ESPN Takes Shot at Creating NFL QB Rating Stat

ESPN has developed a new statistic called the Total Quarterback Rating that it claims will provide an accurate assessment of a NFL quarterbacks’ performance and will factor in a range of variables including strength of opposition.

The QBR program will use a scale of 0-100 with 50 being league average and will have a weighted scale to determine how well important and difficult a pass was in a game, as well as a number of other variables including touchdowns, sacks and QB fumbles, to arrive at a total.

The QBR will also use a host of historical data points such as historical outcomes for teams facing the same down, distance, field position and time remaining. There will also be a Critical Index included that looks at when it happens in a game. Here is how ESPN lays out the calculations for QBR.

ESPN has walked down the path of creating its own statistic at least once before, with its Productive Out in baseball, which it debuted in 2004. This showed how many times a team used a sacrifice or a bunt to move a runner over and purported to show that teams with the most were doing a better job. It fell apart rather quickly as other, better thought out stats were much more indicative of success, and I believe that many of the last place teams led the league in productive outs. Here is ESPN’s explanation as well as a good take down by The Hardball Times. Nowadays productive outs are just a running joke on some baseball web sites.

Does this mean that QBR is fated for the same demise? Probably not, and it does look easier to understand than the somewhat bizarre NFL Quarterback ratings. It uses many of the same factors that other homegrown rating systems use, and simply weights them differently. For instance Football Outsiders’ has its DVOA for quarterbacks and Advanced NFL Stats has several rating systems used for slightly different purposes.

TheBigLeads’ excellent football analyst Jason Lisk has a good piece on why this is probably a good thing for the NFL, and shows who it is aimed at, much more a casual fan rather than one that wants to delve down into the complex statistics of the game. He also compares how the different rating systems reveal slightly different results.

It will be interesting to follow this over the course of the season and see if it remains relevant and how much the WWL touts its own invention. Stay tuned.