By Shaun Church
Cold, Hard Football Facts Desert Fox (@church_NFL)
The Cold, Hard Football Facts have brought you Real Quarterback Rating each week since the 2011 season, and it has been a resounding success from the get-go.
Teams that won either the QBR or Defensive Real Quarterback Rating battle each week (Real QB Rating Differential, in other words) went a staggering 227-39 (85.3%) last year, including playoffs.
The indicator explains why teams win and lose games each week of the season. It also shows how truly dominant Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens were in their Super Bowl-winning postseason run, despite a rather lackluster performance in the regular season.
The Ravens produced a phenomenal +42.05 Real QB Rating Differential in the 2012 postseason, outpacing every other playoff team.
Teams won at least 10 games each week of the regular season, and three weeks included undefeated records — Week 15, wild card weekend and conference championship weekend, going a combined 22-0.
The stat has had the highest Correlation to Victory in both seasons since its inception, and there is no reason to believe it won’t continue to do just that. In short: it is the best way to determine the success — or failure — of a team.
If you’re a newbie to CHFF or you are fuzzy on QBR’s meaning, read this piece. It goes into great detail to explain what QBR is and why it is a great measure of a team’s success or failure.
Here is an excerpt from the piece, written October 7, 2011:
Great teams throughout history ALWAYS have some combination of high passer rating on offense, low passer rating on defense (i.e., a very good Defensive Passer Rating) and, in most cases, a very great combination of both, as measured by Passer Rating Differential.
But we wanted to find a way to measure all aspects of QB play, from running the ball to suffering sacks, to total turnovers, including fumbles. After all, some QBs are better or worse than others in each of these indicators. And, at the end of the day, TD runs, sacks and fumbles impact a game as much as any other big play. Yet nobody is measuring the impact of these plays, and how they impact a QB and a team’s performance, in a single number.
So late last season  we began toying with a formula that would measure all aspects of quarterbacking and — in CHFF tradition — find the easiest-to-understand way to express that performance.
The result of said toying is Real Quarterback Rating and Defensive Real Quarterback Rating.
We also forecasted the future formation of another stat — the combining of QBR and DQBR to result in Real Quarterback Rating Differential.
It is ready to be unveiled for the 2013 season and, like the gangster I am, I have been chosen to show it to you in action. Thus, we are here discussing the 2012 season.
I went back and looked at QBR and DQBR for last year’s regular season and put the numbers into a chart, which you see below. What I found was that, as good an indicator of success as QBR is, QBR Differential is an even better gauge.
The numbers in parenthesis from left to right are offensive rank, defensive rank and combined winning percentage.
Note that nine of the top 10 teams in QBR Differential made the playoffs last year. The Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, as you see, finished No. 12 at a plus-5.60 differential.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Arizona Cardinals (No. 2 in DQBR) were so bad at quarterback (No. 32) it did not matter how good the defense was. They lost games solely because of quarterback play instead of winning games because of it.
There were two anomalies from 2012, the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson nearly set the single-season rushing record, and they rode his shoulder pads to the playoffs. The Colts, on the other hand, used the NFL’s coach of the year — now-Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians — and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck’s league-leading seven game-winning drives to propel them to the playoffs.
What’s striking are the combined records. The top 10 in QBR produced an overall record of 103-56-1 last season while the top 10 in DQBR were 104-55-1. As if that isn’t good enough, those top 10 teams in QBR Differential soared to an amazing 111-48-1 record.
Those in the middle, ranked 11 to 22, hovered around .500, while the bottom 10 teams were putrid. This was the case for all three measures of QBR.
So what does that mean for NFL teams? It’s simple, really. Those who can defend the pass and contain the opposing quarterback, while on offense having a successful quarterback, win the most games.
The charts to the right show last year’s playoff quarterbacks and how they performed in the regular season (top), and then in the playoffs (bottom). They are ranked in order of highest to lowest QBR.
Notice Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, the Super Bowl XLVII MVP, way down the list in the regular season. Based on his numbers, one would expect the Ravens might not have fared so well in the postseason.
But Flacco kicked it up a notch (BAM!) in the playoffs and led everyone with a 108.30 playoff QBR.
He was responsible for one turnover the entire month of playoff games while becoming just the second quarterback in the Super Bowl era to throw 10-plus touchdowns while not throwing a single interception (Joe Montana, 1989, per ProFootballReference).
While Flacco enjoyed one of the best postseasons in NFL history, he was not the exclusive reason for bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to Baltimore.
The defense stifled all four quarterbacks it faced, allowing a combined 66.25 DQBR. That was Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick in succession, respectively.
Put together to create the QBR Differential, and you get a +42.05 differential.
Now it’s clear just why the Ravens walked away Super Bowl champions.