Mike Tanier, a regular contributor at Football Outsiders and the New York Times' Fifth Down blog, recently penned an article for MSNBC discussing Aaron Rodgers' ridiculous quarterback rating. Believe it or not, he's number one all-time in that metric:
Game Pass Rk Player From To Tm G Cmp Att Cmp% Yds TD Int Rate Y/A 1 Aaron Rodgers 2005 2010 GNB 54 1038 1611 64.4% 12723 87 32 98.4 7.90 2 Philip Rivers 2004 2010 SDG 84 1564 2455 63.7% 19661 136 58 97.2 8.01 3 Steve Young* 1985 1999 TOT 169 2667 4149 64.3% 33124 232 107 96.8 7.98 4 Tony Romo 2004 2010 DAL 89 1326 2070 64.1% 16650 118 62 95.5 8.04 5 Tom Brady 2000 2010 NWE 145 2996 4710 63.6% 34744 261 103 95.2 7.38 6 Peyton Manning 1998 2010 CLT 208 4682 7210 64.9% 54828 399 198 94.9 7.60 7 Kurt Warner 1998 2009 TOT 125 2666 4070 65.5% 32344 208 128 93.7 7.95 8 Ben Roethlisberger 2004 2010 PIT 99 1766 2800 63.1% 22502 144 86 92.5 8.04 9 Joe Montana* 1979 1994 TOT 192 3409 5391 63.2% 40551 273 139 92.3 7.52 10 Drew Brees 2001 2010 TOT 138 3145 4822 65.2% 35266 235 132 91.7 7.31 11 Matt Schaub 2004 2010 TOT 92 1288 1987 64.8% 15457 83 52 91.5 7.78 12 Chad Pennington 2000 2010 TOT 89 1632 2471 66.0% 17823 102 64 90.1 7.21 13 Daunte Culpepper 1999 2009 TOT 105 2016 3199 63.0% 24153 149 106 87.8 7.55 14 Jeff Garcia 1999 2009 TOT 125 2264 3676 61.6% 25537 161 83 87.5 6.95 15 Carson Palmer 2004 2010 CIN 97 2024 3217 62.9% 22694 154 100 86.9 7.05
Tanier points out how ridiculous it is that Rodgers, no slouch by any means, ranks first all-time in quarterback rating. He hit on the two biggest reasons Rodgers ranks inappropriately high on the list, the same two reasons I cited when discussing Tony Romo's yards per attempt ratio back in August. First, he plays in the modern era, and completion percentage and therefore passer rating are higher now than ever. Second, he's played during only the "fat" part of his career, missing out on the lean years as an inexperienced, 22-year-old and an over-the-hill, 38-year-old.
In the Romo post, I was looking at yards per attempt, not passer rating. Another key statistic is left out of both formulas: sacks. Rodgers led the league in sacks in '09, although he's matched the league average in sack rate in his other two seasons. A complete picture of Rodgers the passer would include sacks and adjusted for both era and age. Essentially, it's nothing more than trivia to note that Rodgers has the greatest passer rating in NFL history. A much better question would be, where does he rank in ANY/A+ (ANY/A adjusted for era) from ages 25 through 27? The table below shows the top QBs from 1969 to 2010 in ANY/A+, with a minimum of 672 pass attempts (224 attempts is the minimum attempts required in a single season to be listed among the leaders in per-attempt numbers) and 30 games played (to filter out players who are less comparable to Rodgers):
Rodgers still looks good, of course: he's a very good, if not great, quarterback. But he drops from being the best ever in a flawed statistic to merely being one of the top 20 quarterbacks over the past 40 years in a more reasoned analysis. He looks as good as Joe Montana or Troy Aikman or Dan Fouts, but not necessarily any better than Jim Everett, Daunte Culpepper or Scott Mitchell. Three of the top four quarterbacks at this age failed to make the Hall of Fame one day, although Jones was on pace before injury while Anderson and Esiason are perhaps the two best quarterbacks to have been passed over for the Hall half a dozen times or more.
The obvious response, of course, is "Are you kidding me? Aaron Rodgers has as much in common with Duante Culpepper, Jim Everett and Scott Mitchell as he does with Giselle. Those guys stunk." But that's only with the benefit of hindsight.
At age 25, Everett led the NFL in touchdown passes. The next season, he did it again, while jumping to second in yards per attempt. At age 27, he made his first Pro Bowl. From '88 to '90, Everett ranked 2nd in pasing yards each season. All three seasons, he ranked in the top ten in ANY/A, finishing 5th, 2nd and 9th.
In 1993, at age 25, Scott Mitchell replaced an injured Dan Marino and posted impressive numbers, ranking 2nd in the league in net yards per attempt and third in ANY/A. He went to the Lions in the off-season, but had a dissapointing first year in Detroit. Then, at age 27, Mitchell tore up the league, finishing in the top three in passing yards, completions and touchdowns, while ranking fifth in adjusted net yards per attempt.
At age 25, Duante Culpepper seemed to be going backwards. As a first-year starter ate age 23, Culpepper led the league in touchdown passes and averaged 7.3 ANY/A. That ratio dropped to 5.3 in '01 and then 4.9 in '02. He rushed for 609 yards and 10 touchdowns, but was regressing as a passer. But Culpepper turned things around at age 26, ranking third in the league in AY/A, fourth in ANY/A and even third in passer rating. Then he exploded in 2004, challenging Peyton Manning for much of the season for the title of best quarterback in the league. Culpepper had a 110.9 QB rating, led the league in passing yards, set a league record for most total yards in a season, and averaged 8.0 ANY/A, a mark that had only been reached eight times before 2004 in league history.
Rodgers? At age 25, he ranked 10th in ANY/A. The next year, he finished 6th, and in 2010 he ranked third in our favorite metric. He ranked 10th in net yards per attempt in '09 and then 2nd this year in that statistic. Rodgers looks the part of a great quarterback, and has almost no blemishes on his resume (although for awhile, detractors liked to say that he couldn't win close games). He's smarter than Scott Mitchell, more consistent than Duante Culpepper and more athletic than Jim Everett.
As far as consistency goes, Rodgers is part of a select group: he's one of just five quarterbacks to produce an AY/A+ of 110 or better in all three years from ages 25 to 27, joining Troy Aikman, Ken Anderson, John Hadl and Joe Montana. So I'm certainly not going to make any prediction that Rodgers will turn into the next Jim Everett. If I had to guess, I'd say that Rodgers will go on to be remembered as one of the great quarterbacks of the '10s. I just wanted to note that it's important to look at things the correct way, and using passer rating is anything but that. He looks like a current and future star, but he hasn't been so much better than every other quarterback in history that his future is preordained. While he's got some fantastic comparables, a more complete analysis would note that he hasn't been noticeably better than some guys who ended up peaking at age 27.
This entry was posted on Sunday, January 30th, 2011 at 2:03 pm and is filed under Quarterbacks. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.