Since 1960, there have been 373 instances of a quarterback throwing 425 or more passes in an NFL or AFL season. According to yards-per-passing-attempt (YPA), the worst two belong to the same person: Joey Harrington. Think about all the bad teams and bad quarterbacks that have come and gone in the last 46 years. According to YPA, Joey was the worst. He was also the second worst. That's mind-boggling.
[As an aside, here is a tool I programmed that will allow you to run this kind of query on your own.]
Yeah, so I rigged the cutoff to make that work. If you relax the restriction to 300 attempts --- which would include all four of Harrington's seasons --- you have 875 QB-seasons. Harrington's efforts rank #752, #777, #865, and #870.
And yeah, YPA is not the only way to judge quarterback performance. In particular, Harrington's sack totals during his first two years were historically low, indicating that he was throwing the ball away much more often than most quarterbacks. In fact, if you compute an adjusted YPA stat that includes negative sack yards in the numerator and sacks in the denominator, Harrington's numbers look better. While still bad, they were not even the worst in the league and they certainly weren't historically bad.
It is clear at this point that Harrington is not a future star. But the open questions is, can he follow the Jake Plummer / Vinny Testaverde career path? Given the right system and supporting talent, can he be the starting quarterback on a contending team? I say yes. Well, at least I say maybe.
And if I'm Joey Harrington, I'm thinking the road to recovery starts in Cincinnati and I'm begging my agent to get me into a Bengals uniform on a one-year contract. I'm not a doctor, but I don't see any way Carson Palmer will be back playing before week 6 or so. Whoever starts for those first five weeks will benefit from a good offensive line, a solid running game, one of the best receiving groups in football, and --- possibly most important for Joey --- a lack of pressure.
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