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Which Quarterbacks’ Offenses Exceed Expectations in the Playoffs?

Posted by Neil Paine on January 10, 2011

Curious after Peyton Manning & the Colts scored 16 points at home against the Jets on Saturday, I wanted to calculate how many points we should have expected them to put on the board, knowing the opponent and game location.

According to the Simple Rating System (SRS), the Jets' defense was +4.2 this season -- meaning they allowed 4.2 fewer PPG than an average team after accounting for strength of schedule. The average NFL team scored 22.0 PPG during the regular-season, so at a neutral site we'd expect an average team to score 17.8 PPG against the New York defense. And since the Colts were at home, 0.95 PPG (half the overall home-field advantage in 2010) should be added in as well, giving a final expectation of 18.8 PPG for a league-average team against the Jets at home. Since the Colts actually scored 16, we can score this performance as -2.8 points relative to average.

Additionally, we wouldn't have expected the Colts' offense to be average based on the regular season. Their offensive SRS was +3.7, which means Indianapolis "should have" scored 22.0 + 0.95 + 3.7 - 4.2 = 22.5 pts against the Jets at home. This yields a score of -6.5 pts relative to regular-season expectations.

Here's Peyton Manning's entire playoff career according to this methodology:

Date Tm Opp tmPts Cmp Att Yds TD Int LgPPG HFA OSRS oDSRS Pts>Avg Pts>Exp tmAtt FracG
1/16/2000 IND TEN L 16 19 42 227 0 0 20.8 3.1 6.6 -1.0 -7.3 -13.9 42 1.00
12/30/2000 IND @ MIA L 17 17 32 194 1 0 20.7 2.8 7.1 7.1 4.8 -2.3 32 1.00
1/4/2003 IND @ NYJ L 0 14 31 137 0 2 21.7 2.2 0.4 2.3 -18.3 -18.7 31 1.00
1/4/2004 IND DEN W 41 22 26 377 5 0 20.8 3.6 8.2 3.1 21.5 13.3 31 0.84
1/11/2004 IND @ KAN W 38 22 30 304 3 0 20.8 3.6 8.2 -0.9 18.0 9.8 30 1.00
1/18/2004 IND @ NWE L 14 23 47 237 1 4 20.8 3.6 8.2 4.9 -0.2 -8.4 47 1.00
1/9/2005 IND DEN W 49 27 33 458 4 1 21.5 2.5 11.7 4.3 30.6 18.9 33 1.00
1/16/2005 IND @ NWE L 3 27 42 238 0 1 21.5 2.5 11.7 6.5 -10.7 -22.4 42 1.00
1/15/2006 IND PIT L 18 22 38 290 1 0 20.6 3.6 5.6 4.0 -0.4 -6.0 38 1.00
1/6/2007 IND KAN W 23 30 38 268 1 3 20.7 0.8 6.9 0.6 2.5 -4.4 38 1.00
1/13/2007 IND @ BAL W 15 15 30 170 0 2 20.7 0.8 6.9 7.8 2.6 -4.3 30 1.00
1/21/2007 IND NWE W 38 27 47 349 1 1 20.7 0.8 6.9 5.9 22.8 15.9 47 1.00
2/4/2007 IND N CHI W 29 25 38 247 1 1 20.7 0.8 6.9 3.0 11.3 4.4 38 1.00
1/13/2008 IND SDG L 24 33 48 402 3 2 21.7 2.9 6.6 4.5 5.4 -1.2 48 1.00
1/3/2009 IND @ SDG L 17 25 42 310 1 0 22.0 2.6 2.6 0.0 -3.8 -6.4 42 1.00
1/16/2010 IND BAL W 20 30 44 246 2 1 21.5 2.2 4.4 4.9 2.3 -2.1 44 1.00
1/24/2010 IND NYJ W 30 26 39 377 3 0 21.5 2.2 4.4 7.5 14.9 10.5 39 1.00
2/7/2010 IND N NOR L 17 31 45 333 1 1 21.5 2.2 4.4 -0.5 -5.0 -9.4 45 1.00
1/8/2011 IND NYJ L 16 18 26 225 1 0 22.0 1.9 3.7 4.2 -2.8 -6.5 26 1.00
Career 19 G 425 453 718 5389 29 19 4.5 -1.9 18.84

Weighting by the percentage of team QB pass attempts taken in each game (I'll call these "Fractional Games"), Manning's offense averages +4.5 PPG relative to average in the postseason and -1.9 PPG relative to what we'd expect from the regular season. How do these marks stack up to other QBs since the merger? With a minimum of 4 career fractional playoff games, here are the QBs whose offenses played the best relative to the league average:

