Ranking NFL QBs by “Yards per Wasted Play”

I’ve always believed Brett Favre was a bit overrated.  It seemed to me that for all his “gunslinging” he wasn’t delivering the Green Bay Packers enough forward yardage.  In other words, there was no payoff.

Furthermore I theorized that Aaron Rodgers has been a better quarterback for the Packers than Favre ever was.

To test my theory I developed a performance rating statistic I call “Yards per Wasted Play”.  Its based solely on my belief that plays that go nowhere tend to kill drives, and quarterbacks who can avoid such plays, or who produce the most forward yards for every one of those plays, are the best quarterbacks.  

Here is the formula f0r YdsWP:  Passing Yards + Scrambling Yards – Yards lost on sacks – (70 * Interceptions) / Incomplete passes + Sacks.

As you notice, I am completely indifferent to touchdowns.  I consider them the football equivalent of baseball’s “runs batted in” or “batting average with runners in scoring position”.  What I am saying is touchdowns are largely circumstantial.  There is no special skill required to produce touchdowns independent of the skill required to produce forward yardage.  If a quarterback produces enough forward yards, he will tend to also produce touchdowns.

The same is not true for interceptions.  Interceptions are not an inevitability, they are normally the product of poor decision making or throw inaccuracy.  They are very costly to the quarterback’s team.  Brian Burke of AdvancedNFLStats believes that each interception is worth a negative 70 yards, and that’s the yardage penalty I use for each interception in my metric.

Finally, you notice I include sacks in the equation.  Yes, sacks are often a product of a poor offensive line.  But I also believe quarterbacks will consciously trade sacks for incompletions or turnovers, so I felt they must be counted. 

Ranking by YdsWP

Below I rank every NFL quarterback who attempted at least 50 passes last season.  There are 47 of those in all. 

The average amongst them is 10.12 yards per wasted play, and it has been at that level for the last several seasons (I randomly went back in time to 1958 and found the average that year was a paltry 3.12 YdsWP) . 

You will notice that the best quarterback by YdsWP standard is Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints.  He had an incredibly effective season dropping back to pass. He produced twice as many yards per wasted play as any other qualified quarterback in the NFL.

You will also notice that Brett Favre of the Minnesota Vikings slightly bested Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.  This is not a typical result.  During his days in Green Bay, Favre’s YdsWP was only slightly above average (10.62), while Aaron Rodgers career YdsWP so far have been well above average (14.30).  My feeling is that Favre benefitted greatly from Minnesota’s talented offensive personnel.  In very limited duty, the mediocre Tavaris Jackson produced 27.21 YdsWP using the same infrastructure.  But give Favre his due, he did have to deliver the ball on target and avoid his usual brain cramps.

The worst quarterback in the NFL last season by YdsWP was Derek Anderson of Cleveland who was utterly brutal (1.08).  He was followed closely by the troubled ex-Raider quarterback JaMarcus Russell (2.23). 

The biggest difference between two quarterbacks performing for the same team was found in Carolina where the quickly fading Jake Delhomme posted an awful (3.78) while his surprising replacement Matt Moore posted an above average (13.42). 

The Kansas City Chiefs may wonder if all the resources they spent on Matt Cassell (6.63) were worth it considering the numbers posted by his backup Brody Croyle (10.60).

Da Bears didn’t get much bang for their buck out of newly acquired QB Jay Cutler (7.14).  He was well below his career average (12.87).  Kyle Orton, the QB the Denver Broncos received in trade for Cutler almost produced Cutler’s numbers (12.28).

Finally, it was no surprise that the Tennessee Titans began winning games when Vince Young (14.08) took over for the struggling Kerry Collins.  Young was a top 10 quarterback last season.  And its too early to tell, but the “Sanchise” of the New York Jets may not be all that (Mark Sanchez — 7.81).

Here are the rankings:

1. Drew Brees, NO…(20.54)
2. Philip Rivers, SD…(18.08)
3. Peyton Manning, Ind…(17.52)
4. Brett Favre, Minn…(17.18)
5. Matt Schaub, Hous…(17.11)
6. Aaron Rodgers, GB…(16.41)
6. Tom Brady, NE…(16.41)
8. Tony Romo, Dall…(15.87)
9. Ben Roethlisberger, Pitt…(14.71)
10. Vince Young, Tenn…(14.08)
11. Kevin Kolb, Phi…(13.59)
12. Matt Moore, Car…(13.42)
13. Kurt Warner, Arz…(13.19)
14. Eli Manning, NYG…(13.02)
15. Donovan McNabb, Phi…(12.94)
16. Kyle Orton, Denv…(12.28)
17. David Gerrard, Jacks…(12.23)
18. Joe Flacco, Balt…(11.87)
19. Jason Campbell, Wash…(11.29)
20. Brody Croyle, KC…(10.60)
21. Bruce Gradkowski, Oak…(10.55) 
22. Seneca Wallace, Sea…(10.43)
23. Carson Palmer, Cinn…(9.83)
24. Chris Redman, Atl…(9.32)
25. Matt Ryan, Atl…(9.13)
26. Chad Henne, Mia…(8.64)
27. Alex Smith, SF…(8.40)
28. Matt Bulger, STL…(8.15)
29. Kellon Clemens, NYJ…(8.07)
30. Mark Sanchez, NYJ…(7.91)
31. Matt Hasselbeck, Sea…(7.70)
32. Matt Leinart, Arz…(7.39)
33. Jay Cutler, Chi…(7.14)
34. Trent Edwards, Buff…(6.73)
35. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buff…(6.66)
36. Matt Cassell, KC…(6.63)
37. Byron Leftwich, TB…(6.49)
38. Shaun Hill, SF…(6.46)
39. Kerry Collins, Tenn…(6.31)
40. Daunte Culpepper, Det…(6.20)
41. Brady Quinn, Clev…(6.19)
42. Kyle Boller, STL…(4.61)
43. Josh Freeman, TB…(4.31)
44. Matthew Stafford, Det…(4.03)
45. Jake Delhomme, Caro…(3.78)
46. JaMarcus Russell, Oak…(2.03)
47. Derek Anderson, Clev…(1.08)

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