Forget Passing Yards, NFL Needs New Stat to Measure Quarterbacks
Gregg Rosenthal of ProFootballTalk.com had a short post the other day arguing that passing yards have become the most overrated stat in the NFL.
Rosenthal is 100 percent correct.
After three weeks of play, there have been 33 300-yard passing games, by far the highest total through three weeks since 2009 (21).
I’ve Tweeted on a couple different occasions that every QB in the NFL might throw for more than 4,000 yards in 2011. My tongue was planted in cheek during those Tweets, but maybe it’s not that ridiculous of a statement after all. Every team in the league, with few exceptions, tries to throw the ball all over the field, even if their quarterback isn’t that good. And why not? You can’t touch a receiver past five yards and refs are always looking for a reason to call roughing the passer.
(Side note: How about the TEs in today’s NFL? You used to play DE or OLB if you were big, strong, tall and fast. Now you learn how to catch and play TE.)
Passing numbers are so inflated that you can no longer just look at a box score to determine if a quarterback had a good game. Even with Moneyball now a mainstream movie starring Brad Pitt, and the stats movement becoming more and more prevalent every day, it’s getting increasingly difficult to judge QBs on their passing numbers, specifically passing yards.
Nope, relying too heavily on stats to judge modern QBs isn’t going to cut it. You have to rely on what you see with your own eyes, then go to the stats to fill in the gaps.
For example, lets look at the Packers Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has excellent numbers this season: 917 yards, 8 TDs, 1 INT and a 120.9 rating. If you just looked at Rodgers’ numbers, you would assume he’s having a good season, and you would be correct.
But what if you just looked at passing yards? Rodgers is ninth in the NFL in passing yards, behind guys like Matt Hasselbeck (932), Tony Romo (942) and Cam Newton (1,012). I hope in this day and age that most fans are savvy enough to look at more than just passing yards, but you know that there are still a lot of people that look at passing yards and make quick judgements.
Instead of focusing on passing yards, the NFL needs to create a new stat called PCTHNBBC: Passes Completed That Had No Business Being Completed. These are passes where a QB throws to a receiver that appears to be covered, but the pass is so perfect, it results in a completion. We would also create separate PCTHNBBC categories for third down and crunch time late in games. (I realize the name of this new stat would never work. Don’t worry, we can come up with better title and catchier acronym later.)
Here’s an example of a throw from Rodgers against the Saints that would count as a PCTHNBBC:
There’s no way most QBs complete that pass because Greg Jennings was covered about as well as he could be covered. It didn’t matter because Rodgers is just that good and made the throw anyway.
Ben Roethlisberger’s TD pass to Santonio Holmes that won Super Bowl XLIII also qualifies as a PCTHNBBC.
Are you kidding me? Lobbing a pass over three defenders to a WR inches from going out of bounds to win the Super Bowl? Amazing. There needs to be a better way to capture just how awesome this throw was in the box score.
Anyway, I think you get my point. We can’t rely too heavily on stats — especially passing yards — to judge modern-day QBs. When teams are passing 40 or more times per game and completing passes at least 60 percent of the time, numbers are going to be inflated. We need to use our eyes, or at least come up with different stats, to judge QBs.
A guy like Rodgers holds up to both the stats test and the eye test. I’m not sure that guys like Hasselbeck, Romo and Newton do.