SITE NEWS: We are moving all of our site and company news into a single blog for Sports-Reference.com. We'll tag all PFR content, so you can quickly and easily find the content you want.

Also, our existing PFR blog rss feed will be redirected to the new site's feed.

Pro-Football-Reference.com » Sports Reference

For more from Chase and Jason, check out their work at Football Perspective and The Big Lead.

All-Time NFL QBs: Playoff Edition

Posted by Chase Stuart on June 25, 2008

In case you haven't checked out the blog in a couple of days, here's a quick recap. On Friday, I explained the methodology I used to rank every regular season for every QB ever, and how I compiled his career rating. On Monday, I argued for Joey Harrington as the worst QB in NFL history, at least in a relative sense of receiving the most playing time while producing the least impressive stats. And then yesterday, I ranked the top 75 QBs in NFL history, leaving Dan Marino as the greatest regular season QB ever. Today, notwithstanding Jim Mora's wrath, I want to talk about playoffs. I'm not kidding you. Playoffs.

Whenever I've done a study analyzing NFL QBs, a frequent complaint is that I ignore post-season data. Part of the reason is simplicity -- I've got a long file of individual seasons, but a less complete and separate file of post-season seasons. It's easy to compare everyone across the board based on regular season numbers, while incorporating post-season data is tricky. Let me go through a few problems.

1) What weight do I give to post-season data? Do I weigh each playoff game equally, or give more weight to the later round games? What weights should be assigned? What standard should I compare the players against -- the league average for the post-season that year, or the league average for the regalar season that year? Should the QB's rating in that year's regular season matter?

2) Sample size issues. You might get one game against a terrific defense, or a game in a blizzard. Over the course of 10 regular seasons, I assume that those things even out. To the extent that they don't, I believe people subjective adjust the numbers, anyway (i.e., move Fouts and Anderson down because of their innovative offensive systems, move Elway up because of his weak supporting cast, and maybe move someone like Favre up because he plays in Green Bay).

3) I only have post-season data for QBs from 1967-2006, and I don't have sacks data for any of those games. I think that's a pretty significant problem, but it's not fatal. Pretty soon I'll get the 2007 data into my database, but I didn't want to let that delay me from posting.

4) Mostly, I thought that because the system was complicated enough, and because there would be some very real gripes with the method no matter what I chose, I took the hassle minimization approach. To be frank, I also feel that for the most part, post-season performances are overrated. Guys get way too much credit for post-season wins and losses, in my opinion, and it really overshadows the talent or ability of the QB.

But I thought it over some more. I don't have to focus on wins or losses at all. I could look simply at the QB's stats, and nothing more. For someone like Montana, the post-season makes up a very substantial part of his career -- he has 732 post-season attempts and 5,391 regular season attempts. So I'm effectively excluding over 10% of his career by ignoring the playoffs. Of course, you could do that and he still comes out as a top five QB.

That said, I'm going to go forward with some post-season analysis in the same way I did the best and worst QB analysis -- comparing the QB to the league average QB from the regular season that year. I'm going to assume, which is quite wrong, that no QB was ever sacked in the post-season from 1967 to 2006, and that no post-season games before 1967 were ever played. It's unfortunate, and often incomplete data is worse than no data, but I'm going to cave to demand here.

So... which QB had the best post-season of all time? No matter how you slice it, it was Joe Montana in 1989. But the guy who ranks #2 on the list might surprise you.

The table below shows the top 30 post-season performances by all QBs from 1967 to 2006, while weighing each playoff game equally.

1989	436	Joe Montana
2003	434	Jake Delhomme
1992	402	Troy Aikman
1968	383	Daryle Lamonica
1988	364	Joe Montana
1993	355	Jeff Hostetler
1990	354	Jim Kelly
1985	334	Jim McMahon
1978	325	Terry Bradshaw
1967	294	Bart Starr
1994	281	Steve Young
1999	280	Kurt Warner
1986	274	Phil Simms
1980	269	Jim Plunkett
2003	255	Peyton Manning
1995	249	Troy Aikman
1999	241	Jeff George
1996	234	Brett Favre
1979	233	Terry Bradshaw
1975	227	Roger Staubach
1976	222	Ken Stabler
2005	217	Ben Roethlisberger
1981	216	Ken Anderson
1983	206	Joe Theismann
1982	205	Joe Theismann
1989	204	John Elway
1995	204	Brett Favre
1984	201	Joe Montana
2004	199	Peyton Manning
1974	197	Terry Bradshaw

What about the worst 30?

