SPORTS CHART OF THE DAY: The Best Quarterbacks According to ESPN’s QBR

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Nobody likes “QB Rating” as a statistic. It is archaic and almost meaningless. And while most people that care about advanced NFL stats had already moved on to better measures of a quarterback’s performance, none of those stats had reached the mainstream. ESPN is attempting to fix that with their own metric, “Total Quarterback Rating” (QBR).

While the exact formula is proprietary and unavailable for scrutiny, we do know that QBR “looks at every facet of quarterback play, from passing and rushing to fumbling and taking sacks, and allocates credit or blame to QBs according to how each and every play they make contributes to their team’s success.”

That’s nice. And nobody is going to argue that QBR is not better than QB Rating. But there are some red flags with QBR.

First, there appears to be a lot of subjective matter in the formula. Is a first down pass in the fourth quarter more important than a first down pass in the first quarter that could lead to a touchdown and render the fourth quarter meaningless? QBR appears to think so.

And then there is the participation of Trent Dilfer and Ron Jaworski. Can we trust a measure of quarterbacks that was created in part by quarterbacks who might stand to have their reputations advanced by the new stat? It would seem there is at least some conflict of interest here.

To start the scrutiny, let’s start with the basics. Here is a look at the top 20 quarterbacks in 2010 according to QBR (on 1-100 scale, 50 is average) and where those QBs ranked using QB Rating (in parentheses).

The big winners are Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan, both of whom jump into the top three from outside the top 10. The big loser might be Phillip Rivers, who was second in QB Rating, but was only ranked as the ninth best QB in QBR.

So far, we like what we see, but will it hit the mainstream? We’ll have to wait, although it is interesting to note that the old stat is still receiving top billing on the ESPN NFL Stats page.

Top NFL Quarterbacks based on QBR

All data via