Notes from the QB Meter: The Greatness of Aaron Rodgers

You all know I love NFL Quarterback statistics. You might not know that I keep a “QB Meter” spreadsheet which I update every week. It started after Peyton Manning made the jump to Denver and the Indianapolis Star website stopped carrying their “Manning Meter” which tracked everything Manning, ranked him on the all-time stats lists and projected when he would break records in major categories. As a Colts fan, I decided I needed a Manning meter of my own. Then I branched out and made a meter that compared Manning and Andrew Luck at the same point in their careers. I also made a meter of Colts QBs. Finally, I made a big, sortable list of QBs which contained active starters of 20+ games and top 10 historic QBs in most major passing categories. I update it after every week (with my thanks as always to pro-football-reference) and take a look to see if there is anything notable.

Hence, Notes from the QB Meter.

In the inaugural, official edition of this hopefully-ongoing series I want to take a look at Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. There is no doubt that he is one of the best in the league right now, but seriously, how great is he? Let’s take a look.

Aaron Rodgers vs. The Cohort

The “QB Cohort” is an idea I’ve been tossing around which lumps together QBs who have started a similar number of games. It’s potentially a good measure to see who might be the best of a generation, or a certain draft range. It also offers a very reductive (but generally useful) ranking of QBs, particularly when looking at guys who have started for more than 4-5 years.

For the purposes of this post, Rodgers’ cohort is: Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith and Rodgers himself. (Cutler is sort of an outlier as he’s closer to Romo than any of these other guys, but Romo has played in over 30 more games–not starts–than Cutler, so I’m keeping Cutler with this lot).

Take a look at the career stat comparisons for this group:

QB Starts Win % Cmp % Yards Y/gm TD TD/gm* INT A/YA rate
Rodgers 94 67.02% 65.89% 25871 256.15 206 2.04 53 8.72 105.75
Ryan 101 61.39% 63.38% 25550 252.97 166 1.64 84 7.04 90.71
Flacco 103 65.05% 60.48% 23399 227.17 135 1.31 83 6.68 84.72
Cutler 111 53.15% 61.49% 25803 232.46 169 1.52 119 6.67 85.30
Smith 96 54.69% 59.80% 18863 186.76 113 1.12 74 6.20 81.68

[*includes all games played, not just starts]

Now, even without this chart, you’d probably pick Rodgers as the best QB out of this group. I’ve placed him at the top because he leads in all of these categories. While he’s close on a couple, like yards and completion percentage, the main point of this is to highlight the separation in the other categories. 37 TDs ahead. 21 INTs ahead. 15 ahead in passer rating. Also, he’s started fewer games than all of these other guys. That’s nuts!

Of course, there are more things to consider, like the other 52 guys on each team and the coaching or OC situation. Even so, Rodgers is something pretty special.

Another thing: look how favorably Ryan compares to “The Elite Mister” Flacco. However, the win percentage isn’t quite there, the playoff success sure isn’t there (Flacco’s 9-4 to Ryan’s 1-4) and of course the ring isn’t there.

Aaron Rodgers vs. Bizarro Aaron Rodgers (AKA Ryan Fitzpatrick)

Now, do these guys really have that much in common? They were both drafted in 2005, they both sat on the bench for their first three years and they have both been (fairly) regular starting QBs since year 4. Rodgers has always been with the Packers, while Fitzpatrick is on his 5th team though, and their quality of play is, well, quite different, as you’ll see.

QB Starts Win % Cmp % Yards Y/gm TD TD/gm INT A/YA rate
Rodgers 94 67.02% 65.89% 25871 256.15 206 2.04 53 8.72 105.75
Fitzpatrick 84 36.31% 60.19% 18320 199.13 114 1.24 100 5.77 78.28

Can we actually glean much from this? Despite the beard and the Harvard degree, Fitzpatrick spent the bulk of his career in Buffalo, which explains some things. I guess this is the difference between a first rounder and a seventh rounder. Of course, Jason Campbell, Charlie Frye, Andrew Walter, Kyle Orton, Dan Orlovsky*, Derek Anderson and Matt Cassel were all drafted between Rodgers and Fitzpatrick. Sure, three of those guys started games in 2014, but Fitzpatrick has played more than any of them.

[*winningest QB in 2011 Colts history (suck it, Curtis Painter…and also Kerry Collins…what were they thinking?)!]

Aaron Rodgers vs. the Cream

So we know Rodgers is better than his cohort, but how does he stack up against the likes of Manning, Brady, Brees and Favre? Also, how to compare them? Rodgers didn’t start his first three seasons, so he had that time to learn and grow. That’s not the case for the other guys. Let’s look at it a couple of ways.

