Gregg Rosenthal of ProFootballTalk.com had a short post the other day arguing that passing yards have become the most overrated stat in the NFL.
Rosenthal is 100 percent correct.
After three weeks of play, there have been 33 300-yard passing games, by far the highest total through three weeks since 2009 (21).
I’ve Tweeted on a couple different occasions that every QB in the NFL might throw for more than 4,000 yards in 2011. My tongue was planted in cheek during those Tweets, but maybe it’s not that ridiculous of a statement after all. Every team in the league, with few exceptions, tries to throw the ball all over the field, even if their quarterback isn’t that good. And why not? You can’t touch a receiver past five yards and refs are always looking for a reason to call roughing the passer.
(Side note: How about the TEs in today’s NFL? You used to play DE or OLB if you were big, strong, tall and fast. Now you learn how to catch and play TE.)
Passing numbers are so inflated that you can no longer just look at a box score to determine if a quarterback had a good game. Even with Moneyball now a mainstream movie starring Brad Pitt, and the stats movement becoming more and more prevalent every day, it’s getting increasingly difficult to judge QBs on their passing numbers, specifically passing yards.
Nope, relying too heavily on stats to judge modern QBs isn’t going to cut it. You have to rely on what you see with your own eyes, then go to the stats to fill in the gaps.
For example, lets look at the Packers Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has excellent numbers this season: 917 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT and a 120.9 rating. If you just looked at Rodgers’ numbers, you would assume he’s having a good season, and you would be correct.
But what if you just looked at passing yards? Rodgers is ninth in the NFL in passing yards, behind guys like Matt Hasselbeck (932), Tony Romo (942) and Cam Newton (1,012). I hope in this day and age that most fans are savvy enough to look at more than just passing yards, but you know that there are still a lot of people that look at passing yards and make quick judgements.
Instead of focusing on passing yards, the NFL needs to create a new stat called PCTHNBBC: Passes Completed That Had No Business Being Completed. These are passes where a QB throws to a receiver that appears to be covered, but the pass is so perfect, it results in a completion. We would also create separate PCTHNBBC categories for third down and crunch time late in games. (I realize the name of this new stat would never work. Don’t worry, we can come up with better title and catchier acronym later.)
Here’s an example of a throw from Rodgers against the Saints that would count as a PCTHNBBC:
There’s no way most QBs complete that pass because Greg Jennings was covered about as well as he could be covered. It didn’t matter because Rodgers is just that good and made the throw anyway.
Ben Roethlisberger’s TD pass to Santonio Holmes that won Super Bowl XLIII also qualifies as a PCTHNBBC.
Are you kidding me? Lobbing a pass over three defenders to a WR inches from going out of bounds to win the Super Bowl? Amazing. There needs to be a better way to capture just how awesome this throw was in the box score.
Anyway, I think you get my point. We can’t rely too heavily on stats — especially passing yards — to judge modern-day QBs. When teams are passing 40 or more times per game and completing passes at least 60 percent of the time, numbers are going to be inflated. We need to use our eyes, or at least come up with different stats, to judge QBs.
A guy like Rodgers holds up to both the stats test and the eye test. I’m not sure that guys like Hasselbeck, Romo and Newton do.
Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .
14 thoughts on “Forget Passing Yards, NFL Needs New Stat to Measure Quarterbacks”
Totally understand the point your making and these misused and misguiding stats are the very reason many a QB gets media,fan and financial perks that eventually undermine a teams short and long term future.
Then again,we can change the structure for WR,RB,TE stat accumulations and realize how much of each is mere media hype and not as much real benefit to a team overall in play or finance.
I have always tried to give credit for passing yards to the QB to the reception spot.The Receiver gets passing REC Yds and then of coarse his YAC.Ex;QB flips a pass from his own one and the WR runs 99 yds.QB gets 99 yds passing.LOL just typing it.
What do we do when a QB throws a perfect ball right into the hands of the WR and he allows the ball to hit his chest and bounce in the air for an INT? Should that be held against the QB,no.But yet,another stat columm indicating INTs induced by the RECs?
Change one and the can of worms is rampant.But football enthusiasts will keep it more real with stats than the fanatical fan who is always blind to visual fact and anything written can and will be misconstrued to verify a belief.
Good point on the reception spot. However, you can’t completely discount short passes that lead to a lot of YAC. Even on a screen pass, a good QB will look off the defense and time the pass just right to make the play work. On short passes, a QB needs to hit his receiver in stride to give him the chance to get some YAC.
