The evolution of passer rating

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Aug 28, 2006



Here's a look at the league-wide passer rating in every season since 1940, which generally coincides with the dawn of the era of the quarterback as passing specialist. (The history is outlined in our myth-breaking work of staggering genius.)
 
You'll notice that league-wide passer ratings have climbed dramatically over the years. This means that an 85 passer rating in 1977, for example, is far more impressive than an 85 passer rating in 2004.
 
The 1977 season marked the height of the Dead Ball Era, when scoring in modern NFL history reached its low point. The 1977 season, not so coincidentally, also featured the lowest league-wide passer rating (60.7) of any year since 1956. The 2004 season featured the highest league-wide passer rating (82.8) in NFL history.
 
This chart shows the overall league passer rating in each year and the individual passer rating that season. The final column shows the individual leader's rating as a percentage of the league-wide rating. It's this number that trumps raw passer rating, puts it into historical context and tells us who truly had the better passing season.
 
This number shows us, for example, that Kenny Stabler's 103.4 rating in 1976 was more impressive than Dan Marino's 108.9 rating in his record-breaking 1984 season and even more impressive than Peyton Manning's 121.4 rating in the Indy quarterback's record-breaking 2004 season.
 
Stabler exceeded the league-wide passer rating by 54.3 percent in 1976. Marino exceeded the league-wide rating by 43.1 percent in 1984. Manning exceeded the league-wide rating by 46.6 percent in 2004.
 
For further reading see:
* A myth-breaking work of staggering genius (includes gratuitous photos of buxom bombshells Pam Anderson and Jane Russell)
* If you want to sort the numbers yourself, you can upload our sortable Excel spreadsheet of all the data.
 
Year-by-year passer ratings and passer-rating leaders:
 
Year
League Rating
 
Passing Leader (Team)
 
Rating
 
% > League
1940
42.3
Sammy Baugh (Washington)
85.6
102.4%
1941
39.6
Sid Luckman (Chicago)
95.3
140.7%
1942
40.1
Cecil Isbell (Green Bay)
87.0
117.0%
1943
48.4
Sid Luckman (Chicago)
107.5
122.1%
1944
42.2
Frank Filchock (Washington)
86.0
103.8%
1945
47.4
Sammy Baugh (Washington)
109.9
131.9%
1946
47.8
Sid Luckman (Chicago)
71.0
48.5%
1947
57.6
Sammy Baugh (Washington)
92.0
59.7%
1948
60.0
Tommy Thompson (Philly)
98.4
64.0%
1949
53.9
Tommy Thompson (Philly)
84.4
56.6%
1950
52.9
Norm Van Brocklin (L.A. Rams)
85.1
60.9%
1951
55.6
Bob Waterfield (L.A. Rams)
81.8
47.1%
1952
55.5
Tobin Rote (Green Bay)
85.6
54.2%
1953
54.2
Otto Graham (Cleveland)
99.7
83.9%
1954
61.7
Adrian Burk (Philly)
80.4
30.3%
1955
57.2
Otto Graham (Cleveland)
94.0
64.3%
1956
59.6
Ed Brown (Chicago)
83.1
39.4%
1957
63.2
Tommy O'Connell (Cleveland)
93.3
47.6%
1958
63.2
Johnny Unitas (Baltimore)
90.0
42.4%
1959
66.9
Charlie Conerly (N.Y. Giants)
102.7
53.4%
1960
65.2
Milt Plum (Cleveland)
110.4
69.3%
1961
64.8
Billy Wade (Chicago)
93.7
44.6%
1962
72.6
Bart Starr (Green Bay)
90.7
24.9%
1963
71.7
Y.A. Tittle (N.Y. Giants)
104.8
46.2%
1964
71.7
Bart Starr (Green Bay)
97.1
35.4%
1965
73.5
Johnny Unitas (Baltimore)
97.4
32.52%
1966
67.4
Bart Starr (Green Bay)
105.0
55.8%
1967
66.6
Sonny Jurgensen (Washington)
87.3
31.1%
1968
68.6
Bart Starr (Green Bay)
104.3
52.0%
1969
71.6
Bart Starr (Green Bay)
89.9
25.6%
1970
63.8
John Brodie (San Francisco)
93.8
47.0%
1971
62.2
Roger Staubach (Dallas)
104.8
68.5%
1972
66.3
Earl Morral (Miami)
91.0
37.3%
1973
64.9
Roger Staubach (Dallas)
94.6
45.8%
1974
64.2
Ken Anderson (Cincy)
95.7
49.1%
1975
65.6
Ken Anderson (Cincy)
93.9
43.14%
1976
67.0
Ken Stabler (Oakland)
103.4
54.3%
1977
60.7
Bob Griese (Miami)
87.8
44.64%
1978
65.0
Roger Staubach (Dallas)
84.9
30.6%
1979
70.8
Roger Staubach (Dallas)
92.3
30.4%
1980
74.1
Brian Sipe (Cleveland)
91.4
23.3%
1981
72.9
Ken Anderson (Cincy)
98.4
35.0%
1982
73.4
Ken Anderson (Cincy)
95.3
29.8%
1983
75.9
Steve Bartkowski (Atlanta)
97.6
28.6%
1984
76.1
Dan Marino (Miami)
108.9
43.1%
1985
73.6
Ken O'Brien (N.Y. Jets)
96.2
30.7%
1986
74.1
Tommy Kramer (Minnesota)
92.6
25.0%
1987
75.2
Joe Montana (San Francisco)
102.1
35.8%
1988
72.9
Boomer Esiason (Cincy)
97.4
33.61%
1989
75.6
Joe Montana (San Francisco)
112.4
49.2%
1990
77.3
Jim Kelly (Buffalo)
101.2
31.0%
1991
76.2
Steve Young (San Francisco)
101.8
33.6%
1992
75.3
Steve Young (San Francisco)
107.0
42.1%
1993
76.6
Steve Young (San Francisco)
101.5
32.51%
1994
78.4
Steve Young (San Francisco)
112.8
43.9%
1995
79.2
Jim Harbaugh (Indy)
100.7
27.1%
1996
76.8
Steve Young (San Francisco)
97.2
26.6%
1997
77.2
Steve Young (San Francisco)
104.7
35.6%
1998
78.2
Randall Cunningham (Minnesota)
106.0
35.5%
1999
77.1
Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams)
109.2
41.6%
2000
78.1
Brian Griese (Denver)
102.9
31.7%
2001
78.5
Kurt Warner (St. Louis Rams)
101.4
29.2%
2002
80.4
Chad Pennington (N.Y. Jets)
104.2
29.6%
2003
78.3
Steve McNair (Tennessee)
100.4
28.2%
2004
82.8
Peyton Manning (Indy)
121.4
46.6%
2005
80.1
Peyton Manning (Indy)
104.1
30.0%

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