First, the 5 QBs over their first 94 starts (stats from starts only):

QB Win % Cmp % Yards Y/gm TD TD/gm INT A/YA rate
Rodgers 67.02% 66.01% 25542 271.72 205 2.18 52 8.79 106.37
Manning 56.38% 62.91% 24519 260.84 166 1.77 109 6.90 88.25
Brady 74.47% 61.95% 21512 228.85 147 1.56 78 6.86 88.49
Brees 52.13% 64.19% 22311 237.35 141 1.50 86 6.78 88.78
Favre 68.09% 61.79% 22506 239.43 182 1.94 92 6.92 90.09

Rodgers is still the leader in almost everything, except win %. Tom Brady won 3 Super Bowls during this stretch. Favre won one and lost another.

Second, let’s try to match up the careers for these guys and look at their first 94 starts after they had already been in the league 3 years:

QB Win % Cmp % Yards Y/gm TD TD/gm INT A/YA rate
Rodgers 67.02% 66.01% 25542 271.72 205 2.18 52 8.79 106.37
Manning 69.15% 65.90% 24812 263.96 185 1.97 81 7.90 98.73
Brady 79.79% 63.44% 23663 251.73 174 1.85 71 7.66 95.58
Brees 61.70% 66.27% 25033 266.31 173 1.84 79 7.66 96.95
Favre 68.62% 60.91% 23819 253.39 195 2.07 99 7.11 90.43

As expected, everyone looks better when you start from year 4. Rodgers’ team may not win as much as some others (seriously Tom Brady, winning 80% of your games?), but he’s still on top in every other category.

I’m sure if you pick and choose seasons or games from another QB’s career to get to 94, you might come closer to Rodgers, but that’s not the same as sustained, consistent, high-quality play.

Here’s one last comparison to take a look at, because it’s the best recent example I could think of for someone playing consistently well. This is Aaron Rodgers’ 94 starts vs. Peyton Manning’s most recent 94 starts (as a Colt and Bronco).

QB Win % Cmp % Yards Y/gm TD TD/gm INT A/YA rate
Rodgers 67.02% 66.01% 25542 271.72 205 2.18 52 8.79 106.37
Manning 78.72% 67.82% 27126 288.57 222 2.36 73 8.09 103.36

Even here Rodgers holds his own in INT, Passer Rating and Adjusted Yards/Attempt. This stretch includes 2 Super Bowl appearances for Manning, as well as his record-breaking 2013 season. If Manning is playing so well this late in his career, who’s to say that Rodgers can’t do the same? And if he does keep it up, I can’t imagine how high his passer rating will go!

Other Notes from the QB Meter

Peyton Manning’s career total for TDs is now at 513 (counting last night’s game). Considering current rates, and the fact that Manning isn’t slowing down, it looks doubtful that any current QB will catch him. If Manning retired right now (in the middle of his 17th season*), here is who might have the best chance to catch him:

  • Drew Brees – 72 games = 4.46 more seasons (his 18th season)
  • Tom Brady – 76 games = 4.74 more seasons (his 19th season)
  • Aaron Rodgers – 151 games = 9.41 more seasons (his 19th season)
  • Andrew Luck – 269 games = 16.77 more seasons (his 20th season)
  • Russell Wilson – 277 games = 17.29 more seasons (his 20th season)
  • Philip Rivers – 160 games = 10 more seasons (his 21st season)

[*remember, Manning didn’t play in 2011, so he’s done all of this in 16 active playing seasons. Favre actively played for 19 seasons (although in the league for 20, he only attempted 4 passes his rookie year). Also, Brady threw just 14 passes in 2000 and 2008 combined, so he’d catch Manning in his 17th active playing season. Rodgers would catch him in his 16th active playing season.]

Remember Ryan Fitzpatrick above? His career win percentage is 36.31%. Yes, it’s a team sport and I suppose QBs shouldn’t be credited with wins, but regardless, Fitzpatrick has the lowest win percentage of any current starting QB with 20+ starts. Four others join him as active, long-term starters with win percentages lower than 50%:

  • Carson Palmer (47.86%) – and he’s got 140 starts!
  • Ryan Tannehill (47.37%) – 38 starts
  • Matthew Stafford (42.65%) – 68 starts
  • Geno Smith (39.13%) – 23 starts

Chad Henne, Josh McCown, Jake Locker, Robert Griffin III, Shaun Hill and Matt Cassel (who all began 2014 as starters) also have career win percentages lower than 50%. My man Kyle Orton is barely staying afloat with a 37-36 career record.

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One thought on “Notes from the QB Meter: The Greatness of Aaron Rodgers

  1. Love it, man! Rodgers is incredible and hopefully he’ll get the respect he deserves when Manning and Brady move along. Love the Bizzaro Rodgers too. If we take the evil, goateed Spock version of someone with a ‘stache, does it become Fitzpatrick’s beard?

    I am Public Enemy #1 in the land of Evaluating Players on Wins. However, that last table is incredibly useful as a tool to evaluate those players and their coaches. In a league were winning is everything and QBs are blamed and credited for everything, it’s pretty amazing that guys like Orton, Fitzpatrick, and Palmer are still starting. And as far as Fitzpatrick is concerned, the wins aren’t far off. The Bills were never good when he was the quarterback, but Fitzy had a lot to do with that fact.

    Now that it has a name, this column need to be recurring!

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