33 QBs played in NFL football games this past Sunday. ESPN ranked them all using their new “Total QBR” system. The results are in, and they are very stupid.
Before I get started, let me stress that this will not simply be about our own Mark Sanchez being ranked 30th by this system, although that will obviously play a role.
According to ESPN’s system, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills was the best quarterback in the NFL in week one. Now everyone who knows me knows I am no fan of Tom Brady. While I begrudgingly admit he is a great QB, I do not put him in the same class as Peyton Manning and I think he is pretty freaking far from being the best QB of all time. That being said, any system that says that anyone other than Tom Brady was the best QB in week one is completely flawed.
The guy had a game for the ages. He threw for 517 yards and four TDs, including a 99-yard TD pass to scrappy little Wes Welker. It was the sixth best single game by yardage and only the third time ever that a QB threw for 500 yards and four TDs in a game. I hate the guy with every fiber of my being but he was undoubtedly the best QB in the NFL in week one. ESPN’s Total QBR ranks him third! And I feel so completely dirty for defending this whiny pretty boy.
Now that I’ve deloused myself, let’s examine the rest of ESPN’s ratings shall we?
Aaron Rodgers was ranked 2nd by ESPN. Hey guys, they actually got one right!
Now, I’m not going to pretend to completely understand this new system yet but ESPN has stressed what they call “clutch plays” and that plays are weighted based on how much they contributed to a win. Please then explain to me how Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Chad Henne were all ranked in the top 10 when they lost. If you lost, technically zero of your plays contributed to a win.
Michael Vick, who completed only 44% of his, passes ranked 11th. Tony Romo, who had almost identical statistics to Mark Sanchez and personally lost the game with a late fumble and a back breaking INT that led to the Jets game-winning FG, ranked 13th while Sanchez ranked 30th.
30th? Out of 33 QBs? Behind Donovan McNabb who threw for less than 40 yards? Behind Tavaris Jackson and Colt McCoy who were both terrible? Behind Matt Ryan who had arguably the worst game of his career?
I think even the biggest Mark Sanchez hater alive can admit he was better on Sunday than all of those guys. If I can admit Brady was the best over the weekend, you can admit that Sanchez was better than a guy who threw for 36 yards.
Another big issue I have with these rankings (and Football Outsiders participation in developing them) is their refusal to allow for defensive adjustment. If you’re going to create a “total quarterback rating” you have to take everything into account if you want to accurately rate the player’s performance.
Football Outsiders, who helped ESPN develop the Total QBR, has their own QB ratings system that does take strength of opponent into account and passes the eye test much better than ESPN’s the second you employ your brain: http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/qb2011 .
Funnily, Ryan Fitzpatrick does rank first still in DVOA (which means a QB with more value per play) while Brady ranks first in DYAR (which is a QB with more overall value.) That seems about right to me. FO’s rankings also list guys who played like crap in losses, like Ryan, McNabb, McCoy and Jackson near the bottom where they belong.
So ESPN set out to redefine how we rate QBs. It took them all of one week to completely discredit themselves. That sounds about right to me too.