ESPN Unveils a New “Total Quarterback Rating” Stat – How Does Ryan Fitzpatrick Stack Up?


I’m a sucker for statistics. Ever since I was a kid, I loved tracking the statistics of my favorite teams/players/sports. I would even keep track of the stats for my own little league games and the stats for my virtual players in Based Loaded for the NES. (The game didn’t always do that for you, kids.) I just love the way stats tell you so much about the game and the players in it. Who’s good? Who’s not? It’s all right there in the numbers.

That all being said, some stats are better than others. ERA in baseball? Way overused. Points per game in basketball? Flawed. If a guy is averaging 30 points a game but shooting just 30% from the field, he’s not a star. Likewise, I’ve always hated the “passer rating” stat in football. It doesn’t account for running quarterbacks. The stat doesn’t differentiate between a pass completed in a high-pressure 4th-and-long situation and a pass completed easily against a prevent defense during a blowout. Also, I REALLY hate that 158.3 is a “perfect” score. How the hell does that make sense?

Fortunately, ESPN has recently developed a new “Total Quarterback Rating” statistic – QBR for short. QBR attempts to address many of the weakness of the passer rating stat in evaluating quarterbacks, including:

1) EVERYTHING a quarterback does is considered. Not only running and passing, but taking sacks, fumbling the ball, recovering a fumble, intentional grounding penalties, throwing a pass that would have been caught if not for pass interference…everything’s there. Through some sort of complicated math, every play is assigned a score based on how much it contributes to a win.

2) Credit is divided for each play based on how much the quarterback actually contributes to it. For a very simple example, say Ryan Fitzpatrick completes a little flare pass to Fred Jackson in the backfield, but then Jackson breaks six tackles and takes it 80 yards for a score. In the traditional passer rating system, Fitzpatrick gets a ton of credit for that. In reality, wasn’t that really all Jackson’s doing? Now, if Fitz manages to hit Stevie Johnson with a 60-yard bomb, Fitz’s QBR will get a big boost.

3) There is a “clutch rating” assigned to each action. If the Bills are down 56-0 and Fitz throws a few late touchdowns, it won’t add much to his QBR. If the Bills are down 24-20 and Fitz throws a late touchdown, his score will be much higher.

4) “Degree of difficulty” is also taken into account. How good is the defense? What’s the weather like? What’s the down and distance?

5) Finally, the rating system goes from 0-100. (Yes!) If you’re over 75 for the season, you’re pretty amazing. Tom Brady (76.0) was the only QB over 70 last season. A quarterback between 65-75 is at a Pro Bowl level. If you’re around 45-55, you’re average. If you’re below 35, you suck. I love this, and it’s much more intuitive than the old passer rating scale.

That’s a very, very simplified explanation of QBR. For the complete deal, check out the link at ESPN.

So how’s our boy Ryan Fitzpatrick look according to the QBR scale?

Well, last season Fitz ranked 17th in the league with a 48.7. Basically, he was right in the middle of the pack, ranking just ahead of Mark Sanchez of the Jets (47.4) and Fitz’s old Bengals mentor Carson Palmer (46.7).

Most of the list shakes out about how you’d expect, but there are a few surprises:

– Josh Freeman of the Bucs is way up there at #8 (63.5). Man, he’s good. And I really, really thought he’d be a total bust. I’ll eat crow on that one.

– Kerry Collins was 15th in the league last year (56.0)? Not bad for a broken-down alcoholic playing for an awful team.

– Chad Henne of the Dolphins was not good (41.4). Am I the only one who thinks the Dolphins are really going to stink this year?

– The bottom two QBs in 2010? Brett Favre (25.8) and Jimmy Clausen (11.7). Couldn’t have happened to two nicer guys.

Anyway, I’m excited about this stat. We’ll try to keep tracking throughout the season to see how Fitz and the rest of the league’s QBs do.