Aaron Rodgers 2011 season to date put in some historical perspective

Aaron Rodgers is having an incredible season.  He leads the NFL in Quarterback Efficiency Rating (What is QBER?) with a huge QBER of 26.77.  The second best QBER belongs to Drew Brees at 21.47.  The NFL average QBER is 13.00. 

How does Rodgers season measure in historical terms?  Can we call it the greatest season any passer has ever had? 

No.  If you adjust for average, he’s got a ways to go before we can do that. 

I randomly sampled what I believe to be some of the best QB seasons of all time, and then compared them to the average QBER of the particular season to see how much each exceeded average.  The three I picked out all surpassed Rodgers 2011 season.

QB Year QBER NFL %>
Staubach 1971 17.92 6.26 186.2
Baugh  1945 13.45 5.25 156.2
Young 1994 22.61 9.19 146.1
Rodgers  2011 26.77 13.01 105.9

As you can see, Aaron Rodgers 2011 QBER does not exceed the 2011 NFL average by as great a percentage as the other sampled QB’s exceeded the standing average in the particular seasons I examined.  Roger Staubach’s 1971 season was the best season among the four, and that season would be hard for any quarterback to ever top.  For a 2011 QB to match Staubach’s brilliant 1971 season (in which he somehow split time with Craig Morton), he would need to post a QBER of 37.22. 

To explain how difficult that would be to pull off, take a look at Aaron Rodgers performance yesterday.  Yesterday Aaron Rodgers played a brilliant game. In that game, Rodgers posted a QBER of 31.51, which would not be good enough.  Sure, if you take out the spike of the ball and the drop by Randall Cobb out of the equation, he probably would have been closer to the necessary 37.22, but nevertheless it illustrates just how tough it would be to play 186% above the NFL average in 2011 as Staubach did in 1971.

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4 Responses to “Aaron Rodgers 2011 season to date put in some historical perspective”

  1. Nick Backas Says:

    If taking the percentage of league average skews towards players who played earlier, then isn’t it a poor metric to use to compare players of different eras?

    • tywill33 Says:

      There’s two ways to go about adjusting the numbers. You can do it as I did it, by percentage difference, or you can compare the players by the absolute difference in yards between their performance and the NFL average for the particular season.

      The reason I did it by percentage difference rather than absolute difference is because my gut tells me that a lower overall QBER in a particular season suggests that passing yards were harder to come by in that season.

      For instance, Staubach averaged 11+ yards more than the average QBER in 1971, whereas Rodgers is averaging 13 yards more than the NFL average this season. But, to me, since the average QBER in 1971 was less than half what it is this season, Staubach’s 11 extra yards must have been much harder to get than Rodgers extra 13 yards.

      I think my intution is right on that point. The point I was trying to make is that because Quarterbacks of today are so efficient on average, a QB who wished to outperform his colleagues to the extent that Staubach outperformed his colleagues in 1971 would have to play at a near perfect level.

  2. Jason Shafrin Says:

    You are right that Aaron Rodgers would not be the best all time in terms of percentage difference, but measured as the raw difference between his QBER and the league average Rodgers would be the best. Rodgers: +13.76; Young +13.42; Staubach +11.66; Baugh +8.2.

    • tywill33 Says:

      Jason,

      You’re exactly right. Some would argue that its better to do it by absolute numbers, too.

      As I explained in the reply above, I don’t quite agree. I don’t think that would be an apples to apples comparison, because I think that a higher QBER average in a particular season suggests that a yard is easier to come by in that season..

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