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Team quarterbacking through the years

Posted by Doug on May 18, 2006

The end of the Joey Harrington era in Detroit gave sports economist Dave Berri a chance to observe that no Lion quarterback has made the pro bowl in 35 years. That's pretty bad, but according to what I'm about to show you there are a few other teams that can make a case as having had worse overall quarterback play than Detroit over the course of the "modern era for passing" (1978--present).

Here is the plan:

  1. Compute each team's passer rating (just for quarterbacks --- passing attempts by others have been discarded) for each season since 1978. I'm not a fan of the NFL's passer rating formula and I'm not sure what possessed me to use it here, but you'll get similar results if you use yards-per-attempt or, I suspect, any other reasonable metric.
  2. Compare it to league average and get a Passing Effectiveness Index for each team for each year. For example, Detroit's quarterbacks posted a 69.1 passer rating last season. League average was 80.0. Dividing the Lions by the League gives you about .863, which I'll multiply by 100 to make it more easily digestible. The Lions Passing Effectivness Index for 2005 was 86.3.
  3. Average each team's Passing Effectiveness Index over all the years they've been in the league (since 1978). When you do that for the Lions, you get 92.9. This means that Detroit's quarterback's have been, on average, about 7.1% less effective than average (according to passer rating) over the past 28 years.

You get no prize for guessing what franchise has the highest average Passing Effectiveness Index. It's the 49ers, who boast an extremely impressive 115.4. The second best franchise has a 105.8. In fact, the difference between San Francisco and #2 is bigger than the difference between #2 and #24.

As foreshadowed above, last place belongs not to the Lions, but to their divisional rivals: the Chicago Bears. This is a grim list indeed:

1978 72.6 Bob Avellini
1979 96.2 Mike Phipps
1980 78.9 Vince Evans
1981 73.0 Vince Evans
1982 93.2 Jim McMahon
1983 98.6 Jim McMahon
1984 98.6 Jim McMahon
1985 103.1 Jim McMahon
1986 79.9 Mike Tomczak
1987 99.4 Jim McMahon
1988 98.0 Jim McMahon
1989 91.1 Mike Tomczak
1990 94.3 Jim Harbaugh
1991 97.2 Jim Harbaugh
1992 91.8 Jim Harbaugh
1993 85.0 Jim Harbaugh
1994 100.0 Steve Walsh
1995 117.9 Erik Kramer
1996 93.7 Dave Krieg
1997 85.8 Erik Kramer
1998 97.5 Erik Kramer
1999 99.5 Shane Matthews
2000 85.7 Cade McNown
2001 94.6 Jim Miller
2002 91.5 Jim Miller
2003 77.8 Kordell Stewart
2004 75.7 Chad Hutchinson
2005 76.7 Kyle Orton

Only thrice in the last 28 years have the Bears even been above average in the passing game. Also below the Lions are the Texans, the Buccaneers, and the Cardinals, but all those teams are very close.

I'll post the full list later today, but I wanted to first give you the opportunity to impress me by guessing who is #2 on the list after the 49ers.

Addendum: Good guessing by monkeytime. Here is the list. PEI is the franchise's average Passing Effectiveness Index, PctOverAvg is the percentage of that franchise's seasons in which they've been above average in PEI.

Franchise PEI PctOverAvg
49ers 115.4 85.7
Jaguars 105.8 72.7
Dolphins 105.2 64.3
Vikings 104.4 57.1
Cowboys 103.3 64.3
Broncos 103.1 57.1
Bengals 102.2 53.6
Packers 102.2 50.0
Chiefs 102.1 57.1
Oilers/Titans 101.1 57.1
Redskins 101.0 50.0
Jets 100.9 42.9
Rams 100.9 50.0
Raiders 100.9 46.4
Bills 100.9 60.7
Eagles 100.4 57.1
Browns 100.3 40.0
Colts 99.8 39.3
Falcons 99.7 46.4
Seahawks 99.6 50.0
Patriots 98.6 42.9
Chargers 97.6 35.7
Panthers 97.4 54.5
Steelers 97.2 46.4
Saints 95.6 46.4
Giants 95.2 42.9
Ravens 94.2 20.0
Lions 92.9 21.4
Cardinals 92.8 28.6
Buccaneers 91.9 21.4
Texans 91.1 25.0
Bears 91.0 10.7

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 18th, 2006 at 4:19 am and is filed under General, History. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.