ESPN Airing One-Hour Special on New Statistic Called Total Quarterback Rating

By Cam Martin Comment

ESPN is airing a one-hour special at 5 p.m. ET Friday called Year of the Quarterback SportsCenter Special: The Total Quarterback Rating, which will introduce and explain a new NFL quarterback statistic designed to supplant the NFL Passer Rating. The Total Quarterback Rating is measured on a 100-point scale, which automatically makes it better than the asinine 158.3-point scale used in the NFL Passer Rating system. Beyond that nod to round, fan-friendly numbers, the new system doesn’t unduly reward the dink-and-dunk, high-percentage West Coast passes that turned Steve Young into the highest-rated passer in league history.

“The Total Quarterback Rating is designed to be a single comprehensive stat that demonstrates effective quarterback play, and we’re excited to introduce it to fans on ESPN this season,” said Jeff Bennett, senior director of the ESPN Stats & Information Group. “The position is played so differently now than when the NFL Passer Rating was adopted in 1973. We created QBR to account for all the important categories as well as the game situations in which plays are made to help tell the entire story about a quarterback’s performance. If you want one stat that measures the totality of a quarterback’s performance, it’s QBR.”

Also included in devising this new statistic were Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, Super Bowl champion head coach Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski, who helped the nerds to understand the mindset and the demands placed upon the modern NFL quarterback. (Noticeably absent? ESPN’s Steve Young, the grand poobah of the old system.)

“Total QBR is based on all of a quarterback’s plays (rushing, passing, sacks, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, etc.), and it calculates the per-play net impact of the quarterback on the ability to score. Each play is weighted by the situation (i.e., down and distance, field position, time during the game) and its importance to the game’s outcome. For example, a completed five-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 would increase a quarterback’s QBR more than a five-yard completion on 3rd-and-15 because the former continues the drive and thus improves the team’s chance of scoring. Also, plays in closely contested games carry a greater value than plays in less competitive situations.

Division of credit is another important Total QBR principle because it assigns a percentage to how much credit a quarterback should get for a positive play – or blame for a negative play. With Dilfer’s input, the group identified other key data to incorporate into the formula, including how far a pass travels in the air, where the ball was thrown on the field, the yards after catch, and whether the quarterback was facing defensive pressure, among other factors.

QBR is based on analysis of 60,000 plays over the past three years. Using the data from the plays, values have been identified for assigning credit or blame for every play involving the quarterback. The overall system measures a quarterback’s performance using a 100-point system, compared to the existing NFL Passer Rating which has a perfect score of 158.3. A rating in the high 90s is exceptional, while a season-long 65-plus rating is Pro Bowl caliber. A season rating of 50 is considered average.

In short, you’ll be glad that computers exist to compute these events, saving you from figuring it out for yourself.