Ranking NFL Quarterbacks by “Net Yards per Snap” helps explain Tim Tebow’s success and Mark Sanchez’s failure

In an effort to separate the value brought to his team by each NFL Quarterback from the value of his surrounding teammates, I took a look at the statistics of each Quarterback who had taken at least 300 snaps under center, and I calculated how many net forward yards we could attribute directly to each.  Then I ranked the Quarterbacks according to the average number of “Net Yards per Snap”.  The formula I used to calculate those net yards was NYpS is = Yards Passing – Receiver YAC + Yards Rushing – Yards Sacked – (30x turnovers) / Snaps under center.  In simple terms, I gave each QB credit for the yards produced by his legs or his arm, independent of any yards passing he accumulated because of his receivers running after they caught the ball.  I then deducted yardage from each QB for every thrown interception, lost fumble, or sack taken.  It is estimated that every turnover costs a team on average 30 yards of net field position, so every turnover deducted 30 yards.

By that standard, here is the way the NFL Quarterbacks performed in the 2011 season:

QBs Snaps Yd Creds Ycred/Snap
Rodgers 988 2308 2.33
Vick 787 1834 2.33
Brees 1117 2420 2.16
Henne 236 496 2.09
E Manning 1028 1974 1.92
Newton 999 1919 1.92
Brady 1082 2047 1.89
Ryan 1022 1871 1.83
Romo 925 1656 1.79
Stafford 1058 1856 1.75
Tebow 641 1115 1.74
Palmer 635 1003 1.58
Schaub 648 1020 1.57
Rivers 1048 1552 1.48
Cutler 645 957 1.48
Roethlisberger 954 1378 1.44
Dalton 1015 1445 1.42
A Smith 993 1368 1.38
McCoy 850 1192 1.39
Young 207 275 1.33
McNabb 308 409 1.32
Hasselbeck 876 1104 1.26
Moore 742 909 1.22
Freeman 918 1115 1.21
Orton 580 681 1.17
Flacco 1036 1193 1.15
Fitzpatrick 992 1141 1.15
Kolb 587 529 1.11
Ponder 574 620 1.08
Painter 532 553 1.04
Jackson 913 953 1.04
Cassell 574 563 0.98
Grossman 794 781 0.98
Bradford 658 594 0.89
Skelton 411 462 0.89
Sanchez 1030 856 0.83
Orlovsky 475 353 0.74
Yates 397 219 0.56
Gabbert 872 392 0.45
Hanie 215 -11 -0.05
AVG 1.34

OBSERVATIONS

1. Rodgers Still Better than Brees

If you go by the number of Yards attributable to each QB per snap taken, Aaron Rodgers still had a more valuable season for the Packers than Drew Brees had for the Saints.  If you only use Net Yards attributable to the QB, then it was Brees by a little bit, but only because he took many more snaps.

2. The Value of Vick

We did not hear much about Philadelphia QB Michael Vick this season, but my numbers suggest that the Eagles probably would have made the play-offs had Vick not been injured.  When Vick was under center, he was equal in Net Yards per Snap to Aaron Rodgers.  By contrast, when the team turned to backup Vince Young for several games, Young produced a slightly below average 1.33 Yards per Snap (the NFL average this season was 1.34 YCpS)

3. Explaining Tebow

Net Yards Per Snap helps to explain the Tebow phenomenon.  Most pundits considered Tebow a below average QB whose defense carried him to victories, mainly because Tebow completed a very low percentage of passes, and therefore he could not possibly be a valuable quarterback.  However, when you consider the number of Net Yards directly attributable to him per snap, suddenly Tebow emerges as an above average QB.  With his legs, his downfield passing, and his careful handling of the football, Tebow produced more Net Yards per Snap than big names like Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Phillip Rivers, and Jay Cutler, and many more than his predecessor in Denver, Kyle Orton.

4. Eli Manning moves ahead of Brady

When you consider only Net Yards per Snap, Eli Manning produced more value for the Giants than Tom Brady produced for the New England Patriots.  Manning is a very good Quarterback.  As a Packer fan, I can attest to that.  Another surprise finisher ahead of Brady was the maligned Chad Henne of the Miami Dolphins.  In fact, in limited work, Henne bested both Brady and Manning… something that I think would shock Dolphin fans.

5. Rams should not bank on Sam Bradford

The St Louis Rams have made it public that they will not select a Quarterback with their first round pick, opting instead to stay with Sam Bradford.  Why?  What has Bradford done to deserve this rythmn?  Nothing.  In his second season, he was the third worst full time Starting QB behind…

6. The Criticism of Sanchez well-deserved

New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez was the second least productive full time starting QB in the NFL last season.  He was awful.  Way too many turnovers, not enough yard sin the air, and too many sacks taken.  The Jets really need to upgrade that position.

7. Caleb Hanie the worst starting QB of all time?

Why did the Chicago Bears season crater after Jay Cutler went down?  Not because Cutler was anything great, it was because SOMEHOW backup QB Caleb Hanie managed post NEGATIVE net yardage during his stint. That is almost impossible to accomplish, yet Hanie was bad enough to do it.  The 1985 Bears could not have won a game with that stiff under center.

8. Flacco the Second Coming of Dilfer

If the Baltimore Ravens get to the Super Bowl in two weeks, it will not be because of the play of QB Joe Flacco.  Flacco is very unproductive, and in that sense he has carried on the Baltimore tradition borne after the City’s second arrival in the NFL.  The Ravens won a Super Bowl early in the decade when their defense proved good enough to overcome the mediocre production of the now legendarily bad Trent Dilfer.

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2 Responses to “Ranking NFL Quarterbacks by “Net Yards per Snap” helps explain Tim Tebow’s success and Mark Sanchez’s failure”

  1. Mac Says:

    Interesting perspective, but does this actually succeed in separating the value of a QB from that of his teammates?

    While Eli Manning might not get any extra credit for whatever Cruz, Nicks, and Manningham do after the catch, the fact remains that they are three big targets who consistently get themselves open. Conversely, guys like Bradford and Hanie played behind putrid offensive lines and had no real weapons to speak of down the field. Bradford on the Giants outperforms Bradford on the Rams, no?

    Also, running quarterbacks take less of a hit from the YAC subtraction and will take fewer and shorter sacks. This would be an artificial inflater of the numbers you select.

    The quality of playcalling and difference in offensive systems also seems unaccounted for. Carson Palmer threw enough heaves to Denarius Moore to rate decently on this thing, but he is playing the quarterback position better than Alex Smith. I am dubious…

    • tywill33 Says:

      No, but it is a move toward the separation of value.

      Let me give you an example of where it fails. Tom Brady, generally speaking, is a low “Yards per Snap” guy. However, his numbers went up when teamed with Randy Moss. Why? Well, Moss is what I call a “basketball” receiver. Like the old game where you throw the football into a crowd and the winner is the one who can outleap everyone and catch it (I can’t think of the name) Moss never got much “YAC”, but he would get way downfield in a hurry, and then if you threw the ball up to him, he could shield his man effectively and outfight him for the ball.

      Thus, with Moss, suddenly Brady could go down field with aplomb and his “Yard Credits” went up. But who was responsible for that? Brady, for getting the ball there? Or Moss for being a great “jump ball” receiver? Probably Moss, but my statistic credits Brady.

      So there’s an example of where it is flawed. But in general, I think it does a MUCH better job than the traditional passing stats.

      For more on that, read Brian Burke’s latest post on Air Yards at AdvancedNFLStats.com.

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