The Final Overall Quarterback Ranking for 2006

If I had a New Year’s Resolution it would be to spend less time working on The Wages of Wins Journal. I have found in the last year that blogging is very addictive. But after working through a 12-step program, I think I am overcoming my addiction.

Okay, that’s not true. There is no 12-step program and I’m still addicted. But I am trying to practice moderation. This means I don’t post every single day (although I would like to) and I am going to try to write shorter columns.

The goal of shorter columns is holding up the posting of the final QB Score rankings for 2006. Looking at these numbers leads me to want to tell a number of stories. If this were last year, I would sit down and write a 2,000 or 3,000 word column telling all these tales. But given my goals for 2007, I have decided to tell the 2006 quarterback stories across more than one column.

For today, let me first post the 2006 ranking.

The Final Overall QB Score Ranking

And with table posted, let me discuss briefly the quarterbacks who finished at the top and bottom in 2006.

The Outstanding Performances of 2006

For the fourth consecutive year the top quarterback in the NFL is Peyton Manning. Manning’s QB Score of 2,065 marks only the fourth time since 1995 that a quarterback has passed the 2,000 barrier [the other three instances were Manning in 2004 (2,339), Duante Culpepper in 2004 (2,089), and Jeff Garcia in 2000 (2,016)]. His per play mark of 3.48 has only been surpassed by Manning in 2004 (4.37) and Randall Cunningham in 1998 (3.61). In sum, what Manning did in 2006 was pretty extraordinary.

He was not alone. Donovan McNabb posted a per play mark of 3.28, which is the fourth best mark in the NFL since 1995. When McNabb went down with an injury it looked like his spot at the top of the rankings might be secure. Manning, though, played just well enough over the last six weeks to take another title.

In The Wages of Wins we report the top 40 quarterback performances from 1995 to 2005, ranked in terms of Net Points per Play. In a future post I will talk about measuring Net Points and Wins for quarterbacks. For now, let me just note how the performances offered this year – evaluated in terms of QB Score per play – compare to what we have seen since 1995.

The Top 40 Quarterbacks, 1995-2006

Looking at the top 40 performance in QB Score per play since 1995 (which you can see via the above link), we see four signal callers from 2006. As noted, the numbers posted by Manning and McNabb rank in the top five. Drew Brees, who finished ahead of Manning in the MVP voting, offered the 15th best performance since 1995. And Damon Huard, who lost his job to Trent Green, had the 38th best performance.

To be fair, Trent Green’s efforts in the last four seasons ranked – in the 95-06 ranking — 35th (2005), 36th (2004), 19th (2003), and 16th (2002). And although 2001 was not a great year for Green, his efforts in 2ooo ranked 15th. In sum, of the top 40 performances offered since 1995, Green posted five of these. Only Peyton Manning appears that often on the top 40 list. So it’s not surprising that Herm Edwards went back to Green when he was healthy.

One should note that after Huard, the next best performance was offered by Tony Romo. Romo’s QB Score per play of 2.31 ranked 49th. Of course, such an evaluation does not include holding on kicks (sorry, unnecessary cheap shot).

The Less Stellar Performances of 2006

As Romo knows, every up has a down. Every top has a bottom. For there to be great performances there must be less-great efforts. Looking at the bottom of our 2006 rankings we see the often maligned Andrew Walter, who had the misfortune of trying to be a starting quarterback on what appears to be one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Of course, the role Walter – and Oakland’s other quarterback, Aaron Brooks — played in making this one of the worst offenses is difficult to entangle. Certainly the quarterbacks employed by Oakland did not appear to help.

How bad were the Oakland quarterbacks? Walter finished the season with a per play mark of -1.96. Only Ryan Leaf in 1998, who posted a mark of -2.05, finished lower in the 95-06 rankings.

But it may not be the case that Walter is truly a bad quarterback. Brooks had a per play mark of -0.90. Had he attempted enough passes to qualify, this performance would have been the 16th worst since 1995. From 2002 to 2004, Aaron Brooks was above average every season. In 2005 his mark of 0.95 was just below average. So we have evidence that Brooks can play quarterback in the NFL. We should remember that point in judging Walter. It very well could be the case that it’s the Raiders offense that sunk these two signal callers, not the two quarterbacks bringing down the Raiders attack.

Going Forward

With the review of the stellar and less-stellar of 2006 this post has passed the 800 word mark. Yes, I wasted 180 words saying that I am not going to write lengthy columns anymore. And I am wasting more words commenting on my previous comment that I was not going to write lengthy columns. And with each word, I am just compounding this problem.

Okay, I’ll stop. I plan on posting again on the performances of quarterbacks in 2006. The story of net points and wins produced – for quarterbacks – needs to be told. Another comment on the inherent inconsistency of signal callers is necessary. And I will offer some thoughts on the playoffs. All of that, though, will have to wait for another day.

– DJ

QB Score has been discussed previously in the following posts:

Football Outsiders and QB Score

Consistent Inconsistency in Football

The Value of Player Statistics in the NFL

Simple Models of Player Performance

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