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Manning index updated

Posted by Doug on January 24, 2007

I originally posted this two years ago this week and now seems like a good time for an update.

The idea is to put every quarterback's postseason record into something approximating an appropriate context. If a QB takes his 9-7 team on the road and loses to a 13-3 team, that doesn't count against him much --- nor does it count too much for the opposing quarterback --- because the 9-7 team has no business winning that game anyway.

In the original article, I wrote this, and it's no less relevant now:

Just to be clear, I believe that teams — not quarterbacks — win football games, so I’m not claiming this is the One True Measure Of Clutchness. Whether I like it or not though, wins are credited to quarterbacks in virtually every discussion about quarterback greatness. This is merely a way of putting a quarterback’s win-loss record into perspective.

The extent to which a team should be expected to win is given by this formula, which was the result of a regression:

Probability of winning = (1 + exp(-.43(windiff)-.24(homefield)))^(-1)

where windiff = the given team’s regular season wins minus its opponents’ regular season wins (actually, it's the regular season winning percentage differences multiplied by 16) and homefield = 1 if home, -1 if road, 0 if neutral site.

In the original article, I only considered quarterbacks who debuted in 1978 or later. My postseason database now goes back a little further, so I'll include all quarterbacks who debuted in 1972 or later and played in at least eight postseason games (and I'll throw in Terry Bradshaw, all of whose postseason appearances happened in 1972 or later). The quarterbacks are ranked by (an approximation of) the probability that an average quarterback would compile the given record (or better) by random chance.

Coach Expected Actual DIFF
Tom Brady 7- 7 12- 2 +4.9
Terry Bradshaw 11- 8 14- 5 +3.1
Mark Rypien 3- 5 5- 3 +1.6
Joe Montana 14- 9 16- 7 +2.3
Troy Aikman 9- 7 11- 5 +1.8
John Elway 12-10 14- 8 +1.8
Phil Simms 5- 5 6- 4 +0.6
Brett Favre 10-10 11- 9 +0.8
Mark Brunell 4- 6 4- 6 +0.5
Rich Gannon 4- 4 4- 4 +0.1
Donovan McNabb 7- 5 7- 5 +0.0
Danny White 6- 5 6- 5 -0.2
Jim Kelly 9- 7 9- 7 -0.3
Steve McNair 5- 5 5- 5 -0.3
Peyton Manning 6- 6 6- 6 -0.3
Dave Krieg 3- 6 3- 6 -0.4
Joe Theismann 7- 1 6- 2 -0.6
Steve Young 9- 5 8- 6 -1.1
Dan Marino 9- 9 8-10 -1.4
Randall Cunningham 4- 6 3- 7 -1.2
Ron Jaworski 6- 3 4- 5 -1.7
Warren Moon 5- 5 3- 7 -1.9

[NOTE: records are rounded because records just don't look right if not rounded.]

Because they necessarily include at least three wins, Super Bowl titles are rewarded heavily in this system. But it's interesting to compare the quarterbacks with three or more rings. Brady ranks far ahead of Aikman, Bradshaw, and Montana because more often than not, those three were playing in games they should have been expected to win. If Tom Brady's teams are 14-2 and lose their first playoff game at home to a 9-7 team in each of the next two seasons, he'll probably still be at the top of this list. [Technical note: I've counted a QB as having played a game if he had 10 or more passing attempts. This gives full credit to Brady (and to Bledsoe) for the AFC Championship game win over Pittsburgh in 2001. If you don't think that's appropriate, subtract some portion of the .75 wins above expected that this system gives Brady credit for.]

Meanwhile Peyton Manning can climb into the positive numbers for the first time in his career with a win over the Bears next Sunday.