacks throw the ball successfully down the field.  Bookies and stat geeks noticed the relationship between yards-per-attempt and winning percentage long ago. After incorporating a 50-yard penalty for each interception thrown we get IAYPA, the Interception-Adjusted Yards per Attempt measure (the truth of the invention of this recedes into the mists of history, but I think Alan Barra and I invented it independently at about the same time in the mid-80s).

IAYPA has its virtues.  It is simple to compute, yet contains tons of relevant information.  In fact, I believe it is the single best metric for assessing quarterback performance.  We must recognize, however,  that it is very difficult to disentangle quarterback performance from wide receiver performance, offensive line performance, or offensive coordinator performance.  Joe Montana and Steve Young are both all-time IAYPA leaders - I have no doubt that they're deserving, as they were both accurate passers and good decisionmakers, but some credit probably also ought to go to Mr. Walsh, and some also to the greatest football player who ever lived.

There are other imperfections.  For one thing, there's no allowance for touchdowns.  This is an architectural problem - IAYPA is expressed in yards, so you'd have to decide how many yards equals a touchdown.  But even then you'd have problems.  Imagine you have two similarly-skilled quarterbacks, except one is an absolute master of Red Zone dynamics - throwing to the corners, throwing to the back of the end zone, etc.  That guy would have a comparable IAYPA, but would likely throw for many more touchdowns.  Andy Dalton, for example, has an IAYPA of 5.4 vs. Ryan Tannehill's 5.5.  But Dalton threw for 27 touchdowns last year (one every 19 attempts), while Tannehill threw for just 12 (one every 40 attempts).  Now this may mean Dalton is a superior quarterback.  But it could also mean that Tannehill's team has a better running game, or runs a lot of Wildcat in the Red Zone, or any number of other things.

So touchdowns are important, but not easily incorporated into IAYPA.  The simplest thing to do is just notice them and adjust quarterbacks upward or downward as appropriate.

Anyway, and this really can't be disputed by any sane person, the most valuable quarterbacks in the NFL last year were Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III.  It's not just that their IAYPAs were higher everyone else's - although they were - but both were also exceptional runners, adding a positive dimension to their game not covered by IAYPA.  This only increases their value relative to the Matt Schaubs and Tony Romos of the world.


Super Elite

  • Kaepernick - 7.6 Alex Smith was also very good, with a 6.8 IAYPA before being replaced.
  • RG III - 7.5
Premier Elite
  • Rodgers - 7.1
  • Manning, P - 7.0
  • Brady - 6.9
  • Newton - 6.7
  • Russell Wilson - 6.7  Ready to challenge for Super Elite status next season.
  • Ryan - 6.5
Elite
  • Roethlisberger - 6.4
  • Brees - 6.3
  • Schaub - 6.3
  • Flacco - 6.2
  • Romo - 6.1  But shows great promise.
  • Manning, E - 6.0
Near-Elite
  • Palmer - 5.9  This is what is wrong with Oakland.  Average quarterback?  Dump him!
  • Freeman - 5.8
  • Stafford - 5.7  The median NFL quarterback.
  • Luck - 5.5  The erroneous article above rates him ahead of Kaepernick and Griffin.
  • Bradford - 5.5  No disrespect to Luck and Bradford - playing average is great for a rookie.
  • Foles - 5.5  Ditto.
  • Tannehill - 5.5 Ditto.
Sub-Elite
  • Dalton - 5.4
  • Rivers - 5.4  Slip-sliding away.
  • Cutler - 5.4
  • Vick - 5.3
  • Locker - 5.2
  • Fitzpatrick - 5.1  Has there ever been a great Irish quarterback?  Neil O'Donnell?
  • Henne - 5.0
Not Quite Elite
  • Weeden - 4.9
  • Gabbert - 4.9
  • Ponder - 4.8
  • Sanchez - 4.4  Steve Smith:  "He sucks." (link)
  • Cassell - 4.3  Now backing up Ponder for the Vikings.

2 Comments:

Blogger Laird of Madrona said...

IAYPA also can't account for the difference between Clutch Time Heroes and Garbage Time Heroes.

May 21, 2013 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger The Other Front said...

True... I usually only rate the first 14 games of the season for that reason, as things are usually settled by then.

But...you can't have a great comeback unless you fall behind in the first place. Having watched Roger Staubach for his whole career, I know he was gold in the 4th quarter, but he was also horseshit in the 1st quarter. Maybe that because Landry overprepared and overscripted and wouldn't let Staubach improvise until the situation was desperate. But those teams played a lot of bad first halves.

May 21, 2013 at 2:06 PM  

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