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Best Single-Game Quarterback Performances, 1970-2009

Posted by Neil Paine on September 3, 2010

Last year, I wrote a post explaining a method of translating quarterback stats across different eras based on the league's average numbers. I followed that up with a pair of posts that looked at peak QB performance using the translation method and an estimate of Football Outsiders' YAR (Yards Above Replacement) metric. Today, I want to apply that same methodology to all single-game QB performances (regular-season and playoffs) since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970...

Just as I did last year, I pulled all of the QB data from FO's site (covering the span of 1993-2009) and ran a linear regression to estimate YAR from the following ordinary box score stats:

ePYAR ~ -6.57*Att + 3.62*Cmp + 0.97*Yds + 13.27*TD - 43.37*Int

eRYAR ~ -2.97*Att + 0.6*Yds + 9.19*TD

To be consistent with the time frame of FO's stats, I then translated all single-game numbers from their actual offensive environment to the composite conditions of 1993-2009, which looked like this on a per-game basis:

rAtt rYds rTD pAtt pCmp pYds pTD pInt
27.9 112.6 0.8 32.9 19.3 223.6 1.3 1.0

After adjusting for era and running the estimated YAR formula, here are the best quarterbacking performances since the merger:

(Mouse over column headers for descriptions)

Actual Stats Adjusted for Era
Rk Player Date Tm Op A C pY pT I R rY rT A C pY pT I R rY rT eYAR
100 Donovan McNabb 12/10/2000 phi cle 36 23 390 4 0 3 12 0 36 23 393 4 0 3 12 0 281.0
99 Peyton Manning 9/23/2001 clt buf 29 23 421 4 2 7 26 1 29 23 426 4 2 7 26 1 281.0
98 Dan Marino 1/6/1985 mia pit 32 21 421 4 1 0 0 0 33 23 412 4 1 0 0 0 281.1
97 Jack Concannon 12/13/1970 chi gnb 34 21 338 4 1 4 31 1 42 30 417 4 1 4 29 1 281.5
96 Billy Volek 12/13/2004 oti kan 43 29 426 4 0 2 24 0 44 29 423 4 0 2 23 0 282.0
95 Dave Krieg 11/24/1994 det buf 25 20 351 3 0 1 0 0 24 20 345 3 0 1 0 0 282.6
94 Marc Bulger 12/24/2006 ram was 38 25 388 4 0 2 27 0 39 25 396 4 0 2 26 0 283.1
93 Dan Marino 9/4/1994 mia nwe 42 23 473 5 1 3 8 0 41 23 465 5 1 3 9 0 283.7
92 Jim Kelly 9/27/1992 buf nwe 20 15 308 3 0 1 1 0 22 17 335 3 0 1 1 0 284.5
91 Len Dawson 11/21/1971 kan den 19 11 294 3 1 0 0 0 24 16 378 4 1 0 0 0 284.9
90 Drew Bledsoe 9/15/2002 buf min 49 35 463 3 0 1 0 0 48 34 456 3 0 1 0 0 285.7
89 Bob Griese 11/2/1975 mia chi 19 12 288 3 0 2 -6 0 23 16 352 3 0 2 -5 0 286.2
