QB Grades Explained

2017 Amendments:

As is the case with any project/experiment, the experimenter learns over the course of the project. In 2017, I am removing throwaways from the grade (won’t be counted as a drop back) so long as the quarterback made the correct decision and there wasn’t anybody open downfield. He will still receiver a score of 1 if he evades pressure and the throwaway is in lieu of a sack, and will received a -1 score if he misses an open receiver that could’ve reasonably targeted.

Shovel passes are also being removed from the drop back count.

A greater emphasis will be placed on situations. I did change my evaluation for garbage time scoring, but I will pay closer attention to third downs, red-zone and missed big play opportunities (Cam Newton’s missed TD throw against the 49ers will be a -3 because it should’ve been a touchdown.)

I am implementing more concrete scoring rules this year:

3 points = Must be 20+ air yards. Must elude some form of pressure, unless the ball is perfectly located for a massive play in tight coverage.

2 points = must be 10 air yards or more with location and pressure escaping coming into play.

From 2016:

The purpose of this project is to eliminate all surrounding factors such as scheme, receiver and offensive line impact and anything that is out of the quarterback’s control. Admittedly, this can’t be done on every snap as this is the ultimate team game. Jump balls, back shoulder fades, go routes, miscommunications, free pass rushers, sometimes there are events that the quarterback has little control over. In such instances, I did my best to make an objective evaluation of how the quarterback handled the pressure or where the ball was located.

The way we view quarterbacks has become too dependent on reputation, narratives and the inability to separate the mainstream headlines from what the coaches are evaluating on film. For instance, Sam Bradford will forever have the reputation of a middle of the road, at best, quarterback. Eli Manning and Joe Flacco are still leaching off post-season success from a half-decade ago. Rather than relying on antiquated views, I put the 2016 season under a microscope and gave every player a clean slate and based the grades purely on recent performance.

These are the main criteria points used in this evaluation:

Timing: Was the QB on time with his decision making and throws?
Ball Placement: Did the QB afford his receiver an opportunity to turn an average gain into a big one? Did he throw around the coverage? If the receiver reached back and made a one handed catch, he’s not going to be credited with a positive play.
Pocket Movement: Did the quarterback manage the pocket to mitigate poor protection?
Going Off-Script: It doesn’t always go right in the NFL. In those instances, does the QB thrive, or fold into a doomed result?
Taking Advantage of Open Targets: Electing to dump it off when the original read was there will go against the quarterback.

Keep in mind that throw aways can be positive points just as scrambles can be negative plays. Tom Brady against Cincinnati is a perfect example. On the second drive, he scrambles around and has a great opportunity to find Edelman in the end-zone and eschews the throw and runs for two yards. I gave him a -1 for this play because he could’ve taken a shot with minimal consequences. Then, the next play, he escapes immense pressure, no receiver ever uncovered and he was able to throw it away. I gave him 1 point for that play because he kept the Pats out of a negative play.

If the pocket is clean or a receiver is all alone, the quarterback will most likely get a 1 for any type of completion. This project is to measure how well the quarterback’s deal with making plays beyond the routine. The routine plays are important, and that’s why they get docked for missing them, but the majority of their positive plays will be scored a 1.

A player’s lack of traits will absolutely be held against them. For instance, there are cases with Brady where his lack of athleticism leaves play on the field. Obviously, the Pats don’t roster him for his ability to shake defenders, but this is looking at every quarterback in a vacuum and in their entirety.

Where PFF gets it wrong, beside charging thousands of dollars for access to their information, is the mysterious unknown grading scale. Here, I will tell you exactly what I look for. And since I’m the only one compiling the work, the curve is always the same.

Remember, end result is NOT what I’m looking at here. No notes are made on a player before the third game played. This is NOT a results based grading system. An 80 yard touchdown pass that came on a quick hitter is not more impressive than driving an ordinary deep-out route over a linebacker and under the safety.

Usage % = Number of drop-backs divided by team snaps.

