Donald Trump always says “Under promise, over deliver”. I think he’s right. It seems the power of expectations is great. After one start, formerly non-descript Green Bay Packers back-up QB Matt Flynn is suddenly being touted as the next Earl Morrall.
That’s fine. But I take exception when people go too far. A commenter on NFL.com claimed that Flynn’s performance last night against the New England Patriots “proved Aaron Rodgers is overrated” and that he is the product of the talent around him. I disagree.
Flynn did a nice job, don’t get me wrong. But let’s get serious. On an absolute scale, I think his performance was below average.
In grading quarterback performance, I use a measurement I call “Quarterback Efficiency Rating” or QBER. Its a loose derivative of David Berri’s QB Score (isn’t everything I do? I’m expecting his royalty demand soon)
QBER basically measures the number of forward yards a quarterback produces per “empty” play. In my lifetime of watching football, I have noticed empty plays (plays that gain no forward yardage) and negative plays (plays that lose yardage) kill scoring drives. My theory is that a quarterback who moves the ball forward the furthest without producing dead plays is the better quarterback.
Obviously, from my description you can tell QBER is purely a performance metric. In other words, it suffers from the same deficiencies as John Hollinger’s basketball metric PER, but like PER its informative, interesting, consistent, and it tends to produce results that Monday Morning Quarterbacks endorse. The QBER equation is: (Passing Yards + Rushing Yards – Yards lost on Sacks – 30 multiplied by the number of interceptions thrown / Incomplete Passes + Number of Sacks).
The NFL QBER average is 12.20, and it basically stays at that number year after year. So I think its reliable.
For the season, Packers starting QB Aaron Rodgers has a QBER of 18.69, an outstanding efficiency rating. For comparison, I will list some of the other top quarterbacks in the NFL. Tom Brady’s QBER after last night’s game is 18.94. Philip Rivers is 19.62. Michael Vick’s is 20.45. Peyton Manning’s is an uncharacteristically low 16.04. Brett Favre’s QBER in his final season will be a lowly 11.17. (Oh, and the recently benched Donovan McNabb was posting a 11.14, so he may have deserved his demotion).
Now you have some context from which to measure Matt Flynn’s performance last night against New England. Last night Flynn produced a QBER of 11.17, which is a below average rating, but was only slightly worse than the unusually low rating posted by his counterpart Tom Brady, who posted a 11.33.
The difference was that Flynn faced one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, while Brady faced one of the absolute best. The New England Patriots have allowed an opposition QBER of 14.22, way above the NFL average, while the Packers have allowed a QBER of just 8.70, one of the best marks in the league.
So, while Flynn’s performance was “surprising” and appreciated by Packer Nation, lets not start shredding ticker tape for the guy. He didn’t play that well. His rating was one you would expect from a lower echelon quarterback like Mark Sanchez (QBER: 10.68). Thus, last night proved Matt Flynn is a competent back-up quarterback. It certainly did not prove Aaron Rodgers is overrated.
Aaron Rodgers, at the same point in his career, and with about the same level of professional experience, and without the week of preparation Flynn had, was forced into duty against the Dallas Cowboys on November 29, 2007. That night he stepped in against a hostile Cowboy crowd and posted an outstanding QBER of 21.50 against a defense which allowed its opposition quarterbacks a QBER that season of just 9.57. That performance, more than any other event, led directly to the drama that pushed Brett Favre out the Green Bay door the following summer. Rodgers was sensational.
Flynn, on the other hand, played admirably last night. But lets not get crazy. Aaron Rodgers is the man in Green Bay and will be for as long as his senses and body hold up.