on quarterback ratings

Some of your excellent comments/tweets about my two recent blog posts on Rex Grossman (QB, Washington Redskins) have inspired me to write a post on quarterback ratings.

The standard “QB rating” is a complicated formula that has a lot of drawbacks. It is a constructed scale that attempts to reduce a quarterback’s performances to a single number. According to Wayne Winston,

The NFL’s current system for rating QB’s is a complex. nonsensical formula that combines a QB’s completion percentage, Yard per Pass Attempt, TD Pass Percentage, and Interception Percentage into a single incomprehensible number.

I don’t claim to disagree. However, while the QB rating formula is a mess, it accurately reflects a quarterback’s performance for the most part.

Let’s compare three quarterback rating systems: the QB rating, Wayne Winston’s system, and the wages of win rating. The latter two rating systems are considered to be superior to the QB rating system. Below is the rank for each of the34 QBs in the NFL according to each of these three systems. The quarterbacks are sorted according to the QB rating, since that is the “gold standard” for the casual, non-nerdy fan. I refer you to Wayne Winston’s book Mathletics for the details.

First, note that all three rating systems rank Aaron Rodgers as #1. All three put Eli Manning in the top 6 and Tony Romo in the top 10, two quarterbacks that fans love to complain about.

There is quite a bit of agreement among the ranking systems. There are two notable differences. The first is with Alex Smith, who is raked #9 according to his QB rating. He appears to be overranked: Winston and Wages of win rank him as #17 and #22, respectively. On the other hand, rookie phenom Cam Newton is ranked #19 according to his QB rating (a so-so ranking), whereas Winston and the wages of win rank him #8 and #4, respectively. Many would argue that Cam Newton is underrated, and this would reinforce that claim.

Quarterback QB rating rank Winston rank Wanges of win rank
Aaron Rodgers, QB 1 1 1
Tom Brady, QB 2 3 3
Drew Brees, QB 3 5 2
Eli Manning, QB 4 2 6
Matt Schaub, QB 5 4 5
Matthew Stafford, QB 6 10 8
Ben Roethlisberger, QB 7 6 7
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB 8 13 14
Alex Smith, QB 9 17 22
Tony Romo, QB 10 7 9
Matt Hasselbeck, QB 11 15 13
Curtis Painter, QB 12 9 26
Michael Vick, QB 13 12 12
Andy Dalton, QB 14 21 20
Jason Campbell, QB 15 14 21
Jay Cutler, QB 16 18 10
Mark Sanchez, QB 17 23 17
Donovan McNabb, QB 18 22 25
Cam Newton, QB 19 8 4
Philip Rivers, QB 20 16 11
Tarvaris Jackson, QB 21 29 30
Matt Cassel, QB 22 27 28
Joe Flacco, QB 23 11 18
Matt Ryan, QB 24 24 16
Chad Henne, QB 25 19 27
Kevin Kolb, QB 26 20 15
Kyle Orton, QB 27 32 31
Colt McCoy, QB 28 28 24
Josh Freeman, QB 29 26 19
Sam Bradford, QB 30 25 23
Blaine Gabbert, QB 31 30 32
Matt Moore, QB 32 34 33
Rex Grossman, QB 33 31 29
Kerry Collins, QB 34 33 34

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