1991	-354	Jim Kelly
1980	-288	Ron Jaworski
2000	-287	Jay Fiedler
1996	-272	Drew Bledsoe
1985	-270	Dieter Brock
1995	-258	Neil O'Donnell
1998	-218	Troy Aikman
1980	-216	Tommy Kramer
1990	-214	Jay Schroeder
1970	-212	Craig Morton
1992	-204	Stan Humphries
1983	-202	Gary Danielson
1997	-194	Dan Marino
1995	-183	Scott Mitchell
2001	-181	Brad Johnson
1996	-181	Troy Aikman
1982	-177	Richard Todd
1994	-177	Drew Bledsoe
1986	-174	Jay Schroeder
1996	-174	Elvis Grbac
1969	-173	Joe Namath
1972	-171	Mike Phipps
1991	-170	Todd Marinovich
1995	-170	Jim Kelly
1983	-169	Vince Ferragamo
1980	-167	Brian Sipe
1976	-165	Roger Staubach
1982	-165	Doug Williams
1991	-159	Mark Vlasic
1996	-159	Mike Tomczak

What if we weigh each Super Bowl performance three times, each conference championship game two times, and all other post-season games once? Here are the top 40 seasons.

1989	916	Joe Montana
1988	887	Joe Montana
1992	885	Troy Aikman
1980	809	Jim Plunkett
2003	806	Jake Delhomme
1994	721	Steve Young
1978	712	Terry Bradshaw
1985	707	Jim McMahon
1986	638	Phil Simms
1967	619	Bart Starr
1996	585	Brett Favre
1984	581	Joe Montana
1990	572	Jim Kelly
1968	562	Daryle Lamonica
1999	531	Kurt Warner
1987	511	Doug Williams
1995	504	Troy Aikman
1991	503	Mark Rypien
1979	462	Terry Bradshaw
1976	447	Ken Stabler
1998	439	John Elway
1981	398	Ken Anderson
1977	369	Roger Staubach
1975	365	Terry Bradshaw
2004	356	Tom Brady
1993	355	Jeff Hostetler
1984	328	Dan Marino
1993	307	Troy Aikman
1986	306	John Elway
1975	303	Roger Staubach
1971	296	Roger Staubach
1974	295	Terry Bradshaw
2000	256	Trent Dilfer
1981	255	Joe Montana
1979	248	Vince Ferragamo
1999	241	Jeff George
1968	241	Joe Namath
1969	235	Joe Kapp
1990	235	Jeff Hostetler
1995	225	Brett Favre

And the worst:

1991	-888	Jim Kelly
1996	-668	Drew Bledsoe
1995	-665	Neil O'Donnell
2000	-611	Kerry Collins
1980	-520	Ron Jaworski
1982	-501	Richard Todd
1974	-461	Fran Tarkenton
1970	-453	Craig Morton
1990	-453	Jay Schroeder
1985	-421	Dieter Brock
1989	-334	Jim Everett
1977	-307	Craig Morton
1973	-304	Roger Staubach
1986	-303	Jay Schroeder
1968	-297	Earl Morrall
2000	-287	Jay Fiedler
1994	-283	Stan Humphries
2002	-272	Rich Gannon
1988	-244	Boomer Esiason
1999	-240	Shaun King
2000	-237	Daunte Culpepper
1988	-231	Jim Kelly
1997	-229	Kordell Stewart
1985	-227	Dan Marino
2001	-222	Kordell Stewart
1998	-218	Troy Aikman
1978	-217	Pat Haden
1980	-216	Tommy Kramer
1985	-211	Steve Grogan
1992	-210	Jim Kelly
1978	-207	Dan Pastorini
1992	-204	Stan Humphries
2006	-204	Rex Grossman
1983	-202	Gary Danielson
2003	-197	Donovan McNabb
2000	-196	Rich Gannon
1976	-195	Fran Tarkenton
1997	-194	Dan Marino
1983	-191	Dave Krieg
1996	-187	Kerry Collins

