By Shaun Church
CHFF Real Quarterback Rating Analyst (@church_NFL)
Here at Cold, Hard Football Facts, we like to shove statistics in your face to prove a point beyond a reasonable doubt.
We're about to do so again with our latest study of Real Quarterback Rating Differential, one of our new Quality Stats for 2013. Real Quarterback Rating measures all aspects of quarterback play, while traditional passer rating measures only passing performance.
Don’t be offended if you are among those who think statistics like Real Quarterback Rating are invalid because of their methodology.
Real Quarterback Rating has been criticized because of the way the statistic is gathered, depending largely on the misunderstood, underappreciated but deadly effective passer rating formula.
The critics should treat this as a learning experience. They should focus not on the methodology but instead focus on the results.
And the incredible results of Real QB Rating are indisputable.
The simple fact is that Real Quarterback Rating is the best indicator out there of team success other than final score, even better than Passer Rating Differential, the indicator we have long referred to as The Mother of All Stats.
You will see that incredible effectiness in action once again right here as we roll out Real Quarterback Rating Differential in 2013. That's the difference between a team’s Offensive Real QB Rating and its Defensive Real QB Rating to you football junkies.
Here is the back story on Real QB Rating and why it’s the new Mother of All Stats. Today we take a look at the Top 100 performances in Real QB Rating in 2012. The results were astonishing. Some key findings from this study:
- The top 100 performances in Real QB Rating Differential produced an almost ubelievable record of 99-1
- These top 100 performances produced an average score of 33-14
- The Packers, Falcons and Broncos each produced seven of the top 100 performances
- The Seahawks produced six of the top 100 performances and won by an average score of 38-12
- The Patriots also produced six of the top 100 performances and won by an average score of 45-15
And now to pound the results of Real QB Rating Differential up the middle from a yard out like Marcus Allen in his prime.
Real QB Rating Winners Are Scoreboard Winners
Of the top 100 Real QB Rating Differential performances of 2012, 45 came from just seven teams, all of which made the playoffs, and 60 of them came from 10 teams. Nine of those 10 teams made the playoffs, with seven of eight division winners among them.
The Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos all finished the season with seven games inside the top 100, and four more teams finished with six.
The New England Patriots are one of those four, and they averaged a monstrous 45 points per game while surrendering only 15 points per on the defensive side. The 30-point margin of victory in those games is the best out of 25 teams within the top 100.
Historically, teams that dominate Real QB Rating Differential in the regular season dominate in the playoffs, too. But the 2012 season was a rare exception. The Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens know that.
Doing just enough all season long to get to the playoffs, Joe Flacco and Co. finished No. 14 in Offensive Real Quarterback Rating (79.81) and No. 11 in Defensive Real Quarterback Rating (84.67).
That plus-5.60 Real QBR Differential was good enough for No. 12 in the NFL, and 10th among playoff teams.
But as we noted in June, Baltimore rode Real QBR Differential to the Super Bowl podium with a sick plus-42.05 rating. The defense clamped down, Flacco was historically good and no one could stop them from giving Ray Lewis one last playoff ride into the Hall of Fame.
Real QB Rating Losers are Scoreboard Losers
Whereas 25 teams were on the right end of the top 100 performances, 30 teams found themselves on the wrong end of it at some point during the 2012 season. The two franchises not on this list are the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, who combined for 13 of the top Real QBR Differential games.
Nine of the top 11 teams appearing most frequently on the list earned top 10 picks in the 2013 NFL draft; seven of the 12 playoff teams had either zero or one bad game.
Every one of those nine teams had one thing in common: piss-poor quarterback play. Most of them attempted to fix that issue this offseason by adding quarterbacks by way of the draft, free agency or trade.
Take the Arizona Cardinals, for example. They were incredible on defense in 2012, No. 2 in Defensive Real QB Rating at 64.53. Only the Chicago Bears (63.96) were better at containing QBs.
But when you look at the Red Birds’ Offensive Real QB Rating of 54.08—worst in the league ahead of the Kansas City Chiefs (56.73) and New York Jets (57.47), among others—and you get why they finished the season by losing 11 of their final 12 games after what now seems like a miraculous 4-0 start.
The Cardinals traded for 10-year veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, and already the former Heisman Trophy winner has proven to be an immense upgrade under center.
It remains to be seen whether he can hold up behind one of the worst offensive lines in football, but he has yet to be sacked through two preseason games in which he has seen about three quarters worth of snaps. It is just the preseason, yes, but even that is promising considering last year’s quarterback carnage in the desert.
That Lone Victory
It seems unfathomable that a statistic can be this good an indicator of success, but it is. Of the top 100 single-game Real QBR Differential performances last season, only one team pulled out a victory after losing the battle of QB effectiveness.
Good ol’ Cam Newton and the 8-8 Carolina Panthers pulled off this feat during the final game of the regular season, a 44-38 thriller in New Orleans against Drew Brees and the Saints.
Brees completed 29 of 43 (67.4%) passing for 396 yards, 9.2 YPA, 4 touchdowns and 1 pick. Newton was less than stellar, completing 16 of 33 (48.5%) for 248 yards, 7.5 YPA, 0 touchdowns and 1 pick.
The difference in the game?
Three 1-yard rushing touchdowns from Panthers running back Mike Tolbert (10 carries, 25 yards, 2.5 YPC, 3 TD) and two more from De Angelo Williams (21 carries, 210 yards, 10.0 YPC, 2 TD).
Though the New Orleans secondary held its ground and its front seven held Newton to just 34 yards rushing on seven carries (4.9 YPC), the defense could not contain Carolina’s running backs one bit.
The Panthers ended up the rare team that won a game when it post the QB battle.
NFC Reigns Supreme in Real QB Rating Differential
The NFC went 55-44 (.556) in these Top 100 games, while the AFC went just 45-56 (.446). But while overall record is important, we at CHFF never keep things that simple.
Digging deeper, we found that the NFC went 19-8 (.704) in head-to-head games with the AFC in the top 100, understandable with some of the best defenses residing in the National Football Conference, as well as some of the best quarterbacks.
Of the top 10 teams in Offensive Real QB Rating last season, just two of them—Denver and New England—reside in the AFC.
Just four AFC teams—Denver, Houston, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati—finished in the top 10 in Defensive Real QB Rating.
Other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the AFC does not have any truly dominant quarterbacks of which to speak.
Flacco may be on the cusp of greatness if he can replicate his 2012 playoff perforamnce in 2013. But even he is not likely to lead the NFL in yards, touchdowns or Real QB Rating.
Andrew Luck could have something to say about dominance in the near future. But despite leading the NFL while setting a rookie record with seven game-winning drives, he was not great in 2012—nor was his defense.
Winning games is what matters, which Luck’s Indianapolis Colts did against the statistical odds. Luck and the Colts finished No. 23 in Real Quarterback Rating and not have a single game in the top 100 performances.
They did show up three times on the losing end and were blown out by an average score of 45-17 in those three games. Indy’s minus-11.86 Real QBR Differential was poor enough for No. 25 last season. Even Arizona’s horror show at quarterback managed a minus-10.45 differential.
Meanwhile, the NFC has Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees who disfigure defenses weekly. They also have young, up-and-coming quarterbacks who are ready to dominate in Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III.
That trio of young quarterbacks helped their respective teams to the top 5 in Real QBR Differential a season ago.
Their dynamic play, together with their solid defenses, could give the rest of the NFL fits for years.