For those of you that have premium memberships, you may have seen some odd things going on with the quarterback rankings this morning as we worked through the early hours to implement some changes to how we present our quarterback grades.
The results are now up and our QB grades have finally been brought into line with the rest of the site, in so much as they have now been normalized. Not a word I personally use in my every day conversations with people but one that is pretty significant regarding what we do at PFF.
I’m going to tell you a little bit about why that is and what that means.
Back in 2008 when PFF was barely on the radar of most NFL fans, we had a decision to make: How to get grades to accurately reflect what a player did given how much they were on the field? We didn’t just want to reward the iron men who never came off the field, and needed to give those who’s playing time was limited their due. It led to us realizing we needed to collect player participation data, and from there, to us normalizing our analysis grades.
And so we did, except at quarterback. Some logistical issues meant it was something we shied away from, but after some soul searching, we’ve tackled that today and now our grades reflect how well a quarterback has played and take into account how many times he has dropped back to make a throw.
What it means
No longer are our grades such that it rewards those who throw all the time, but there are still some disclaimers to note, particularly when it comes to the ‘rushing’ grade a quarterback receives. Here you have players like Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers with lower grades rushing than say Matt Ryan; obviously we’re not saying Ryan is a better rusher, but because of his limited attempts he has been more effective rushing when he has scrambled compared to Rodgers and Vick who may do more running but have a smaller percentage of plays that earn a positive grade. As ever with our grades, it’s not gospel and it requires some thought and perspective from the viewer to truly understand what they are saying.
If the proof is in the pudding, then it’s the rankings themselves. The top three, by a considerable distance, are Aaron Rodgers (+48.7), Drew Brees (+38.5) and Tom Brady (+36.9). Would anyone argue these guys haven’t been the Top 3 QBs in the league this year? Following them, you have six players with a passing grade of between +17.4 (Matt Ryan) and +10.6 (Matt Moore and Matt Schaub) in a sign of the gap between the upper and middle classes of quarterback play.
One player really impacted by this change is Cam Newton (+8.0) who is now solely reliant on his rushing grade (+13.4) for holding onto a spot in our Top 10. To some, his -4.3 passing grade may be blasphemy given the highlight reel plays he’s made and positive impact he has had on the Panthers’ franchise, but it indicates for all his success there have been a lot of inaccurate throws and bad decisions along the way as well. We can’t quantify his impact but we can grade his throwing.
Down at the other end, things get even worse for Blaine Gabbert with his rating dropping to a -37.1 to fully confirm his first year in the league as being as bad as anything we’ve ever seen. At least he has the excuse of being an ill-prepared rookie; what about Curtis Painter (-22.9) or John Skelton (-19.4)? Considering Skelton has only dropped back 117 times, it’s all the more remarkable he’s achieved such a horrible mark. Those are the names you’d expect to see, but spare a thought for the failings of recent high draft picks and especially the class of 2009. Matthew Stafford (-7.7), Josh Freeman (-10.6) and Mark Sanchez (-13.7) are all in the Bottom 10, though they do at least have Joe Flacco (-14.6) for company.
As with all of our gradings, I can’t emphasize enough that they’re not gospel. It requires some understanding of how players are used and doesn’t take into account strength of opponent (though one day it may). We’re happy to bring this more advanced form to our subscribers and will continue to develop what we offer in order to give you what you want.