What about the best individual playoff games? Here are the top 40, ranked by their weighted value (i.e., for the round of the post-season the game was in), along with their non-weighted value in the last column:

	        yr	rd	att	pyd	ptd	icp	RY4.0	AY/A	LgAvg	WtVal	Val
Joe Montana	1984	s	35	331	3	0	49	10.31	5.73	629	210
Steve Young	1994	s	36	325	6	0	29	10.69	5.74	622	207
Joe Montana	1989	s	29	297	5	0	 7	11.97	5.80	558	186
Kurt Warner	1999	s	45	414	2	0	 0	 9.64	5.64	540	180
Jim Plunkett	1980	s	21	261	3	0	 0	13.86	5.38	534	178
Joe Montana	1988	s	36	357	2	0	 0	10.47	5.55	532	177
Terry Bradshaw	1978	s	30	318	4	1	 0	10.43	4.69	517	172
Doug Williams	1987	s	29	340	4	1	 0	11.55	5.62	516	172
Phil Simms	1986	s	25	268	3	0	13	11.92	5.59	514	171
Jake Delhomme	2003	s	33	323	3	0	 0	10.70	5.57	508	169
Troy Aikman	1992	s	30	273	4	0	16	10.43	5.50	492	164
Jim McMahon	1985	s	20	256	0	0	14	12.80	5.58	475	158
Dan Marino	1984	c	32	421	4	1	 0	13.00	5.73	465	233
John Elway	1989	c	35	385	3	0	19	11.86	5.80	462	231
Terry Bradshaw	1975	s	19	209	2	0	 0	12.05	4.69	420	140
John Elway	1998	s	29	336	1	1	 0	10.38	5.79	399	133
Jim Plunkett	1980	c	18	261	2	0	 0	15.61	5.38	368	184
Brett Favre	1996	s	27	246	2	0	 6	 9.85	5.54	367	122
Daryle Lamonica	1968	c	47	401	1	0	 0	 8.74	4.94	358	179
Joe Montana	1988	c	27	288	3	0	 0	11.78	5.55	336	168
Bart Starr	1967	s	24	202	1	0	10	 8.83	4.68	329	110
Troy Aikman	1992	c	34	322	2	0	 0	10.06	5.50	310	155
Mark Rypien	1991	c	17	228	2	0	 0	14.59	5.67	303	152
Joe Kapp	1969	c	13	169	1	0	35	13.77	5.04	297	148
Ken Stabler	1976	s	19	180	1	0	 0	10.00	4.86	293	 98
Jim Kelly	1990	c	23	300	2	1	 4	11.96	5.83	290	145
Peyton Manning	2003	w	26	377	5	0	 0	16.42	5.57	282	282
Roger Staubach	1978	s	30	228	3	1	21	 7.10	4.69	280	 93
Ben Roethlisber.2005	c	29	275	2	0	10	10.17	5.79	274	137
Billy Kilmer	1972	c	18	194	2	0	 3	11.89	4.85	259	130
Peyton Manning	2004	w	33	457	4	1	 7	13.70	6.07	259	259
Troy Aikman	1995	s	23	209	1	0	 0	 9.52	5.79	257	 86
Chris Chandler	1998	c	43	340	3	0	 7	 8.60	5.79	256	128
Roger Staubach	1977	s	25	183	1	0	 0	 7.72	4.31	256	 85
Terry Bradshaw	1979	s	21	309	2	3	 0	 9.24	5.20	255	 85
John Elway	1987	c	26	281	3	1	 0	10.23	5.62	240	120
Kerry Collins	2000	c	39	381	5	2	 0	 8.74	5.67	239	120
Mark Rypien	1991	s	33	292	2	1	 0	 8.09	5.67	239	 80
Troy Aikman	1993	c	18	177	3	0	13	11.50	5.59	239	119

