Editor’s Note: This ratings system should be identified solely as “The Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR)” – it intentionally excludes ESPN branding. Media are welcome and encouraged to use it, identified as above.
ESPN Stats & Information Group Develops Groundbreaking New Method for Evaluating NFL QBs Part of Year of the Quarterback Initiative
ESPN Stats & Information Group has created The Total Quarterback Rating (Total QBR), a groundbreaking new statistical approach to evaluating the NFL quarterback position. Total QBR measures all of the significant contributions by a quarterback during the course of a game and accounts for precisely how much he impacts his team’s performance and chances of winning.
The new rating will be formally introduced during an hour-long ESPN Year of the Quarterback SportsCenter Special: The Total Quarterback Rating on Friday, Aug. 5 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). The measurement will be featured throughout ESPN’s comprehensive NFL coverage on Monday Night Football, NFL studio shows, and across other multimedia platforms.
The new metric was devised by the Production Analytics unit of Senior Director Jeff Bennett, Director Dean Oliver, and Analytics Specialists Alok Pattani and Albert Larcada, with the help of Menlo College professor Ben Alamar. Oliver joined ESPN this year from the Denver Nuggets where he was an analytics pioneer in basketball. Alamar currently does statistical analysis for the Oklahoma City Thunder and has consulted with the San Francisco 49ers.
The group also worked closely with a number of ESPN analysts, including Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, Super Bowl champion head coach Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski, to understand the mindset and the demands placed upon the modern NFL quarterback.
“The Total Quarterback Rating is designed to be a single comprehensive stat that demonstrates effective quarterback play, and we’re excited to introduce it to fans on ESPN this season,” said Bennett. “The position is played so differently now than when the NFL Passer Rating was adopted in 1973. We created QBR to account for all the important categories as well as the game situations in which plays are made to help tell the entire story about a quarterback’s performance. If you want one stat that measures the totality of a quarterback’s performance, it’s QBR.”
Total QBR is based on all of a quarterback’s plays (rushing, passing, sacks, fumbles, interceptions, penalties, etc.), and it calculates the per-play net impact of the quarterback on the ability to score. Each play is weighted by the situation (i.e., down and distance, field position, time during the game) and its importance to the game’s outcome. For example, a completed five-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 would increase a quarterback’s QBR more than a five-yard completion on 3rd-and-15 because the former continues the drive and thus improves the team’s chance of scoring. Also, plays in closely contested games carry a greater value than plays in less competitive situations.
Division of credit is another important Total QBR principle because it assigns a percentage to how much credit a quarterback should get for a positive play – or blame for a negative play. With Dilfer’s input, the group identified other key data to incorporate into the formula, including how far a pass travels in the air, where the ball was thrown on the field, the yards after catch, and whether the quarterback was facing defensive pressure, among other factors.
QBR is based on analysis of 60,000 plays over the past three years. Using the data from the plays, values have been identified for assigning credit or blame for every play involving the quarterback. The overall system measures a quarterback’s performance using a 100-point system, compared to the existing NFL Passer Rating which has a perfect score of 158.3. A rating in the high 90s is exceptional, while a season-long 65-plus rating is Pro Bowl caliber. A season rating of 50 is considered average.
MNF’s Tirico, Gruden and Jaworski to host Year of the Quarterback SportsCenter Special
Monday Night Football commentators Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Ron Jaworski will host the Year of the Quarterback SportsCenter Special: The Total Quarterback Rating presented by Degree Men on Friday, Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. on ESPN. The one-hour program will formally unveil the new rating. The program will also include insight from current NFL quarterbacks Matt Cassel, Joe Flacco, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan, Tim Tebow and Michael Vick.
Other show highlights include: a look at how both the quarterback position and football have changed since the NFL Passer Rating was adopted in 1973; a closer examination by ESPN’s Trent Dilfer of how QBR was developed; a QBR vs. NFL Passer Rating comparison; a Sport Science feature breaking down the new rating system; a look at the top five NFL quarterbacks from the past three seasons based on QBR; a discussion on the new quarterback rating system and whether it can be applied to college football quarterbacks or similar analysis of other NFL positions; and an examination of the new rating by Matthew Berry from a Fantasy Football perspective.
Joan Lynch, vice president of ESPN Content Development, who oversees ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback, added: “We have examined so many facets of the quarterback position through documentaries, specials and other unique projects this year, and Total QBR is a perfect addition to that mix. With input from former quarterbacks and coaches, our ESPN statistical experts have put together a new comprehensive rating that is the most complete way to analyze a quarterback’s performance, and one that will stand as the legacy of our Year of the Quarterback initiative.”
ESPN NFL experts on The Total Quarterback Rating…
NFL analyst and Super Bowl winning quarterback Trent Dilfer:
“Forever we’ve lacked a quantitative way of explaining winning or losing quarterback play. The old passer efficiency rating had nothing to do with winning or losing because it gave every down an equal weight and it credited the quarterback for something that was more influenced by the receiver or offensive line, or punished the quarterback for something he had no say in. By filtering it down to critical downs and weighing the importance of each down, the really smart people in ESPN Stats & Information have come up with a number that will best describe how much the quarterback contributed to winning or losing a football game. This is a total game-changer. Ten years from now, this will be the rating that personnel people will refer to when talking about quarterbacking.”
MNF analyst and Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden:
“QBR takes more into consideration than the passer rating we all grew up with because it goes beyond just completions, touchdowns and interceptions. When you look at a pitcher’s ERA in baseball, you understand how he performs over the course of nine innings. This new quarterback rating is similar to that. It’s like a QPA, or a Quarterback Production Average, because it takes everything into account.”
NFL analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski, who played the position for 17 NFL seasons:
“These guys have done a remarkable job of quantifying the things that are important to playing quarterback by creating this new rating system that will bring in all the skills of the position to provide a true evaluation. The present quarterback system is antiquated and needed to be revised to really reflect all the components that make up quarterback play, so it’s exciting.”