88 Chris Chandler 9/24/1995 oti cin 26 23 352 4 0 5 19 0 25 22 334 4 0 5 20 0 289.1
87 Dick Shiner 9/16/1973 atl nor 15 13 227 3 0 3 -2 0 20 20 318 4 0 2 -2 0 289.6
86 Archie Manning 9/23/1979 nor sfo 28 20 355 2 0 2 -2 0 32 25 399 2 0 2 -2 0 290.0
85 John Hadl 12/12/1971 sdg den 36 21 332 4 0 0 0 0 46 31 427 5 0 0 0 0 290.2
84 Steve Spurrier 11/19/1972 sfo chi 27 17 275 5 0 1 8 0 36 26 364 6 0 1 6 0 290.4
83 Dan Marino 9/30/1984 mia crd 36 24 429 3 0 1 -2 0 37 26 420 3 0 1 -2 0 291.5
82 Jim Plunkett 11/18/1973 nwe gnb 32 18 348 2 1 3 8 1 43 28 488 3 1 2 6 1 291.6
81 Tommy Maddox 11/10/2002 pit atl 41 28 473 4 1 2 7 0 40 27 466 4 1 2 7 0 292.1
80 Fran Tarkenton 11/30/1975 min was 37 27 357 1 0 2 30 1 44 36 436 1 0 2 23 1 293.0
79 Jim Hart 10/28/1973 crd nyg 18 13 235 4 0 1 -2 0 24 20 330 5 0 1 -2 0 295.3
78 Craig Morton 9/27/1981 den sdg 18 17 308 4 0 2 6 0 19 19 309 4 0 2 5 0 296.6
77 Fran Tarkenton 10/13/1974 min oti 24 18 274 3 0 1 15 0 30 25 357 4 0 1 13 0 296.7
76 Kurt Warner 9/14/2008 crd mia 24 19 361 3 0 0 0 0 24 19 360 3 0 0 0 0 297.2
75 Trent Green 12/14/2003 kan det 25 20 341 3 0 1 14 0 26 20 357 3 0 1 13 0 297.8
74 Kurt Warner 12/2/2001 ram atl 23 17 342 4 0 1 3 0 23 17 346 4 0 1 3 0 298.0
73 Donovan McNabb 9/18/2005 phi sfo 29 23 342 5 0 0 0 0 30 23 350 5 0 0 0 0 298.2
72 Marc Bulger 11/10/2002 ram sdg 48 36 453 4 0 1 -1 0 47 35 446 4 0 1 -1 0 298.3
71 Terry Bradshaw 12/19/1976 pit clt 18 14 264 3 0 0 0 0 23 20 340 4 0 0 0 0 300.4
70 Kelly Holcomb 11/16/2003 cle crd 35 29 392 3 0 3 -2 0 36 30 410 3 0 3 -2 0 300.7
69 Bubby Brister 10/14/1990 pit den 28 21 353 4 0 2 7 0 31 24 373 4 0 2 7 0 300.8
68 Dan Fouts 12/11/1982 sdg sfo 48 33 444 5 0 1 -2 0 50 36 449 5 0 1 -2 0 301.1
67 Doug Flutie 12/23/2000 buf sea 25 20 366 3 0 8 31 0 25 20 369 3 0 8 31 0 301.6
66 Joe Montana 9/24/1989 sfo phi 34 25 428 5 1 4 14 0 35 27 418 5 1 4 14 0 301.6
65 Kurt Warner 1/10/2010 crd gnb 33 29 379 5 0 0 0 0 33 28 365 5 0 0 0 0 302.3
64 Fran Tarkenton 11/7/1976 min det 25 17 347 2 1 3 -1 0 31 24 447 2 1 2 -1 0 303.0
63 Peyton Manning 9/28/2003 clt nor 25 20 314 6 0 1 1 0 26 20 328 6 0 1 1 0 304.0
62 Carson Palmer 11/12/2006 cin sdg 42 31 440 3 0 1 3 0 43 31 449 3 0 1 3 0 304.7
61 Earl Morrall 10/31/1971 clt pit 19 11 286 3 0 0 0 0 24 16 368 4 0 0 0 0 305.3
60 Ken O'Brien 9/21/1986 nyj mia 43 29 479 4 1 1 8 0 44 31 474 4 1 1 8 0 305.8
59 John Brodie 11/8/1970 sfo chi 28 21 317 3 0 0 0 0 34 30 391 3 0 0 0 0 306.0
58 Fran Tarkenton 11/19/1972 min ram 28 14 319 4 0 1 9 0 37 21 423 5 0 1 7 0 306.5