And surely more interesting, the worst:

	        yr	rd	att	pyd	ptd	icp	RY4.0	AY/A	LgAvg	Val	WtVal
Kerry Collins	2000	s	39	112	0	4	 0	-1.74	5.67	-289	-868
Richard Todd	1982	c	37	103	0	5	 0	-3.30	5.46	-324	-648
Jim Kelly	1991	s	58	275	2	4	 4	1.98	5.67	-210	-630
Craig Morton	1977	s	15	 39	0	4	 0	-9.40	4.31	-206	-617
Rich Gannon	2002	s	44	272	2	5	 0	1.52	5.74	-186	-557
Drew Bledsoe	1996	s	48	253	2	4	 0	1.94	5.54	-173	-519
Neil O'Donnell	1995	s	49	239	1	3	 0	2.33	5.79	-170	-509
Dan Pastorini	1978	c	26	 96	0	5	 0	-4.96	4.69	-251	-502
Jay Schroeder	1990	c	31	150	0	5	17	-2.42	5.83	-239	-478
Billy Kilmer	1972	s	28	104	0	3	10	-1.11	4.85	-157	-470
Fran Tarkenton	1974	s	26	102	0	3	 0	-1.27	4.52	-150	-451
Earl Morrall	1968	s	17	 71	0	3	 0	-3.76	4.94	-148	-444
Daunte Culpepper2000	c	28	 78	0	3	 2	-2.04	5.67	-214	-428
Jim Everett	1989	c	36	141	0	3	 0	0.17	5.80	-203	-405
John Elway	1989	s	26	108	0	2	 2	0.69	5.80	-131	-392
Peyton Manning	2003	c	47	237	1	4	 0	1.43	5.57	-195	-389
Craig Morton	1970	s	26	127	1	3	 0	0.08	4.82	-123	-370
Roger Staubach	1973	c	21	 89	0	4	10	-4.33	4.59	-177	-355
Dave Krieg	1983	c	 9	 12	0	3	 0	-13.67	5.63	-174	-347
Daryle Lamonica	1969	c	39	167	0	3	 0	0.82	5.04	-165	-329
Donovan McNabb	2003	c	22	100	0	3	 2	-1.59	5.57	-155	-311
Ron Jaworski	1980	c	29	 91	0	2	 0	0.03	5.38	-155	-310
Dieter Brock	1985	c	31	 66	0	1	 0	0.68	5.58	-152	-304
David Woodley	1982	c	21	 87	0	3	14	-2.29	5.46	-149	-297
Bernie Kosar	1989	c	44	210	2	3	14	2.16	5.80	-146	-292
Chris Chandler	1998	s	35	219	1	3	14	2.69	5.79	- 95	-284
Stan Humphries	1992	d	44	140	0	4	 6	-0.91	5.50	-276	-276
Pat Haden	1978	c	19	 76	0	3	12	-3.11	4.69	-136	-272
Stan Humphries	1994	s	49	275	1	2	 0	3.98	5.74	- 86	-259
Jay Schroeder	1986	c	50	195	0	1	 0	3.00	5.59	-129	-259
Rich Gannon	2000	c	21	 80	0	2	 0	-0.48	5.67	-129	-258
Jake Delhomme	2005	c	35	196	1	3	 3	2.03	5.79	-129	-257
Jim Kelly	1988	c	30	163	1	3	 2	1.27	5.55	-127	-253
Ben Roethlisber.2005	s	21	123	0	2	 7	1.57	5.79	- 82	-245
Rex Grossman	2006	s	28	165	1	2	 0	3.04	5.82	- 78	-234
Jim Kelly	1991	c	25	117	0	2	 1	1.08	5.67	-114	-228
Kurt Warner	1999	c	43	258	1	3	 0	3.09	5.64	-110	-219
Troy Aikman	1998	w	49	191	1	3	 0	1.35	5.79	-218	-218
Brett Favre	2001	d	44	281	2	6	 0	0.70	5.65	-218	-218
Kordell Stewart	2001	c	42	255	0	3	 9	2.86	5.65	-108	-217

Two New York QBs top that list with some very memorably bad performances. This is a good example of what I referred to in the opening about dealing with small samples. Obviously Collins went up against one of the best defenses ever; Todd played in awful conditions in a game some have dubbed the Mud Bowl. There should probably be some adjustment for those sort of facts. Shockingly, Mike Phipps' 1972 gem against the Dolphins just barely missed the cut. His five-INT game registered a -171, and that's including his 25 yard rushing bonus.