Zach and Taryn make good arguements. Yards do not a Winner make. I suggest that adjusting the current ratio by whether he is a winning QB or a losing QB would be a step forward. Everyone knows that the team trailing will throw more and get more yards as a result. Why not penalize the losing QB? I’m not sure exactly how to develop that ratio, but it’s worth thinking about.
In the meantime we all know who is really the best, our hero AR!
This was Adam’s post, Ron. Rodgers passed my “eye test” in his first start against the Vikings. But not a moment before then…
I don’t know if factoring in wins or losses would help, but it’d be worth exploring.
Remember when the knock on Rodgers was that he was unwilling to make risky throws? I’m not sure if that criticism had any merrit, but he’s destroyed that perception in the last 10 games or so. Even if it is a somewhat subjective stat, I wish we had something to measure a QB’s success on those “risky” passes, or passes only the best of the best QBs are able to complete.
Sorry Adam – my excuse is I only have one eye. (Al, funny you said eye test, singular. You must know me)
Really, your post is very thought provoking. Much press is generated about yards every week to the point of ridiculousness. Our QB is 3-0 and Brady and Brees are not!
The concept of degree of difficulty is very interesting. If there is an unbiased way to accomplish this, I vote for it.
Really good brain excercise here.
While it’s a difference-maker, truth be told, Jeff George could make some incredible throws.
Body of work is still more important. Rodgers played a good but not great game against Chicago. Clements actually graded him negatively, and I’d bet all those innacurate short throws had a lot to do with it.
Also, in a couple of throws, if it were not for Jennings’ amazing catching skills, it would’ve been an incompletion.
I still firmly believe that no stat will ever measure QB play precisely. QB rating still, in this day and age, accounting for the era the QB played, paint a very close picture.
By that I mean, you cannot say precisely that a 112 QB rating means a better game than a 110 QB rating.
But you can definitely tell that, if the guy had a 100 QB rating in 1960, he had a great game. You can tell that, if in 2010, the guy had an 80 QB rating, he had a mediocre game.
Yeah, I’m defintely trying to measure something that cannot ever be measured with 100 percent accuracy. I also find myself looking at QB rating more than I used to, even though I don’t know the formula for how it’s calculated.
RS, I’ll cover your Jeff George and raise you two Daryl Bevels.
You are so right RS there is no real way to measure success if you rely on what is always going be subjestive judgement being the critical input. One only has to go back to the Johnny U and Bart Starr comparisons. Bart had a running game that was supplemented by the pass. And Johnny U had Ray Berry and John Mackey supplemented by a running game. Two great Quarterbacks, two different conclusions. I’m afraid it’s an arguement that will never be resolved, but it sure is fun trying to do it.
For the QBs in that day, it’s even harder to compare.
Nowadays, you can break film, if you know his assignment, and you can grade positively or negatively what he does in every play.
But Starr and Unitas called their own plays. How do you grade that?
In the end, it comes down to wins and production in wins.
Starr has 5 championships and played his absolute best in the postseason, having the second highest QB rating in postseason history (only surpassed by Rodgers, but in a much more pass-friendly era), and earned Super Bowl MVP honors both times he played that game.
The only comparison I can find is Montana, that has 4 championships, was named 3 times the SB MVP, and is 5th in postseason QB rating.
But even that is extremely subjective. It was less subjective in those days, measuring a QB by wins, exactly because they called the plays on offense, so they shouldered even more responsability than today.
Nowadays, guys like Rodgers, Manning, Brady and Brees are in a different category than Ryan, Vick, Flacco, exactly because of how much leeway they have on the offense, and how much is deposited in them.
I salute your knowledge of the game. I am humbled in your presence. In the long run it remains virtually impossible to find a measure or an array of measures that will answer the question, “who is best?” Not without an arguement anyway.
Cmon, Ron! You’re making me blush. Stop with this humbled crap, man…
I know that I don’t know a lot. I really love this game. I’ve never played it, all I know is taken from the really knowledgeable guys that are out there, like Al and Nagler.
If you really like something and you have enough discretion to know who knows what they’re talking about and who doesn’t, you’re bound to eventually get a thing or two.
MM is hemming and hawing about Grant. Indecision abounds! Lot of talk about the Drs. making the decision. Same with Bulaga. Both say they will play. I’ve got to believe they will both be held out for this week, at lleast.
Let’s not forget other subjective ideas. How about passes completed after pressured? What about accounting for blown coverages?
Love the idea about PCTHNBBC…Marino would kill in that category. But…Lorenzo Favre would as well…but for different reasons.
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