Skip to main content
Original Issue

Golden Gauge?

Sizing up a new stat for sizing up QBs

Did the Falcons' Matt Ryan (below) actually outperform the Packers' Aaron Rodgers in 2010? Curiously, a new statistic, Total Quarterback Rating, which was unveiled last week by ESPN with the goal of supplanting the existing, outdated passer rating system, says yes.

According to the old formula, which was adopted in 1973 and which has been criticized for its black-and-white melding of only four stats (completion percentage, passing yards, TDs and INTs) expressed on a confusing 0-to-158.3 scale that rewards efficiency over achievement, Ryan (12th in completion percentage and ninth in yards) had a passer rating of 91.0, 11th best in the NFL. In Total QBR, however, he was third, behind only MVP Tom Brady and completions leader Peyton Manning. Rodgers, third in passer rating, was fourth in QBR.

The new system, developed by ESPN's analytical group, is a more modern, nuanced alternative to passer rating and scores points for its easily-digestible 0-to-100 scale (with 50 representing an average quarterback) as well as for its taking into account dozens of long-ignored factors—both objective and subjective—such as sacks (a Rodgers shortcoming), rushes, game situation, yards after the catch, and fault on incompletions, all of which are culled from the network's video and statistics collections. A minor quibble: It would be nice if the precise formula and category weighting were not ESPN corporate secrets. That way, fans might know not only that Ryan was the better quarterback, but also why.