What about the top QBs in the playoffs, by career? No surprises at the top, although I'm pretty surprised that Young ranks in the top five. Obviously his great SB performance helps quite a bit. Please remember that this list only includes playoff performances from 1967 to 2006. Otto Graham's entire playoff career isn't counted, and only a part of Bart Starr's and other's careers are counted. And of course, Brady, Manning and a few other current guys are missing their 2007 performances.

att				value	wt
732	Joe Montana		1292	2855
456	Terry Bradshaw		 903	1795
502	Troy Aikman		 527	1373
471	Steve Young		 580	1104
650	John Elway		 767	1059
272	Jim Plunkett		 373	 994
410	Roger Staubach		 461	 878
351	Ken Stabler		 655	 860
268	Kurt Warner		 422	 789
663	Brett Favre		 302	 755
192	Jake Delhomme		 442	 685
 71	Bart Starr		 294	 619
486	Tom Brady		 230	 606
115	Jeff Hostetler		 481	 590
238	Daryle Lamonica		 462	 541
166	Ken Anderson		 317	 498
155	Jim McMahon		 158	 452
234	Mark Rypien		  79	 390
211	Joe Theismann		 435	 372
279	Phil Simms	       -  38	 327
208	Bob Griese		 137	 318
 19	Gary Kubiak		 124	 285
101	Joe Kapp		 162	 247
129	Jeff George		 224	 224
 72	Tony Eason		 244	 211
130	Erik Kramer		 177	 204
123	Drew Brees		 153	 201
365	Randall Cunningham	 184	 191
260	Matt Hasselbeck		 153	 188
 59	Lynn Dickey		 185	 185
123	Len Dawson		  84	 170
 43	Kelly Holcomb		 167	 167
135	Trent Dilfer		  63	 158
 32	Rodney Peete		 152	 152
185	Wade Wilson		 129	 130
403	Warren Moon		 122	 122
475	Peyton Manning		 293	 122
269	Bernie Kosar		 121	 118
147	Ben Roethlisberger	 140	 104

And the bottom 40:

att				value	wt
227	Craig Morton		-465	-1005
252	Drew Bledsoe		-567	- 969
545	Jim Kelly		-247	- 929
158	Jay Schroeder		-394	- 773
199	Kerry Collins		-179	- 708
228	Stan Humphries		-452	- 611
292	Fran Tarkenton		-186	- 572
140	Richard Todd		-238	- 563
176	Jim Everett		-285	- 488
275	Neil O'Donnell		-123	- 481
142	Kordell Stewart		-280	- 476
123	Pat Haden		-310	- 472
307	Mark Brunell		-256	- 425 
 53	Dieter Brock		-270	- 421
 95	Steve Grogan		-194	- 335
270	Ron Jaworski		- 59	- 334
240	Rich Gannon		  71	- 331
143	Mike Tomczak		-300	- 311
419	Donovan McNabb		  17	- 304
132	Bill Nelsen		-140	- 292
224	Brad Johnson		-319	- 283
133	Rex Grossman		-129	- 283
110	Jay Fiedler		-279	- 279
 59	Mike Phipps		-274	- 274
 81	Pete Beathard		-205	- 262
103	Earl Morrall		  16	- 257
133	Elvis Grbac		-240	- 252
 92	Shaun King		-154	- 245
 52	Gary Cuozzo		-156	- 245
 54	Scott Mitchell		-244	- 244
359	Danny White		-219	- 236
282	Dave Krieg		- 24	- 207
 38	Gary Danielson		-202	- 202
197	Jake Plummer		-176	- 201
 45	George Blanda		-141	- 200
102	Bobby Hebert		-197	- 197
 70	Jon Kitna		-193	- 193
178	Billy Kilmer		-  4	- 188
 28	Jim Zorn		- 94	- 182
140	Tommy Kramer		-174	- 174

This post has been a large data dump. I leave the comments to you guys, today. Check back Thursday and Friday for some more post-season NFL QB talk.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2008 at 6:24 am and is filed under History, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.