Ranking the Random Fumble Luck of NFL Quarterbacks

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 07, 2012



By Scott Kacsmar

Cold Hard Football Facts’ Comeback King (@CaptainComeback)

 

How many times have you watched a game and heard a player-turned-analyst remark “I wish a few more of my fumbles would have gone out of bounds”?

Quit your whining, Cris Collinsworth.

Fumble recoveries are a big part of the randomness of football. The odd-shaped ball takes many a strange bounce, and sometimes it works in your favor, while other times it bounces right to the defense.

Last week we looked at the career turnover rates for all quarterbacks with at least 1,500 pass attempts in their career. Fumbles were a big part of it, but we used all fumbles, as you are risking a turnover when you fumble.

The key thing to remember is that it is not a skill to recover fumbles, but it is a skill to not fumble in the first place.

Another reason for not using lost fumbles is that the data only goes back to 1992 from NFL.com, but this week we will look at lost fumbles for quarterbacks to start their careers in the last two decades.

 

Fumble luck

Still using the minimum requirement of 1,500 passes and only regular season data, all 59 quarterbacks listed have complete career data for lost fumbles. The “DB” is the total number of drop backs and “Fum%” is their fumble rate.

Without further ado, here are the quarterbacks ranked by best-to-worst fumble luck:

 

Rk

QB

DB

Fum%

Fum

Lost

Lost%

1

Matthew Stafford

1833

0.76

14

4

28.57%

2

Jason Campbell

2550

1.88

48

14

29.17%

3

Gus Frerotte

3509

1.85

65

19

29.23%

4

David Carr

2835

2.50

71

22

30.99%

5

Scott Mitchell

2673

1.87

50

16

32.00%

6

Josh Freeman

1980

1.72

34

11

32.35%

7

Peyton Manning

8312

0.71

59

20

33.90%

8

Chad Pennington

2813

1.46

41

14

34.15%

9

Byron Leftwich

1834

1.91

35

12

34.29%

10

Joe Flacco

2743

1.64

45

16

35.56%

11

Joey Harrington

2804

0.89

25

9

36.00%

12

Matt Schaub

3007

1.26

38

14

36.84%

13

Tim Couch

2004

1.85

37

14

37.84%

14

Mark Brunell

5543

1.37

76

29

38.16%

15

Aaron Rodgers

3018

1.13

34

13

38.24%

16

Daunte Culpepper

4011

2.54

102

39

38.24%

17

Drew Brees

6496

1.11

72

28

38.89%

18

Brian Griese

3227

1.58

51

20

39.22%

19

Jeff Garcia

4324

1.39

60

24

40.00%

20

Jay Cutler

3274

1.68

55

22

40.00%

21

Brad Johnson

4853

1.32

64

26

40.63%

22

Aaron Brooks

3560

1.80

64

26

40.63%

23

Jon Kitna

5078

2.17

110

45

40.91%

24

Jake Plummer

5062

1.48

75

31

41.33%

25

Trent Green

4242

1.41

60

25

41.67%

26

Kerry Collins

6972

1.99

139

58

41.73%

27

Alex Smith

2582

1.74

45

19

42.22%

28

Tony Banks

2829

2.58

73

31

42.47%

29

Tom Brady

6474

1.24

80

34

42.50%

30

Trent Dilfer

3683

2.23

82

35

42.68%

31

Matt Hasselbeck

5699

1.11

63

27

42.86%

32

Matt Cassel

2424

1.73

42

18

42.86%

33

Steve McNair

5467

1.81

99

43

43.43%

34

Mark Sanchez

2022

1.93

39

17

43.59%

35

Brett Favre

11296

1.47

166

73

43.98%

36

Tony Romo

3429

1.46

50

22

44.00%

37

Eli Manning

4766

1.51

72

32

44.44%

38

Carson Palmer

4492

1.14

51

23

45.10%

39

Kurt Warner

4503

2.27

102

46

45.10%

40

Michael Vick

3911

2.20

86

39

45.35%

41

Kordell Stewart

3129

1.41

44

20

45.45%

42

Drew Bledsoe

7569

1.63

123

56

45.53%

43

Dave Brown

2007

1.84

37

17

45.95%

44

Philip Rivers

3875

1.63

63

29

46.03%

45

David Garrard

2840

1.55

44

21

47.73%

46

Matt Ryan

2788

0.82

23

11

47.83%

47

Ben Roethlisberger

4269

1.36

58

28

48.28%

48

Jake Delhomme

3275

1.89

62

30

48.39%

49

Donovan McNabb

6400

1.48

95

46

48.42%

50

Rick Mirer

2484

1.41

35

17

48.57%

51

Charlie Batch

1937

1.24

24

12

50.00%

52

Elvis Grbac

2737

1.17

32

16

50.00%

53

Kyle Boller

1818

2.31

42

21

50.00%

54

Ryan Fitzpatrick

2493

1.48

37

19

51.35%

55

Jeff Blake

3907

1.74

68

35

51.47%

56

Jay Fiedler

2050

1.41

29

15

51.72%

57

Rex Grossman

1735

1.84

32

19

59.38%

58

Marc Bulger

3543

1.19

42

25

59.52%

59

Kyle Orton

2456

1.22

30

18

60.00%

 

The average lost fumble percentage for this group is 42.50 percent.

That is exactly the career fumbles lost rate for Tom Brady. Guess this is one aspect of football where he has zero luck, good or bad.

It is too hard to even offer a reason for why quarterbacks rank where they do here. There are pocket passers high and low. There are mobile quarterbacks who may put the ball on the ground more (sacks and scrambles) both high and low.

