You've surely seen or heard tell of ESPN's innovated new "Total QBR" stat that's meant as a better measuring stick for quarterbacks than the long-established, seldom understood "passer rating." There's a lot that goes into it, including video review of every quarterback's "action plays," but as simply explained to us by the folks who worked countless hours on it, Total QBR is "a quarterback rating that takes into account all of a quarterbacks' contributions (passing, rushing sacks, fumbles, penalties) to his team's scoring and winning." The result is a number from one to 100, with 50 representing an average game, 65 or better representing a Pro Bowl-level performance and 75 or better representing an MVP-level performance.
Well, the results are in from the first 14 games of the NFL season, and so I thought I'd take a look at how the NFC East's quarterbacks fared under the new system.
Among the quarterbacks who have played so far (with two Monday games set to wrap up Week 1 this evening on ESPN), Washington Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman ranks highest among NFC East quarterbacks with a Total QBR of 75. That's good for sixth in the league to this point, behind only Ryan Fitzpatrick (91.2), Aaron Rodgers (91.1), Matthew Stafford (87.4), Joe Flacco (79.6) and Cam Newton (75.7). Looking at the numbers behind the formula, Grossman seems to have played an overall solid game, passing the ball well, making clutch plays and staying away from penalties. He did a lot right and little wrong, and if that continues he can continue to have success in Mike Shanahan's system.
A little bit behind Grossman at No. 9 overall is the Philadelphia Eagles' Michael Vick, whose 98 rushing yards helped prop up his number to a 6.84. If you look at the chart in that link above, Vick's "Pass EPA" was 4.4, which ranks just 11th in the league so far. But his "Rush EPA" was a whopping 5.8, well ahead of Donovan McNabb's 3.4, which was the second-best such figure Sunday. ("EPA," incidentally, stands for "Expected Points Added," which is to say the number of expected points the quarterback's performance adds to the number of points a given situation is expected to produce. There's a real detailed explanation of the whole thing here.)
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's game was the most fascinating, as you might expect. Through three quarters, against one of the toughest defenses in the league (something the formula takes into account, by the way), Romo had a Total QBR of 85.2, which would have been good for fourth-best in the league so far if he'd finished the game at that number. But his Total QBR in the fourth quarter, thanks to the turnovers that cost his team the game (especially the one on the Jets' one-yard line, where the expected-points total was high), was 10.2, which would have been second-worst in the league ahead of only Kerry Collins if it had been his number for the whole game. As it stands, he still finished at 62.9, 11th-best in the league so far. But his case demonstrates the way in which things that maybe didn't depress a traditional passer rating are taken into account when using Total QBR to evaluate quarterback performance.
Incidentally, Romo is one of only three losing quarterbacks so far to have a Total QBR higher than that of his opponent (Mark Sanchez's 17.6). The others were Newtown and the Titans' Matt Hasselbeck. NFL teams are 11-3 so far this year when their quarterback has the higher Total QBR.
Finally, the New York Giants' Eli Manning comes in 14th so far with a very average Total QBR of 53.6. Remember, this formula takes into account such things as how depleted the receiving corps is, because it assesses each situation in which the quarterback finds himself and assigns that situation an expected points value. So this is a reflection of the way Manning played, not of circumstances that might have contributed to his playing worse than usual. Manning was part of the Giants' problem Sunday, and as banged-up as they are everywhere else on the field, they can't afford to have that happen.
Anyway, some Monday morning numbers for you guys to chew on. We'll keep you updated, of course, on this new stat and how your favorite quarterbacks are doing in it as the year goes along.