Revising the Passer Rating

This post may contain recycled content.

I have a mission for you: revise the QB rating.

The QB rating (technically called the “passer rating,” as that’s all it’s meant to evaluate) is an arcane formula devised when the NFL and the AFL merged in order to standardize statistics. Rather than compare quarterbacks to each other – which provided no metric for season-to-season growth, statistician Don Smith devised a way to measure their progress objectively.

The problem is that (A) it’s not very objective and (B) it’s cryptic.

(A) The rating system is great, in theory. Take the four key areas of a passer’s performance: completion percentage, yards gained per pass, number of touchdowns and number of interceptions. Normalize them against some industry-standard benchmarks (50% pass completion, 55 interceptions per 1000 passes, etc). Total these numbers and voila.

The problem is, those benchmarks were set in 1971 and have not been revised since. The “yards per pass” metric, which figures an average of 7, punishes QBs whose coaches use the fire-and-forget “West Coast Offense.” Is a 5.5% interception percentage still average? Look at the numbers yourself and tell me: as of the end of the 2006 season, Dallas’s Tony Romo and the Saints’ Drew Brees led the league in passer rating (89.6, 88.3, respectively), while those jackasses Tom brady and Peyton Manning couldn’t even crack the top 5.

(Cold Hard Football Facts agrees with me, and has some pictures of Pamela Anderson to boot. No, for serious)

(B) In order to normalize against those aforementioned benchmarks, you have to go through some weird hoops. Nothing terribly complicated – just lots of division.

({[(Comp / Att) x 100 – 30]/20 + [(Yards / Att) – 3 x 0.25] + [(TD / Att) x20] + [2.375 – (INT / Att) x 25]} / 6) x 100

Remember your order of operations and show all work.

There has to be a better way – and this wouldn’t be “Harebrained Schemes Tuesday” if I didn’t come up with one.

The NerdsOnSports Alternative (v1.0):

Average together the following two figures:

A: Passes Completed divided by Passes Attempted

B: Touchdowns divided by [Interceptions plus Touchdowns]

Multiply the result by 100.

Step A is pretty obvious – it’s completion percentage. Step B was a judgment call on my part, but I’ve long argued that an interception costs a team just as much as a touchdown benefits them. If anyone wants to dispute that, take it up in Comments.

The only problem I’ve seen so far with my new metric is that it tends to cluster everyone around 55 or so. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not a very useful stat if the difference between the best QB in the league and the worst is only 4.28 points. But I’ve only tested it with career stats. Game by game, it might work better.

But I’m sure you have a better way! Enlighten me, Intertron.