Execution % = Positive plays divided by drop-backs.

Mistake % = Negative plays divided by drop-backs

3 points: The QB made a play that isn’t common in the league. He put together all the traits listed above to make a positive play for his team. These plays happen maybe a couple of times from the best QBs in a given game.

2 points: The QB does multiple things that stand out in order to give his team a positive play. Drops a dime from the pocket, escape the rush and turns a sure sack into a positive gain with his legs, etc.

1 point: Positive plays with minimal exceptional effort needed. The QB hit his drop, was on time and accurate with the ball on a short/intermediate route. Did what he was asked.

0 points: The QB did nothing spectacular, nothing horrendous and the result had a minimal impact on the game.

-1 points: The QB was asked to execute something simple within the confines of the scheme and he let his team down. A missed throw, missed a read, just stood there and took a sack. Not a great impact on the game, but still a negative outcome.

-2 points: The QB goes out of his way to put his team in a bad spot. Misses a wide open receiver, works himself into a sack, turns it over when the pressure wasn’t immense, etc.

-3 points: Basically Jared Goff and Brock Osweilier’s entire 2016 season. The quarterback throws it directly to a defender, misses an open target, hangs onto the ball and takes a strip sack, etc.

As I went along, some things stood out:

  • I really started to notice that ball-placement and attacking open routes when ample time to throw became the two staples. That, and escaping pressure when it was possible.
  • A lot of QBs were able to compile points in the screen game or in garbage time, but over the course of the entire season, that was not a sustainable method to grading highly.
  • Garbage time grading is difficult. Down by multiple scores late in the game made the grading curve more difficult. If there is an opportunity to attack down the field and the QB checks it down for a short gainer, no points were awarded.
  • If you’re going to screen and chip them to death, it better be perfect or I’m not giving you the 1. If the ball is located off the receiver’s body, no points would be awarded. The Steelers were a prime example of this type of offense consistently swinging the ball out to Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, Eli Rogers, anyone really.

By The Numbers:

60+ = Brady, Ryan, Rodgers
55-59 = Luck, Tannehill, Brees, Prescott, Bradford
50-54 = Smith, Carr, Wilson, Stafford, Cousins,
45-49 = Newton, Mariota, Winston, Rivers, Palmer, Roethlisberger,
40-44 = Taylor, Dalton, Wentz, Kessler, Flacco
35-39 = Manning, Bortles
30-34 = (Empty)
20-30 = Siemian, Osweiler
<20… = Goff

Read the full report:

Tom Brady: Death by 1,000 Papercuts
Ryan Tannehill: Silent Assassin
Tyrod Taylor: Frantic, Erratic and Imperceptive

Ben Roethlisberger: Scheme and Scorecard Diversity
Joe Flacco: The Gun-Shy Gunslinger
Andy Dalton: The Master of His Own Demise
Cody Kessler: In and Out

Andrew Luck: Surgical Monotony
Brock Osweiler: Going Out of Business Sale
Blake Bortles: The Ugly Duckling Delivery
Marcus Mariota: Boom or Bust

Phillip Rivers: Good ‘Till The Last Drop
Derek Carr: Conductor of the Aerial Symphony
Trevor Siemian: Late And Behind
Alex Smith: Everyone’s Favorite (Yet Unwarranted) Scapegoat

Eli Manning: Have You Considered a Career in Coaching?
Carson Wentz: Pennsylvania Popgun
Dak Prescott: Calm, Collected Composure
Kirk Cousins: Conservative Execution

Matt Stafford: The Multi-Faceted Contortionist
Aaron Rodgers: Welcome to the Improv
Sam Bradford: Dangerous Yet Diminished

Matt Ryan: Details Over Dynamics
Cam Newton: The Transcendent Trigger-Man
Jameis Winston: The Unorthodox Magician
Drew Brees: Deception and Dominance

Russell Wilson: Business As Usual
Carson Palmer: The Prototype Under Siege
Jared Goff: Oh Boy – What Were They Thinking?