Playbook: New view for evaluating QBs

While watching film with analyst Joe Theismann this week, he wondered what the completion percentage of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers would be if dropped passes were taken out the equation.

There is no statistic that truly accounts for a quarterback’s accuracy. Drops, throwaways, and spikes are all incompletions that a QB is usually not responsible for. What would happen if we took these out of the equation?

The result was what we call a “True QBR” rating.

To calculate the “True QBR,” every throw has been watched on coaching tape. Dropped passes, throwaways, and spikes are subtracted from the total attempts category, as well as drops that led to interceptions from the interception total. The new completion percentage and yards per attempt were calculated, adjusting the NFL’s passer rating to create a “True QBR.”

The last column, change in QBR, is the difference between the ratings. The players with the largest changes are significantly more accurate than their NFL passer rating suggests.

Here is a further explanation of five players who benefited significantly from the new rating:

Aaron Rodgers: Even as the league’s leader in passer rating, the “True QBR” further separated Rodgers from the rest of the league. He had a 16.6 point increase, larger than any QB we looked at. His 141.9 “True QBR” is 24.4 points ahead of the next closest QB, Drew Brees. The vast increase was mostly a result of Green Bay’s receivers accounting for 30 drops, more than any receiving corps examined.

Philip Rivers: Despite struggling this season, Rivers’ “True QBR” suggests that there is a lot more blame to go around in San Diego, specifically with the offensive line. Rivers has a league-high 37 throwaways, which is 15 more than the next closest QB, Tarvaris Jackson. He has been under constant pressure this season and has often had no choice other than to chuck it away and live to fight another down.

Tarvaris Jackson: Jackson was by far the biggest surprise of the “True QBR” rankings. He had the second largest increase at 15.2 points. A combination of big receivers that lack speed, a lot of deep route combinations, and a rickety offensive line have resulted in 22 throwaways and 23 drops. His adjusted completion percentage is an impressive 70.1 percent.

Ben Roethlisberger: Big Ben surprisingly had the second smallest increase of any QB at 7.4 points. His “True QBR” is still a solid 101.0, however, and the reason for the slight increase is because of his unwillingness to give up on a play. He will always try to fit a ball in if he can, as evidenced by his five throwaways on the entire season.

Matt Ryan: Ryan had an impressive 14.2 point rise, mainly because of the 29 drops this season. The receivers are not totally at fault for Atlanta’s inconsistency, though. In the loss to Houston, Ryan missed two wide open receivers early and was burned by multiple drops by Roddy White and Julio Jones.

The only caution with this rating system is that there is no way to assign responsibility for miscommunications between QBs and receivers or poor routes. It also does not compensate for WRs that bail out QBs with highlight-reel catches. There is no supplement for seeing the film when evaluating QBs, but this paints a clearer picture of how accurate each has been through 13 weeks.

“Playbook” — the ultimate football Xs and Os show — airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET (AFC) and 9 p.m. ET (NFC) on NFL Network. Check the NFL Network broadcast schedule for further details. Follow “Playbook” on Twitter @NFLN_Playbook.

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