At the start of the season, I suggested the NFL needed a new stat: quality starts for quarterbacks. The bar shouldn’t be set terribly high, I’ve decided, just as it isn’t in baseball for pitchers (at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs). My recommendation is: Any start in which a QB posts a passer rating above the NFL average for that season constitutes a quality start. The league average this year was 87.1 — an all-time record — so we’re looking at how many times a guy had a rating of 87.2 or above (minimum: 10 passes).
As it turns out, 16 of the 32 teams had a quarterback who racked up eight or more quality starts. In other words, half the clubs had a QB who played above average, rating-wise, in at least half the games. Here’s a chart that lays it all out. Take a look, and then we’ll discuss it.
MOST QUALITY STARTS (RATING OF 87.2 OR BETTER), 2014
|QS||QB, Team (Season Rating)||High||Low||100+|
|14||Aaron Rodgers, Packers (112.2)||154.5 vs. Panthers||34.3 vs. Bills||11|
|13||Tony Romo, Cowboys (113.2)||151.7 vs. Colts||53.7 vs Eagles (1)*||10|
|11||Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (103.3)||150.6 vs. Colts||64.4 vs. Browns (2)||10|
|11||Drew Brees, Saints (97.0)||140.0 vs. Steelers||69.7 vs. Panthers (2)||7|
|11||Andrew Luck, Colts (96.5)||140.4 vs. Jaguars||41.7 vs. Cowboys||7|
|11||Joe Flacco, Ravens (90.9)||146.0 vs. Bucs||41.7 vs. Texans||7|
|11||Tom Brady, Patriots (97.4)||148.4 vs. Bears||59.9 vs. Chiefs||6|
|10||Russell Wilson, Seahawks (95.0)||127.3 vs. Redskins||47.6 vs. Cowboys||7|
|10||Matt Ryan, Falcons (93.9)||155.9 vs. Bucs||48.6 vs. Bengals||7|
|10||Alex Smith, Chiefs (93.4)||144.4 vs. Patriots||45.2 vs. Titans||5|
|9||Peyton Manning, Broncos (101.5)||157.2 vs. 49ers||56.9 vs. Bills||9|
|9||Philip Rivers, Chargers (93.8)||131.4 vs. Bills||31.0 vs. Dolphins||6|
|9||Colin Kaepernick, 49ers (86.4)||125.5 vs. Cowboys||36.7 vs. Seahawks (1)||4|
|8||Eli Manning, Giants (92.1)||148.8 vs. Rams||36.6 vs. 49ers||8|
|8||Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (92.8)||125.6 vs. Chargers||70.4 vs. Chiefs||6|
|8||Andy Dalton, Bengals (83.3)||143.9 vs. Saints||2.0 vs Browns (1)||4|
*Figures in parentheses = first or second meeting.
Maybe the biggest surprise is that Peyton Manning, who led all quarterbacks in 2013 with 15 quality starts, dropped to nine this year (one more than Andy Dalton). Is it just a blip, or has the decline begun? He is, after all, almost 39. Philip Rivers, meanwhile, fell from 13 to nine in an up-and-down season, and the Lions’ Matt Stafford went from 10 to five – and as a result, doesn’t even appear in the chart. (No matter. The Lions improved from 7-9 to 11-5 and made the playoffs, thanks a defense that gave up 94 fewer points.)
At the top of the list are most of the usual suspects — Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson. The only one who jumps out at you is Joe Flacco, who had 11 quality starts even though his overall rating of 90.9 isn’t that far above average. Good Joe had seven ratings of 100-plus; Not So Good Joe had two ratings in the 40s.
Football already has tons of stats, of course, but it seems like there’s a void here. If anybody has a better idea for evaluating quarterback performance, week in and week out — besides just wins and losses, I mean — I’d love to hear it.