57 Wade Wilson 12/13/1992 atl tam 26 19 324 5 0 2 9 0 29 21 353 6 0 2 9 0 306.6
56 Tom Brady 10/18/2009 nwe oti 34 29 380 6 0 0 0 0 34 28 366 6 0 0 0 0 309.3
55 Roger Staubach 12/16/1973 dal crd 19 14 256 3 0 5 30 0 26 21 359 4 0 4 23 0 309.3
54 Ben Roethlisberger 12/20/2009 pit gnb 46 29 503 3 0 1 7 0 45 28 484 3 0 1 7 0 309.4
53 Steve Young 10/18/1992 sfo atl 28 18 399 3 1 2 28 0 31 20 434 3 1 2 29 0 309.4
52 Donovan McNabb 9/23/2007 phi det 26 21 381 4 0 3 7 0 26 20 373 4 0 3 7 0 309.8
51 Dan Fouts 9/26/1976 sdg crd 18 15 259 4 0 1 4 0 23 21 334 5 0 1 3 0 314.7
50 Roger Staubach 9/30/1973 dal crd 22 17 276 2 0 3 15 1 30 26 387 3 0 2 12 1 315.4
49 Fran Tarkenton 12/1/1974 min nor 29 20 317 3 0 1 6 0 36 28 413 4 0 1 5 0 315.7
48 Peyton Manning 9/25/2000 clt jax 36 23 440 4 0 6 4 0 36 23 443 4 0 6 4 0 316.0
47 Drew Brees 11/30/2009 nor nwe 23 18 371 5 0 1 -1 0 23 17 357 5 0 1 -1 0 318.1
46 Terry Bradshaw 11/13/1977 pit cle 21 13 283 3 0 0 0 0 28 20 390 4 0 0 0 0 320.0
45 Tom Brady 10/21/2007 nwe mia 25 21 354 6 0 0 0 0 25 20 347 6 0 0 0 0 320.3
44 Phil Simms 9/2/1984 nyg phi 30 23 409 4 0 6 20 0 31 25 401 4 0 5 18 0 320.5
43 Tommy Kramer 12/14/1980 min cle 49 38 456 4 0 2 11 0 53 43 476 4 0 2 10 0 322.3
42 Ken Stabler 10/10/1976 rai sdg 26 20 339 3 1 0 0 0 33 28 437 4 1 0 0 0 323.1
41 Ken Stabler 10/28/1973 rai clt 29 25 304 2 0 3 8 0 39 38 426 3 0 2 6 0 324.1
40 Ken Anderson 12/16/1973 cin oti 23 15 293 3 0 3 12 0 31 23 411 4 0 2 9 0 325.8
39 Roman Gabriel 10/14/1973 phi crd 45 29 379 3 0 0 0 0 61 44 532 4 0 0 0 0 326.0
38 Kurt Warner 10/1/2000 ram sdg 30 24 390 4 0 1 6 0 30 24 393 4 0 1 6 0 326.5
37 Peyton Manning 1/9/2005 clt den 33 27 458 4 1 1 1 1 34 27 455 4 1 1 1 1 327.5
36 Charley Johnson 11/18/1974 den kan 42 28 445 2 2 0 0 0 52 39 580 3 2 0 0 0 328.1
35 Steve Young 9/13/1992 sfo buf 37 26 449 3 1 7 50 0 41 29 489 3 1 7 51 0 328.1
34 Steve Young 12/19/1993 sfo det 23 17 354 4 0 3 19 0 24 18 367 5 0 3 19 0 328.8
33 Tommy Kramer 11/2/1986 min was 35 20 490 4 1 3 8 0 36 22 485 4 1 3 8 0 329.1
32 Jim Zorn 11/18/1979 sea nor 33 24 384 4 0 3 1 0 37 30 431 4 0 2 1 0 330.3
31 Ken Anderson 11/17/1975 cin buf 46 30 447 2 0 6 8 0 55 40 546 2 0 5 6 0 332.0
30 Joe Ferguson 9/23/1979 buf nyj 30 19 367 5 0 0 0 0 34 23 412 5 0 0 0 0 333.2
29 Donovan McNabb 12/5/2004 phi gnb 43 32 464 5 0 0 0 0 44 32 461 5 0 0 0 0 333.7
28 James Harris 10/20/1974 ram sfo 15 12 276 3 0 9 23 1 19 17 360 4 0 7 19 1 334.7
27 Roger Staubach 9/26/1976 dal clt 28 22 339 2 0 1 2 0 35 31 437 2 0 1 1 0 335.4