The numbers point directly to what fumble recoveries are: random. The correlation between fumble rate and fumble lost percentage is -0.07, or no real correlation at all.

We know from last week Matthew Stafford has one of the lowest fumble rates ever, but will his luck continue on not losing many of them? His sample size of 14 total fumbles is also very small. One more bad bounce and he would be at 35.7 percent, or moving from No. 1 to No. 10 on the list.

Kyle Orton losing 60 percent of his fumbles? Bad luck would truthfully be the smartest guess.

 

Adjusted turnover rate with lost fumbles

Finally, here is an updated version of the turnover rate, modified with lost fumbles taking place of total fumbles, and only being calculated for these 59 quarterbacks instead of the 171 from last week.

 

Rk

QB

DB

Fum

Fum%

INT

INT%

TO

TO%

1

Aaron Rodgers

3018

13

0.43

46

1.82

59

1.95

2

Tom Brady

6474

34

0.53

119

2.06

153

2.36

3

Mark Brunell

5543

29

0.52

108

2.33

137

2.47

4

Jeff Garcia

4325

24

0.55

83

2.26

107

2.47

5

Matt Ryan

2788

11

0.39

59

2.38

70

2.51

6

Donovan McNabb

6400

46

0.72

117

2.18

163

2.55

7

Joe Flacco

2743

16

0.58

54

2.27

70

2.55

8

Jason Campbell

2550

14

0.55

52

2.39

66

2.59

9

David Garrard

2840

21

0.74

54

2.37

75

2.64

10

Matt Schaub

3007

14

0.47

67

2.49

81

2.69

11

Peyton Manning

8312

20

0.24

208

2.70

228

2.74

12

Chad Pennington

2813

14

0.50

64

2.59

78

2.77

13

Matthew Stafford

1833

4

0.22

48

2.87

52

2.84

14

Drew Brees

6496

28

0.43

162

2.71

190

2.92

15

Byron Leftwich

1834

12

0.65

42

2.62

54

2.94

16

Steve McNair

5467

43

0.79

119

2.62

162

2.96

17

Brad Johnson

4853

26

0.54

122

2.82

148

3.05

18

Matt Hasselbeck

5699

27

0.47

147

2.93

174

3.05

19

Kyle Orton

2456

18

0.73

57

2.57

75

3.05

20

Michael Vick

3911

39

1.00

81

2.84

120

3.07

21

Ben Roethlisberger

4269

28

0.66

104

2.87

132

3.09

22

Matt Cassel

2424

18

0.74

57

2.79

75

3.09

23

Philip Rivers

3875

29

0.75

93

2.69

122

3.15

24

Alex Smith

2582

19

0.74

63

2.90

82

3.18

25

Tony Romo

3429

22

0.64

87

2.83

109

3.18

26

Trent Green

4242

25

0.59

114

3.05

139

3.28

27

David Carr

2835

22

0.78

71

3.13

93

3.28

28

Josh Freeman

1980

11

0.56

54

3.17

65

3.28

29

Charlie Batch

1937

12

0.62

52

3.24

64

3.30

30

Aaron Brooks

3560

26

0.73

92

3.10

118

3.31

31

Kordell Stewart

3129

20

0.64

84

3.56

104

3.32

32

Marc Bulger

3543

25

0.71

93

2.93

118

3.33

33

Joey Harrington

2804

9

0.32

85

3.35

94

3.35

34

Carson Palmer

4492

23

0.51

130

3.19

153

3.41

35

Jeff Blake

3907

35

0.90

99

3.05

134

3.43

36

Drew Bledsoe

7569

56

0.74

206

3.07

262

3.46

37

Elvis Grbac

2737

16

0.58

81

3.31

97

3.54

38

Gus Frerotte

3509

19

0.54

106

3.41

125

3.56

39

Eli Manning

4766

32

0.67

140

3.22

172

3.61

40

Daunte Culpepper

4011

39

0.97

106

3.31

145

3.62

41

Brett Favre

11296

73

0.65

336

3.30

409

3.62

42

Jay Cutler

3274

22

0.67

97

3.42

119

3.63

43

Kerry Collins

6972

58

0.83

196

3.13

254

3.64

44

Tony Banks

2829

31

1.10

73

3.10

104

3.68

45

Brian Griese

3227

20

0.62

99

3.54

119

3.69

46

Dave Brown

2007

17

0.85

58

3.55

75

3.74

47

Rick Mirer

2484

17

0.68

76

3.72

93

3.74

48

Jake Plummer

5062

31

0.61

161

3.70

192

3.79

49

Ryan Fitzpatrick

2493

19

0.76

77

3.64

96

3.85

50

Kurt Warner

4503

46

1.02

128

3.14

174

3.86

51

Jay Fiedler

2050

15

0.73

66

3.84

81

3.95

52

Jake Delhomme

3275

30

0.92

101

3.44

131

4.00

53

Mark Sanchez

2022

17

0.84

64

3.59

81

4.01

54

Scott Mitchell

2673

16

0.60

92

3.92

108

4.04

55

Tim Couch

2004

14

0.70

67

3.91

81

4.04

56

Kyle Boller

1818

21

1.16

54

3.55

75

4.13

57

Jon Kitna

5078

45

0.89

165

3.71

210

4.14

58

Trent Dilfer

3683

35

0.95

129

4.07

164

4.45

59

Rex Grossman

1735

19

1.10

60

3.84

79

4.55

 

Scott Kacsmar is a football writer/researcher who has contributed large quantities of data to Pro-Football-Reference.com, including the only standardized database of fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. You can visit his blog for a complete writing archive. Please send any questions or comments to Scott at smk_42@yahoo.com, or you can follow him on Twitter at @CaptainComeback.


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