Cam Newton’s Brilliant Passing Debut measured by “Air Yards” per attempt

Based on Air Yards per Attempt (“AYpA”), Cam Newton’s debut performance as an NFL passer was even more impressive than I first thought, and I first thought it was pretty damn good.

AYpA is a statistic created by Brian Burke of AdvancedNFLStats. Its based on his concept of “Air Yards”.  Air Yards, as Burke imagined them, are the yards the football travels from the thrower to the catcher.  Those yards, he surmised, could be credited mainly to the efforts of the Quarterback (though the receiver obviously must secure the reception).  

AYpA, then, is Burke’s Air Yards idea expanded to evaluate the effectiveness of a Quarterback’s passing performances by measuring simply the number of forward yards the Quarterback himself produced for his team for every time he attempted a pass.  It ignores any yards that may have been produced by the Quarterback’s receivers after the catch was made, on the grounds that those yards are produced independent of any effort of the thrower. 

Thus, AYpA is simply the standard NFL passing measurement known as “Yards per Attempt” but it is “(Yards – YAC) per Attempt”.

Some Less Impressive, Some More Impressive

By AYpA measurement, the performance of this week’s NFL QBER leader, Detroit’s Drew Stafford, suddenly looks decidedly less impressive.  Stafford’s big efficiency yards were buttressed by a lot of YAC, especially yards created after the catch by his running backs — the cheapest yards a quarterback can accumulate (its generally a long handoff).  The same holds true for Chicago’s Jay Cutler.  His above average QBER was also padded with YAC. 

On the other hand, rookie Cam Newton’s performance, which was impressive by QBER, looks sensational by AYpA.  The greenhorn easily led the League in AYpA, almost doubling the league average.  Meaning, he was not throwing cheap little out patterns, he was pushing the ball down field and earning his passing yards with his arm.

Two other surprise AYpA performances were the performances turned in by Washington’s Rex Grossman and New York’s Eli Manning.  Grossman did well efficiency wise, but he was the second best AYpA passer in the NFL last week.  Manning, on the other hand, did poorly efficiency wise, but was above average in terms of AYpA.  Perhaps it is his supporting cast.

Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb and Matt Cassell continued to look horrifyingly bad.  McNabb actually produced negative air yards per pass attempt, a difficult feat to accomplish, and Cassell could not even produce one air yard per attempt.

Newton 7.46
Grossman 6.12
Brady 5.81
Schaub 5.62
Emanning 5.46
Rodgers 5.32
Fitzpatrick 5.24
Kolb 4.85
Brees  4.83
Romo 4.66
Henne 4.45
Sanchez 4.32
Cutler 3.84
Vick 3.75
Stafford 3.71
Asmith 3.69
Rthlisberger 3.49
Freeman 3.39
Collins 3.35
Flacco 3.31
McOwn 3.21
Orton 3.21
Ryan 3.12
Hsslbeck 2.94
Bradford 2.76
Dalton 2.73
Jackson 2.67
McCoy 2.35
Campbell 1.09
Cassell 0.86
McNabb -0.86

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