Quarterback G Att FracG Pts>Avg
Kurt Warner 13 462 12.72 11.3
Jeff Hostetler 5 115 4.96 9.5
Troy Aikman 16 502 15.09 9.4
Steve Young 20 471 13.47 8.8
Jim Kelly 17 545 15.80 8.6
Tony Eason 5 72 4.17 8.5
Bernie Kosar 9 270 7.35 8.3
Joe Montana 23 734 21.16 8.1
Ben Roethlisberger 10 278 9.96 7.9
Terry Bradshaw 19 456 18.15 7.8
Drew Brees 7 285 7.00 7.8
Brad Johnson 7 224 6.97 7.7
Rich Gannon 9 240 7.14 7.7
Joe Theismann 8 211 7.92 7.6
Ken Stabler 13 351 12.40 7.5
Danny White 13 360 10.03 7.0
Roger Staubach 18 405 16.73 6.7
Jim Plunkett 10 272 10.00 6.5
John Elway 22 651 20.75 6.3
Brett Favre 24 791 23.76 6.2
Wade Wilson 6 185 5.00 5.6
Mark Rypien 8 234 7.36 5.5
Matt Hasselbeck 10 360 10.00 5.5
Ken Anderson 6 166 5.93 5.1
Tom Brady 18 637 17.46 4.7
Peyton Manning 19 718 18.84 4.5
Kerry Collins 7 241 6.98 4.3
Rex Grossman 4 133 4.00 4.2
Jake Delhomme 8 226 8.00 4.2
Dan Fouts 7 286 7.00 4.1
Richard Todd 4 140 4.00 4.0
Bob Griese 12 208 10.84 3.9
Steve Bartkowski 4 111 4.00 3.8
Mark Brunell 11 307 9.69 3.7
Philip Rivers 7 229 6.83 3.5
Billy Kilmer 7 178 6.60 3.5
Joe Flacco 6 154 6.00 3.4
Fran Tarkenton 11 292 10.75 3.3
Donovan McNabb 16 577 15.52 2.8
Steve McNair 10 311 9.96 2.6
Boomer Esiason 5 99 4.80 2.5
Warren Moon 10 403 9.85 2.4
Michael Vick 6 141 5.03 2.4
Dan Pastorini 5 116 4.78 2.2
Trent Dilfer 6 135 5.81 2.0
Randall Cunningham 10 365 9.74 1.9
Chad Pennington 6 216 5.98 1.8
Dan Marino 18 687 17.59 1.7
Neil O'Donnell 9 275 7.04 1.6
John Brodie 5 143 5.00 1.5
Jim McMahon 8 155 5.50 1.4
Jeff Garcia 6 217 6.00 1.3
Ron Jaworski 9 271 8.92 0.8
Drew Bledsoe 7 252 6.46 0.7
Jim Harbaugh 5 163 4.97 0.7
Phil Simms 10 279 9.66 0.5
Jake Plummer 6 197 6.00 0.3
Vinny Testaverde 5 189 5.00 -0.1
Craig Morton 9 177 7.35 -0.5
Elvis Grbac 6 133 4.06 -0.7
Doug Williams 7 169 6.47 -1.1
Kordell Stewart 6 142 4.30 -1.2
Pat Haden 5 123 4.54 -1.3
Mike Tomczak 6 143 4.86 -1.7
Jim Everett 5 176 5.00 -1.8
Eli Manning 7 193 7.00 -2.0
Johnny Unitas 5 113 4.38 -2.3
Stan Humphries 6 228 5.89 -2.3
Jay Schroeder 6 158 4.83 -2.5
Dave Krieg 11 282 8.80 -2.8
Tony Romo 4 135 4.00 -3.2
Vince Ferragamo 7 188 6.46 -3.3

And here are the QBs whose offenses exceeded their regular-season expectations by the most in the postseason:

Quarterback G Att FracG Pts>Exp
Jeff Hostetler 5 115 4.96 9.1
Bernie Kosar 9 270 7.35 6.6
Brad Johnson 7 224 6.97 6.2
Tony Eason 5 72 4.17 5.9
Troy Aikman 16 502 15.09 5.5
Jim Kelly 17 545 15.80 5.3
Ben Roethlisberger 10 278 9.96 5.2
Steve Bartkowski 4 111 4.00 4.6
Kerry Collins 7 241 6.98 4.6
Kurt Warner 13 462 12.72 4.5
Joe Montana 23 734 21.16 4.3
Matt Hasselbeck 10 360 10.00 3.9
Terry Bradshaw 19 456 18.15 3.5
Jake Delhomme 8 226 8.00 3.4
Wade Wilson 6 185 5.00 3.0
Trent Dilfer 6 135 5.81 2.8
Ken Stabler 13 351 12.40 2.7
Jim Plunkett 10 272 10.00 2.4
Jim Harbaugh 5 163 4.97 2.3
Mark Brunell 11 307 9.69 2.2
Rich Gannon 9 240 7.14 2.2
Rex Grossman 4 133 4.00 1.9
Chad Pennington 6 216 5.98 1.7
Ken Anderson 6 166 5.93 1.5
Joe Theismann 8 211 7.92 1.5
Dan Pastorini 5 116 4.78 1.5
John Elway 22 651 20.75 1.5
Danny White 13 360 10.03 1.5
Billy Kilmer 7 178 6.60 1.4
Steve Young 20 471 13.47 1.4
Brett Favre 24 791 23.76 1.1
Roger Staubach 18 405 16.73 1.0
Bob Griese 12 208 10.84 0.7
Michael Vick 6 141 5.03 0.6
Drew Brees 7 285 7.00 0.5
Fran Tarkenton 11 292 10.75 0.5
Joe Flacco 6 154 6.00 0.3
Neil O'Donnell 9 275 7.04 0.2
Donovan McNabb 16 577 15.52 0.0
Steve McNair 10 311 9.96 -0.3
Jeff Garcia 6 217 6.00 -0.3
Phil Simms 10 279 9.66 -0.5
Ron Jaworski 9 271 8.92 -0.5
Doug Williams 7 169 6.47 -0.6
Mark Rypien 8 234 7.36 -0.8
Tom Brady 18 637 17.46 -1.2
Jake Plummer 6 197 6.00 -1.5
Warren Moon 10 403 9.85 -1.5
Mike Tomczak 6 143 4.86 -1.7
Dan Marino 18 687 17.59 -1.8
Peyton Manning 19 718 18.84 -1.9
Elvis Grbac 6 133 4.06 -2.0
Philip Rivers 7 229 6.83 -2.1
Jim McMahon 8 155 5.50 -2.1
Craig Morton 9 177 7.35 -2.2
Vinny Testaverde 5 189 5.00 -2.4
Richard Todd 4 140 4.00 -2.6
Drew Bledsoe 7 252 6.46 -2.6
Boomer Esiason 5 99 4.80 -2.6
Randall Cunningham 10 365 9.74 -2.9
John Brodie 5 143 5.00 -3.0
Kordell Stewart 6 142 4.30 -3.1
Johnny Unitas 5 113 4.38 -3.7
Vince Ferragamo 7 188 6.46 -4.2
Dan Fouts 7 286 7.00 -4.2
Stan Humphries 6 228 5.89 -4.2
Pat Haden 5 123 4.54 -5.1
Eli Manning 7 193 7.00 -5.4
Jay Schroeder 6 158 4.83 -5.5
Jim Everett 5 176 5.00 -6.1
Dave Krieg 11 282 8.80 -6.2
Tony Romo 4 135 4.00 -6.6

For those expecting this to be a referendum on Tom Brady-vs-Peyton Manning, sorry to disappoint: Brady and Manning's offenses have actually performed similarly in the postseason, with Brady's playing only slightly better both relative to average and regular-season expectations (each was negative in the latter regard).

Instead, we see Kurt Warner emerge as ringleader of the best post-merger playoff offenses, while Jeff Hostetler's teams come out on top in the "clutch" category (offenses that raised their games in the playoffs). And if we extend the requirement to 10+ fractional games, the leaders of the clutchiest offenses were Troy Aikman and Jim Kelly, who (not coincidentally) faced off in a pair of Super Bowls during the 1990s.

Now, the following disclaimers are obvious, but they still bear mentioning: This system credits PPG entirely to the offense, including defensive TDs. Also, I am assigning all of the offense's performance, good or bad, to the quarterback here, which is clearly inaccurate and/or unfair. Some QBs had the benefit of playing with great teammates; others did not have that luxury, and therefore their ratings will be lower through no fault of their own.

That being said, it is still interesting to see where perception meets reality for these QBs' offenses during the playoffs.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011 at 7:00 am and is filed under Best/Worst Ever, History, Quarterbacks, Simple Rating System, Statgeekery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.