After two weeks of play, the top five quarterbacks in the NFL’s traditional quarterback rating system are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, and Kevin Kolb. The quarterback rating metric is a decent one — I think there’s a strong level of consensus that the above quarterbacks are all pretty good (especially the top three) — but it’s far from perfect. It uses a limited number of inputs (completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns per attempt, and interceptions per attempt), and it doesn’t necessarily adjust them in the optimal fashion.
This offseason, ESPN’s Stats and Information group (lead by advanced statistical guru Dean Oliver) rolled out a new quarterback metric dubbed “Total Quarterback Rating“, or QBR for short. QBR attempts to go deeper than pure numbers. Is the quarterback putting up his numbers when the game is on the line, or is he mostly shredding prevent defenses in a desperate effort to mount a comeback? Is the quarterback innaccurate, or are his receivers dropping balls? Is the offensive line to blame for the sack, or did the quarterback just hold onto the ball too long? These are all questions that are addressed by Total Quarterback Rating.
Anyway, if we look back at our list of top quarterbacks, we find that only Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford also appear in the top five of QBR. Instead of Rodgers, Brees, and Kolb, they are joined by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck, and Tony Romo. This isn’t to say that the second group is better than the first (just looking at the names we find that to be unlikely, we’re dealing with a small sample of only two games), but it does help to prove that our eye test of Stafford is dead on. Not only do the traditional numbers really like Stafford’s start to the year, but the advanced ones do as well.
And it would be hard not to. Stafford is tied for the league lead in touchdowns (with seven), he’s in the top ten in yards per attempt (seventh at 8.32), he’s completed over 65% of his passes, and he’s the only QB with more than 10 attempts that hasn’t taken a sack.
The rest of the nation is beginning to understand what we’ve been suspicious of for a while. Matt Stafford isn’t just the quarterback of the future in Detroit, he’s the quarterback of right now.