26 Vinny Testaverde 9/13/1992 tam gnb 25 22 363 2 0 2 18 1 27 25 395 2 0 2 18 1 337.1
25 Steve Grogan 10/29/1978 nwe nyj 19 15 281 4 0 3 32 0 24 21 354 5 0 2 25 0 337.4
24 Brett Favre 12/22/2003 gnb rai 30 22 399 4 0 0 0 0 31 22 417 4 0 0 0 0 339.0
23 Steve McNair 10/12/2003 oti htx 27 18 421 3 0 5 2 0 28 18 440 3 0 5 2 0 339.5
22 Dan Fouts 11/3/1974 sdg cle 21 12 333 4 1 7 24 0 26 17 434 5 1 6 20 0 339.5
21 Randall Cunningham 10/5/1998 min gnb 32 20 442 4 0 2 -1 0 33 21 447 4 0 2 -1 0 340.0
20 Ken Stabler 10/22/1973 rai den 24 16 313 2 0 4 34 0 32 24 439 3 0 3 27 0 340.8
19 Boomer Esiason 12/21/1986 cin nyj 30 23 425 5 1 5 45 0 31 25 421 5 1 5 43 0 340.9
18 Boomer Esiason 10/7/1990 cin ram 45 31 490 3 0 2 0 0 49 35 518 3 0 2 0 0 343.1
17 Fran Tarkenton 10/25/1970 nyg crd 18 15 280 5 0 3 18 0 22 21 346 6 0 3 17 0 343.4
16 Brian Sipe 11/19/1978 cle clt 22 15 309 4 0 1 19 0 27 21 389 5 0 1 15 0 345.4
15 Gary Danielson 12/9/1978 det min 33 26 352 5 1 1 15 0 41 36 443 6 1 1 12 0 345.9
14 Bert Jones 12/18/1977 clt nwe 30 19 340 3 0 8 42 0 40 29 469 4 0 6 33 0 353.1
13 Steve Grogan 9/9/1979 nwe nyj 18 13 315 5 0 2 38 0 20 16 354 5 0 2 32 0 353.3
12 Peyton Manning 1/4/2004 clt den 26 22 377 5 0 1 0 0 27 22 394 5 0 1 0 0 354.3
11 Ken O'Brien 11/2/1986 nyj sea 32 26 431 4 0 1 5 0 33 28 427 4 0 1 5 0 354.7
10 Ken Anderson 11/3/1974 cin clt 21 17 297 3 0 6 62 0 26 24 387 4 0 5 52 0 357.1
9 Charley Johnson 10/22/1972 den rai 28 20 361 2 0 1 0 0 37 30 478 2 0 1 0 0 357.4
8 Warren Moon 12/16/1990 oti kan 45 27 527 3 0 4 2 0 49 31 557 3 0 4 2 0 359.7
7 Steve Young 11/28/1993 sfo ram 32 26 462 4 1 2 3 0 33 27 480 5 1 2 3 0 360.6
6 John Hadl 10/31/1971 sdg nyj 27 19 358 4 1 3 38 1 34 28 461 5 1 3 33 1 376.9
5 Richard Todd 10/23/1977 nyj rai 29 17 396 4 2 1 5 0 38 26 546 5 1 1 4 0 378.2
4 Craig Morton 12/20/1970 dal oti 17 13 349 5 1 1 0 0 21 18 431 6 1 1 0 0 386.6
3 Mark Rypien 11/10/1991 was atl 31 16 442 6 0 1 4 1 33 17 461 7 0 1 4 1 394.4
2 James Harris 10/3/1976 ram mia 29 17 436 2 1 6 29 1 36 24 562 2 1 5 22 1 394.8
1 Joe Namath 9/24/1972 nyj clt 28 15 496 6 1 1 1 0 37 23 657 7 1 1 1 0 532.3

The next logical step would be to adjust for the strength of the opponent, which I imagine will make a difference but probably won't change Namath's spot atop the list (Baltimore was actually an above-average pass D when he torched them in '72).

This entry was posted on Friday, September 3rd, 2010 at 9:31 am and is filed under Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.