Quarterback ratings either tell the whole story or are complete garbage. It depends who you ask.
Some coaches—like Rex Ryan—love to bring them up and value it. While others who cover the game, like Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith, make excellent observations that one specific rating—ESPN's Total QBR—just might be the biggest head scratcher of them all.
ESPN should be transparent about how QBR is calculated. I want to understand why Fitzpatrick is ahead of Brady pic.twitter.com/YYZidQs4Kb— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) November 10, 2015
Smith, of course, is referring to Jets journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has led the Jets to a 5-3 record and is considered analytically to be a better signal caller this season than Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, signal caller for the 8-0 Patriots and the leading candidate for NFL MVP.
ESPN offers up an explanation of the stat that's pretty detailed and fairly lengthy. Here's how they summarize it:
The Total Quarterback Rating is a statistical measure that incorporates the contexts and details of those throws and what they mean for wins. It's built from the team level down to the quarterback, where we understand first what each play means to the team, then give credit to the quarterback for what happened on that play based on what he contributed.
The final paragraph seems to explain everything and nothing:
It is very detailed, accounting for a lot of different situations, but it is not particularly complex. It really does try to see the game the way we have gotten used to seeing it in its elegant simplicity. We hope you, the fan, appreciate it, as well.
Yes, there are nuances to how teams win games. Sure, football can be complex and incredibly simple at the same time. But if fans see Brady dominating as always and another MVP candidate like Cam Newton, ranked 24th in QBR, trails Tyrod Taylor (6), Brian Hoyer (9), Kirk Cousins (20), Josh McCown (22), and Ryan Mallett (23)— who's not even in the league anymore—why should they take Total QBR seriously? And how can they actually appreciate it?
As we all know, despite is inherent flaws and the arbitrary nature of its weighting system, ESPN will continue to use Total QBR. The Worldwide Leader's endless supply of talking heads will never stop referring to it just as the savvy NFL fans will never stop rolling our eyes each time we see it on the screen. Or have to endure Trent Dilfer screaming about someone's "arm talent."
Call it fuzzy math, call it trash, call it whatever you want, just don't call ESPN's Total QBR authoritative. I'm also not saying that ESPN does, but I am saying ESPN shouldn't keep rolling out stats that many consider dubious at best.
And just so we're being completely fair here, the NFL's passer rating isn't exactly perfect science, either. But at least it has Brady, Andy Dalton and Carson Palmer in its top five with—wait for it— Kellen Clemens and Matt Moore ahead of them.
On second thought, maybe they're all trash.
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