Aaron Rodgers King of Real QB Rating; Cam Newton The Jester
By Shaun Church
Cold, Hard Football Facts Ratings Winner (@church_NFL)
You should know by now that Cold, Hard Football Facts’ Real Quarterback Rating is the king of all football statistics. It is so good, in fact, that seven of the top 10 quarterbacks in Real QBR made the playoffs each of the last two seasons—including everyone in the top seven last year.
Looking at career Real QB Rating among quarterbacks drafted since 1991, Aaron Rodgers is without a doubt the king of the statistic.
Does that make him the best quarterback over the past two decades? The best quarterback ever?
Not necessarily. It's easier to pass the ball and, in general, easier to play quarterback than ever before.
But Rodgers does boast the highest Real QB Rating of any quarterback in NFL history, and quarterbacks who played before 1991 don’t even have all fumbles lost recorded—all that means is their ratings will go down if and when CHFF (or anyone for that matter) gets its hands on accurate lost fumbles totals pre-1991.
The table below shows all quarterbacks drafted since 1991, with a minimum of 1,000 pass attempts as a qualifier. These 69 men are ranked from highest QBR to lowest with averages for each 10 players.
Further proving Real QB Rating is the best indicator of a quarterback’s success, note that both average quarterback win percentage and QBR steadily decrease the closer to the bottom you get.
You win when you produce a high Real QB Rating. You lose when you produce a low Real QB Rating.
Also, remember this: These stats are not just from last year, and they are not from the last two years.
These are careers over the last 22 NFL seasons. If that’s not proof that Real QB Rating has an incredibly high Correlation to Victory, better than any other indicator in football, nothing is.
Look at poor Rick Mirer way down at the bottom. He’s the lowest of the low on this list, and his paltry record of 24-44 (.353) proves it. Only infamous No. 1 overall pick David Carr produced a lower win percentage (.291), and he suffered the handicap of playing largely for the expansion Texans.
But even bad quarterbacks win games sometimes. Just look at Rex Grossman and Trent Dilfer. Dilfer, who is among the noisiest know-it-alls on Twitter, ranks above only Mirer and Kyle Boller at Real QB Rating in the last 22 years.
Dilfer’s only Pro Bowl season was in 1997, while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That season, he completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Add in the other factors that make up Real QB Rating and 1997 was his second-best season overall and best when playing all 16 games, as seen to the right.
Compare that to Rodgers, whose worst season is better than Dilfer’s best, and you get an idea of both how good the leader of the Pack is and how bad Dilfer was. He flew under the wing of Ray Lewis and the best defense of our era to a Super Bowl XXXV victory.
And he didn’t even start the entire season.
He began that season as the backup to Tony Banks—who is ranked two spots ahead of Dilfer in the table above—and entered the Week 8 game at home against the Tennessee Titans.
He never looked back. And, to his credit, Dilfer was fairly efficient in Baltimore's 2000 playoff run. He averaged a perfectly healthy 7.2 YPA, threw 3 TDs and was picked off only once in four games. It was more than good enough when paired with a defense that crushed each opponent.
Does that otherwise poor career performance make Dilfer the jester of Real QB Rating? A bad quarterback wins only because of his good defense? Same is the case for Grossman. Those Bears teams had great defenses, led by Brian Urlacher. Is he the jester?
Not exactly. Their cases are just sad.
There are going to be exceptions to the QBR rule on both ends, of course. For example, Cam Newton ranks fifth, but he has been called “Scam Newton” by CHFF’s own Scott Kacsmar (@CaptainComeback) because of the way he fades in the clutch.
Kacsmar’s final line at the end of a brilliant piece on the former No. 1 overall pick sums Newton up perfectly:
“You cannot pretend to be Superman if all you ever do in the face of adversity is wilt under the pressure.”
That is why Newton—again, ranked fifth overall in QBR since 1991—is the jester of Real QB Rating. He is all bark and no bite.
He is the guy who would say he’s going to beat you, talk all along how bad it's going to feel when he does. But then when the time comes and he has the chance to do so, he falls on his face more often than not—he has a 2-15 record in game-winning drive opportunities, via Kacsmar.
Newton is the only quarterback in the top 13 of QBR since '91 with a losing record, at 13-19 (.409). The other 12 quarterbacks on top have a combined record of 912-528-0 (.633).
It doesn't help his cause that Newton has been paired with two poor defenses, especially against the pass. The 2012 Panthers ranked 18th in scoring and 23rd in Defensive Passer Rating; the 2011 Panthers and 30th in Defensive Passser Rating.
Still, Newton has had plenty of opportunity to win more games.
If he had won half the games in which he was given an opportunity to win it late for his team (we’ll give him an 8-9 record in GWD opportunities), he would be 19-13 (.594) and in firm consideration for being one of the best quarterbacks in the league today.
But that is not reality. Reality says he’s a mirage at quarterback. His stats look good from afar, but when you get up close and examine them, you realize he is just a player.
Nothing more than an actor playing the role of a good quarterback. A jester, if you will.
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